a search for a unified theory & time crumpled into a paper ball come to a sudden stop when on a very cold & clear night with the sky punched thru with stars & the moon shifts like a broken thumbnail of light nicholas & i are walking home from the store my arms loaded with shopping nicholas walking so slowly i ask for him to pick it up a little quicken his pace that's when he looked at me & asked if i slow down enough i might move into the past
anna & i were exploring a man-made lake that had flooded many decades ago an old train depot some of the tracks started on land went to the shore then dipped out of sight below the water line i followed one set to the edge of the water i fell in the lake that's when i noticed small earth-colored squids just below the surface a few jumped at the air above fascinated i got closer that's when i noticed mother squid closing in she was roughly 10 meters long & swimming on the surface of the lake i held my breath & got below she was now above me & i began to panic at such a big sight
i don't know who i was with but there was a group of us exploring an abandoned factory & we were being hunted by some psycho who was taking members of the group out one by one just like a slasher flick
i don't know who or what the psycho was but with another member of the group we found a rusty steel drum & inside that drum was a phonograph with a record on it
we played the record which told us the story of the killer's origins but as we listened the phonograph needle destroyed the lp
& i realized we'd have only this one chance at the mystery
i hope so. my dreams have been pretty vivid lately. last night, or was it early this morning, i dreamt that i was going to read with ron silliman. i've no idea why or where but the venue was a fairly large pub and i arrived early with the host. i drove to the pub and parked my car about a block away. now this is where my dream gets a bit strange with that sort of logic only avialable in dreams. because for the reading i was required to remove my clothes. but there was no shame in it and nothing at all sexual. as the pub began filling up with an audience comprised of both nude and non-nude people i realized i'd forgotten my books i was to read from at home. silliman had yet to arrive and with a half an hour to go till start time i told the host i'd be right back and if i was a bit late to ask silliman to go first. i then gathered up my clothes in a kind of green room and started to look for my car. my house was only 10 minutes away but i could not find my car at all. i check the time and saw that the reading already started. i woke to that palpitating worry one wakes to with a dream like this and then a moment later i had a sense of relief because it was only a dream.
what does it mean? i haven't a clue. but surely my dream is mined from a worry that i have about a group reading i'm participating in scheduled for monday 2/2/09. on top of that, there is the guilty feeling i have because of being unable to meet a poet friend who was visiting the bay area this weekend because of our, or more specifically - my, conflicting schedules.
i've got into a bad habit that i seem i'm unable, or unwilling, to break. at work now i listen all day to national public radio. and each show and every topic turns on the shit of this economy. frankly, i don't know if such a steady diet of despair is good for the soul. not that i'm advocating cocooning at all but man every story is about how fucked up we all are in this mess. not that i understand very well economics, which always seems to me to be a house of cards. in economics there is no science at all but a series of equations set upon a system of ideologies. if you don't think economics is based on ideology than gauge the reactions of those you suggest that capitalism as we know it and at least had practiced it until very recently might not be the best model to use. you'd be accused of witchcraft and branded a heathen. i shit you not.
in my day job i see everyday the fall-out of the collapsed economy and i know how close each one of us is or can be to the economic edge. these are the days of the wounded. the time of certainties with a firm stability appear to be over. perhaps that is why i'm in such a funk now. well, perhaps there never were any certainties and stability is an illusion but even that we no longer can rest upon. times are changing and i think, tho i can't qualify this statement at all, that there is a shift in our economy. but what is it changing in to?
as usual, i've not the foggiets idea. on a related note today i read anne boyer's piece of the economy of poetry at her blog. boyer encapsulates my thoughts on these matters and i too wonder about how poetry will get published, distributed and finally read as money and jobs flitter away. our relationships to jobs, the work we do for money, has long been tenuous but with the collapse of capital that relationship is ghostly. how will poetry change too?
i do know that poetry shall survive its making and even its makers. i'm not so optimistic about a very many things but i am about that. poetry is greater than song and the movies. i won't state why i think so but chances are if you're reading this piece than you'll probably also agree. so here i am sitting and ruminating to the point of silliness. my funk lifted a bit when i read these lines by alex gildzen:
I confess I confuse movies & poems
which i lifted from his blog today. i confess the same thing which underscores my point that poetry shall survive the wreckage.
