Friday, February 25, 2011

March 4, 2008 to May 30, 2008

March 4, 2008

learning to ask

in the past year i learned more about myself than in the previous ten years.

April 17, 2008

who is that?

As far as I can tell, there are two or three readers of this blog. Reasons: 1. i don't tell anyone i have it (i'm shy). 2. i don't post very often.

The result is that i love my little bloggy. it feels like mine, there all along, singing its song. And anyone can have it.

Mercury is my "planet", but to be mercurial is to be inconstant, fast, and "early". Also good at getting a message across. Travelling along the boundaries. personally, this means I swirl around a lot. Playful. Sometimes not. People seem to see me as pokey and proddy. I stir things around, sometimes inconsiderately. One friend told me I like to blow on little sparks and make big fires out of them. That's irresponsible, I think. I don't do that. What I do is find relationships, and not always the ones people want to see, ones that they'd say don't belong together. So I do, I do! guilty as charged. Sometimes it feels like riding a wave of contradictions. Looking for unities. Always philosophizing, questioning the truth claims we keep making. Restless in language.

But there are costs to having a Biercian tongue: it's got lots of bandages on it. I'm a seeker. I'm looking. I crave connection, but need some downtime for myself.

I am lost when in love. And I'm always in love. "He who needs least loves best."
Here, this is for you, my flower-sipper, sweet to taste, cool on the tongue.

Please taste & see.

May 1, 2008

Happy may day

Okay, I lied about having 2-3 readers. I now have ZERO. But blogging is about writing. So I've decided to move out from under the "bee mask" and present my own humble mug on this site. I've also decided to shift towards a more straightforward discussion of poetry.

Today's "notes" are also aimed to help clarify some ideas I've had lately about the role of the poem. As a writer, I've never really questioned its value. But poets often have to defend these notions, especially when people express perplexity at why one writes something so unremunerative with any kind of dedication. Thanks to a link from Ron Silliman's site, I was taken by Gillian K. Ferguson's splendid introduction to a large poetry-project devoted to the Human Genome Project. So what follows are a few gleanings about poetry taken from the internet with a little bit of my commentary.

My own small small press, little scratch pad, is becoming more and more a collaborative effort of a number of people here in Buffalo, and I'm getting great mentoring help from Ted Pelton, whose own Starcherone Books are becoming more widely known. Our press was featured Tuesday night at the ACA Galleries in Chelsea, NYC. Curated by the great David Kirschenbaum, Kristi Meal and I read to a small group, with Grace Hartigan's paintings in the background. We also performed two works by Michael Basinski. I hope to have some photos up in the photo section in the next day or two.

Reading Exacts a Heavy Cost:

just listen to this summary of what it "costs" to read a book:

"Self-publishing companies may produce books for less than $5, but how much does all this production cost readers? In "So Many Books," Zaid playfully writes that "if a mass-market paperback costs $10 and takes two hours to read, for a minimum-wage earner the time spent is worth as much as the book." But for someone earning around $50 to $500 an hour, "the cost of buying and reading the book is $100 to $1,000" — not including the time it takes to find out about the book and track it down." "You're an Author? Me Too!" NYT, April 27, 2008, by Rachel Donadio

Oh, the agony of connecting to the creative mind! So much is revealed here. Its good that Zaid "playfully" draws this comparison, rather than have anyone take these remarks seriously. Even I, in my dissertation conclusion, provided a formula for the "cost" of poetry in terms of energy used, and value of the paper—trying to quantify the value of my dissertation, but rather ironically. Most common ideas of the "worth" of poetry are perplexing, as we are all attempting to actualize our creative potentials (at least, I think we should be). But again and again, for academic job applications, grants, for friends and family, I find there always seems to be some kind of needed justification for the activity. What are the basic questions writers ask in their efforts to write literature? Are these really a "valuable" set of questions being asked of writers? As writers are now more and more frequently asking themselves about their place in the larger society, about the relation of writing to economy (always a complicated affair, but an important one), but also to all our other relationships, communities, writing friends & connections, our aesthetic ideas, our reasons for the WORK, I find writing to be the affirmation of personal/introspective relationships, a social responsibility, and an endlessly renewable resource. Hard to box in!

