Sunday, September 30, 2007

Leo Tolstoy said.... "Music is the shorthand of emotion."

I think then, Poetry is the DNA of the soul.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Recommended Reading

Couple of works that appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Volume 7 that I particularly liked...

  • June Snow Dance by William Doreski
  • Falling Star by Kimberly L. Becker's

The whole volume is worth reading... but I especially liked these two.

Autumn Sky Poetry

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another Poem published...

Autumn Sky Poetry edited by Christine Klocek-Lim has published one of my poems. The current Volume 7 can be seen here. My poem, We Missed can be seen directly here.

Do check out the other poetry in this edition. Christine has done an excellent job putting it together!

Separating the Art from the Artist... or can we?

A New York Times article [Poetry Prize Sets Off Resignations at Society] details a controversy that has grown within the Poetry Society of America, but it seems to me it has raised even larger questions for the world of arts and literature, questions which I have not formulated a view as of yet.

The issue within the PSA centers around an award, the Frost Medal, which has been awarded to the poet John Hollander. The worthiness of Hollander's poetry itself is not in question, but a statement made by Hollander referring to referred to West African, Mexican and Central American as “cultures without literatures," and an interviewer on NPR who had paraphrased him as saying, “there isn’t much quality work coming from nonwhite poets today.”

Should such remarks be taken into consideration by the PSA or any organization seeking to honor a poet, writer or artist of any kind? Or, should the artistic work they produce be the soul basis for such recognition? The Hollander incident is of course not an isolated incident of controversy among poets. Ezra Pound for example is widely know for his anti-Semitism. Should that fact detract from the literary appreciation of his work? Can we appreciate great works of art and literature without bestowing accolades and honors upon the artists themselves?

No, I still don't have and answer to these questions, and I am sure this is not likely to be the last time this issue arises.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

But do Presidents?

Reuters News Service reports that President Bush, today told a group of New York school children, "As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." The gaff was part of remarks the President made while urging the extension of his education program, No Child Left Behind.

And yesterday, when the President was at the U.N. to deliver a major address, a draft of President Bush's speech to the U.N. General Assembly was posted online with phonetic spellings and other markings that weren't supposed to be seen by anyone outside the administration. [source]

Books On Trial

Last night I attended a event at the Kansas City Public Library in with authors Shirley & Wayne Wiegand presented a factual account of a historic 1940 incident in which Oklahoma County officials confiscated the entire contents of a local bookstore then put the proprietors and patrons of the store on trial not for anything they did, but for the contents of the books on their store shelves.

The story of their arrest, conviction and the battle for some three years to get their convictions overturned is an interesting and chilling one. The implications of this care are far reaching when considered against some of our government's actions today. Not only were these individuals victims of the governments fear of communists, but the basic fundamental rights of our constitution were victims as well.

I was especially surprised how significant racial overtones were in the prosecution of this case. I know Oklahoma is a southern state, but not the deep south, and none of the defendants were black. It was their association with civil rights issues that were paraded before the jury.

Over the next three years, the public outcry as news of this case spread throughout the U.S. ultimately sent this matter to a appellate court and the convictions were overturned. Libraries and Universities throughout the country cited that they were likely equally guilty based on the fact that many of the books the prosecution cited in their case were on their shelves as well. No evidence of any subversive or violent actions by the defendants to overthrow the government were ever presented. It was all purely based on the contents of the bookstore and the inflammatory suggestions that these individuals would dare suggest that blacks and whites have equal rights.

It is a story worth reading. The book: Books on Trial - Red Scare in the Heartland - authors Shirley & Wayne Wiegand

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I missed Stick Poets 4th year anniversary! Sept 2, 2003 was the first post on this blog. Imagine that.

By the way, while you've been able to subscribe to e-mail feeds of Stick Poet Superhero for a long time, the new service I'm using now is so much better. It actually works! Over the past couple of years I've used two different services that ultimately had issues. The sad thing is that in giving them up, especially the oldest one, I lost a lot of subscribers. But of course they were no longer receiving their posts due to the problems which drove me to change.

I noticed the other day a bit of a spike in the number of people subscribing to Stick Poet posts and that's been encouraging. Slowly they are coming back.... and some new ones I hope!

If you haven't and would like to - it's easy, just add your e-mail to the subscribe box on the left sidebar and click. You will get an email that requires you to confirm and then after that, once a day you'll get all the posts for that day in one e-mail.

