Monday, November 29, 2004

so Anna picks me up from work tonight cuz we need to get a rear brake light for our Honda Accord and thought that we'd stop at a nearby auto parts store for this one measly bulb. but wouldn't you know it, Hondas are popular cars. I mean, for example, our car is green, so are a lot of cars. I deposited a couple of checks into the ATM at our bank while Anna waits in the car. I'm reading the printed receipts of my transactions and walk back to my car. I try opening the door when I hear this honk! I look up and Anna is in the next car parked in front of our car. huh? then I realize I tried to get into somebody's other green Honda Accord.

but if that weren't enough, no store had the bulb we need in stock. one little measly bulb. we drove around to four different stores and all were outta stock. now, this has stopped being funny, but I hold it all in cuz Anna is laughing about it. so I stare out the window as we drive thru parts of town I've not seen in ages. and you know, the city looks fine. even pretty at moments. it is early evening and dark. the air is freaking cold, but clear and clean, the lights and neon refracted thru early winter air always dazzles me.

but then the evening got better cuz when I came home a package was waiting for me from the brilliant Michigan poet Robert VanderMolen. Breath, from New Issues, is his most recent book. the package is a cd of a reading he did in Oct. at his old university. it should be archived soon here, along with an interview too. I was, as they say, utterly transported listening to it.

and as for the brake light bulb, well, I was told to try again Wednesday. okay, mister, that is if I ain't in a delivery room with Anna and kleig lights and a red carpet greeting for my little hombre soon to be born.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I'm a loser baby / why don't you kill me

the title is the chorus from a song by Beck, and I'm thinking of it this afternoon because of something I read this morning that recalls an email exchange between me and Aussie poet William Fox recently. I suggested to Fox that writers in general, poets in particular, should cultivate the arts of doing nothing, of just being, in order to cultivate a space for daydreaming, a state I think is critical to any creative work, whether that be poetry writing or finger painting. but in this context I really mean poetry.

let me a bit plainer here. I've mentioned in this blog that I walk to work, roughly five miles round trip, before. I do that because I consider it absolutely important in keeping a balance in my various lives. walking allows me to daydream, to think thru problems, either of composition or reading. my thinking is not systematic in that I could work on systems of logic. rather, that walking creates a physical rhythm that induces a sort of meditative state, and that meditative state is crucial for mental health. I've had friends and coworkers describe me when I'm on my perambulations, and they laugh about it because I mostly look altogether elsewhere. I don't know how I look at all, so I must trust that I do look lost in thought, sorta like a goofy mad professor.

at any rate, such a state for me is akin to the physical labor I did before I found myself in an office job. such work was often soul-crushing, and physically exhausting, but it could also allow for the body to move in rhythm and create a meditative state for the mind/brain. when that happened it was almost a pleasure. the mind was free, and I learned to have on hand a pen and some paper just in case. often nothing would get written but sometimes I'd get lucky.

but why the Beck chorus of being a loser sticks in the head when I sat down a while back is because the art of writing and reading, and the ancillary arts of living varied lives, is also learning how to lose. the poem we wish to write is never the poem that gets written. when reading an amazing text we are humbled and challenged to write something as good or better. that we are always hoping to become better men/women, lovers/fathers/mothers/sons/daughters and so on. that life is a big loss, but what matters is how well we lose.

that the arts of doing nothing is a challenge to free the mind and allowing us the absolute necessity to daydream. that, perhaps, is the hardest art of all.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Blood Feast (1963)

here is a little movie review in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday where we in the U.S. eat ourselves silly then spend the evening moaning and unbuckling our pants to make room for our bulging bellies.

director Herschel Gordon Lewis and producer David F. Friedman teamed up to release what is acknowledged as the first splatter film ever made. both had spent the late 1950s and early 1960s making films known as Nudie Cuties, movies that allowed for a bit of gratuitous skin before the advent of commercial porn flicks. but by the early '60s the genre exhausted itself. so they decided to make a horror film that capitalized on the gore. and boy did they succeed. you see, both Lewis and Friedman were/are adepts at marketing and used their considerable skills in making and selling their exploitation goods.