i've been going to movies before i could read. i don't know if i watched more assiduously movies tv or the films in theaters. i'd guess i watched more movies on tv since tv was and is omnipresent in our culture. yet it is theaters, drive-ins and walk-ins, where my most vivid movie memories lie.
i've given up finding those films where i know i seen them at theaters, especially drive-ins, where there is only snatches of scenes. to this day i know exactly what drive-in i was at when i saw a series of films - it could be one film but i doubt it because the scenes and the tones of the movies are different - where i remember only brief snippets. here's one such glimpse:
a helicopter lands in the center of a meadow. out come three or four men dressed in suits and brandishing either shotguns or handguns. the camera pans to a house where the men enter. the scene is one of carnage. bodies everywhere strewn and the walls spattered in blood and gore. then the bodies get up off the floor and begin attacking the men. the men shoot in defense and exit the house and get back into the copter.
or how about this one:
a house in the middle of a desert. a static shot of what appears to be the back door and beside that door are some garbage cans. a woman then opens the back door and puts trash in the cans then goes back into the house. from the right side of the frame comes a monkey-type creature when lopes to the garbage cans and starts to forage for food. the woman opens the door and shoos the creature away with a broom.
what the fuck is that about? i remember the drive-in vividly, the sunrise, which was situated next to a cemetery and the cemetery had an old wwii howitzer at its entrance. appropriate decore for watching horror movies right? well, these scenes and a few others have haunted me all my life. i must've seen these movies in the early '70s and my memories are so fragmented that i've lost any sort of hope of discovering what these films are.
these thought come bidden because of a book i'm reading about grade-z flicks and trash culture titled cinema sewer ed. by robin bougie. what is cool is bougie's obsession with exploitation and porn flicks and that his book, which is a collection of articles culled from his zine of the same name, is written in comic-book style. the text is mostly handwritten and in panels drawn by bougie. and a sample of the articles are about the film career of linda lovelace and ad mats of drive-in theaters. i nearly swooned from the ad mats.
but the book got my own memories a-swirling. so i fired up the laptop to see if i could google a tv movie i remember from either the late '70s to early '80s. certainly when i saw this flick i was just entering puberty as i recall having a huge crush on the female lead. but, oh shit, a quick search brought nada. the plot i recall is about a couple and their hi-tech house that turns on them. the last reel shows the couple in the backyard as their swimming pool's water boils as a result of the deranged computer that controls the house. i don't remember much other than that. but i remember the woman who i thought was the most attractive woman on the planet at the time. and the network aired it a few times as i remember seeing it more than once.
man, i'd give my left nut to see that flick again. that's a metaphor for you psychos who might think i'm serious. i don't want anyone to write me and say, 'i've got a tape, send me your ball'. you never know. now, there's a flick with a very similar plot where the computer impregnates the woman. but that isn't this movie. no, i think the computer cum house develops a crush on the female lead but she never gets pregnent from the house. the plot is a frankenstein creature type technology getting as smart or smarter than its creator.
that's the thing with memories regarding movies in the pre-internet and vcr/dvd era. you have to rely on memories. and those memories either add, embellish, augment or elide key items of importance. still, that remains the charm of movies. for they work within your imagination mor effectively than they do sometimes as what is evident on the screen. that is the power of magic.
[written uncorrected on my 4th beer and under the influence of movie memories. i raise a toast to the drive-ins and grindhouses of yore]
i'm not one to cotton to the idea of fate. what we think of as fate is often what i consider a series of coincidences. i could be quite wrong in my assessments of fate but i'd not hedge a bet in its favor. luck and randomness is the operating systems of our varied realities.
still, one can count on luck and plan for it. maybe. with a little luck at any rate. think of a particularly good text or movie that either you had created or have read. if we call if a miracle it is only because the piece fits its own design and that design dictated itself to existence. what the author does is facilitate in its creation.
it is a process i like to think of as magic. talent has a large role in creation but luck i think plays a bigger role. there are mysteries of our days. why i use the plural in calling our consciousness, sub and otherwise, 'realities' relates to their being individual and shared. what happens in my mind is different than yours even if we share the same language we use the same words differently. if i manage to communicate to you in a way we both can understand it is because i have a talent for it, yes, but more important luck allowed the words to come into a shared understanding of their meaning.
