Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sports Utility Poem by Michael Wells

this is an audio post - click to play

What Time Can Do To The Written Word

I've been focusing on two things. One, pulling together the first issue of Rogue Poetry Review. This is going well and I originally had a target date of Oct.10th. I was hopeful that I might even do one better and complete everything by Monday. This may or may not happen, but I figure either way, I am ahead of myself in terms of original plans.

The other point of focus is trying to better organize my own poetry manuscripts. I am saving them as a backup to a flash drive, but being somewhat selective in that I have a lot of stuff I am not totally pleased with and I am trying to segregate this from the other. Doing so of course this involves revisiting a lot of stuff written long ago. Amazing what time can do.


Friday, September 29, 2006

As Congress Rushes For Election Break

Recycling Poems

  • Wednesday, I received rejection letters on two submissions... but they are on material that I am very pleased with and will go right back out. A form of recycling I suppose.
  • House Adopts Measure Allowing U.S. Wiretaps Without Warrants The House Leadership is willing to put the U.S. Constitution through a shredder for the sake of doing the ONLY thing they believe they can run on and that is the "fear of terror." These are the losers this country elects.
  • Interesting fact: Allen Ginsberg's archivist says Ginsberg had more then 300 volumes of journals.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wednesday Poet Series No 3

This week, the Wednesday poet is one I have greatly admired. Sharon Olds was born in San Francisco. She graduated from Stanford University and the received her Ph.D. form Columbia University in New York and currently teaches creative writing at New York University.

That I am aware of, Olds has eight major works published the first Satan Says in 1980. These were followed by The Dead and the Living, The Gold Cell, The Father, The Wellspring, Blood, Tin, Straw, The Unswept Room, and the latest, Strike Sparks: Selected Poems published in 2004. I am personally most familiar with Satan Says and The Father, both of which resonate with a frankness and detail that is reflected in most everything of hers I have read or heard.

Like Sylvia Plath, Olds seems to push work out from within relating things most personal. I've seen her quoted as saying, "I wish I wrote more about the world at more distance from myself." While she might wish that, her talents have been well served by her approach.

Her first book Satan Says, received the inaugural San Francisco Poetry Center Award. The Dead and the Living won the 1983 Lamont Poetry Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award while her book The Father, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and was a finalist for The National Book Critics' Circle Award.

Some of her poems: The Unborn The Borders The Clasp Topography

One of my favorites among her poems is The Blue Dress, which unfortunately I have not found a link for as of yet. If I am able to, I will update this post.

In closing, I suppose I would be neglectful if I did not mention that Olds was the New York State Poet Laureate from 1998 - 2000.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Poet tells freshmen to scribble, not Hi-Lite

"The ideal reader is someone who reads with a dictionary and a pencil," he said. "You create a dialogue, a visible one, between yourself and the author," says Billy Collins, imploring freshman at University of Oregon to just say no to Hi-Liters.

I'M READING: an advance reading copy of The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice - First Journals and poems: 1937-1952 Allen Ginsberg / edited by Juanita Lieberman-Plimpton and Bill Morgan.

Boston University Professor to Talk on War and Poetry Sept. 28 ~ Boston University Professor James A. Winn will discuss his current book, "War and Poetry," Thursday, Sept. 28, at 4 p.m. in the University of Wyoming College of Business auditorium.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Problem Of Accessibility

The Problem Of Accessibility "In fact, I have always firmly believed that poetry is about communicating an experience through art. The reader necessarily has to bring their faculties to bear, and maybe do some work. But beyond some pretty basic requisites, I've always felt that poems should be accessible. " ~Robert Peake

I often enjoy reading Robert's blog, but I must disagree with him on this point. I see the standard of accessibility as a burden that handcuffs any artist, including poets. To say that what one writes must be accessible is no different that insisting that poetry be written in strict form. Or even that it must be written in free verse. Such limitations are all nonsense.

