Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journal Bits This Week

  • a quotation from the poet Stanley Kunitz - "I dream of an art so transparent that you can look through and see the world."
  • winds rebuke her for safety disregarded.
  • -still, fashion statements speak up/unpretentiously. These are long firm legs and sleek/institutional distractions.
  • I want rain to be plain/I want rain that stays the same/No horizontal riding of wind/No golf ball sized hail on or off/the green.
  • "Your whole age sits between what you hear/and what you write." - W.S. Merwin from "Sibyl"
  • A lavish history locked away in a graying point of view.

Obama HQ Opens in KC

On my lunch hour today I stopped by the new Obama HQ in Kansas City for their open house. As you can see the crowd was very respectable for a week day lunch time event. In the first photo above, Jackson County Executive Michael Sanders is addressing the crowd.

The headquarters is on the NW corner of Gillham Rd and 31st Street - there is good parking available for volunteer workers. It should be a great location. There are other officers open and yet to open in Missouri including more in the K.C. metro area

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poetry In the News 7-29-08

  • Robert Redford Fights Global Warming With Poetry [NPR]
  • He dismisses university writing programs as "multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes" in which Volvo-driving poet-professors are too fearful of risking prizes or promotions to make waves. [story]

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weak 287 Unconscious Mutterings

Unconscious Mutterings ~ link
Word & Thought Associations

here's mine:
  1. Memory :: card
  2. Original :: Kentucky Fried
  3. Exclusively :: yours
  4. Listings :: Real Estate
  5. Bucket :: seats
  6. Knight :: Sir Lancelot
  7. Dusty :: Baker
  8. Choice :: Pro
  9. Sunglight :: *I'm going to take a wild assed guess that they mean "sunlight" and say:: bright
  10. Change of plans :: life

Words of Interest

This weekend I came across a couple of words I'm intrigued with...

1. biduous - (pronounced bid-u-us) N. lasting two days.

2. dilogy - (pronounced dil-eji) N. intentional ambiguity; emphatic repetition of words, etc.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Poetry in the News

  • Semic - pleased to be back at his writing desk - "Washington is very much in my mind and will undoubtedly be the subject of many poems." [Story]
  • Before the Mississippi Department of Education pats itself on the back for raising educational standards, it needs to take a long look at what those standards are. [Editorial]
  • Is poetry's future as bright as its past? [Editorial]
  • 1,000,000,000,000 Web pages! Somebody who doesn't have at least one Web page in cyberspace should feel totally insignificant. [Op-Ed]

Around the Bend of Time

Something pulls me
around the stretch
of unseen time
layed out-

before I ever got here
someone saw this

they put down
a dream they had-
someplace they were going
but I can't see

the end they had in mind
is not mine-

for a while I'll share their thought-
at least till I arrive at my own conclusion.

photo credit:


Roan is an anagram for Nora who came into their life three years ago. Brad Buchanan and wife Kate Washington not only conceived a child, but an idea for a small literary publishing house in Sacramento, California.

Brad is college professor teaching British lit, creative writing and an introduction to poetry. Kate is a free-lance writer and restaurant critic for a local paper in Sacramento. Their first book was "Swimming the Mirror: Poems for My Daughter," poems written by Brad himself. They plan to turn out one or two books a year, with an emphasis on poetry, memoirs, essays and fiction. Their next project, due out in 2009 has already been selected and they are looking to the future. They have an Internet presence established at


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sharon Olds - A Private Poet

'I've tried to make sense of my life ... make a small embodiment of ordinary life, from a daughter's, wife's, mother's point of view'

Sharon Olds is a poet whose work is particularly direct and can be painfully raw at times with its physicality in relationships. Among the plain spoken and direct poets, Olds has become one of my personal favorites. But she has detractors as well. Helen Vendler, a leading American critic of poetry(1) describe her work as self- indulgent, sensationalist, and even pornographic. (2) I take great issue with her assessment.