Some other recently blog-googled-internet comments have helped. Bob Grumman (an eminent visual poet) breaks down some basic, though necessary distinctions. He is responding to a rather lunkheaded essay he read in the New Criterion (bleagh!) that lamented poetry's "loss of audience" since the days of Longfellow. A friend of mine reminded me the other day that she doesn't "get" poetry or painting, and yet, she is, on her own terms, a very accomplished new media artist. I take her opinions seriously, and feel the questions raised need to be addressed. Grumman explains why poetry is not "popular": it is simply that the most prevalent examples of poetry are poorly defined. Distinctions can be usefully made about WHY people read a poem at all. And we can find poetry/poetic works easily available in any number of places & forms. These poetic forms are just not defined in the same way as those forms that typically announce themselves as poems. But poetry is an art form. It is a literature. One doesn't spend 20 years of their life in the study of a subject and in the practice of their art without recognizing its validity. That we are challenged so continuously to validate it for others is actually part of the practice itself. But I'll let Bob explain a little:

"The reason poetry is no longer as popular as it may have been in Longfellow's day is that newer forms of art can do what it used to do for the aesthetically unsophisticated much better than it could. For instance, (1) still and cinematic photography are its superior at capturing easily-digested moments of beauty in both the natural and man-made world, and are widely and cheaply available; (2) the novel--and now--the movies and television--easily surpass it in story-telling, and are widely and cheaply available; (3) television talk-show hosts, news commentators, televangelists and the like are vastly more facile than it in expressing moral dogma, and are widely and cheaply available; and (4) pop musicians (in particular, rap artists--whose lyrics are memorized as lovingly as any prior poets' texts) outdo it in providing the simple fun of doggerel, sentimentality and plain stupidity, and their texts are widely and cheaply available.

The few poets who do reach a wide audience do it by conventionally expressing simple human truths that appeal to the masses, but only if they are establishment-aided representatives . . ., unusually effective careerists like Billy Collins, or celebrities like Jewel. As for our best poets, they compose for people with functioning minds and viscera. The result is poetry using traditional means that is, for the most part, dauntingly complex, and/or poetry that is innovative in the manner of Cummings or Pound, or of contemporary language-centered and pluraesthetic poetries. And the limited, and quiet, audience. It's as simple as that."

A good confirmation. I was also blown away by Gillian K. Ferguson's "manifesto" this morning, who is taking rhetorical direction from Wordsworth, no less! Her work can be found in the newly launched, completely free online publication of a "1000 page" poem on the Human Genome. In her introduction to the poem, she has this to say about the role of the poet:

"The role of the popular science writer as a 'filter' is obviously vital; but along with this, I believe there is no better 'way in' than the arts; and no better language than poetry to help this process. Poetry is the 'right' kind of language; it can be used to express grand concepts, but will not abandon feeling, reactions, emotional responses as invalid or 'wrong' because these things are 'non-factual'; or rather, cannot be expressed as equations, computations or chemistry."

"Poetry's special language is able to incorporate, bridge, and explore these parts of understanding as first nature; as an expansion of vision and perspective, thus contributing to greater understanding. The prevalent view of science as being somehow an absolute dictator whose stark facts must be accepted unquestioningly as the entire truth - contrasting with the intuitive notion of the messier, more blurred, interconnecting, seeping understanding of life that being alive instead presents to us - is no longer adequate. And even the most detailed blow-by-blow minute breakdown of the anatomy and processes of a flower, down to the very last chemistry and molecule, misses out something vital in the nature of that flower if this description conveys nothing of the flower's beauty and aesthetic impact on the human senses. The purely factual picture lacks adequate range of vision to present the whole meaning of the flower. In addition, we are simply missing out on some of the most fabulous and mind-expanding findings ever made by mankind; life revealed at its most marvellous, creative, and spellbinding."

I agree! I agree! Please go and read her entire introduction. While I appreciate the critical abilities of serious intellectual work, especially when it is helpful in defining one's terms of value; of late, and increasingly, I am much more inclined towards work that inculcates positive visions of communication, and have a sense of a clear purpose and goal, especially when I read discussions about poetry. Wild proliferation catches me every time, rather than timid passivity or useless aesthetic surgeries.

