Sunday, March 29, 2015

tomas transtromer [1931 - 2015]

i've never met transtromer but i feel, like all of us i'm sure who have been touched by his poetry, i knew him.  of course, this has to do with his searingly lucid poems, but also, for me his devotion as a clinical psychologist.  in an interview transtromer snapped at the question, how has your job influenced your poetry?  the poet responded, why doesn't anybody ask me how my poems influence my job?  for me, a poet who lives and works outside of academe, transtromer's embrace of his dayjob was fortifying.  many of his poems deal with his work and with the role of work in our daily lives.

1998; my first trip abroad.  my first landing in stockholm.  the city was celebrating an arts festival.  rainbow flags adorned the streets in support of gay rights.  in a brochure i read about a transtromer self-guiding tour.  see the city thru the eyes and words of transtromer.  i went to the tourist bureau to find out about this tour.  i didn't manage to go.

i did pick up transtromer's collected dikter in a small paperback.  i don't read swedish.  but having the poet's book printed in his native language on my shelves -- in 2002, on another excursion to sverige, i bought the hardback collected letters between robert bly and transtromer, air mail, in swedish too -- influenced, i am convinced, my books and my poetry.

by his example, in poetry and making a living wage, i am deeply indebted to tomas transtromer.  a little piece from his poem 'guard duty' has become a mantra for me.

task: to be where i am.
even when i am in this solemn and absurd
role: i am still the place
where creation works on itself.

i copied out this section in my own goofy lower-case type for these words have become part of my mental architecture.  my physical dna.  i can't think of a better epitaph for this extraordinary poet.  in fact, i know of no higher praise.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

but always


Thursday, March 26, 2015

from notes toward an alt-lyric adagia

a difference between a poet and a person who doesn't write poetry is the poet thinks about death, a lot

reading poetry is writing and writing poetry is reading

you can measure a poet's wealth by her enthusiasm and love for her art

movies are a form of poetry

for some poetry is composed while walking

success is built upon the many failures of poetry

thank god auden claimed poetry makes nothing happen now we can simply get on with the work of reading writing living and loving

if poetry makes nothing happen poetry can still make a heart skip a beat

poetry is a form of sex

the poet composes on the tongue sometimes on the computer sometimes on paper

the world is not made of language and adam did not name the animals nevertheless it seems to the poet the world is an infinite text

speech in poetry is the same as speech in speech

the universe was not constructed for the poet and yet the poet sings the universe into creation

poetry is as common as a ripe apple falling from the tree

it doesn't matter if the poem came into being on the first draft or 100 drafts the poem does not care

poetry is a form of prayer even if there is no god

writing poetry is a form of meditation

the poet writes theories of poetry and yet poetry does not care

for some poets the writing is visual

poetry is a happiness for the poet

the poet if pressed will confess that she knows what she wants to be when she grows up

there is not one identity for the poet there are multitudes

the man in the back row has a question

when you meet someone for the first time and you are getting acquainted and looking for common ground you discover you both have a love of books then the person asks do you write how do you answer; with a simple yes; or do you demur; or do you extrapolate from that question your theories of failure and success?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

hey, rich, what kind of night is it?

why it's a
               drive in
                                  kinda night

the terrific john kinsella


Monday, March 23, 2015


another walk
another read thru the news
another dry year
another housing development in the works
another bulldozer
another shriek of crows
another dropped cigarette butt
another cell phone
another empty beer bottle on the sidewalk
another group of women released from jail
another cat pounce
another traffic jam
another time caught between the red and green light
another moment leads to the next moment
another dropped arrangement
another asks for spare change
another enters the grocery store
another long line
another ache in the knees
another spare frown
another walk ends

Saturday, March 21, 2015

who reads yevgeny yevtushenko?

can i let the first day of spring pass without remarking upon it?  lovely lovely lovely and more lovely days.  sure, one can be a realist and point out how fucked we are in this world.  oh, but then what of all this useless beauty?

i attended a reading tonight with a poet friend.  the reader published his second novel.  the reading was held at an indie bookstore in downtown davis.  a university town.  the town was jumping for a friday night.  lots of students.  lots of bicycles. 

afterward my buddy and i headed to an irish pub for a couple of pints and bites to eat.  my friend is an adjunct professor.  me, i've not been inside a classroom since i finished my MA in 2000.  we talked about the po biz.  we commiserated.  we held each other.  but we shed no tears.  this is the life we chose.  poetry.  living.  family.  careers?  that's another concern outside of poetry.

