Sunday, October 30, 2011

Magpie Tales 89 / Poem: The Gritty Facts

The Gritty Facts

There are vague memories
some fond some not
so. Much has changed.

The delete key absolves
a multitude of sins and wasted
paper. I don't miss

purple hands from carbon paper
if you know what I mean.
My youngest daughter doesn't.

When you were wired (old use of the word)
your hands would light up the keyboard.
The sound had its own poetry.

When you were stumped
the silence was killing.
No music to stream in

the background and shores to surf
at your fingertips. Your world cloistered
It was hard work. Dirty work.  

Michael A. Wells


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Magpie Tales 88 / Poem: Espresso Spoiled

Espresso Spoiled

So many angles to consider.
Some within others

and building blocks
to something

bigger down the way
something maybe broken

or maybe just a portion
what we have discovered
of ourselves;

windows to see
what is real
what is fantasy
but the lines

Einstein said—  "Reality
is merely an illusion,
just a very persistent one."

If the linear stuff is raised
or lowered on one end
what is the story line then?

You drove me into the city
today for something daring

my two shots of espresso spoiled
with talk of your stained childhood

even if it wasn't so
I wanted to hear crisp clean lines.

Michael A. Wells


My Top 10 Living Poets Crush List~

So yesterday I announced a new poet (new to me) to teeter on that threshold of my current favorite poets list. Admittedly it's a list new that is somewhat in flux due to my changing experiences,  mood, exposure to new poetry material and poets. Sometimes poets may move on or off the list in a slow subtle fashion than at other times the shift may be more swift and dramatic.

So I've thought about his yesterday off and on - even between pitches during the World Series.  What constitutes my say top ten poet crushes currently. Crush being defined here as poets whose work rises to a heightened level of admiration that exceeds the normal limits one expects of most other poets.  A person on the poet crush list is someone you would drive miles out of your way to get to a reading.  You likely own multiple titles of their work or would if you could. You would prefer a hard copy to that is signed then some impersonal ebook pdf. You would love to have lunch with them and pick their brain about anything poetry related. A copy of their work could likely be found on your night stand. -That my friend, is my definition of a poet crush.  Perhaps you would use different criteria - I'd be interested to know your criteria.

With that in mind I give you my current top 10 Living Poets Crush List ( in no particular order):

  1. W. S. Merwin
  2. Sharon Olds
  3. Beth Ann Fennelly
  4. Ruth Stone
  5. Charles Simic
  6. Kelli Russell Agodon
  7. Donald Hall
  8. John Ashbery
  9. Ada Limon
  10. Katrina Vandenberg
Yes... Limon I have decided has made my top 10 list.  There you have it! Any thoughts about what this list says about my poetry tastes? So, who is on your Poet Crush List?

* NOTE~ As I look over this list I'm wondering just how many years of writing experience these 10 poets have accumulated?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Discovering a new poet that you really can appreciate is an incredibly exciting thing. For me, it has a physical and mental component that sort of comes together all at once and is kind of like the euphoric rush of endorphin in your brain from chocolate (with a little more staying power). 

The last couple of days I've  had my chocolate fix from the poetry of one Ada Limon.  She is an increasable talented poet who I heard interviewed on an Arts & Letters podcast by Angelia Elem which then sent me looking for more of her work online. With each read the find seemed to be getting better and better.

Still, there is a disappointing component to this story. I realized yesterday that Limon  was in Kansas City reading at one of our libraries in the middle of last month and it slipped past me. Augh!

She is the author of three poetry books, Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. Of the poems I've found by Limon, some of my favorite are the title poem of the latter book Sharks in the Rivers, Crush, Miles Per Hour, The Weather Reported 
and The Firemen are Dancing.

I'm actually thinking that Limon may be a candidate for my favorite poet list.  I probably should read some more of her work but she is definitely teetering on the edge of my list.  Her work has substance to it. I don't feel it's dumbed down. So far it  all seems to be fresh and not a mess of already hashed over stuff. I feel too that each of these poems are part of a journey that I was allowed to go on with her like she sometimes is discovering something for the first time and I'm important enough to be on that same trip with her. How could your better build an audience as a writer then to create that kind of environment? Wow! 


Thursday, October 27, 2011

We are limited...

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” 

 Sylvia Plath  - October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963

If you build a shiny new performing-arts center, will the creative class come?

