Saturday, December 31, 2011

hello 2012! happy new year!

Blues for the New Year, 1997

My dealer left town
(sounds like a song).

Had a date with
a certain man, but
he got pneumonia.
I guess it's off.

Storm after storm
bowls in
off the Pacific.

Pale and sleepy on
his Tenderloin mattress.
He has different-
colored eyes and nothing
about him quite matches.
A challenge.

Oh, it's just New
Year's. I'm
not superstitious:
the year may turn out
very rewarding. Anyway
I'm sixty-seven,
and have high blood pressure,
and probably shouldn't
be doing speed at all.

Let's reschedule!

--thom gunn
[i'm sure i've posted this poem before but i love it and i think it's a great new year's poem!]

Friday, December 30, 2011

loveless [1991]

much has been made this year being the 20th anniversary of nirvana's groundbreaking album nevermind. i seeing the video for 'smells like teen spirit' on mtv and i thought, finally mtv got punk rock right. mindblowing music from a raw, visceral band that blew open the mildewed curtains of mainstream pop.

this year is the 20th anniversary of loveless by my bloody valentine. it is instructive to compare the albums by nirvana and my bloody valentine and argue which recording is more influential. that's not an argument i want to get in to right now. for me, i discovered shoegaze bands about 10 years after the movement. i knew about bands such as lush, slowdive, and my bloody valentine but i wasn't paying attention. the bands for me back in the late '80s and early '90s were the pixies, the sugarcubes, sonic youth et al.

it was a cassette that anna had laying around the house, gala by lush, that got me paying attention to shoegaze music. i rediscovered these bands and i fell in love hard. i kick myself for missing out on the opportunity to see slowdive, lush and my bloody valentine live.

if there are masterpieces in shoegaze dreampop it would have to be loveless and just for a day, also from 1991, by slowdive. i return to these recordings with great pleasure and deep appreciation for their creators. maybe its age that i prefer the slower, richer textures of shoegaze but i don't think so. i still get a rise out of punk, hardcore punk like the circle jerks and black flag. i return to my bloody valentine, slowdive and lush much more than i listen to black flag.

so i discovered loveless many years after it was released. kevin shields' sonic structures and bilinda butcher's lilting vocals created a sound that was cerebral, exhilarating and trippy. it's not for nothing that my bloody valentine is credited with influencing electronica musicians and post-rock bands like radiohead. grunge in the early '90s may have eclipsed shoegaze and by the late '90s both movements petered out. i can only speak for myself because shoegaze is timeless music. i hear its influence in contemporary indie rock bands such as the electronica one-man project washed out and the lo-fi guitar based rockers real estate.

i love the entire album. i'm celebrating its 20th anniversary, or i have been celebrating its 20th anniversary because after tomorrow night the record will be 21 years old. right now its 20 years old. not that that matters. its all about the sound. and this sound rocks me to my cells. below is my favorite song off the album 'blown a wish', with vocals by butcher and those jagged but swirling guitars by shields.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

small hits of orange

certain to stumble thru another day i sit here guarded by noah the cat perched upon my right shoulder making sure that i don't dot every i and cross each t so far when writing becomes the reading and the reading becomes a life because tonight when i fall asleep i am unable to distinguish between a text i've previously written and composing a text to read when i wake again as this turns like a run-on sentence while i practice dutifully for another day and night erasing line by line THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SPIDERMAN and hope that when i toss it sticks to the wall

midnight in paris [2011]

a thorough delight. i'd given up on woody allen and had not seen a movie of his since the early '90s. not that i don't like allen because i do. i recall auditing a film class on woody allen's movies with an old girlfriend way way back in the late 1980s and falling in love with his classic works. i also appreciated woody allen as a prose writer and read the books he published at that time.

but then the movies allen directed after the 1980s stunk! or so i thought. then this movie comes around and charms me with its lightness of touch. the angst of allen's earlier pictures is replaced here with a sweetness of character assayed by the wonderful owen wilson. if the movie is a rip on nostalgia, so what. who hasn't fantasized about living, or at least visiting, a bygone time populated with our heroes.

