Friday, February 29, 2008


"Discipline in art is a fundamental struggle to understand oneself, as much as to understand what one is drawing." ~ Henry Moore

It's Friday afternoon - I'm wiped out. No energy for struggle of any kind at the moment. I'm thinking comfort food. Vanilla cone at Dairy Queen sounds good.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Poetry in the News - Etc.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota didn't like the idea of a State Poet Laureate in 2005 and he vetoed legislation calling for one. Now he has tapped for that position, perhaps the most widely recognized poet in the state's history- Robert Bly.

At age 81, Bly has authored 19 poetry books, 7 anthologies, 13 translations and 7 non-fiction books and was a National Book Award winner in 1967.

Bly was an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam as well as the Bush invasion more recently in Iraq. As poets go, he is perhaps the closest thing to a household word.

And this from Michael Silverstein (The Wall Street Poet) : A Call For More Political Poetry On America’s Op Ed Pages.

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and fellow U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), have written the Justice Department and asked them to look into Roger Clemens' testimony before congress on performance enhancing drugs. I'm having a little difficulty with the priorities here, We have a bold face lying President and Vice President, a Justice Department riddled with scandal, e-mails missing from the White House that were asked for in an investigation, all kinds of corruption in the present administration in the White House and they want Justice to look into this? Who gives a rats ass? Justice is riddled with people paid by the taxpayers who have lied to Congress under oath and no one holds them accountable?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Poets & Writers Site

If you haven't seen the Poets and Writers site since the revamped it the middle of this month, go check it out. Vast improvement!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Memo to John McCain

When Senator John McCain said yesterday to win the general election he must convince a war-weary country that U.S. policy in Iraq is succeeding. If he can't, "then I lose." But no sooner than he uttered those words he quickly backed off, "Let me not put it that stark, Let me just put it this way: Americans will judge my candidacy first and foremost on how they believe I can lead the country both from our economy and for national security. Obviously, Iraq will play a role in their judgment of my ability to handle national security. If I may, I'd like to retract 'I'll lose.' But I don't think there's any doubt that how they judge Iraq will have a direct relation to their judgment of me, my support of the surge. Clearly, I am tied to it to a large degree." For many Americans, myself included, it would be a mammoth undertaking to reverse the notion that this war was and remains a failed war.

You see, most of us, if we've not had out heads buried in the sand, or someplace else, realize a few truths about Iraq that will not change tomorrow, next week or next year. Those truths go something like this:
  1. The war was not only unnecessary, it was unwarranted. The lies that the Bush administration fed the American people are so blatant that only the narrow mindset individuals cannot see that one after another the stated reasons were false.
  2. The war has not made us safer and has in fact detracted from pursuit of Osama Bin Laden (you remember him don't you).
  3. The was has stretched our military commitments to dangerous levels.
  4. Some $500,000,000,000 of non-budgeted expenditures later, we are in an economy that requires extraordinary measures prevent economic crisis and we will be passing this ongoing cost for the war to our children and their children.
  5. The problems in Iraq [caused by this failed policy] are no longer military but political and require the Iraqi people to start working together to achieve success.
  6. The unknown cost of this war is not the casualties or monetary price tag, but the loss of American respect and prestige around the world. How long will it take us to recover that respect and what are the sacrifices that will have to be made in foreign policy as a result of the war?

Memo to John McCain. Seventy-five percent of all Americans killed in Vietnam were lost after Lyndon Johnson privately acknowledged what most Americans already knew. The war was lost. Like Vietnam, Iraq was not a war lost by the military it was lost because it was a failure of policy. There were no real justifications to go there and once there, we had no strategy to win anything, only destabilize. As we approach the 5 year anniversary of this war you need to "get it" because what Americans want to do is to get over it and move on.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Saw this on Jilly's Blog

Credit to Jilly who by the way is a colon. : )

You Are a Comma
You are open minded and extremely optimistic.
You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.
You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.
(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people

