Monday, December 07, 2009

600th Post--My Meditation Method

Dear Friends,

For my 600th post--imagine!--I will attempt to explain my meditation technique, one arrived at by long experience. Here it is:

1. Blankness (merging soundlessly with your immediate environment)

2. Recognition (opening your eyes to your environment and seeing it anew)

3. Acceptance (the accepting of all things, inhaling the known universe)

4. Thanksgiving (thanks should erupt for a world greater than our imaginings)

5. Intercession (thanksgiving gives rise to concerns for others, and sometimes concerns for ourselves. Here I concentrate in prayer towards action--action being the fulfillment of prayer)

6. Praise ("We praise thee for thy great glory." An overflow of praise for the Creator.)

The acronym is BRA-TIP. Or "nipple" for short.

"We milk the cow of the world and as we do
We whisper in her ear, 'You are not true.'" --Richard Wilbur

It is extremely important in the first three phases to try to avoid any verbal formulations at all, to simply merge, recognize and accept. This puts one in the proper frame of mind for the rest.

You can practice this anytime--if you're tired, embrace blankness and shut your eyes for a few--after adequate rest (if you don't fall asleep, which is OK) your mind opens to the world again and then appropriates it in acceptance--that one doesn't expect the world to be any other way than the way it is.

The first three steps, again, are crucial to the process. Unless we first get out of our heads we cannot concentrate properly on thanksgiving, intercession and praise.

If any of you try out this method, please get back to me. I don't know if it only works for me or has wider applications. In any case it might help make you more aware and at peace.

Thine at 2 Kilobunnies,

Craig Erick

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It's Fear!

In my ongoing pursuit to versify wisdom, here's new verse:

It's Fear

Rabbits don't take drugs
because they live by fear.
They don't hide under rugs
because their fear is dear.

For many years they've known
the benefit of nerves
just like a driver thrown
against his door by curves.

My doctor says I'm hooked
on cigarettes and booze,
my brain is overcooked
by television shews.

I suffer from addiction,
a manageable disease--
in his simple depiction
it's like a case of fleas

But I know what it is;
it's not the wine and beer.
What else can make you piss?
It's fear, it's fear, it's fear!

All of us have a basic choice: whether to be motivated by fear or love, whether to tremble before Jehovah or lie in the arms of Christ.

In a position of authority in this world, it is better to be feared than loved.

Otherwise it is much better to be loved than feared.

The first time one of my daughters said "Fuck you!" to me I knew they had broken through fear. Unlike my father, who would have gone ballistic on the point, I became instantly philosophical--mainly because I love my daughters so.

End of today's lesson,

Craig Erick

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Direction for Blog! Epithets of Wisdom

No one will accuse me of not being prolix at times, so I aim to amend my logorrheaic ways with a new direction for the blog: epithets of wisdom.

Here's today's:

Follow the light you have.

It seems like everyone's heard this but we need to be reminded now and again. Here is my verse (as opposed to poetry) to commemorate this piece of wisdom:

Follow the light you have.
Do not pray for more.
Always the fearful brave
See light under the door.


I've been well for so long now, nearly a year-and-a-half, that I do not feel impelled to write about mood disorders. But if you wait long enough, manic-depression is a recurrent and incurable illness, and I always aim to please!

Thine in Truth and Art,

Craig Erick

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kamikaze Turkey! Poem, "Turkey Heaven"

Most of us have seen a sparrow or some other diminutive bird fly into the house and break its neck against a window. A common occurrence, one might say.

But the other day I witnessed something extraordinary.

There is a flock of wild turkeys near our home and I often let my dog chase them. They rise in flight in their ungainly way, and though they outweigh him they suffer from inter-species fright and flutter away. Anyway, when J. Alfred (my dog, see picture) took off after them all rose and flew SW except for one old Tom who rose and flew NE towards the cottages. I heard a resounding crash and thought "No, it couldn't be." Then I walked to my neighbor's and there was a large window broken and the turkey, splayed on the ground, its neck bent, reflexively flapping and moving its feet in a death spasm like a pithed frog animated by electric current. I took two nearby feathers for a souvenir of the Kamikaze. He wasn't suicidal, just confused. But a fifty-pound bird crashing into your window? Too bad Hitchcock didn't think of it. One turkey would have smashed the phone booth in which Tippie Hedren took refuge.