the plot (plot? well, what passes for a plot) involves Egyptian caterer Fuad Ramses gathering female body parts for a feast in tribute to the Goddess Ishtar. Ramses collects his victims from a mail-order business he has on the side. Ramses is not only a caterer but an expert on Egyptian lore and author of several books. so young women on his mailing lists for his books are hunted down and chopped up in rather grisly detail. however, the budget for the special effects is about a buck fifty and involves lotsa red karo syrup and little else. by today's standards the film's affect little horror in its viewers and more like side-splitting comedy. I mean, Lewis made one really funny film whether he meant to or not. the editing is crude, the camera is static and the score (composed by Lewis) consists of little more than some kind of brass horn and a kettle drum.

needless to say a plainclothes cop is hot on Ramses tail. Ramses is keen on the policeman's girlfriend who is having some sort of party at her house where Ramses (surprise!) is the caterer and creating his blood feast. lotsa mayhem ensues, and yeah you guessed it, Ramses does not succeed in making the cop's girlfriend (Playboy Playmate Connie Mason, who also went on to star in Lewis's and Friedman's second film together 2,000 Maniacs) the main course. when the detective hunts down Ramses in the town dump the caterer is swiftly dispatched by the garbage truck he is hiding in. end credits.

all this in lovingly bright color. the movie is quite a sumptuous meal and I can imagine unsuspecting theater-goers throwing up in the aisles when it opened up at drive-ins and grindhouses in 1963. but there is more because my disc of the film also contains a short, Carving Magic, that stars Harvey Korman and the cop from Blood Feast (who again plays the boyfriend of Connie Mason in 2,000 Maniacs) William Kerwin. the short teaches you everything you want to know, and more, on the arts of carving meats, from turkey to pot roast. perfect for the Thanksgiving meal.

Monday, November 22, 2004

these squirrely posts squarely busts up the blues. perfect pitch, yeah.

* * *

that I consider humor, a sense of the comic in living, reading and writing, indispensible to sanity. ain't that what we are after anyway? sanity, in life and writing. even those writers we think were nuts (Rimbaud in his youth comes to mind) really were the most sane in their work. and terrifically funny too. a poetics that don't include deep belly laughs ain't worth a toss.

take this from ol' Rimbe from A Season in Hell:

I have the white-blue eye of my Gallic ancestors, their narrow skull and their clumsiness in fighting. I find my clothes as barbarous as theirs. Only I don't butter my hair.
The Gauls were the most inept flayers of beasts and scorchers of grass of their time.
From them too: idolatry and love of sacrilege; oh! all the vices, anger and lust -- lust, magnificent -- above all, lying and sloth.
I have a horror of all trades. Masters and workers --base peasants all. The hand that guides the pen is worth the hand that guides the plough. --What an age of hands! I shall never have my hand. Afterward domesticity leads too far. The honesty of beggars sickens me. Criminals disgust like castrates: as for me, I am intact, and I don't care.

(translated by Louise Varese; New Directions)

that's great comic writing. it carries the full force of the emotions and intellect in rebellion, and holds its bitterness together by Rimbaud's notion of the absurd. reading it is a shot of adrenaline right thru the veins.

well, sobriety also has its place beside the dirge. but writing for it to activate all my senses and mind must first clear the air with laughter. c'mon, now who hasn't spent a blisteringly awful evening with an acquaintance who was so boring, no humor, that it nearly killed the soul. poetry, whether in performance or on the page, must for me at least, express the beauty and futility of life by having a sense of humor.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

it is a beautiful autumn early afternoon. the sky is clear blue, wind knocking leaves outta trees and temps. in the high 50s F. my favorite time of year when the city lay leaved in October blood (Dylan T., I believe) even tho it is late November.

