Friday, November 30, 2012


Did the dead thump of the head
to the concrete floor
so many years ago
have any repercussion

I should know of
or would I recognize
anything beyond
the usual
as unusual

Valzhyna Mort - Mid-West Poets Series

After work last night I headed to The Mixx for dinner. It was a grueling day and I had not eaten lunch. A Mixx salad sounded like just what I needed and I had a but of time to kill before heading over to Rockhurst for the Midwest Poets Series reading by Valzhyna Mort.

I've miss the last couple of MW Poet Series readings but this one I've had on my radar. I first heard about Valahyna Mort in a Poets & Writers magazine maybe three years ago or so.

Valzhyna started her reading in  Belarusian her native tongue. While not able to understand - the words had a familiarity. I too two years of Russian in high school and while I have retained little of the Russian the sounds were quite similar and I found the sharpness and the harshness of the language amazingly comforting. Her speech is soft but powerful. Her writing too shows a powerful command of language. These two components are interesting given the fact that she approached the microphone with just a bit of shyness maybe trepidation.

In Belarusian I  as in other of her poems she blends a sociopolitical landscape into her work and does it well...

"even our mothers have no idea how we were born
how we parted their legs and crawled out into a world
the way you crawl from the ruins after a bombing"
In one poem in memory of a book, I can tell you that everyone around me was hanging on to every word.

Valzhyna  is a small woman of physical proportions but her poetic voice has strength and resonance. In her book Factory of Tears there is a  line that makes me think of her...

as thin
as your
I've been in need of an Artist's date and this was reading was just what I needed.

Additional biographical information:
Valzhyna Mort - Wikipedia 

A video clip (August 2008 in Brooklyn)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Confession Tuesday - Bitch Slap Edition

Dear Readers:

It's been a week since my last confession, but today has seemed like a week. Let's begin...

I realized this morning while in route to work that I had neglected to get my Healthy Choice TV dinner out of the freezer. I decided that I would just have to go out for lunch today and that was that.  It's not really as big a deal as it sounds. I've done it many times, jut not lately. The cafeteria at the Federal Building down the way isn't bad... I mean food wise. I can usually find something to suit me, but not always the healthiest.  Once a pretty reasonable price I confess that I'm less crazy about their prices these days and this is part of the reason I've been trying to bring lunch most of the time these past few weeks.

My morning was pretty busy and I was planning originally not to eat till 1PM (that was before I forgot my lunch) but as it reached the noon hour it occurred to me that if I wait till one o'clock the cafeteria at the Fed Bldg would be shutting down. So about 12:20 as I was getting ready to leave I made the mistake of taking a call rather then letting it go to voice mail.  This call turned out to be important and I remained involved in the call till about 12:45.  Then after a rest room stop (I know, too much detail) I realized there was no point in going to the Federal Building to eat. So I dug out some grapes I had in the refrigerator and that became my lunch.

I confess that I did pretty good for not eating a real lunch. I think in large part to the fact that the rest of my day was even busier then the first half. I confess that my office upon arrival was hotter then hell. I sought some relief from facilities management (they arrived about 4:45PM) and I confess that is was good that I was so busy because I normally get really cranky when it's hot. Keeping busy helped me push through the day without inflicting heat rage upon my co-workers. I turned on a fan I have and it mostly blew hot air around.

My day might not have been quite so tedious if I had not have to keep screwing with disappearing drivers and files on my computer. I confess I was starting to take it personally until I realized this problem was impacting others in our office. By the time I was ready to go home... I confess I WAS READY TO GO HOME.

One the commute traffic on I-70 became backed up due to a wreck. I realized then that impatient Mike was along for the ride. Yes we are closer then you might imagine but I'm not at all proud of him. Hell he even gets impatient with me! So, I'm driving along and I realize the problem up ahead and while Mike is getting upset I rationalize that no matter how bad a day I'm having, I'm pretty sure whoever is in the wreck is having a worse day. I confess this is where I bitch slapped impatient Mike and told him to count his blessings.