I have tried to publicize this menace through my liberal friends, those who legislate helmets and seat belts and food additives, the mommy brigade, but none thought my crusade as valid as the end of 2 million lawn dart sets after one boy was killed.

Who will protect us from flying turkeys? Certainly there should be government regulations against the danger. Call your state representative today!

Here's a recent poem about turkeys:

Turkey Heaven

Three wild turkeys
foraged above the leach field,
pulling their great teardrop bodies
behind like U-Haul trailers
as if their red pistoning heads
propelled them forward,
chest feathers dangling
in long pendants.

In shadow, grave, funereal
they stepped lightly forward
as if avoiding pebbles
like Puritans in a queue
treading carefully over sins
to meet a god unappeased
by burnt offerings.

I thought of Mather and Edwards
in long frock coats
filing forward to the altar,
heads heavy with theology,
pulling congregants behind,
dark bodies hauled to heaven.

But when the birds broke into sunlight
they were transformed
by brass and crimson highlights
etched in metallic green,
equal to any peacock
raising his paisley fan.

If metaphors could fly, they flew
at my dog’s frenzied approach,
oversized wings pumping,
boulder bodies rising,
gravity upended
in a miraculous roosting.

All for today. At one kilobunny,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Catcher in the Rye," Leonard Cohen and the Global Economy

I passed 50,000 visitors some time ago and have five posts left to make 600.

Naturally during my silences my readership has fallen, but as I have before stated, this blog is therapy for me, and obviously my absence is a good sign--I have not been in need of therapy. Still, in re-reading a few random posts today, I am pleased with the breadth of this blog--from psychology to religion and literature to science and football and current events--the number of topics is legion, though all tied together by my inherited illness, the suffering of which has been the main concern, and likely attracted the most readers.

I suppose it obvious that I have a rather abstract mind, though I hope that my writing contains enough concrete experience (and/or figures of speech) to keep the reader interested. Of course you must be a select reader to come here; as was said of Camels, "They're not for everyone." My perorations can be abstruse, though I try to write clearly. Clarity is what I most prize in prose, why I think Milan Kundera should win the Nobel Prize. Like John Steinbeck, and for similar reasons, I love Kundera's lack of adornment. I cannot say my own writing has progressed to such, but then I am lousy at fiction in any case.


In 54 years I have never been able to complete "Catcher in the Rye," and this has haunted me, so I bought a new copy and am past pg. 200, which gives a healthy prognosis to my completing it. What turned me off before, and what I can barely stand now, is the self-hatred of this adolescent narcissist. Everything he projects on others ("phonies, selfish, unfeeling") is exactly what he thinks of himself, of course, though he is unaware of the irony. Puzzling is his lack of preoccupation with the female body as a teenager, but many have commented on this in terms of latent homosexuality. If so, that self-hatred is buried even more deeply in his unconscious--he cannot begin to touch it. The only redeeming aspects of Caufield's character are his love for his sister, dead brother, and his admiration for his older brother, although he thinks his older brother, a writer, imprisoned among the Hollywood "phonies." And what is a phony in H.C.'s book? Anyone who is not feeling exactly how he is feeling at that moment.

I can see why this book held America by the short hairs; few have exposed the adolescent psychosis of extreme narcissism so well, and I wonder at what age Salinger wrote it. (Ah, the miracle of the net in instant research! As "Catcher in the Rye" appeared in 1951, Salinger would have been 32 when it was published, still close enough to recall adolescent agony.) To recall such inner experience so vividly requires a great amount of insight, and to portray it requires a great amount of skill. I couldn't have maintained this voice for more than ten pages as it ultimately sickens and bores me.

No wonder so many teenagers, in their developmental nihilism, are so attracted to the book. At 16 I was a proto-human whose boundaries between self and others and God were often magical and evanescent, who believed one thing one moment and another thing the next. What stands out most from that year was my conversion, which unfortunately forestalled the completion of my adolescence into my thirties.

