Thursday, March 29, 2007

Final Versions?

Below are two poems that have suffered multiple rejections, now transformed by the comments other writers posted here to help me. Having implemented most of the suggestions, I went back and changed them to my liking.

Given the general unimportance of poetry, and my endless fussing with an art that has such a small following, I feel like apologizing for putting the reader through this--if indeed, there are any readers left. I promise my next post will be scintillating, titillating and positively addictive. Let's put this poetry thing aside for now, though I remain grateful for all the comments--while knowing I shall carry my silly poetic perfectionism to my grave.

Chico Creek

(For my late quadriplegic student, Jill)

Standing on the footbridge
beneath the huge black oaks
I thought of how trees
grow gigantic by a river,
though I never knew oaks
could bear so much water.

Water is what I remember.
Peering down, my eyes
were forced to choose between
the rounded bottom stones
trailing green algae
and the surface
twisting like Saran wrap.
One can’t see both--
just as self-pity
makes laughter impossible.


Something is missing,
something important:
not your wallet or keys
or the knowledge of whether
the burner was left on
or the fan left running
near your dog's silken paws,
but as if the slightest amperage
had been siphoned from your body
without your notice.

I don’t know when
or how you were diminished
but your head no longer fits
the bronze helmet of the colossus
you thought you were.

Revised per your comments,


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

James Wright, "A Blessing;" Poem: "Frogs"

I haven't blogged in a while, obviously. Does this mean I've been busy? I don't know. I went on a peace march two weeks ago and read some anti-war poetry that first saw light here, "Men in Suits," and "Hail to the Chiefs"--two villanelles. I've been gardening, attending a gardening class, and suffering from an interminable cold that has now progressed into a sinus infection. I've been reading Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, O'Connor, James, Bellow, Aeschylus, Heaney, and Plath, to mention a few.

Kathleen and I went down to the Bay Area over the weekend to visit with my sibs and celebrate my youngest brother's birthday, although the birthday boy got himself into a pickle and couldn't come. So we toasted his absence. Kathleen had also knitted a beautiful shawl of cashmere and silk for my sister, and it was roundly admired and I hope, coveted.

I've been contacted by an archaeologist in an adjoining county who happened upon my blog and who recommended both James and Franz Wright to me, and upon deeper acquaintance with their work, I am amazed and humbled. Here's one from James, father of Franz:

A Blessing

by James Wright

Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Poems this good make you wish you were this good. Luckily I have no poem about horses with which to compare this. And not entirely bereft, I had three poems and an essay recently accepted by Umbrella and a poem and essay accepted by Blue Fifth Review. They should be out this summer.

To stay on an animal theme, here's a poem of mine about frogs that was published in Tryst:


Where are the frogs,
those wide-mouthed bassoons,
where have they gone?
Where the long-tongued
bass chucklers of the riverbed
with their resonating neck pouches,
where our amphibian tubas?
Gone, they are gone.

I have heard tree frogs,
their music ethereal as the sheen
of oil on a rain puddle,
but where are the ground frogs,
pond frogs, river frogs?
Their absence astounds me.

I have heard of the decline of frogs,
of mutant, two-headed frogs, of flaws
in the helical thread of their genome,
but no one can explain it.

Where have they gone?
I miss their croaking counterpoint
to the traffic of rapids and the blue jays' shriek.
I need their staccato didgeridoos
to balance the hypnotic sawing of insects.

The streams and rivers are hushed;
the herons have dropped their willow batons.
Waterfalls may thud like tympanies
but the orchestra can't be mended
without frogs. Where have they gone?
Did you hide them?

Thine at Kiloneutral,


Monday, March 19, 2007

Freud and Yeats Have Male Enhancement Surgery

In reading a book review on "The First Man-Made Man, The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution," I came upon a curious reference to "Steinach surgery," something Freud had in 1926 and Yeats in 1934.

It was meant to rejuvenate a man sexually, and like the vasectomy it was, took all of fifteen minutes. It did nothing for Freud, but Yeats was convinced it had revived his poetic and sexual energy. Apparently Steinach's idea was that if you prevented the free flow of sperm from the testes, the hormone levels would respond and increase sexual performance and youthful energy.

In researching the Steinach operation on the Net, the first seven references were those irritating teases one finds more and more--"Here's the abstract of the article. Now if you only subscribe to the Journal of Gerontology, you can read the whole thing. Just give us your credit card number." Is it just me or has this mercenary marketing of information become more prevalent in the last five years? It seemed I used to be able to reference arcane information more easily without these barriers, this "expert's tax."

Anyway, back to the story. (Due to a crash I now have lost the source of this free information, though I know an Australian wrote it.)

"One April day in 1934, at the age of 69, William Butler Yeats entered the Harley Street clinic of an Australian sexologist, Norman Haire. Sunk into gloom, convinced that his inspiration and his sexual potency were decaying together, the poet had heard about an operation that promised to rejuvenate old men.

Although the procedure was called a Steinach operation (after its inventor, Eugen Steinach, a Viennese doctor), it was, in effect, a vasectomy. It took 15 minutes. From a scientific point of view, it shouldn't have worked. But Yeats, who had dreaded the effect of age on his virility since he was young, wanted so hard to believe in it that he was, mentally at least, given new energy. Six months later, he embarked on a close new friendship with a beautiful 27-year-old actress, Margot Ruddock. His late poetry - he lived and wrote until 1939 - burned with fresh fire, and some defensiveness. The Dublin papers started calling Yeats "the gland old man".

