Monday, November 30, 2009

Bit by the Gratitude Bug


Yes, I know thanksgiving is over, but it was in the quiet of my office today during my lunch hour that the gratitude bug hit me.

As far as stress goes, this year has been on overload at times. Still, I cannot deny there are many things I have to be grateful for.  A few of them that came to my mind today are the following.

I’m grateful for:

  • My family. I’m blessed to have a wonderful wife and four grown children who are each in their own right precious to me.
  • Jobs. In theses times even work is a blessing. I need to continue to keep this in focus. Especially when I’m feeling worn down on some of the crisis filled days.
  • Our home- a place that provides comfort from the elements, a base for us to return to each evening.
  • Our pets… yes, they drive me crazy at times, but they are God’s creatures too and they are unconditional in their love.
  • My ability to write. I get such good support from my family, even if they feel challenged at time in what I write.
  • I was grateful for being able to spend 6 weeks this fall being mentored by another poet.
  • The opportunity for both Cathy and I being able to visit our two daughters in Phoenix this year.  
  • Turkey wings
  • Diet Coke – which I’ve been missing.
  • White wine.
  • A car that runs right again.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sorry for straying from poetry and art topics.

An Associated Press wire story indicates that the couple who crashed President Barack Obama's first state dinner are trying to peddle their story for hard cash. Call me mean if you wish, but the only thing I’m wanting to see this couple get is some hard time.

I’m tired of people scamming in order to get paid to do reality shows. As far as I’m concerned Michaele and Tareq Salahi have had their 15 minutes of fame. I think fifteen months of jail should be about right.

Representatives for the couple are looking for a mid-six figure price tag for an interview. Any network or show that rewards them by shelling out money has lost my respect. If they reward this couple for what they did they only encourage this kind of behavior. I’m more than willing to wait to hear what story they tell a judge.


I return you now to regularly scheduled blogging.


Saturday, November 28, 2009


adapted from the work by Nicholas Prior- Title: Untitled - #26

[The following poem was a draft I wrote based upon this picture I say at the Kemper Museum of Art here in Kansas City.]

Quiet are the surroundings
lost in the enigmatic confines.
The boy is not there
in its protective arms
his back to the door
his knees crossed yoga style.

A four legged table
nearby, stoic its top veiled;
a byzantine respect to the lad,
knowing his child's mind
is in communion
with something bigger
beyond the sheer curtains
of a world stage.

No adult is near.
No adult could know.
Someday he too will
enter such a room
and be oblivious.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Art Date

Taking advantage of the day off and the nice weather I took myself on a trip to see two art exhibits today The first was The Poetics of Space which remains at the Kemper Museum until March 14th, 2010. The exhibit is based upon the French philosopher Gaston Blanchlard's 1958 book, La poetiique de' l'espace. The collection of work focuses upon the spatial dynamics of our architectural and natural surroundings.  There were three pieces from this collection I especially liked.

• Isabella's two chairs
• Untitled #26 from The Age of Men
• Wave Rock

I'm working on poems that are based on the first two above.  More on these in a later post.
The second exhibit was at Kemper at the Crossroads.  It's Keltie Farris's Man Eaters.
She uses formalist strategies and materials to create enigmatic and visually seductive abstractions.

Both of these exhibits had my mind stretching like taffy.  Curiosity and bubbling over like a pot of water. A little steam just to throw in a little mystic smoke.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Police Photos & Poetry Calendar

 HOW COOL IS THIS.........   

Maine's largest police department is releasing a second calendar that features poetry and photographs taken by members of the city's police force. The 2010 Portland Police Department Poetry & Photo Calendar features works by the assistant chief, detectives, sergeants and patrol officers that primarily focus on what's it's like to be an officer. The calendat is part of an project called Art At Work, and aims to improve municipal government through the arts and give city employees outlets for their creative sides. The calendars cost $15 and are available at local book sellers and here.

"Stop,don't do it!"

One woman examines our future in Afghanistan through an unlikely window.  She recalls a Sharon Olds poem titled, I Go Back to May 1937.  As America awaits the next move on the Afganistan front from the President, Carla Carlisle is asking some very good questions.  Read Story Here

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poetry Series Spurs Debate on the Use of an Old Slur Against Latinos

Poetry Series Spurs Debate on the Use of an Old Slur Against Latinos


The word sounds retro, but its corrosive power lingers. Once a cruelly common taunt that mocked the way Spanish speakers pronounced “speak,” it set off fights, shattered friendships and trampled feelings.