before the reading the novelist, a mutual friend and i were standing in the poetry aisle.  i was looking at the selection.  i said, almost tongue in cheek, for i had seen a volume of yevtushenko's earlier in the evening at the sac poetry center, who reads yevtushenko.  i've been watching many yevtushenko videos on youtube.  i do, said the novelist.  i do too, i replied.

in all this useless beauty we find those bits that matter most to us.  regardless of fashion, or climate.  at least in our better moments.  for me as a younger man saw yevtushenko as a product of the cold war.  as an older gent i see the russian poet as pretty damn fascinating.

a matter of perspective.  and taste.  too.  tastes do not have careers.  neither does perspective.  history will choose whom and what it wants regardless of our machinations and desires.  better to just get on with the arts of writing and living.  in the end, it does not get better than that.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

quote unquote  

happy belated st. patrick's day

I respect kindness to human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence to anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and old men and women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

--brendan behan [borstal boy; avon, 1958]

[an aside. i think i was irish in a former life for the love and shared affection i have for ireland, its music and its poetry and poets. can't explain that one. i just do.]

just watched the acoustic version of 'good for me' by above & beyond feat. zoe johnston. a very beautiful song indeed. i love how this version wants to make you dance but also just wants to wash over you with a bit of icky thump.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

good for me ft. zoe johnston by above & beyond
i think i heard this version when i was driving on a saturday night.  i think i was near old sac.  i can't remember what i was doing or where i was going.  home, most likely.  i used to listen to above & beyond's radio show on satellite radio.  on that saturday night they closed their set with this piece.  i was - as the brits like to say - gobsmacked.  very beautiful song.  i believe i've posted before a faster version of this song remixed by thomas datt.  but this version, the original version, is quite lovely.  what i like is how the song pulls in the listener thru its beat.  in this video we see the audiences at various above & beyond concerts.  i think if there is another movement for worldwide peace this song might become an anthem.  call me old fashioned hippie.  call me deluded and hopeful.  but when i hear gorgeous tunes and see thousands of people dance together methinks we can, should we choose it, sue for peace and stand for love. 


reading pierre joris'  nomad poetics
really addicted to this poeta
y mas y mas sez me
back's been hurtin' sumpin'
fierce funny but i don't
recall where/how i might've
pulled those muscles
oh well i am 47 soon to be 48
an age fit for the stage
i sure do look the part
grey hair'd ill tempered
losing patience with the young
really can't complain
it is pi day
nick and i got a cayucos pie
[key lime pie we started eating at cayucos]
to celebrate
let me divide the circumference  of a circle
even if i can't make sense of irrational numbers
i need to get there from here

Thursday, March 12, 2015

i woke in a good mood.  the walk to work was wonderful.  it rained yesterday.  a light drizzle.  nothing to break this four year drought.  water might be, and soon, harder to come by.  but today the weather was gorgeous.  fat puffy clouds.  a blue sky.  a strong yellow sun.  and a stiff breeze.  walking nick to school we noticed the clouds.  they seemed to be not moving.  when we stopped and looked.  really looked.  we noticed the clouds were moving at tremendous speed.

i have finished my interview with stefan hyner.  i am very happy to have had the opportunity to interview this poet who has been my teacher for some odd years. 

i was just reading the profile on a journalism website of a favorite poet of mine.  there it was: education, publications, but under awards there were no awards to be found.  this poet has a long history with the small presses.  there are no, or rarely any, awards for the small presses.

which leads me to a thought.  there are no careers in poetry.  okay, yes, if you read the latest award winning book you shall find in the writer's bio note that reads like a dry cv.  educated here, taught there, published elsewhere.  pretty boring stuff.  so yes, in that sense you can make poetry a career.  what i am thinking about is that poetry is a way of life, to borrow a phrase by the brilliant and generous poet eileen tabios.  you don't get a plaque for being the coolest father or a loving partner.  you just do those things because you cannot do otherwise.

i think kindness and generosity and compassion are profound revolutionary actions.  to be kind and generous and compassionate takes a great deal of courage.  our culture(s) do not validate or encourage these behaviors.  for the survival of our species these are absolutely necessary.  poetry is like that.  i do think poetry is absolutely necessary.  poetry practices with kindness, generosity and compassion is a courageous action.  one need not, must not, practice assholeism.  and even if one is an asshole i shall still practice, at the best of my ability, by my writing, reading and living, kindness, generosity and compassion.

