Tuesday, January 30, 2007

last night anna and i were listening to the bob edwards show on npr on the way home from work. edwards was interviewing the author of a memoir detailing his experiences of being kidnapped on the streets of new york city. the dumb-ass thugs held him hostage as they took his bank cards and cleaned out his accounts. then let him go. the thugs were caught pretty easily because they used a stolen mobile phone from a previous victim of the same kind of crime, and were tracked thru the phone records.

i bring this up cuz edwards asked the guy how this ordeal changed his life. his answer was that it allowed him to be more free, to stop worrying about the small stuff, and do what it is you desire to do. if that means go to brazil with some friends, then do it. if yr desire is to stay in yr garden, then by god plant. cuz in the end something will take you out, and it may happen all of a sudden. there are no guarantees in anything. we all know that.

in my early 20s, i think i was 20, my best friend was shot twice by two 13-year-old kids who tried to steal his mountain bike. it went down like this: e. borrowed a cool bike from b. (who remains my oldest, dearest pal) and took it for a spin around the neighborhood. e. lived next to a freeway which had a pedestarian overpass. e. was stopped by these two kids at the top of this overpass. they blocked e. from passing and demanded his bike. he told them to fuck off and pushed them aside. as he got a few feet he heard a pop and his arm went numb. he heard a 2nd pop and his left side went numb. pure adrenalin took over and by the time he got back home he was dripping blood from two bullet holes.

next day i visit e. in the hospital. he's recovering from exploratory surgery. the surgeon found that both shells made clean holes and had missed vital organ and arteries. in other words, he was going to heal up just fine. i told e., dude, you were lucky. they could've hit yr head or spine.

e. looked at me and said, lucky! i was fucking shot!

not luck, but chance, which seems to rule our lives. we can guide chance, hedge it a bit, but that is what arguably governs living. like writing a poem. when it is going well i've no idea what the next line will be. and often writing will appropriate overheard snatches of conversation, texts from books or journals open beside the computer, pieces of a sitcom or tv commercial. what i can do as the writer is hopefully use what materials i have and let the poem guide me.

i keep using horace's dictum: carpefuckingdiem, because he was one of the 1st to state that nothing lasts, everything is fleeting, what matters is passion, love, commitment, dedicated hard work. in whatever yr endevours might be.

life will kill you, eventually. fear of life, dedication, rejection, love, failure, work and so on, is death now.

Monday, January 29, 2007

all right, guess i'll do it. looks like everyone else is. so gonna switch over to new blogger in a week or so. gonna have to do it sooner or even sooner than that, anyway.

first batch of super8 went out today. 2nd batch tomorrow. i'll be sending them out during the next few weeks. so don't be surprised if you receive an email from me before asking for yr snail mail address. i do think poetry is a gift economy, so i'm sending my book out to anybody who wants a copy, who wants to trade, and to poet-friends, and so on.

and don't be surprised if you've never heard from me before asking for yr snail mail address, too. poets are brothers and sisters, even if the family ain't always happy.

my email address is len200AThotmailDOTcom. don't be shy, hit me up, sucka!

* * *

watched a quirky little aussie film look both ways over the weekend. the pincipals all ruminate over death, and not as death as a faraway abstraction, but death sudden and prolonged, and permanent. advertised as a comedy on the video sleeve the movie is rather idiosyncratic in that the characters must learn to deal with their and their loved ones eminent demise. the main character played justine clarke, who is brand new to me, is a revelation. she has this face, her face, not exactly beautiful, but so full of the stuff of living that the camera simply loved her. it is thru her that we feel the weight of that ancient phrase: carpefuckingdiem.

one thing i couldn't figure out is what city the film took place in. portions of it looked a lot like sacramento, weather and all. except the city in the movie lacked trees. sac has an abundance of them. it is said that sac has as many or more trees as paris. i shit you not.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

really should be sleeping, it is almost 1:30 am, but been up watching movies, tv and now surfing a little of the net.