Poets will bare their souls, and everything else, tonight

Poets will bare their souls, and everything else, tonight: "The Poetry in the Raw event is a fundraiser to help several of the poets travel to Halifax, where they will compete against eight other teams in the National Slam Competition. It takes place next week at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. 'The readers will be disrobed and unfettered tonight,' promised shayne avec i grec, a former member of the team, who now acts as coach. He said the idea of stripping came from two previous events in which he decided to read in the buff -- and garnered a surprisingly keen audience." [full story]

ei: Arab poetry's sometimes subversive answer to "American Idol"

ei: Arab poetry's sometimes subversive answer to "American Idol":

"Perhaps the only thing that is as hard as translating Arab poetry to other languages is trying to explain to non-Arabs the extent of poetry's popularity, importance and Arabs' strong attachment to it. Whereas poetry in America has been largely reduced to a ceremonial eccentricity that survives thanks to grants and subsidies from fanatics who care about it too much, in the Arab world it remains amongst the most popular forms of both literature and entertainment. Whereas America's top poets may struggle to fill a small Barnes & Noble store for a reading, Palestine's Mahmoud Darwish has filled football stadiums with thousands of fans eager to hear his unique recital of his powerful poems. And while in America a good poetry collection can expect to sell some 2,000 copies, in the Arab world the poems of pre-Islamic era poets are still widely read today in their original words, as are those from the different Islamic eras leading to the present." [Full Story]

Bits from my Journal...

  • It (curling) is far more physical than one might imagine.
  • If boiled with water / The broth ascribes / to thinly veiled life / The taste of which fall flat
  • The presence of that hauntingly empty feeling with the close of baseball season, is setting in.
  • It is pretty much an established fact that I was small at birth... and that at some point when she (mom) was holding me I slid into the pocket of her robe.
  • ...A bronze vagina / commemorating all that is, / but purely ornamental
  • Like concrete in a sinus passage / my head is filled with reflective guilt

Monday, September 24, 2007

Zoom in before decide what it is

The more I look at people I believe that individually we are quite unique. However, by lumping us all together that uniqueness is replaced by a murky mass.

I think it really helps to bring things in tight and take a look before you zoom back out and look at the big picture. True in life as well as poetry.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekend Recap...

I was excited to learn that Kim Addonizio will be coming to town in November for a reading. How cool is that?!

Meanwhile, I've been working on drafts of a new poem this weekend.
This, in addition to visiting my mother, taking my wife's computer work station apart and moving it upstairs and reassembling it and running shopping errands.
Earlier this evening I did some reading and editing as well. Oh, I'm also bemoaning to fact that the baseball season is coming to an end. [sigh]
Oh, I tried a blog exercise of randomly clicking on one of the blogs in my sidebar, then doing the same on that blog, and on and on till I went six deep. Sort of a six degrees of separation. Kind of interesting to see where it leads.

Savoring California's poetry scene

And so they sat, occasionally scribbling in their ever-present notebooks, as Robert Hass considered California's shaping fires, Victoria Chang channeled downbeat women and Diem Jones spoke in a hypnotic cadence punctuated by an accompanying guitar and the crowd's appreciative "Hmmmmms." - San Jose Mercury News [story]

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Why your mind should not meander when driving

You ever wake up and have a crazy notion about something? Okay, mine actually came during the drive into work. For some ungodly reason I thought, I should write a memoir. What has possessed me to think this I don’t really know. In fact, possessed might be a good way to view it.

I have had an interest in doing sort of a biographical poem at some point and have actually made some stabs at it, but they have all been drafts that have gone nowhere. My vision of the poem was much more abstract in nature (surprise!) and it's likely that unless someone knew me extremely well, they would perhaps not even recognize me in the poem.

Getting back to the memoir, it’s not that I lead a life that people are just dying to read about; in fact my contemplation of this is largely for personal reflection. The only way it would be remotely interesting to others was if it were written by David Sedaris.

Muldoon to edit New Yorker poetry | News | Guardian Unlimited Books

Muldoon to edit New Yorker poetry News Guardian Unlimited Books: "Paul Muldoon has been appointed the poetry editor of the New Yorker. He is due to take over from Alice Quinn, poetry editor at the weekly magazine for 20 years, in November."

I am a bit surprised by this, though I suppose there is no particular reason to be. Another example of globalization and in poetry I believe that is a positive evolution. Muldoon is rather somber about this business of poetry and that should fit well with The New Yorker. Will it greatly change the substantive nature of poetry in the magazine? Only time can tell.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2 < 33

When tragedy strikes, there are often words that follow. Words of sorrow, of anger, frustration or guilt. There also comes a silence or at least the ineptitude to adequately verbalize.