back to the small press poet who has no awards for a lifetime in poetry.  well, in the phrase of the late, great, world citizen poet anselm hollo, in a just world you there would be no nobel prize.  you practice poetry, you do it in the fashion that best suits your needs, because you can not live another kind of life.  there is no reward in that.  there is simply life. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

emblems of the 21st century haiku

two hands full
           warm spring night
a smart phone & a starbucks cup

Monday, March 09, 2015


another day another walk
to and from work
thoughts crystallize
into routine
daylight savings time
an hour's worth of jetlag
bound for an idiot's tale
humdrum ruin and foreboding
then i look and see trees
flowers shrubs
exploded into greenery
another year's spring
and i say ah fuck it!
and make up my mind 
to embrace all of it
the whole damn world
every single thing

Saturday, March 07, 2015

quote unquote

& while the apostles of morality are preaching
Ikkyu sits in the whorehouse
writing poems
                     Hot blooded & passionate totally aroused
        Remember tho, lust consumes all passions
Transmitting base metal into gold

--stefan hyner [dreams 5 & 6; tel-let 2002]

Thursday, March 05, 2015

q & a

q: the poems of samuel beckett?

a: yes; the poems of samuel beckett

spring achoo!

morning walk
                   big buttery sun
10000 flowers = a stuffy nose

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

the poet as the letter P

last night i rewatched a little bit of two movies: the 1985 documentary about l.a. punk band x, x: the unheard music, and the documentary about punk rock and fatherhood, the other f word [2011]i also reread the epilogue of richard hell's memoir i dreamed i was a very clean tramp [ecco; 2013], where hell recounts a recent street encounter with his long-time friend, and frenemy, tom verlaine as verlaine was sifting thru bins of books at a used bookstore in manhattan.  and i realize, oh boy, punk has had a profound effect on my life, my writing, and my thinking.  the discovery of punk rock on this working class california kid was a total revelation.  punk has its drawbacks -- what, who, doesn't? -- but punk gave me a kind of strength to be unashamed of my own limitations.  if punk encourages kids who can't play an instrument to simply, in the words of frank o'hara, go on your nerve and play it loud punk also said you can pick up a book, you can pick up a pen, you can read and you can write.  just go on your nerve.

punk has had a deep influence on music and fashion but i think too on politics, art, writing, design and even buddhism.  so i have a question for you: what has punk meant to you?

you can answer in the comments section here; or you can publish your responses on your own blogs and/or twitter accounts and/or facebook; or you can be totally punk and not answer at all.

what has punk meant to you?  

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

pleased to meet me [2013]

veteran punk rocker pete jones' personal and professional career is in the shitter.  jones gets an idea so save his ass.  call on his ex-love, a music and a radio producer for public radio program called 'world cafe', to help jones assemble a band from musicians called from classified ads.  the catch: the musicians must not know each other.  jones and producer laura klein gather the band to a studio.  they have one day to record one song.

this little comedy stars real life veteran punk rocker john doe.  producer klein is played by singer/songwriter aimee mann.  the set up is based on a story titled 'everybody speaks elton john' that aired on the radio show 'this american life.'  it's a sweet movie.  chemistry between doe and mann is good.  the jokes not so good.  the direction okay.

but then i'm a middle aged punk and alt-rock kinda guy.  i love mann and doe.  doe's character, jones, is beset with the usual habits of a rock&roll lifestyle but there is a lightness given to jones by doe.  jones has a massive ego -- most of the musicians in this movie do -- but he's a genuine teacher and an enthusiastic listener of other people's music.  when a stranger musician hands him a demo jones takes the time to listen to it.  when another musician's song is a little flat jones takes out his guitar and strums and sings along and helps the musician guide the song to beauty.

besides doe and mann simply look cool as two middle aged rockers.  doe's reading glasses are fantastic.  and mann has this cool vibe, and tattoos [and i do like me some ink] that make her presence so pleasurable to view.

can they act?  yes.  doe and mann have been acting for years.  they can give themselves to their characters.  as i said, this is a sweet little movie.  i have a soft spot for sweet-natured films.  does doe and mann reconnect?  c'mon.  did the cow jump over the moon?  but it's the way doe and mann connect that lifts this comedy from a state of merely okay to something worth a couple hours of your life.  this film has just enough of that little something to keep you rockin'.