The headline question above is asked by The Atlantic about the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in my hometown of Kansas City.  Read what Hampton Stevens has to say about the expensive gamble by civic and corporate minds that has produced a one of a kind venue for preforming arts. Their may be no better place to hear music and it's here in Kansas City.

Above right an extior view of the center

left and below are interior views.

Read The Atlantic article here

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Confession Tuesday

It's Tuesday and that means confession time. For some strange reason I feel really confessy today. Let's get down to business.

Dear Reader~

It's been a week since my last confession and I have to say sometimes I struggle with what to confess. I have no idea where this is going but I don't feel that way tonight.  I'm like a champagne bottle about to pop!  So you've been warned...

I woke up this morning realizing from my smart phone that I had a follow up eye appointment.  I gave it no thought all day yesterday and I anticipated getting to work and digging right in on several projects and the the smart-assed phone said something different. I confess that I did not want to go. I didn't want to go because I didn't want to pay another $50 co-pay. I didn't want to go because I had more then plenty of work to do and didn't want to be away from the office. I also confess that my self examination of my eye told me it was doing ok. I know,  I'm not an eye doctor but I did stay at Red Roof Inn last night. Ok, the last part is a fib. I was at home all night.  I used the first and the last excuse on my wife but she would not buy into my arguments so I went. Sigh!

My eye is doing much better. Healing is they way the doctor put it, but she also said I had debris in my eyes. Now when I heard that I thought of lumber... 2x4s and broken pieces of drywall. I confess this didn't sound good but she informed me that it is not unusual. She recommended that I flush it with artificial tears 4 x per day and use a damp compress on my closed eyes in the evening.  At any rate with the news my eye was healing fine I didn't feel any better about the copay.

My wife invited me to do lunch with her and a co-worker today and I confess I was thrilled at the invite, but I had to decline for which I was sad. It was really sweet if her to include me. I confess that even with the disappointment if having to decline - just being asked was an awesome feeling.

On another positive note, the mother-in-law's tongue was been evicted from out bathroom. It is safe to enter again. If you don't know what I'm talking about  read here. I confess I don't want to explain it again.

I confess that after last night's World Series game, in the unlikely event I ever become the GM of a baseball team I will not be hiring Albert Pujols to manage my team. Did he really call for a hit and run under the circumstances?

Another less then admirable side of me showed it's ugly face today. I became annoyed. At least twice that I can recall. Once because for some reason when I am driving and have a passenger in the car they are very often on the cell phone between 90 and 100% of the trip. I don't mind people getting calls or making calls but when you are driving for 20 to 30 minutes of more and they are continually on the cell I feel like a Taxi and dammit I don't even get a tip!

And the second annoyance came when I left the room to check on dinner cooking and came back to find that the TV program I was watching had been changed to some slash and dash vampite or scary show. Said party had just come home and decided to take up camp in my room.  I should have simply put the offender out but no, I tiptoed and let my annoyance grow. Maybe I've learned a lession. Time will tell.

Lastly, I confess that thanks to Governor Rick Perry I have a pretty good idea what desperation looks like.

Hope that wasn't too scary.  Until next week - I'm confessed out! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Though for the Day

Life itself still remains a very effective therapist. ~Karen Horney

Space Reservations

And will they

                         have to

reserve space ahead of time


in some future outpost

          dodging oblique junk

                                    no one picks up.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

This weeks Mail-Bag

Aside from the various assortment of advertisements, insurance EOB's, etc., arrived two poetry related items in my snail mail box.  One a a brochure from the Arts and Letters department at Rockhurst University announcing a number of items including Michelle Boisseau reading December 1 at the Midwest Poets Series, and the call for submissions for the Rockhurst Review - their annual fine arts journal. 

The Rockhurst Review has had some really exciting material in the past.  I had a piece accepted in it  several years ago and I suppose I should look through my material and submit. 

