Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Decisions - Decisions

Victoria Chang
Tina Fey impersonator debates Joe Biden.

Victoria Chang is in town for a reading as part of 2008-2009 Park University Ethnic Voices Poetry Series.  Going to be hard to pass on the Debate live, but I'll have to rush home and watch recording.

October 2, 2008
Kansas City Library
14 W. 10th Street -Kansas City, MO

Reception at 6:30pm
Presentation at 7:00 p.m.

Book signing follows

Chang's work has appeared in many literary journals, and she won a Ploughshares Cohen Award for best poem of the year. Her first book of poetry, Circle, won the Crab Orchard Review Award Series in Poetry and the Association of Asian American Book Studies Award and was also a finalist for the 2005 PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award. The University of Georgia has just published her second book, Salvinia Molesta, and she edited the anthology, Asian American Poetry: the Next Generation.

Victoria Chang web site

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Banned Books Week

A reminder to everyone that this

is Banned Book Awareness week

“Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”—Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

The 10 Most Challenged Books of 2007

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
  2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
  4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle
  8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
  10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

The reasons for the challenges varies. In some instances it's religious viewpoints, in others it may be language, sexuality, racism. Between 2000 and 2007 some frequently challenged titles have included:

  • Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling
  • Of Mice and Men - John Stinebeck
  • Forever - Judy Blume
  • The Giver - Lois Lowry
  • We All Fall Down - Robert Cromier
  • To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  • Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Brave New World - Aldous Huley
  • One Flew Over The Cuck00's Nest -Ken Kesey
  • Anastasia Again - Lois Lowry
  • Are You There God? It's Me Margaret - Judy Blume
  • Freaky Friday - Mary Rodgers

Be alert and aware of efforts in your own community to ban books in Schools, Libraries and Universities. Don't be silent!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Unconscious Mutterings Week 296

Unconscious Mutterings ~ link
Word & Thought Associations

  • Hearing :: Aid
  • Aggression :: Therapy
  • Charged :: Battery
  • Traveler :: Insurance
  • Hydrate :: Water
  • Detox :: Drug
  • Qualify :: Loan
  • Prison :: Escape
  • Frontal :: Nudity
  • Pep talk :: High School
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    OMG this is funny

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    To MSPS Convention and Back

    TLuxReturned last night from the Missouri State Poetry Society Convention in Springfield, MO. It was a whirlwind trip down and back with the president of our local chapter, Missi Rasmussen in the Poet Mobil. Missi drove her yellow PT Cruiser and while we were at one of the secessions a reference was made to another local poet who drove the car preferred by poets everywhere. Yep, the PT Cruiser. Who knew? 

    There were two exceptional guests who read their work. Thomas Lux pictured here and Michael Burns.

    Lux was educated at Emerson College and the University of Iowa.  He was the poet in residence at Emerson College, 1972-75. He was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry in addition to National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Fellowship.

    Burns is a retired MSU Professor whose work has appeared in a number of top rate literary journals including Kenyon Review, Paris Review, and The Southern Review. In 1995 he won an NEA fellowship. 

    Burns did a group workshop an I found him to be a very down to earth instructor. I liked his teaching style. He is someone who really seems to enjoy helping others with their poetry and has a personality that is as genuine as it is rich with humor.

    I knew I recognized Thomas Lux by name, but could not place him. That was until he began to read The Refrigerator, 1957.  I didn't recognize it by name, but it didn't take long for me to realize this was the infamous Maraschino cherries poem.  I first saw this poem maybe 5 or 6 years ago and loved it.

    "...right of the middle of the middle door shelf, on fire, a lit-from-within red, heart red, sexual red, wet neon red, shining red in their liquid, exotic, aloof, slumming in such company: a jar of maraschino cherries. Three-quarters full, fiery globes, like strippers at a church social. Maraschino cherries, maraschino, the only foreign word I knew. Not once did I see these cherries employed: not in a drink, nor on top of a glob of ice cream,"

    It all went by so fast, but it was a worthwhile trip and it's too bad more of our local people could nit make the trip down.


    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    McCain Camp: Let's Push Back Biden-Palin Match-Up, Too

    Yes folks, according to ABC News....  the headline above is theirs and relates to the following: 

    The McCain campaign told ABC News on Wednesday that John McCain wants to postpone Friday's presidential debate until Thursday, Oct. 2.

    The Arizona senator would like the vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, which is currently scheduled to take place on Thursday, Oct. 2 in St. Louis, Missouri, to be scheduled for a later unspecified date.

