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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Always My Favorite Issue

2009janfeb_web

 The Jan/Feb issue of Poets & Writers is out. One of my favorite issues - the 12 debut poets for the year. The past couple of years I have known someone on the list. Not so this year. Based however on past experience with this list I need to get busy looking for some of their material. Those selected in the past have generally been a great crop of poets and for the most part they are very good reads.

Also there is a delightful piece that was written by Kim Addonizio titled First Thought, Worst Thought. Kim provides poetry exercises to inspire writers.

I haven't read it cover to cover yet, so there may be more gems awaiting me.

 

Monday, December 29, 2008

W.S. Merwin featured on PBS News Hour

W.S. Merwin has become one of my favorite poets over the past couple of years. At 81 he is still quite an active writer and has yet another book coming out  "The Shadow of Sirius."

PBS has done a profile and featured some of his poems and it can be seen on their web site here. I enjoyed it. I think it's worth taking a look at.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seasons Forgiving

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035 Having a glass of Chardonnay and wishing it were morning rather than evening. Daylight has slipped out of sight and in its place is the evening before back to the office.

I ventured out today and shot some pictures along the Missouri River and other places close by. Still a bit of snow lingering here and there but we'll see more of it before long. Winter is yet young.

I pity those poor souls who do not have the ability to experience seasonal changes. Their internal clocks must find the year very long and unforgiving. Having four distinct season is like having four times during the year to feel like there is a fresh start.

The clock we look at to see what time of day it is, is simply a man made arbitrary measurement to time. So is the calendar. But the seasons, they are natures clock.

It's probably a poet thing to prefer natural timing to some artificially contrived medium.  

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Vision of the Muse

PolyhymniaMuse-of-Lyric-Poetry Here we have to the left, Polyhymnia the Muse of lyric poetry pictured. I fully understand the mythological creation of the muse of various entities but I am altogether amused by our common day practice of viewing our muse in perhaps an erotic representation. Almost a pornographic implant in the mind as if this is the necessary level in which one must go to the be creative. An arousal if you will. And maybe arousing that something within is what is necessary to move into a creatively fertile mode. Sure, it's fun on some level to suppose that our muse sits at the edge of our desk, long legs exposed, in some flauntingly evil way to attract our attention and impose upon us some grand element of creative juice that sparks our creative libido.[Insert apologies to my female readers who surely have a different image in mind. Or maybe not.]

Our typical vision of the muse calls upon us to look to an external source. I suppose we've all had examples of persons or even inanimate objects that have provided us with a spark of imagination that was the breakthrough of some piece of art. But I feel like deep down inside each of us, that's where the muse really is.

I know that all around us are beautiful, startling, magnificent, frightening, majestic, myopic, shocking and luminescent things that give us pause and allows us to think beyond the moment. But I suspect it is the inner muse within our own minds and not some mythology that takes those things we see and experience and goes outside the box and makes of them something new and allows us to give birth to that which is uniquely ours in a collaborative conception with our inner muse.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

San Francisco airport to feature carbon offset kiosks - News- msnbc.com

 

Here's a positive story for the spaceship earth~!

updated 9:50 a.m. CT, Fri., Dec. 26, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco International Airport is planning to give guilt-ridden travelers a chance to offset the air pollution emitted from their plane rides.

San Francisco airport to feature carbon offset kiosks - News- msnbc.com

Two Voices Lost this Week

Harold Pinter's death on Christmas eve marks the second loss in less than a week of British writers known for their outspoken criticism of war. The other was poet Adrian Mitchell who died a last Saturday.

Pinter's career as a playwright earned him the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature. He was outspoken publicly and often critical of the United States and even his homeland for their various foreign policies and was blisteringly critical for their parts in the Invasion of Iraq.
At one point of his life, he wrote poetry under the name "Harold Pinta."