i'm pleased to announce the publication of my newest chap super8, which arrived today from my friend jim mccrary who did all the work and did a fucking superlative job.

pic of the chap is here on mccrary's blog. since i believe poetry is a gift economy i'll be sending out copies starting monday. i'm open to trade. if you want to trade chaps then hit me up with an email backchannel like.

in fact, i'd love that, trading, sharing poetry. ain't that what it's all about. yep.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

one of the films i've watched this past week is the notorious bettie page, a decent film that i expected to like more than i have given its subject. i've even written a poem about page and filmmaker irving klaw that concludes my soon-to-be released chap Super8. director mary harron strikes a delicate tone of non-judgment with page, irving and paula klaw, playboy magazine photographer bunny yeager, and the customers of pin-up and bondage films and photos. even the backdrop of congressional hearing on 'the smut racket' are treated gently. harron, in fact, tries too hard given that her film can neither be accused of glorifying pornography, or couching her message as one of free speech.

that might be one of the film's strengths. still, page photographed in bondage gear, or on the beach with wild cats, is a lyrical wonder. gretchen mol who plays bettie with such innocent delight looks a lot like the 1950s model. harron films page's story in black and white, but on the covers of the gentlemen's magazines of the time, and on the beaches of florida, the movie bursts into 1950s era technicolor. quite a technical achievement, yet it gives the movie just a whiff of nostalgia for those days when filming bush was illegal.

that seems silly nowadays. it seems almost everything is permitted. there are moments in the film when page is chastised for showing just a bit too much. we've come a long way, baby. or have we? tell me the last film you saw dick in a u.s. production, european films aside. movies today still seem to blush even when they show something as innocuous as a man's ass.

when it comes to plot, there really isn't much of one. the sumptuousness of the film itself, of mol as page, appears to be enough. but that only slights its grand subjects, page proper and porn imagery secondary. there are two scenes where harron glosses overthe sexual abuse of bettie. and the players, such as the klaws, their customers, and yeager are made to be sweet eccentrics.
a noble, but wasted effort. there are moments of pure delight, such as page posing nude for the 1st time, and the recreations of magazine covers. mol is excellent as page, a terrific actress. the photography is lush. yet the editing and the script drag. the dvd comes with a wonderful short loop of the great bettie page herself. if you wanna save yrself 90 minutes, watch that instead.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

leah's death was so shocking because it was, for me, completely unexpected. we die, we all will die, but each person i care about i want around for, and i know this sounds rather selfish, as long as i live no matter what their age. as for death, i'm not frightened of it, mine or anybody else. it is a negation, a non-experience. what i find frightening is the process of dying, not being dead, but moving inexorably toward death. and also that which we feel in the phrase of donne a presence in absence when someone we know and love passes on. which can ache so badly.

well, anyway. in that knowledge life is continously renewed. i learned from poet john tyson that he will soon be a grandfather. he wrote me yesterday that he told his son noah -- who will soon be a father -- 'how can we expect the world to get better if we're not filling it with our love and our babies, a revolution'

perhaps there's a chance after all. children, babies, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters and grandparents, all. my melancholy brightens in this hope and fuck all timidity and ironic posing when i say that yes, it is love and babies, a revolution. there might be a chance after all.

so here is a poem john sent me written in a fit of joy.

in the big box of longing
i'm plywood, hunk of carpet
logic to yr american. yr revolution.
don't care if it's wealth or poverty, sit or stood
the talk will be of snow maybe taxes, who makes a good shoe.
i shove the lukewarm burger king whopper in my face
devour in 4 bites & forget to breathe for this moment
the moment the moment of divinity
i’m a grandfather.

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hey. has everybody switched over to the new blogger? any problems. i'm using the old blogger as i type and i see that the tool bar for editing and hyperlinks is gone. what the motherfuck.