Now that word forms the title of a poetry series — “Spic Up/Speak Out” — at, of all places, El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, on Saturday.

Organizers say that the provocative title is intended as a postmodern take, inviting dialogue and debate over issues of identity. Some of the participating poets have embraced the title as a symbolic inversion of the word, that neutralizes its sting. But others are not so sure.  Read story here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Talk On Wallace Stevens' Poetry At Tunxis Campus Farmington, CT


This looks really interesting, if anyone is close to Farmington, CT on December 3rd it might be worth taking in.

If any readers make it to this, I’d love to hear from them about it.

Submitted by Melissa Lamar, Tunxis Community College, on 2009-11-23.

The public is invited to attend "Philosophy of the Supreme Fiction: In and Beyond the Metaphysics of Wallace Stevens," a free talk by James Finnegan at Tunxis Community College on Dec. 3, from 1-2:30 p.m., in Founders Hall. Lunch will be provided.
Finnegan will explore the common ground of poetry and philosophy, with Wallace Stevens as a guide and muse. Hartford's most noted poet and once one of its more prominent insurance executives, Wallace Stevens has often been studied for the philosophical character of his work. Considered a true American heir to the English Romantic poets, he was also influenced by philosophers as diverse as Nietzsche and such pillars of American pragmatism as Ralph Waldo Emerson and George Santayana. With verse so invested in the problems of epistemology and metaphysics, Stevens' poetry has been freshly examined in the light of current philosophical trends with each new decade. However, the unique way he explores the interaction between imagination and reality resists dissection by logicians and diehard rationalists.
Finnegan is a poet, thinker, and founder of The Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens, a Hartford area arts organization that supports the cultural legacy of Wallace Stevens and promotes poetry in the community. With Dennis Barone, he edited "Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Wallace Stevens" (University of Iowa Press, 2009). Finnegan's poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry East, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review among others. He is a senior vice president at Lee & Mason Financial Services, Inc.
The lecture is one of a two-part "Proof & Possibility" series of talks on philosophy and the history of ideas. For more information, call 860-255-3623 or 860-255-3500, or e-mail Visit Tunxis at Tunxis is located at the junction of Rtes. 6 and 177 in Farmington.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

My recommended poet for the week

C W42-years1

I wanted to recommend a poet to read this week that some of you may not be familiar with.  I always enjoy it when someone else pointed me in the direction of a poet that is new to me. If their writing hits the spot with me it’s like finding a four leaf clover or a great Chardonnay that is new  to me.
I’ve read Cecilia Woloch and I love the genuine nature of her writing. You get the impression that she confronts herself when she writes and I feel this allows her the write from a read position of strength.  Her book Late is among my favorite of contemporary poets and while I’ve not yet purchased a copy of her newest book Carpathia, there are two poems in particular that I’ve read that confirm for me this book too is going the be a keeper.
Fireflies which can be found here is a recitation of vices that anyone could get snared by and say, “that’s me!”  I love the admissions of among other things,
“driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house”

In the title poem Carpathia, which can be found here,  Cecilia has a tremendous knack for interweaving history with the contemporary.   Her poetic voice in this poem spans a wide range.  She’s like singer hitting notes octaves apart!

And my voice changed



I’ve been looking forward to the Elton John-Billy Joel concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on December 1st but learned it’s been postponed till February. [insert sigh here]  On a positive note, my tickets for the Kansas City Symphony’s production of Handel's Messiah with 250 voice choral accompaniment arrived in the mail yesterday!  To this day I get chills down my neck when I hear the Hallelujah Chorus.  Going back to grade school, we would sing this in Choir.  I recall the stories – and there are many, of King George standing at the beginning of this chorus, thereby causing everyone else to stand, and how this tradition has lived for the hundreds of years since.