Adrian Mitchell was a prolific poet. Like Pinter, often in the public eye with critical words for the misuse of political power and a champion of the underprivileged. I happened to be reading last Sunday at an event and chose one of his poems written during the invasion of Iraq titled "Playground." In a 2005 poll conducted by a poetry organization, his poem, "Human Beings" was voted the poem that people most wanted to send into space in the hope that it would be read a century later

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From Me to You....

Christmas_Lights Just an quick note to wish readers a safe and joyous holiday season.

Peace to one and all.....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Inaugural Poet Below Radar to Most

When President-elect Obama is sworn into office the nation will hear from a poet that few of us have even heard of. Elizabeth Alexander's Wikipedia bio is shot and clearly substantiates the argument that her recitation on January 20, 2009 of a poem written by her, especially for this occasion will constitute he 15 minutes of fame.

Alexander was born in Harlem, New York in 1962. She grew up in Washington, D.C. so the so she is no stranger to the nation's capital. She received a B.A from Yale University, an M.A from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently teaches ay Yale.

Alexander is not without honors. Her fourth poetry book "American Sublime" was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship as well as an Illinois Arts Council award.

Reading several of her poems today, I was not on the whole impressed. Of the ones I read, only Blues from her book, Body of Life struck my fancy. Of course I've not read but a half dozen of her poems, and she'll be writing one specifically for the occasion, so there is hope that in those few minuets she will shine. What I am most happy about is that Obama has again placed poetry in a prime time slot for America.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Poetry Roller Coaster 0r the Ups and Downs of the Poetry Market

Last night my wife and I watched a DVD rental from Red Box. Out of respect to my wife, I will not mention the title. She thought it was so bad, that she remarked, "Dear God, the sad thing is there is a paper trail that links us to it."  It was in fact pretty bad, but as I reviewed what was available, it sounded like a good idea at the time.

More good news / bad news on the poetry economics front...

Cecilia Woloch emailed me with news of a new Literary Journal so I'm passing the information on to all my readers Check out San Pedro River Review.  I'll scoot over there and check it out myself and suggest our readers do as well.

It's getting late, I'm off to journal a bet yet for the night.

 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mark Your Calendar - Local Poetry Events

Main Street Rag Poetry Showcase

December 21, 7PM

Join Shawn Pavey, co-founder of The Main Street Rag Literary Journal, for an open mic reading and holiday party at The Writers Place. The cost of admission will be a snack tray or any of your other holiday favorites, beverage of your choice, or any other holiday cheer that you wish to bring.  There's no sign up list, and the party goes until we're out of poems or can no longer stand, whichever comes first. 

New Year's Celebration Reading- 4th Annual!!!

January 1, 12PM-12AM

Start the New Year off right at The Writers Place with our fourth annual New Year's Celebration Reading and Open Mic. Sign up to perform original music or your own poems and short stories. $5 suggested donation.

www.writersplace.org Questions: director@writersplace.org 816-753-1090

From my journaling this past week

Journal bits—

Saturday, Dec. 6th -(listening to an interview by of Katie Lederer, Hedge Fund Poet and editor of Fence) It’s important for writers and other artists to report – our work can be a form of anthropology.

Monday, Dec. 15th-You threw out a song like a bouncer / throws out disgruntle patron / who’s drink privileges were cut shout / not soon enough.//

not to oversimplify, but our massage / is not as harsh as it sounds / but it is with the honesty of clothing / hung out on a line.//

Wednesday, December 17th- I am amazed at the orderly disintegration of both wealth and the overall economy all around me. It’s like there is so much inter connection of the economic fabric of society that everything can’t quite collapse because not everyone can account for their assets at the moment at hand. But you know it is coming.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wind , Wind go Away

The wind is unmerciful. Yesterday we drove to Columbia, Missouri - a quick down and back trip and the cross winds on I-70 were a awful. Lat night they tore the top off our covered swing on the deck and they are bringing sharply colder temperatures. I suppose winter will not be denied.