Monday, January 22, 2007

like a punch in the solar plexus, learned today that my friend leah denboer, wife of poet james denboer [his website in the links to the right] passed away yesterday.

richard hansen passed along this announcement from jim:

Leah Zeff DenBoer June 20, 1932 -- January 21, 2007

Gone, gone, gone beyond,
gone altogether beyond.
O what an awakening!

from The Heart Sutra

--James DenBoer/ 330 N Street #18/ Sacramento CA 95814 jamesdb@paperwrk.com/ www. paperwrk.com

i'd have more to say but now still reeling as if in a whorl.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

a couple of years ago i was in the poetry section at our local borders books. usually i'm the only one standing in the poetry section, but this time a goodlooking man of about 35 is looking at the shelves then turns to me and tells me he's about to meet his girlfriend. he wants to bring her a book of love poetry. do i know anything about poetry, and could i make a recommendation.

fuck. i was caught off-guard and couldn't think of a thing. looking at the titles i suggested pablo neruda, a great sensualist if there ever was one. other than that i came up with nada, zilch, zero.

at least i could find next to nothing from what was on offer at borders that night.

we all have favorite love songs and love movies. i'm guessing here, unless, in the phrase of thom gunn yr all too sour or realistic. what about favorite love poems. there are two for me, tomas transtromer's 'at funchal' and rene char's 'the basket-weaver's love'.

and yrs?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

--if yr gonna shoot: shoot!; don't talk
sayeth eli wallach in the good, the bad, and the ugly

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die...

the above quote comes at the end of one of my favorite all-time films blade runner dir. by ridley scott, adapted from the novel do androids dream of electric sheep by that mind-fuck of a brilliant novelist philip k. dick, and spoken by rutger hauer as replicant roy batty to harrison ford's deckard whose job is to kill replicants if and when they go rogue and return to earth.

in a movie packed with rich visuals and tremendous scenes [such as batty meeting his maker tyrrell; when tyrrell asks what he can do for batty, hauer grits out in anger and frustration, 'i want more life, fucker!'] batty's bloody acquiesance to the brevity of life, and its beauty, bewitches me. hauer as batty transfigures the pulpy dialogue. this is one of his finest moments onscreen in any movie hauer has worked in.

here we see the whole of human questing and questioning on display in the actions and expression of rutger hauer as roy batty. what is life, what does it mean to live, what happens when i die, are all questions that haunt every human, and perhaps one of the functions of art, why art in any and every form is so necessary is that it furthers this haunting quest. which in the end might indeed be the alpha and omega of beauty.

at any rate, if one needed evidence of commercial cinema as a valid art form, then this penultimate scene is it. i've not mentioned ford's role here for he is a cypher to batty. hauer i don't think ever got his due. and in my opinion [was about to say, humble, but fuck that] hauer is one of the finest actors ever to grace the screen. this scene is proof enough of that.

Monday, January 15, 2007

okay, so this ain't cold if yr in michigan, or ny, or ohio, or wherever it snows. but for ca it's freezing! i chipped away the ice from our fountain and drained the water to wait out the freeze. and i had to de-ice the sidewalk from an ice-sheet an inch thick from the sprinkler run-off.

more of the same tonight. we're sitting here shivering in our madras shorts and windbreakers.

like totally

Saturday, January 13, 2007

1 of my favorite painters of the last century is philip guston, esp. his later work where he went back to figurative painting. but his figures are disturbing cartoons of eyeballs, cigarettes, klansmen in cars, pointing fingers and so on. politics and irony and aesthetics developed on a flattened palette. plus guston frequently collaborated with poets, the late stanley kunitz is one, where text and image counterbalance and compete on the canvas.

i've not looked at his work in years. yet some of the graffiti found in the background in the film children of men reminds me much of guston. and reminds me once again that art can be not just created in its process of making, it can transform its environment. sorta like stevens glass jar in tennessee.

