Sunday, August 28, 2016

have you seen the wonderful bill knott archive good gracious the editor has collected the late poet's self-published books and archived his various blogs plus there are his art work and notebooks and photos of knott and family what a grand work of love i mean it bill knott was an important poet in my life the dude was a contrarian in many ways but he never ever ever wavered from his life in poetry i remember a panegyric knott wrote to the actress yancy butler on one of his blogs that is a model of his deep learning and passion for his subject that felt to me like pure love

i got up this morning to a cup of coffee anna was watching PBS the show was genius hosted stephen hawking where the great scientist asks the question 'why are we here' frankly i don't know why we are here but hawking suggests that if time is a dimension than it could theoretically be mapped much like a country and if that is the case that time is a dimension that can be mapped than the past the present and the future have already happened is there such a thing as free will

i believe our lives to use a phrase by the late poet tom andrews are 'irradiated by chance' but that doesn't mean we have free will because if what happens has already happened but it seems chaos rules the cosmos hawking and his ilk have a theory called many worlds in other words there are an infinite number of universes and a version of ourselves lives in each of those infinite number of universes where every choice we make have an infinite number of results in short everything has happened already but there are an infinite number of outcomes of everything having been done

that fucking made my head spin but here is another thing hawking said that i completely agree with our brains are organic matter made from the stuff of the universe and are governed by natural law in other words we are quite ordinary we are not endowed with supernatural force and if that should bum you out might i remind you that the universe we live in is so strange so wild so beautiful that the ordinary becomes the miraculous

i am of a mind to not believe in god for there is no evidence in an invisible all-powerful intelligence that governs who wins and loses at football games there is nothing there but nature and the question why are we here will never be answered and i'm good with uncertainty i think the three most beautiful words in our language are I DON'T KNOW

but i don't rest at unknowing because those three words lead me to more questions that lead to greater mysteries that illuminate the body and mind as for my unbelief in god i find it a fair question frequently asked of me what if i'm wrong and i die and find myself before god having to answer to my skepticism of his existence and should i find myself in that situation i will say what sgt. dietrich played by the late comedian steve landesberg on the great 1970s comedy cop show barney miller said when asked that question about his unbelief and after he dies if he finds himself before god having to answer to his skepticism of faith he will take a deep breath look god in the eye and say oops

'it's saturday night and i feel fine'

ladies and gentlemen gene fucking vincent

Saturday, August 27, 2016

there is a poem by w.s. merwin titled 'berryman' -- after the late, tragic poet john berryman -- where the speaker asks berryman how does s/he know s/he is a good writer.  the poem ends by stating what is fairly obvious, you don't know, you never know, if you want to be sure 'don't write'.

uncertainty and the sense of failure are the essence of creative life.  we are always in a land of the unknown when we create.  besides, i'm sure we have all had that experience of expressing our love for a poet/musician/filmmaker etc etc only to be told that they can not stand that artist.  happens all the time.  de gustibus non est disputandum.

still, the uncertainty of our creative lives can be maddening.  life is pitched at varying attitudes.  you know how much i adore the poet thom gunn.  he is one of my heroes.  there are only a handful of writers that i love their work in totality.  i'm not claiming gunn is a perfect poet but his work, all of it, is important to me.  and i believe his reputation, 12 years after his death of a drug overdose when he was in his early 70s, is strong.

such was not always the case.  i have an anthology edited by edward lucie-smith titled british poetry since 1945 [penguin books; 1970] where the editor says this about my beloved gunn.

     His best poems have a compact philosophical elegance: 'The Annihilation of Nothing' is both
     influenced by, and worthy of, Rochester.  Others seem strained and hollow, and the
     proportion of really good poems has been falling, book by book.  Gunn is enough of a judge
     of his own work always to pick a really striking poem to lend its title to a whole collection,
     and one must hope that he is also judge enough to find his way out of his present stylistic

i must remind you that when gunn moved to california his poems opened up to, what the british called, 'sex and sunshine' and vexed the hell out of the poetry establishment.  also gunn's strict formal style loosened to include syllabics, and finally free verse.  if these critics ever bothered gunn it does not show in his sterling, hard, beautiful poems.

if, and i don't mean at all to suggest that gunn didn't worry about his critics, i mean, he was human and wanted readers as much as any poet, he didn't let it seep into his work.  gunn took merwin's advice to heart.  he was a poet comfortable living in uncertainty.