The poet wrote "The Spur," a four-line verse: "You think it horrible that lust and rage/Should dance attention upon my old age;/They were not such a plague when I was young;/What else have I to spur me into song?"

The Steinach operation didn't always renew its beneficiaries. Sigmund Freud had it done in 1926. He said it did nothing for him. Another Steinach patient, Albert Wilson, was so enthusiastic about the benefits of the operation that he booked the Albert Hall to deliver a lecture entitled How I Was Made Twenty Years Younger. On the eve of the lecture, he died."

Yeah, but he died younger.

Interesting how the pursuit of the fountain of youth affects men irrationally, despite their intelligence or scientific pretensions. The irony is particularly thick with Freud, who also believed the operation--though I don't know if this was a late justification--would prevent the recurrence of his oral cancers--although he didn't give up his cigars.

As a country singer once said: "He knew better, he just couldn't do better."

As for yesterday's draft of the "Rapunzel" poem, I agree with the critic who pointed out that the second part was livelier than the first. And indeed, I now think that is the poem. The process of revision often becomes searching for the poem within the poem. Here's the new version:


I’m sorry to say it, but "The World Trade Center?”--
Good target!--as if we owned the world!

It is this hubris that the world hates,
the blindness of a consumer-driven culture

of anti-culture, a whore's bed of merchandise.
There is no hegemony, Wolfowitz.

The dollar's fallen. Long live the Yen!
Come down, American, come down, Rapunzel.

Your hair is tangled with barbwire.
Your gown is made of Kevlar.

Apes swing on your braid;
The impotent Congress nods.

They will pull us out by the roots,
stain our tower with the blood of scalps.

Now I need to take my own advice and put this poem in a drawer for a month and then look at it again, see what needs to be done or undone--or admit it has no future and discard it. That's the hard part--"killing your darlings."

Thine in Steinach Solidarity (I haven't had the operation),


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rapunzel: The process of a first draft

I thought today I might illustrate how a rant can become a poem. Normally yesterday's experiment would have been reformed into something more resembling a poem in what is called "a first draft." A first draft includes revisions, revisions which will likely be revised later in second and third drafts. The difficulty is in not squeezing the original feeling of a poem into a straitjacket so tight it fails to move the reader, losing all spontaneity and connection. A technically great poem is just that; technically great, but essentially forgettable if all the juice has been squeezed out of it. I have been especially guilty of over-revising in the past, though usually a poem that suffers that fate never had much of a future anyway. You can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse if you try hard enough, but the sow's ear is much more interesting. So here's a first draft:



War is fractious, filled with dirty bombs.
We sell these bombs. Imagine!

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked:
Whatever a man sows, he shall also reap."

We sow global discord in the name of peace,
praise slaughter in the name of stability.

We kill the innocent because
we cannot find the guilty.

How elusive our enemies have proven!
Wolves hidden in sniper’s robes.

Tragedy is loosed upon the world like a virus
and more than birds are dying and will die.


I’m sorry to say it, but "The World Trade Center?”--
Good target!--as if we owned the world!

It is this hubris that the world hates,
the blindness of a consumer-driven culture

of anti-culture, a whore's bed of merchandise.
There is no hegemony, Wolfowitz.

The dollar's fallen. Long live the Yen!
Come down, American, come down, Rapunzel.

Your hair is tangled with barbwire.
Your gown is made of Kevlar.

Apes swing on your braid;
The impotent Congress nods.

They will pull us out by the roots,
stain the tower with the blood of scalps.

Thine in truth and protest,


(essentially kilorat neutral but still feeling sketchy underneath)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Anti-War Activity; Chinese Brush Experiment...

We participated in a peace march today. Monday we may participate in an illegal sit-in at our congressman's office. We are finding routes to oppose this insane occupation. Do not call it a war. Below, a Chinese Brush Experiment, a poem in which you can go forward and never back. Admittedly, more substantive than poetic. But it's what came out. I read a couple of anti-war poems at today's rally in Fort Bragg, villanelles posted here some time ago.


All you who prize success above wisdom,
the lottery ticket over emptying the bedpan
of your ailing grandmother,
the one who taught you origami--

Oh. it's all too much to ask now,
half of our taxes for the military,
happy consumers irritated by requests
for funds to fight our unintentional genocide,

Poetry should have more metaphor and music
but war is fractious and filled with dirty bombs
whose exploding shrapnel embeds itself
in breasts, faces, eyes, asses, democratically.

We sell these bombs. Imagine!
And spend 200 billion dollars a year on war
and another 800 billion maintaining the military,
us, a country with friendly neighbors and oceans for borders.

I am tired of telling the truth.
I am tired of saying the same words in different contexts:
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked:
Whatever a man sows, he shall also reap."

We sow global discord in the name of peace.
We praise slaughter in the name of stability.
We kill the innocent because we cannot find the guilty.
How elusive our enemies have proven!