The funny thing about my memory of this was that my voice was high then and I was placed in the choir section with the older girls [mostly 7th and 8th graders] singing soprano. They were forever teasing me and making me blush. I became like some kind of mascot to them. The choir director [I bet most grade schools have had this position cut from their budgets long ago] preferred the term descants to soprano, or at least used it as often if not more. As a mousy little kid who hears thing but didn't always get them, I for years though she had called us “desk hands” and could never find anyone who knew what the hell I was talking about. It’s funny how such things come about and decades later you realize why no one knew what you were talking about. It’s like a light comes on and “well duh” it wasn’t desk hand! Oh, and my voice changed!

photo credit: Michael A. Wells

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Journal bits

Haven’t don this for a while. From the pages of my journal…

  • Noted quote - “Some ghosts are women, neither abstract nor pale, their breasts are as limp as killed fish.” ~ Annie Sexton
  • sometimes we are as much alike as we are different… separated by a difference / of views smacked down on the table / one hand a royal-flush / the other unworthy of mention here.
  • One woman nurses the masses / and breaks bread to disperse. / Another swears by formula, / their are no expiration dates / on breasts but we know them  / to have an end life.
  • Toy soldiers are always frozen / in some conscripted position.
  • Chunks of sky fall/ beneath the urban path / of the Action News helicopter / but go unnoticed below.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Final Poem - by Andree Chedid

I selected a poem by Andree Chedid that I like to feature here today -  click on the link   The Final Poem

Flarf Collective goes public

This captured my attention today...

Just last week, the Flarf Collective made its long-exclusive listserv public, welcoming poets who use material from people's Facebook status, search histories and chat room discourse, techniques that have also become known as flarf. [Story here]

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Retreat of sorts


Dog sitting for my son this weekend. It’s become a mini writing retreat of sorts.  I’ve stayed off TV – so I’ve not had that distraction. Also worked on some “office work” and in-between took our sick car to the shop for which the issue remains unresolved. 

In terms of writing, I’ve done some on my laptop and some in my journal. It helped to brake up things to give my eyes a change of focus. By late last night my eyes were pretty fuzzy and my head spinning. I did ultimately unwind listening to some music from Yusef Islam a.k.a. Cat Stevens. Some of his music is especially comforting like the denim jeans he sings of in Oh Very Young.

One of the neat things about writing this weekend is that I started with an epigraph from Anne Sexton and was able to write for a while and hit a wall.  I stopped for a while and read some of her work just to get my mind to move beyond where I was.  Later I was able to go back and successfully write more. Not from the original draft but with a new slant from the epigraph. Again I hit a wall, but I have parts of the two different drafts that have portions that show promise and will at some point I am confident prove useful. Then later this morning – another whole draft – this one the process has reached conclusion. It’s very workable and I already know some changes I will make; tighten it up and work on line breaks and toy with the stanzas trying to get the best flow from it and improve it lyrically. This one has a broadly political / philosophical tone and these are so hard to do without preaching. This will not be preachy.

That is my roundup for the weekend. I’m going to stop now and write a bit longer and head to bed. Morning comes soon.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Little Saturday Mischief


A Few Poetry Workshops You May Have Missed

  • Feline Elegies - or nine chances to get it right.
  • Potato Poetry - Mashed, fried, baked and other poetic devices.
  • Would you, could you with Hamlet? Exploring similarities of Seuss and Shakespeare.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wright Markets Poetry For the Consumer Mind


Wright Markets Poetry For the Consumer Mind

Award-winning poet CD Wright visits Columbia to deliver a lecture on the place of poetry in the public discourse.

By Laura Oseland

Published Tuesday 10 November 2009 07:13pm EST.

View post history

How does poetry keep on keeping on?

This is what award-winning poet CD Wright will discuss for the Creative Writing Lecture Series at the School of the Arts on Thursday. Her lecture, “Concerning Why Poetry Offers a Better Deal than the World’s Biggest Retailer,” explores the position of poetry within the public discourse, as an artistic force in the commercial and social environment in which we now live.

Wright Markets Poetry For the Consumer Mind

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What Does it Say About FOX News when Comedy Central is More A More Accurate Source for News?

Sean Hannity and Rep. Michele Bachmann(R-MN) two peas in a pod!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hold on I’m Not Unnerved by Women’s Poetry

I occasionally read the Books Blog at and today Jo Shapcott caught my attention with the title Do women write ‘female’ poetry? 

I suppose my interest was principally raised because I’ve given a fair amount of consideration to the realization that my list of poetry reading as well as my favorite poets to read is weighted significantly in favor of female poets. I’ve not quite figured out for sure why though the exploration of this will likely make for a later post.

I don’t think Sharpcott really ever quite adequately defines what makes female poetry. I think I expected more of the blog post but it did come away with a couple of interesting thoughts. Sharpcott comes to this conversation by way of a panel discussion at the Aldeburgh poetry festival. I was somewhat taken back by the fact that she reported  that the women on the panel decided  it was important not to let gender dominate their writing ( at least initially ) in order that the language can lead it in unanticipated directions, BUT it was pretty clear that such thoughts are not expected of men, their poetry is set as a kind of default mode. I have trouble seeing this “default mode” she speaks of.