Well, I have arrived home. This is good. I getting my confession out of the way early. This too is good. Did I  mention that  on the way home my Chiropractic office called to cancel my appointment for "trigger points" tomorrow evening due to illness?  No worry, I could be the one sick.

Best to everyone!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Need A Cup Of Mania

The best laid plans for my day have been misplaced. So have a couple of older poems on my laptop.  I'm thinking ahead, I just wish I had started doing so before 10:00 AM. I'm convinced our cat Evie would have liked a shot at me earlier. She's a sweet thing if you just accept the fact that she is in control.

Looking to pull together some poetry to submit. It's a bit hard to believe that I've had replies to every one of my submissions I've made. I never like to be without something outstanding. I'm referring to the word like you would a check that hasn't been cashed yet not the quality of the work, but outstanding work is good too. And that word check, I suppose that could be foreign to you. It seems to be going the way of things like typewriters, carbon paper, phone booths... I could go on but then I'd just have more to explain.

My Duotrope control panel tells me that I have an acceptance ratio of 8.1% and congratulates me and says that is higher the the average of users that have submitted material to the same markets. That's also sad. (I've added the last part)

It's actually not quite that late- but it seems like it should be. Time haunts me. It always has. I was a blue baby when I was born. A preemie not a smurf.  So obviously I came out of the gate early, not exactly galloping but starting ahead of time. I never thought of it till now but you might say that I was cheating.

There is Evis, her deep meow and footsteps. She could be warning me but I'm not retreating to another room just yet.

I do need to get on with things. I can't continue with nothing under consideration. I've got to stuff to send out again and I've been looking at venues trying to decide what might be a best choice for each pieces.  It's a task I dislike but as long as I keep writing - I have to keep sending.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stuck In Between In Gaza

In between the screeches of outgoing missals
there are explosions that shake you about.

In between apartment buildings
there is concrete rubble.

In between parents are children
hunkered down in stairwells.

In between one family is an extended one
that has no place else to go.

In between the quiet
there are screams.

In between the periods of commotion
there is the stillness that teeters

in between hope and terror
and knows not which way to fall.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chinese Poet Li Bifeng Sentenced to 12 Years in Jail : Harriet Staff : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

Chinese Poet Li Bifeng Sentenced to 12 Years in Jail : Harriet Staff : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

 Sadly the Chinese record on human rights continues to be dismal.

Happy Thanksgiving

In the spirit of the day I offer my off the cuff list of things I'm thankful for:  

  • Family
  • Poetry friends
  • Waterman fountain pen
  • Coldstone Sweet Cream coffee creamer
  • Black Walnut Ice-cream
  • good books
  • baseball
  • freedom
  • health care
  • Starbucks
  • pets
  • Surprise Maples
  • our President
  • our service men and women
  • work
  • diet coke

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AP Interview: Trethewey a 'cheerleader' for poetry

"I didn't think that it had any relevance to my life, the feelings that I endured on a day-to-day basis, until I was introduced to the right poem. And the right poem is a different poem for everyone..."

 Good Interview with Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

    Click here for Interview by Associate Press

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Confession Tuesday - Fruit Cake Edition

Dear readers:

It's been one week since my last confession. Oh my, another whole week.

But let's get started....

I confess that I love Fruit Cake. I may be the only person in the world who enjoys it but what the heck. Not everyone everyone uses it for door stops. One of my children once asked their mother who someone hate me who had sent me a Fruit Cake. She had to explain to some very bewildered children that their father was not being dissed

Mid November and I confess I have no clue how this happened. This has seemed like one of the fastest years. And yet, I confess that there have been some slow assed days. You physics people out there... how does that happen?

I confess this could be the month I replace my Blackberry with another phone.

I confess I need a haircut. I confess that I hope my wife reads this blog post. Cathy has cut my hair pretty much ever since we've been married.

I've got some writing to do yet tonight and that I'm pretty beat already so I confess I need to move on.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Squall - Andrew Wyeth - 1986

Gray rolling over swelling blue.
White foam cresting, dropping;
slapping the blue over and over.