Snakes colored like fallen Baghdad bricks.
Wolves the color of snipers' robes.
Lions the color of dust in the streets.
Jackals below the radar of the righteous.

Tragedy is loosed like a virus
that reproduces for no reason,
no reason except to harm and propagate
the origin of the same mindless virus.

We ought to die. We ought to surrender
and tell the Arabs we were children,
we didn't understand the wisdom
of their past millennium.

They invented chess, discovered astronomy,
produced mosaic towers we can't reproduce,
conquered the clueless West and converted most
to a faith less hypocritical than Papism.

This is not a poem, just a diatribe.
The Middle East is beyond our wildest approximations
of logic or prediction, of peace or chaos.
We must surrender, we must depart.

We must embrace the wisdom of acceptance:
accept our idiocy in ever invading;
accept the meaningless sacrifice of our troops;
accept the great mistake of pride and fear

That drove us to attack, attack anything
remotely connected to the leveling
of our pride, "The World Trade Center"--
As if we owned the world!

As if our consumer-driven culture
were worth preserving, not a disease
driven by greed and advertising, a culture
of anti-culture, a whore's bed of merchandise.

Good-bye America, we tried
to liberate you from your hubristic vision.
There is no hegemony; the dollar's fallen.
Long live the Yen. Come down, Rapunzel:

Your hair is tangled with barbwire.
Your gown is made of Kevlar.
Apes swing on your braid; Congress nods
and passes the simian agenda; everyone is happy!

America, you grieve me.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

No one cares about dead Russians...

As I can see by all the comments. Here's Fyodor:

Here's Leo:

Here's the American reading public:

God, the truth hurts!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More on Fyodor; Crib Sheet for Brothers K!

For those of you who never got through the book, I offer this poem as a summary:

Cliff Notes on The Brothers Karamazov

Dmitri, passion of the flesh; Ivan, first existentialist.
Alyosha: saintly protagonist, but more a neutral foil,
flat as a Eucharist. Body, soul, and spirit, in other words.

Smerdyakov: bastard half-brother, schizoid dandy,
epileptic son of the village idiot, Lizaveta,
whom Fyodor fucked on a drunken dare.
He later became his cook.
“He makes the best fish soup!”
Fyodor liked to say.

Fyodor: lecherous buffoon, proverbial garden party skunk
as in the scene he made at Father Zossima’s funeral.
Evil clown-- or is he evil? He is pure in a way,
purely offensive unapologetic hedonist narcissist,
lacking external reference save his pleasure;
"An insect!” Ivan calls him while despising
his own Karamazov nature.

Here: It’s all about three thousand rubles,
the sum Dmitri thinks his father owes him,
the sum Dmitri owes Katerina to save his honor,
the sum Fyodor offers Grushenka to stain her own—
(Katerina already calls her “That creature!”)

Fyodor never pays Dmitri nor does Dmitri pay Katerina,
nor does Grushenka ever whore for her reward.
Instead, Smerdyakov kills Fyodor
while blaming Ivan for complicity
based on some vaguely worded conversations.

I’ve studied these and Ivan is innocent
but half-believes in his own guilt;
then Ivan only half-believes
in anything, which is his suffering.

From his sickbed Smerdyakov confesses
to Ivan, producing from a sock the rubles
Fyodor intended for Grushenka.
Later he hangs himself.

Ivan brings the bloody currency to the trial,
the prosecution laughs: “He could have gotten them anywhere!”
Smerdyakov’s confession proves hearsay—
without brain fever Ivan would have anticipated this.

“Psychology is a double-edged sword,” the defense thunders
but it won't save poor Dmitri from conviction
because his former fiancée’, Katerina,
betrays him on the stand, fearing for Ivan.

Ivan recovers enough to plan Dmitri’s escape
by railroad; Alyosha concurs, telling Dmitri,
“Imprisonment is not the suffering meant for you.”

p.s. Grushenka never forgives Katerina—
I skipped Ilusha’s death scene (from tuberculosis)
and the dog that Kolya rescued whom Ilusha feared
he’d murdered by a method Smerdyakov
had taught him— (putting a needle in a scrap of food.)

p.p.s. It’s too big a book to fit into a poem,
in a book, even: eight hundred pages
of prostrations, sufferings, humiliations,
prostrations, forgivenesses and miracles--
the greatest being how an author can sustain
such fever pitch of feeling for so long,
leaving me drained on my fourth reading.


Finally, I wonder if Father Zossima’s embarrassing decay
(some had expected his body not to stink after death)
was a prophecy of Lenin’s preservation.

This was published and de-published by August Highland's once ambitious M.A.G.

Have a Black Russian on me,


Monday, March 12, 2007

Channeling Dostoevsky

(Just for fun.)

You, you, how dare you look down on me! My coat may be shabby and missing buttons; it does a better job of keeping out the rain than your fine silk umbrella, I assure you. I notice how you avert your eyes from me on the sidewalk, on the bridge, in cafés. It is easy to see how your feigned politeness only masks disgust. It would not become you to engage in conversation with such a shabby personage as myself, not that it would shame you, or damage your pride, but because it is not proper. I am a scrounging artist with an insolent servant I cannot afford in straitened quarters; you no doubt have a house on the hill or on the river and at least four servants. Perhaps you are having relations with one; perhaps you have dismissed two for becoming pregnant, handing them a little sack of rubles as compensation, knowing full well none will believe their tales— because on their one night out a week they must have been with sailors, or drunks, or others of the serving class with no self-control.

