Monday, January 27, 2014

Prose Poetry

There's a lot of talk in Rx about prose poetry. I got curious to read more about it and this because its been a long time since I had any kind of poetry class. Here's what has to say about this particular form:

Though the name of the form may appear to be a contradiction, the prose poem essentially appears as prose, but reads like poetry. In the first issue of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, editor Peter Johnson explained, "Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels."

While it lacks the line breaks associated with poetry, the prose poem maintains a poetic quality, often utilizing techniques common to poetry, such as fragmentation, compression, repetition, and rhyme. The prose poem can range in length from a few lines to several pages long, and it may explore a limitless array of styles and subjects.

Though examples of prose passages in poetic texts can be found in early Bible translations and the Lyrical Ballads of William Wordsworth, the form is most often traced to nineteenth-century French symbolists writers. The advent of the form in the work of Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire marked a significant departure from the strict separation between the genres of prose and poetry at the time. A fine example of the form is Baudelaire's "Be Drunk," which concludes:
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."
The form quickly spread to innovative literary circles in other coutries: Rainer Maria Rilke and Franz Kafka in Germany; Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz in Latin America; and William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein in the United States. Each group of writers adapted the form and developed their own rules and restrictions, ultimately expanding the definitions of the prose poem.

Among contemporary American writers, the form is widely popular and can be found in work by poets from a diverse range of movements and styles, including James Wright, Russell Edson, and Charles Simic. Campbell McGrath’s winding and descriptive "The Prose Poem" is a recent example of the form; it begins:
On the map it is precise and rectilinear as a chessboard, though driving past you would hardly notice it, this boundary line or ragged margin, a shallow swale that cups a simple trickle of water, less rill than rivulet, more gully than dell, a tangled ditch grown up throughout with a fearsome assortment of wildflowers and bracken. There is no fence, though here and there a weathered post asserts a former claim, strands of fallen wire taken by the dust. To the left a cornfield carries into the distance, dips and rises to the blue sky, a rolling plain of green and healthy plants aligned in close order, row upon row upon row.
There are several anthologies devoted to the prose poem, including Traffic: New and Selected Prose Poems and Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present, as well as the study of the form in The American Prose Poem: Poetic Form and the Boundries of Genre.

My first thought - more feet imagery? How fortuitous! And I couldn't remember William Carlos William's poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow," which Meena references in the play so I looked that one up and here it is:

so much depends 

a red wheel 

glazed with rain 

beside the white 

This is clearly no a prose poem. It's an imagist piece that is deceptively deep despite it's small word count and seemingly simple subject. The Guardian does a great job breaking it down.

Any poetry fans out there who enjoyed all the references to Auden and the others in Rx? What did you think of Fodor's use of poetry in the play?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Facts about feet

There are a ton of references to feet in the play Rx. In honor of this quirk, here are some facts about feet that you probably didn't know. 

  • The foot is an intricate structure containing 26 bones with thirty-three joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and multiple tendons that hold the structure together and allow it to move in a variety of ways.
  • Those same 52 bones in your pair of feet account for one quarter of all of the bones in your body.
  • Though the United States measures a foot as being twelve inches, the average size of American feet are 10.5 (10.81 inches) for men, and 8.5 (9.1 inches) for women.
  • Human feet have more sweat glands than any other part of the body, roughly 125,000 per foot. Human feet can also sweat up to a pint of fluid a day.
  • One of the reasons that feet are so ticklish is because there are more sensory nerve endings per inch than in any other place on the body.
  • As many as 90% of women in the United States wear a shoe size that is too small. 
  • Your feet are a good guide to your overall health, as they are one of the first areas of your body to show signs of illness. Hairless toes can be a sign of poor blood circulation and any indentations in your toenails can also be a sign of disease. Any changes you notice in your feet should be reported to your doctor.
  • Though many people consider feet to be ugly, many more spend big bucks to make theirs prettier. An estimated $6 billion is spent in the US every year on manicures and pedicures. This total only goes up when we add in the cost of jewelry, hosiery and designer footwear as well as the occasional foot tattoo.
  • There are times when you're walking that the pressure on your feet exceeds your body weight, and when you're running, it can be three or four times your weight.
  • An average, healthy person should aim to take 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. That covers several miles and adds up to about 115,000 miles in a lifetime. By age 70, the average person will have walked the equivalent of 4 times around the globe.
  • Walking is the best exercise for your feet. It also contributes to your general health by improving circulation, contributing to weight control and promoting all-around well being.
  • Fingernails and toenails grow faster during hot weather, pregnancy and teenage years. 
  • The ancient Romans were the first to construct distinct left and right shoes. Before that, shoes could be worn on either foot.
  • The average foot gets two sizes longer when a person stands up. 
  • Shoe sizes were devised in England by King Edward II who declared in 1324 that the diameter of one barely corn- a third of an inch- would represent one full shoe size. That’s still true today. 
  • Shopping for shoes is best done in the afternoon. Your feet tend to swell a little during the day, and it's best to buy shoes to fit them then. Have your feet measured every time you purchase shoes, and do it while you're standing. When you try on shoes, try them on both feet; many people have one foot larger than the other, and it's best to fit the larger one.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Eight fun facts about pharmaceuticals

1. Cannabis hemp was actually used as currency from 1631 all the way up until the early 1800s. Why? Blame the British: The English navy became solely dependent on cannabis hemp fibers for the production of ropes and sails for its fleet (hence, the term “canvas”). So central did cannabis become to the economy that early colonial law actually mandated that farmers grow the crop. 

2. Bayer, the pharmaceutical giant responsible for Aspirin, once marketed heroin as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant.

3. In 2008, research found that pharmaceutical companies spent twice as much money on advertisement than they did on research. What's more, they typically would buy research from leading universities instead of doing it themselves.

4. Between the years of 1980 and 2010, the price of prescription drugs increased by 300%.

5. Cocaine was the first local anesthetic, having been used as such from 1884 and onwards. 

6. History records Robert Shoemaker, producer of glycerin, as the first large-scale manufacturer in the period from 1818 to 1840. Medicines were previously manufactured in the laboratories of pharmacies where doctors and pharmacists compounded and administered drugs to patients and observed drug reactions. 

7. Every year since 1982, the pharmaceutical industry has been the most profitable. In fact, it has averaged 3 times the return on revenue more than the average return from any other industry represented in the global Fortune 500.

8. Funding for malaria research is 80 times lower than for HIV/AIDS and 20 times lower than for asthma – and malaria gets the most research funding of all tropical diseases. Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds. Only 10% of global health research (private and public combined) is devoted to diseases that account for 90% of the world’s disease burden.