what i hope to do as a writer is make that luck happen deliberately from a practice of attention to language, its materiality, and by hard work. i somehow think of these notions as a process, again, of magic. perhaps that is why the traditional word for poet is 'maker'. language is a form of communication but it also can cast spells.
last week i received the spd spring '09 catalog. like any person who is a bibliophile perusing the pages of a book catalog is like looking at porn when you're thirteen years old. what a rush, indeed. but now i have the infoweb to google some of the writers and books that sound promising to see if they are indeed worth the purchase. actually, my googling poets is sometimes met with frustration because some writers seem to fear the net like a child afraid of the dark. and what i'm looking for is a blog, online publications and so forth. especially a blog. besides, i'm not the only poet who gets a charge out of names, their sounds on the tongue and their look upon the screen/page?
there's a poetry anthology for every occassion. the spd catalog advertises an anthology of biker poetry that appears to be mostly slam-type poets. slam ain't my cuppa, but so what. what do i know. what intrigues me is the subject matter of bikers, hell's angels sorts, and reading critical essays about poet bill griffiths i understand the late poet identified in his young life with the biker sub-culture. it was within this milieu griffiths got his tattoos. there is an element of anarchic freedom that excites the imagination as it pertains to certain sub-cultures and getting on a motorcycle and riding toward the horizon with nothing on your back but a pen and some pages to write on is one hell of a romantic notion.
ah, so rimbaudian. i is an other and what i need is a drunken sleep on the beach. but why must it always be bikers for this detail of contemporary freedom. even gregory corso got in the act and there is a photo of corso hanging with a motorcycle club in s.f. even duncan mcnaughton, that so gritty, lofty and erudite of poets, brings bikers into his poetry now and again. however, bikers are way outside of my ken. i don't identify with them personally. again, so what.
so what? okay, but why not skateboarders as a theme for a poetry anthology. i'm not the only fortysomething who was once a skater or simply hung out with skaters or was even a skate-punk. that was my sub-culture and skaters are just as valid a symbol of loving free freedom with horrible obstinacy. i've not skated in decades and i think why bikers retain a romanticism in popular culture is the very fact that you can be in any shape to ride a cycle. it doesn't matter because the bike will do the work for you. a skateboard is a far trickier affair. skating is unforgiving. it hurts to be thrown off the board which happens pretty often. and you must be in reasonably good shape to skate. the indexes for heart attacks might rise if more older persons resumed their love affairs with their boards.
skate or die was the mantra by which skaters live. i still love watching good skaters do their thing. but that is watching. i'd like to see more old guys like me surfing the streets. there used to be a street skate club in s.f. called jaks team. i googled the name some time ago and found only a few references to reunions and so forth. i'd like to read a history of the club. jaks team was infamous and even had a few articles about them published in the early '80s in thrasher magazine. their motto was 'absolute music'. i wonder if any of those old guys still skate.
the world doesn't need any grey heads on skateboards. but it also doesn't need grey heads on harleys either. let's call it even. i say i'll hit middle age at 45, four years from now, and i plan on founding my old guy/gal street skating team modelled after jaks team. we'll call ourselves 'skeezers' and take the young kids to school and teach them how to shred. in the meantime, for you publishers of poetry anthologies out there consider skating as a theme. okay.
with a title like that you know your in for a film that is gonna be a series of pastiches of the beloved spaghetti western genre from the 1960s to the 1970s. sure enough this movie is just that series of pastiches. only a hardcore uber-geek would appreciate that. and to illustrate that point, every one's favorite uber-geek pop culture hipster, quentin tarantino, stars as ringo who begins this flick with a prologue of two warring clans, the reds v. the whites, battling it out for a mysterious treasure in a fantasia of arterial spray and sword and gunplay nestled in a mythic japanese village called nevada.
that's it for the plot. but the catalyst to start the war in earnest is a lone gunfighter who one morning enters the village on horseback and begins to play the reds against the whites and vice versa. there is also a woman with a young boy whose husband was murdered by the reds and who sought the protection of the whites, albeit at quite a cost to her own safety. and there is the protector of the treasure who is the grandmother of the young boy but in reality is an assassin called bloody benton who we first caught a glimpse in silhouette at the end of tarantino's prologue.