for wilson's character, a screenwriter who feels he is a hack who longs for the paris of the 1920s -- that generation of writers and artists gertrude stein dubbed 'the lost generation'. well wilson finds them, or they find him. whatever the turn-around wilson's character gets his wish and enters that hallowed era of his choosing.

woody allen populates his film with actors who look and sound like the real life figures they portray. or so i surmise. the dude who plays scott fitzgerald looks an awful lot like fitgerald. kathy bates plays gertrude stein to a t. at least i bought in to it. what might be a fault of this film is that it is played too sweet. stein immediately takes wilson's character under her wing with gentle support of his writing. even hemingway, that bastard of ego-driven mania, is assayed with a comradely spirit of supporting gentleness.

why not. it's allen's fantasy after all. paris is all eye candy. the script is mighty witty. wilson's novelist becomes a realist in the end but still manages to follow his dream. the movie ends on a happy note. i take that not because woody allen has grown soft but because maybe the demons he battled earlier in his career have taken a backseat to whimsy. allen in later age lets the darkness spread to light.

at any rate, i was delighted by the film. it is, as they say, my cup of tea even if 1920s paris wouldn't be my dream location in time and space. as i watched the movie i kept wondering where my dream of nostalgia would take me. perhaps 1970s paris with the poets paul auster hung out with. or maybe mid to late '70s nyc with its brown-outs, high crime, nearly bankrupted, garbage strikes, grindhouses and punk rock. hmm. . .i'll have to think about it a little more.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

quote unquote

This is what you shall do:
Love the earth and sun and the animals,
Despise riches,
Give alms to every one that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others,
Hate tyrants,
Argue not concerning God,
Have patience and indulgence toward the people,
Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
Go freely with powerful uneducated persons
And with the young and with the mothers of families,
Read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book,
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
And your very flesh shall be a great poem
And have the richest fluency not only in its words
But in the silent lines of its lips and face
And between the lashes of your eyes
And in every motion and joint of your body.

--walt whitman

lowering my standards

was what william stafford often said regarding his writing a daily poem. the question was, what if your writing wasn't so good on a given day. stafford answered, i lower my standards.

now that we are ending 2011 and entering 2012 [looks futuristic, don't it? i mean sci-fi movies and dystopian novels are set in years like 2012, right?! i'm still waiting for my time travel machine and my jetpack!] this is the time to reflect and offer up resolutions to better ourselves.

me, i'm taking stafford's advice. besides i'm not one for new year's resolutions because they always seem like bullshit to me. i plan on doing more of the same as i did this year. sure there are regrets. ain't there always regrets about say not writing more, publishing more, saying i love you more.

well now so maybe. at any rate, i do want to say i love you more, make more friends, get a fucking manuscript together and publish more. i also plan on taking more naps, go for longer walks, watch more movies, read until my eyeballs fall out, be a better partner to anna and a decent father for nick.

but i'm always thinking about those things. the manuscript thing's got me. i want to get enough work together and publish a chapbook. a readable chapbook. also, i want to collaborate more. and head down to sf and hang with hayes.

not much really. i wouldn't call this a list of resolutions. me being a personality type who is always looking to improve the self no matter the time of year. but yet still. . .there it is.

now now let's lookie see.

Monday, December 26, 2011

one of the coolest dudes ever to grace the earth

i'm a great fan of the thin man films. the pairing of william powell and myrna loy is priceless. last night we watched shadow of the thin man [1941], the fourth entry in the franchise and relatively a weak movie, you could tell that the movie works only by chemistry of its leads and is heavy on the nick and nora charles whodunnit formula, and yet. . .and yet. . .it is still magic.

that is because not only is myrna loy an utter beauty with a great wit but william powell is simply one of the coolest dudes to ever grace the earth. his persona is the high society sophisticate who is utterly at home with the criminal underworld. his nick charles character never met a highball tumbler he didn't love. yet with all the drinking the detective used his mind to solve the most intractable murder mysteries.

i'm not sure if there is a poetic equivalent to william powell. i mean there was a time in u.s. poetry when poets would compare themselves to actors. i recall a james dickey journal entry that compared himself to wallace beery. fine. it's all good. after all, there is the image we project on to the world and the image that the world sees in return. sometimes those images meet.

not that i'm going to compare myself to william powell. i can never be so charming and dashing. something about his persona i simply find appealing beginning with his name and ending with his tailor. yeah, i'm ga ga over the guy. why not. after all, he was one of the biggest stars in the world for a reason. he was simply cool.