The other poetry related item was a contributor's copy of the fall issue of WestWard Quarterly with  my poem Foxtrot.  At some future point I'll add it to my published items in the tabbed section but for now it is only available in their print edition.
A ton of poetry related e-mails arrived this week as well. No new acceptances or rejections to report

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Misfortune

As I am working on this I'm looking at my laptop screen through one good eye and one partially shut and otherwise oozy eye.  Couple days back I was shaving when I turned and found my right eye in the direct bath of a mother-in-laws tongue.  You might ask what said mother-in-law was doing in the bathroom while I was shaving. The answer is not much... just sitting on the edge of the lavatory,

This incident ended up necessitating a trip to the emergency room and subsequently eye clinic. Followed by bed rest all day today. This has driven me to the brink if insanity. Everyone but the dogs left the house early this morning. Sure I could say, wow a day all to myself.  Such days I do enjoy from time to time but not always and today wasn't one of them.  Yesterday my eye was too sensitive to light to open. When I did for the various drops that have been prescribed there was intense pain at the back of the eye and shooting paint upwards of my forehead above the eye. So I suppose you can say that progress is occurring.

The progress however has been of little comfort.  I've had a very busy week and had looked forward to this weekend for a variety of things but especially writing and reading. I missed the Robert Bly reading locally on Thursday because of this and that was before it turned worse.

If I felt I could have read for any length of time earlier today or effectively written I think I would not have seen the day as a loss. My wife reminds me that the doctor said yesterday that rest was the best thing for it so I was doing something productive. In spite if her many talents this sales job didn't work one me,

About three p.m. I took the dogs out and came back in and felt an anxiety attack brewing.  I managed to go back to bed for two more hours until then got up and fed the dogs and took them out again.

I've obtained a Diet Coke and am typing this all the while telling myself that things are normalizing. If I say it often enough I will perhaps believe it.  In the meantime I am contemplating a restraining order against the perpetrating Mother-In Law Sansevieria trifasciata.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We live on the leash of our senses.  ~  Diane Ackerman

Confession Tuesday - Fall Ball edition

Tuesday night and you have one beat confessor here... Let's go to the confessional.

Dear Reader~  It's been a week since my last confession.  It's been a year since I was pinching myself over my San Francisco Giants making it to the World Series.  Sadly they did not make it this year but their winning it all last year was sweet and I confess that I still have to pinch myself over their post season success!  Seasons like 2010 provide true baseball fans a lifetime of memories.

The World Series this year kicks off tomorrow night and I will be rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals. I confess that I have no love to give for the Rangers,  besides in most instances with few exceptions I would root for a National League team.

My night has been no less hectic then my day. Left the office a little late.  Picked up my niece and drove her back to our neighborhood to do a job interview.  Then we ran to the store to shop for groceries. Home, fixed dinner for my wife (who worked late) and then drove back into the city to pick her up and return home.  Re-heated dinner and then here I am.  10:30 p.m. already!  I have work plans for tonight but at this hour I confess I have nothing more to give. I'm fighting to finish this confession.

I confess that each year I play a video season of baseball.  A full season. Sometimes I'll play a second season over winter. I've become quite good at it. I suppose it's the kid in me. There is a lot of kid factor in all aspects of baseball. Yes, I'll confess that it's a frivolous activity. Still, I kind of feel like it keeps me sharp. It's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Go Cardinals!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kansas City at the Crossroads of Cultural Growth

In Kansas City, Missouri the Crossroads Art District has transformed vacated light business manufacturing structures into a thriving area. To the south of the Power & Light Entertainment area it offers yet another reason for people to go downtown at night rather then workers flee the business area for the suburbs come 5 p.m.

One of the  successes of Crossroads has been to stabilize an otherwise declining or at best stagnate part of the city. This has not happened overnight but has grown and in some respects once might consider that it has been enough of a success that for the new artist seeking a place to hang his or her hat & art, the options available may be tougher to find.  This has been the case in many other successful urban areas who have sought to revitalize areas by attracting the Bohemian demographic.

Such urban planning in many big cities began several decades ago. For Kansas City, the growth began perhaps less then ten years ago. This year however, the completion of our new center for preforming arts nearby is like icing a cake.

A New York Times piece by Elizabeth Curric-Halkett,  Where Do Bohemians Come From?  discusses the phenomenon of cities getting into the act of job creation in the arts. Currie-Halkett who is an assistant professor of urban planning acknowledges the success takes more than grants and tax breaks to make an art community that thrives. The Crossroads area in Kansas City had a lot of the kinds of structures that she insists are necessary for the success of such ventures, like oversized buildings, oversized doorways, lots of concrete flooring. 