Kelli yesterday posted a link to an article from the Roanoke Times about a poem by Bob Hicok, poet, and Virginia Tech English professor. In the poem, Hicok writes about shooter Seung-Hui Cho and the professor's feelings of guilt for not doing something to stop his former student who on April 16 took 33 lives including his own at Virginia Tech. Hicok was of several professors in the department to voice concerns about Cho after reading a play the student wrote in Spring 2006 about a student who plans a mass school shooting. Nothing came of their expressed concerns.

This and other incidents and in some cases non-incidents have sparked a debate about where one crosses the line in writing literature between artistic expression and cause for concern.

Paradoxically I see this in Hicok's own poem with a painful examination. In a most powerful twist, these words ring out of his poem titled "So I Know"

Maybe we exist as language and when someone dies
they are unworded. Maybe I should have shot the kid
and then myself given the math. 2 < 33
I was good at math. Numbers are polite, carefree
if you ask the random number generators.
Mom, I don't mean the killing above.
It's something I write like "I put my arms
around the moon."

There is something to be said for putting our arms around the moon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How to fill the gap

I read something yesterday that suggested that there was a gap between what the traditional publishing world is doing and the kind of content that people get excited about. The statement not surprisingly came from an article on self-publishing.

Of course, we would all like to believe that we are that writer yet to be noticed by mainstream publishers and are certain as the night follows day that there we are just one of many worthy writers that have been overlooked, and perhaps hang to the belief that one day this fact will be history and that both of us (the right publisher who realizes this error and of course our self) will ultimately be rewarded.

Do publishers really not know what they are doing? To be certain, publishers in their vetting process do pick many books that go nowhere. However, the bottom line is these publishers do operate as a business enterprise and they do make money or they cease to exist. They are clearly also picking winners. The person exploring this topic suggested that the rise in Internet usage will actually force even traditional publishers to find ways to enter into non-traditional publishing. In doing so, will this bring greater respectability to both the Internet and self-publishing?

There are to be sure, problems with using an Internet model for traditional publishers and keeping profitability a part of the picture. I am not implying those problems are insurmountable, but how many people actually pay to read something on the Internet? Such a model would likely have to include advertising.

Some mainline publishers are however entering the print-on-demand markets, and those are likely more promising. I believe most avid readers of literature and poetry still want something in their hand as they read and don't want to scroll down a computer screen. Such print-on-demand would still carry a brand name that is equated with some degree of professionalism. Hence, there would continue to be a gap between what such a company offers and what you or I create ourselves privately in a POD format.

If there is a big gap between what traditional publishers are putting into the market place and what the public really wants, how do writers reach those people to fill that gap? This is the challenge for private publishing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Curling with Cathy

Sunday was a very refreshing day. My wife and I tried something different. We took a Curling lesson. There is far more athleticism involved than you might imagine by watching it. It was fun trying something totally different.
We also went out to eat at Hash House A Go Go located at Legends. We walked around and checked out shops. It's a pretty cool place. Basically spent the entire day together which was the best part.
Weather has been so nice these past few days. Cooler and we actually had a few showers... just the right amount and it didn't get muggy or anything.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Poetry Revision Part 1

Rewrites, revisions, whatever you want to call them require a writer to examine something already committed to a page. Early on, I probably viewed revisions in more a negative light than a positive one. Not overtly, because I don't recall it as such and I don't recall thinking about it much at all. I am sure now, thinking back this was a subconscious thing.

For the young writer I think there is an urgency to create work. There were times I knew a rewrite was necessary and I did them. There were no doubt times I didn't, yet should not be satisfied. I suppose it is a part of maturing as a writer that we learn not to be in such a rush. Awkward as it may be, I am learning this. This is an especially difficult lesson for one to learn when they did not start writing till later years and feel their life rushing along before their very eyes.

I did a survey of readers on my blog as to how many times on the average they would rewrite a poem. The results are of course not representative of a scientifically controlled survey, and the response was not near as many as I would have liked, so we are dealing with a very small universe.

The Question was this: On the average, how many revisions do you do of poems you write?
The results are as follows:

  • 3 or less 14%
  • 4-10 57%
  • 11-25 14%
  • 26-50 14%
  • more than 50 0%

I suppose it should not surprise me that the biggest response came in the 4-10 range. At first thought I would have placed myself in that category based on nothing more than a perhaps less than educated guess. But as I pulled out a few drafts of things I've written more recently, I decided that I really am more likely in the 11-25 range on an average, but closer to 11 then the higher end of the range. I've had a few like one titled Night Wishes that came almost spontaneously and as I recall tweaked I think two words in it from the original draft. Things like this however are rare.