The sky darkening quickly
a smokey gray, a dirty dray,
bullet gray and now charcoal.

Winds swirl my hair every which way.
My scalp actually pains under pressure.
Waves whack shoreline rocks repeatedly.

Each tide washes higher- a mist rises over me.
My face wet, my lips taste of salt. 
I lean now with the wind.

The water, darker now
seemingly has swallowed the sky;
the two joined in force- rolling in.

Michael A. Wells

The Mag


A bookstore in Toronto has a novel idea (no pun intended). They have installed a book vending machine.  At Monkey's Paw, for $2 you can take a chance at a book vending machine which dispenses a random used book book.

According to the store owner the response has been positive. Some people feel the random selection as somewhat serendipitous. What do you think?


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Good Days - Bad Days. Finding Happiness

What constitutes a good day to you? I'm not talking about a good day of writing, I'm speaking in more general terms. Of course for a writer a good writing session may well contribute to a overall positive view of your day but there are likely any number of factors that may well contribute to your view of how that day was when the sun goes down.

Late fall and winter are times when I am prone to feel blue. I'm not exactly sure that feeling blue is an automatic bad day. You see there are positive things that can happen on a day when I at a low ebb emotionally.

I have started not long ago to track my days in terms of the degree to which they are good.  I discovered an application on Chrome that I am using both to help define a good day and to track what kind of a day I had.

The application I'm speaking of can be found at

The rating schedule runs from 1 to 9.

  • 1- The Worst. You bought the rope but couldn't be bothered to learn how to tie the knot.
  • 2- Almost the Worst. You spent the day wondering if you should put your head in the oven or drown in a lake.
  • 3 - A Bad Day. It rained, you spilled your coffee, you got yelled at, a dog ate your face, etc.
  • 4 - Slightly Below Average. Work Sucked, but there was something good on TV.
  • 5 - Average. At no time did you feel particularly happy or sad you just carried on with the routine. 
  • 6 - Slightly Above Average. Generally monotonous, but maybe you had one conversation/idea/meal that made you smile.
  • 7 - A Good Day. Smiles all around you. You went through your day enjoying everything you did. 
  • 8 - A Great Day. Generally good, but something amazing  / memorable happened. A kiss, a party, a trip, an epiphany. 
  • 9 -  Awesomeness! You bounded out of bed, had adventures, enjoyed your great relationships, ended the day exhausted and satisfied. 
There is a place to put notes as you rate each day. You could list things you did, people you interacted with, places you went, etc. These will the show up in a cloud with the size impacted by the number of reoccurrences.  It will graph your daily rating lineally and provide the frequency of bad days and good days. 
As an example my current frequencies are a good day every 2.4 days and a bad day every 8.7 days. 

I've heard people say you make your own happiness. I believe there is something to this. I've actually been surprised that I tend to score more more frequently at a rate of 6 and second is a tie between 7 and 8.   Out of  26 days rated I was happy 11 days, content 12 and sad 3. Now I know we poets are supposed the be eternally depressed so maybe I should not be broadcasting these statistics. 

It will be interesting to see how much / if this flatmates at times during the year.  By rating the day, sometimes it forces me to acknowledge that the day was not so bad. Maybe we do make our own happiness. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Confession Tuesday Stranger than Fiction Edition

Dear Reader:

It's been one leafy lawn week since my last confession.

To the Confessional:

I confess that last week I was looking at the giant maple in our front yard, then the lawn, and thinking, not many leaves in the yard.  This morning as I left for work I looked at the lawn then the tree and thought - ah, not many leaves on the tree.

I confess that sourdough bread toasted with butter and orange marmalade seems like it was just meant to me.

I confess I'm thinking that based upon what we know thus far about the General David Petraues scandal that the e-mail between the two women sounded more  like junior high students then a threat. "I saw what you did under the table." Really?

I confess that the story of the 28 year old woman who allegedly ran over her husband because he didn't vote and Romney lost the election was just a bit on the wacko side. I confessed that if you had asked me what state this happened in there was a good chance I would have guessed correctly Arizona. If I hadn't know the woman was only 28, I might have incorrectly guessed her name was Jan.