I am well aware that the neighboring state of Kansas has battled Governor Brownback over funding for the Kansas Arts Commission. These are not easy economic times for any industry and people often look at the arts as one of the first places to cut. Going clear back to my days in school the music and other art departments were constantly fighting to maintain levels of funding much less come under the knife. 

There is this common portrayal of art as something for the rich. A frivolity that is not needed by most and therefore of less importance. Actually it is times like these when I feel that art has the most to offer. It is the distraction so many need from unemployment, foreclosures and food pantries.  Art is a human experiance and is most importamt at those junctures where humanity is most threatened.

I hope we see more successful art districts spring up throughout the country in the next couple of years and I sincerely hope that people everywhere get to experiance the art they deserve.

Magpie Tales 87 / Poem: Lynching

There has been a lynching-

Mass retribution
for what I cannot say.
Was it the down in the pillows?
Not enough fluff?

Whatever the cause
these ducks hang in public
perhaps to make an example
though I doubt their kind
dip to do flybys
of the market district.

Someone will
take them home for dinner
celebrate their demise
with duck soup.

Michael A. Wells


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Journal Bits

Friday Sept. 30 - "This summer mercury tattooed itself to my skin."

Saturday, Oct. 1 - "Work rides a conveyor belt to my desk. On occasion I'm not fast enough - things come crashing down."

Wednesday, Oct 12 - "The still has settled to the top of my desk....  these morning moments of silence will not last. My body craves them as if it were some drug; the antidote for worries."

Thursday, Oct. 13 - Nicole Rushin's words (from a blog post) have some resonance  to me, especially the last sentence. Do I often really  let my inner voice be heard? By anyone, including myself?  Something to think about.

Saturday, Oct. 15 - "The mix of night air and city/only incite party desire/ assembly was required."

Unconscious Mutterings Week 454

You say and I think:

  1. Fever pitch ::  (nothing comes to my mind instantly)
  2. Unwarranted :: violence
  3. Breaking :: News
  4. Stars :: Twinkle
  5. Thursday :: Child
  6. Tips :: waitress
  7. Recommend :: Realtor
  8. Season :: greetings
  9. Increased :: interest
  10. Depressed :: market

Get your own list here

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Confesson Tuesday Poetry Night Edition

Poetry Night Confession-

Dear Reader:

I just got in not long ago and I'm fulfilling my confessional obligation.  I met with the Northland poetry people tonight.  It's a long way from my home turn and the location is even further then it used to be but I left from work so the worst part of the drive was returning home. 

I've not been out an about a lot lately. That's not so much a confession as it is simply a fact.  Since I was experiencing one of those doubtful moments all writers have only days ago, I seriously thought about not going but my wife was staying late in town at here office so I figured what the heck.

One of my writing friends who I will call Pat ( her real name)  was all aglow having gone to Chicago the other day to hear W.S. Merwin do his poetry day reading.  I confess that I was majorly envious of Pat for having made the trip to the reading. I mean Merwin!  In my estimation he is among the Deans of American Poetry. As it was I brought a copy of Merwin's Migration to read from. This brings me to my next confession.

Pat asked to borrow my copy of Migration.  I confess that I've never been one to lend books often. I don't know why. I don't have a history of not having them returned.  I think it must stem from the fact that I have books that I read and reread often so it seems hard to separate myself from some of my favorites. At any rate, Pat asked and I actually let her barrow it. Knowing how excited she was about Merwin, as I write this I'm actually very glad I lent it out. Migration is chucked full of his work and she will be exposed to a lot of really awesome poetry.   Amen!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Textural Writing

One of the things I love about fall are the variations. Not only the variations in colors but textures as well. Perhaps this too is one of the reasons I love poetry or language in general. We have the ability to  deepen the mental picture of what we a saying by giving texture to it.

When I think of texture and poetry there are a variety of things that come to my mind.  One is the texture that develops one the page. White space / black space. Letters forming blocks or more jagged edges.


X        XXXXX

Another aspect would be the flow of the sound when a poem is read. The rhythm, the intonation, organization of syllables, etc.

I've seen a poem in which a rosary is mentioned and the stanzas seem to be connected like decades of a rosary. The visual impact was impressive.

What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate texture in your poetry?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Unconscious Mutterings Week 453

You say and I think...

