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Monday, October 06, 2003

I Won't Self Medicate Today...

The above is the opening line from Vow to Poetry. I love it in connection with poetry. It seems to me that poetry is in fact a good deal like "self medicating" and in this instance, I don't think that is half bad.

My profession in life, involves mental health issues. Self medication is a concept I am quite acquainted with, and it usually has negative implications. However, to actually "vow to poetry" is interesting in that to me, it conceptually commits one to self discovery and rediscovery.

In a session at a writers conference this weekend I was blessed to hear a woman of color named Bonnie Lynn Tolson. Bonnie is the author of a poetry book entitled Naturally Nappy. Of her work in the book, Bonnie shared that "this is where I was then." This comment underscores a point I believe is valid in terms of any commitment or vow to (write) poetry. By dedicating oneself to writing poetry, you are putting yourself in a position (like it or not) to find out things. To discover... More importantly self discovery. It can be scary but it can also be a very cleansing action in life.

I'll have a hot dog
then go off to a cave...
Is this what we do when we don't write? When we refuse to medicate ourselves with poetics... or get in touch with our deepest insights? Yes, just like blogging, I've had those days I just fluff it off. Take my non-functional self to the caves... Or is poetry the real life, and going to the cave is the real self-medication. Equal to all the negative stereotypes associated with normal self medication. Either way, in the end the fact remains... poetry feeds the soul.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Weekend Wrap Up...

The Weekend is nearly over. The focal point of it was the Maple Woods Writers Conference.

I have to say that Friday and Saturday's writers conference was well worth the money and time invested. Presenters were for the most part excellent. Everyone was good... Most reached above the level of expectation I had.

I was disappointed that we did not have more opportunity to here Gloria Vando - her presentation was cut short by another presenter running over. She is local and the opportunity to exposure to her again is good, so I have tried not to stress too much about this.

My hats are off to the administration of Maple Woods - this is their 20th year and they did a bang up job.

Friday night - there was a special event off campus where Naomi Shihab Nye, poet and essaiest spoke. She is a remarkable woman with a world of contacts in poetry.

Saturday I met with an agent from NY and had a brief discussion of my Candlestick Park book project. More presenters Saturday and finally - (sigh) I was able to catch up on my San Francisco Giants, who were eliminated in divisional play after a wild ride in first place in the NL West from opening day to the last, winning 100 games and the NL West Division Championship.

You must know that I live for these games. I often score the games - so I am into every detail. Being out of the loop Friday and Saturday was killing me, and their whole post season now seems surreal to me. It's almost like it never happened.

I will have much more to say about Naomi Shihab Nye. Perhaps more about the conference too over the next few days. Plus I have some other blog reading to catch up on. Right now, I need to head to bed.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Thursday Thoughts...

Can one carry the weight of endless suffering of the world in it's entirety upon his or her shoulders... And then actually sleep? Thanks Alli Warren for a sleepless night.

Michaela Cooper, had forsaken her fans for LA (good lord [spoken in my best San Francisco Giants fan voice] what of value exists in LA?) but alas has returned, along with some of her brain cells. This is evidenced by her role as promulgator of Blake on matters of "sexual love".

For those who are wondering "what the hell men are thinking"? - try this site.


I'll close with a poem I did maybe a month ago...

TWO DOGS

two dogs at feet
begging attention
ancy
dancing
craving treat

reward in had
wants no part

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The Wit and Lack of Wisdom of Donald H. Rumsfeld

I've seen this book at B & N and chuckled a few times. Then it sunk in that this man is dead serious.

Bly & Bly

And so it came to pass, that I spent a good deal of yesterday on a bus with my youngest daughter and many of her classmates on a trip to Hutchinson, Kansas to visit the Cosmosphere. First of all, let me say that if the Cosmosphere was not in Hutchinson, there would be no real reason for Hutchinson to exist. Truly, it may not, because of course Kansas is only a theory at this point.

The space museum was awesome. Unfortunately it took longer to make the trip there and back than we had time to spend in the museum itself. I spent a good portion of the trip commute reading from Robert Bly's Morning Poems. I didn't ignore my daughter. We actually read parts of it together. She particularly enjoyed (as did I) his poems, Bad People and The Old Woman Frying Perch. AKA - The Cat in the Kitchen.