I don't feel, as some will tell you, that what Billy Collins writes is evil. I do indeed enjoy much of his work. But I an quite frankly tired of the lame game in poetry, those who would insist that it must be this way or that or else!

If poetry is about communicating an experience through art, as Robert firmly believes, why is it the poet cannot choose whatever medium he or she sees fit to best carry their artistic message? Do we tell paint artists they "must use only oils" never pastels or water color? That it must be on canvass? Do we tell musicians that you must play music only in minor keys? That you must have a set tempo and only work with certain instrumentation otherwise it is not art? That photographic art must be in full color no black and white allowed?

I do enjoy Billy Collins. But if all the poetry I read was in the same mold, how boring would that get? And where then would the art be?


Friday, September 22, 2006

A Few Friday Fragments

Another perspective on the Best American Poetry story that is going around. The commentary by Collin Kelley.

The recent serialization in The Daily Telegraph of Assia Wevill's tragic life has raised a furious debate .

I was amused by the Quotatian Light educational video for "National Speak Like A Pirate Day."
"Arrgh!" Maybe I can have some of my poetry translated into Pirate Speak.

Sarah Browning writes on a history of poetry and war in Pens Not Swords [here].


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Wednesday Poet Series No. 2

One of the great things about poets is they seem to come in all sizes and shapes. Well, not really... er, yes really but that is not literally what I meant. Last Wednesday, the poet of my focus for the most part exhibited a voice that was mollifying, pacific, permeated in nature. Today, I've gone a different direction with poet and playwright Harold Pinter.

Pinter is born and educated in Britain and has received a number of awards for his work, much of it in the area of playwrite. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I found a most interesting quote from Pinter on his own web site attributed to him in 1958.

"There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false." It was then followed by this text: I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Harold Pinter has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq as well as other hostilities. His anti-war voice has won him acclaim and criticism both. He was awarded the Wilfred Owen award for poetry, given biennially to a writer seen as continuing Owen's tradition for poems observing and distilling what he called "the pity of war".

Pinter's poetry is pretty down to earth. You don't have to read too much between the lines. Examples if this are prevalentnt in all six of his poems found here . His language can be quite dicey as you will see in American Football or Message.

Readers will no doubt find Harold Pinter to be pretty much unmasked in his work. He is the kind of writer that puts himself out there and will never make apologies for it.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Bohemian Ball (Blues & BBQ) - Kansas City Writers

The Bohemian Ball (Blues & BBQ)

The Writers Place
3607 Pennsylvania
Kansas City, MO 64111

Saturday September 30th

6 pm - 10 pm

Tickets $20

Don't miss The Writers Place fall fun-raiser!

LIVE MUSIC: The Doghouse Daddies with special guests Brother Iota (

Food & Refreshments: Grilling hotdogs, burgers & veggie burgers; potato salad, baked beans, & more! Beer provided by Boulevard Brewery.

Costumes - Come dressed as your favorite literary figure and win great prizes for the best costume!

Silent Auction - Maryfrances is putting together some a series of wonderful baskets that you will absolutely want to take home with you!

Admission is a bargain at $20! We need your help so the Writers Place can be ready for the high utility bills this winter.

To purchase tickets call 816.753.1090. Tell your friends, buy tickets for your neighbors, help get the word out.

On A Roll

On A Roll

To roll around
as though round were
a continuum

as though it were sound
policy to engage in
such activity

could be the folly
of unbridled youth
in the midst of urban design

or it could just be the
unsteadiness that comes
with age.

Looking Around the Net

A few poetry related items this morning:

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Just a Tired Thought

I have carried these words around way too long. I'm ready to put them back in the bag and draw new ones.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Have A Dream

Wednesday Poet Series

Starting today I am beginning a weekly series to introduce a new poet each week. Some of these poets will have a national stature and some will be lesser knowns, perhaps poets with more regional ties. My intent is a mixture of both. If you have someone you'd like me to consider, please feel free to drop me a line.