I know people who firmly believe the first thought on paper is the best and don't like to make changes because of the belief that something subliminal has lead them to write a great truth. I find subliminal influence on writing very interesting but I don't subscribe to any notion that there is something sacred about the first thoughts to reach the page.

I have marveled at the assertion by Donald Hall that he has rewritten poems hundreds of times. The poem White Apples about his father's death took him 17 years to write.

I think there is a comfort level that must come only with maturity in writing that allows you to slow yourself down a bit and really look for the right words in the right places in your poems. One of the benefits of getting work accepted in various venues and waiting for them to come out is that it has allowed me not to be in such a hurry to get something new to send out. In fact of my last four accepted poems, two have been older ones that have hung around a while.

More rewrites are not always going to make a better poem but I think some level of rethinking is always critical. In fact I now like to put a poem that I feel is finished back and revisit again a week later. Sometimes what sounded good a week ago leaves you thinking what you might have been drinking when you stopped and put it aside. I have taken the rewrite process to an extreme and found that I was getting further from what I wanted, not closer. There is obviously nothing magical about the number of drafts but I think a willingness to try new language or approach is critical to growing as a poet. Sometimes shaking up the poem by reversing the beginning and the end, or rewriting a first person into another viewpoint.

If I am having trouble getting started with new stuff, I find that it is sometimes go back to old journals and pull out something unfinished, or really rough and work on it from a new perspective.

I've got more to say on the topic but I don't want to unload it all tonight. Besides, I'm interested in other perspectives on the value of revision and the process others use.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thought for Today

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross." ~ Sinclair Lewis

Poetry In The News

A few News items of interest:

  • A walk in the woods with poet Sebastian Matthews [here]
  • Bill Moyers talks with Poet Robert Bly [interview here]
  • On Political Poetry [here]

Have You Been To The Stick Poet Store?

Stick Poet Gear Here

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Tour of Missouri

The first stage of The Tour of Missouri kicked off today in KC and I was able to catch it twice as it left the city mid day and again on the return through downtown later in the afternoon. It was pretty exciting.

Monday night I stood in line for hours the get 8 autographs from Team Discovery for my youngest daughter ( cycling fanatic) who is at ASU.

This is the first year for the race and it is ranked the third top race in North America. It attracted an impressive field of riders. Five more stages to go!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Another acceptance today, a poem that is at least a year and a half old. For some reason I've been hitting the mark with some of my older work lately. Perhaps I am just getting better at picking the right venue. Who knows?

Klaus had a birthday yesterday....

The birthday boy and his brothers enjoyed a home cooked meal for a change. K gets so freek'n excited when we sing happy birthday to him. The shot at the right was taken last night at the dog park where they romped and attempted to prove their dominance over the world. All except Barry... he just hangs and and tries his best to stay out of the fray.

Yesterday I started putting on paper some of my thoughts about revisions. The formation of a post is coming along. I've been thinking a lot about many aspects of this.

Yesterday I read Jilly's blog. Our Internet had been down and I was kind of behind on things. Se had several really interesting things worth noting. All of these links I owe to her:

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Couple of Quotes on Writing

If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I'd type a little faster.
Isaac Asimov
Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed.
Ray Bradbury

Friday, September 07, 2007

supersized sigh

I am mulling over in my mind a number of questions relating to poem revisions. I am not sure if I will be finished with this and ready to post over the weekend or not, but just to alert you, I hope that when I do, it will be something that will create further discussion.

Is is Friday isn't it.... yep! [supersized-sigh]

I looked at the Fred Thompson campaign site yesterday. Very nicely put together and very void of specifics on issues. I guess he believes people will just like his down home style and to hell with where he would take us. Do I sound cynical yet?

This is good news: Judge Rejects Parts Of New Patriot Act
The government investigators must have court's approval to order businesses such as internet service providers and telephone companies to turn over records without telling customers.

The court found that government orders must be subject to meaningful judicial review and that the recently rewritten Patriot Act "offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers."

For John Ashbery fans: check out-> Perennial Voyager

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Review of the Dana Goodyear Event

Last night I joined a full house in the Helzberg auditorium in the Central branch of the Kansas City Public Library to hear Dana Goodyear, poet, staff writer and senior editor at The New Yorker.

