Thursday, May 25, 2017

Watershed Review

Just a quick note to say that I have two poems in the Spring Issue of Watershed Review.  Many thanks to all the good people there!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Catullus 16

Suck my dick & fuck you.
Aurelius, enjoy the taste of my cock.  Furius, you’ll like it up the ass.
You think, because my passionate poems offend
your sensibilities, that I’m a pervert.
Whatever debauchery you find in my poems,
it doesn’t mean I’m debased.
Thing is, my cunning wit isn’t meant for boys, but
for hairy old codgers who need a little
seduction & some raunchy bits to get it up.
You who read my thousand kisses
& think I’m not a real man:
Suck my dick & fuck you.

---------------

Note: Although I studied Latin as an undergraduate, this isn't a translation as much as an interpretation based upon the many widely varied translations available, each lacking in its own way.  I want the poem to have the feel of playful spontaneity, as if the poet were speaking at an event, not unlike today's celebrity roasts, in which insults were traded in a joking manner.   

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Home Planet News

I'm pleased that I have two poems in Issue 4 of Home Planet News Online.  Many thanks to the good people at HPN.

It's tempting to say I first wrote "The Gray Hills Beyond" many years ago as an undergraduate, but so much of the poem has changed that it's more accurate to say that I conceived of its structure those long lost years gone by.  Judson Jerome, who wrote a monthly column for Writer's Digest in those days, said he liked it--back then, I called the poem "Lunch"--but passed on publishing it in Cedar Rock.  Over the years--I often play around with my old poems for ideas--both the beginning & the end have changed, so too the middle.  Pretty much the same could be said of me physically, heh. 

"The Devil's Playbook" came about as an experiment of sorts.  I've always maintained that a poem can be about anything, that no topic is off-limits, yet I began to question how much I practice that.  I tend to compartmentalize:  some ideas are for my blog, some are for friends, some for the classroom, some for poems & so forth.   But why?  Can't I put in a poem the kinds of things I'd post on my blog, talk about in a classroom, or say in conversation?  While there may be valid reasons--some pragmatic, some personal--why I might decide not to write about a particular subject in a poem (or talk about or post in my blog, for that matter), the idea is not to allow a preconceived idea that I've subconsciously constructed from the study of poetry to dictate what subject--& subsequently, style & language--is acceptable for the unwritten poem. Of course, some may argue, given that my poetry is already marked by unconventionality, that perhaps this isn't the best route for me to pursue, that perhaps I should instead pay stricter attention to my clucking, anal retentive internal editor more often, but those who would say so--you know who you are--should just fucking piss off.

Also, this month marks my blog's tenth year in existence.  Yes, it's hard to believe that I've maintained my blog for ten years.  Hey, if you're reading this, why not wish my blog a happy birthday!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Books in Brief

Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin.  As the title suggests, Baldwin's novel is deeply steeped in religious overtones, undertones & every nook & cranny between tones.  In other words, it's lots more religious than I like, which is not to say that Baldwin isn't a great writer or that the novel itself isn't worthy of a read. 

Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, trans. Stephen Mitchell.  I like Mitchell's translations, if that's what they are, so I thought I'd give his take on Tao Te Ching a shake since The Tao of Pooh failed to enlighten me.  I'm still waiting . . .

The Overcoat, Nikolai Gogol.  As to the plight of the poor & powerless, is there justice? 

I, Robot, Isaac Asimov.  The cover of the edition I read shows Will Smith as Det. Spooner from the Hollywood "adaptation" of the novel, even though Spooner doesn't exist in the book--nor do the other movie characters--& the film's plot, well, I'd go as far as to say that paranoia about a robot revolution runs antithetical to the theme of Asimov's collection of stories about robots.

Snow White, Donald Barthleme.  I remember when Barthleme, after a reading, signed a couple of books for me, saying in his sonorous voice as I walked away, "An extraordinary pleasure, sir."  I don't know why, but that always makes me snicker.  Ditto this book.

Novelsmithing, David Sheppard.  Sheppard assures the reader that his method of novel writing is the bee's tried & true knees before delving into analyzing how novels work, citing numerous examples from movies rather than, I don't know, maybe novels, to illustrate his points.  Apparently, much novel writing can be learned from sitting down with pencil & popcorn to watch James Cameron's Titanic, yet Sheppard never explains--at least he hadn't by the time I quit reading--the movie's flawed point of view, for how can the survivor of the big blundering boat recall scenes when, in many cases, she wasn't even there when they happened?
 
