SquareRoot of Love: Valentine’s Day in Paris – A WinePoetryFilm Project

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In these critical times of political nervousness, individual and group terrorism, and state-sanctioned xenophobia, there is an unsettling emerging realization that humanity’s capacity to be mean, selfish, destructive and immorally silent is as natural as hurricanes off the coast of Florida. But what is equally stunning is our collective capacity: to be compassionate, to be creative, to be self-sacrificing, to give and, most incredibly, to Love. This idea of love has been the cornerstone of our human survival, of world religions, spiritual and political movements, a musing for arts and letters, and a powerful metaphor for all that is good and even godly. It has been examined, preached, counterfeited, and even traded. And too much or too little can induce a pathological Mobius path where Love and hate can become one, creating a space of distortion, disconnection, and debilitating depression. And while the love of a god, country, family, ideas, objects, and space is the very force that drives us to incredible civilized development, it is also perhaps the over-love of such things and their various combinations that has led much too often to dreadful destruction.

As complex and simple as love can be, it is indeed a magical thing. But if you dare to look at love through a mathematical art lens, you might ask what is the geometry or topology of Love, what are the factors of Love, what X what = Love; or, what is the square root of love?

This last question led me to a graphic design representation, then a poem, then an animation based on the poem, then a duet installation with the legendary Karen Finley at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC, then a SquareRoot of Love happening that became a kaleidoscope of art, music, poetry, and film, complete with an especially prepared math-art-love multi-course menu of exotics roots and tasty aphrodisiacs. While the event was powerful and rich with cultural intersections, there was something missing: that special wine.

We can go on forever about wine’s connection to notions and behaviors of Love. This missing factor inspired me to think about how wine and its bottle could be used to advance the theme of this Love project. The idea was to have the SquareRoot of Love graphic on the front label, my poem on the back label, and a QR code that would connect you to the video poem. All I needed was the wine, a red wine, a French red wine. Finally, after years of creative incubation, I got to the south of France, to visit the famed soil of the Bordeaux region, its people and incredible history. So it was in St. Emilion that I found a Château, a winemaker, and the wine to complete this 10-year project.

Once you scan the QR code on the label, you are brought to an animation based on the SquareRoot of Love poem, where you will travel from one heart to another and back. The piece features graphic elements from the original installation and a French version of the poem. In 2012, the final version of this short math-art-love animation premiered at Martha’s Vineyard international Film Festival in the short film program.

So with great inspiration, and of course Love, I am honored to introduce to Paris, and to the world, SquareRoot of Love: Valentine’s Day in Paris – A John Sims WinePoetryFilm Project 2017. This series of events features the wine created in collaboration with Château La Grâce Fonrazade of Saint Emilion, multiple wine tastings at L’Etiquette Wine Shop, a screening of the SquareRoot of Love film at Culture Rapide, and as the finale, Valentine’s Day in Paris: Love, Poetry and Wine at Berkeley Books in Paris.

Poets in Paris were invited to present poems on Love for this event. Among those participating are American poets Jamika Ajalon, Malik Crumpler, and Antonia Alexandra Klimenko. What follows is a selection of their contributing Love poems.

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Love: Untitled

the illusion death
can’t kill IT
In ninth dimensions
we roam below as above
planetary swirl pull swell (from mire)
feeding pyres digital ashes

why we do
we do
why we do
we do

real time and outta time at the same time

and direct_ outta_ free stream
we can collect them bone dominos
and throw those sticks
tell me some of those old lies
you don’t know body ‘member
dig deep til_ it rise.

why we do
we do
why we do
we do

that’s the reel
the super 16

celluloid skin

that negative got archive

on the low

spill feral spark

but we 7 billion light years away
evading majoriborg surveillance
(holding jukes on perry’s ark)

out of power blinded sight

its the force behind the
pulse

asphalt blacker than black
(carry darker than a coal train)
permeations prometheus
chalked warp etchings
in 0110 code
magnetic tape supreme
looped backwards

why we do
we do
(why)_ we do
we do

–Jamika Ajalon

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All we got is what we ain’t

we ain’t flowers
we ain’t kids
we ain’t nervous
we ain’t scared
we ain’t skinny
we ain’t bored
we ain’t frontin’
we ain’t worried
we ain’t wonderin’
we ain’t guessin’
we ain’t arguin’
we ain’t questionin’
we ain’t abusive
we ain’t afraid
we ain’t weak
we ain’t silly
we ain’t alone
we ain’t naïve
we ain’t defeated
we ain’t broke
we ain’t old
we ain’t new
we ain’t simple
we ain’t computers
we ain’t songs
we ain’t metaphors
we ain’t dreams
we ain’t horror
we ain’t strugglin’
we ain’t sad
we ain’t confused
we ain’t depressed
we ain’t distrustful
we ain’t cheatin’
we ain’t sober
we ain’t fools
we ain’t new to this
we ain’t in denial neither
we know exactly who we are
we are origin and destination
we are inseparable constellations of stars
we are in love because we are love

