Friday, July 31, 2009

Finishing off July

Oh what a week! I won’t go into the long and the short of my week, but I will say that it seemed more of the former.

Outside of my own immediate personal space the week has truly been something else.

Looking for a weekend of productive writing and less insanity.

become enveloped in art

Those four words underscore the advice offered by Tara Jepson writing on writing for  This was an accidental discovery but one I wanted to share with readers because it certainly demonstrates an opportunity for all of us who write.

If I could reduce this article to simplest terms it would be realizing that “art begets art.” Perhaps not a novel idea but sometimes when we are struggling with where to go in our work we often overlook some of the best opportunities for prompts and sources of inspiration… the art of others.   Article Here 

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thunderstorms and Poetry


Reading today from Gary Snyder's Danger on Peaks and Naomi Shihab Nye's Fuel. Two very different writing styles. Both poets however lean heavily on personal experiences.

There’s a thunderstorm moving into the area tonight. I must confess that at times I enjoy just crawling into bed and listening to them unfold from the distant rumbling and slowly move closer until I can feel we are in the eye of the storm. Of course I say that with some light heartedness as being in the mid-west we can have quite violent storms. Still, it’s just one of many fascinating aspects of nature that one sometimes gets sucked into. As a poet you have love the various languages in which nature speaks to us.

Well, I’m off to bed… with book in hand.  Let it rain.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bringing prairie to the city & the mind



Trip to library today, picked up some poetry books to read, and a novel. I don’t often read fiction these days, but I thought I’d get something light to do recreational reading. Poetry really doesn't quite fit that bill for me though I do often really enjoy reading poetry, but I generally consider it more a act of academic endeavor.

After the library I made a stop at a nearby track in the heart of the city where a natural prairie environment has been recreated.  I got a good exercise walk in then went back around a captured some pictures.

Funny, this make me think of Emily Dickinson writing on the topic of prairie:  “To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, / One clover, and a bee. / And revery. / The revery alone will do, / If bees are few.”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fantasy Tour Update

As the Tour de France is coming to a close – One more day till it’s history…. The latest fantasy team challenge between my daughter and I:

  • Team Poetry –914
  • DieuxVelo – 400

*Note to daughter – this is purely informational and not bragging.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This thing

This thing you call success
is holed up in the laundry room
attached to black hoses
on life support

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Poetry Prize Shortlist


The Forward Prizes were founded in 1992 to raise the profile of contemporary poetry – and annual award that carries a £10,000 prize. The shortlist is out and a final announcement of the winner will come in October.  The list  follows:

  • Glyn Maxwell - Hide Now
  • Sharon Olds - One Secret Thing
  • Don Paterson – Rain
  • Peter Porter- Better than God
  • Christopher Reid - A Scattering
  • Hugo Williams - West End Final

Source: BBC

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A few powerful lines

I was reading an essay yesterday by Joyce Carol Oats in which Oats offers that confessional poetry has been replaced with what might be called the memoir of crisis. I find interesting her supposition that current literary culture is obsessed with memoirs.  Getting into the meat of the essay I was taken by surprise at her mention of Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face. I read this book a number of years back as well and her second book, As Seen on Television and found her to be a an exceedingly talented writer. What really took me by surprise was the mention of her death. For some reason this was totally off my radar. I had not knowledge whatsoever.

Grealy’s first book was a memoir of the sad and tragic life – a victim at an early age of a rare form of cancer of the Jaw, she was greatly disfigured through the illness and subsequent multiple surgical procedures. But for all that the young girl endured, her candor and ability to express herself was a gift to all who read her words.

Lucy Grealy was also a poet, and after reading her second book I went looking for any poetry I could find published. My efforts at the time fell short. I could find nothing. Today I was able to locate two lines attributed  to her. They are profound. Somewhere there must be other gems.

“When I dream of fire / you’re still the one I’d save / though I’ve come to think of myself / as the flames, the splintering rafters.” - Lucy Grealy

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

a thought…

Depression is melancholy minus its charms - the animation, the fits. ~Susan Sontag


Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Whose Who of Literary Magazines

Every Writer’s Resource has put out a list of the top 50 Literary Magazines. I’m sure it will likely have some additions or omissions from any list that you or I would compile. I’m not posting it for the sake of debate, but rather because it’s generally not a bad list and may be worthwhile to look at and see what publications you’ve perhaps missed and might find worthy of looking into further.

Top 50 Literary Magazines

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Remembering Cronkite


The passing yesterday of Walter Cronkite is a monumental loss.  I grew up on Walter Cronkite. He was a staple for many Americans in a time when the nightly news was designed to inform not entertain. Cronkite was the consummate journalist. He set a standard which for several decades that epitomized news reporting.  When I think of Cronkite there are a series of historic benchmarks that he is indelibly connected to.

  • The assassination of President John F. Kennedy and shooting of Jack Ruby
  • The assassination of Martin Luther King
  • The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
  • Reporting of the Vietnam War
  • The 1968 and 72 Presidential campaigns – especially the nominating conventions
  • The landing of Apollo 11 on the moon

For some time now I have lamented the passing of the high standards of reporting which Walter Cronkite championed. The last decade has seen a an alarming shift in the delivery of news.  Cable news has created an ala cart variety of reporting, complete with attempting to not only report facts, but filter the facts and present them in such a way as to do our thinking for us. This has taken place over the years since Cronkite’s retirement.  His peers too have moved on and the advent of cable news networks has given us greater speed in news delivery but we’ve sacrificed something significant in the process.

Cronkite’s passing only serves to remind us that while he is gone physically, his work ethic has been missing for some time.

I suppose it is worth mentioning that his death only reminds those of my age how real mortality is when someone who was an American icon for much of one’s adult life is gone. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A New Project Idea


I was listening to an NPR story this morning (big surprise) about a visual artist and I was struck with an idea for a new poetry project.

