Saturday, September 23, 2017

quote unquote

I would like to please the reader, and I think that surprise has to be an element of this, and that may necessitate a certain amount of teasing.  To shock the reader is something else again.  That has to be handled with great care if you're not going to alienate and hurt him, and I'm firmly against that, just as I disapprove of people who dress with that in mind -- dye their hair blue and stick safety pins through their noses and so on.  The message here seems to be merely aggression -- 'hey, you can't be part of my strangeness' sort of thing.  At the same time I try to dress in a way that is just slightly off, so the spectator, if he notices, will feel slightly bemused but not excluded, remembering his own imperfect mode of dress.

--john ashbery [writers at work: the paris review interviews ed. by george plimpton; penguin books, 1988]

Thursday, September 21, 2017

to put it in perspective

in this photo taken by cassini before it fell in to saturn at 17000 mph that little blue dot is earth & on that earth is you & me & we don't even register as specs of dust so put that in your pipe we are lesser than microdots & tho i know you are stressed & worried & horrified about these things in our lives & world the universe is far larger & more complex than we can even imagine
there is small comfort that the universe is quite indifferent to us it wouldn't miss us & doesn't even know we are here

which dead poet most resemble you?

me: i like to think i'm cross-pollinated by cavafy & catullus

what about you?

on the same day

                            Anna read me an email about
the automation of work processes thru bots & robots
i overheard some 20 somethings cross the street
when one of them points to the McDonald's & say,

 'you see the touch
screens in there?  they installed them because those
screens are cheaper than $15 an hour'

quote unquote

Let's Cut the Bullshit

In Chile we have never had democracy 
And never will:

They are all dictatorships, my dear friend
The only thing that we're allowed
Is to elect
Between their dictatorship & ours

Lenin was damn right:
Go on being poor & honest, ol' pal
Just don't be an asshole

--nicanor parra, antitranslated by liz werner [antipoems: how to look great & feel better; new directions, 2004] [i might've posted this poem before but in present light it seems appropriate to post it again]

Sunday, September 17, 2017

there i was at a work meeting.  the subject was mobile apps.  how we can do some work using our phones and ipads.  i said it.  i said, i don't have a phone.  there was a collective gasp.  then silence.  then someone spoke, 'richard, how the hell does anna and nick get a hold of you?'

fair question.  i'm surprised i survived the late 20th C without mobile technology.  i mean, how did we do our shopping in the 1970s and '80s when we couldn't call our wives, husbands, partners from the market and ask them if they wanted creme freche or yogurt?

first world problems.  but you know, mobile technology is not an evil.  in kim stanley robinson's trilogy, Science in the Capital, which is about scientists, politicians and climate change, the man elected president, phil chase, is an affable fellow who is elected to deal with a destabilized climate, uses his blog to speak, kindly, i have to say, and meaningfully, to the people.  president chase's blog is called CUT TO THE CHASE.

 it's a great set of three books.  one of the best reads of mine last year.  and i gave my copy of the trilogy to my boss because i think robinson's work should be well known. 

anyway, i wonder what nicannor parra, that most duchampian of poets, would make of social media.  the great antipoet is still alive, i believe because i haven't heard or read otherwise, parra must be about 103.  i think parra would dig twitter, blogger and facebook. 

so it happens that anna woke me yesterday with the news.  she can upgrade her smart phone and i would get the second phone free [well, not free but we would be credited the cost of the phone which works out in the long run as being free], and we would consolidate our separate data plans to a family plan. 

that we did all that.  i am the possessor of an iPhone 7+.  there will be even greater gasps for breath tomorrow at work when i show up with my smart device. 

i'm learning the features.  what i think is exciting is the ability to text, face time, and call fiends and family.  i've been emailing my friends to create contacts.  i apologize if i missed you.  i don't know how the damn texting thing works with friends outside of the u.s.  but if you wanna text an old poet please email me and i can add you as a contact.

but please give me a little slack.  i'm learning the lingo and the tech. nick is damn sophisticated with the technology and he's been showing me and anna how to use and navigate our new phones. and if you blog using your smart phone please let me know that too.  i can't find an app for blogger.

what else?  everything!  i texted my friend john b-r today and i told him about sven birkerts' newest book of essays where birkerts laments the dominance of digital life and its deleterious effects on literature.  john reminded me that the cat is out of the bag.  gertrude stein might've gotten on board with digital life.  that's when i thought of parra.  the antipoet, i think, would love twitter.  duchamp, in the early 20th C, made us look at art as common objects; objects he called, readymades.  twitter is like readymade language.  digital culture does not exclude poetry.  only persons can exclude poetry.  the medium might be the message, as mcluhan said, but it is people who make the medium. 

therefore, poetry is made with the iPhone as it is made with pen and paper, and even earlier, quill and parchment, and even early than that, stylus and clay or wax, of even early than that, with the human voice. 

now is the time of the pixels

Friday, September 15, 2017

i learned today that grant hart, drummer/singer/songwriter, formerly of the great punk band husker du, died at the very early age of 56.

i remember, when i was 15, and a screaming punk rocker, i saw husker du live.  i didn't know the band's music.  earlier in the day a friend put on their album land speed record to prepare me for the show.  the band's intensity, and their blitzkrieged, tempo was a fucking revelation.

i don't remember if this was my first punk gig or second.  i do remember it was the summer of 1982.  i had just shorn my hair to the standard hardcore buzz-cut.  i was wearing a flannel shirt, torn jeans, and steel-toed motorcycle boots.  that was the hardcore uniform.