    So I guess that gives them more time to work on Palin who's eyes looked like a frightened puppy when she took a whole four questions from the press today.


    Unconscious Mutterings Week 295

    Unconscious Mutterings ~ link
    Word & Thought Associations

    here's mine:

    Heist :: Diamond
    Hack :: Up
    Dane :: Great
    Stings :: Police
    Monkey :: Madness
    Junkie :: Dope
    Pumped :: Up
    Brass :: Knuckles
    Fight! :: War
    Vouch :: Acknowledge

    evidently I was asleep at the switch for week 294

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Letting Go - Part I

    "All truly profound art requires its creator to abandon himself to certain powers which he invokes but cannot altogether control" ~ Andre Malraux, "Goya"

    The word all leaves no room for question and requires is a strong verb.  So when you think about the above statement it's about as weighty as you can get. Given this, I've been thinking a lot about it this evening. Assuming that this statement is a universal truth about art, it behooves us to learn just exactly what it takes to surrender ourselves to certain powers. And where do these powers come from?


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    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Back From A Weekend Run To St Louis

    Back home after a whirlwind trip to St Louis to See Daughter #2.  Haven't done a Journal bits post in a while....  A few things from this past ten days.

    • 9-11-08 "I look at a picture on my desk of all four of our kids together and note their facial features and how much they look alike."
    • 9-11-08 Quite from Rainer Maria Rilke ~  "If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well."
    • 9-13-08 evening... "There is in you what is beyond you"  ~ Paul Valery
    • 9-14-08 The blackened windows was unyielding./There is another side to this-  I dispute,/the blank stare, dark and framed/in a plague of crippling lies./
    • 9-15-08 "conscripted fantasy"
    • 9-16-08 I am better suited for productivity this morning as I am not zoned out on carbs. Life is a balancing act to get enough but not too many.
    • 9-16-08 The language that we cling to is a monument that testifies to the organized progress of man. It is so exciting to be linked to this feat, this act of human achievement by the very use of it on a daily basis.
    • 9-19-08 I got my ass kicked good a the office today.
    • 9-20-08  ...had dinner, tacos from Jack-in-the-Box.
    • 9-21-08 "a box store full of false hope/discount prices and depressed wages

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    How I See Election Night Unfolding

    <p><strong>><a href=''>2008 Election Contest: Pick Your President</a></strong> - Predict the winner of the 2008 presidential election and enter to win a $500 prize.</p>

    Words to Stroll By

    As a Capricorn, I like to think of myself as an earthy sort of person. It is true I like a safety net, the secure feeling. Still, I do like a good shakeup once and a while. A little something new can be a good thing under the right circumstances. Even to a Capricorn. So when I saw an article about a man in St. Paul, Minneapolis that was bringing poetry to the people in a new way, I sat up and took note.

    It seems that poetry has taken up a rather permanent position around the city on sidewalks. The project was conceived by Marcus Young who was looking for a way to integrate art into the public view.

    Working with twenty poets and the Department of Public Works in St. Paul, Young was able to orchestrate poems etched into the concrete where repairs were being made in public walkways. Presently there are about 50 poems completed in various parts of the city and another fifty to go.

    I thought about during next poetry month doing poems in chalk on sidewalks but this is way more cool, and lasting.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Right Here In River City

    bladedropes Sunday I read at the Writers Place in Kansas City for the second CD release party sponsored by both the Writers Place and the Johnson County Library. The two events were an excellent opportunity for the public to hear and meet some of our many local poets and I especially appreciated the fact that the events spanned our Missouri - Kansas boarder. I don't recall ever reading in the Kansas side before, though I have attended a number of readings there. Anyway, the local poets featured in the CD project owe a big thanks to these two sponsors.

    Speaking of events... there are a number of exciting happenings that are coming together locally in the months ahead. Two poets I first discovered via poetry blogland will be coming to read as part of an Ethnic Poetry Reading Series in conjunction with Park University. The first one is Victoria Chang who will be here October 2nd, 2008 and the other is Aimee Nezhukumatathil who will be in town on March 26th, 2009. I'll do another post on each closer to their event. Also in October - on Thursday the 23rd, Poet Laureate Charles Simic will be in town as part of the Midwest Poet Series. So there, everyone mark your calendar in advance. I promise to remind you of each event later.

    John's Friends

    What's That You Say?