May 3, 2008


little scratch pad is a poetry press--poetry as a poetics--for the reorganization/revitalization/reboot of the senses.

It will scratch you, like a scrubbie, or a kitty if you rub its fur the wrong way.

little scratch pad is the metal kink in the supersupple Brancusi sculpture that is your life.

little scratch pad is a big launch pad.

A little scratch pad is a small, bound set of leaves for writing notes, fleeting ideas, dreams, images, or sudden realizations.

A little scratch pad is ready-to-hand, there when you need it.

little scratch pad is a little house for even littler devils, small imps, or hungry mini-demons.

Demons prevent us from achieving clarity--they muddy the waters just enough to play tricks on our weaknesses. It is said that the great Chinese poet Po Chu-I could not achieve true enlightenment or liberation because he was bound down by his "poetry demon" or "word karma".

little scratch pad will free your ghosts, send 'em on home, back into the dust.

Nobody knows what Jesus was drawing in the dust when they brought the alleged adultress before him.

The little scratch pad knows.

Honor the dust.

May 5, 2008


Current mood:blustery

okay, my page used to be set to "private", but not anymore, or at least i think so. that's why i had no readers. i'm still not sure if i'm available to "everybody" yet--hmm. i got readers now! hooray. keep writing poetry. And study plants. And go outside and do something useful and fun. you done been told.

May 7, 2008

Coltan Mining with DigDug

Dig it! I helped out a with a neighborhood artist's video game project (she's actually a full-time professor of media studies). I am working at the School for Perpetual Training. I also did some of the voice-overs for the the intro video. I was paid 8 biodegradable wheat-based guitar picks for my efforts.

To learn more about this and other exciting art projects, look up Stephanie Rothenberg on the internet.

May 8, 2008

city natures

last night i visited the UB Green Library for the first time. It hosted a lecture and readings by Jonathan Skinner and Ben Lyle Bedard. Jonathan Skinner discussed his journal Ecopoetics, recent notes on constraint-based poetics and pastoralism, and how this activity influences some of his writing projects, especially his "Warbler Series" poems. He then read some examples of these works--dense, engaging, homophonic, onomatopoetic. His primary model for these works lies in Louis Zukofsky's late-career poems 80 Flowers. Bedard began by reading two poems from his new chapbook Implicit Lyrics. He then offered poems from an unpublished series entitled Mayflies. This series is composed of 24 sonnets, to reflect each hour of the one-day sexathon orgy that is the mayfly's above-water existence (another Zukofsky-inspired constraint--the "24" sections, not the sexathon, as far as I know). He hit upon the idea for sonnets when he discovered that the mayfly's body is typically divided into 14 sections by entomologists (though, as he noted, many of these segments are, above water, completely useless--which doesn't mean that most of his lines were useless/vestigial, in fact, every line resounded wonderfully). A high- (or low, depending on your vantage) point was reached when Ben boasted the first poetic use of the term "sub-anal plate". "Buggery!" Skinner quipped from a safe distance. I'm writing this well after the fact, but my impression of Bedard's poems were of a vivid recasting/remolding of a particularly frustrating/satisfying relation of body to body, and the emotional/intellectual ways to reflect that tension and release through musical speech. Skinner's poetry is a "condensery"--a way of filtering a plethora of information and sense-experience into tightly charged lines, bristling and radiating on the verges of sense and substance.

Ben Lyle Bedard's book.

I'm also happy to announce that Little Scratch Pad Editions will be publishing a Jonathan Skinner chapbook this summer!

May 9, 2008

No. 66

Current mood:content

I'd like to post a few links here today. The first is self-serving: a link to the audio files from Urban Epiphany 2008. If you'd like to hear me read four poems from my book Roofing and Siding (BalzeVOX, 2007), scroll down to ol' 66 and click:

I also really liked the poem read by Peter Vullo (67). I was really impressed by the quality of all the poems and readings this year.

