Code is Poetry

morse code
Originally uploaded by jenny downing

If only code was poetry, I’d be the most prolific jibaro on the block right now with my acclimation to the WordPress interface and adding new bells and whistles to the website.

Some of the changes, messing with text layouts and adding the right amount of sidebar content, is a lot easier to do than others, like messing with the widget codes to appear exactly as I would like.  Sometimes I hunger for the days of coding out the HTML also entirely by hand and knowing the purpose behind all the lines of code.  I think that was my inner 12-year-old talking and remembering what it was like to put together a graphic display with BASIC on his shiny new Commodore VIC-20.  Yeah, those were the good old days of block text.

Today, all I need to do is drag-and-drop a widget here, mess with some settings there, and Poof! instant layout.  Clean, simple and leaving me no smarter than when I started.  So that’s what I really miss about knowing my website inside-and-out, even when there is a tiny mistake, one that I’m sure no one else can see, I know it can be fixed if I plug away at it hard enough.  With all this “easy” code, I have to wait for an upgrade to come along or just suck it.

I’m guessing I have the same mentality when it comes to some of the more difficult aspects of my writing life.  I’d rather tough out writing a review or putting together a deep lesson plan in favor of making things easier by looking at some pre-established models.  Same with manuscript revision, I’ve been stuck on a chronological layout of poems instead of seeing what makes the most sense thematically.   This is usually around the time I think I’ll go back to the drawing board and start all over but maybe the wiser move might be to just stop where I’m at and be honest about what is and isn’t working in the manuscript.  It would sure be quicker than going all the way back to square one.

I’m bringing this up because it’s time to submit to a new poetry contest and I really need to get my ass in gear like now. So I’m going to stop being stubborn and pretend like everything I do has to be original and borrow a page from Barb’s play book:  Here is the current table of contents to Anywhere Avenue, the manuscript:

  • The Poet is Like a Guerilla
  • Viewing the World from the Back of a Turtle
  • An Atlas of Nationalism
  • Urban Relación #13
  • Sepia
  • Urban Relación #17
  • About B-Boys in the Boogie Down
  • Skelsies
  • pa•limp•sest
  • My Father’s Accent Speaks
  • Both a Place and a Scare-word
  • B-Boy Primer
  • Psalm for Public Housing
  • After Working the Late Shift Again, a Young Boricua on Times Square Composes a Response to a White Co-worker Concerning the Myth of Racism
  • The Truth (and Some Lies) About the Bronx
  • My Father, a Cabdriver, Chimes in with His Own Response on the Myth of Racism as He Drives by Times Square
  • A Personal History and Reflection on Sixty Years in the City from the Reverend JT
  • God Loves a Liar
  • In the City, You Can’t Help but Think of God
  • Epistle Written at the #4 Train—Woodlawn Station, 4:30am
  • Tricking the Eye
  • Poem Written to the Jimmy Castor Bunch’s “It’s Just Begun”
  • Getting Ronald Reagan to Visit the South Bronx
  • Antipoema
  • Palimpsest
  • Zuihitsu
  • Unsolved Crimes Perpetrated by Invisible Men as Reported by an Unreliable Witness
  • Congruence
  • And God Said “Vaya”
  • The Blackout
  • Cucaracha
  • Cockroach
  • How Much for the Building? Tenants Optional.
  • What the Landlord Said…
  • Tumbaron Tres Torres
  • Three Towers Toppled
  • Ash Wednesday
  • Heaven Below
  • Mami’s Ghazal
  • I’m Jus Askin
  • We, Spoken Here
  • Psalm for Anywhere Avenue
  • Orchard Beach: Section Four
  • The View from the Stoop
  • The Pope Takes the #4 Train
  • Ode to a Whiteboy
  • Dedication
  • The Trouble with Poverty
  • Sonnet for the Lexington Avenue Express—Mt Eden Ave Stop
  • How to be a Street Poet
  • A Bodega on Anywhere Avenue
  • Fire Escape
  • The Story of How Pigeon Came to Live in City
  • Inventing the Remix
  • The Break

There ya go.  It all equals to about 70 pages on paper which seriously blows my mind.  Especially since my mission now is to turn this into about 50 pages of really tight manuscript.  A manuscript that much like the new web applications I’m using should be intuitive and practical to my reader without making them scratch their heads and wonder what exactly is going on in the text.  Leaving me, the code developer, with some serious concerns: I want it to be Anywhere Avenue but that place has to be in the Bronx.  I want to engage the early spirit of hip-hop without actually invoking hip-hop (after all, we didn’t know what to call it then), and I want to be true to my own urban experience without recycling tropes.

There ya have it.  Now let’s see what this manuscript looks like a week from now.

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