    A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Art & The Elections

    If you are an artist or feel the arts are important in the fundamental education of American children then consider this information passed along from Kelli Russell Agodon on her blog about the presidential candidates:

    Barack Obama- favors an Artist Corps in the Schools. An "Artist Corps" of young artists would work in low-income schools and their communities to bring exposure of the arts into the educational process of these students. The results of which are of course more job opportunities for artists, but most importantly this would effectively integrate positive art experiences in the education system in this country. In so many school districts art has had to take a back seat to other subjects. It's important to reach these students when they are young because otherwise they are not likely to learn to appreciate art on their own as adults. [read more in depth]

    John McCain - his record is one disfavoring the promotion of the arts publicly. In 1999 he was one of 16 senators who supported the Smith-Ashcroft amendment which would have eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Fortunately this amendment failed. He tried again in 2000. He was one of 27 senators who voted to reduce the National Endowment for the Arts budget by $7.3 million. Again, "Maverick McCain" and the others were unsuccessful. It should be noted that the National Endowment for the Arts is not just a glitzy art organization, but has been a positive vehicle for promoting literacy programs in America for people of all ages. [ I thought I'd be fair and link any specifics from McCain's campaign here, but his official site seems void of any reference to the Arts]

    Pass this information on to other artists that you know. There is a lot at stake in this election.

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    Writers Place - Sunday -Sept. 14 6:00-PM Reading and CD Poetry CD Give-Away.

    A repeat of sorts to the event last Monday at Johnson County Library.

    At the Writers Place - 3607 Pennsylvania, K.C., MO there will be another reading and CD release party. First 50 get a free CD!

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    Dana Gioia Takes Another Direction

    DANAG The arts have truly had an Ambassador in Dana Gioia who has served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts since 2003. But Dana who wrote poetry quietly while working in corporate America has announced that he plans to depart from his second term at National Endowments early next year and will join The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization founded in 1950 as the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies.  The position at Aspen will be a a half-time position. Dana plans to return to his writing as well. He has been both a poet and a critic. In fact leaving to accept this new position is really about freeing up time to write. About his decision, Gioia noted, "I announce my departure with mixed feelings," he added. "I will never have a more interesting job. But I am a writer. If I don't return to poetry soon, the Muse will never have me back."

    At Aspen Institute he will be the Director of The Harman/Eisner (H/E) Program in the Arts. A new program of the Institute the purpose of which is to deepen the Institute's work by incorporating leading artists and to use the Institute's convenings to support and promote the arts.

    Saturday morning and lots going on in my mind

    ALeqMI can't help but wonder what the ultimate damage assessment and loss of life will look like on the Gulf coast from the savage path of Ike.  It all seems sorrel having so much news coverage and yet we know so little of the human tragedy yet. It's still all drama and yet you know the loss is there.

    Then too there is the horrific train collision in the LA area. Yet another reminder how fragile life can be even in the daily grind.

    If you look past all this, there is still a campaign going on, though the candidates attempt to tip-toe through the human suffering so as not to offend.

    In reality an election is going to happen in the end and it is perhaps one of profound importance when you consider where this nation has been in the past 8 years. Our economy has gone from one of deficit reductions in the years prior to Bush taking office to one that is historic in terms of national debit. At the same time we are seeing banks and major investment houses collapse in their own debt write-offs for losses that not only are corporate losses but translate to shareholder losses as well.  And those  share holders are not all wealthy individuals who can sustain the risk of their investments, but in many cases baby boomers whose retirement pensions are often tied to such investments.

    Meanwhile, we continue to spend $10 billion a month (not even counted in the federal budget) for the ongoing military action in Iraq. A war that was a mistake from the very conception.  All this time, things grow worse in Afghanistan, the country with the real connection to 9-11, not Iraq.

    Quietly on the home front, the Bush administration continues to pursue a course of action that threatens our very constructional protections.  One by one eroding our rights as citizens. The most recent example seeks to take us back some 30 years to the Nixon era when it was necessary to clean up the constitutional abuses of a very paranoid president who felt it necessary to abuse powers to spy on the American people.

    This week, as a perhaps final legacy of this administration, the FBI announced it is seeking to implement new rules as of October 1 that would allow agents pursuing national security leads to employ physical surveillance, deploy informants and engage in "pretext" interviews with their identities hidden to assess the danger posed by a subject. Such assessments could be initiated even without a particular fact or concrete lead that a person had engaged in wrongdoing. Additionally. as in the days of Nixon, it is suggested that changes still could be made in some areas, including ground rules for FBI agents who secretly infiltrate activist groups or collect intelligence at public demonstrations and events without a suspected terrorist threat.