if that doesn't make any sense, well, okay, so what. filmmaker takashi miike's never been one for linear storytelling. i'm not a miike specialist but i've seen a number of his films which range from the sublime to the downright boring. miike is a daring filmmaker not just in the level of brutality and violence evinced by his actors but also by subject matter. he is not afraid to tackle historical subjects and musicals too. westerns i guess were next on his list.
but this is a deliberately anachronistic western. the action unfolds in japan, the actors are tattooed and pierced and their hair are dyed to match their clan affiliations. guns, crossbows and samurai swords are the weapons of choice. and there seems little doubt that miike knows his pastaland westerns.
this film works only if you let the story go and move within the images. the violence, as one would expect of a miike movie, is extreme. the actors do a credible job so much that there were a couple of scenes that had me cringing. how does miike get his actors to behave so forcefully? i know, they are actors, that is what actors do. yet, i think miike films at such a quick pace that getting such gut-level realism from his cast takes some doing. the actors themselves are very talented at their craft.
what i think is the most interesting aspect of this flick is miike filming it in english. the english spoken by the japanese cast is not a pidgin english or broken english. but it is, it seems, an english spoken with japanese inflections. most of the actors do not know english and those that do speak very fluently. i was fascinated however by the actors who were speaking english phonetically and thus sounded the most japanese. even tarantino gets into the act by speaking english for one section of the prologue in a japanese accent. miike seems fascinated by language. even in his movie ichi a significant character had a habit of switching from english to i think mandarin and a few other languages that i can't recall at the moment.
given that in this film miike was also using english as an homage to the italian actors speaking a phonetic english in the older spaghetti westerns perhaps there's an essay worthy of examining languages in miike's work. there is a violence of and polyphony of words there i think is utterly compelling as a writer and as a man living in our post-national, or pan-national, 21st century. perhaps the world is becoming the dublin imagined by joyce in his novels. i can hope for that even if we're not quite there.
the weather the past couple of days, and also forecast for most of this week, is rather spring-like, or like late fall. the daytime high hovers near the mid to high 60s and it is clear and sunny. the light is changing as one would expect it would after the winter solstice and the light increases incrementally as we move toward spring. it is gorgeous and one would have to be a serious grump not to love life in this midst. however, we need rain and lots of it. this is the third year in a row with very little rain and we face the dire prospect of a drought. how much i do enjoy this weather but i know that my pleasure is tempered by the stark facts of scarcity.
is that life in a nutshell? well, again, i don't know. i suppose there are two types of people. the first type get rather depressed by their own mortality and the impermanence of nearly everything. what little does it all matter and what's the use they might say. the second type are the kind of persons who take pleasure and joy out of existence. it might not last long and even if most things are mortal should it not be enjoyed even more? there is a poem by duncan mcnaughton that reads partly: 'the absence of you // if I never know you // should I not love you more'?
certainly aging takes its toll on me. if i remember about it, aging i mean. mentally i feel as if i'm still 25 and physically about the same age. but for how long. i can tell that my eyes are not as good as they once were. i've long needed eyeglasses because of a astigmatism and a moderate case of myopia but now i can't even read the print on a computer screen or a book without them. what's even worse is that small print is getting harder to focus on. soon i'll need bifocals. bifocals!!!! wtf?! how about if i adjourn to my dotage with a pair of half-moon reading glasses, get a corduroy blazer with elbow patches ironed on and start smoking a pipe.
and my reading become episodic. rarely do i read a book from front to back, especially books and chaps of poems. instead i skip thru a collection until i find i have read the entire contents. the same goes for essays and collections of criticism. i've forever read magazines from back to front but now i'm starting books that way too. i've been going thru a book buying binge and i just started on two recent books the salt companion to bill griffiths and a compendium and history of sleaze magazines bad mags vol. 1.
the griffiths volume, edited by william rowe, is a collection of critical pieces on the late u.k. poet and ends with a lengthy interview conducted by rowe. tonight i started the book by reading the interview. the bad mags book, written and compiled by tom brinkmann, focuses on the publications hovering on the fringes of pop culture. i started that one the same way by going to the back, then later to the middle portion, but because the book is a history of pulp magazines i had to remind myself to stop and start at the beginning.
