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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Tolstoy Moment

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature
shall not be broken. ~ Leo Tolstoy

True Confession

I confess that I missed Confession Tuesday as I was doing Taxes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Spring

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Journal Bits 2-13-11 to 3-26-11

  • Sunday 2-13-11:  Reasing in Ariel's Gift there were a couple of things [that] caught my attention. One is the difference between the ordering of the poems in the origional Plath manuscript and they way they first appeared in print. The Plath order of the poems begins with Morning Song and ends with Wintering. This makes the first and the last words of the manuscript love and spring.  For all the edginess of Plath's more notorious poetry, this ordering of the manuscript  has a positive upward movement that is not generally associated with these poems the way they were ordered in its first publication.
  • Saturday 2-20-11: Yesterday I has a rejection letter Rattle.
  • Wednesday 2-23-11: The envelope is closed / to outside influences / sealed like the tamper proofing / of nuclear material / in an unreliable foreign nation
  • Monday 2-28-11: There across my lap covering / my left hand is an RPT25 / I've come to view it as and extension / of my soul.  Feeling its leather / smelling the earthy sent / swell in my nostrils / invites memories of games played / of my son throwing heat...  my daughter who was more apt to toss lazy flys for me / to camp under like falling starts.
  • Monday 3-7-11: consider - metaphor is for things you can't say... are your images ornamental or do they have broader vision?  "Poems are not read, they are reread." Terrance Hayes  [source for all this was Terrance Hayes Master Class]
  • Friday 3-11-11:  His God had volume / his God embodied totality / fundamentally his God / was the word in all its plurality / all that is named and all / that remains to name / his God was living, growing / his God was language
  • Sunday 3-20-11: "Each time of life has its own kind of love." ~ Leo Tolstoy
  • Friday 3-25-11:  "The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?" Pablo Picasso
  • Saturday 3-26-11: It's cold - I mean Burr Cold outside... I paid $3.44 for gas today - my God this is insane.
  • Saturday 3-26-11: Darkness follows / the headlights eat / white hash marks.... 
* unless otherwise attributed to someone else in quotes - these are from my own writing.   2011 ©  Michael  A. Wells – all rights reserved

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Tolstoy Moment

Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.
~ Leo Tolstoy

Why?

There were several things that I had running through my mind today that I thought when I finally got to this page I might write about but along the way a read a blog post that I on occasion gravitate to.  Upon doing so, I was reminded that this was the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero 31 years ago. Thirty-one years? It seems like in many respects it was only yesterday.  This takes us back to what many like to think of as Morning in America a phrase coined by Ronald Reagan.  If you are one who thinks this was a simpler time, remember the turbulence in Central America. Remember Reagan Administration selling arms to Iran and the proceeds from covert arms sales to fund the Contras in Nicaragua in blatant violation of an act of Congress. Yes, and all you hear today is praise for Ronald Reagan, and Republicans push and shove each other out of the way in their quest to be the quintessential Reagan Republican. But I digress.

In her blog post Kristin Berkey-Abbott said she could think of "few other people who lived during the second half of the 20the century who more deserve sainthood" then Archbishop Romero. She argues that Romero, like Jesus must have known what wrath he was bringing down upon himself, but he did not back down. Until the end of his life, he called upon us to reform our earthly systems, systems that enrich a few on the backs of the many. Romero and Christ both show us that the forces of empire do not take kindly to being criticized.  The the death squads that roamed the country, the social-economic inequity, the human rights abuses by the government and the murder of a personal friend who dared to intercede on behalf of these issues for the people were too big a burden to shrug off and Archbishop Romero would not be the quiet complacent caretaker of the Church that the Vatican wanted him to be.  The result was essentially the same as his murdered friend. The Archbishop was gunned down as he celebrated Mass.

I think of President Obama's trip to South America and how many divides remain between the America's to this day. I think of the uprisings throughout the Middle East and the clamoring for democracy by those who know so little of it, yet do know the pain of repressive rule.  I think of people in this country who pray to God and find fault in everyone else. With all the problems in many countries, we who have so much seem to have a way of looking past the plank stuck in our own eyes and are so certain everyone else must see things as we do. 

If our theology is not a liberation theology, then why was Christ so given to the blind, the poor, the sick, the weary?  Why was he so angered by the money interests in the temple? Why did he love those who are often the least loved among us?  Why?  And why do we not?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Confession Tuesday - The Tulips are up edition.

Dear Reader:


It’s been one perigee full moon, one King’s Speech, countless puppy potty training trips to the yard, too much news on the TV and much consternation over world affairs since my last confession.