i reread the above summation when i feel myself slip in to the black field of self-doubt.  not because i rank myself equal to gunn.  hardly.  i have my own vision of poetry and poetics, and the life lived in poetry.  sometimes i find my own secret sharers of the art don't share the same vision.  that can be very dispiriting.  i reread this poet/editor's text as a proof that one must listen to her own muse whatever its language.  the phrase 'i don't know' is one of the most useful in our language.  i have no idea if my poetics is what history needs, or even wants.  clio will choose whatever she wants.  the best i can do as a human being and poet is write and read at the first intensity, even if the definition of 'first intensity' is open to definition, and hope that a few might find it good, or good enough.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

smokey and the bandit [1977]

i find it difficult to tell younger friends the allure of the cb radio and trucker culture had on u.s. popular sensibilities in the second decade of the 21st century.  they don't believe me.  but, oh man, in the mid to late 1970s trucker culture was at its zenith.  this flick is an artifact of that particular moment.

burt reynolds stars as the eponymous bandit, a notorious, rather famous, trucker who takes a bet.  if he can transport 400 cases of coors beer from texas to georgia in 28 hours bandit will win $80,000.00.  bandit recruits is buddy snowman, played by country singer jerry reed, to help him in the haul.  snowman will drive the rig and bandit will drive a black transam as a 'blocker'.  in their travels bandit picks up a runaway bride, carrie, played by sally field, reynolds' then girlfriend.  oh, carrie's thwarted future father-in-law, buford t. justice, played by the great jackie gleason, is in hot pursuit of the bandit.

that's it.  lots of car chases and lots of one-liners by gleason.  stuntman hal needham directed this flick with the elan of a state fair demolition derby.  but there is a bit more to this pic i find interesting.  it's not the good ol' boy mystique, or the country music, or the acrobatic car chases, or the chemistry between field, reynolds, reed and gleason; it is the language of the cb.  this movie is an adventure in language.  you almost need a glossary to parse the trucker lingo.  the principals are talking to each other in cb jargon as much as they are behind the wheels of their vehicles.

i don't know if truckers still use words like 'smokey' [police officer] or 'what's your twenty' [what is your location] today.  there is a radio station on satellite radio, road dog trucking, i listen to once and again.  the culture of the trucker didn't die, it is still here.  but the radio programs don't use the language celebrated by the actors in this movie.  i guess that doesn't matter because we have this pic as an artifact of its era.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

he never died [2015]

a curious anti-gem of a pic starring former black flag front man henry rollins as jack, an anti-social immortal who has a penchant for human flesh and blood but is on the straight and narrow as he abstains from eating meat, especially the human kind, and eschews violence.  jack's total life consists of eating at a diner where the pretty waitress has a crush on him, playing bingo three nights a week at a very boring pace, watching TV, and sleeping in his SRO.

the how and why jack as a flesh-eating immortal are not made quite clear.  he is a vampire, yes, but who and what and how are kind of blurred in the narrative.  we learn later that jack is so old he has a starring role in the bible.  but jack's hermitage and non-violent behavior are tested to the breaking point by the arrival of his daughter.  all things go to hell.

rollins is not a good actor.  he is a personality, and the role of jack is written around his personality.  rollins has a rough, gawky charisma that lights up the dullness of jack's habits toward an inferno of pent up desires.  as for the pretty waitress, cara, played by, new to me, kate greenhouse, who has mad acting skills and brings to her character a lilt of worn sadness, her infatuation with jack brings a rawness greater than the merely physical.  greenhouse is a delight to watch as she opens up the blackened seams of jack's life.

jack's daughter, andrea, played by, again new to me, jordan todosey, is blip in the narrative and the macguffin to lift jack into action.  todosey does well as the goofball kid who gets the story into motion but it is cara that cracks jack's icy surface.