Friday, January 12, 2007

i dunno
i'm making it up
as i go

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

before going to the movies last saturday i took the car in for service. so there i was minding my own business reading the new yorker and a couple of essays by august kleinzahler and trying to drown out the noise of cnn headline news which is a half hour broadcast on continuous loop.

i had a couple of hrs at least to kill so i did my level best. i don't have an iPod, cuz i like ambient noise, but an iPod sure would've helped. but then i hear the words 'ufo' and 'o'hare' from the anchor and i couldn't stop myself from looking at the screen and being drawn to this story about an alleged ufo hovering over a terminal at o'hare airport for several minutes before shooting straight into the sky. several airport employees swear to it. tho the guy 'jack' interviewed by cnn with his face hidden cuz he is an airline mechanic for i think united said that he does think it was from another world. but, he added, what i can't get over is why, if it was an alien spacecraft, the aliens would travel millions of lightyears only to hover over o'hare.

well, there's a pop mythos if there ever was one. i can imagine the crew of the ship looking out over the chaos of a contemporary u.s. airport and say, nope, too far gone. let's blow this banana stand! and leaving us humans to rot away without concrete evidence of extraterrestrial life.

or perhaps the e/ts have a sense of humor, giving us just the barest glimpse of life on other planets before saying psyche! and whisking off only to leave those few poor souls who witnessed the miracle of an alien presence scratching their heads while facing a skeptical population like me who listened to their story with interest then bent his head back down to his book.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

i did not pay much attention to the film children of men when i first heard of it a couple of months ago. alphonso cuaron is a very gifted filmmaker but this movie sounded so like a rehash of all dystopian, apocalyptic flicks from blade runner to the road warrior on down. the premise of our human civilizations going extinct is nothing new. cuaron's vision of a world ravaged by infertility sounded too much like the earlier, flawed film the handmaid's tale based on a novel by margaret atwood for me to generate any interest.

that changed a couple of weeks ago when both keith demko and steve caratzas both wrote rave reviews of the movie. then i checked out the trailer online and dragged anna to the theater to see it with me last saturday. children of men is all i've been thinking about, talking about, since then. and i knew i'd write something about it.

the movie does nothing like parallel our present time, nor is it an allegory of our society. instead cuaron has amplified our troubles to the 2nd power. filmed with mostly hand-held cameras in a documentary style we could be watching the news on tv rather than a movie. from the first frame to several images near the end of the film appear to be taken almost directly from images we see daily of iraq [and many other countries torn by war], terrorism here in the u.s., in london, in spain. . .the list is long and the frames of film are rich in details. so much so that it pays to see this movie a few times to digest it all.

clive owen plays civil servant theo who was once a political activist with his ex-wife julian played by julianne moore. moore is now the leader of a rebel cell called 'fishes' who recruit [first by kidnapping him] theo to secure transit papers for kee, the first pregnant woman the world has seen in 20 years. that's all i'll say about the plot, tho i've a temptation to reveal more since every minute of film stock is thick with meaning, i want to discuss it all.

owen's theo is the soul and moral center of the film. we watch him move from a lost, despairing shell to a man who not only regains his hope but knows his task is so great that shrapnel and bullets no longer frighten him. michael caine portrays jasper, an old hippie, political cartoonist friend of theo who provides most of the levity in this serious film. thru jaspar we remember that living is pleasure, no matter how fucked are the times.

the violence is aprupt, unexpected and deadly. from the opening screen to the last reel i was gasping for breath. it is significant to mention that the movie begins with one very important death, and ends with a very significant birth. when the principals make their way finally [i'm not giving too much away here] to the refugee camp we see images of such horror that again amplify our present situation in iraq. i was all nerves here, and frankly thought if this is what humans come to [and at the moment it seems the answer is yes], then fuck it, we deserve extinction.

and yet, there are moments of redemption, deep feeling, as we come to the end. that the peace is never permanent causes us the viewers to seek out either hope or hopelessness in the penultimate image. jasper sings out the phrase shanti shanti shanti -- in a word, peace -- upon meeting kee, which is repeated by cuaron in the credits, along with the laughter of children. thus it appears that jasper's love, delight and hope end the film.

