Sunday, April 29, 2018

i'm still here

i know the blogger revolution is past its prime.  most poets i know have moved on to facebook, twitter and instagram.  cool.  i'm not complaining.  i regularly read many poets on twitter and if those poets post pics on instagram, that's even better.  i don't have a facebook account.  i haven't made that transition.  i am a poet/blogger and have been for about 14 years now.  i figured my blog is enough.  people can find me if they want.  they can read my poems, essays, reviews and rants here.  i do think about opening a twitter account because of its portability.  i can easily access twitter from my smart phone.  i don't know if there is an app to access blogger.  and the immediacy of posting to twitter appeals to my poetics when i often tap out a few lines as i am walking in and thru my beloved city.

we know now how much data companies have on each of us.  everything in this world has its dark side.  including big data.  but digital media can be a force of good.  i think of all the friends i've made, real friends, thru digital platforms.  i think of the late poet simon howard who made deep friendships with many poets online.  so that when howard died all his friends had one thing in common: they didn't know what he looked like.  they all knew him via blogs, facebook, message boards and email.  please don't think that strange.  the history of poetry has its share of isolated poets who have many friends via old fashioned correspondence.  think of emily dickenson and constantine cavafy as examples of poets who kept to themselves but shared their visions, thoughts and work by post.  i didn't know howard but i was shocked by his death.  he was a poet that was just a few years older than me.  i knew his work via the internet, particularly his blog walkingtheceiling, and liked very much what i read.  if it were not for the internet i wouldn't have discovered simon howard and his poetry.

i'm still here.  i don't post as much as i did during the fevered early days of blogging.  but i find that blogging has been a crucial tool for my poetry.  formal publication is fine but i don't feel the burn for sending out my work to journals and publishing houses.  i can publish my own chapbooks and books and poems either online or via print on demand.  i don't consider poetry a career.  it is a way of life.  digital life allows me to self-publish and i've been an advocate of self-publishing for a very long time.  some of my poet hereos, like jim mccrary, have been self-publishing for decades before the digital revolution.  if we go further back in the history of poetry we will find william blake and another personal poet hero, constantine cavafy, who self-published their poems and books of poetry long, long before the digital revolution.

but i am here, and i will continue to be here until i can't write any longer, or because i am dead.  either way, i figure a life without poetry as tantamount to being a member of the living dead.  i love zombies but i don't want to be one.  i don't think i'll get on to facebook.  twitter might still be a possibility.  in the meantime, please do carry on with your own digital lives.  i love reading your poems, essays, reviews, twitterings, and pics.  i shall do the same in my own lame-ass way.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

from the notebooks

suppose it is not the place for the poet to be the smartest person in the room. rather, if there be a social function for the poet, it is to live in & express the fear, terror, pleasure & joy that is the life of our times.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

the ritual [2017]

five college chums have an evening getting pissed in the local pub.  they are in their mid to late 30s.  they all have successful careers, happy marriages, and children.  they plan for a lads' summer holiday.  why the fuck not.  they have the money.  they have the time.  their partners are supportive, their children are cool with daddy being away for a few weeks.   these are long time friends.  so where to go?  ibiza?  fuck that.  las vegas.  been there, done that.  hiking the trails of northern sweden?  now you're talking!

so off go our chaps to bond, drink and hike in the swedish woods located just a bit outside the arctic circle.  you might be thinking that his is a raunchy comedy where these five dudes stumble into comic adventures as they moan about their predictable lives, only to return to a greater appreciation of what they already have.   you would think that, would you.  and you would be wrong.  for this is a horror film.  the title should have given that part away.

before these blokes head off to their swedish adventure they experience a great tragedy that will haunt them on their trek.  i don't want to give it away.  but even the tragedy is predictable.  this ain't a flick we haven't seen before.  and yet, the filmmaker, david bruckner, manages to take hackneyed material and make a movie that is filled with creeepy atmosphere.

you see as our lads drink, cuss, and swing their dumb asses thru sweden they must contend with their guilt that stems from the aforementioned tragedy.  and as is usually the case, one of our men carries more than his share of guilt.  director bruckner does a pretty nifty job building that guilt in physical expression.  so when one member of our group twists the fuck out of his knee they decide to take a shortcut.  a shortcut thru a patch of very dark woods.