For Leonard Cohen fans, or even if you're not, I want to take a moment to recommend his new, two-disc "Live in London." It averages five stars after 67 reviews there. Truly a wonder, especially considering the man is 73. And what a back-up band, nine pieces, incredible. Kathleen gave it to me for my birthday present (Oct. 17) alone with a new CD player to plug into our ancient van's cassette player, a pleasure she can only partly experience, mainly through rhythm, while we drive (for the uninformed, my wife was born profoundly deaf).


I would also like to share a passage I recently discovered in an obscure SciFi book entitled "Sykaos," by E. P. Thompson, on the human economy:

Of Money (by the alien, Oi Paz)

If property is the Rule, then 'money' is its Messenger. It is money which commands obedience. All life on Sykaos is a service on its errands. It is money which opens the door to property, and without which one is a holeless person.

Some money is a thing. It is round discs of a base metal such - or gold, which any smith might make, or ‘forge,’ but which it is forbidden to any to forge except an officer known as the ‘chancellor’ whose servants labour at forgery night and day in the ‘Treasury.’ So that he may give out money to those whom he favours and confiscate it from others by a means known as ‘tax,’ which tax is extorted from the general public in papers known as ‘cheques,’ for which reason the Chancellor's palace is known as the 'Ex-Chequer', from which exactions he passes an excess (or ‘excise') to the Pee-Em who has built from this store a handsome palace in the country named as 'Checquers'….

But the greater part of money is a no-thing. It is (like property) ¬a kind of awe, whose worship is performed in bumples known as ‘banks,’ which bumples are to be found in great numbers ~ every street.

The worshippers of money are divided into many sects and factions, each of which pay tribute to a different bumple, but I could never decipher the difference in their doctrines except that ¬in one sort the priesthood promise to their devotees that they W’’~ ensure that they are among the Elect after death--by which they are known as 'Life Ensurers’--whereas the other sort is more this-worldly in its catechisms, offering to believers the 'interest’ of their prophets, with much wild language exhorting the people to 'conversions' and 'savings', and calling upon them to surrender to the prophet’s their 'deeds' and 'wills.'

These prophets (or 'profits') were once great persons in antiquity, or founders of bumples and the authors of their books of faith, or 'bibles', whereby they were sometimes known as '¬'book-keepers,’ or 'bookies'. But now, as with all things Sykotic, they are degenerated to common servitors. It is their office now to stand like counters in a line behind little grilles where they hear the confessions or worshippers. And when the worshippers have given a tribute of money, they confess their sins in whispers through the grille and are 'paid' according to their merits .. with a penance (or 'debit') or an exhortation to faith (or ‘credit’) which is all set down in a computer as a 'balance' for the final Day of Reckoning. And some few, who are favoured by the profits, are given dispensation with the return of a little money, which they carry out of the bumples in their pockets and bags.

There are thus two kinds of money, which are known as ‘cash’ and 'debt'. The cash goes around in bags and pockets and passes between counters, in the form of papers, discs, cheques and other such forgeries. But the greater part is debt, or a fiction stored in the computers of banks, as a record of penance and faith. It is a promise of a hereafter, which the chief profits shuffle around in a continual circulation (or 'currency') between promisers and askers, believers and sinners, until all enquiry is perplexed and all that is left is awe.

We must note two remarkable qualities of money. The first is that the less cash there be, the greater the command of 'credit', and the greater the power of awe. For it happens sometimes that the person has no credit and is 'broke', from which qualification he may set up as a private profit or 'broker', and by cunning balancing of one promise against another (although there be nothing in these promises but air) he may in a short while erect such a structure of fictions that he is accounted by the computer to be one of the 'richest' men in the land.

The second quality of money is that it breeds or multiplies according to its use. For that small portion which is cash and which passes from bag to bag is infertile and grows daily less from use. But that great part which is fiction swells and procreates in the computers. So that a great moneylender, such as a broker or the chief profit of a bank, who instructs the computer to imagine that his money is some nation's debt, may lie all year in bed doing nothing and yet at the end of it his money will have multiplied. And it is pretended that this man (but in truth his money) now owns great extents of lands and trees and buildings and flocks of beefs. Which 'properties' he has never seen and cannot use.