there is bloody action, a kind of carthasis, and then the flick ends.  the movie ends not wholly satisfactorily because i want to know what happens to jack and cara.  i suspect they return to their respective lives.  but that is my problem with wanting a resolution.  the writer/director jason krawczyk appears to be allergic to tidy endings.  that's fine.  i think krawczyk wrote the role of jack with rollins in mind.  a vampire as middle-aged punk rock intellectual who doesn't like people.  oh, one more detail i liked about this movie.  jack's place was filled with books.  that's a nice touch. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

just back from seeing culture club at a local indian casino and i must confess to not being the biggest fan of the band but i do know their music fairly well my younger brother was a big fan and played their records constantly and i must say boy george is a wonderful entertainer funny humble and delighted the audience with anecdotes and jokes and they were good they did a smashing performance of my favorite song 'victims' and brought down the house by concluding their set with 'bang a gong (get it on)' by marc bolan oh it was also the original lineup for the band

during the show i stepped back and watched the audience whose average age hovered in the mid-40s don't laugh if you are young right now soon you'll be going to concerts of your favorite bands should they still be around some years hence and you'll look around and find the average age of the audience hovering in the mid-40s but the age of the concert goer tonight wasn't on my mind i watched people lose their self[s] as they danced and sang along with the songs without the self consciousness and irony associated with contemporary pop culture

the audience turned into a community whose sole relationship was music it was a pleasure to step back and witness this unadulterated pleasure in being in one place at one time dancing and singing with everyone else such displays of public pleasure put the lie to the idea that we cannot understand each other for concerts are the proof we are common because we all share the fundamental human being

but then we went to get a late night dinner in the casino i'm not a fan of casinos i find them depressing places plus the design and layout of casinos are meant to place its occupants in a state of no-time and no-place because the building lacks windows to gauge the time of day or night or clocks a casino is a twilit land of noise and spectacle and money i stood watching my fellow human feed their desires in machines that promise instant wealth if you will simply continue to feed them your money

we found a cafe inside the casino where the hour went by so quickly because the talk turned from favorite band to favorite horror movies and movie directors while the food was exactly what you would expect from a cafe in a casino

Thursday, August 18, 2016

summertime blues

i'm a creature of night.  i love it at 3:00 a.m. and the house is tight against the winter chill.  and those sounds, those night sounds, of indistinct origin ping against the grey matter locked in the skull.  i love fall and winter.

summer is fun too but man i got the summertime blues.  i blame the heat, the smoke smudged air, the long hours at work.  when i get home i have to use my fingers to hold open my eyelids for i am exhausted.  i manage to read a little, watch the olympics a little.  i haven't seen a judo match but i did watch a couple of tae kwon do matches last night.  close enough. 

and if i'm in full whine mode i haven't written a poem in a week or so.  yep, that is a long time.  well, fresh hell, as i like to quote the danish poet paul lefleur, being a poet is not writing a poem but finding a new way to live.  i'm trying paul, i am really trying.  so let me not get all knotted up about my blues.  let me have another poet express how i feel. 

ladies and gentlemen, mr. eddie cochran.

Friday, August 12, 2016

a few months ago a story was published about a star located in the cygnus constellation about 1400 light years away from earth that has this odd habit of its light dimming at irregular intervals.  nicknamed tabby's star, after the astronomer who lead the team that discovered this star, the odd shifts of brightness offers us no known explanation as to its cause.

scientists are science fiction geeks, particularly astronomers who spend their lives looking up to the heavens.  some believe that we might have some evidence of alien intelligence because the dimming of tabby's star could be the result of a dyson sphere, named after the mathematician freeman dyson who posited an advanced intelligent civilization would develop technology to harness the energy of their star. 

the more we learn about the universe we live in the more we discover how wonderful, beautiful and utterly mind-blowingly strange it is.  more than likely the irregular dimming of tabby's star is natural in origin.  we just don't know enough yet what might cause such variables in brightness.  but today i read this article asking us to keep an open mind about an alien civilization satisfying its energy needs by building a structure around its star. 

we as a species have been high technology for a little over 200 years.  in that time we've gone from steam engines to wi-fi, from using leeches in medicine to mri scanning in medicine.  200 years is a very short time and our technology is mind-blowingly advanced.  the universe is 14 billion years old.  our galaxy contains a 100 billion stars and planets orbit each of those stars.  there are more than a 100 billion galaxies in the known universe.  there are probably much more than that we are unable to see.

meaning we are a small speck in this universe.  life might indeed be out there.  personally i think it is hubris to think we are the only planet that harbors life in this vast universe.  i'm with the author of that article to keep an open mind.  there is no evidence for life near tabby's star.  SETI has pointed its antennas at the star and have found nothing.  but imagine, for a minute, that we might be looking at the technology of an alien civilization.  and there is the space between fact and fantasy where poetry resides.  for i think we shall come to an age, if we don't destroy ourselves, which is looking more likely, that we may find evidence of life in the universe.  we shall know for sure we are not alone.