One of the things I am discovering that I like about Robert Bly is the vast usage of commonplace words to develop his poetry with topics that range from his childhood to thoughts on writing itself. He definitely stretches the imagination, but not completely out of the cerebral cavity, if you know what I mean.

Ha! Who says you can't combine science and culture?

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Weekend ditty...

Ah... Surely I must have something to say.

This weekend has not been exactly what I hoped for so far. Aside from the San Francisco Giants posting their 100th win today, for which I am both elated and saddened, the times since I left work Friday has not exactly been productive or satisfying.

Friday's poetry reading was canceled by the local B&N. (sigh) No warning.. No discussion, they simply shut down. I'll have more to say about this when I'm more rational about it. (that could be weeks - Ha!)

Aside from the Friday night disappointment at B&N, it is not that the weekend has been bad, it just hasn't been anywhere close to the potentially productive and satisfying kind of weekend I enjoy. There is still tonight. (last ditch effort to taunt myself into a positive mood)

The end of the regular baseball season is always a downer for me. My family and friends joke that I supper from a seasonal adjustment disorder between the end of baseball season and the beginning of the next one. I'm not certain it isn't true. Anyway, there is post season play and the Giants will again be in the picture!


The Great genre debate continues to rage...

I've given a great deal of thought to the arguments that are being presented on several sites. Ron Silliman's and Chris Murray's Text files among others.

This has been a most interesting topic of discussion and I'm not sure I see any particular definitive answers yet myself. I see a lot of interesting energy generated on this topic. I'm hoping to see more give and take on it. I suppose for myself, I even vacillate on the value of the focus on genre at times. Right now, I see it as significant, sometimes though I catch myself feeling that it is burdensome and too distracting to consider it against the backdrop of the work itself. Sort of a schizophrenic view, no doubt.

Off to write! I have to make something of this weekend yet!



Friday, September 26, 2003

Whyte In Review

David Whyte's reading and lecture last night was an evening well spent.

I found his overall presentation a positive plug for poetry as an intricate part of our lives. There was a soft sell of the spirituality of poetry. Not surprising in that he was brought in Unity Church. Still, his poetics is driven by a nourishment of the inner-self and that is hard to separate in at least some minute context from a spirituality of sorts.

He set about as defining poetry as the art of hearing yourself say something you didn't know that you knew. In that conceptual model - poetry is a searching and discovery vehicle. To this, I whole heartedly agree. This has been my own observation, at least to the extent of my experience.

Whyte's work emphasizes mans need to drop the shroud of protection we wrap ourselves in and push ourselves to the edge of who we are. Believing there is an important place for each of us the this universe, and it is only there that we have the courage and the qualities of engagement necessary to respond fully to life's call.

As a reader, Whyte was pleasing to listen to even as his English accent required attentiveness. His voice both quietly tranquil and robust enough to be heard. I found myself not wanting to miss a single word.

Most of his readings were completely from memory and his animation of hands were like an great conductor directing. He often repeated lines... with a slow precision to remind us what he just told us.

His work was perhaps not as metaphorical as much of today's poetry. There was plenty of vision and feel. Some metaphor, but his work tends to lead or pull you in a direction.

I plan to spend some time with more of his works. I'm hoping to order a book or two of this soon.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has spent any time with his works or heard him read in the past.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Busy Time

Tonight I have and Evening with David Whyte. Tomorrow night - poetry reading at Barnes & Noble - Independence, MO.

Coming up on the 3rd and 4th - Maple Woods Writing Confrence.

Crystallyn is teasing us...



Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Tuesday Blues....

I'm not talking music here...

I suppose it's all because yesterday was a really busy day and I feel like the week should be more than half over (big sigh) but it isn't. It's ONLY t-u-e-s-d-a-y grrrr...

Alas, there are I suppose things to look forward to. The President will address the UN today. Oh how I'd like to be a mouse setting on Kofi Annan desktop eating popcorn. You know (popcorn) it's "smartfood." When "W" is finished, if I had any left, I'd share some with him. Think it would help?