You get along best with: The Question Mark

Call for Submissions & few upcoming contests

Passing along to others a Call for Submissions I got this week from Dale at Right Hand Pointing. They have previously published me, and I though this this request looked interesting, so here it is:

Hello RHP Friends, NEW! The 5×7 Project. Here’s a brand new project which I think will take about a year to put together, so only patient people need apply. If it comes together, the issue will be called “Five by Seven.” I think. This will be an issue of work appearing on 5X7 index cards. Accepted works will appear as scanned images on the website. These can be handwritten poems, art, mixed media, anything–pretty much–that you can get on a 5×7 card. Anything that’s, you know, cool. As you prepare work to be submitted, keep in mind that it will likely appear on computer monitors as a bit smaller than 5×7, so you might want to avoid very small writing or text. You can submit one card, or up to five cards. I’d also be open to work that’s designed to be presented as a “set,” but not more than 5 or 6 cards. It’ll take some experimenting. These can be submitted either as scanned images in the jpg format or can be mailed to me via snail mail. If you snail mail, and you want your work back, you’ll need to send a SASE suitable for mailing back what you send. I hate going to the post office, on account of the whole “disgruntled” thing, so it’s important that you give me what I need to return your work via my home mailbox. Whether submitting electronically or via snail mail, though, please email me (righthandpointing — at– ) to inquire and we’ll go from there. No hard deadline on this because I plan to accumulate these over the course of a year or so. I’d recommend you try to get something to me in the next six months. If there’s not enough participation to warrant a full issue, I’ll make this 5x7 thing a section of an upcoming regular issue. Write if you have questions. Thanks! Oh, and don’t reply to this email address. Email me at righthandpointing (at) Thanks again. / Dale /Right Hand Pointing

A Few Poetry Contest Deadlines Coming Up:

$1,000 prize and publication in Tusculmu Review for a poem or group of poems. Submit 3 to 5 poems any length. Mary Jo Bang will judge. $15 entry fee. Details

FOUR WAY BOOKS - Intro Prize in Poetry - March 31
$1,000 prize and an invitation to participate in the Readings at the Bowery series in New York City - to a U.S. poet for a first poetry collection. Manuscript of 48 to 100 pages. $25 entry fee. Brigit Pageen Kelly will judge. Details

Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize - April 30
$1,000 prize and publication by Marsh Hawk Press for a poetry collection. Submit manuscript of 48 to 70 pages. Thylias Moss judge. Entry fee $25, Details

Lost Horse Press - Idaho Prize for Poetry - May 15
$1,000 prize and publication for a poetry collection, Submit at least 48 pages of poetry. $25 entry fee. Details

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Just Love Finding Things of Value that are Free

Flipping through my new issue of Poets & Writers that came yesterday, I saw a writeup on a Internet site called DailyLit. It's a web site that allows people to select from hundreds of titles of books, many of them free and establish a email delivery to feed you daily portions for busy people to read. It's a wonderful idea that I hope will allow more people to take the time to read great works.

Oh, by the way... looking for a good action movie? Go see Vantage Point that opened today. My wife and I got out on a date today for movie & lunch. I recommend the movie. It's so unique, but I'm not saying anything else about it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hearing The New Missouri Poet Laureate

Tuesday night I attended a reading locally by Walter Bargen, the new, and I might add first Missouri poet laureate, as well as Kevin Rabas a poet who makes his home in neighboring Kansas.

The event was well attended. In fact additional seating had to be added. It was my first experience hearing either of these poets though I have read some of Bargen’s work since the announcement of his selection to the post.

Rabas was enjoyable enough. He has a lot of energy and the substance of what he read was far superior to the manor in which it was delivered. I felt he was rushing to finish each poem.

Bargen was well received. I would like to have heard more poetry, but I'll admit I as well as everyone else in the room seemed to be enjoying the antidotes related to his new found fame as poet laureate.