Friday, December 23, 2011

have yourself a merry little christmas!

it is a wonderful time of year. if you want it.

here is judy garland singing that great hugh martin song from the film meet me in st. louis [1944].


william burrough's classic the junky's christmas

have a very very merry christmas, y'all!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

american horror story -- season finale

i've not been keeping up with this show. so when a friend invited me to watch a couple of prior recorded shows then watch the season finale tonight i said yes. now i'm up to speed and yes it's still a very creepy show. i wonder how long the dark tone and intensity can be sustained. i read a very good analysis about the show reflecting contemporary economic ills. that a middle-class family who are bogged down by their financial burden of their house and that they cannot leave it if they could are suffering and the cause is the house itself. sounds about right. still, i was surprised with the twist at the end. jessica lange's character is getting juicier and juicier. yet, there seems to be a peace set upon the family that tempered the darkness just a bit . was it because show creator and producer ryan murphy wished to make a christmas theme? appears so as the family, after much travail, stand before a fully decorated and lighted christmas tree while two of the other occupants, signficant players, of the house -- they are ghosts -- watch from another room thru barred glass. the peace won't last of course. madness lives in that house. fascinating ending to a very good show. can't wait for next year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

longest nite

1st day of winter
and the shortest day of the year
some find that dispiriting
me i love it

i love the cold
northern california cold
not canada cold
and arctic snow

when i left work this evening
a wind kicked up
blowing clean the cold dark air
and i was in love again

i wonder if there are any poems
that explore night in a way
i experience it
protected and enveloped

there are plenty of pieces
that experience terror of night
or that blurry fuzzy 3 a.m.
feeling of isolation

i mean for me
walking home in the dark
being awake in night
is a source of great pleasure

and comfort
i was doing my best to remember
any texts about night
that share my pleasure of the dark

i'm sure they exist somewhere

Saturday, December 17, 2011

mission: impossible -- ghost protocol [2011]

the art of movie-going is not dead. at leat not yet. we do live in a virtual and physical world that is blurring together at a rate that even the most savvy of savvy sci-fi writers of the past century could not dream of. and yet people do want to go somewhere and do something. movies are still that something and movie theaters are still that somewhere.

it was this that my brother, a huge movie geek like me, asked me to the movies this afternoon. when we were much younger and single dudes we would literally hang out at the movies together. now, we both have our families and jobs that keep us humming with life. we rarely go to the movies together anymore. besides, we have both succumbed to life in the digital age and we watch films on dvd and online in our homes rather than the theater.

still i love going to the movies. i take nick with me to the movies every change i get. the ceremony of the cinema is perhaps what i love the best even if the movie projected onscreen may not be the best that art form has to offer. getting the popcorn and candy at the concession stand, taking our seats and watching the trailers before the start of the feature is still, for me, pure magic. the speed and convenience of digital life cannot replace that magic.

so when my brother called to go to the movies i said, yep, and asked what would he like to see. he chose this one, mission:impossible -- ghost protocol, at the local imax. well now, i'm not a fan of either tom cruise or the franchise but i've not seen a film at the imax and frankly he could've suggested any pap and i'd still have gone without question just to hang with my brother.

the movie was entertaining if a bit silly. after all, where else but in moviedom can you watch a 40-something man scale a hi-rise in dubai like he was spiderman with nary a bruise on his well-muscled arms and chest? lots of explosions; lots of world travel to mumbai, moscow and dubai; lots of hi-tech gear and software; and a villain who buys russian nuclear launch codes so he can send a nuclear weapon to blow up san franscisco because he thinks nuclear war would cleanse the earth and set us humans free.