even so, it has been a stressful week at work. for the most part I am by all accounts pretty laid-back dude. at least on the surface, I guess. but when it gets emotionally rough for me, my desires turn to a hankering for serenity. and that is a danger sign for me cuz I know a great desire to learn to meditate means that I've let myself get to the breaking point. I've should've seen the signs of stress long before the desire to attain serenity.

the same also when I begin to hate my name and start thinking of alternatives to it. when I do that I know I've gone off the deep end and perhaps real anxiety starts to surface. hardcore anxiety that affects daily routines and sleep patterns. there is a danger in hitting nose first the black back wall and finding no escape.

daily life becomes then a matter of hour-to-hour struggles to stay within your own skin. cuz there is a great temptation to flee to safety, but there is no escape from the self. the self always goes with you including anxiety and depression. I've always considered the connection between writers and mental illness so much bullshit. but perhaps there is something to it all along. or, that writers know language and are better to articulate human suffering. I don't know.

I do know that when I see the black back wall in the middle distance the best I can do is express gratitude. for living, for being in love, for being in language.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

this morning I asked coworker who is a naturalized citizen but a British native what people eat in the UK for Thanksgiving.

--silly, she said, people in the UK don't celebrate Thanksgiving.

--oh, I said. I thought inside the heart of each citizen of the world is an american trying to get out. and this administration is hellbent on doing just that either by force or cajolery.

naw, strike that. just force.

* * *

British poet Tim Allen editor of Terrible Work recently posted this on the British and Irish Poets listserv and I've been trying to think of how to respond to it. america is the last superpower on earth and it ain't afraid to flex its muscles and force itself on the rest of the world. but certainly, the problems with america are not exclusive to these states re: greed, sexism, classicism, power-mad etc. etc. it is the biggest fucking kid on the block, so to speak and the biggest bully tends to be crazy for power and do brutal things.

these states hiccup and it shakes the world. writers definitely have a responsibility to use language as accurately as it can be used. if language can be used at all, I mean. are poets the legislatures of the world? not at all, but poets are deeply concerned with language, truth, justice and beauty, however each writer defines these broad terms. I am not anti-american as it is defined by Allen, but I am frightened on recent turn of events, and how many persons really don't worry over much about politics and policy. or how language has been distorted by lies and double-speak. I do think writers have responsibilities to language, and therefore to every person who uses language, to make sure language does not get usurped and twisted by power-hungry politicos.

again, I don't mean to suggest ludic writing must be shunted for sober truth-telling, cuz I do think one is most him/herself in play, but writers need not sit idly by when politicians so baldly manipulate language for evil. there are responsibilities because we exist in words. the human being is defined by language, it is what creates us as much as we create it. each act of writing is by default a political act whether that writing be a love song or political speech.

too much soapbox. but Allen's remarks struck a chord. my response is solely off-the-cuff and not edited. I need to think more about it. but I do think america may be in a psychotic state. not many american its seems gives a shit that we torture, kill and spread our brand of americanism across the world. it disturbs me to no end. and end of sermon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

the beginning

was woman naked who loved man

naked who loved man naked

who loved man naked who loved woman

naked who loved woman naked

who loved man naked who loved woman

naked who loved man naked

who loved woman naked who loved woman

naked who loved man naked

who loved man naked who loved woman

naked who loved man naked

who loved naked woman who loved naked woman

who loved naked man who loved naked man

Monday, November 15, 2004

Black Hound
for James and Leah Den Boer

would damn near rip your arm off
the leash

acrylic or leather

Ugh! that mutt
‘s barking at night

won’t be stopped
or stopped-up

let the man who says he can tame the brute
come tonight

put the leash on

for a walk
but instead be yanked to flight

* * *

The Boxer
for William Wantling

The cell was tile, iron
and concrete
it didn’t matter
it meant nothing
so that the walk here
on lineated ground
limps from that shiv
done so long ago
now the lips crack
bloody from the night cold

but for this dog on
the other side of an iron gate
watches the street
rocks from paw to paw
how his thick neck holds that head
how brown eyes hold brown eyes
how the nothing that bears us out
from the nothing that is born
to not a bark not a word