My second link is to one of my favorite poet's blogs, "Lisablog" by Lisa Jarnot. Yesterday she explained the way of flowers in clear, demotic english:

I heard Jonathan Skinner and Brenda Coultas reading their amazing work last night at the Butler Library at Buffalo State College. It was really great to see old friends like William Sylvester, and good Buffalo State friends like Greg Bigglieri, David Landrey, Allen Shelton, and the curator of the Rooftop poetry series Lisa Forrest. Everyone who attended got a free broadside of Jonathan Skinner's poems from Buffalo Vortex!

I realize now that I'm very sensitive when conversations turns to academic jobs. Someday I'll be able to talk about them, but for now it really hurts.

May 10, 2008

heavy belt

Yesterday, for the third straight night in a row, I attended a poetry reading. It was Meredith Quartermain and Stephen Collis at Rust Belt Books. After a rather disappointing dinner of striped sea bass, amply made up for with the great warmth and brilliance of good company (so good to meet & talk to Nomados Press //Robert Duncan editor & legend Peter Quartermain!), I heard some of the most interesting, funny, Vancouver wild berry anarchic poetry I've heard in a long time (though I can't remember ever hearing that kind of poetry before--). Oh how i'd like a week out there on the Pacific rim! Thanks to the readers for rounding out a very busy, intense, heavy week. Jim Maynard and Rich Owens gave eloquent, detailed introductions, as well.

I'm getting ready for my once-a-month "poetry tasting" down at the bookstore tomorrow--after the amount of natural/supernatural boundary walks I've been on through the week's close listening, I'm hoping to discuss work in Ecopoetics and Field book's recent publication of Robert Kocik's Rhuhrbarb. Sadly, I didn't get a copy of Brenda Coultas' new book. But I've also been marvelling at Matt Chambers' most recent issue of Pilot (a collection of 16 individually-bound booklets featuring new poetry from England), so I may have to bring that along with me. Also, whatever falls off the shelf of Rust Belt Book's "Hot Fresh Local" section. Remember: hot coffee :: fresh bread! Buy local, think purple!

Looking forward to the publication and launch of little scratch pad's Imaginary Poems for my Imaginary Girlfriend Named Anabel by Elizabeth Mariani, a gale force local spoken word poet, in the coming days.

wee personal notes (WPNs):
The starlings are just now picking over the neighbor's backyard. My own is, sadly, all concrete. The arrival of songbirds now fills the morning air with sweet song. I dreamed a crow flew in my open window and stole my capo.

May 11, 2008

phase space harmony patience

Phase n (1812): a particular appearance or state in a regularly recurring cycle of changes.

Space n (14c): a period of time. (Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary)

time of appearances, regular cycle of changes, periodicity.

reading: Rene Daumal's Mount Analog, Saint Augustine's Confessions.

poetry tasting: olive batard with pesto or cream cheese, Guatemalan La Voz. Poetry by Josh Smith, Douglas Manson ("Poor Poem II"), Scott Thurston, Earth's Daughters, William Stafford and Lila Zemborain

(thank you thank you to Rust Belt Books
: :
harmony n [14c]: CORRESPONDENCE, ACCORD : internal calm : TRANQUILLITY : an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative)

hexagram: 29 K'an. "If you are sincere, you have success in your heart, and whatever you do succeeds." Water, a plunging in, the middle son: the heart. the soul locked up within the body, accustoming oneself to the objective, not the subjective; danger. Change in lines 1 and 3: he has lost the right way: misfortune. He must wait until a way out shows itself. There is nothing to be done. These lines change into: 5, Hsu. Waiting (Nourishment). Have patience, perservere. The rain and food are on their way.

Have patience, have patience.
God is patient, too,
think of all the times that others had to wait for you.

May 13, 2008


We sometimes, if adventurous, seek constancy in the most unlikely of places.