I wrote for two hours late last night and the writing itself was a positive thing but I was working on a rewrite of a poem that I admit I am trying to force through in spite of the fact that I am well aware this approach never works well for me.  I've backed off it again and vow not to even look at it today. I'll revisit it in the future.

An email today from the infamous Dana Guthrie Martin Funnelcake reports on Splash Poetry and I'm pretty sure they weren't in Miami. Kudos to Mimi for organizing the event. She unfortunately lost her glasses in the dive.

Dana writes: 

O! And Mimi lost her $400 glasses in the lake during the dive. I propose that we raise funds to get her a new pair. Doesn’t she deserve it? She organized this entire event, after all. Maybe I will go around to some eyewear stores with the Seattle Times story in hand and see if any of them want to come to her rescue. It could be a whole thing: the Glasses for Poets Project. Poets like Mimi need to see, after all. They have vision.

E-mail me if you want to chip in for Mimi’s glasses: mygorgeoussomewhere (at) gmail (dot) com.

Also see, For poetry's sake they jumped in the lake

Other Poetry news...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Local (Kansas City Area) Poetry Workshops

A plug for four different poetry workshops this spring-

Missi Rasmussen will be offering a two workshops on the Park Hill High School Campus:   Registration Information

  • January 7th, 14th, and 21st (Wednesdays -6:30pm-8:30pm)
  • March 4th, 11TH and 18th (Wednesdays - 6:30pm-8:30pm)

And she will teach two other workshops at the Oak Park High School Campus:  Registration Information

  • February 4th, 11th, and 18th (Wednesdays - 6:30pm-8:30pm)
  • April 6th, 13th, and 20th (Mondays - 6:30pm-8:30pm)

Missi is president of the Kansas City Metro Verse a local chapter of the Missouri State Poetry Society. She is a recipient of the  Nicholas Manchion English Scholarship Award at Park University, and was a 2007 Pushcart Prize nominee.

Poetry That Won't Compromise

My previous post was a simple statement from Brad Holland. No additional commentary, just his quote which I now repeat.

Many of the contradictions in Postmodern art come from the fact that we're trying to be artists in a democratic society. This is because in a democracy, the ideal is compromise. In art, it isn't. ~Brad Holland

For most of you, the name Brad Holland will likely mean nothing. It meant nothing to me till I ran across this quote, which I’ll admit to instantly taking a liking to.

Holland is an illustrator who was born in 1947, so he is my senior. He was born in Ohio, and began drawing at an early age. He sought employment by Walt Disney, but was turned down. He started school at the Chicago Art Institute, but decided it was too restrictive for his liking. He went to work at a tattoo parlor and later too a regular job at Hallmark Cards in the mid 1960’s and spent his off hours developing a serious portfolio. In 1967 he moved to New York with his portfolio and from there made a name for himself as an illustrator. Freelancing, he became perhaps most notable for his work in Playboy magazine, Avant Garde magazine and various other publications. In 1977 he published Human Scandals, a social commentary using ink drawings.

While Holland is not a poet, he is truly a student of the developing history of art and culture. I have found a degree of cynical humor in some of his statements, but the one I have focused on for this post seems pretty straight forward. I think what he is saying is something which I whole heatedly agree with, but perhaps would never have quite been able to articulate it as well as he has here.

There are two points about this axiom which I believe stand out as fundamentally sound. One is the tendency to treat most of what we do in the constraints of what we believe principals of democracy. That is to say, we naturally fall into the trap that in society what the majority of the people perceive as “good” or as “acceptable” is just that. It is the cumulative value of the majority view. The other fundamentally sound argument Holland makes is that is that this is exactly what art is “not.”

Let me shift back to poetry for the rest of this discourse. It is after all, an art.
When it is said that the job of a poet is to name the unnameable (a concept that we've all heard and I believe is attributable to Salman Rushdie) I think one has to expect that poetry has to take us to new places. It may be in the way words are utilized, it may be in physical location of those words on a page… their presentation, or the metaphorical image, but above all it is not the same old standard commonplace usage of language that everyone expects. It is not simply the cumulative value of how most people see something.