Your pocket watch chain may be gold, it may only be gilded. Your felt hat looks of good quality but is a little questionable around the edges. Your cravat? Ostentatious red silk. Cravats are cheap, of course. Your waistcoat looks in fine repair although your belly strains against it, a prosperous appearance if not refined. Your coat appears to be English tweed, certainly some sort of continental affectation, especially with those crude elbow patches. And the coat is not right for the cravat, which is certain. Which demands the question: Do you pick out your clothes or does your man? Obviously you do. Valets have better taste.

That you eschew boots in this thawing spring also proclaims your vanity; someone else will have to polish your brogues, but boots would not suit the gabardine slacks you affect. And is that an alligator belt? Again, your mismatched ensemble says more about you than fashion. You are bourgeois, an upper functionary perhaps, perhaps the last in a line of dwindling minor aristocrats with an income taken from the flesh of your serfs. You are not in the arts; doubtful in business, either, or you would have the sense to dress more tastefully. Had I your money I would certainly dress better than you; but I would rather have this ragged coat than your inelegant ensemble, however rich the material. You remind me of the “Emperor with No Clothes,” except it would be “The Emperor with Bad Clothes.”

As you smoke your cigarillo from an ivory holder, and gesture, world-weary to your better-dressed friends over a glass of vodka, you appear in command, a man among men, a man above the shabbiness I endure. But who’s to say how shabby you are inside? “One thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside,” Lennoninsky wrote. Indeed, your subterfuges don’t fool me.

Your face is more indulgent than cruel, your cheeks soft and full, your moustache thick but not overweening, no need to hide your worsening teeth with a larger brush just yet; an early wattle on your neck that will come to swing with the years; the pomade on your thinning hair, the sensuous Mediterranean lips, the broad nose and the thin almond eyes recalling some Mongol ancestor, like your clothes, these features seem not to belong together, belying your outward, superficial, self-satisfied confidence!

I am wearing leather boots, the heels worn down but no holes as of yet; they manage to keep the rain out, though I am frequently footsore. No fancy shoes to hand waterlogged and scuffed over to a fawning servant. And though I have worn this, one of my two good shirts, for three days prior to this occasion tonight, and its cuffs are a little frayed, it is of good quality, a very fine wool, most likely a better quality once than you are wearing now. My stained beret, impractical for this weather, hangs on the rack. I took my hat off as I came in, a tradition you jauntily disrespect. And is the beret an affectation? No! By no means. It is a symbol by which I mock myself as an artist with little utility in this suffocating society of bores. I mock myself intentionally.

Have you ever mocked yourself? Have you ever looked in the mirror and beheld the essential evil behind your ingratiating smile? I doubt there has ever been a time in your life when you looked upon your reflection with anything save self-congratulation; such insight would be beyond you.

And yet you might represent a publishing house, a magazine, someone for whom I must scrape and bow to to eke out a living as an artist, someone not worth the last five thoughts from my brain. And if I met you in that relation, with these, my best clothes, you would certainly think to get the better of me and negotiate some scandalous payment for the sweat of my brain. You would not think me someone capable of bargaining over the quality of a piece; no, you would try to steal it from me, steal my thoughts and hope it improves your circulation, like some bug collector charging admission to his museum while adding a new bug. I am that bug, aren’t I?

How I despise you! How I despise the falsity of your pose, of everything it represents, half-measures, nods to liberalism, even Marxism, perhaps— no; that would be too daring and might make you slightly suspect even among those whom you call “friends,” no doubt old chums from the university who would abandon you if you fell out of society for your debts. I had to leave the university because of debts and become this creature you naturally avoid.

What if I were to walk up to your circle, right now, and begin talking as if I had been invited? I might talk of the recent architectural changes to Petersburg, or the price of pork rising above the peasant’s means, or the eternal illusion of freeing and reforming the serfs. I could nod and listen with the best of you, and for your sake pretend you were of equal intellectual standing as I, yes, I could pretend to humility among your overfed circle of bourgeoisie functionaries, minor aristocrats, businessmen, liberal-minded poseurs and the lot. And would you forgive my appearance? This three days’ beard? This ragged and thinning hair creeping over my ears like a bad fungus? Perhaps. Perhaps there is in you, or one of your circle, the ability to see beyond a man’s shell, to see into the heart and the mind—but what is the purpose of all your desultory and condescending conversation and polite niceties and slight bows toward your betters? To avoid this very thing, to lose humanity in inane politeness.