I was floored/flooded today with an impetus towards "the source" in my reading, and spent six hours at the PBS site Religion & Ethics Weekly reading interviews collected in the book The Life of Meaning. Chris Hedges: "in zones of conflict the only antidote [to the pervasive worship of death] is people who find their fulfillment, their sense of being, in love." He remarked that those who can overcome the local antagonisms are usually in mixed marriages across religious, ethnic or racial divides. As I encounter more and more arguments of late that swell/steamroll a discourse of "the death of nature," I can't help but feel that we are being red herringed into the same old/ new sounding "threat" discourse as a way of mitigating the economic shift in American life away from blatant consumerism towards sustainability and local agri/ergo/apicultures. Thich Naht Hanh: We speak of suffering in terms of food. Nothing can survive without food, even your love. If you don't feed your love properly, your love will die. Your suffering is there because you have been feeding it, rather than your love. If you know how to recognize the source of the nutrients of your suffering, and you know how to cut off the source of that nutrition, then the suffering will have to vanish. Seyyed Hossein Nasr: "I think there is no more crucial a problem for our day than to be able to cross religious frontiers while preserving our own integrity. In fact, I think this is the only exciting intellectual adventure of our times." And finally, Studs Terkel, whose book title sums it all up: HOPE DIES LAST. I hope we, as a species, can surpass the ingrained notion that our "biology", "instincts" or existential categories for explaining why "you are you because of your instincts, race, ethnicity, genes, or upbringing, and that's just BAD," will be replaced with an ethics that allows for mistakes, for our giving ourselves and all "others" room to CHANGE & understand before the labels, brandings, and prejudices overwhelm us with mystifying/self justifying exclusiveness.

Everything grows.


did I forget to say "I love you" ?

May 14, 2008


I had a good time on Monday night: hearing Gretchen Schulz and Doug Morgano perform some amazing music as the early show for Mike Meldrum's open mic at Nietzsche's. Then a young man played a haunting melody on a wooden flute, then a song on a smaller flute, and finally, he used a coffee stirrer as a mouth harp. Rose Bond sang three songs: the haunting story of "Gypsy Boy," "Columbine" and a song about a former boyfriend. Then it was Natalie Ben-Wa (sp?), who sang a song "Chutes and Ladders", and two others I can't remember. Then I sang three songs: "Mutiny," "Burned Clean," and "Soup Circuit". Then Josh Gage of the Genuflektors played--the two I remember are "You're Gone," and a song that might be titled (i'm guessing here) "Too Good For Me."

"Soup Circuit" tells the story of two people who worked together in a busy diner, and while they always liked each other, it took a little accident for them to realize they had something going on. One day they stayed after closing to prepare a big kettle of soup to give to Food Not Bombs. It was the first time they had worked side by side (she kept the counter, and he was one of the cooks). That night they shared chores preparing the broth, cutting the vegetables, getting just the right balance of spices into the mixture, and putting everything into the pot. After all the ingredients had been added, and the soup had simmered for an hour or so, they both leaned over the kettle at the same time, and the rich smell of the cooking vegetables, garlic and broth rose up in a sweet steam that enveloped and intoxicated them. Their eyes met. They held each the other's gaze in the warm mist, melted into a kiss, and tumbled into a loving embrace. . . .

Soup Circuit

He played a scientist atop
of a lonely crag always looking up.
He was a teacher with no blackboard
or students seduced by his knowledge hoard.
She smiled in her pearls one night,
climbed the leaning towers just to study the light.
He woke up again alone
in a misfit tension with no version of home.

He wondered what it would mean
to wake up from his fevered dream.
She said his edges were all too rough---
but smooth ain't easy when the world's fucked up.

so come on
she whispered to him in the indigo dawn,
and the wheel rolls on and on
get your grip on it son, or leave it alone.

but he never thought his words would sink,
melt into sweet sweet water from which she would drink.
so come on--
come on!

She asked did you ever think that we could be
living backwards in time from the stars to the sea?
Misplaced grapes grafted to an asphalt vine,
we could knot up the highways with our unclaimed wine
He said, you're a mirror so polished I just might see through,
that this well of reflection could return to you.
I hear the bell ringing at the diner door,
it's a band of hungry ghosts I can't feed anymore--

Or wonder what it would mean
to wake up from this fevered dream.
The game we're playing is far too tough,
if you'd just hold on tightly, we might both stand up--

So come on

he called out to her across thirty-two lawns,
and the wheel of my love rolls on,
put your hands on me, baby, or leave me alone,
'cause I never thought my words would sink,
melt into sweet, sweet water from which you drink.
So come on
come on
come on
come on!