It struck me that everyone's handwriting could be seen as an artistic expression.  While we have a generally recognized alphabet that makes up our language, each of us has a personalized rendition of each letter. While our handwriting may follow a generally recognized formula we, like any artist have our own flair that distinguishes our writing.

In this age when letter writing is almost a lost art, and we see written communications mostly in printed text format, I thought it would be interesting to collect a number of samples of handwriting from different individuals and treat them as though they were each individual pieces of artwork. I would then select four or five of these and write a poetic expression of what the artwork speaks to me.  I don't mean the words but rather the lines on the page. This would not be really any different then writing a poem inspired by a painting or a picture.

Anyway, if anyone is interested it contributing a few paragraphs of handwriting sample for the cause, e-mail me at


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Foreign Policy: Iran's Terrifying Facebook Police : NPR

This NPR Story highlights the problem that the exchange of information represents in a country under a totalitarian government.  Information is a threat to established power in Iran. Information in and information out. But as you can see from this story, instead of shutting down that pipeline altogether, they are using it to identify those in their country that they feel represent the biggest threat to their power.

There are stories that are making the rounds of arrests and even executions in Iran by the government of those who are considered in opposition the those in power. If even a portion of these stories that are getting out on Iran are correct, this is a terrifying time and an affront of humanity in Iran. I believe history will judge this government harshly. 

Foreign Policy: Iran's Terrifying Facebook Police : NPR

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Weekend Summery

Updating Tour de France Fantasy Cycling team  results between my daughter and I.  Drum Roll Please......

  • Team Poetry - 306  (my team) 
  • DieuxVelo - 91 (Meghan's)

Being a San Francisco Giants fan, I was skipping around here after learning that on Friday night Jonathan Sanchez threw the Giants' first no-hitter since 1976, blanking the Padres, 8-0.    Highlight here

Writing this weekend has been touch-and-go.  Not nearly go as well as I'd like.  Perhaps I set my bar a little high as I really was expecting a lot out of myself this weekend. I'm thinking perhaps I had too many distractions.

Speaking of distractions, I read an interesting piece in the NY Times - Habitats for a Writer - a Home with a Hideout.   Audio Slide Show

Oh, and I read a poem of Kelli Russell Agodon's that was outstanding in so many ways. It can be read at DMQ Review - "Death & Birth in a Chinese Restaurant"

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Spies Among Us

Hemingway a KGB spy? According to a new book out, Hemingway was recruited as a Spy in 1941.  The book, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press also indicated that his KGB file indicates he failed to provide any "political information" and was never "verified in practical work."  This has given rise to the thought that Hemingway was only a pseudo-spook, possibly seeing his clandestine dealings as potential literary material. Source

The You Aren't going to believe this Department

American International Group is preparing to pay millions of dollars more in bonuses to several dozen top corporate executives. This is not old news, this comes after an earlier round of payments four months the sent the "shit" flying against the fan.

The company is reportedly pressing the federal government to bless the payments in hopes of shielding itself from renewed public outrage. I'm officially outraged!  Source

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Key Reason Palin Gave For Quitting May Be False

Key Reason Palin Gave For Quitting May Be False

At least reading this it's hard to make a strong argument for it.

Posted using ShareThis

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Labor of Love

I love NPR for a number of reasons, but one that particularly feeds my curiosity is the attention they give the arts. They've had a series about artists and how they earn a living.  For poetry they focused there story on Elizabeth Haukaas. Earlier this year her book Leap which won the Walt McDonald poetry book award was published. You can check out the NPR Story including an audio about her & a couple of her poems here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Dad in the Dog House

Some interesting things coming forth on the page today.   I'm happy actually with last two days of writing.

My youngest daughter us a cyclist. She loves the Tour de France.  Once again she has engaged me in a fantasy racing team battle.  I'm not in good graces with her as of today.  I've beat her in points so far for three out of three stages. Her text messages are growing terse.

Love ya honey!  :)

Poetry & Mystery

Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away - Carl Sandburg

Saturday, July 04, 2009

An Independence Day Thought

I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.  ~Author Unknown


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Journal bits

Battered by wind and rain / by tides and Lunar laughter / choked on unforgivingly / the night is pressed into servitude

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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Most Social Thing

Listening to: Fairy Tales  / Anita Bakers     Mood:  slightly melancholy

This week I've thought a lot about language as a social dynamic. I was writing in my journal the other day and I concluded the days post with a personal observation that language was the most social thing people do. The next day I picked up from that point the night before because it seemed like a heavy way to leave the day's entry. I thought to myself that I needed to defend that pronouncement.

Picking up on this point I continued the conversation with myself yet another day.  I felt that I needed to define social for the sake of this argument and I did, assigning it this definition: actions or things people do in groups (group consisting of at least 2 or more).  My quick list of social activities then looked like this:

  • dinning
  • talking
  • traveling
  • work(ing)
  • governing
  • fighting
  • sex
  • playing
  • reading

In all these activities talking/communicating aka language is or can be a factor. Yes, I suppose you can have silent sex, but it is certainly possible, even likely that language will play a role. While two people don't have to be together for reading, it remains an interaction at minimum between an author and at least one other reader. And so I concluded my second day journal entry feeling I had  justified  my original elevation of the significance of language in society today. It most often can and will be the center point of any other social undertaking.

With the decline of language skill among many American students it is easy to envision trouble ahead in their lives when a core part of their social interactions are hindered by marginalized language capabilities.  I'd like to believe that this trend is not permanent, but then I'd like to believe that poetry would also enjoy a renaissance. As the John Lennon song Imagine says, "you may say that I'm a dreamer."