I confess that I have not written well this past week. I’ve not had much success at focus which perhaps accounts for some of the problem. Then there is in yet another way too much focus. Confused yet? Let me help you.


First I’m speaking of the setting in general. Too much distraction from too many external forces tends to lead to the frustration level that hinders a writer’s effort. Distractions, interruptions, those kinds of things. Then come recognition that what you are doing sucks. So at that point you press yourself forward trying diligently to create something and this more singular focus approach is the overkill that dulls the creative process. A more relaxed approach is needed. Like a dieter who starts with some kind of cleansing phase before maintenance begins, the head needs to be clear of excessive linear thoughts. Open to more possibilities. I confess I wish I could bottle this condition and store it in the cellar like grandma did her canning to call upon later as needed.


~0~


I’ve found myself looking backwards a lot lately. I confess I’m not sure what but in doing so I catch myself longing for those days. I think if I could choose to be a certain age again It would likely fall somewhere between twenty and thirty. This whole exercise in reflection is nonsense, still I wish for those times again – maybe a part of me wants a do-over but there is something about those years that I long for as well.


~0~


Only 10 days till the Synesthesia –Art gallery showing. Yes, I confess I am still Oh so excited about it!


~0~


I noticed the Tulips have broken ground in our front yard. I confess this makes me happy!


~0~


Lately I’ve turned to twitter for breaking news stories often during the day. I confess I don’t know if this is a good thing or not.


~0~


For some reason I’ve been thinking about gardening this week. I confess I’ve no explanation. I’ve not had the best success at it in the past. I’m actually thinking more of flowers and landscaping then vegetables. Though a strawberry patch would be cool. And I could go for some watermelon.  :)


That’s it for this week… Thanks for reading and have wonderful week!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

O Moon that hangs above our home

Last night hanging over our roof line and framed by wispy leafless branches I observed the perigee full Moon.  I also saw The Kings Speech. The lunar experience came on one of 174 potty training attempts with a puppy. The movie came on one attempt by Cathy and I to escape the dog madness and be alone (with a crowd of other presumably humans). Writing was impossible- I managed a blog post that must have taken me nearly three hours to write and post. Things are relatively quiet at the moment. I have several "must do things" today so when I finish this post I must start tackling them while it's possible.

I especially enjoyed the movie. It was not so much about plot as it was the characters, and they were well played. Except the portrayal of Winston Churchill by Timothy Spall fell flat; my wife's opinion which I share. Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, and Helena Bonham Carter... all superb! Their Academy nominations and awards were much deserved.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Censoring for the Public / Poetry & Purity

"When the writer knows pretty well that only very few volumes of his edition will be bought... he obtains a great freedom in his creative work. The writer who has in view the certainty, or at least the possibility of selling all his edition, is sometimes influenced by their future sale... almost without meaning to, almost without realizing -- there will be moments when, knowing how the public thinks and what it likes and what it will buy, he will make some little sacrifices -- he will phrase this bit differently, and leave that out."
I found the above quote via the poet Nathalie Handal, who linked an article by Christopher Merrill, Director, International Writing Program, University of Iowa. The article titled The Invisible Procession  appeared in the Huffington Post and addresses of the use of poetry when the world shifts underfoot.  Merrill seems to be asking, are these times not picture perfect for the genuineness of poetry?

I've never considered this to be a positive attribute, but there is an irony in these words. Poets like Carolyn Forche', Pablo Neruda, Nathalie Handal, Charles Simic, and Mahmoud Darwish are a few poets that come to my mind who have have in fact very effectively written poetry of witness.  In each of these cases I think there is clear evidence that their work has been void of the kind of sacrifices of genuineness that panders to what a writer thinks people what to hear. Still each achieves a following because of their art. Maybe because of the purity of their words and not through capitulation. Amen!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Poem: Our Story

Our Story

I love the sea and fear it;
the way it crashes the shoreline.
I love life with all the misfortune
because hope is a buoy
I cling to and continue to believe
that a patch of fertile land
is just over the curved possibility
and I love you because the storm
that presses upon us will grow silent
as a blank page— and we will write
our story.

2111© Michael A. Wells - All Rights Reserved

Happy St Patrick's Day

"Ireland is rich in literature that understands a soul's yearnings, and dancing that understands a happy heart."~~By Margaret Jackson.~~


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thought for Troubled Times

"The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail." ~ William Faulkner

Confession Tuesday

Tuesday appears to have arrived on schedule. Okay, it actually came an hour earlier then last week (yes that is bitterness in my voice) but aside from that it has arrived as expected. One snow, too much barking, too many Aladdin and Barbie viewings, too many “ca-chings” at the gas pump, a quick but enjoyable sit down fast food meal with Cathy and another acceptance letter later.