My early impressions of our new state poet laureate are positive ones. The Governor's selection was an individual whose body of work is impressive and his delivery in public is adequate and with time will likely improve. I especially like that from what I have thus far been exposed to of his work, it appears quite eclectic, and he will likely embrace a wide range of poetics as his own work covers a wide spectrum. This is encouraging to me.

The minimal requirements the Governor's office made as far as public appearances is appalling to me. If the Poet Laureate is going to be charged with promoting poetry within the state, there should be far more public outreach than 6 events in a two year term. I'm happy to say that Walter Bargen has been booking events weekly. I hope we will see some kind of public awareness program develop to infuse poetry into our state culture at various levels. At any rate, Bargen’s own reading was enjoyable and provides a basis for optimism about the future course for the position of Poet Laureate in Missouri.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Watching from home tonight as the moon is nearly blotted from the sky by the shadown of earth. Seen here in the picture to the right by Thom Leigh for

With the sky darkened - Saturn was visible to the naked eye. Just another bonus of the sky watch tonight.

It seems that historically the moon have gotten a good deal of play by poets. With the level of mysticism often associated with it, and the broad range of metaphorical concepts, it still seems to me that it hold up well against many of the otherwise over used themes. At least that's my humble opinion.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Regarding Your Silly Assed Expectations / a draft

Regarding Your Silly Assed Expectations / a draft

I have struggled with a second language
The way you wrestle a carry-on bag,
a laptop, a purse and Victoria Secrets shopping bag
as you depart your flight at the terminal.

My tongue manages to say things—
It’s not dependable. Not the way an open window is.
I’ve thought a lot about it. Perhaps too much
of an intellectual leaning. I’m perplexed
to the point of linier grief.

Passing through customs I suppose I can be insouciant.
It is only after the fact that I wallow in subverted dismemberment.
My head rings with the lyrics “too late baby” and I swallow a lump
hanging beneath my chin.

It is the expectation of everyone that I assimilate. I say, “Fuck that!”
Is it a crime to be only marginal in a second language
where most are only marginal in their first?

In customs I declared a bracelet left to me by my grandmother,
Two hundred twenty-nine Paso, a book of matches
with Hector Barilla on the front, my clothing, toiletries
and a cheap paperback, "Say It In English."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Roar for Powerful Words

Ok, so I'm a little slow. On January 29th I received the award from Fenny Sterenborg. I'm supposed to list three things that make writing good and powerful, as well as pass the award along.

Thanks Fenny!

Three Things:
1. utalizing words that touch a nerve 2. or reinforce universal experiances 3. cause us to question

I'm passing this award along to:

Christine Hamm

Aleah Sato

Kelli Russell Agodon

Quiet Sunday Afternoon

The infield of the ball diamond across the street is a quagmire. Mostly standing water with a few islands scattered about. Around the parameter is a smattering if snow dotting the ground and the outfield is a rich wheat-brown. I'm ready for spring, even if Mother Nature isn't.

I've written a lot today. And for the most part I'm pleased with the results. This morning my wife again brought me some "poetry words" for future use to help make my poetry more inaccessibly interesting. I have promised to find places for them in future work.

She also whipped up a batch of crumpet dough and we made crumpets! Yeah! I love crumpets. This is however the first time we've ever had homemade ones. They were awesome!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Error Gave F.B.I. Unauthorized Access to E-Mail

WASHINGTON — A technical glitch gave the F.B.I. access to the e-mail messages from an entire computer network — perhaps hundreds of accounts or more — instead of simply the lone e-mail address that was approved by a secret intelligence court as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal report of the 2006 episode.

A report in 2006 by the Justice Department inspector general found more than 100 violations of federal wiretap law in the two prior years by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, many of them considered technical and inadvertent. {and the ones that were not technical and inadvertent where what?}

Source: New York Times - February 17, 2008

Journal Bits

From my journal - a few recent bits:

  • Dexterity lingers in hinged sticks / that count themselves by one
  • If these were normal thoughts / they would bask in the sunny side / of frequency- not the cold darkness.//
  • Shadows aren't secret places. / Just overlooked and misunderstood.//
  • Streets flowed downstream / past lamp posts and shops / that closed for the occasion.//

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Friday - yeah!