(copyright held)

May 16, 2008

A Poem By William Bronk

The License

Summer is the deepness of trees. I am won
by the wonder. Riches. Splendor. The tree itself
the fruit I feast on. I am unforbidden.

William Bronk (Talisman 2, 1989)

May 17, 2008

Ewart & Stephanie

--rain comes rolling in off the lake
--lying in saturday a.m. grass
--swifts, loons, terns, gulls, redwing

last night: griot bitter cola nut, beers, Rick Smith singing, then down to Hallwalls for Douglas R. Ewart, who played with (take a deep breath)--rey scott, steve baczkowski, greg horn, ringo brill, verneice turner, odell northington, greg piontek, greg millar, and ravi padmanabha. A tentet arkestrative double set of enormous landscapes 100 instruments swells expansions contractions liberations defenestrations dense riffs rilling converging into cataracts of wail-bone Aboriginal evokations---i'll stop here--TOO MUCH

Today's poems are brought to us by Stephanie, and they were found next to a chain link fence by the lake:

Leana is my sissy
she loves green beans
I love to give her kissy's
She's like one thousand queens.

My name is Stephanie
I go to school 101
I have one dog
and I love to have fun.

I hate to read
So I try to speed
I have a favorite book
It is about looks.

I love my best friends
we always lend trends [sp?]
one's name is Katie
she's a little lady
I have a bracelet that bends.

Thank you Stephanie for you poetic exercises! I'm sorry you lost your homework.

I hope you grow up to love reading as much as I do.

Cheers--much LSP goodness is in store for upcoming weeks!

May 20, 2008


homeopathic strawberry

and a lilac tree

and the pleated cotton of a dress,

and a cloth belt sailing its turquiose tail

along and down her hips

are signs merely

but of significance,

as what some otherwise

needed agreement

speaks, the hand scripts,

falls quickly into dust.

the taste

sweet red & cool

and the beautiful air

of these purple blossoms,

the texture and fold of fabrics

and the loose color

of a sash

these remain.

May 21, 2008


"Our friendship, all friendship consists in this: I can learn, acquire or attain something only when you also have learned, acquired or attained the same. our friendship is for perpetual re-creation. Our first work for attaining friendship is to break with all that is ordinarily considered friendship: alliance in deceit, familiarity (complicity in the fall), commodity, connivance in sleep, rejection of responsibilities one for the other. Therefore, in front of you, I must not allow myself any weakness. All our encounters must be sacred moments."

letter to Luc Dietrich, 1944. From Rene Daumal: the Life and Work of a Mystic Guide by Kathleen F. Rosenblatt.p.28

Dear friend,
I would acquire the skill to bake bread. Learn the note that carries you through the night. Repair the roof over your house of contemplation. Attain the water to dissolve the limestone of your heart. Learn to teach what wisdom we share.

All faults have become disciplines.

May 21, 2008


isn't that something--we all wore red.

sue, in green and blue, didn't bring her camera.

May 25, 2008


the blog took a hiatus to wander in the new verdancy--tiny white musk flowers, lilac trees, birds singing sweet through any possible sorrow--and yes, people is crazy crazy apes, us stone folks know. Forgoing the use of a car really sharpens the perception of hurryscurry these machines invoke in the human animal. If i can be so bold, i'd even suggest that automotive temporality SHRINKS our time & perception rather than enhancing it. Consider your walks a symphonic performance that the world orchestrates, the first note beginning with the first foot out the door. Whereas running errands in the car seems like some kind of life-threating survival game accompanied by a heavy metal band screaming thunder and thor into your ear. But some people love that shit. Who am i to tell you what to love? we is what we be.

little scratch pad is working hard--it just occured to me that a "scratch" is also slang for "money", as in "how about a little scratch, sister?" And resonates in "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine."