Shall we get on with the confession?


Dear Reader:

I confess that I can be a sucker for even the simple. In a week that didn’t often allow for much time together – even a spontaneous stop at Church’s Chicken on the way home for our respective jobs a was a delightful event. Perhaps this week will be a little better.

The tragic quake and tsunami continues to consume much of my attention. I confess that I compartmentalize those two natural occurrences separate from the unfolding catastrophic nuclear disaster. The first saddens me and the second angers me because we have been hearing warnings for years now of such possibilities. Even here in our country to listen to people like Senator Lamar Alexander try to compare this to an automobile accident and say, who don’t stop driving because a person is killed in an auto accident is just plain stupid. The contamination of high levels of radiation from a meltdown will render an area uninhabitable for decades. It risks exposure to the food chain. In Japan with the concentration of population in areas like Tokyo, wind shifts could risk exposure to millions of people within hours. Sen. Alexander thinks this is like a car wreck? Really?

I confess I find leaders who cling to such notions blindly because of Industry Lobby and the trails of money they leave behind are despicable. I also confess that I did not intend to get on a rant today. **heavy sigh** Let me just conclude this segment by saying I am praying for the people of Japan – for their loss and many challenges ahead.

I didn't do much writing this past weekend and I confess that I am also behind schedule for the month on getting submissions out. I hope to do better this week and catch up with the submissions as well. But I have learned that if you stay on the ball with getting material out, even if you have a bad week things are still happening. Example yesterday I receive a rejection letter on four poems I had sent out. Likewise, over the weekend I receive another acceptance! This one to a Journal I had never submitted to.

I confess that I do enjoy it when others that I know have successes with their writing. Kelli Russell Agodon’s news yesterday that she or her book is a finalist for an award (see yesterday’s post) and another local friend Amy Leigh Davis has a book coming out and I just saw the cover art for it and I love it! The down side to all of this is I get all excited over such news and then two or three days later I think come on manuscript like I can urge it on, wish it on or something. **sigh**

Are you enjoying Daylight Savings Time yet? I confess I’m not.

I don’t mean for this all to sound like I’m on a downer… because I’m not. I’m looking forward to the Synesthesia – Art Exhibition by Jennifer Rivera (opening April 1st) that will feature abstract paintings inspired by poems, two of which (poems) are mine! I have painted when I was younger. You know when people go to a gallery and look at a painting and say, “my kid could do that” – well that would be a painting by me. That is why I don’t paint, I write. Though I have tried sketching in the past year, and someday I may try oils again, but I confess it will be just to amuse myself. But seriously, this exhibition and the two recent acceptances for journals due out in April have me in a pretty good mood. And that’s how I’d like to conclude my Tuesday Confession, on a high note.

Thanks for listening. May you be on a high this week as well… just not drug induced. ;)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Congrats!

Kelli Russell Agodon & Susan Rich are among the finalists for the ForeWord 2010 Book of the Year Award for the category of poetry.  Having read both of the books in question these are very deserving finalists. Congratulations to both!

Oh, and the books~ 
  1. Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room / Agodon
  2. The Alchemist's Kitchen / Rich

3.14

Snow fell last night and yet birds sang prolifically as though they were on an episode of Wild Kingdom. I wasn't a big accumulation but it's a wet snow and thus weighty.  Last night they were talking it would warm up to the 40's and we'd see some sunshine today so I guess this is just a little flirtatious burst of winter or maybe today will be a flirtatious burst of spring. Who really knows in Missouri. 

Thinking this morning about the enormity of uncertainty that people in Japan must be feeling.  So many people unaccounted for. A crisis in their power grid. Tremendous destruction and the questions about their nuclear risks/contamination etc.  They are in my prayers this morning.

Oh... and today is pi day - Happy Pi Day to all!  Pi Across America

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Confession Tuesday

Lots to talk about this week so let's get started...  To the Confessional!


Dear Reader:

On Sunday I had the good fortune to participate in a Master Class workshop conducted by Terrance Hayes who UMKC brought in an then there was a Reading at Katz Hall on the campus Monday night. The workshop was a very well spent three hours.  Then Monday night I drove back into town for the Reading and confess that I was very disappointed that the room was packed. Okay, I was glad they had a great turnout, but was disappointed that there was not better planning for the reading. We're talking about Terrance Hayes!   Room 101 at Katz Hall was way too small for a draw like Hayes. Even the standing room was pretty well full. Given the room situation and my long day at work I was not up to standing through the event.

~0~

I can't believe how fast the year seems off to. March already?  An here we are Ash Wednesday tomorrow and St Patrick's Day a little over a week away.  I Love St. Patrick's Day! I love green, I love shamrocks, I love Corned Beef and Cabbage! My confirmation name? Yep... Patrick!