Honey & Salt, Carl Sandburg.  Back when I was in high school, teachers would assign Sandburg for those days when we were to appreciate poetry.  I'm not sure--does anyone still do that?  Sandburg's probably the most prosaic poet out there, even more so than Robinson Jeffers or, one of my faves, William Stafford. 

White Stone: The Alice Poems, Stephanie Bolster.  Outside of maybe Denise Duhamel's Kinky, I don't usually like books dedicated to a single topic, but I found this collection of poems about two Alices--the one Lewis Carroll created & the real life person his character was based upon--informative & entertaining. 

Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, W.E.B. Du Bois.  This collection of memoirs, stories, allegories, essays, etc., centered around the inequality that racism, sexism, & classism create, provides insightful analysis & social commentary.


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Friday, January 20, 2017

Inaugural Day Blues

Like many Americans, I don't like the idea of President Trump, so I'm boycotting the Inaugural Day ceremonies, which, admittedly, I would have done even had Clinton won the election.  Truth be told, I've boycotted inaugurations pretty much my entire life, though I can't say it's had any effect on the body politic. Seems rather futile, if you want to know the truth, whatever I do.

Given the biblical levels of doom that some predict a Trump presidency will bring about, it's kind of hard to figure how many of these apocalyptic prophets maintain it’s unfair to dub Clinton a weak candidate.  After all, they argue, she received nearly three million more votes than Trump, who received assists from the Russians, the FBI, the CIA, the BBC, B.B. King & Doris Day, among others, including Matt Busby, all of which is, as of yet, conjecture.

For what it's worth, I’ve long advocated for the popular vote—living in a decidedly red state makes my vote virtually worthless—but I wonder how many Democrats would be in favor of dumping the electoral college system if Clinton had won. I don’t recall hearing an uproar about its unfairness before the election. It's also worth noting that if you subtracted the roughly 4.5 million vote surplus that Clinton received in two states, California & New York, she would have lost the popular vote, too. This very scenario-- in which one or two big states skew election results in the national popular vote system--is often used, in part, as justification for the electoral college. Nevertheless, I still favor the popular vote: one person equals one vote, wherever you live, is the way I see it. 

It's almost funny, if it weren't for the horrific specter of a Trump presidency, to hear Clintonites register complaints about election fraud after they delighted in portraying Sanders supporters as poor sports & whiny conspiracy-theorist whackjobs for saying the primaries were rigged. Further, for Democrats to call the general election illegitimate due to foreign interference--considering the overt influence that America has exerted on other countries, such as Honduras, Libya and Ukraine during President Obama's administration--is Trump-level rich, especially when the alleged Russian interference consists of leaking the Podesta emails, which provide, among other corruption revealed, actual evidence that the DNC helped rig the primaries in favor of Clinton. 

O, irony, is there nothing you can't do?

Excuses & conspiracy theories aside, Clinton managed to squander, in a matter of weeks, a solid double-digit lead in the polls, then lost to a racist, sexist, dimwitted, big-mouthed, egomaniacal billionaire with historically ("unpresidented," if you will) low approval ratings even before he takes office, not to mention a notoriously bad comb-over. To use a sports analogy, it’s like Duke hoops blowing a 30 point halftime lead to Chattahoochee Tech, then blaming it on poor officiating.  No disrespect to Chattahoochee Tech--um, go Eagles!--but that’s textbook weak.

While I applaud the protests & resistance to Trump & his neoliberal agenda, it doesn't mean I ally myself with neoliberal, partisan hacks like Cory Booker, Chuck Schumer, Howard Dean, Clinton, or her regrettable, forgettable VP pick, Tim Whathisname, who quietly gravitates toward his role as a trivia night stumper at pubs nationwide. 

It's not that I don't see any differences between the two corporate parties, but rather that both parties, since they serve the same corporate masters, are demonstratively inadequate. Assuming we survive Trump, my hope is that someday soon we'll begin to see true progressives, rather than the close-your-eyes-&-make-believe variety that the DNC habitually give us, elected to office.  Maybe then I'll shake my Inaugural Day blues. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Newsy Notes

--"Day of Reckoning" Is Here

It's true.  You may read "Day of Reckoning" in Rose Red Review (Issue 19, Winter 2016).  While you're there, you may read, among the many other fine poems in 3Rs, a selection from my collection Walking in Chicago with a Suitcase in My Hand, "The Giraffe," which appeared in a previous Rose Red Review.  Thanks to Larissa Nash.

FYI:  "Day of Reckoning" is a companion piece to "Apocalypse Eve," which appeared a couple years ago in The Legendary. You can find it & other poems by clicking here.

--Love Is All:  A Theory of Everything

I'm also very pleased that "In Love, in Theory" is part of the Love & Ensuing Madness collection published by Rat's Ass Review.  The poem is another example of my tanka chain sonnet (as are those that appeared in The Legendary).  Thanks to Roderick Bates at Rat's Ass Review

--Poetry Aloud

I'm reading at Empire Books in Huntington on Monday, January 16, at 7 p.m.  If you're in the neighborhood, why not drop by?  Thanks to Eliot Parker for arranging the reading.




Thursday, December 1, 2016

Quick Hits on Select Lit 4

A Twelve Step Guide, Jason Bredle.  A surprisingly amusing chapbook in spite of its sobering title.

A Dog's Heart, Mikhail Bulgakov.   A stray dog that becomes human couldn't help but remind me of Kafka's "A Report to An Academy," about an ape in a similar fix.  Both stories are clever, but Bulgakov is hilarious.  I may like this even better than The Master & the Margarita, which, by the way, is mighty, mighty good.

Hinduism Made Simple, Shalu Sharma.  Despite myriad mechanical errors & awkward, if not ungrammatical constructions, this free ebook is immensely informative.  It helps dispel many of the stereotypes & mythical mystifications (or perhaps mystical mythifications) surrounding Hinduism, making the religious practices understandable to a devout agnostic such as myself.

The Roar Beneath, Donald Mangum.  I'll tell it to you straight, as comedian Stewart Lee would say, like a pear cider made from 100% pears: Don Mangum is a friend & former classmate.  He wrote such a glowing blurb for my latest collection, Walking in Chicago with a Suitcase in My Hand, that you can practically read my poems in the dark, so if I told you I had nothing but praise for this novella, you'd probably say I'm biased.  Well, fair enough.  Don't just take my word that Mangum is an expert craftsman who blends mystery, adventure, romance, & the minutia of everyday life on the Gulf Coast just before Hurricane Katrina with humor & intelligence.  Read C.M. Johnson's review of the book here.  Better yet, read the book & decide for yourself.

The Ogre's Wife, Ron Koertge.  I enjoyed Fever so much that I immediately leapt headfirst & headstrong into The Ogre's Wife, a collection of poems loosely concentrated--like frozen fruit juice, perhaps pear cider (see above)--on the characters, creatures, & sundry stuff of fairy tales.  If this book were a lake, enchanted or not, I'd probably have broken my fucking neck, but fortunately for me, I hadn't extended the metaphor.  Anyway, it's an enjoyable collection, but I like Fever, not to mention Geography of the Forehead & Making Love to Roget's Wife, better.

The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolaño.  I decided to read this novel after reading a Bolaño poem in my Visceral Realist poetry discussion group.  Well, to be honest, we're not actually Visceral Realists.  At least I'm not.  The Visceral Realist movement, if you want to call it a movement, which I do merely for convenience because I don't now what else to call it, never produced a noteworthy poet--unless you consider Bolaño a Visceral Realist, which I don't.  He's quite good, so I felt bad that I'd not read him before, but I plan to read his posthumous novel 2666 soon, or at least by the end of 2666.  Also, I'm currently reading his collected poems, however slowly, for if you want to know the truth, I'm not feeling altogether all together these days.

Swerve, Jeffrey Skinner.  I didn't like this chapbook when I first started reading it, but I began to like it, so when I finished, I gave it a second reading.   Maybe you should, too.

Ubik, Philip K. Dick. Now nobody can say I haven't read Dick.