I confess that I realized this week my books I want to read/buy list is growing exponentially.  Good news for booksellers, bad news for my budget.

I confess that some days I feel like I should be writing a "running with scissors" sort of memoir but then in the same breath I think how boring it would be.

I confess that while I was sick this past week I had weird dreams at night. One involved a modern version of a Volkswagen Westfalia bus that flew which only made me nostalgic for our Westfalia that didn't fly and sometimes wouldn't even run.

I confess that I have been working to assemble work into a poetry manuscript.  I confess I've heard one to many people ask what has taken so long. I also confess that I have started to do this in the past and it has been hampered by a variety of forms of procrastination, self-criticism, and a hint of reality.

I confess I have been using an application called illuum to track happiness and varying degrees of it. It's been fascinating to see patterns to good days and bad days plus the frequency of good days. I actually plan to blog about this in the near future.

I confess that's all for today and I barely got this done in time~

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ceremony by Louise Gluck

Over the years I've come to appreciate Louise Gluck more and more. The first time I read her she just didn't click with me. It was The Wild Iris that sold me on Gluck. It was so different from anything else of hers that I have read and I not only liked it but was impressed with depth and range of her abilities. The Wild Iris was written in something like 9 or 10 weeks and yet there was noting cheap about the writing.

Her work has grown on me and I've even revisited some of the first poems I read of hers and found for many of the a greater appreciation. Today I found one of her poems that I love. It's such a smart write. It is fresh and the whole concept of the poem is so brilliant you (or at least I) wish you had come up with it yourself.

The poem is titled Ceremony and it was published in The New York Times and originally appeared in her collection "Meadowlands" from 1996. You can read Ceremony here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Remembering Anne Sexton belatedly

"The beautiful feeling after writing a poem is on the whole better even then after sex, and that's saying a lot"

               ~Anne Sexton

Yesterday was Anne Sexton's birthday - I've been sick and not been on my computer for two days so this is a belated remembrance. You cannot talk about those who have left their mark on American Poetry without mentioning her name. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Confession Tuesday - Post Election Edition

Dear Reader:  I realize it's not Tuesday and have seen some people with their head in a fog this morning, I beg your dispensation at being late. Actually it's been two weeks and a day since my last confession.

I confess that I missed confession here two weeks ago because I was not in an especially confessional mood. We had just put down one of our cats of some 14 years and it was a sudden and totally unexpected event. I've never been good in dealing with the loss of a pet.

Last night I confess was all about the election. Once I was home I was pretty much zoned into returns. You have to understand my political history to understand the nature and degree to which elections are an obsession to me. During the 14 years that I served on the Democratic Committee including the time I was Chairman of the County Democratic Party I considered myself the consummate vote counter.  I elections I was excellent at projecting were needed votes were and how to turn them out.

My blog post from early yesterday indicated my last best assessment on the potential outcome of the presidential election based upon a number of varying polls, my recollection of 2008 returns and what I anticipated the turnouts would be like. Don't get me wrong I'm no Nate Silver. I'm not boy wonder, but I am better then average with such projections.

The results of my election  picks were not bad. I was under the impression that Florida would be won by Romney even as I felt the numbers there were tightening. And while I believed we would win Virginia, I started doubting myself last night. There was no need to doubt in the end.  Ohio I never really questioned and even as I watched it tighter at one point - once I was able to the the county by county returns and realized most of the Republican counties were 100%  reporting or mid to high 80's and the Cuyohoga County (Cleveland) was only reporting 30% with Obama polling 70% to 29% Romney, I figured the slow counting reflected high turnout and recalling that Obama build up a roughly 200,000 vote margin there 4 years ago, I knew in the end the lead would hold.

So yes I was feeling a little nerdy last night. I confess this but with the caveat that this is about as nerdy as I ever get.