I pity you, Sir, I pray when your last breath comes it will be breathed with the sudden and horrifying realization of the triviality of your entire life. Only this will save you. Or should you lose a daughter or son or a beloved wife or friend you loved before that last deathbed revelation I doubt will ever overtake you, I pray the tragedy might be enough to make you kneel in church and confess, “Be merciful to me, O God, for I am a sinner,” and mean it. But you cannot do that now; church is for the best pews and the satisfaction that you are only a formal sinner, not in the real sense. You have not been unfaithful toward your wife in a long while, despite the opportunities your club regularly affords, and the last time meant nothing. The dismissed servants asked for your attentions, hardly your fault. You don’t cheat at cards and you return invitations for invitations; surely you are good, and insulated from common evil. Surely you are above the degradation God visits on the vast majority of humans, with their dirt floors and thatched roofs and drunken Saturdays, burying half their infants in graves whose markings disappear with the rains; surely you will never see how this might be your salvation, no, you must precede them into heaven! Surely you are the grasshopper with others to play the ant for you, while we, the hard working ants, suffer the fate of grasshoppers in the winter, that which you deserve--hungry and piled with blankets around a few coals. Have you earned anything in your life? You will know if that which has only been given is likewise taken away.

I'm a big fan of Fyodor, he vies with Eliot as my favorite author. Eliot is harder to imitate, and though it can be done, it usually ends in parody. Imitating Dostoevsky I find easier to do without degenerating into parody, but let the reader judge--that inveterate reader who will actually put up with 1400 words in one day's blog.

Thine at 1 Kilorat (feeling irritable and caged up),


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Depression and the Dog; Literary Nonsense Sonnet

There will be more about Kenyon below, but the blog mechanics put his picture at the top of today's post. This is Kenyon at Big River Beach among the driftwood.


I woke up this morning feeling a little shaky. When my computer would not connect to the net I became even more so. Having finally solved the connection problem, the anxiety increased, now mixed with sadness.

Since I felt a little better yesterday, I was hoping I would wake today without depressive symptoms, but here they are. Generally depression is diurnal, that is, worse in the morning and better at night. Thus I was fairly insensible of my mood disorder late last night watching the Sopranos, yet wake to this churning in my stomach today.

I began to unload the dishwasher then interrupted the process to return to my now connected computer. The indecision between completing the one task and beginning the other is typical of the depressed state; whether I unload the dishwasher or blog, I instinctively know I'm doing the wrong thing and am wasting my time. I feel I ought to get up and finish the dishwasher unloading now, but then I would lose my train of thought, or whatever these confessions amount to. Actually I'm trying to describe what this feels like--the pressure behind your eyes, the tightening in your cheeks, the gulp in your throat, as if you're about to cry; the acid apprehension in your stomach, the tingling in your sternum, the fear of what's to happen next, though nothing unexpected will, since you are alone, typing, and listening to the Beatles: "Nothing's gonna change my world" (the last thing a depressive wants to hear).

I think I've made it clear how much I wish I weren't manic-depressive. Now I'm starting to cry. I hear Kathleen coughing upstairs; perhaps she's awake. She is the first person in my life I've ever been almost comfortable with observing my tears. If she comes down the stairs and sees them, that's OK, but by the time she made it down, miserable and coughing, my tears had stopped.

The only sad thing that happened yesterday, and last night again, and this was really sad, was to see Kenyon collapse. After fetching his bottle from the ocean, he walked up the sand and his hips gave out and he fell. This happened again with another fetch, despite his strong swimming. My first reaction was, "Shit!" But after he came up the stairs last night and promptly fell at the foot of our bed I was greatly saddened. Perhaps yesterday's villanelle was prophetic; I hope not. I meant to say in that poem that we're all "waiting for our dog to die," that even in a universal apocalypse the personal remains more important to us than the cosmic--you know, Nero fiddling while Rome burns, Captain Queeg wondering who stole his strawberries.

With Kathleen and Kenyon downstairs it's time for Kenyon's morning constitutional with me. He often stops and looks lost. He tries to smell his way around, but I don't even think he remembers the pattern of the property's scents. To get his attention I have to yell. I guide him across the highway to where he prefers to attend to his business; I guide him back. As he crosses from the asphalt to the gravel of the driveway he falls, gets up on his own. I wonder, "Should I tell Kathleen?" She will know anyway.

Before Kathleen I never knew what it meant to love and care for an animal deeply. And what she said yesterday, at the beach, I'm sure all animal lovers agree with: "It's such a shame they don't live longer." How much better would be an animal for life! And contrary to non-animal lovers' instincts, the last thing you want to say to someone who has just lost a beloved pet is, "Get another one." As if! As if the former could be replaced!

There being no threat of real poetry today, I penned this silly sonnet:

Literary Nonsense

And Flannery O’Connor came to stay,
And Herman Melville, and Kafka, too,
And Kipling sang “The Road to Mandalay,”
And Tennyson’s “Ulysses” made us blue.
Along came Eliot in his narrow tie
And Oscar Wilde in his yellow coat;
Walt Whitman raised his beard to prophesy,
Which made young Ginsberg randy as a goat.
One asked, “Whose hands are smaller than the rain?”
One answered: “The world in a grain of sand.”
One said, “Come take the ‘Observation Train;’"
One answered, “One if by sea, two if by land.”
Shakespeare grabbed his goatee and remarked:
“I think that all these scribblers should be arked.”

Two Kilorats and Holding,


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wife smacks me with words....

Anonymous said...

"Whadabunchacrap. Suck it up."

This comment came from my adoring wife, who in addition sent me a hilariously scathing letter about my last post, particularly for thinking I could possibly hide any mood change from her all-seeing eye, although she did admit her illness made her, perhaps, just a little less perceptive than usual--quite an admission from the all-knowing spouse.