If the day gets a wee bit slow, you can always check and see if you are a metrosexual. The link silly, not the mirror.

I just adore Michaela's discourse on ABC Gum. It makes complete sense. Especially her remark:

"I love his (Bakhtin) notion of language as this thing that lies "on the borderline between oneself and the other" and as something we don't take fresh from the dictionary but rather from others' usage..."


Lime Tree gets two points for coming up with a "Stick Poet" graphic on their site. Damn, I've been trying to get one out of my kids for weeks now.

Every poem is a genre in itself
Ron Silliman gets two points deducted (anyone keeping score?) for keeping me awake last night thinking about his blog topic yesterday. My head hurts like a hangover.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Power Up!

In a strange twist of fate, I actually came off sleep mode this morning. Wow, Sunday is a day too!

I made my own breakfast - proving self sufficiency of man.

I read for about an hour. (there were no pictures)

Made "strong" coffee and took the dogs (Klaus and Barry) out on the deck and did some writing. I experienced what I am sure must be a significant sign of the impending conclusion of summer... a wonderfully nice morning. It rained earlier, it was neither hot nor cold. The breeze gently kissed my cheeks (not those ones - gawd! I was outside...) with a soft pleasing sensation while the leaves sang in choirs perhaps one of their last few songs before they drop.

My mind actually functions on Sunday...

afterwards, I went inside and did some cleaning in my home office. Ah-ha! I do have a desk. The experience was about what I envision an archeological dig to be like.

Did my own lunch, which around here on Sunday is called "snatch & grab" because only one formal meal is cooked on Sunday. Occasionally I will refer to this as "grab your snatch" - hey, it's revisionist!

So by now you can tell my body has been functioning. What is more unique, my mind appears to be working in unison with the rest of me.

I've actually considered a great many things today. Acknowledging the depth of my thought, I have considered several things. Not the least of which are:

1. Why Catherine expects a stadium like the old Oakland coliseum to be worthy of anything but a terrible name. It was never a great ballpark and once retrofitted for football, they had to move home plate further out from the vortex because people up high behind home could not even see a batter bat. You want a "real ballpark" - go to Pacific Bell Ballpark! As for the restoration of faith in the east bay, do the A's really do that. East bay is gorgeous (south of Oakland) and the A's have nothing to do with that. I love the San Ramon area - at the foot of Mt. Diablo.

2. And why, Emily Dickinson became such a prominent American poetic figure of the 19th century. Or more adeptly I suppose, how she came to such prominence. She was such an introvert and while her poetic style powerful, especially in the reflection of personal feelings, she was barely published in her time. True, she wrote ferociously; penning by some accounts 1,800+ poems in her lifetime. She did not have the exposure of say Walt Whitman. Of course this causes me to wonder additionally how many prolific writers today, with limited publication, would be viewed as having the impact on the 21st century that she represents to her time.

3. And once again Michaela causes me to stop and think. How is it that I can lose my keys in the house and yet scientists can find the genitals -- belonging to 400 million-year-old insects -- in ancient rocks in Scotland?

Friday, September 19, 2003

Thoughts on closure

Crag Hill's poetry scorecard takes a look at the end of poems. When I saw this, I was immediately drawn into it, because I once had a poem critiqued by someone who told me that poems should end in single syllable words. Of course there may be legitimate reasons for this, but the rebellious person inside directing my life really isn't found of being told things in absolutes. Particularly when it comes to art and other expressive things. That is so limiting.

In Crag Hill's blog, he expresses a liking to ends of poems that assert. This certainly has it's place and I'm with Crag totally when he talks about an ending that leaves him with "one chunk of thought or image." This can be quite effective, but not always desirable.

I've written poems that contrastingly end abruptly. Intentionally so. One such poem was Cerebral Cobwebs. The final stanza of this poem I wrote sometime back reads...

Has my mind become fragmented...
Is my memory obsolete?
Are there cobwebs in this mind of mine...
What was I thinking?


The poem ends as if I totally lost my train of thought. Crag Hill supports this idea too.