i'm not so sure. what i am sure about is cuaron crafting a tour de force. all of our ills are accounted for in this film: terrorism, government paranoia, immigration, ecological and environmental degradation, massive pandemics and euthanasia are just a few. there are scenes of exquisite horror. there is one very long take where the camera, with blood spattered on the lens, follows theo as he runs thru a battlefield that is bravura filmmaking. astonishing, and something that perhaps an american director would never have tried.

i'll end by saying that this is, and i know i've been saying this a lot recently but i'll say it anyway, one of the best movies of the past several years. some of the negative reviews i've read stem from the source that cuaron never explains why women are infertile and why the world is in such chaos. not a problem for me, since these topics are broached in a myriad of possible explanations by the characters themselves, and like a lot of the problems of the world, they, like us, are at a loss. we are placed in the terrible center, which cannot hold. the falcon can no longer hear the falconer, and that's enough of yeats. for two characters, jaspar and miriam [a former pediatric nurse now part of the underground helping kee] speak of chance versus destiny. it is one of the better philosophical conversations ever put on film.

cuaron created a beautiful, unforgettable movie. see it, i implore you.

Friday, January 05, 2007

ron silliman's post today about community hit home. since i'm a rather shy guy, which sounds odd if you've met me cuz i usually can't shut the fuck up and i'm loud to boot, community i find very important. as i've mentioned a couple of days ago, i don't believe in literary immortality, and if immortality is the fuel that drives yr engine i'd suggest you seek it without using poetry, since it is a near-oxymoron: a famous poet. fame to whom?

writing/reading are part of living, and tho i concede there are famous poets [i'd shit my pants if i ever had the opportunity to meet ed dorn, for example] i do not think that anything lasts. that is not nihilism, but the fact that it is our fight against entropy that is the matter. and entropy will eventually win. that does not mean at all that i consider the poems of dead poets dead as well. rimbaud is alive to me still to this day. so is catullus and villon and marlowe and cavafy.

guess i'm rambling here. poetry is part of life, of living, and if we're lucky we become the texts we compose when we die. for ever? no. but as long as human life is.

community, a few, or few hundred, friends in the art matters. even in my shyness, i value it greatly. i've not been to many readings since nicholas was born, only because i'm a new father and love being home with him and anna. so there is the internet, blogs and email. and i'm not shy here.

a community of isolates, and yes, most of us poets value our isolation, our alone time, we are solitary creatures by nature and habit. perhaps that is why we value language, why i love language so.

often i feel guilty for not calling, for not writing soon enough. perhaps, that is part of the condition of writing, taking it all on, humbly arrogating the tasks of our human language. if that is so, i'm in deep.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

alright; jim's back from mexico and slinging his 'beachnotes' poems out at his blog. dig in, brothers and sisters!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

ever since i read rimbaud i've been in love with prose poetry. and i've been trying to write it ever since. think it would be easy, but no. in fact, prose poetry, a bastard hybrid if there ever was one [and one of the reasons i'm so attracted to the form] is difficult as hell. well, why wouldn't it be.

and but still, there are many damn good poets writing prose poetry. obvious, yes. but i guess i'm airing out a frustration. whenever i sit down and try to write unlineated texts i want to tear up the paper on which it is written. can't do that no more, since i write mostly with the computer. and it would be dumb as hell to try to crumple up my laptop. and expensive to boot.

so i keep trying. but ain't that the way of the writer, keep on going, and don't stop till you get to the end. and the results of our works? who the fuck knows. immortality? not for me. poetry, in all its manifold expressions, is both the way and the threshold.

poetry is not a vocation, or even an avocation, but a way to live in my life. a part of life. one of many parts of my life, but a vital one nonetheless.

when it comes to writing prose texts i must take a deep breath and say, i can't go on. ah fuck it. i'll go on.