oh, and it doesn't end there either. when i'm writing now, no matter what, an email, a poem, a piece for the blog, sometimes that right word is just a bit out of reach. could that be memory loss? it is bloody annoying. i'm just gonna have to dumb down. simplify. and if my memory gets worse? oh man, i shudder to think. it wouldn't be too cool to begin a piece, 'dude done walk down da street'. well, i've read worse and i've written as bad.
and to the years catching up to me, what i've got to say to them is go fuck your momma. but the years win every time because i have no choice but to age.
now enjoy this video of bill griffiths reading at the soundeye festival a few years back as i start shopping for a pipe and elbow patches to iron on my blazer.
that was the tag line of the host of creature features who started his b-movie horror show both in sacramento and later in the bay area in the late 1960s and kept at it until his last broadcast in sacramento in 1981.
i read yesterday that the host bob wilkins died last week at the age of 76. wilkins suffered a long bout with alzheimer's disease. i have written about wilkins before and how much his show influenced me when i was only a lad. wilkins was unique among horror hosts as he never looked the part of the eccentric mad scientist or ghoulish monster that was common among horror programming on local stations thru out the u.s. rather, wilkins donned conservative suits, wore thick eyeglasses and spoke in a calm mild manner. his only prop was a huge stogie that he kept in his hand during the whole broadcast of his show. to me wilkins looked a lot like woody allen and for a while i thought he was woody allen.
wilkins was also unique in warning his audience that the movies he screened were simply awful and that they would do well to change the channel. he even read from the tv guide so we could watch something else. as for the audience who did stick around for his broadcasts, like me, wilkins would brandish a gentle derision for us masochists.
i could say it was all his fault. but it wasn't. i was hooked on bad movies the moment my parents took me to the drive-ins. it was wilkins that did compound my love for these horrible movies. his guests ran the range from boris karloff, mark hamill, i think tom savini, and many more. his sets looked like any horror geek's bedroom. and his theme song was this goofy, high, shiny riff that sounds almost like a marching band and not what you'd expect from a show called creature features.
horror host programming is long gone. we have revivals every now and then but nothing can compare to ramping up, or in my case taking a nap during the day because my parents knew i'd be up all night watching the show [and i'm talking very early '70s when i started watching bob wilkins]. it was a gift and an occasion for excitement.
bob wilkins, rest in peace.
below is the intro to an episode, i'm not sure what year but i guess it is either 1977 or 1978 because of his guest, of creature features.
tonight we were discussing poetry and alterity and science and belief and magic and god and and and. . . . writing is the big cistern that captures all these and more of course. but what i wonder is if there is any way to approach a subject outside of human experience and knowledge and write about it without anthropomorphizing the subject. in other words, is it possible to write from the perspective of a fly's eyes without filtering it thru say my eyes?
should i even worry about such an impossibility? all thing are connected. i believe that totally. but not all thing are human or even filtered thru human eyes. can language dissociate from its speaker but still be of that speaker?
it is too obvious to state that the financial mess of the world, not just the u.s., is completely crazed. not that i understand too terribly much about economics or finance at all. economics seems to be more alchemy then science even tho our 'experts' and even the public at large tend to treat economics as a science that follows physical laws much the same as gravity.
today i heard on the radio that the projected federal deficit for fiscal year '09 in the u.s. will be around 1.3 trillion dollars. that is an unbelievable amount of money. it is so large that there is no way that anyone could ever ask to see that sort of cash placed in a pile before them. metaphorically speaking, i mean, since money is more an abstraction than physical object. then is not economics a collection of theories tempered by collective agreements on how the markets shall operate?
well, before i get completely over my head i have been thinking of stevens' famous saying 'money is a kind of poetry' which i take to mean that money is a metaphor. it can change into anything. it is a kind of magic. like poetry. language also can make change too. can not poets use the metaphors of money in our writing? how does poetry address our present financial disasters?
i know that there are a few poets working in finance today. katy lederer worked for a hedge fund manager [i'm not sure what a hedge fund is. but i do know that hedge fund managers are usually ultra-rich] for several years. her most recent book is titled the heaven-sent leaf which is about her years in high finance. i've not read the book yet but lederer is also a blogger and posted recently this piece of outrage on this financial fuck-up we are in. even more interesting is this essay about poetry and money.