Today is the first installment in this series and the poet featured is Native American poet named Sharmagne Leland-St. John who makes her home in southern California. She has written two poetry books, Silver Tears and Time & Unsung Songs.

Sharmagne has toured extensively sharing her work across the U.S., Canada and in England. She is also a poetry blogger and her site also called Poetry in Motion can be found here. Besides poetry, here interests include gardening, beadwork, film making ( she has co-authored a book on the subject), travel, Native American flute and her daughter.

I found two poems of Sharmagne's that I was particularly fond of. Evolution and I Said Coffee. Evolution has great metaphorical devise as she relates fetal development. In I Said Coffee, I like the way she takes the reader in and out of a particular point of view throughout the entire piece to a nice surprising ending.

I also found evidence of her Native American culture showing plainly through the poem Tiny Warrior that can be seen in poeticdiversity.

An interview with Sharmagne can be found at Magnapoets. I am anxious to read more of her work.


Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2006

There was never a good war or a bad peace.
Ben Franklin (1706-1790)
Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Another Ashbery Question

Deborah over at 32 Poems posed this question recently... "Would you be satisfied if you knew your book was published simply because the judge knew you? Or would you be happy just to get the book published?" The question was an outgrowth of a story about the publication of John Ashbery's first book. Deborah nod not answer her own question and I'm not going to either. Not here in this post, anyway. That is not the point of my blog for today. If you don't know the story, a somewhat more detailed account of it then Deborah provided can be found in an April 2006 article by Andrew Varnon on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Some Trees, Ashbery's first book.[here].

What I wanted to focus on for the moment is the nature of Ashbery's work. Varnon points out a couple of things that are worth establishing here as a starting point.

  • Ashbery has gone on to publish 20 collections of poetry.
  • He has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award as well as countless other honors.

It is safe to say that in the past half century, John Ashbery has left a preemenent mark upon American Poetry and may well be viewed by many as a "poster child" of experimental and avant garde poetry.

So as the story goes, Ashbery's first book was almost not the beginning of this long rise in prominence. The manuscript that became Some Trees was first rejected by the poet W.H. Auden who was judging the work submitted. It seems that Auden was unhappy with all the entries but because of a mutual friend, Auden asked for the manuscript again and published it. Years later, another mutual friend told Ashbery that Auden," had never been able to understand a line of his poetry."

Varnon recounts talking to poet David Lehman who says, "Ashbery is the single poet about whom most people have opinions." My own experience is that Lehman is likely correct. At least to the extent that people have any knowledge of him and his work. Last year I circulated a wonderful article about Ashbery that appeared in the New Yorker to many of my writing friends. For some it was their first introduction to him. It was amazing the strong opinions and debate then ensued about what constitutes art as a result of this article.

I myself have enjoyed Ashbery's work that I have read. I have said here many times before, while there are many poets who write accessible work that I enjoy, I am disappointed in those who insist that this is the yardstick by which literary art must be measured.

There was something in Varnon's article that struck me as interesting and gave me pause for thought. It was how Meghan O'Rourke writing for Slate has described Ashbery's poetry as, "a kind of radio transistor through which many different voices, genres, and curious archaeological remains of language filter, so that the poems are like the sound you would hear if you spun through the FM/AM dial without stopping to tune into any one program for long." It has occurred to me that as an adult with ADD perhaps it is this very dynamic that makes Ashbery's poetic voice such a comfort to my own ears and provides a uniquely appealing language dynamic for me. It is just a thought, but have to wonder if this were also the case with others who have ADD?


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crime Dog

My daughter's dog Klaus doing time on the deck.
It was Labor Day weekend and you just never know how many good deck days are left.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Translator of Rumi's poetry among most popular Americans in Iran

DORIE TURNER writes about Coleman Barks, an American who is honored in Iran at a time when relations between the United States and Iran are strained. Banks has carved out a name for himself by way of his widely accepted translations of Rumi.



When it last rained
two women complained
their shoulders ached,

one said it was a sign
company was coming.
No one came.

The other woman
insisted the first
was a hypochondriac.