Wednesday, September 17, 2014

short attention span poems

the check out lines at safeway were crowded everyone jockeying for position some entered the grocery store saw the crowds and walked straight out while i biding my time in line looked around and thought if no one here is my enemy perhaps they are my friends

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i saw a ghost or perhaps it saw me at any rate i saw something standing there like a shadow without a body to cast it

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there are holes in my chuck t's i need a new pair each pebble or beer bottle cap my feet land on during my walks brings my attention to a sharp point of hurt

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 if i die tomorrow i will regret never having visited jamaica

Sunday, September 14, 2014

saturday double-feature

hubert selby, jr.: it'll be a better tomorrow [2005]

it was hotter than the surface of the sun, triple digit highs during the day.  makes me want to cocoon with a book and/or movie.  and i did just that yesterday.  after the sprinkler guy, a real cool old bohemian/hippie dubbed 'the irrigation einstein', left after he completed the work that knocked me on my ass last weekend, i switched to the on-demand documentary channel, docurama, and watched a couple of flicks.  the first is the above titled feature.

selby is that rare artist, a genuinely good man.  his fiction is tougher than leather.  his characters lead lives of addiction and madness.  but the man himself  -- gruff, ornery -- was on a spiritual journey.  he was a bodhisattva of the late 20th C.  this documentary is a testament to selby's goodness.

selby did not die rich or famous.  and yet his goodness and his writing touched millions of people.  this flick has the usual talking heads recounting the decades of addiction and bad health.  his friends, and i think if you knew selby he was your friend, also tells us of the love he shared and cultivated with the people in his life.  i should've taken notes and wrote down some selby quotes.  nevertheless, this movie is a delight of the mind and senses.  and a life lesson for artists, one does not need to be an asshole to be a good artist.

happy [2011]

in 1621 richard burton published the anatomy of melancholy.  ever since, it is cool to be schooled in depression.  most of our artists and writers have trafficked in the southern end of our emotional palette.  so have scientists, economists, politicians and all the rest of us.  a poet's work is given more gravitas if it explores the blues.  if a poet writes about joy we look at her work with a sideways glance.  for sure, you can't be serious if you are happy, right?

that trend is turning.  there is a branch of brain science studying happiness.  what makes us happy?  this documentary asks this question and comes to some non-surprising answers. 

the filmmakers travel the world and seek out peoples, and scientists who are studying this relatively new field, whose claim on happiness exceeds the average u.s.american.  and they found out what makes us happy are not wealth and the acquisition of more and more stuff.  50 percent of our happiness is based on genetics.  that is our set point.  some people are more prone to be happy while others are not.  10 percent depends on circumstance, like having enough money.  40 percent is a mystery but can be influenced by our training.  we can teach ourselves to become happier people.

we are so conditioned to poo-poo the language of happiness.  but why?  this is a refreshing documentary.  very few of our poets write from and thru joy and happiness.  whitman was such a poet, and i think the cuban-born jose kozer is another.  we need more happy poets.  that is not an oxymoron.  first start with the first noble truth: life is fucked up.  and yet, we can, with practice, be happy. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

why i love [post]apocalyptic movies

there is a scene in the new zealand sci-fi flick the quiet earth [1985] when the three characters, who each thought they were the last person on earth, discover each other, break down in laughter and deeply embrace.  before that moment of meeting they were complete strangers.  at that moment of meeting they became great intimates.  a deeply moving scene about our need for human warmth and contact.  for in the better [post]apocalyptic movies the characters, and we the viewers, must examine the question, how should we live.  some of these films enact the needs of survival so bleakly the characters resort to murder, duplicity, hatred, fear and paranoia.  but there are other end-of-the-world movies where the characters come together in love and friendship.

i know of two movies, last night [1998] and seeking a friend for the end of the world [2012], where the characters are faced with a quickly approaching doomsday and who embody the question: how should we live.  rather than resort to barbarism the characters in both of these films struggle in their fear of death and the end of all things.  but they remain good people.