I also confess it was fascinating how many people were overly anxious in the early going. In reality I expected that the word would not come as quickly as it did. The worst "general" election nights I have suffered through are of course 2000 but also 1968 (my very first and while I was not old enough to vote in this election I spent a sizable amount of time each evening and on weekends working in the campaign.)

But seriously, there were several people on Facebook that I felt were about to lose it by the time of 9PM poll closings. I'm not trying to make fun of anyone that messaged me during this time (there were several) but I only hope that my responses served as a calming voice of reason. It's easy to be a little calmer if you see early states going to the opponent that you never believed or counted on having in your path to victory. Meanwhile, I'm sure a more casual viewer gets a little shaky to see the other side have six or seven states called for them and your candidate just one.

I confess that more important then calling any state right is the victory.  I don't always have happy predictions. But it's twice as nice to be right and have your candidate win.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

My Final Electoral Vote Predictions for 2012

2012 Presidential Election: Electoral Map: This map displays the projections of the sender and does not reflect the opinions of 270toWin.

Early  States to watch -

  • Virginia - Obama turned this state blue last time and is hopeful of doing so a again but this one could be very close.
  • New Hampshire - only 4 electoral votes  this state is more important to Romney then Obama - Could be close but I expect it to be Democratic in the end. 
  • Florida winning this state is likely more critical for Romney then Obama An Obama win here would be very bad news for Romney. Obama can likely lose this one and still have more options to to get to 270. 
  • Pennsylvania - Romney has tried to make this in play but it's probably more wishful thinking then anything.
  • Iowa - Romney was hopeful of a win here and god the Des Moines Register endorsement still the polls look good for Obama. 
  • South Carolina should go to Romney. A loss here spells trouble for Romney. 
  • Ohio - Everyone says this is the state to watch, there could be reminders of Florida 2000 when it comes to counting votes here for several reasons I won't go into right now. If Romney wins Ohio then probably  there is an upset in the making. The should be an Obama win when all the dist settles and is counted. Whenever that may be. 
Others of interest -
  • Wisconsin with 10 votes will likely go for Obama. Ryan is not likely to help  his running mate that much in his own state. Republicans thought they has a chance here early on, but the GOP awoke a sleeping giant when it took on labor here. 
  • Michigan - maybe close but I expect Obama to win.
  • Minnesota - I don't know why I'm talking about this state except for Romney's wishful thinking. 
  • Colorado - it's all about the Latino vote. Will be a disappointing someone because both sides think they can win this one. My bet is on the side of Obama.
  • Nevada - an active labor  vote should mean a win for Obama.  
There you have it -  my predictions.  I believe I only missed one state 4 years ago.  If you click on the link at the beginning you can see my electoral predictions plotted out on a map in Blue and Red.  Settle in and watch the returns with me tonight. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Persistence and the writer

As long as we are persistence in our pursuit of our deepest destiny, we will continue to grow. We cannot choose the day or time when we will fully bloom. It happens in its own time. - Denis Waitley

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Random words for the week

A few words that have hung with me throughout the week. Some I'd like to shake...

  • provisional
  • bi-partisan
  • hour
  • smell
  • forever
  • power
  • deadlock
  • diet
  • service
  • litter
  • dinner
  • sludge
  • climate
  • conversion
  • management

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Living Hope

"The world would rather see hope then just hear its song. And that's why statesmen have to smile.Their pearly whites mean they're still full of cheer.The game's complex, the goal's far out of reach, the outcome's still unclear - once in a while,we need a friendly, gleaming set to teeth."                            
         -Wislawa Szymboraska

I think a lot of people are looking for the real manifestation of hope right now and not just the music.  I found these words from the polish poet Wislawa Szymboraska strikingly appropriate for the week we've been through.  Sometimes it is hard to see beyond the curvature of the earth up ahead and we are traveling so fast and furious and something like hurricane Sandy comes along and we apply the breaks but it's too late.  Now everyone tries to put everything back together and the losses are so large. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Salvaging Books From Water Damage

Did you have books that took a beating from Sandy?   Here's some expert advice about how you might salvage some of them. FIRST SAID FOR WATER DAMAGED BOOKS