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

it is rainy and cold tonight. perfect to drink myself to sleep and get depressed listening to Joy Division. but funny, I don't get depressed when I drink (I'm one of those happy drunks who loves everybody) and especially when I listen to Joy Division. I mean singer Ian Curtis possessed such a voice near-impossible to imitate: it is so haunted. Curtis was an extraordinary vocalist that I believe him when he sings "Mother try to believe me / I'm doing the best that I can. / I'm ashamed of who I am" in the song "Isolation" it is heartbreaking.

and but so his voice was also cold, menacing and distant, a remarkable achievement. I may be dating myself but today I listened to the album Closer (1979) today and it stills sounds fresh and innovative. to my ears at least the album is timeless.

so what is it about depressive art that can be so uplifting? especially for a rainy night. with all apologies to Crag Hill who recently posted a bit on Seasonal Affective Disorder (I do share the same malady: Bush Affective Disorder with Crag), I find cold, rain and short days exhilarating. however, I do live in sunny California where summer is the best nine months outta the year so a little cold and dark is a nice change of pace.

now to get my second Guinness for the night. and play Joy Division real, real loud.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

I'm still pissed about the election too. today in the paper the news was all bad. every single fucking bit of it. so been fighting a mean depression all day. I do want to publicly thank Steve Tills for his very, very kind remarks at Black Spring about me and Anna. I shared it with her and she was very moved. thank you, poeta, you are in our hearts. yeah, Sacramento is flat but I too would dearly love to drink and talk with you, brother. you lifted my mood. also can't wait for your Lawrence, KS issue of your mag.

we spent the day stocking up on supplies like diapers and baby wipes for our little hot tot, whose due date is four short weeks. and then saw the movie The Incredibles, a charming film. the theater was filled with children and they were parading around as if they too were superheroes. to save the world, in the end there is only hope, I guess.

Friday, November 05, 2004

getting outta my funk a bit. I mean, really, really bummed about Tuesday's election. I was so energized, Anna and I went to our polling place at 6:45 am, the polls opened at 7:00 am, and there was a huge line already. yeah! such a turnout means, I thought, that people wanted this fucker outta office. but no!

I live in a pretty liberal area in pretty liberal California, so it is easy to be myopic. however, what is real fricking maddening is how Shrub won by capitalizing on fear and hatred. what the fuck!?

so I spent Tuesday night at my friend's, Richard, bookstore. Richard and his wife Rachel and their young daughter invited a group of friends to come to the store, drink wine and watch the election results. I left at 9:00 pm in very low spirits. the numbers were impossible to ignore: Kerry was gonna lose.


and Kerry did lose by going the high road and conceding defeat on Wednesday and not vowing to sue for a recount in Ohio.


it is not a time for sober analyses of the sorry state of our sorry states. but time to rant, at least for a while. and yet we must be sober about it. cuz we lost big time, and we are heading for dark times. best to have our wits about us.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) was released on dvd 10/26/04, a week before the election. I bought it and watched it cuz I dig the film. then in very low spirits Wednesday night I watched it again. and yeah, how appropriate the film right now. imagine: a huge mass of individuals lose their minds and become drooling, raging monkeys, hellbent on mayhem. the polis become the dead body politic. how else to explain in California the passage of Proposition 69 where people simply arrested and charged with certain felonies will have their DNA taken and collected in a large database.

good god.

but life moves on. tonight I went to our favorite Mexican restaurant to pick up burritos for me, Anna and our little soon-to-be-born hot tot. and ran into the poet Dennis Schmitz, an old teacher of mine. it was wonderful to see him again. he currently has a couple of poems in the Dorn issue of Chicago Review. a kind, generous man who suffered many of my early attempts at versifying with good humor. our ideas about poetry greatly differ, but what the hell. why not, indeed. it remains a large world.