grant hart looked nothing like a hardcore punk.  i recall he was wearing green army fatigues and wore his hair at a long, hippy length.  i also recall hart and fellow band mate and songwriter bob mould would switch singing duties.  when one would go to the mic he'd take the flying V guitar while the other would take a seat at the drum kit and so on.

later on, my buddy and i exchanged a few words to an inebriated bob mould.  he told us about the punk scene in minneapolis  etc etc.  that's my claim to fame, a brief tet a tet with bob mould!

at any rate, grant hart was a gifted musician.  and by all accounts a good man.

below is husker du's cover of the byrds' '8 miles high'.  one of my most favorite cover songs that, to my ears, betters the original.  listen and see how hart hits the skins!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

annals in generational digital living

fade in

scene: the back room.  the old man is surrounded by his books and has the TV on showing the movie Interstellar [2014] and has just fired up the laptop.

nick enters the room and sees the old man tapping at the keys of his computer.

nick: what are you doing, dad?

old man: i'm writing an email to my friend.

nick lets out a sigh and shakes his head.

nick: what's with the obsession of old people with email?

old man: ???

nick: and why do old people write such long texts, when one word, like yes, will do.

old man: i'll remember to keep my texts short if i ever get a phone and start texting.

nick leaves the back room to the old man tapping out an old fashioned email to his friend.

fade out


Monday, September 11, 2017

absolute music

i am wide awake tho i should be sleeping

i've been glued to the TV watching the live feeds of hurricane irma in florida

including one chap on the weather channel who managed to stay on his feet

in naples, fl in 130+ wind gusts earlier today

we've raised the world's temperature by 1 degree

how does art answer the anthropocene?

i don't know the answers[s]

i saw on twitter a satellite photo of hurricanes irma katia & jose today

i had a vivid dream last night

anna nick & i were in a caravan to get to another state

we had a sense of emergency but it hadn't reached life & death

but we sure as hell had to get out of dodge

i'm sure my dream was influenced by the TV

perhaps rimbaud was right

now is the time of the assasins

Monday, September 04, 2017

the other side of summer

now that summer is unofficially over i can reflect upon an unusual season for we've seen these past few weeks in the u.s. naked racism, bigotry & hatred; we've witnessed the horrors of hurricanes and tropical storms that were strengthened by a warmer world; we may [and i stress the word 'may'] see a pair, or troika, of nations thump their nuclear armed chests at each other; & we've seen a most remarkable solar eclipse which is a small reminder of the beauty & strangeness of the the universe, a universe that is, i hazard to say, quite indifferent to human existence

there is much to be pessimistic about

but there is much to be grateful for & what is a poet to do but to register both horror & joy

my family holidayed on the central coast of california in a beach house where we chased the solar eclipse because the coast was socked in by fog; we saw humpback whales feeding on sardines -- one was so close it grazed the pilings of the pier we were standing one -- & killer whales & dolphins & sea otters etc etc.  all these animals we saw in media res for what is the witness of a life but the middle of a story

we've had more than a few days of triple digit heat, made worse by nearby fires -- if the world is not underwater it is burning -- that smudged the sky & the sun looked like an orange disk

we've escaped the heat by going to the public pool & today was the last day the pool is open for the season, it is a little bittersweet for the summer season is now over, i'm sure tomorrow the commercials on TV will advertise autumn

& yet for today the weather broke, it was overcast & muggy, i thought we woke this morning magically transported to new jersey, but the temperature was in the mid 90s F even if the clouds mixed with smoke

it was while i was in the deep pool [14 ft] that anna & smelled the smoke of a brushfire; the smell reminded both of us so much of the scent of burning rice fields, an odor of our childhoods, when the rice farmers would burn their fields in autumn so that the scents of burning rice married the changing seasons & for me the fall always speaks the language of halloween

we've destabilized the fuck out of the climate, these storms, in the u.s. and in south asia, are not the last of super-powerful hurricanes; our politics is all kinds of screwed up; hatred has uncovered its ugly head

& yet & yet i can't help but be glad to be alive, is that naive?  i don't know as much as i don't know what will happen in the next few months

the trend lines read pretty shitty, AI & automation are here, how these change the world for the better or for the worse is unknown

AGW has probably passed a couple of tipping points

as for bigotry & hate well this summer was the 50th anniversary of the SUMMER OF LOVE, another violent, turbulent time, a not insignificant reminder of the continuous struggle for equality, acceptance &, dare i say it, love for not only our own human being but love for this planet & its life sustaining ecosystems

but we are all here now, as catullus wrote, odi et ami [i hate & i love], & another poet wrote carpefuckingdiem, with love for every human being & for all things

Friday, September 01, 2017

quote unquote

As she says herself, a writer has two basic tasks: 'First, to create his/her own style.  Second, to destroy his/her own style.  The second is more difficult.'

--czeslaw milosz, quoting the polish poet anna swir, in his introduction to swir's poems [postwar polish poetry; university of california press, 3rd edition, 1983]

from an email to jonathan hayes

i saw zapruder's book too.  i thumbed thru it.  interesting.  but i don't know.  another tome about the necessity of poetry?  do we need such a book?  again?  the defense of poetry is manifest by the reading and writing of poetry.  does it have a utility, particularly in these politically crazy times?  i suggest people read the eastern european, and latin american, poets for their answers.  i think zapruder is a good poet.  and i don't begrudge his collection of essays.  i'm not sure i am the audience for it.