A few poetry items of interest:

While Elizabeth Bishop published only about 90 of them in a handful of books, the Library of America is publishing a new collection of her poems and prose. PBS, who in my estimation has a reputation for providing some wonderful reporting on poetry, has a story about this here.

An East St. Louis woman has filed suit in U.S. District Court against Gillan Graphics and Awards, Inc., alleging it sold copies of a poem she wrote for her mother. Felicia Gayden claims she owns a copyright on a piece of original poetry, entitled "Dearest Mother" which was taken to Gillan for framing by the Plaintiff for presentment to her mother. Gayden later realized Gillan Graphics was selling a framed version of her poem with title and minor changes. [Story here]

The Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL) Poetry Series opens with Li-Young Lee [ Story here]

On a political note, Thumbs Up for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who would not be intimidated by President Bush over the deadline on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. When the President continues to thumb his nose at Congressional oversight I am glad to see she has the courage to stand up against his pressure. There needs to be more transparency in surveillance when American citizens are involved and when the administration has a history of acting without court authority where there are specific legal system in place to provide protection of rights.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

John McCain Panders on His Own Principals

When presented with an opportunity to a choose between voting to extend the Army field manual's prohibition on torture to the CIA and pandering to the right wing of his party, John McCain chose pandering over his principles.

[Note McCain in a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 28, 1007]

McCain said that the Army Field Manual should be the gold standard for interrogations: I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not 24 and Jack Bauer. Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn’t think they need to do anything else. My friends, this is what America is all about.

[Now comes the defining vote]- "I made it very clear that I think that water-boarding is torture and illegal, but I will not restrict the CIA to only the Army field manual," and with that McCain votes against torture restrictions and flips on the issue.

Now just as a side note. I've had a great deal of respect with John McCain in the past. Not saying I agree with him on many issues, but I have generally believed him to be an individual of high integrity. That said I find this issue, which he has for so long professed to be a high principal of his, to have vanished so quickly. Perhaps this is just the first of many flip-flops.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Review - Forms of Intercession

“Today I am medium rare. Don’t touch me.” So begins the first line if the poem Forms of Intercession, the title poem in Jayne Pupek’s book published by Mayapple Press. Throughout the book, Pupek pokes around at medium rare subject matter. It seems there are few things that inhibit her writing which can be both disturbing and refreshing.

Each new page seems to contain a poem that is scarcely able to clutch the edge of its page and as the reader, you find yourself hanging onto each line, each raw emotion in a desperate attempt to intercede and keep it from falling into the darkness of nowhere. I had to check my own hands for blood stains when finished.

For all the dispare, Forms of Intercession isn’t all that fatalistic. No it touches a core reality of life… that it is “full of broken combs and blisters. Still we go on, / because it is in us, the need for continuance, / that sliver of persistence inside every cell.” I found it a very artistically mature and straightforward read.

Friday, February 08, 2008

What the poem wants

"The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot be." - John Ashbery
Have you ever stopped for a moment to ask yourself what the poem wants? Ok, chuckle if you want, but people are always trying to force something out of a poem that they believe is secretly hidden by the poet. Something he or she hopes you'll look for, but never find. I know this because more than one person has suggested the same.

When I write a poem, I may well have something in mind, but I may not. For the most part what I have in mind is of lesser significance that what the reader finds in the poem. By that I don't mean what I've hidden and they have decoded, but rather what that poem speaks to them in their own voice.

When someone tries to discern what I am saying in poetry, they may well become befuddled. My advise to readers of poetry is to let the poem become yours. Once that has happened, you'll know what it is telling you.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I've read with interest the posts of several poetry bloggers who have started a Confession Tuesday weekly post in which they fess up to little sins, misgivings, shortcomings, whatever that get in there way of their writing. Sometimes the posts are quite serious and others good for a few chuckles. Example: Kelli confesses she keeps bags of sunflower seeds on hand at her desk and wonders if she is part squirrel. She also admits that choosing between Hillary and Barack is like making Dessert choices. I suppose it is a really good exercise in self examination none the less.