oh dear, did i give too much away? fear not. because you know cruise and co-horts, like our own local boy jeremy renner and the always reliable simon pegg, will get the job done. it's not the plot that runs the engine to this franchise but the gadgetry and action. oh yeah, with all these bullets spraying bodies i was amazed to see so little blood and hardly a cuss word uttered but for cruise saying, shit, at one point to give the flick an air of pg-13. otherwise the movie was pretty clean and would have no trouble airing on primetime tv in the middle of the week on a major network.

it was the imax experience that i thought was pretty cool. the screen is huge. the sound system is loud and crisp so that each explosion or passing train got the full surround sound treatment. i tell you, watching even a goofy action flick in that theater made the goofy action flick great fun. i'll have to do it again real soon.

but then even gimmicks like 3D or blowing a movie up to fit a screen that is the size of a building is not part of the ceremony of the cinema. rather it is the going out and being in attendance with our fellow human beings. it is the art of popcorn getting and eating. it is the art of watching the trailers. it is the art of taking your seat. the theater tonight was filled to capacity. people left the theater talking about the movie. why not. even in this digital age i saw many people open up their iphones and point their browsers to for more info on this film. my brother did it because we were both smitten by the breathtakingly beautiful actress paula patton who plays an agent in this flick and we couldn't figure out her name and didn't catch it at the end. i don't have an iphone so i had to look over his shoulder. i was -- i am -- amazed that our technologies let us do this: look up information on anything we want anywhere we want. getting movie info via iphone is a new part of the ceremony. it is not the whole part. i was happy to spend a couple of hours with my brother. i was happy to watch a movie at the imax. i was happy that we are still able to go out to the movies -- together.

Friday, December 16, 2011

quote unquote

I always associate art and artists -- poets, novelists, painters, musicians, dancers, whatever -- with warmth and a generosity of spirit. Some form of continually creative curiosity about the world surrounding them and the possibilities of their art. An atmosphere of hate, prejudice and mean-spiritedness is the enemy of anything that makes your mind, and heart, step out. There are exceptions, of course, who feed on bitterness, such as Celine, but I feel that they are very much the exception. I'm not talking about going around with an inane happy grin, Born Again & Co., or Walt Disney saccharine. I'm talking about a real openness -- in eye, ear, and heart. I'm talking about a sturdy vigour, a real intelligence, and that wholly admirable and necessary virtue -- enthusiasm.

--lee harwood

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

self-portrait as an aging silverback

two cheap BIC ballpoint pens
a PELIKAN ballpoint pen

awful handwriting
attitude like a sloth
youtube addict
addiction to words

buddy holly styled glasses
torn JANSPORT backpack
tan kahki pants
and black CHUCK T's


oh man what a drag! what a bummer!

dragging my sorry carcass thru these days

okay i'll get over it

it seems that i have a need to tweet

my secret identity


spin a web in the mercury switches

of mobile devices

the faint blue glow of the screen

reflected in the lenses of my glasses

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


it is evening cold and dark

walking in my own Sacramento Spleen

with a head full of shallow errant nothings

but with -- i hope -- a gallant heart

that flops like a frog in a puddle of mud

Friday, December 09, 2011

fair trade

anna and i were supposed to go to sf tonight and see death cab for cutie in concert but we are both nursing colds -- damn things are lingering on for so long they are beginning to feel like permanent conditions -- and were too pooped to make the drive, stand in line, and endure the crowds. we've seen the band twice before so it ain't like we are missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

well then there was work to get thru. which i did. feeling like the morti viventi i arrived home like i was on the set of romero's night of the living dead [1968]. just as well but then i found a small package waiting for me. it was a book by ozzie poet pete spence, perrier fever [grand parade poets, 2011]. i've been digging the groove laid down by spence for several months now. i think he might be better known here in the u.s. as a visual poet. spence is a wonderfully exuberent -- if i may say it this way -- alt-lyric poet. i feel a spiritual kinship with the writer as we are both lower-case kind of dudes and write -- if i may be so bold -- in a pretty concrete manner. i don't want to get too carried away because spence is spence and i am some one who is a different person.