One thing is indisputable about Olds. For all the exposure of her work; at least ten published collections of poetry, the inclusions in over a hundred anthologies and translation of her work into seven different languages; Olds remains a relatively private person. She has given few interviews over the years and when one takes place, it's newsworthy.

Marianne Macdonald of the Guardian interviewed Sharon Olds for an article that appeared this month in the Guardian and their online version as well. Check it out... it's worth reading.

source (1) (2)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Invented Person

The poet Stephen Dunn speaks of the invented person in the notebook he keeps, as sited in The Poet's Notebook. Of course fiction writers invent persons all the time but where do people in poems come from?

Dunn's invented person(s) are made up, "from everything I am, or could be. For many years I was more desire than fact. When I stop becoming, that's when I worry."

I recall talking with someone a while back who said they never liked writing poetry in first person. They did not elaborate on why, but I could think of reasons, though they might not be what caused them to dislike first person.

I know all too well that people tend to see first person poems as all about the poet. To some degree that person could reflect certain attributes or desires of the poet, even if not autobiographical. But I think fiction writers have to get inside the heads of their characters too and there is I believe little difference then between the two trades and the nature of the inventiveness necessary to carry off a good piece of writing.

I take it that Dunn's invented person is always changing. Sometimes I find that aspect of the inventiveness the most difficult to control. It is not uncommon for my "first Person" in one poem to seem very much like one in the next. That is a challenge that requires me much more energy as well as courage to free myself from self imposed limits. You can create this shell of a person, but you have to be willing to step into that shell with the persona that is the right fit. If I'm an axe murderer, it's going to take a lot of tweaking of my personality to imagine what that must be like.

Dunn says these people are "borrowed from the real- abstracted... the person we finally know."

*photo credit -

WEEK 286 - Unconscious Mutterings

Unconscious Mutterings ~ link
Word & Thought Associations
here's mine:

  1. Flicker :: Picker
  2. Styling :: Hair
  3. Episode :: TV
  4. Sexier :: Hot
  5. Studious :: Grad
  6. Mushroom :: Toad Stool
  7. 8 minutes :: Mile
  8. Bald :: Shine
  9. Immunity :: AT&T
  10. Sectioned :: Ortange

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rag Reading Review

Last nights Main Street Rag poetry reading - held at the Writers Place featured Amy Davis ( left) and Missi Rasmussen (right) followed by an open mic.

Amy's poems were an ecliptic journey through some of her earlier work to the present. While some of these poems I've had an opportunity to hear before, there were several I had not. Her delivery was casual and with commentary that included interesting insight into some of the work. Not filler; but things that really enhanced the experience.

Missi's read was smooth and deliberate. Again, some material I was familiar with but lots of poems I had not heard before. There was a great deal of maturity in both the material and the poise with which she delivered it. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of new pieces of work she presented

During the opem mic period - Pat Berge read her poem One Good Day. A moving piece that you could have heard a pen drop as it was read.

Shawn Pavey gets high marks for the selection of these two young women as featured readers for the event. The Main Street Rag is a quarterly literary magazine based in Charlotte, NC and is co-sponsor of the monthly reading series. Pavey is co-founder.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Journal bits this week...

  • conversations through cheese cloth/ripple the dialogue
  • The last thing echoes its name/off the monument to a culture/unable to establish roots here
  • I had a dream in the pitch dark. As disturbing as it was, it remains a shapeless void.
  • Rain falling - acoustically pleasing. A single roll of thunder breaks through; then a second one. A lazy Saturday morning has broken out. [7-12]

Friday, July 18, 2008

What the Blogosphere is Saying About The New Poet Laureate

What others are saying about the new poet laureate - Kay Ryan...