All this goes on above the heads of the people, who worship it as a sacred mystery. For the greater part of them have no more business with the banks than to take to them a weekly tribute for their profits and to make confession. And yet all their goings and comings are ordered within the Rule of Money.

This is all as I have observed, and I set it down as exact science. What, then, is money? If it be a measure, then what quality—as colour, or weight, or heat--does it measure? A person pretending to learning will say that money measures 'value;’ but if one asks what value is it will say that value is what a thing is 'worth' or honoured; and if one asks how worth is determined and who apportions honour, it will reply that it is done by 'price'; and price is the name of the scale of money. So that it is money which apportions honour and which measures this whole planet in its scales.

And as they pretend to 'own' nature, so also they measure in money all their creature-intercourse. Except within the secret life of their little series-sets, or families, they have no concept of gifts, or fair trading in which honour is the measure and the increase of the social sum is the end. They do not, in obedience to the Festive Fairs of the Colleges, send out their carriages laden with votive offerings. One sees in the streets no casual exchanges between givers, each anxious to outvie the other in generosity, and so to come better out of the deal. There are no troupes of dancers, or flautists, performing in the squares, and richly rewarded by the street-walkers' joy. There are no poets, galloping on unicorns, hastening to serve their writs to the multitude without any thought of any 'quid.’ No: every duty, every service, every obligation, all are met, not with an equivalence of courtesy, but with a few dirty discs, a scrap of paper, or a promise of hereafter whispered to a profit in confession. As if Oi Paz [the alien narrator] were to write this grave tome, and indict these weighty sciences, and expect in exchange for all his pain and labours, not the awe-struck deference of the Club of Critics, but a few lumps of gold like chuckall's dung. As if Oi Paz were to write for money!

I have never read such a prescient precis' of the global economy.

1 Kilobunny,

Craig Erick

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Whole Thing II

It's been a while since I've blogged, but that is a measure of mental health in that I don't feel the therapeutic need to do so, even if I had a little dip in my mood in the last week, though increased medications seem to have that on the run. I won't list my medications; I've done so in the past. I don't want anyone to think my cocktail is universal or easily applied to others. These combinations of drugs are beyond psychiatry's ability to determine if and why they work--as long as you're doing well, keep taking them. In medical school in a lecture on psychosis a professor opined: "This is an antipsychotic, Mellaril. Take 50 mg. a day and if you feel better, don't tell anyone."

(Doctors are the most serious drug abusers and RNs a close second. Availability, availability, availability. But Mellaril is hardly a drug of abuse.)

As for reading, I've plowed through a slew of novels of late, have nearly finished Wallace Stevens' collected poems, and am more than halfway through with John Ashbery's selected. Stevens is a master; Ashbery is a curiosity of our times, a man who shares his present, quotidian consciousness with us and often contrasts it with the past and muses on stages of development. He is not a lyric poet; he is not a logopoet; he is a discursive poet who throws everything in but the kitchen sink in his usual pastiche of narrating his own consciousness. He is boring, obtuse and self-indulgent. When he briefly attempts formal rhymes they are laughable. Had he been writing a century ago I daresay he wouldn't have been a poet at all. Back then you had to be able to master a sonnet. I cannot disrecommend him more highly, but he has benefited me in loosening my associations in my own compositions.

Earlier in this blog I attempted to encompass "the whole thing." Here's a link to that post: The Whole Thing

I have now worked the same thing into one of my recent poems:

