Blog Archives

Computers, Poetry, and Meteorology?

Inside Apple CoverI recently finished the book Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky who is a senior editor for Fortune covering all things Silicon Valley. The book was interesting and a fast read—it read much like a long magazine article—and it’s a nice companion to the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.

Near the beginning of the book Lashinsky describes the kinds of people Steve Jobs hired during the early days at Apple. In particular, Jobs was looking for people who “had an insight into what one sees around them,” what Lashinsky and presumably Jobs called an “artistic gift.” The artistry found in computer design also manifested itself in other ways which Jobs described in a 1995 interview for the Computerworld Smithsonian Awards Program. The following is a quote from that Awards Program which Lashinsky uses in the book.

The goal Jobs said was…

“…[to put] things together in a way no one else has before and [to find] a way to express that to other people who don’t have that insight so they can get some advantage of that insight, [and, thus, make] them feel a certain way or [allow] them to do a certain thing. If you study these people [the ones Jobs was hiring]…you’ll find…in this particular time, in the 70s and the 80s, the best people in computers would have normally been poets and writers and musicians. Almost all of them were musicians. A lot of them were poets on the side. They went into computers because it was so compelling. It was fresh and new. It was a new medium of expression for their creative talents. The feelings and the passion that people put into it were completely indistinguishable from a poet or a painter.” 1

Interesting. And, my anecdotal evidence from many years working with innovative, creative software teams is that Jobs’ observation is still true today. Some of the most inspired programmers and designers whom I have had the pleasure to work with often had avocational interests in the arts, particularly music. I’d like to think my own preoccupation with poetry follows similarly—it’s a perfect outlet for a creative temperament. Now, how meteorology fits into all this is still the unanswered question. 🙂

1Adam Lashinsky, Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works (New York: Business Plus, Hachette Book Group, 2012), p. 52.


Reading a Storm

SnowstormMeteorology and poetry are often interrelated.  Poets write about what they see and feel. What they see and feel is influenced, changed, and shaped by the weather’s vagaries.  The association between the two can produce something like this:

The storm puts its mouth to the house
and blows to get a tone.
I toss and turn, my closed eyes
reading the storm’s text.

This is the first verse of a poem by the most recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tomas Tranströmer.  The poem, entitled “storm,” was translated from Tomas’ native Swedish into English by the Scottish poet Robin Robertson and published in the short paperback, The Deleted World: Poems (see cover photo below).  This particular verse reminds me of what we all do when listening to the wind heralding the approaching onslaught—we attempt to “read the storm’s text.”  Meteorologists just tend to do it much more than normal folk.The Deleted World: Poems

An October Morning

A classic for a colorful month…

by Robert Frost
O HUSHED October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Frost, Robert.  A Boy’s Will.  New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1915.

A Poem Toss

I have never thought of tossing a poem around, but I guess anything is possible during National Poetry Month


by Robert Francis

 Two boys uncoached are tossing a poem together,
 Overhand, underhand, backhand, sleight of hand, every hand,
 Teasing with attitudes, latitudes, interludes, altitudes,
 High, make him fly off the ground for it, low, make him
 Make him scoop it up, make him as-almost-as-possible miss it,
 Fast, let him sting from it, now, now fool him slowly,
 Anything, everything tricky, risky, nonchalant,
 Anything under the sun to outwit the prosy,
 Over the tree and the long sweet cadence down,
 Over his head, make him scramble to pick up the meaning,
 And now, like a posy, a pretty one plump in his hands.


The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart
Edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman, Michael Meade, New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1992, p. 186.

Everything in 18 Lines of Text

As National Poetry Month continues, we move from yesterday’s syllabic meter of Elizabeth Bridges to free verse from a current popular and Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, Mary Oliver

by Mary Oliver

I want to make poems that say right out, plainly,
what I mean, that don’t go looking for the
laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves. I want to
keep close and use often words like
heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish
the question mark and her bold sister

the dash. I want to write with quiet hands. I
want to write while crossing the fields that are
fresh with daises and everlasting and the
ordinary grass. I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be

songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise. I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable. I want them to honor
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words, everything.

New and Selected Poems, Volume Two
by Mary Oliver, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2005, p. 4.

Mountain View

The next installment for National Poetry Month is a piece by an English poet, Elizabeth Bridges.   The mountainous theme: apropos for those of us living next door to the Rocky Mountains.

Verse 16.
by Elizabeth Bridges

The mountains beckon me
      To endure the storms,
The valleys offer me
    Rest in their long arms.