i bought a TON of used books yesterday, so i'm holed up today getting drunk on the ambrosia of the written word. Here's what i got: O.ARS/1 magazine (Don Wellman, ed. 1981) so good!; Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx; a cool clutch of mid-1950s penguin/pelican paperbacks--The Civil Service in Britain by G.A. Campbell, The British Worker by Ferdynand Zweig, English Society in the Early Middle Ages (1066-1307) by Doris Mary Stenton, Buddhism by Christmas Humphreys; Living Instead, poems by William Bronk; Nine Talmudic Readings by Emmanuel Levinas; a so-so version of Plotinus' The Enneads; The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It by Richard Hofstadter; Talking All Morning by controversial old-school deep-image Iron John guy Robert Bly (one of the old Indiana University "Poets on Poetry" series, that, dadgummit, i just LOVE); The Outsider by Colin Wilson, recently voted one of the top 50 all-time favorite cult books by the London Times; i finally got my hands on a copy of Charles Bernstein's Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984 ten years after taking my first seminar with him at UB--and blown away by the opening "Three or Four Things I Know About Him," since i now work in an office by day & can relate to what he's saying; Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, Palestine by Joe Sacco; stray issues of Ed Foster's Talisman magazine and Nate Dorward's The Gig--the only magazine that seriously reviewed any of my poetry--Yes, i know, all these books but one were written by men, who were once little boys.


oh, i have to add a p.s. to the mention of "maleness" above--it really strikes me how in the books from the 50s-70s, these writers almost to a "man" make sincere mention in their Acknowledgments of their partners as co-editors and practically co-authors of the books they wrote. Perhaps it is a mistaken tradition that books were/are inscribed with single authorial tokens. And it may be argued that mention in Acknowledgements is no substitute for due recognition of the effort of spouses/partners. But at least. And, i don't see that kind of sweetness as often in books published after 1980. i ain't trying to be retrograde. But how come?

May 26, 2008

Utah Phillips // personal

It seems to be a day for remembrance, serious reflection, acknowledging the scope of the work and activity ahead of me, ahead of all of us. It is both Memorial Day and my own birthday today, so that the context of a memorializing holiday is combined with a desire for celebration. This makes it a kind of strenuous, intense day of celebration, hopefully one that is more comprehensive--an expanded sense of how we actively, progressively accommodate our feelings and respect for those who have died within a larger sense of a joy and reverence for the here and now--in this celebration of life.

On friday I was carrying heavy bundles of roofing shingles up four flights of stairs at the Buffalo Zen Center, and occasionally resting on a landing and listening to the radio sitting there. The NPR program was devoted to accounts of servicemen and women who had died in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, with narratives of the circumstances of their dying. It was incredibly somber, and deepened my sense of the work I was doing to help provide a space of contemplation and rejuvenation. Somewhat overwhelmed by the stories I was hearing, I was looking through a window on the stairwell, and there, on a ledge, was a small robin's nest. Every few minutes the mama or papa bird would land, and the otherwise invisible hatchlings would rise up with their open mouths forming a bouquet; yellow cups of eager new life--waving and trembling under the offered food the parent was bringing. Here was new life in its most delicate, innocent form. The contrast between this scene of care and the stories being told on the radio brought to me a deep realization of the proximity and interdependence of life & death. And today, as I listened to some excerpts of the testimony from the Winter Soldier hearings in D.C., I also learned of the passing of folksinger/storyteller Utah Phillips. So, today I both celebrate and remember: I will honor what is in each of us our commitment to that delicate, tenuous, and complex universe of life and light that sustains us.

Here is the obituary and biography of Utah Phillips, Korean War Veteran, and forty-year Peace Warrior (thanks to Marcus Williamson for posting this to the Kenneth Patchen listserv):

"Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73"
Nevada City, California:

Utah Phillips, a seminal figure in American folk music who performed
extensively and tirelessly for audiences on two continents for 38 years, died
Friday of congestive heart failure in Nevada City, California a small town in
the Sierra Nevada mountains where he lived for the last 21 years with his
wife, Joanna Robinson, a freelance editor.

Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son
of labor organizers. Whether through this early influence or an early life
that was not always tranquil or easy, by his twenties Phillips demonstrated a
lifelong concern with the living conditions of working people. He was a proud
member of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as "the
Wobblies," an organizational artifact of early twentieth-century labor
struggles that has seen renewed interest and growth in membership in the last
decade, not in small part due to his efforts to popularize it.