  • The New Modernest - Edward / "Me, I'm a minimalist. I like lots of it. That's a joke. But I've always liked the spare poetry of Kay Ryan."
  • Bibliolatry / "Ever the modern gal, I like that her poems are short and deceptively easy to read."
  • Books, Inq.: The Epilogue / "She's a hell of a poet, and a great person to boot."
  • Little Fury / "Kay Ryan’s appointment to the post has potential, people, so I’m hopeful. By her own admission, Ryan is “an outsider,” though I suppose I dare you to name a poet who doesn't believe he or she is, in some fundamental human way, an outsider. Dana Gioia, maybe. Billy Collins. Yeah, ok, so give me a list of ten. At the very least, I find Ryan’s work to be magnificently energetic. "
  • Notes on the Writing Life / "Ryan is skillful, accomplished, and more than deserving of this honor, but I don't much care for her poetry, which tends to be simple, spare, and playful. Just a matter of taste, really. Simic is a hard act to follow and is a personal favorite. I'm happy to see a woman have the honor again after so long a string of men, but I had hoped to see Jorie Graham named. Like Billy Collins and Ted Kooser, Kay Ryan writes poetry that is very accessible. Even a caveman could read it. Sometimes that simplicity appeals to people who don't read more complex or surreal poetry, so perhaps Ryan will draw a wider audience. And that will surely be a good thing for poetry."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Well, I was Surprised

Kay Ryan would not have been on my short list. Hell, she would not have even made my long list. I'm not referring to prospective Veeps, I'm talking about the next U.S. Poet Laureate. This is not to be critical of Kay Ryan, it has to do with the fact that she is a poet who has been completely off my radar. As such, I am quite frankly at a loss to assess my view of the news of her selection other than to express some feeling of relief that a woman was selected as it has been quite a drought for their gender.

What I do know about Kay is the following:
  • She was born in California
  • Educated at UCLA - both bachelor's and master's degree
  • She's received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Guggenheim fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Union League Poetry Prize, the Maurice English Poetry Award, and three Pushcart Prizes.
  • She has published six collections of poetry.

Others on Kay Ryan:

Dana Gioia: "Ryan’s poems characteristically take the shape of an observation or idea in the process of clarifying itself. Although the poems are brightly sensual and imagistic, there is often a strongly didactic sense at work."

J.D. McClatchy: "She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost.”

In the days ahead I'll be checking out her work and will likely be able to formulate a better view of this latest selection by the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poetry in the News

  • As much as his left-brain produces equations, formulas and theories, his right-brain gushes sentiment, passion and feelings. Retired scientist Leonard "Barry" Barrington has written a poem a day for thirty years.
  • Readers solve 'lost' poet mystery.
  • Napa Valley Writers' Conference presents public lecture series July 28-31 / On Thursday, July 31, at 9 a.m., Brenda Hillman will speak on “Reportorial Poetry: Bringing Poetic, Spiritual, and Political Activism Together.” More on the conference.

Monday, July 14, 2008


The third movement was less

its sound rooted in the quietude
that often passes as peace, but is really
just a pause in fighting.

"Mamma Mia, here I go again/ My, my, how can I resist you?"

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm one of those

people addicted to the music of the pop group ABBA. So, when I saw the link on Jilly's blog today... well, I was very interested it what it had to say.
Can science explain why ABBA is so catchy? [ABBA story on]
Sarah Rodman writes, "ABBA's songs continue to endure as what scientists have dubbed "earworms" 35 years after the band's first album was released. Like those little bugs, the tunes burrow into our brains and keep hitting the repeat button." I've always maintained that ABBA's female vocalists have one of the sweetest harmonies around. They are just about as perfect as humanly possible. And their harmony may in fact have something to do with this.

According to Daniel Levitin, author of "This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession," The ABBA model of the multiple voices is closer to "the chemical reactions we have to events in the world, for tens of thousands of years when we as a species heard music we heard groups singing it, not an individual and not an individual standing on a stage." Sorry Frank Sinatra and Miley Cyrus.