Hill points out that our lives are absent of closure and so it is befitting that our poetry should often reflect this. I'm all for flexibility in how we end our poems. Meaty thoughts are at time warranted. Something we can sink our teeth into and feel or see. Sometimes that one syllable work is perfect. Sometimes not. The expressive nature this art dictates that we flow with the message and not rigidly adhere to some stock ending.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Choose your weapon... but write

On occasion
so moved by the spirit within
poetry becomes my devise
and complexities
sometimes
are rendered simple
while the simple become at times
more burdensome than ought.

Much the same
a pen and journal page is fine at times
but the pc seems a vehicle preferred
at others.

So much alike
are the life within
and the life of this world that
poetry so fittingly defines.

Lunar forces
and sweeping tides connect
to pull our senses in vast
mood swings that defy even a modern day
Freud.

Ha!
strangely it seems all folly.
What difference matters the blood type
of the penned poem

anyway. Equally is the ink of pens and
printers that gives flight to the ideas
of it's originator. Otherwise,
no one knows and the poet
may not recall tomorrow
the simplest
or the most complex. Lost,

and to others
never was.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Expectations

Expectations abound in life... yours, mine.

All kinds of expectations based on things ranging from taking the garbage out to never letting someone down. I toyed with this. The word seems such an absolute. There is really no wiggle room, which I suppose gives rise to the difficulty that can be posed by keeping one's promise.

This is how it played out....



Promises

I will.
I do.
I did.


Will I?
Do I?
Did I?

Intent – indent
Shifting a little
gives a lot.

Think life one victory
after another?
Don’t bet these odds.

I'll try,
I Promise.



* i am not happy with the formatting here - the third stanza should indent with line two and even more with line three. (get the picture) The final product won't cooperarate with me. (I was just certain it promised to)

Wednesday Wisdombits

Ah-ha! Take that John Burbank! Like some NRA - gun nut I pound my chest and bellow... "you can tax my espresso when you can pry the cup from my cold dead hands!" Ok, I don't live in Seattle or anywhere near... but when you want to add a ten cent lug on a cup of espresso or latte you are hitting very close to home.

Still I tip my caffeine loaded drink to those hearty souls who went to the polls yesterday in Seattle and resoundingly said "bite me - John Burbank!" Yeah! All 68% of ya!

So John had a cause... better funding for early childhood education. Laudable, no doubt. However, I have a pet peeve and that is taxes for legitimate needs and services that target a narrow segment of society. If the need is there, stop being weenies and F'n fund it with traditional sources of funding that spreads the burden out.

Where I come from (not literally) the state makes a big point about the money casinos bring in for education. They have come to totally rely on it. If the gaming laws were changes tomorrow - they would see the funds for education evaporate overnight. We used to fund it with general revenue. Now, much of those funds have gone elsewhere. I'm not opposed to gambling. But I think it is stupid. What is even more stupid is wagering the future education of our children on it.

On another note... You must check out Michaela's piece on Mason Williams' Classical Gas. Reading her words arouses the same vibrant feeling that hearing the song did. Wow! Wow to both!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

About time....

The castaway is back....

Flipping the pages of my calendar, I mumble out loud, "How long has it been?" (actually there were as I recall expletives in there someplace but I'm trying to keep this PG-13)

What's a guy to do when his source for Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff dries up completely for eight days. I mean there are other interesting things to read and ponder... but after a while even the Jim Side begins to look like a motion picture.

So... Michaela Cooper is going away for a few days. You figure you can tough it out. HA! Define few Ms. Cooper... pleasssse. (grin) Have you no regard for your blog reading public?

Enough of the chastisement... Evidently the girl was suffering some serious posterious shock syndrome and thought she was just a couple of consonants away from Mika Boorem. Come to think of it, she is!

I had hoped for a smashing review of How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art, by Kathleen Meyer - but would have settled for Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness, by John McPherson, Geri McPherson. I guess the story of the electrothermolysis was close enough.

Next time, you must warn your fans that a few days is more like a flipping week!
Whew... I'm winded! (smile)

Monday, September 15, 2003

Vando - News Shoes and an Old Flame

The other day, I mentioned a local Kansas City poet Gloria Vando. There was a specific poem she did that I really find fun. I was mistaken when I said that it was no longer on her site... I simply missed it. (duh!)