    It's a lot to chew on this Saturday morning. The underlying question now is, can I clear my head and write today?

    Friday, September 12, 2008


    Ornamental excuses abound.
    Window dressings, all of them
    to purchase the justification
    necessary to have his way
    when validation was a rabbit
    no where near the scene
    of the black top hat.

    Aren't You Felling More Assured?

    In an interview last night with ABC's Charles Gibson, it was noted that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has defended his running mate's qualifications, citing her command of the Alaska National Guard and Alaska's proximity to Russia. When asked by Gibson about what insights into recent Russian actions she gained by living in Alaska, Palin responded, "They're our next-door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

    Now we know she will be able to find it on a map.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008


    The Monday night event at Johnson County Library was well done. Thanks to both Johnson County Library and The Writers Place for their part in making it a success and allowing many local poets greater exposure in the community. The CD produced by their joint efforts includes works from the following poets:

    • Katie Manning
    • Marie Asner
    • Bob Fisher
    • Jo McDougal
    • Michael Wells
    • Tina Hacker
    • Maria Vasques Boyd
    • Martin Zehr
    • Carol Bettis
    • Chalise Bourque
    • Donald Caswell
    • Elizabeth Upperon
    • Timothy Pettit
    • Jan Duncon O'Neill
    • Peg Nichols
    • Chloe Wagner
    • Sylvia Kofler
    • Meril Crabtree
    • William Trpwbridge
    • Albert James Dow
    • Greg Germon
    • Gloria Martinez Adams
    • Tom Gray
    • Carol Hamilton
    • Margarita Vallazza
    • Mark Scheel
    • Jose Faas
    • Missi Rasmussen
    • Sally Jadlow
    • Maryfrancis Wagner
    • Mary Rogers-Grantham
    • Genie Wilson

    At the Writers Place - 3607 Pennsylvania, K.C., MO - This Sunday, September 14th, 2008 6:00PM there will be another reading and CD release party. First 50 get a free CD!

    Monday, September 08, 2008

    Cheney Supports McCain-Palin Ticket

    Cheney tells the press he's behind the McCain-Palin Ticket, the ticket John McCain says represents change from the past 8 years of the Bush-Cheney administration. The administration that was notably absent in any mention during the GOP Convention.

    Why would this be? Perhaps, because McCain-Palin aren't really agents of change but more of the same. The same they don't want to talk about. The same they hope you'll forget.

    Cheney believes Palin is up to the job. This is a man whose opinion on the subject Americans should take? Seriously folks, what is wrong with this picture?

    Unconscious Mutterings Week 293

    Unconscious Mutterings ~ link
    Word & Thought Associations

    here's mine:

    House :: party
    Think :: tank
    Clot :: blood
    Believe me :: song (Please Believe Me)
    Fumigation :: couch
    Bore :: McCain
    Luck :: Irish
    Patient :: Jobe
    Tremors :: quakes
    Pickles :: dill

    Sunday, September 07, 2008

    It's About time!

    Palin Agrees to ABC News Interview: "Sept. 7) - Under pressure for being shielded for questioning, Sarah Palin has a agreed to sit down with Charles Gibson of ABC’s “World News Tonight,” according to an ABC News official. No other interviews are scheduled. It will be the first TV interview for Palin since she was named 10 days ago as running mate to John McCain."


    Monday, September 8, 7:00 at The Johnson County Library, 8975 W. 87th Street, Overland Park, Kansas : Poets on CD release party and reading

    Why should kids get to have all the fun? We deserve a reading program too! Come hear great poetry and find out how to participate in the BlitzRead! adult reading program at our kickoff party. The first 50 attendees will receive a free CD of local poets reading their work.

    Yours truly will be there to read and is featured on the CD as well.

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    Where's Sarah?

    Sarah_Palin  It's Sunday after the GOP Convention and everyone is busy facing the questions via the traditional public affairs programs that air on Sunday.

    • Democrat Barack Obama on ABC's "This Week."
    • Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden, on NBC's "Meet the Press."
    • Republican John McCain on CBS' "Face the Nation."

    So the question is where is Sara Palin? Is she not ready to field unscripted questions? When do voters get to hear the GOP Vice Presidential candidate answer the same questions being put to the other candidates? Is this asking too much?