I totally agree with her comment, of course. I tell myself the same thing but it doesn't help until my chemicals improve.

Yesterday I didn't cry because I was too zonked out by the antipsychotic I added to my regimen Thursday night, which allows little feeling--I was moving through water all day. I kept as busy as I could despite my gnawing cold. Today I am irritable, I don't want to be bothered by anything or anybody, I can be snappish. I feel bitchy. As I have said before, this is often a good sign of coming out of a depression, even a short one. Have I told you my bipolar daughter has been in crisis lately and I've been on the phone with her a lot? She most needs me when her illness acts up, although it takes a different form than mine--she tends to go into mixed states more, with alternating tears, curses, and laughter in a matter of minutes--very emotionally labile. I tend to get stuck for months on one end or the other. I just wanted you to know that whatever my state, I can always forget myself for the benefit of my children.

I pray I don't fall for pain pills or antihistamines again. I still feel like such an ass. My feelings are in accord with my being, I think.

I wrote a villanelle this morning which I think expresses some of the angry ambivalence of a mixed state, a state neither depressed nor happy, rather bitchy and unstable, although, of course, these mood tones are transformed into something else once you commit to a poem:


Look! Fireworks fang the bloody sky!
The end has come; the button’s on repeat.
I’m just waiting for my dog to die.

Faces melt and bones electrify.
When we’re gone, someone pull up the sheet.
Look! Fireworks fang the bloody sky!

The sport of kings has changed to genocide:
“Kill them all, kill all the fucking sheep!"
I’m just waiting for my dog to die.

I didn’t vote and someone asked me why:
“One madman or another must compete.”
Look! Fireworks fang the bloody sky!

It’s easy, this apocalyptic cry.
If you brought hope we’d all fall at your feet.
I’m just waiting for my dog to die.

He’s old, he limps and barely hears my cry.
He won’t get off the floor to fetch a treat.
Look! Fireworks fang the bloody sky!
I’m just waiting for my dog to die.

Kathleen, of course, didn't like the poem, as it included our aged dog. But what can you do? A writer needs material, and the more depressed I am, the worse Kenyon looks to me.

Neil Young's tune is on the radio, "Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless." Aren't we all? Ka-Ching! I never liked the song. I never liked his falsetto or three-chord-repetition songs like this one, not to mention his ham-handed lead guitar playing, but I have come to like Neil better in my dotage, just as I've finally begun to accept what little talent U2 has to offer--mostly Bono's.

How I digress. I want everyone to slap me today. I want people to throw rocks at me to help externalize my own anger towards myself. I think Kathleen will do a fair job of it.

Two Kilorats,


Friday, March 09, 2007

Another Relapse...

My last depressive relapse was explained on 2/3; it lasted about two weeks until 2/15. I have been "euthymic" ("good-mooded") since, but relapsed yesterday afternoon into a crying spell and melancholy thoughts. Yes, it does happen that fast. But there are again, clear biochemical reasons behind it.

1) I've had a nasty cold and bronchitis.

2) I stupidly took an antihistamine Wednesday night, the 7th, because of the cough and runny nose, even though I knew anthistamines can cause a sudden depression in me.

3) With my mood stable for three weeks, I idiotically ingested small doses of a pain medicine which can mess with my mood; I mentioned this in my last relapse posted 2/3, although that one began earlier. To be fair, I had run out of my usual pain medication, Celebrex, because for once the clinic had no samples, but I could have done something to prepare for that.

4) I had been exercising regularly and vigorously before I caught this cold; the abrupt stop in exercising would naturally lower my endorphins and make me vulnerable to a mood dip.

I remember Father Mulcagey (sp.?) from MASH treating an alcoholic dog. What he did was give him a whole bowl full of whiskey. The dog drank it all and became violently ill. Afterwards the pooch turned away from liquor with disgust.

How this differs from humans! I know better than to mess with certain pain medications! I know better than to risk antihistamines! But I was feeling what manic-depressives call "bullet-proof"--because I had had three good weeks, nothing could hurt me! Three good weeks and I forget everything I ever learned. Not that I forgot; I failed to respect what I knew. This is sheer stupidity, and typical of humans, who will return to the bowl of whiskey over and over again and never really learn a thing, behaviorally speaking. In this sense my relapse is certainly deserved. I trust that it will be short-lived because I have been more well than not over the last two months.

I feel shame attached in reporting this. Why do we never learn? Why do so many of us keep indulging in risky behavior when we know better? Paul addresses this in Romans 7 and 8, but I can't grasp his solution, nor do I experience it. I'm just as human as the next guy--if not more so. When it comes to temporary pleasure, self-control has never been my strong suit.

I also feel as if I must be well for my younger brother's birthday party March 24, which is silly, of course, as it puts conditions on my unpredictable disease. I only pray I don't go underwater too long.

Another negative factor is that Kathleen has since gotten my cold and is quite miserable. And the heat went out last night so she was cold besides. I hate to see her suffer; pain from degenerative changes in her hip and a ruptured disk continue to plague her as well. I hate seeing her suffer, have therefore not mentioned my temporary relapse, as she suffers too much already.