It is true that some people want to hang a still life painting of a bowl of fruit on their wall that looks exactly like you could reach into it and pick up an apple. To paint that well indeed takes skill. It is a craft that not everyone can or has mastered. It would however be a contradiction to the concept of postmodern art which settles not for carbon copies but originality, not cookie-cutter art but for audaciousness.

And so my question to artists, but especially poets is, what two or three things most prevents you from freeing yourself of being an artist/poet in a democratic society tradition?


Monday, December 08, 2008

Think About It....

Many of the contradictions in Postmodern art come from the fact that we're trying to be artists in a democratic society. This is because in a democracy, the ideal is compromise. In art, it isn't. ~Brad Holland

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Publishing & the Future

About a week ago I blogged on the the news that a major publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had advised their editors stop acquiring books.  This news signals that the economic meltdown has come to the publishing houses as well.

Another sign is renewed talk in the industry of the pitfalls of the book return policies by publishers. Allowing book stores to return unsold books is a costly expense. It requires the books to be transported multiple times and has become a hefty drain on publishers profits. Many of these unsold books will eventually be destroyed.

Booksellers resist changes in the credit arrangements that essentially guarantee that a book sells or will be replaced with another one which has the potential to sell. Many booksellers would dramatically reduce their inventories without such credits.

Such changes in the retail sales model could have negative consequences on a growing number of new writers that will find it increasingly challenging to find their way onto bookstore shelves.

Japanese publishers may be ahead of the curve. The Japanese publishing house Shogakukan Inc. has introduced a two-tiered distribution system for retailers.  Under this plan Booksellers can take books on a consignment basis which would be returnable at no cost or they can choose a non-consignment option, which offers a better profit margin for the retailer, but carries an charge if the books are returned. Such changes may be inevitable in the U.S. as well as long as consumers continue to prefer ink on a page they can hold in their hands.

Reports that the Kindle electronic book reader is sold out for the second Christmas season in a row would be positive news for those who believe the future of publishing is e-publishing. That future may still be some distance away.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Staying Centered Away from Community

During the months of November and December our poetry society chapter elected to meet once a month rather them twice a month as usual. 

It's not that I haven been writing, but it seems the result of this reduction in meetings has left me feeling a little off balance or something.  These interactions with other writers would seem to have a centering effect on what I am doing. 

I'm wondering if others that participate in group meetings with other poets/writers or any other arts related community find that such meetings provide a grounding or other beneficial impact on their work, to the extent that their absence over a period of time leaves them feeling some kind of tangible loss to their vocation or avocation.

If you've experienced something similar I'd me interested in hearing about it. Am I the odd one here or is this common?

If you've feel this same kind of impact to lack of contact with your own writing community, what kinds of things have you found to compensate for it's impact upon your own work?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Smart Set: Wedding Bells? - November 10, 2008

 

Ask a Poet
Wedding Bells?
Advice and insight from a professional poet.

By Kristen Hoggatt

I am a poet currently in graduate school. I just finished a sestina. Do I owe Dana Gioia any royalties?
— A.K., Lincoln, Nebraska

The Smart Set: Wedding Bells? - November 10, 2008

When I ran across this recently I just cracked up.  Go check out the whole thing.  Especially if you need a laugh.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Nixon tapes: Ruthless, cynical, profane - First Read - msnbc.com

This morning I heard some of the newest released Nixon tapes on the MSNBC Morning Joe show.  I've heard several times in recent years people talk about the Nixon presidency as though he got a bad rap from the public. Those who were not yet born in those days or not old enough to recollect what it was about the man that motivated his actions, these newly released tapes paint an interesting character portrait of what I would consider a deeply disturbed man.

Nixon tapes: Ruthless, cynical, profane - First Read - msnbc.com