Levitin says their upbeat songs like "Money, Money, Money" have simple lyrics that makes them easy to sing along to. That he adds, gives listeners "an even more powerful hit of happy juice in the brain from dopamine."

But what about the sad and more contemplative songs? "The Winner Takes It All," for example.Here, brains produce an opposite but equally enjoyable reaction. "You get the comfort hormone of prolactin when you hear sad music," Levitin explains. That's the same hormone that's released when mothers nurse their babies. It's soothing.

The article points to a number of others individuals with the credential to speak on the subject of musicality and the brain... they all find reason to count the music of ABBA as infectious. A fascinating article and somewhat reassuring that I am not alone.

Now, I can't wait for the premiere of Mamma Mia. I go again... My my, how can I resist you...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Unconscious Mutterings Week 245

Unconscious Mutterings ~ link

Word & Thought Associations

here's mine:

  1. Intimidated :: Bully
  2. Brush :: Fuller
  3. Masquerade :: Party
  4. Procedure :: Surgical
  5. Tattoos :: Heart
  6. Square :: Root
  7. Tuck :: Away
  8. Boyfriend :: Lover
  9. Badass:: Dog
  10. Thousand :: Island

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Timing is Everything

Timing can be so important. It mystifies me how a particular moment is simply the right moment for specific poem to come together. I've had a few encounters with this sort of thing. And as thought I almost lack gratitude from the ones that have occurred this way, I'd add too damn few.

Some of the best poems can be viewed in the same way as a snapshot. They capture a moment in time and frame it in words. A yardstick to measure the success of such work could well be if the reader can put him/herself into that frame and automatically be in the moment. I think William Carlos Williams' poem that begins... so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain is a classic example of what I mean. This poem came to him on the spot and indeed captures a moment in time like that of a photographer. Wickpedia notes "The pictorial style in which the poem is written owes much to the photographs of Alfred Stieglitz and the precisionist style of Charles Sheeler."

I'm trying to think about the few times I have had such an experience with writing a poem and it seems clear to me that there was little if anything I did consciously to assure the success of the poem written. I cannot think of any. In fact, these instances were more like becoming aware that there was nothing to do but sit down and write the poems. The conditions and the creation of the poem in these instances had more control over me than I over them. Because of this it is not something I can say, "ah, do this, and a great poem is bound to happen." Randall Jarrell ruefully defined a poet as someone who, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, manages to get hit by lightning seven or eight times.[The] Perhaps these are lightening experiences.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Obligatory Communication

"One of the obligations of the writer is to say or sing all that he or she can, to deal with as much of the world as becomes possible to him or her in language." ~ Denise Levertov

So, you thought you'd just write the great American novel or win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Then, maybe travel a bit. Speak hear and there about what it's like now that you are a successful writer. Poet Denise Levertov seems to see it differently. She wants us to dig deep down in our own humanity and and communicate who and what we are within the language of our work. I don't know about you but that seems a pretty heavy responsibility.

Maybe what Levertov is saying is that whatever you write, don't do it half assed. If you are going to write, you owe it to your reader to put your total self into it. Make the language you speak be totally from yourself and make it the best representation of who you are that you can. I suppose anything short of that cheats both the reader and our self. I hate to say it, but it kind of reminds me of the Army advertisement... "Be all that you can be."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

K. C. Poetry Reading Event ~ Mark Your Calendars

Sunday July 20th
at 7:00 PM
3707 Pennsylvania in KCMO

Amy Davis and Missi Rasmussen - two local poets will be featured readers with an open mic immediately following. I've had an opportunity to know both of these poets for several years now. They have distinctively unique voices.

Amy was awarded the 2008 Crystal Field Scholarship in Poetry and is attending UMKC. Her poetry has appeared in the in various venues including Park University Scribe and The Rogue Poetry Review. She is a member of the K.C. Metro Verse.