Look at how precipitous this relapse is! I wrote about poetry yesterday morning, and by afternoon I was in a melancholic fog, and today I am writing about myself and my illness again. You know I'm well when I'm not writing about myself, but perhaps this dip will give me the opportunity to describe how it is to come out of a depression more fully.

At Two Kilorats,


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ten Questions on Poetry Today

Nic Sebastian posed these at his blog, so I thought I'd answer them:

The Ten Questions

1. In this 2003 interview, Canadian poet George Bowering quotes Shelley: “The poet is the unacknowledged legislator of the world.” Do you think the poet has a specific role to play in human affairs in this century? If so, what is it?

1) No role. Or nearly none. Poetry is a cultural vestigial organ, like lawn bowling. Only a few aficionados appreciate it. “What poetry most lacks is an audience worthy of it.” “Poetry was always for the elite.”

2. Talk about the importance of poetry workshops to you as a poet - now and in your earlier development. Do you differentiate between in-person and on-line workshops?

2) I took only one poetry workshop in person, and it wasn’t helpful. All the other participants were callow, unfledged, unfamiliar with the history or distinctions in the art. Online workshops? The old Zeugma listserv helped me; boards rarely influenced me; publication in a decent journal was my general measure.

3. Comment on this passage by former U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall in his 1983 essay Poetry and Ambition: “Horace, when he wrote the Ars Poetica, recommended that poets keep their poems home for ten years; don’t let them go, don’t publish them until you have kept them around for ten years: by that time, they ought to stop moving on you; by that time, you ought to have them right. […] When Pope wrote An Essay on Criticism seventeen hundred years after Horace, he cut the waiting time in half, suggesting that poets keep their poems for five years before publication. […] By this time, I would be grateful - and published poetry would be better - if people kept their poems home for eighteen months.”

3) Absolutely agree. I tell students not to revise a first draft for a month, not to edit that for six months, and not to submit for a year. Donald Hall is not a favorite of mine; his wife was much the better poet.

4. Comment on this passage from Why Poetry Criticism Sucks, an article by Kristin Prevallet in the April 2000 issue of Jacket magazine: “It is very difficult to write poetry criticism and not have poets feel personally maimed […]. For some reason poetry criticism does not advance the formal, intellectual, or contextual parameters of poetry. It always gets confused with the personal.”

4) Not in my essays. Search “Logopoetry” for instance; more theoretical than personal; my essays on Eliot inform without degrading; only my essay on Bukowski could be considered perjorative. Fundamental poetry criticism is interesting for its own sake. A friend of mine reads it more than poetry itself just for fun.

5. Do you have an internet presence? If so, describe it and comment on the state of the poetry blogsphere. If not, why not?

5) Yes. Edited The Melic Review for eight years. Published in journals voraciously. Many folks, I’m told, have heard of me. There’s some article on the net entitled “A Presence on the Net” KayDay wrote about me without ever contacting me. As for today, my presence has diminished in proportion to my growth; I don’t need boards for growth or criticism; my wife acts as my editor, a poet in her own right, and she’s better than any I’ve ever met on a board. She founded Zeugma in its infancy and glory, not the Zeugma that now exists

6. To what degree have you been published and to what degree has that helped or hindered your development as a poet?

6) Publishing: 1 book of poetry, edited an anthology; upwards of five hundred poems, columns, essays and some fiction. Unfortunately, at least half of these have been lost to failed electronic magazines who no longer maintain archives. Being published in a good journal is always a tonic to my self-esteem, as I believe all poets suffer from lifelong doubts about the value of their work.

7. Comment on today’s huge numbers of on-line poetry publications.

7) Most are at best mediocre, one sign of which is publishing their own staff. Some are good; many good ones have failed. Usually I hear of a new, promising one through contacts and I send them something. Also, that The New Yorker and Ploughshares, for example, now accept online submissions brings two worlds together for the better.

8. Self-publishing has become inexpensive and relatively painless. What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

8) I’m old school. I don’t self-publish, except my old essays in Melic. Poets tell me I’m stupid to cling to such a value; I know 85% of all books in the USA are self-published; but then there’s the question of marketing–after you run out of friends and relatives, where do you go? Arrange a book tour out of the back of your van? I’ve read at major bookstores, and most audiences are poets themselves wondering why you’re at the podium and they’re not. I haven’t had a book of poems published in ten years; then I haven’t been aggressive in promoting later mss., of which I have three, to small presses, because I have little confidence that they are much better than self-publishing. And the major publishers are closed to newbies, like Copper Canyon Press. Why publish if no one reads your books? A successful book of poetry should sell 1000 copies. I estimate less than 1% do.

9. What do you see as the biggest opportunity facing a poet today, as compared to 50 years ago?

9) By diluting the talent pool into bedlam, by dumbing down the curriculum, etc., nearly every poet can obtain some public exposure, when it used to be much harder without true talent and hard work. The democratization of poetry allows many more to participate. Unfortunately, it muddies all the distinctions, at the common level, between the bad, the mediocre, the good and the great. Anyone can get published today; that’s the opportunity and that’s the curse.