now remember the title of this movie.  'the ritual'.  what the fuck does that mean?  do you know old norse myths.  me neither!  and i'm three quarters norwegian.  my grandma is from bergen, norway [i shit you not.  that lady had a house filled with trolls.  i thought they were the decorations of an eccentric lady.  i was wrong.  for when i finally visited norway i found trolls, in doll form, and more, everywhere.  trolls are a norwegian obsession].

but then anyway, our lads find themselves the subjects of an ancient swedish norse ritual.  there is a creature -- a creature!  -- that lives in the woods.  and that creature, or god, or whatever, is not a troll, but is worshiped by a family who might be as old as the vikings of another millenia.  our blokes find ancient runes, runic writing, and other symbols, in the vacant cabin they find on their first night, and in the woods as they try to find their way back to civilization.

i've seen this movie before but filmmaker david bruckner keeps things tense so a long shot of the woods produces enough dread to keep my blood pressure high.  even with bruckner's skill in keeping my heart racing i kept wondering how can an ancient norse cult, with its attendant god that demands human sacrifice, survive that last century without detection?  the 20th century taught us that the world is large, but not such a big place.  disappear in the woods?  you, or your body, will be found.  monster in the woods?  yep, that asshole will be found too.

at any rate, i couldn't help but enjoy this flick.  the principals are all game and good actors.  the photography is lovely.  the editing is sharp.  and the script has a good sound.  if you want a movie for date night this flick should be on the top of your list for you and your honey will be holding on to each other for dear life as we watch these dumb ass, and yet likable, lads sort thru their paces as the newest victims of the ritual. 

the philosopher worm speaks

i am Shiva, destroyer & maker of worlds
all things pass thru my gut

but if you see me on the sidewalk
please gently move me onto the grass

--john bloomberg-rissman

Thursday, April 05, 2018

it follows [2014]

a 19 year old college student living in detroit, michigan, falls for a boy.  they go on a couple of dates.  she decides to have sex with the boy, in a car, after a special night out with the young man.  she passes out and wakes tied to a wheelchair in an abandoned building.  the boy explains that he gave her something.  that something is walking toward her now.  that something can take the form of a stranger or a loved one.  but what she needs to know is that something will not stop walking to her until she is dead, or she can pass the curse to someone else via sex.

pretty heady stuff.  and already i am suspect that this flick will be an allegory on the dangers of teen sex.  but no.  rather, the writer/director, david robert mitchell, crafted an oneiric mood piece that harkens back to classic 1980s horror films, replete with a killer analog synth score.  mitchell knows how to stretch out dread.  even the most hardened horror movie buff can find much to admire in this pic.

the dream-like nature of the movie is made acute by the technology used by the characters.  the score, and the photography of the movie, again, recalls the 1980s but there are touches of tech that wrench this movie out of time.  indeed, there is a prologue of a victim of the curse running out of her house.  the victim, annie, is a young woman clad in her knickers and t-shirt.  it is dusk.  she bursts from her house and runs into the street.  she is not invisible.  a neighbor who is taking groceries from the trunk of her car asks annie if she is okay.  annie answers yes.  do you need help?  the neighbor inquires.  no, said annie.  so those that are afflicted by that 'it' that follows slowly and steadily walks toward its victims suffer in the worse way: not in the shadows, but in broad view of everyone and no one can help.

but i was speaking about technology.  annie uses 21st century smart phone and drives a 21st century car.  the other characters drive well-used 1960s - '80s vehicles.  their dress looks as if the clothes are of '80s vintage.  but the TVs they watch old horror movies on look like they are from the 1970s.  there is another detail that makes it impossible to know the year of the action of the movie.  one character is reading dostoevsky's 'the idiot' on an e-reader in the form of a pink clam shell.  so i have no fucking idea what year it is supposed to be.

i read that was the purpose of the filmmaker who wanted to make a a movie that is a waking dream, or nightmare.  indeed, it is hard to tell the season for the landscape looks like it might be fall, say around halloween, the characters sometimes where jackets, or t-shirt and shorts, or a dressed in their knickers, or hanging at the beach in their swimwear.  it is everytime, or all-time.  the effect is to heighten the feeling of unease.

haven't we all had that nightmare where we tried to get away from something or someone who is slowly, but inexorably, walking toward us?  we can't get away.  we can't evade it.  we can only suffer under it.  i know i've had that nightmare.  and so david robert mitchell made a movie that reaches into our dreams and spreads our helplessness and unease before a faceless force that marches toward us, forever and ever.