Missi was awarded the Nicholas Manchion English Scholarship Award at Park University. She is presently enrolled in graduate school. Her work has been published in numerous literary journals in print and online. She is the founder & president of KC Metro Verse.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Word Joy

"Three cheers for a poet who handles words with the intent joy of a little kid playing with blocks." ~ X.J. Kennedy


When the Bush Administration tapped private phone lines with the aid of phone companies but without any court order authorizing the wiretaps, it set into motion a series of challenges for violating the privacy rights of millions of Americans. That battle ended today when the Senate voted in favor of the new FISA bill today by a 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican by voting in favor of it. Sadly my own Democratic Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill also sold out to Bush and the phone companies voting for the final bill with immunity for phone companies that have already provided private information from American citizens to the Bush administration without court order. Sen. Hillary Clinton had the courage to voted against it.

Earlier amendment to pass the bill without immunity failed - Obama supporting that effort while McCaskill again voted the Bush & phone company line.

Poetry To A Beat

List night I attended an event at the Kansas City Public Library featuring poet John Mark Eberhart, author of two collections of poetry, Night Watch (2005) and Broken Time (2008). The event turned out to be a family affair with brother Ken Eberhart who is a talented percussionist, brother-in-law Nick Drimmel, who preformed on keyboard. Sherri Eberhart, John Mark's wife performed as well.

John Mark's poetry resonates well with a music theme. So much of his work seems to be about place, be it geography or a place in time or life.

Sherri read from a snippet of the couple's upcoming project, Blood of Eden. She has a background in theater and it is really fun to see such a range of creativity pulled together in one event.

A full house was on hand. Kudos to the K.C. Public Library for yet another great display of the arts in Kansas City.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Prose vs Poetry

Perhaps one aspect if poetry that rubs present day norms the wrong way is it generally requires us to exercise some degree of imagination. There was a day when that was common place. We listened to radio and thought nothing about it as we exercised our mind to create what we could not see. We’ve become more of a prose society. Like TV we want it all right there spelled out for us in living color.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Week 284 Unconscious Mutterings

Unconscious Mutterings ~ link
Word & Thought Associations
here's mine:
  • Notification :: Registered mail
  • Cheat :: sheet
  • Top Ten:: songs
  • Draft :: dodger
  • Unbelievable :: fucking
  • Cheap :: seats
  • Spontaneous :: combustion
  • Harass :: neighbor
  • Lipstick :: pink
  • Transpire :: [nothing comes to my mind]

The word on a word...

The word immunity is such a conflicting word. It has an almost godlike quality about it. Immunity gives and Immunity takes.

For instance… immunity or lack thereof can be the difference between sickness or health.

If you've done something wrong, immunity can relieve you of undesirable consequences. Here it adds by subtraction.

I picture Immunity (capitalized out of respect) as the horizontal bar on the scales of justice weighing one thing against another. It’s a pretty heady word.

A Question For You....

The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky listed himself on his passport as, "Inventer of sounds." What them, would you call yourself?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Exploring the revision before you write anything down

While reading yesterday I discovered an interesting sentence attributed to the poet William Stafford from his journal writings. The entry in question reads: “I must explore the revision that happens before you write anything down.” Disappointingly, there weren't any added lines of his exploration on this subject.

What Stafford is alluding to can be considered in two different categories. One is the process of selecting exactly what you want to say and choosing the best words at that moment (certainly subject to change) before you actually write the complete thought upon a page. But there is another aspect that touches upon something I have blogged upon in the past that continues to confound me. It is what I refer to as “self censorship” and while it can be very controlled and directed by the writer, I wonder about the less obvious possibilities as they might relate to the revision that takes place in the mind before reaching the page.