In dreamy forests
    Have I ever dreams,
Whispering my secrets
    To whispering streams,

And what can I do now
    When glad Spring's abroad
But leap, and merrily
    Laugh and shout aloud!

by Elizabeth Bridges, Cambridge, England: Oxford, 1916, p. 23.

Poetry about Poetry

Something by Marianne Moore as we continue our journey through National Poetry Month.  In this piece, Marianne wonders about just what poetry is and why it can be so alluring…

by Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important
                         beyond all this fiddle.
    Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it,
                         one discovers in
    it after all, a place for the genuine.
        Hands that can grasp, eyes
        that can dilate, hair that can rise
            if it must, these things are important not
                         because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but
                         because they are
    useful.  When they become so derivative as to become
    the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
        do not admire what
        we cannot understand: the bat
            holding on upside down or in quest of
                         something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
                         wolf under
    a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a
                         horse that feels a flea, the base-
    ball fan, the statistician --
        nor is it valid
        to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important.  One
                         must make a distinction
    however: when dragged into prominence by half poets,
                         the result is not poetry,
    nor till the poets among us can be
        "literalists of
        the imagination" -- above
            insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in
                         them', shall we have
    it.  In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
    the raw material of poetry in
        all its rawness and
        that which is on the other hand
            genuine, you are interested in poetry.

From: Poetry Out Loud Edited by Robert Alden Rubin, Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1993, pp. 192-193.

Another Lightweight for a Friday

Following the pattern begun last week on the first Friday of National Poetry Month, here is another lightweight poem by America’s 20th century master of whimsy and wordplay…

The Sniffle
by Ogden Nash 

In spite of her sniffle,
Isabel’s chiffle.
Some girls with a sniffle
Would be weepy and riffle;
They would look awful,
Like a rained-on waffle,
But Isabel’s chiffle
In spite of her sniffle.
Her nose is more red
With a cold in her head,
But then, to be sure,
Her eyes are bluer.
Some girls with a snuffle,
Their tempers are uffle,
But when Isabel’s snivelly
She’s snivelly civilly,
And when she is snuffly
She’s perfectly bluffly.

The Best of Ogden Nash
Edited by Linell Nash Smith, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2007, p. 33.

A Room of Poetry

As we continue stepping through National Poetry Month, here’s another modern poem from the present day American poet, August Kleinzahler:

by August Kleinzahler

In the sleep that finally gives rest
I take the stairs slowly
out past the azalea dell and bison paddock,
out of view from the meadow,
and down through these rooms once more,
this endless house
under the lawns still wet from mist,
the root systems and mulch,
only to find you at a sales counter
arguing with a Russian woman.
Her English is rough but adequate,
your argument well-reasoned, controlled.
You will in the end prevail.
The salesclerk is charmed by the snatches of Russian
you mix into your conversation,
the garment exchanged for credit.
I seldom find you in these rooms anymore,
certainly not for months.
So when our eyes meet
you look momentarily bemused,
the shiver of surprise softening to pleasure.
You are lovely,
somewhat older than I remember,
business-like in a tailored suit.
Our conversation is courtly,
flirtatious in what we imagine an Old World way.
How strange to encounter you here
in this harsh light, the tableau
of a downtown department store with its cases
of perfumes, gels, and leather goods.
And how inexplicably refreshed I feel afterward
lying here alone,
awakened precisely as our commerce ended
by the shouts of children going to school.


Sleeping It Off in Rapid City, Poems, New and Selected
by August Kleinzahler, New York, NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008, pp. 122-123

Tired of the Same Old Job?

Today’s installment in celebration of National Poetry Month is another fairly recent addition to the poetry universe…

Tired of the Same Old Job?
by David Meuel 

Then consider a career in poetry.
We’re POETEK, an acknowledged leader
in the burgeoning American poetry industry.
We excel in all the proven forms:
historical, pastoral, tragical, and lyrical.
And, if that’s not your style, we’re also
committed to producing the daring,
irreverent, and no-holds-barred.
We’re looking for energetic self-starters,
people who can do as well as dream,
people, perhaps, like you.
We have immediate openings for poets
in our Heroic Couplet, Epic,
and Horatian Ode divisions.
And, to meet exploding customer demand,
we’ll soon be staffing up
in our industry-leading Alienation Division.
We’ll start you out at $90K,
review your salary every six months,
and give you a great benefits package.
If that isn’t enough, we’ll set you up
in your own office
with your own expense account
and your own company car.
Keats only dreamed
of soaring with his nightingale.
You can soar with us!

POETEK, an equal opportunity employer.

For reference, see “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats.

Islands in the Sky
Poems by David Meuel, Palo Alto, CA: Purism Creek Press, 1997, pp. 56-57.

%d bloggers like this: