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.