The Whole Thing

Is a nimiety of untold proportions,
a whirling globe of radishes,
a carnival with a trillion barkers,
a moon braying at a palm forest,
a thousand-eyed politician,
numberless embalmers with brake fluid,
the naked ballerina twirling at the speed of light
like some vanishing gyroscope,
how the pumpkin seeds coat everything,
the evaporation of water,
salt crust of a diminishing bog,
carnivorous plants in a Gorgon wig,
the extinction of dinosaurs,
the Dodo holocaust, the decline of frogs,
nimbus of maggots, temple of flies
wound around a rubber center
like a golf ball with its shiny dimples,
the stainless steel contraption
we dreamed of that did everything,
the ultimate Swiss Army Knife,
a Hoover with a million attachments
for soldering and colonoscopy and carpet cleaning,
the crystal hagiography of various churches
spread like maps on the brown velvet
and all the funny hats, funny hats
in Cardinal red or Quaker black
honoring the birdbath of their flocks,
a giant gumball rolling down a farm road
picking up feathers and cigar stubs
and all manner of vegetables,
growing monstrously large
like an irradiated pumpkin
but uncontainable, incontestable,
always in motion while accreting substance
of sand, shells, gravel, straw, burrs
stuck to its expanding surface
like hemagglutinin spikes on a virus,
a thing of absolute obesity
gobbling souls like popcorn
while film coils around film
into the ultimate movie,
a chambered nautilus of action figures,
special effects and nausea,
the smell of charred spaceships
mixed with Chanel No. 5,
bubbling green alien flesh on no earthly channel
rather broadcast to us by them
who overpopulate the periphery
of the humongous outbreak of potentiality
that attracts everything, having more gravity
than anything, an all-absorbent ball
of paper towels, a thing without tonsils or teeth
that absorbs us through its porous skin
as a frog does oxygen, a sticky thing,
a caramel apple of prodigious girth,
taking the shape of a sphere
because it is the most economical
though it cares nothing about economy
as it eclipses the global GDP
in its relentless overbearing on everything at once,
pressing down on the collective forehead,
depressing eyes with fishing weights,
insatiable superplanet sucking up moons
like plankton, the whole pelican’s beak
but already molting beyond that,
plastered about with hummingbird wings
like bumper stickers, the whole damn
indefinable mess of it, an all-encompassing
space-time Thanksgiving turkey
obliterating the Big Bang with drippings,
stuffing itself with the bread crumbs of galaxies,
constantly feasting on the universe
but perverse enough to fuck with you
personally if you take it that way.

(It garnered an honorable mention at the Wild Poetry Forum one week.)

To recount the events from my life in intervening weeks would be beyond my scope or ability. The Mendocino Men's Circle retreat is happening the weekend of the 25th, a process in which I've been heavily involved, and Kathleen and I are leaving for NY on the 29th to see her mother and assorted friends. I hope to visit Norm Ball in DC and take in the Smithsonian as well. I am, however, a west coast snob, thinking our northern Pacific coast far superior to anything they have out there in Flatland, and the Appalachians are nothing like the Sierras.

For those who wished the Melic Board were reestablished, I can only say I have no plans for the immediate future, though I often regret ending the magazine when I did, but I was lacking a webmaster and engulfed in a two-year depression, as followers of this blog know.

I've purchased a stunt kite that is so far too difficult to fly, though I have lacked sustained winds. The other day I shot par at the local Frisbee golf course! Today I must spray the flower garden with deer repellent, made with spoiled egg salad and garlic, sold commercially--I kid you not. But it works. Those four-hooved rats don't like it at all.

I just had another rejection from Poetry but I soldier on. I hope my opinion of Ashbery doesn't disqualify me.

All for today,


Sunday, August 30, 2009

On Poetry Boards; Last Night's Reading

Last night I had a lovely reading at the Mendocino Hotel where I sold four books to a sparse audience. But they were attentive and I had a grand time. Doing what I do best, reading from my own work, always pumps me up! I got to bed late. But what a pleasure to fulfill your calling--a calling with which those who have followed this blog are familiar.

Today at in a discussion of the effect of online poetry boards, I had this to say.

I have nursed these questions for years, having begun the Melic Roundtable poetry board in 1998, shutting it down in roughly 2006 when barbarians invaded. We did not require registration at the board, one of the last "free" boards, and the moderators had no power to delete. For a while we had a thriving culture, winning more IBPC awards than any other board. But it collapsed and policing didn't interest me.

The main difficulty in poetry boards is separating the unfledged from the advanced, so that beginners are not cudgeled into despair nor the elite bored and disgusted. Many boards now include levels to join by personal choice, as in the "Merciless and Possibly Painful Critique" at the Poetry Free-for-All (I don't necessarily recommend this board but here's the link: )

The proliferation of boards has definitely diluted the quality, say since 2003. At that time there was great competition between a few boards for primacy: Melic, Alsop, and Web del Sol among them.