we are in uncharted waters now. where that will take us even the 'experts' don't know. i hope that the near-future gets us to re-think and re-do how we generate, use, relate and share capital. and that idiotic tv fare such as the real housewives of orange county and life in the fab lane, which are reality shows that details the extravagant lifestyles of seriously empty people, are soon off the air because people are sick of such goddamned materialism. too much to ask for, i'm sure. but i do hope that change is soon heading this way.
below is katy lederer reading her eponymous poem 'the heaven-sent leaf' here in sac last october.
the michigan poet robert vander molen is profiled and interviewed at the maia chronicles. bob is the real deal and has a new book out, water, published michigan state university press. dig!
and finally uk poet martin stannard is back blogging some notations at one million elephants couldn't begin to understand. it's good to see stannard blogging again as i think the hombre is hilarious and one of a handful of poets that make me laugh out loud on the strength of his poetry. see his jan. 2 entry. seems i'm not the only one who is fascinated by names. word!
just got an email from daniel f bradley that the canadian poet succumbed after a long illness with cancer and died on new year's day. you'll find more details on daniel's blog regarding the circumstances of little's last days. little possessed a great good humor and composed his own obit. here it is.
after decades of passion, dedication to world peace and justice, powerful frindships, recognition, being loved undeservedly by extraordinary women, a close and powerful relationship with a strong, handsome, capable, thoughtful son Matt, a never ending stream of amusing ideas, affections shared with a wide range of creative men and women, a long residence in the paradisical landscape of hornby island, sucess after sucess in the book trade, fabulous meals, unmeasurable inebriation, dancing beyond exhaustion, satori after satori, billy little regrets he's unable to schmooze today. in lieu of flowers please send a humongous donation to the war resisters league.
I'd like my tombstone to read:
billy little poet hydro is too expensive
but I'd like my mortal remains to be set adrift on a flaming raft off chrome island
sometimes the engine simply turns on. there is always the desire to write but there are moments, days, even weeks, when the need to write dominates. this is one of those periods.
same goes for reading. there is always reading but there are moments, days, even weeks when the need to read dominates. this is one of those periods.
but in what form does my reading/writing take? what platform: electronic or print. both? yes, of course but i think any writer that does not use the infoweb today is rather naive at best or foolish at worst.
the past couple of days i've been reading the blog and a couple of pdf books self-published by chris piuma. he even uses twitter, that online communication device perfectly designed for the minimalist. anyhow, piuma in a post talks about a print journal and then thinks out loud that some of the pieces should be published online so everyone can read it. but also there is a great pleasure of holding the journal in hand too.
as i make notes and try to pull some texts together i think i'd rather put them online, either in a blog format or as a pdf. but then i like the small, intimate chapbook form too. and so far thus i've resisted taking the laptop in the john with me. i prefer print.
would it be terribly quaint to use an old-fashioned appellation for a writer? could i distort it just a bit? therefore might i become a dude of letters.
i knew i would do it and so i have. i realized i left out many people on my imaginary journey. no, no one emailed and asked what i might have against say texas or something. but i'm gonna have to make another trip soon so i can visit say north carolina where guillermo parra is living or my brother in arms jone cone in iowa. hang on, sloopy, i'll be making that jaunt just yet. maybe ya'all can come to northern california. here's one of my fantasies: that poets and artists who try to eke out livings in very expensive cities such as nyc or sf realize that art is where you make it and is not tied necessarily to geography. you don't go to nyc and seek out the haunts of frank o'hara to become a poet. you become a poet because you want to and if you read frank o'hara then his work and example of life in poetry turns into your own private idaho. so each one of you move to sac where it is still relatively cheap to live. i say relative because california is a very crowded and still muy expensive state. but the weather pays for itself. it really does. winter is the best 9 weeks of the year.
wtf, right? i read this evening geof huth's and mIEKAL aND's collaborative book of pwoermds texistence [xerox sutra editions; 2008] and discovered many delights. a few made me laugh out loud. but the one i most relate to reads thus:
i love the conjunction of the word 'loaf' with the prefix 'be' and ends with an almost scientific 'ist' that makes it sound that the art of loafing, of laziness with pleasure, an active verb. a beloafist is an artist of the first rank who eschews the whitmanist air of a gigantic laziness that wishes to spread beyond the horizons but that even in its quieter moments can still invite the soul. it could become my mantra.