The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff.  I first came across this book twenty odd (& how) years ago when my son was little more than a toddler.  I figured if I were going to watch the cartoons--as well as read the original A.A. Milne stories that the Disney characters are very loosely based on--I could use that experience to improve my understanding of Taoism. I can't deny that at the time I enjoyed Hoff's use of Pooh's adventure to explain Taoism.  The Taoist's easy-going, come-what-may prescription for happiness appealed to me as a single father raising a young boy.   However, rereading this book now, crusty curmudgeon that I've become, I find myself taking a more critical view.  For instance, Hoff seems to miss entirely the point of the Pooh song Cottleston Pie, whose nearly nonsensical verses better illustrate the folly of syntactical expectations & logical fallacies than the tenets of Taoism, but Hoff, albeit ironically, tries to force the lyrics to fit a Taoist belief system.  Square peg, meet round hole.  Very un-Tao, dude.

Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, trans. William Scott Wilson. After watching Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog,  I snagged Hagakure off the shelf of a small, artsy bookstore in Brooklyn.  Struck by the selfless dedication that Forest Whitaker's character displayed toward his career as a professional assassin, I'd planned to use the teachings of Master Tsunetomo as a way to rededicate my life to poetry.  Since I couldn't give up--if giving up were easy, I would have given up the ghost & his mangy spectral mutt years ago--I figured what I needed was to devote myself with even greater fervor to my art.  Sadly, instead of an illuminated path to success, I found myself constantly trying to make sense of one unrelated episode after another that usually ended in acts of extreme & senseless violence. Then, of course, there was Hagakure.

Selected Stories, Ernest Hemingway.  The reviewer placed his fingers on the keyboard.  He contemplated what he should say about the book he'd recently read.  After all, he had read many books by Hemingway in the past, not only stories, but novels, too.  The reviewer leaned back in his chair.  He remembered reading The Sun Also Rises while a freshman in Dr. Walther's literature class at college.  As a student, the reviewer had liked the novel so much that he'd read For Whom the Bell Tolls on his own during the summer break at his parents' home.  He didn't remember anything else about that summer, but he remembered sitting on the red metal glider in the backyard reading For Whom the Bell Tolls.  When he read the novel again many years later, he decided it was Hemingway's best book.

As the reviewer skimmed over what he'd written, he discovered that he'd not talked about this collection of short stories.  He'd talked about his reading experiences in his salad days.  He wondered if he used to digress to this degree, for example, when he'd written theme papers for his literature classes.  Probably not, he decided, for he'd always made good grades & had graduated with honors.  He hadn't written about Hemingway for Dr. Walther's class, but Wallace Stevens, probably the reviewer's favorite poet.  Several professors in the English Department at the university had predicted the reviewer would enjoy a successful career as a poet himself.  In the years that followed, the reviewer had enjoyed some minor success, but he felt dissatisfied with his career, if it were fair to call it a career, especially in comparison to Hemingway & Stevens.  Apparently, the two great writers didn't like each other.  Hemingway, the story goes, had once punched Wallace Stevens in the face at a party in Key West. 

Focus! the reviewer told himself angrily, annoyed again with his digressions.  After he'd typed the name of the book & its author, the reviewer realized he couldn't recall the titles of the stories other than "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" &  "Soldier's Home."  He kept his fingers on the keyboard, as if this would force a rush of titles into his memory.  He knew that some of the stories came from The Nick Adams Stories & The Snows of Kilimanjaro & Other Stories.  Still others came from additional Hemingway short story compilations.  The reviewer had enjoyed reading these collections, what he'd read, yet he didn't enjoy this recent collection as much as he had the others.  He wondered if that was why he couldn't remember many of the titles.

As he sat as his desk, he told himself to retrieve the book from his bedside table. That would mean climbing the stairs, he thought.  He was too lazy to climb the stairs.  He didn't consider himself lazy by nature.  Usually he wasn't lazy, but now he was lazy.  Recalling one of the stories was "The Revolutionist," he wrote that down before he forgot.  Then he remembered "A Very Short Story" & wrote that down, too.  There was a story about a matador.  Hell, he thought, there were lots of stories about matadors.  The stories were about matadors, he wrote, except when they weren't.  The reviewer smirked..  He liked what he'd written because it was true & it meant he wouldn't have to climb the stairs, which he really really really really really really really really really didn't want to do.

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Quick Hits on Select Lit
Fistful of Comments about a Few Books I Read This, Er, Last Year