It is the grand disparity in craft and talent that "dumbs down" boards into factories of misguided compliments. I suspect the best poetry workshops reside in private listservs or carefully guarded posting areas. Zeugma was an early example of this, producing a number of fine poets before it ceased.

Ultimately it's like tennis: always play a slightly better player. But for those of us who have published widely and have non-vanity books, where do we find these players? Certainly the exalted like Ashbery, Murray, Strand and Levine don't play anywhere.

To speak the truth, I wager that most advanced poets have little patience with fledglings, despite the encouragement ladled out at seminars and as MFA instructors expected to be "nice" for the continuing income generated. Here capitalism largely prevents excellence IMHO. The similar "never a discouraging word" culture practiced at so many boards is maddening. Fear of hurting the feelings of the callow will soon make a more discerning critic into a skunk at a garden party (to use a much worn trope).

So rather than deride the existence of mediocre boards, or promote the severity of a board as I mentioned above, I think the best solution is a listserv or personal correspondence between poets of roughly the same level instead of the potpourri nature of boards and their subcultures of obvious glad-handing.

Lastly, "Fleet Street" has always existed, famously satirized in Pope's "The Dunciad." Its proliferation on the net is not a new development, but an inevitable consequence of tyros reaching for the laurel. To this we ought to be accustomed by history.

You can always find me at Facebook now as Craig Erick Chaffin. As I said in a previous post, I think Facebook and Twitter are driving down the popularity of blogs, save the exalted, group blogs (like Huffington's) that have morphed into profit generating enterprises.

At 1 Kilobunny (though I did get very pumped up after the reading as I always do),

C. E. Chaffin

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Twitter, Facebook, New Issue of Poetry and New Poem

I have to wonder if Facebook participation has not only crimped my blog but many others. I'm sure the urge to such a platform began with teenage phone-texting, that telegraphic, concrete practice of the young ascending into the cyber-ether with trails of trivia in its wake. To blog, to my thinking, is to write a piece of some substance with enough room for language to do more than say, "I'm going to the store now."

Twitter I have resisted for that reason; you can post a decent paragraph on Facebook but Twitter limits you to the mundane, unless you quote part of a poem, as I have when my publisher first urged me to employ Twitter.

Are our minds getting smaller or is the world just too big to do anything but attach passing comment of little merit? I prefer to think that it is a matter of impatience and illiteracy. How many of the new generation know anything about history in general, especially the history of literature? How many have the patience to sit down with a great book that requires their undivided attention? Video games, cell phones, Twitter, texting, don't these affect the human attention span negatively? Is everyone in such a hurry or is illiteracy the new standard?

I confess this state of affairs has somewhat discouraged me from blogging, since it's hard for me to say something in 100 words or less. Expository prose needs something more than a breathless exhalation of the latest personal circumstance. It needs pacing, development, and patience on the reader's part.


I have just received this month's edition of Poetry and am per usual underwhelmed, except for the section of personal essays in which, of all things, a Tampa Bay Outfielder weighs in literately. So does a federal appellate judge. The poems range from good to bad; Samuel Menache, the lead poet, has an obvious perch in the hallowed halls of Harriet Monroe since he was awarded the "The Neglected Master's Award"--by Poetry, of course--in 2004. Let us say simply that this is one "master" who deserves neglect.

Of the book reviews we find only the usual suspects, those with books published either by Alfred A. Knopf or Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Small presses and prominent Net poets always go unrecognized in this august journal desperately striving to be current in a world of poetic Balkanization. The editors seem without direction, like the hundred-eyed giants of Greek mythology. In trying to see everything they concentrate on nothing.

It gives me some hope to note that Wallace Stevens' first book, "Harmonium," published in 1923, only sold 100 copies. This is how many lasting poets begin, their reputations only to be rescued in old age. Some break through in their own time, but I think current darlings Rae Armantrout and Kay Ryan eminently forgettable, to name two. Where are the classicists? Where are the masters? Many lost to experimental blather, I fear, trying so hard to be original that they become grotesque. Naturally I have written about this at length in essays, but I won't bore you with links. You can always Google me, the new measure of relative cultural worth, where I hang around 20,000 references, if you must know.