My previous exposure to Goodyear was limited to a handful of poems and an essay or two. The poems tended toward the edgy side and often melancholy, something I am often drawn to.

She read from her first book, Honey and Junk as well as a couple of newer poems and to my delight, what she shared proved my earlier samplings of her work did not deceive me, she is a poet of immense depth and talent. Her voice commands a sense of frankness and is not without the capacity for wit.

If there was any surprise in what I saw, it was a young woman that was quite capable of an exuberance that transcends the more staid side often seen in her poetry.

She took questions after reading and her responses revealed much about her approach to poetry as well as her career as an editor. An enjoyable evening overall. Oh, did I mention the wine and cheese?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Should We Laugh Or Cry?

Loose Nukes: Warheads in the Sky: story

You Can Tell It's Matel, It's Leaded: story

Bukowski's Poetry & more

Quote for the day....

"It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars." ~ Arthur C. Clarke

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday & the times they are a changing...

  • At the center of each poem is a mystery - Mark Strand on poetry [here]
  • Poet's Choice - Robert Strand examines a James Hoch poem [here]
  • Poems analysed in search of clues to suicide [here]
  • Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness Treatment and the Creative Process - [here]
  • Songwriter and protest icon embraced and taught in British schools as poetry - [here]


I managed to get four poems off this weekend looking for new homes.

Monday, September 03, 2007

On another look...

Last Thursday night, I picked up Donald Hall’s The Painted Bed when I couldn’t sleep. I shuffle through various poetry books on my night stand, even after reading them, going back to them again and again usually proves to be worthwhile.

I read three poems that night at random. All poems I have read multiple times before. That night there were things that resonated in two of these poems that simply did not do the same for me in earlier reads.

In Wool Squares where the voice talks about going through a “muddled heap of women’s work and finding wool squares she used to knit while he sat opposite. And this is one of those poems that one assumes Hall is writing from his own persona. Jane has succumbed finally to leukemia and he does a most interesting thing. He evokes Young Caitlin, wife of Dylan Thomas. It is so odd that this did not strike me as particularly profound in earlier readings. Hall finds himself in Caitlin here the widow with the “leftover life to kill.” His final stanza…

“At seventy I taste / In solitude / Starvation’s food, / As the land goes to waste / Where her death overthrew / A government of two.”

My recollection is that in earlier reads I focused on the wool squares themselves and the visual of the two of them sitting in the same room, he recalling her work on them. I also connected with his solitude. It is hard not to read Halls late work especially and not feel the grayness. But in this last read I was struck by his metaphorical view as the two of them a unique government that was overthrow by her death. These are not profound discoveries in this poem, but they provided a more salient view for me then before.

The other poem was Ardor. Hall unleashes all the accompanying feelings; the outrage, the desire. The inability to work, to love or die. “Each day lapses as I recite my complaints / Lust is grief that has turned over in bed / to look the other way.” A very strong final line in the last stanza. The magnitude of it seems so real in my latest read.

People will often say that Hall is a downer to read. Certainly, isolated to an individual poem or two, one can easily reach this conclusion. But even in Hall’s later work, the underlying motive is love. There few contemporary poets that have the command of love either in abundance or loss that he has.

What Makes a Successful Writer?


What budding writer is going to pass up a headline like that? I couldn't. Besides the fact that I've often found the source (Kelli) to be an informative and positive reinforcement, it is just one of those lines I gravitate to no matter how any times I see it. I suppose it is the perfect pickup line for writers.

What is often the case when we read something like this, is it's really something we already know deep down inside. It is also quite often something that in spite of such knowledge, we need to keep hearing it and seeing it because it is something that is so simple in concept, that we make it hard to conform to.

I've come to the conclusion for instance, that forcing yourself to write through blocks is good, even at the expense of writing poorly, I've also fount that it is good to read some poetry every night before retiring, and often at least five minutes or so before writing, read a poem or two. Such exercises help me to see the magic of others in their words. I have several specific poets that I like to use in this capacity because of their particular talent as wordsmiths.

Playing with words, reading, these are certainly very basic and fundamentally easy things that writers can do. That so many believe in their link to successful writing is reason to take them seriously and make sure that they are integrated into the day-to day efforts of anyone who is wishing to improve his or her writing for whatever reason they write.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Last Day of Survey On Rewrites

Today is the last opportunity to participate in the survey of poets on their revision practices. See the left sidebar and take the survey if you have not already. There are about 12 hours left till it closes. Thanks!