  1. Quivering :: knees
  2. Eclectic :: varied
  3. Superimpose :: image
  4. The best :: ever
  5. Aches :: & pains
  6. Vinyl :: covers
  7. Hot and cold :: running
  8. Girls :: mean
  9. Wall :: paper
  10. Baby :: doll

Get your own list here

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Confession Tuesday... I have a Whale of a Confession!

I confess that I sometimes see things not as they are. There was the Public Service Announcement on a billboard with a woman hands on each of her cheeks (facial just to clarify) pushing them together with the heading that I thought said "Walk-in Screaming Mammograms!" Upon second look I realized it said "Wali-in Screening Mammograms."

So today I was looking at the sidebar on my blog to see who among those I regularly read might have a post new to me that I needed to check out. Two of my favorite blogs are
Whale Sound and Very Like A Whale. These are both creations of Nic Sebastian. I read the following: I meant 'closed' not 'on hiatus' and it sounded like a fascinating name for a poem - already I'm thinking where I might take such a poem. Then the shock! I realized this was not a poem read aloud by the incredibly talented Nic Sebastian but rather a blog post on Very Like a Whale announcing the closure of Whale Sound.

This was a more serious laps in my understanding then the screaming mammograms because over the past year or so Nic has assembled a remarkable collection of poems in which she graced with her own voice by reading them. There are quite a few blogs that truly would miss if they disappeared of cyber space. I recently experienced the disappearance that left a big void in stimulating creative thoughts. This too is big! Fortunately, Nic has left us a marvelous archive of both spoken and written word. That we still have.

My Whale of a Confession is that Nic's reading of poems aloud is such a turn on. I don't mean sexually or anything like that, I just mean it has a quality that transcends any other voice reading poetry I've experianced. Oh there are others that can read exceptionally well. And often do their own work better than anyone else can... but Nic's transcendence carries over to other people's poetry.

What I like about it is the uniquely soft yet succinct diction. The tone is unmatched by most others. There is something about it that is so genuine. Even in soft volume it is so powerful and I believe the turn on is that she can deliver you right into the poem making you one with it.

When Nic asked if she could do one of my own poems and I agreed, I was less then enthusiastic  about the one selected. It was one that had been published a couple years back and you kind of move on from these things. After hearing Nic's read, it brought back all the excitement I  originally had with this poem.

I've subjected others in my household to Nic's recordings. My wife remarked how much better she liked Nic's rendition of my poem. My daughter Shannon likes to tease me reading poems in her best Nic Sebastian impersonation. She knows she can get a laugh out of me, but don't worry Nic, you are way safe.

There are particular poems that Nic's voice is especially well suited for. I would love to hear her read aloud many of Sylvia Plath's poem or Sharon Olds' work. But I digress. The point of this confession is simply to acknowledge what I saw as a very successful poetry project. One in which I'm sure her time spent was a personal sacrifice and had to have a labor of love aspect to it for her to do so many.
And to acknowledge how much is lost with it's end. I don't think I'm along is feeling the loss.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Books Reading and to Be Read

This past week was Natioal Banned Book week. An annual week in which the librarians call attention to the numerous books that for one reason or another groups of people think we ( others) ought not read. The list of banned books has grown over the years and two things that stand out about that list is that it contains many very profound works and they often actually become very well read.

I've blogged in the past on the narrow sightedness of parents, community activists and individuals who take it upon themselves to get this book or that kept out of a library or school. I'm not goint to spend a lot of time focusing on those issues here today.  I just wanted to mention in passing that I chose to select one such book - Lois Lowry's The Giver to start reading.  This is on of my daughter Meghan's favorite books.

Couple of other books that I am adding to my To Real List

  • Meals to Die For by Brian Price
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  • Patina by Tess Kincaid

Happiness is 33 Geese on the ball diamond

Just a quick snapshot from my phone this morning of the ball diamond across the street.  I counted 33 geese on the field.  My daughter and I counted over 160 one morning several years ago.
I walked over and shot this before backing out of the drive to make a QT run. They are so peaceful. It's something that always makes me happy when I see them.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Unconscious Mutterings Week 452

You say... I think:

  1. Clay :: pot
  2. Eggs :: in a basket
  3. Dress :: rehearsal
  4. Games :: people play
  5. Drummers :: Ringo
  6. Proud :: Mary
  7. Hoisted :: engine
  8. Feuding :: neighbors
  9. Itching :: Ivy
  10. Remain :: stay

Get you own list clicking here