To follow poetry in earnest nowadays is impossible, with probably a thousand literary magazines on the Net and who knows how many small press journals. This is why, no doubt, I prefer reading the acknowledged greats prior to 1960. Why waste your time on contemporaries when the judgment of history has already anointed those worth reading in the recent (as far as literary history goes) past? I read Poetry through each month and try to wrap my brain around what's good in it, but were I the editor, many of the poems would never have made it in. And when you look at the bios in the back, there are virtually no unknowns--almost every author has some claim to a prize or multiple books or some other sign of assigned greatness that evaporates when you read their work. Should I mention names? No, I do not wish to make enemies in an insular world where "never is heard a discouraging word." Still, in the freedom of a blog, I can post my own poems, which I think no less worthy than the fare in Poetry, where my reputation precedes me, excluding me from consideration for a lack of exalted credentials. Here's today's poem:

Blue Feather

The screech of a jay in a pinafore--
what that dark hole of dancing's for:
the blue feather at the crinoline core.

Take a pearl, how the dark seed of sand
swaddles itself in layers of pink hands,
the blue feather in the seed of sand.

My darkness doesn't advertise its blue.
I leave the Sherlock Holmes routine to you.
The blue feather of a cockatoo.

When Satan heard of the discovery
that dark was at the center of recovery,
the blue feather snapped his reverie.

The vulture circled above the humming flies.
The carrion was not a major prize.
The blue feather saw it in his eyes.

It's not a blue guitar, it's just a blade
of quills with some metallic undershade:
the blue feather of the Stellar's jay.

The informed reader will notice the obvious nod to Wallace Stevens in this piece, but I hope it is somewhat of an original nod.

When I say I am a Classicist I mean that there are principles to art: first, unity; second, meaningful substance; third, form appropriate to that substance; and fourth, a certain lyrical expectation of the language. I could list more but these four will do to exclude much contemporary verse.

I do not feel inferior to the poets in Poetry, except for their much-polished bios; my bio would likely include so many unheralded journals that the giants would laugh, but I encourage them to laugh. What Poetry does worst, what all the academic venues do worst, is to risk discovering poets on the Net or in small journals, as they may risk their reputation as exalted magazines. Just take a look at the bios in Poetry! In most cases these form a pre-qualification for inclusion.

I admit I've submitted to Poetry repeatedly but this provokes no jealousy on my part; what I see in the magazine does not impress me enough to think I am less for a relative lack of recognition. I do not recommend subscribing to Poetry unless you hunger for a snapshot of how little anyone can judge the value of a current poet's work. One should write for all time and not just for a time, but the popularity of many poets, as in the review of Fred Seidel, often depend on current references, though admittedly many of the poems in Poetry do reach for all time. Few attain it. Of the many poems included, I would cite Desiree' Alvarez and Katia Kapovich, with one poem each, as worth reading.


Here on the Mendocino Coast it's sunny today, but we all know that can change in a minute; the ever-present fog bank is far out at sea, though still visible. I watched my wife work in the garden this morning with joy, our dog curled in the sun nearby. And soon I will see my brother, up here vacationing. Thank God for the little joys of life which poetry tries so hard to capture! (Though mainly it must fail.)

Thine in Truth and Art,

C. E. Chaffin

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Existential Psychoanalyisis

I've recently read some Kierkegaard, which I wrote about here briefly, and I just finished Sartre's "Existentialism and Emotion." Though I have often called myself an "Existential Christian Taoist" (in part to form the acronym for Electro-Convulsive Therapy which I have twice endured), my understanding of Existentialism has been more second hand. In the book Sartre spends the last two chapters on "Existential Psychoanalysis," showing how it might differ from traditional psychoanalysis. Fascinating though somewhat dated stuff.

In my Logopoetry I essay I substituted "Existential" for "Post-Modern" as the dominant philosophical core of poetry since roughly 1960. I stand by my pronouncement; the key problem of the Post-Moderns has been the problem of the self, perhaps best typified by the poetry of Mark Strand, but certainly also owing to the psychological research of such luminaries as Kohut and Kernberg.