the sci-fi and horror genres are rife with all kinds of tales of madness and butchery when the story is about the end of the world.  and yet there are many of us -- i think -- who will band together and cooperate.  cormac mccarthy's book, and movie, the road was about just that, how to live and be a good person in a world gone mad.  take for example the sandra oh character in the canadian film last night.  the end of the world was known for a few months.  on the last day oh is having trouble getting home to her husband.  oh and her husband, who remained at his job at the power company so the city can have power all the way to the last minute, made a suicide pact.  at a specific time the couple planned on shooting each other.  things don't work out that way.  instead, oh meets another character who tries to help her get home, unsuccessfully.  but these two strangers bond, become intimate friends, and face the end together.

steve carrell's wife in seeking a friend for the end of the world bolts in panic and leaves carrell as soon as news of an incoming asteroid that will destroy the planet in three weeks.  society has gone, of course, topsy-turvy.  keira knightley is a young neighbor woman who promises to help carrell seek out an old high school sweethart.  knightley's family is in england so she has no one to turn to.  the movie is a road trip of crazies, goonies, and sweetly insane people.  of course knightley and carrell fall in love.  we get that and we get the fact that if the world wasn't going to end tomorrow they would never have exchanged but a few words together.  and that is the point, faced with death how do you want to live?

and that is why i love these kinds of movies.  because we are dying every day.  when faced with our mortality we soon -- i hope -- shall know what matters the most to us.  if i had six months to live i would do exactly what i do now: high dive into the OED, read, write, watch crazy movies, love my family and be a good friend.  if the world was going to end in six months i would do the same.

there is a tender scene in seeking a friend for the end of the world when carrell and knightley almost run over a line of beach-side pilgrims.  these pilgrims are getting baptized beside the sea.  these people are families and folk of all stripes.  our friends watch the ceremony and stay for the picnic.  they laugh and play with these people because it is near the end and they have become all friends.  and why not.  the Other is not the Other when it becomes your friend.

and just the thing for fear because even when we study our lives and face our deaths i am reminded of FDR's great quote in another time of great peril and uncertainty: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  fear is what makes us commit violence.  fear is what makes the Other a stranger.  fear is a stunted emotion.  it retards our thinking and impedes good works.  when we confront our doom, our finiteness of mind, body and also of our home the earth, for it too is a finite place, we ask ourselves how do we want to live?  do we want to be good people or become violent creatures?  sometimes we are both.

these are not easy questions and cannot be answered in a few glib sentences.  so we have literature -- and movies i think are literature -- to explore, test and enact -- our fears so we can ask, when you know you are going to die, how do you want to live?  

an utter beauty

call me Ol' Softy because this performance by san fermin brings tears of happiness to my eyes

Saturday, September 06, 2014

today was one of those days where what looked like a small chore that should take an hour turns into a huge debacle.  today anna and i changed out our lawn sprinklers to low flow lawn sprinklers on account of the severe drought.  the drought is bad, very bad.  driving thru the central valley last week we could see how parched the land is.  dry.  bone dry.  drier than a dry martini.

so we want to switch out to a low flow sprinkler system that uses less water.  all i needed to do was take out the old sprinklers and put in the new ones.  ha!  my hands are freaking raw from all the twisting and turning.  the new sprinklers are a little wider than the old ones which makes things a bit more interesting.  the holes made for the old sprinklers are a bit small so it takes a bit of wiggling with the palm of your hand to get the new low flow puppies in there.  and then there you have to line the sprinklers with the underground coupling just right and screw them together.  underground!  you can't see what the hell you are doing.

let's just say we duked it out with the new sprinklers and the new sprinklers won.  fuck.

but that wasn't all.  we did new planting too.  our one hour chore turned into a several hours monster.  also, i ain't so young no more.  it got hot today, upper 90s F, felt like heat stroke, and in addition to my raw hamburger hands my back is aching and my knees are fucked up.

ooh shit.

just the same, i am doing my best to practice mindfulness.  dogen says somewhere -- i take this quote from the poet stefan hyner -- to study the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things, to be enlightened by all things is to lose the barrier between self and the Other.  today that Other was our sprinkler system.  i could hear that fucker laughing at me.   