10. What do you see as the biggest challenge to a poet today, as compared to 50 years ago?

10) Striving to be as knowlegeable, literate and skilled as a poet from 50 years ago. Nowadays every uneducated slob thinks his doodlings are poetry. There are very few truly skilled poets practicing. I’ve had students who could never actually fulfill the assignment to write a sonnet; where would they have been 100 years ago? I think you should master formal verse before indulging in free verse. The one bleeds into the other. You can hear formal rhythms in the best free verse poets. Most poets today are simply unskilled in the basic tenets of poetic history and form, and it shows particularly in their sloppy line breaks and little difference from prose; it’s just chopped prose.

I hope I don’t come off as too much of a curmudgeon, but I’m 52 and have been publishing since the age of 18, while fitting in a medical career, a musical career, and raising a family–besides trying to manage my manic-depressive illness. So I’ve seen a lot come and go. Why someone like Robert Creeley garnered so much acclaim puzzles me; success often has little to do with quality; sometimes they seem absolutely divorced. Put Ted Hughes in that queue, too.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A note on recovering from depression..

Today is not the best day to try to describe the change in consciousness from depressed to normal--at least as normal as I know of normality--as I did not sleep well, it's raining, and I'm recovering from a cold.

To tell the truth, I don't know if I really can describe what it is like to be depressed and then not depressed. My first thought is: "What a miracle! I'm not depressed!" And then I go running about starting new projects and trying to make up for lost time, as if, in not being depressed, I should immediately demand something of myself. What I really need to do is to enjoy not being depressed--the taste of good food, the love of my wife, laughter, good literature, music and all the rest.

Though I am not capable yet of describing the process, I can give examples.

While depressed I could barely read the paper. Now I'm reading Thoreau, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and poetry. While depressed my only real writing was this blog; I could do nothing else. Now I've written two good essays, one already accepted, and had three poems accepted (and one just published) while resuming work on my thriller novel. Not only that, I've applied to audition for several music venues. This is what I do when I'm not depressed. I've been much more sociable as well. Kathleen says I can be very charming. Me! Imagine!

What is the difference? First and foremost I don't think about myself all the time, I'm not lost in a conversation about all my deficits, shortcomings, failures, wasted life, and all the other melancholy inhabitants of a diseased mind. Now if I find I'm starting to have a conversation with myself, I tell myself to shut up, and it works. Previously my brain told me to shut up and I couldn't help but listen to the endless, pointless conversation about myself.

I look different. I make jokes. I feel stronger physically. I'm quicker physically. Depression is a very physical disease, and bodily changes are striking. From old photographs my friends can easily see when I was depressed and when not.

That's a beginning. I'll try more when I'm feeling a bit better.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dostoevsky and Thoreau

Today's quotes; which is which?

"I am wont to think that men are not so much the keepers of herds as herds are the keepers of men, the former are so much the freer."

"The best definition of man is the ungrateful biped."

It has occurred to me that since I've been feeling better, there has been no sufficient account of my interior workings, which is natural when one is no longer depressed, as one's attention turns to things other than oneself. Nevertheless, I think it only fair that I try, perhaps tomorrow, to write about my new experience of consciousness with at least half the avidity with which I described the dark side of my illness. More anon.



Monday, March 05, 2007

Thoreau and Dostoevsky

It has occurred to me, that though dissimilar in tone, Thoreau's "Walden" and Dostoevsky's "Notes from the Underground" bear certain similarities (though no doubt more differences). I thought it would be entertaining to juxtapose quotes from each. Who proves wiser in today's example? And which is which?

"Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save one tomorrow. As for work, we haven't any of consequence."

"Perhaps the only goal on earth toward which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, in life itself, and not in the thing to be attained."

Two Kilobunnies,


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Faux Fame; See No Evil

You, too, can be famous! Click here!

Or here!

Or even here!

Here's my two brothers and I posing long ago for "Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil":

And here's the three of us again, years later, stuck on the same morality play:

Notice the effect this stern moral stance has exacted from our scalps.

Off to chowder and wine tasting in a celebration of Mendocino's winning war to save the whales, started thirty years ago. By the way, we won.

Thine at one kilobunny though still ill,


Friday, March 02, 2007


First, a rare publication I had long forgotten about just appeared:

To His Wife Asleep

It was actually an "Editor's Pick," and if you want to vote for it as the top pick, here's the voting address:

Vote for CE!

Maybe you can help me finally win some kind of award. I've failed to place in the Morse Poetry Prize, the Ohio State Poetry Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize, and at least two others I can't even remember ths past fall. The bad news came in January and February.

Either I suck or the judges suck or both.

Second, I'm suffering from a miserable cold. To quote Robert Frost:

"Something there is that doesn't love a cold,
That sends the frozen-mucous-drip under it,
And spills the phlegm from bronchi in the sun..."

It's hard to tell a bad cold or flu from narcotic withdrawal. Thankfully I'm saddled with only one. Can't wait to get that knight off my back.

If I had more to say I would say it. All I can emit are dribs and drabs of thoughts. This is common to boogers, I mean bloggers. My longer essay-type entries are not what blogees seek.

How about a picture? They take up a lot of space so I don't have to write. In the following picture, my beautiful wife, Kathleen, stands above her mother with her brother to her left.

In spite of my manic-depression and chronic pain, you can see I'm a lucky man. One of the luckiest in the world!



Unexpected Light

Unexpected Light
Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008 ON SALE NOW!