– Malik Ameer Crumper

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Heart’s Compass

You pass through me
like windows on a train—
freeze-framed in Winter
my shattered Spring
I look for you
in all the compartments
of my heart
groping blindly
at flashes of reflection

(Why did you pull out? I ask
At which stop did you finally exit?)

knowing full well
I have swallowed you
the night before
swallowed you
as I have the sun the moon
and all the dead stars—
light years of your grief
passing through me now

I, the cavity of Paris
compass without a needle—
my arteries stretching like roadmaps
across the universe of my heart

How I let you slip through me
i will never know
why
I sent you
to your own dark eclipse
your delirium of narcotic bliss
engraved on the head of a needle

What is it we hold in our hands
that slips through our fingers—
this human landscape of blood and tears
How do we hold onto heart’s needle
this compass of compassion
this shining star
this point of reference—
hold onto light lost in a City of Light
hold onto that one magnet that pulls us
to a place where we belong

One day
we may lose true North
lose our way
lose this moment
lose whole continents
of ourselves
like refugees
with no where to turn
like I lost you
you who once took refuge
deep inside of me

I still hold South
between my thighs
still wait for you to move me
like the earth
like this engine pumping blood
this train pumping iron
like Night and hydrangeas
exploding into the ecstasy
of novas and constellations
tunneling the black hole of me
the deep blossoming throat of me—
you, my heart’s needle-
a singing meteor
that passes through me as light
that hums in me like Spring—
the one place I cannot get to

I am the cavity of Paris
that lovers once poured into—
my heart a weeping sieve
Milky Ways oozing from
the swirling globes of my eyes and breasts—
the trickling cum of humanity
peeling Time from my lips like a mask

At night alone in my bed
I marry the sacred dark of you
I marry the souls of all your dead planets
all the sweet amnesias of heaven
that live inside my head
I curse myself and heavy-lidded Night
that slumbers through the day
I, dragging the moon
like my flesh behind me
while Dark goes on and on
like the bottomless sky
with no ending or beginning

Dark knows we are afraid of it
wants only to be loved
I swallow it
as I do my tears
I kiss it
like I drink in air
I stuff the shame of guilt
back into my horizon
praying that light will find me

I am the cavity of Paris
that lovers once poured into—
my heart a weeping sieve
Deep inside myself
inside the shadows I cannot contain-
statues and monuments to the dead—
a whole city of shimmering possibility
rises as smoke above a skyline of ancient syllables
quivering on the tip of my tongue

The pallbearer of my own dead poems
bereft of words, divine direction or
a satin box to lay my aching compass
I drift
alone in the dark
alone with you and the breath of Winter
erased by a night that forgives

– Antonia Alexandra Klimenko

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It is my hope that theme and spirit of SquareRoot of Love: Valentine’s Day in Paris, moves beyond the holiday, the arts, and the wine to an interconnected-cultural-political consciousness that protects, practices, and celebrates the best part of our humanity: Love. Because our collective survival depends on it.

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Jamika Ajalon is writer and inter-disciplinary artist who works with different mediums independently, but also in multiple fusions- incorporating written and spoken text, sound/music, and visuals.

Malik Ameer Crumpler is a poet, rapper and music producer that’s released several albums, short films and five books of poetry. He also is editor and founder of Those That This, the curator/ host of Poets Live Paris, and the new editor-at-large for The Opiate. Currently Malik lives in Paris, France.

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko is widely published; her work has appeared in XXI Century World Literature (in which she represents France) and Maintenant: Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art archived at the Smithsonian Institution and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. She is Writer/Poet-in-Residence at SpokenWord Paris.


John Sims, a Detroit native, is a multi-media conceptual artist, creating projects spanning the areas of mathematics, art, text, performance, and media activism. His main projects are informed by the vocabulary of mathematical structure, the politics of sacred symbols, and poetry as ally to the visual arts. He has lectured and exhibited both nationally and internationally and his work has been featured in Art in America, Sculpture, Transition, FiberArts, Guernica, Science News, CNN, NBCNews, New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and the science journal Nature. More from this author →