I was intrigued by the link she posted this week to a story that The Church of England's recommending a Carbon Fast for Lent.

Well I will confess the period of frustration over nothing but crap flowing from my pen since last week seems to have passed last night. [Insert sight of relief here] When these come, they give me fits and this last one has been especially discouraging, so I am glad it seems to have passed.

I'm currently reading Forms of Intersession, by Jayne Pupek. Watch for my review of it here soon.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Scalping Poetry Tickets

mood: upbeat
listening to: nothing

The Super Bowl is in the history books. So you went to bed last night with a smile on your face, or a frown depending on who you were rooting for and you have a dream. In the dream people were scalping tickets to a poetry reading. But wait, it isn't a dream!

The fastest sellout in the 20 year history of Seattle Arts & Literature has occurred for Poet Mary Oliver's appearance Monday at Benaroya Hall (2,500 seating capacity) in Seattle. People have been searching Craigslist for tickets - where Roland Crane of Tacoma, finally nabbed on for the price of $100.

If you think this is a fluke, Oliver's appearance in Portland on Tuesday is also sparking a ticket frenzy. And yes, the 2,700-seat Schnitzer Concert Hall for Portland Arts & Lectures has already sold out.

Someone evidently has forgotten to tell those North westerners that poetry is dead.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sucky writing - sigh

mood: depressed / headache
listening to: nothing

Writing this weekend seemed forced and pointless. This was frustrating. The weather is a downer. Did enjoy the Super Bowl and I'm not really a football fan.

On an upbeat note- I had a great idea for a poem come to me that I will start working on tomorrow.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Post Peek

mood: relaxed
listening to: Question 67 and 68 / Chicago

For what it is worth, my one time assessment of my peek biorhythms on the 29th of January was somewhat disappointing. It did seem my productivity in the office was remarkably better, but as for any feeling that it manifested itself in a positive way in terms of quality or quantity of writing, it was unconvincing. I suppose I'll make note of my next optimum period where all the rhythms come together and assess it again.

More rejections yesterday.

Here's an interview with the current U.S. poet laureate: What are you doing to increase the public’s interest in poetry at a time when cultural alarmists insist that reading is on its way out?

Enough blogging - time to write!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Poetry for what it is

So often I’ve heard in the course of conversation, others questioning the relevancy of poetry in contemporary times. Without enlisting hours of diatribe countering such skeptical reasoning in an attempt to convince them they are wrong, I’d prefer to take just a few minutes to simply respond in terms of the relevance it holds to me as a poet. You see, I’m convinced that poetry is not for everyone. Just as I am convinced that while I believe baseball is far more interesting on so many levels than football, there are people who will never have the capacity to see, if you’ll pardon my metaphor, the sheer poetry of a 6-4-3 double play.

You first have to accept that poetry is an artistic expression. I find many unable or unwilling to allow themselves to think of language in that light. I for example have no gift for math whatsoever and so I find algebra equations simply math that is difficult to understand, much the same way some people cannot get past language that challenges any preconceived notions of logic to be a turn off and will not make the effort to find the art within.

Gustav Mahler, the German speaking composer from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in what is today the Czech Republic, once said, “If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.” In any art form, the expression that is trying to find an opening to the rest of the word needs a medium to act as a doorway. It is in Mahler’s words that I believe I can best defend the relevancy of poetry as a poet. If there were a way to express myself at those times when that interior doorway is open- in a simple straight forward way perhaps I would not be a poet.

Rita Dove describes poetry is distilled and powerful language. Paul Engle suggests it is language raised to the Nth power. Whatever way you wish to describe it, it is different than ordinary language. If I could paint, perhaps I would open my interior self on canvass. I don’t, but I do paint with words on white pages. My art is poetry. Poetry is my medium of expression; it is therefore very much relevant to me even in these times.