Anyway, here it is...

New Shoes and an Old Fame

It was tucked away on her poetry in motion page. Enjoy it, I do.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Why We Write? - continued

picking up where I left off last night/early morning...

If it were fame or fortune, that caused (or inspired) me to write, someone please hit me with a brick! I suspect that the motivation of a great many are not dependent on either money or notoriety. Otherwise, a great many people remain quite optimistic about their future wealth or fame.

Actually, a good many writers of fine poetry bask in a fair amount of obscurity. Really, far more then they deserve for their efforts. You see, I am convinced that poetry, while often rewarding on some level, is seldom providing monetary reward or acknowledgement compensatory to the work itself.

In thinking about this question on a personal level, I suppose there are a couple things that I believe are driving forces for me. One is that issue of immortality. Create something that lives on, past your own mortal limits. This is a strong issue with me. I suspect it I am not alone in this regard.

Another factor is simply having something to say. I believe many an individual is starving to say something that matters. To be heard. Writing offers that outlet and poetry is a wonderful vehicle. But writing is only a beginning. If we write will it really matter unless it is read? The cultural advent of blogs begs this be answered perhaps more than the poetic community at large. On some scale, being heard matters. It matters a lot. Still, I think in this day and age not being silenced is even the most basic important aspect. While saying and be heard is like having cake and eating it too... saying it period has value. So for me, I write first - for myself. Second, to and for the benefit of others.

There is much cynicism in poetry today on every level. Many young people don't see much value in the poetry of past generations and some don't even find more modern poetry to offer them much relevance. But the cynic of the craft is even found in many publishing houses where consideration of poetry is often discarded in favor of the bottom line. Oscar Wilde, the Irish born writer, humorist and poet once remarked, a cynic is a "man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." Poetry knows many such people.

Still, it survives. Poetry lives. Even in the raging battle between mainstream poetry and post-post modernism. It evolves and adapts. It is a "culture creature." That is, it lives on the very evolutionary model that thrives as people evolve. What is sad, at least from my own perspective, is that there is a good deal of poetry from each generation or period that has significance as though it were a DNA sample of that place and time. We should be delighted at the opportunity to read it, hear it, examine it. Experience it in a way that gives us back something as a part of that understanding. I'm not saying we have to take all poetry as "good" writing.... but I think each period of history must surly have something that adds value to our own life experience.

So it is.... I have managed to drift afar from the initial question of why I, or anyone for that matter writes? However, if we can agree that poetry allows us to experience something of value... then writing, reading, sharing poetry contributes to the wholeness of ourselves and perhaps others as well. We can lament those who push it aside for what they miss but we must never let the cynicism that abounds for poetry deprive us or silence us.


Who Do We Write For?

I'm sure many if not most of you who currently are engaged in writing poetey have at some point thought about this question. Actually, it can be applied to any writing. Yes, including blogging.

Perhaps the question as it applies to poetry and blogging are very similar. Unlike novels and other more extensive written works, the market for poetry is much more limited. I've heard it argued, poetry is the most pure literary work, because the author's motives are seldom driven by money and fame. I'm not sure that purity is the proper value here, but I can accept the concept of its special or unique place in literature. Of course this almost screams for an answer to the question at hand. "Who are we writing for?"

Can we agree that poetry, like blogging is often written with no clear idea who if anyone is going to read the finished work? The cultural similarities are perhaps not totally parallel, still, they are a reasonably close match.

Do we write these to satisfy ourselves? How much is ego a factor in our motivations? Do we need a stage in life to perform on... the printed page and the online blog providing that outlet?

I'm not certain that I have totally satisfied my own responses to these questions... in fact I think this is more of a starting place for my own formulation. Something to sleep on... speaking of which it is now Sunday morning. Good Nite.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Yesterday

I toyed with blogging yesterday... but alas I didn't blog. Somehow being speechless seemed the most appropriate thing I could do.

Basically I stayed clear of the various media recounts of 9/11. So much was lost on that day two years ago... and we are continuing to experience loss linked to it after all the time between.