Phillips served as an Army private during the Korean War, an experience he
would later refer to as the turning point of his life. Deeply affected by the
devastation and human misery he had witnessed, upon his return to the United
States he began drifting, riding freight trains around the country. His
struggle would be familiar today, when the difficulties of returning combat
veterans are more widely understood, but in the late fifties Phillips was left
to work them out for himself. Destitute and drinking, Phillips got off a
freight train in Salt Lake City and wound up at the Joe Hill House, a homeless
shelter operated by the anarchist Ammon Hennacy, a member of the Catholic
Worker movement and associate of Dorothy Day.

Phillips credited Hennacy and other social reformers he referred to as his
"elders" with having provided a philosophical framework around which he later
constructed songs and stories he intended as a template his audiences could
employ to understand their own political and working lives. They were often
hilarious, sometimes sad, but never shallow.

"He made me understand that music must be more than cotton candy for the
ears," said John McCutcheon, a nationally-known folksinger and close friend.
In the creation of his performing persona and work, Phillips drew from
influences as diverse as Borscht Belt comedian Myron Cohen, folksingers Woody
Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and Country stars Hank Williams and T. Texas Tyler.

A stint as an archivist for the State of Utah in the 1960s taught Phillips the
discipline of historical research; beneath the simplest and most folksy of his
songs was a rigorous attention to detail and a strong and carefully-crafted
narrative structure. He was a voracious reader in a surprising variety of

Meanwhile, Phillips was working at Hennacy's Joe Hill house. In 1968 he ran
for a seat in the U.S. Senate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. The race
was won by a Republican candidate, and Phillips was seen by some Democrats as
having split the vote. He subsequently lost his job with the State of Utah, a
process he described as "blacklisting."

Phillips left Utah for Saratoga Springs, New York, where he was welcomed into
a lively community of folk performers centered at the Caffé Lena, operated by
Lena Spencer.

"It was the coffeehouse, the place to perform. Everybody went there. She fed
everybody," said John "Che" Greenwood, a fellow performer and friend.
Over the span of the nearly four decades that followed, Phillips worked in
what he referred to as "the Trade," developing an audience of hundreds of
thousands and performing in large and small cities throughout the United
States, Canada, and Europe. His performing partners included Rosalie Sorrels,
Kate Wolf, John McCutcheon and Ani DiFranco.

"He was like an alchemist," said Sorrels, "He took the stories of working
people and railroad bums and he built them into work that was influenced by
writers like Thomas Wolfe, but then he gave it back, he put it in language so
the people whom the songs and stories were about still had them, still owned
them. He didn't believe in stealing culture from the people it was about."

A single from Phillips's first record, "Moose Turd Pie," a rollicking story
about working on a railroad track gang, saw extensive airplay in 1973. From
then on, Phillips had work on the road. His extensive writing and recording
career included two albums with Ani DiFranco which earned a Grammy nomination.
Phillips's songs were performed and recorded by Emmylou Harris, Waylon
Jennings, Joan Baez, Tom Waits, Joe Ely and others. He was awarded a Lifetime
Achievement Award by the Folk Alliance in 1997.

Phillips, something of a perfectionist, claimed that he never lost his stage
fright before performances. He didn't want to lose it, he said; it kept him

Phillips began suffering from the effects of chronic heart disease in 2004,
and as his illness kept him off the road at times, he started a nationally
syndicated folk-music radio show, "Loafer's Glory," produced at KVMR-FM and
started a homeless shelter in his rural home county, where down-on-their-luck
men and women were sleeping under the manzanita brush at the edge of town.
Hospitality House opened in 2005 and continues to house 25 to 30 guests a
night. In this way, Phillips returned to the work of his mentor Hennacy in the
last four years of his life.


May 30, 2008

haunted snow man world

Today's "found" selection comes to us courtesy of Norwood Ave., stopping me as I zipped along on my way to work to pick it up. The stark lines and "snowman-as-planet" hybrid convinced me it had to go up on the blog. Move over Frosty! (oddly, this drawing reminds me a lot of the style of a young friend of mine, James, whom I haven't seen in quite a while... He has drawn many a planet in his young artistic career. Could this drawing be one of his???!!!)



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