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    Saturday, September 06, 2008

    Sensory Triggers

    Photo_072308_001 Mary Biddinger writes in her blog Word Cage about sensory triggers. Those things that set off a particular behavior or thought by recreating a past experience.  Isn't it true that the best poems usually are able to take us to experiences that that we are able to relate to; that by the poets very words we can suddenly taste Grandma's apple pie or feel the warmth of the fireplace against our face  on a cold November night, while smelling the oak log burn and sipping hot chocolate? Words properly chosen have the power to transport us to another time and bring alive real experiences of the past.

    So I sit here this evening thinking of things that I would consider sensory triggers I can relate to.

    • The smell of cut grass takes me to a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at the ballpark. The warm sun beating down on the green field.
    • When I feel the lawnmower with gas it takes me back to when I was a kid and my Grandmother would stop for gas. Those were pre air conditioning days and with the windows down it aroma of gasoline was particularly sweet and strong.  I always am transported back to that little filling station in town and still see the sign reading 34 cents a gallon.
    • The feel of those wood spoons you get with Frosty Malts feel like rough, dry tongue depressors in the doctor's office and make me want to cough.
    • When I'm handling something that tends to dry my hand out a lot, I am suddenly on an out of town trip, headed home to Kansas City, along the roadside changing a flat.

    Those are just a few things that come to my mind.  There are lots of music triggers that take me back to the sixties, seventies and eighties. Events and places.

    I think I should spend the next week listing such triggers in my journal. 

    Friday, September 05, 2008

    A Look At Ginsberg's Letters

    The Letters of Allen Ginsberg, edited by Bill Morgan, is now available from Da Capo Press.
    I've not had an opportunity to read this yet, but regular readers will be well aware how interesting I find journals and letters of poets. Given the impact on Allen and other Beat poets on the American literary culture I have to believe historical accounts of his correspondence would be absolutely fascinating.

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Pocket Change

    Humanity spilled- tossed about,

    jingled in the the pockets

    like small change.

    A bit here and a piece there

    the sum of which is whole

    but spread about

    without custodial care.

    The casual acceptance-

    disrespected by dispersal

    to quail and disintegrate

    in the shadows

    of rich indifference.

    A mind full of likes....

    • Disheveled like a truce gone bad.
    • Bristling like the cloak of a porcupine.
    • Daunting like down by seven runs
      in the top of the ninth-
    • Scorched like the bottom of a cooper kettle.
    • Bumped like a kid out of line.

    Unconscious Mutterings Week 292

    Unconscious Mutterings ~ link

    Word & Thought Associations

    here's mine:

    Groceries :: sacker
    Deodorant :: anti-perspirant
    Psychic :: healer
    Cherries :: picker
    Spooky :: ghosts
    Yogurt :: Dannon
    Kitchen :: sink
    Nothing personal :: negative dig
    Be nice :: children
    Delivery :: baby

    Wednesday, September 03, 2008

    Ashbery - One of Four

    I've said before that my taste in poetry easily finds John Ashbery's work very palatable. I am well aware that this is not a universal opinion among those who delight in reading contemporary poetry. Ashbery has many detractors. Still, it's a fact that at age 81 Ashbery need not fret about his mark on the American literary culture. It is well cemented. If you doubt this, consider that Ashbery is about to become only the fourth American writer to see their works published during their own lifetime by the Library of America. He joins Philip Roth, Eudora Welty, and Saul Bellow in that distinction.

    Monday, September 01, 2008

    Observation Skills

    hollowtrunk  Saturday my wife and I took the dogs and went off to the dog park.  It was while traipsing around that rugged landscape that my knee went from bad to worse.  It was also during this outing that I explored the various trees and branches and sticks and water containers for the dogs.  The sky and the sun bursting through the leaves on the many trees that dot the landscape. Observation is such an important part of the poetry process.  Even when not writing I think there is something to be said for taking in what is around us and looking at it with an eye for detail. Not so much for the ability to recount specifics, though this can be a beneficial exercise, but more importantly looking for the extraordinary in the otherwise ordinary.

    From reading biographical material on Sylvia Plath as well as her journals I was long ago struck with how she was constantly seeking the poem in everything she came into contact with. Even odd jobs she took while attending Smith College provided fodder for her writing.

    I am not quite as tuned into everyday events in the way she apparently was, but I do make an effort to see the poetry around me. One cannot underestimate the benefits that come from sharpening the observation skills.  Mine are far from perfected. 

    Mundane Monday


    Klaus always looks before backing out of driveway....

    Labor day and I'm trying to find a the silver lining in this knee pain. It's not like I'm off on a sick day or anything. No, I'm using a perfectly good three day holiday to be sick. Grrr!