When driving and approaching an intersection with traffic signal, the mind makes decisions that are split second and we don’t seem to be totally cognizant of the process. We know for example what the color signals of the light mean, but coming upon a yellow light there is something that happens quickly to inform us of our decision ahead of applying the breaks or perhaps more gas. It all happens so quickly there seems not the internal banter going on in the brain that you might experience in writing a first line upon a page, where there may be significant forethought that is very transparent. Afterwards, you may be able to recount to another, “I chose this word over that because…” The process of reaching your decision seems retraceable.

Going through the yellow signal or not is likely tied to some internal understanding if fear. Fear of what might or might not happen. I assume there is an assessment of perceived risk, but it happens so quickly we don’t seem to be aware of the data-in and the data-out that makes up the final decision.

I think all writers have safe zones and danger zones to their writing. It may be subjects or it may be images we don’t feel comfortable putting into words. Staying within our comfort zones is of course very limiting. We may find our subject matter tends to repeat. Our choice of vocabulary could become so common that all our work starts to fall into the same tone.

If we perceive danger and make split second decisions on the road, do we do the same with word or subject choices before we commit those thoughts to the page based upon our own preconceived notions as what is safe to write and what is not safe? Do we self censor without real cognitive choice?

Writing reveals us to readers in ways that become exceedingly personal. There is some degree of risk associated with everything we write. The risk we'll look silly. The rick we'll me misunderstood. The risk that everything we write suggests that we've experienced what we've written or that what we write is how we feel about something. Keep in mind that we are the first readers of our own work. Sometimes we may be startled by our own writing. I have no idea if any of this occurred to William Stafford in pondering the mental revision before we commit to page but it is a discussion I would love to have had with him.

Friday, July 04, 2008

We are what we are

"Poets are jails. Works are the convects who escape."
~ Cocteau, diary

July 4th

A shrill followed by a cornless pop!
Dogs retort like a report’s echo
and I’m so glad to be and American
but I forgot my flag pin

you will forgive me, yes?
There’s a beer in the cooler—
made in America (a foreign corporation
wants to by) I’ll have one too.

A rocket’s red glare lights the sky
over my neighbor’s roof
but he’s been doing peach gigglers
since late afternoon

and “oh shit, hope their house is okay”
is all he can say…

The Boss is blaring on speakers.
Makes you almost want to cry

out loud the way some people sing off key
but are the only ones who don’t know it.

Giggler guy just ran by in his wife's thong
as the sky lights him up

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Last night as I stood on our deck you just knew it was coming. Hand noting to do with my joints or aches, but rather the speed and magnitude of the clouds and how they were accessorized in gray.
Indeed, a thunderstorm followed.

This morning, the eastern sky is ablaze in sun.
I have an eye exam this morning. If they dilate my eyes I'll be blinded in this sun.

The first time I went to this eye doctor there were these two little gray haired ladies raving about how the office has the best coffee. Damn if they weren't right. It makes me look forward to going. If only dental offices served coffee like this.

Mary Oliver has such a way with words...
"About poems that don't work - Who wants to see a bird almost fly?"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Voice of Our Own

Evidently Earth has a voice in space. According to astronomers, Earth emits an ear-piercing series of chirps and whistles that can be head in a recording here.
"Today I am altogether without ambition. Where did I get such wisdom?" ~ Mary Oliver
Unconscious Mutterings ~ link
Word & Thought Associations
here's mine:

Loneliness :: Empty
Traffic :: Cop
Chaos :: Fire drill
Burp :: Baby
500 :: Indy 500
Movie :: Karma
Coma :: Sleep
Bark :: Dog
Stare :: Down
Angelina :: Jolie

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Therapy on the page

What do Latinos, poetry and therapists all have in common? They are all a part of Daniel Cubias' latest blog post on The Huffington Post. It's pretty funny.

It's said that one can observe Rumi poetry in many of Elham Moaidnia's paintings. Here is an article about her exhibition in Dubai as well as a look at the work of this Iranian born artist at her own web site.

"Poetry tries to bridge abyss lying between the name and the thing. That language is a problem is no news to poets." ~ Charles Semic