In spite of the fact that it's the night before Ash Wednesday, I have yet to decide what my Lenten project will be this year. Will I give up (sacrifice) something or commit to something proactive? Decisions - decisions. I confess I simply don't know yet. And to complicate matters I was enticed to check out the 101 Practical Fasting Ideas for Lent that Kelli Agodon posted on her site. Some great ideas - I confess feeling like a kid in a candy store who gets to pick out one item. Just one item!  Well, I have the night to sleep on it.

~0~

Terresa Wellborn who blogs at the Chocolate Chip Waffle ( I love that title!) blogged on marginalia  [scribbles, comments, and illuminations in the margins of a book] the other day and it got me to thinking about the act.  I confess that I've engaged in the act, but do not do it regularly. I suppose one reason is that many of my poetry books are in fact autographed by the poet and it just seems to create a barrier to me writing in the book. I do make very frequent notations in my journal but I confess I'd like to feel free to do it anytime... all the time!  There is something really intriguing about the idea of picking up a book and seeing the thoughts of other people in the margins. I confess that the thought others might find mine of interest at some point lingers in my psyche. But alas, I remain conflicted about doing this.

Well, I'm going to close now in a state of indecision... to write in margins or not?  What to do for Lent?

My your week have plenty of direction! 

Monday, March 07, 2011

Magpie Tales 55 - Poem: Untitled



There were sharp points of ambiguity
forked thoughts parting on a less traveled hunch


improvised explosive devices on the kitchen table
landscape of miscellaneous utensils and surgical drop cloths
between salt and pepper and adjacent to some Tupperware
thingy empty with after factory burp     the lid some distance
away from the scene


ruptured pustules perhaps corpuscles maybe a spread
of jam gone array                   smudges and prints
cluttered the site          and fingered a suspect



2011 © Michael A. Wells

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Diligence Pays Off

In writing diligence is a word that needs to be added to the formula often offered as a key to success - read often, write often and rewrite. Add to that diligence as it relates to submitting. Dresser drawers of poem drafts are not the typical recipe for achieving publication. Yes, it worked for Emily Dickinson, but she didn't live to see the success.

Last night I received an acceptance letter on one of my submissions. I have a piece that will be appearing in Right Hand Pointing in April. I enjoy Right hand Pointing, not because they have accepted work of mine before, but because the editor, Dale Wisely almost always pulls together work that really interests me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have more submissions to plan.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tuesday Confession

Tuesday evening and I'm finally sitting down to put together this weeks confession.   Follow me to the confessional....                
Dear Reader: It's been a week since we last did this and I've a few things to confess. February has come to a close. I planned to do four new submissions this past month and on the 28th of the month I got the 4th and final one for February out. **Yeah!** That means for two months in a row I have actually met or exceeded my submission goals. Submissions had become drudgery in the past couple of years so this is a really positive thing. **clicking my heels... Yeah!**

~

I confess that sometimes in the evening I can hear the whistle of a distant locomotive. I Just now heard it. I confess that this is a sound I love. I don't necessarily recall hearing it every night but when it comes to my attention it is almost like clockwork. My grandfather was a railroad man and I always think of my grandfather and grandmother when I think of trains. I used to ride a train on many weekends to go visit them as a youngster. As a result I confess hearing the train triggers a whole host of feelings, tastes, and scents associated with them. The smell of Violets on the side of their home. The taste of fried perch or blue gill, watermelon, homemade doughnuts. Grandpa's tall and quiet stature. The way he would always do dishes when he was home from the railroad work. Grandma stopping on summer afternoons to get us popsicles. Loved the banana yellow ones. I could go on and on.

~

I confess that I have a grave concern that we (United States) are headed down a road to class warfare. The disparity between as the top 1-3% of wealthy are growing in obscene proportion to the rest of the people. Middle class families are dropping lower and lower in comparison. Their buying power is taking a big hit. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge people earning money but the CEO's earnings and corporate earnings are coming at the expense of the vast majority of Americans and the grow and grow and contribute so little in return. It is not farfetched to imagine the kind of mass rejection of our corporate hierarchy - much the way we saw the people in Egypt reject 30 + years of neglectful rule by their government. It could happen. **sigh**

~

I confess that I cracked up this past week when a 7 year old nephew visiting us, spoke up as my wife and I were watching  "Hot in Cleveland" when the word sex was spoken in a sentence on the show, "Aunt Cathy, I think this is inappropriate for me."  Can he even define inappropriate?  I laughed my ass off.

That's it for this week. May the rest of your be happy and stress free.   See you next week!