Friday, September 05, 2014

100 Anti-Years

today is anti-poet nicanor parra's 100 birthday.  100 years!  geezuz! 
still alive and writing

viva la parra!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

the blue dahlia [1946]

one of the best movies i've seen in quite a long time.  directed by george marshall, written by raymond chandler, starring alan ladd as a WWII bomber pilot, veronica lake as a mobster's moll, and william bendix as ladd's WWII pal who sustained a brain injury during the war, this film is great noir filmmaking.

anna and i caught this flick on TCM sunday night when we were unpacking from our vacation.  i love the clipped tuff-guy street patter of these noir pics.  i could close my eyes and just listen to its language.

the gist is this, ladd returns to l.a. after the war with his two veteran pals, including bendix, and finds his wife is not only a lush but unfaithful too.  she is carrying on with a mobster who is married to veronica lake.  later the wife is murdered.  ladd is a lead suspect.

the plot is full of winding turns and twists yet it is not very difficult to guess who might be the killer.  when we do find out who killed ladd's wife it is a bit of a letdown.  the reasons for murder by this individual seemed tacked on by chandler and marshall.

still, it is a gorgeously photographed movie.  lake is a real blond bombshell.  ladd is solid as the man wrongly accused of a horrendous crime.  bendix is just freaking great as the troubled but loyal pal.

i mentioned loving the language of noir cinema.  spoken language in this pic is clipped, cadenced and heavily salted with double-negatives.  there is a real beauty in the dialogue.  poems should be composed in it.  nevertheless, this movie gives me hope that perhaps the human species can do a few good things.  like create moving art and music.  for this movie is a testament of vernacular cinema composed at the first intensity.  

week at the beach

the small beach hamlet of cayucos, california is the beach town time forgot.  very little development.  lots of funky houses.  surfers and skateboarders and beach bums -- me for the week!  -- crowd the main street and the large, wide sandy beaches during summer.  this is our second year of seeing the summer out by learning to be simple and chill, frolic in the surf, watching the stars in the night sky, and listening to the roar of the pacific ocean as sea meets sands.

we saw dolphins 10 yards from the shore.  we witnessed the majesty of humpback whales breach the ocean creating massive wakes.  we were awestruck when pods of orcas roiled the waves. 

you don't swim in the pacific at cayucos.  you dive and ride on its waves.  i tried body surfing and boogie boarding.  yep, you got it, i did more wipe outs than rides.  nick took to the surf like a natural surfer.

the thing is when you go on vacation you take your burdens with you.  it takes a few days to learn to let go and unwind.  americans usually don't give themselves enough time for a proper vacation.  a week is not enough.  as soon as i started to learn the rhythms of beach living i had to start thinking about home, work and their attendant stressors.

still, it's better to have had a week than not to have one at all.  as faulkner so eloquently wrote, between the beach and nothing i'll take the beach. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

putting together two chairs from IKEA

lost the instructions
lost my

sometimes i just need quiet.  so much noise surrounds us, penetrates us, permeates our environment.  heads bent to these blue screens.  pixellated faces.  eyes drawn tight against hills and valleys of data.  life in two dimension: physical/digital.  we are not centaurs.  we are creatures of the digital divide.  sometimes we create art in the division.  sometimes we need to turn off the machines, go for a long walk, and give ourselves time to daydream.

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i've been groovin' on the video work of finnish poet karri kokko found here at youtube.

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sometimes you gotta shut down the machines and read in print.  today i read a couple of back issues of the kansas lit journal first intensity.  particularly the reviews by poet john olson, a brilliant writer whether he is  analyzing a book, or composing his singular poems.  

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what!?  summer is almost over!  the end of summer means the beginning of fall.  fall means, shorter days, cooler nights, turning leaves, and halloween.