The second thing that bugged me about this piece was the the statement that women are happy to devour anything that is good (I hate the subjectivism of good here) male readers are sometimes nervous of poetry books by women. I suppose I was put here to be the counterbalance among men and I tend not be be unnerved by poetry written by woman.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Journal bits….

A few lines from recent journal entries:

  • the legacy that lives / in us all is the blue veins of fear / that rise up from the soles of our feet.
  • the blue taste of fear-  this they will remember / because they know how it feels / to the touch, they know / how it tastes and they know / how it smells.
  • Reading Anne Sexton today- her poems “In the Beach House” and “Song for a Lady" I like the lyrical quality of both of these, especially the first one.
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Are we listening?


My wife was visiting my daughters in Arizona this past week and I got this test from her and as I read it come across my phone I was nodding my head… “yes, yes!” I acknowledged her message and she said what she sent me she was a quote on a poster at ASU. She said she knew I would appreciate it. She knows me well.

What she sent me was a quote from Alberto Alvaro Rios – poet and professor of English at ASU [pictured here left] and it’s a poignant expressing of the task of writing.  What she texted me follows:

“The public job of a writer is to write. But the private and secret job of the writer is to listen. Writing itself is finally clerical but listening is a life’s work. By listening we must include the sweetwork of the eye the skin the tongue the nose. This then is the true  language of writers. The language of listening.” ~Alberto Alvaro Rios.

A life’s work… This is so very much related to what my conception of being a poet is about. Listening, observing, seeing things that you might otherwise miss. Seeing things in a variety of perspectives. Searching the natural world, your own soul and the history of the human experience. Putting this all together and recording it. This is to me what being a poet is all about.  Listening and letting what you hear inform what you write.

We all have heard the mantra, Read, write, re-write..  I believe listen needs to be a part of that cycle of process.



Photo_103109_002 I shot this picture recently with my trusty phone camera. Hence we are not talking the highest quality of photograph.  Still, I like it because I picture in it the  jumbled wires that crisscross the mind.  Receptors I suppose. I envision them as quiet here… I suppose because if they were busy at work thinking, I would suppose that they would have little sparking neurons racing around the receptors.

Why am I writing about this? Good question. I don’t really have an answer. Sometimes I just like to look at something and turn it into something else.  Looking at things differently is a great way to enrich one’s creative process. Hopefully my receptors are firing on all cylinders and racing around sparking new ideas, pulling from other data in my mind and creating new data.  One can hope.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Low Battery

This week has been especially stressful and that has to a great extent impaired my writing. For the most part, I attribute this impact more to my energy level than anything else. Stress can be quite an energy drain.

I’ve had creative bursts of ideas, just not the energy to adequately deal with them. Nor have I the energy to keep up with my reading, the energy to write those few extra lines or a few extra minutes to get every out of my head and onto the page. I’m well aware of the dangers fleeting thoughts pose. The ones you never recover. That is usually one of the first casualties of this kind of energy drain.

I promise myself to do better tonight.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What the poem wants...

Earlier this morning, I roughed out onto paper a couple stanzas of something trying to become a poem. At lunch time I revisited it and decided I think I can build upon it and take the poem somewhere when it wants to be. Right now there are more pieces of it in my mind that it wishes to connect with on a page. Later, I hope to bring them together and see where it is they wish to go together.

kcur: : Poet Phil Miller Delves into Relationships in New Collection (2009-11-04)

Listening to KCUR on the morning drive... This interesting piece on a locallly connected poet, Phil Miller.

kcur: : Poet Phil Miller Delves into Relationships in New Collection (2009-11-04)

In the tumbleweeds of my mind

I'm way behind the curve in the horizon. Had internet problems over the weekend and they extended into the week and I was just too tired to mess with anything last night. Slowly I will get back up to speed. 

In the meantime - Mary Biddinger got my attention and brought a smile to my face with this...  How to kill a poem (before it even starts).  Really liked:  "Turn on several fans so that tumbleweeds of pet hair cartwheel across the floor." How did she even know?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

My Internal Clock is BoNkERs!

This morning I’m really messed up. I already am messed up this time of year but the clock change last night simply has jerked me around more. As a result I’m this swirl wind rolling about and not sure where I’ll be when I land or more importantly what time it will be.

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