but anyway, i think spence is an awesome writer and his work simply makes me glad to be alive. here's a small taste from the book.


i thought the shop
was called SLIDE
until i walked into the door!

you can hear a touch of berrigan in this tercet as well as oz's own john forbes. however, spence has a visual quality that i think makes his poetry cinematic. spence is also deeply indebted to the l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e poets too which makes him even more appealing as an example of a writer who married nyc school, avant and post-avant writing into his own inimitable australian ear.

okay, enough of that. i have to thank kris hemensley for sending the book from his own poetry only bookshop in melbourne COLLECTED WORKS. i offered to trade a couple of my chapbooks in exchange for the spence which kris obliged by sending it along. i fear it's not a fair trade. even so, i'm happy as a tick buried in the thigh of a fat dog to get the poems of pete spence between two covers. thank you, kris.


Thursday, December 08, 2011


the strident chords of political discourse in this country

i'm at a loss and why go on

like that lady on the street clearly off her meds


* * *

something of the sort so i turn to read some poems

i want a kind of amazement

* * *

yes that's what i want

a language that i can translate

my amazement

at looking at a beautiful woman or far out sunrise

* * *

damn the cliches

i want to be amazed

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


the far off look of the man

set in motion

again the stumbling forward

falling back

freak it or fold it

like that moment when jh

is buying weed on market st

all poise and panache

becomes a poem

while the poem

crosshatched with scars

but don't be too romantic

about it

passing by the occupiers

every day

the cold the hunger

flick of a switch

and thump of my soles

on the street

open up

say ah

Monday, December 05, 2011

the workers of poetry

the paper today ran this ap this story about computer programmers and poetry. the author of the piece seemed surprised that poets could also be programmers and vice versa. i'm nonplussed. the jobs of poets are many and varied. the work of poets is reading/writing. as for me i was happy to read this article as i don't think science, math and creative work, like writing, are incompatible in the least. when i read the bio notes on the flyleaf of a book or website or journal i prefer to read about that writer's wonderfully varied lines of work. the kind of work that is done to support the family, pay the mortgage, afford the broadband, buy books and get the beer. writing supports the soul, not the wallet. another cool thing about the article is how it underscores the need for the humanities in our age, in every age really, when so many universities are cutting back or eliminating humanities courses and programs due to budget cuts. contemporary thinking in the marketplace of ideas nowadays is how to translate a degree into profits. humanities, art and literature seem to have no place in this marketplace. how can one make money thru poetry?! the poet is asked. you don't. you get a job to feed the obsessions. but one can take the skills, critical thinking and writing and reading skills, and apply them to any task. we live in a post-industrial age. poetry can help us navigate thru these days.

Friday, December 02, 2011

2 tramps in down time

1) dude shirtless appears to be waiting for the city bus
two blocks from the city jail
it is close to 40 f.
says, whoo it's cold
but not as cold as heaven
i've just been there
i need to get back

2) too far gone
in mind and on the street
he's repeating himself
in a loud loud voice
as if imploring god
or whoever will listen
over and over again
meg whitman
megan whitman

i stand up i fall down i stand up again

we all love beckett's war cry on failure: next time fail better. i love it. every person on earth must contend with failure. despite a few heroes on old-fashioned movies and television programs who seem perfect at every turn, like the fonz, we all must fail. it's part of the job description of being alive.

the past couple of days i've been running this little piece from thoreau in my head. i have my problems with thoreau. yet i admire the hard clarity that comes from parts of his writing. this remembered bit is taken from thoreau's book walden which in turn is taken from a chinese text thoreau quotes. this little piece of language is providing a measure of comfort as i stumble forth.

a messenger arrives. i ask him to give me news of his master. the messenger replies, 'my master endeavours to reduce the number of his faults but alas despairs he cannot come to the end of them.'