Today I thought I'd simply make a list of some of the losses.

1. Innocent lives on 9-11-01
2. Innocence
3. Love
4. Trust
5. Lives in the Afghanistan conflict (and continuing)
6. Individual personal civil liberties (continuing to erode)
7. Lives in the Iraqi war (continuing daily)
8. Diplomatic respect for American Policy in the international community
9. Jobs

This is simply a start.... Feel free to add others you can identify.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Days...

Sun would set,
But not stay
As another would come.
An for it,
Must go the light.

Bridging Troubled Waters....

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel Reuniting This Fall

Old Friends is what they will call their North American tour, which will start in Mid October. Simon and Garfunkel who's most notorious works include Bridge Over Troubled Water, Mrs. Robinson, and The Sound Of Silence.

The duo was last on tour in 1982-83. Clearly one of the best of "rock-folk" music. Their music resonated with a poetic quality and seemed to actually bridge generation. I suppose it seems odd to contemplate that these two will turn 62 during this tour, but then I think of my own age and it seems less shocking. This is good because I don't think I need to be dealing with too much shock. Espically after seeing the ticket prices.

I have to say I'm glad to see them make the tour. Their music still holds a special place in my heart. They had a gift - I'm hoping they will still inspire audiences... maybe even some younger ones.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

More Posts on the Post - Post Thingy

Bloging being what it is, I have to say that you might get a different feeling from Jim Behrle on his post blog post on Post Post Dementia. Geeez, I think my head is spinning. I suppose that almost 24 hours can make a difference in one's perspective. (Did I get enough post in that sentence?)

When I mentioned this a few days ago. I thought it would be interesting to create some discussion. I guess this is close. Maybe if we hash this around a few days it will become a productive dialogue. Then, perhaps not.





Joan Houlihan Debate

I recently asked what others thought of Joan Houlihan's Post Post Dementia piece in the Boston Comment. I see today where Jim Behrle has taken time out of his busy schedule promoting his "Crush List" Thong to (sort of) come to Joan's defense. I like that he sees Joan in a positive light, giving her credit for her love of poetry and accepting that not everyone is going to understand what some poets are up to. While I have not previously stated so, I did find Joan's essay thought provoking. I find her to be a fascinating woman who's essay is not without merit. Though I will add that even mainstream poetry can be read by two different folks whose life experiences are different and arrive at totally different geography. It happens.

Hey, this isn't really any different than Jim and I. Jim apparently enjoys football and plays it up in his blog. Me, I think it largely sucks and lacks the poetry and beauty of baseball. But Jim's still as swell guy as best I can tell.

Right now, what I am wondering most, is what are the odds that Joan may end up on Jim's next crush list?

Monday, September 08, 2003

Gloria Vando

Local Kansas City Poet

Last year I had an opportunity to meet Gloria Vando - a local poet who did a presentation at the Maple Woods Community College's Annual Writers Conference. Gloria is a quite lively woman with an enthusiasm that is contagious... even from afar! I swear it's an airborne variety!

One of my favorites of hers is a AN ACT OF LOVE. I suppose perhaps because bread and its creation have always been a big thing in our family, it is something that I easily identify with. She had another one I loved but isn't on her site any longer. I'll have to see if I can locate it elsewhere.

Gloria is going to be at the Maple Woods Conference again in October. I'm anxious to see her again.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Sunday Satire... sort of

Only in America

Yes, that world famous Jim Behrle, poet, humorist, blogger extraordinar has sold his first Thong. Walt Whitman would be green with envy.

Michaela Cooper give us the sad news of the demise of someone whom we've come to look at as an American icon.

[Note: the above link is in no way to shamelessly acknowledge the plug she gave to Stick Poet. We have standards... they're here somewhere.]

Actually Michaela Cooper's blog, Mikarrhea remindes me of a popular insturmental song from my high school days... it's a Classical Gas.

On a more serious note, I see we've had no takers yet on my challenge to share the names of your two (if you could only have two) literary review magazines per year. Somehow, I'm at least expecting a response from Jim Behrle. (who undoubtedly is unaware I posed the question) I'll take a guess that at least one of them would be Mad Magazine.