In any case, how does existential psychoanalysis differ from traditional analysis? In Existentialism, existence must precede essence. Our essence, our configuration of personality, derives from our choices, and not to choose is as much a choice as to choose. Thus our personalities are not powered by unconscious material but by conscious choices, and whatever we become conscious of no longer belongs to the unconscious. Thus an existential therapist would not be interested in potty training, rather what the subject could remember about the choices in such a struggle--which of course doesn't have to be a struggle at all, since training often goes smoothly. The individuation of attachment to mother can also be seen as a choice, a choice that leads to other choices of independence--or not. There are no excuses in Existentialism; what you see is what you get. To say, "I would have been a doctor if only I'd had the money" is equivalent to choosing not to be a doctor. To say "My mother dominated me" means you chose to be dominated. In this Existentialism somewhat resembles Renaissance paintings where children are represented as little adults. Adolescence is a creature of the post-industrial world. That choices may be harder to make in adolescence perhaps makes them even more important. But there is no excuse for one's behavior. It is freely chosen in the face of circumstances and despite circumstances, and the resulting path fits best with the transactional analysis concept of "life script"--the drama we live out from our repeated choices, what in pure analytic terms might be named a "complex."

Naturally the existential approach simplifies analysis. Begin with today's choices and work back if necessary; or let the therapist proclaim to the patient that they are entirely free to choose differently at once. In this it would resemble the educable notions of cognitive-behavioral therapy, re-shaping the thinking and choices of a personality rather than trying to understand the underlying unconscious impulses.

Nevertheless, people do get stuck in the complexes of their past choices, as in a life script, why women who are abused often pick abusive boyfriends, why all the sisters in my mother's family chose alcoholic husbands. Can such unconscious choices really be explained by earlier capitulations in development, or do they more deserve the mercy of extended analysis as the basis for choice? In my experience, putting a life under the microscope of choice does not sufficiently allow for the godlike influence of the parents on the tabula rasa of the infant. We do not choose our parents, our circumstances. How does the boy born in a Bengal slum secure the hope of bettering himself? How do the rich and privileged end up in rehabilitation centers? The course of adult development never did run smooth, and there are jerks and suprarational progressions which occur in all of us that simple choice cannot explain. What choice does a seven-year-old have in sexual abuse? Little or none. Who thinks of resisting their father at that age? So the existential approach, like transactional analysis, seems too simple and limiting for the task of helping human self-understanding. In this I think Sartre is wrong and unwittingly aligns himself with B. F. Skinner and extreme behaviorists.

To put Existentialism on its head we must declare that essence precedes existence, that some inborn nature, our DNA in short, has a strong effect on development. Take my inherited illness, for instance, manic-depression. If identical twins are raised separately from birth and one develops full-blown manic-depression, the chances the other twin will have it are 75%. What does this have to do with choice? Or in anoxic birth insult resulting in cerebral palsy? Or in Turner's syndrome or any amount of genetically determined defects? Obviously Sartre didn't have such science at hand when he penned his book, but he was wrong. I think essence precedes existence. I think the constellation of our DNA predisposes us to certain choices and life patterns. We have too many biological choices already made for us at birth--not a tabula rasa but a precondition and tendency towards certain choices, why boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls.

Thus existential psychoanalysis appears to me a crock. What is needed is understanding and forgiveness both for the choices we freely made and those incumbent upon us from our birth natures and unchosen circumstances. Dwarfs don't do well at basketball, in other words, no matter their choices. As imperfect beings we need help with our natures and the choices that issue from our natures, not a bald declaration of our responsibility for everything. Strangely, Sartre steals a passage from Dostoevsky when he says, "You are responsible to everyone for everything." What a burden to assume from birth!

When I say I am an Existential Christian Taoist, what I mean is that I believe in free will within the limits of genetics, that I believe in the Christian approach to failed humanity, and that I also believe in the flowing nature of reality, that reality as much comes to us as we choose it, that often it is best to go with the flow of one's appointed life than resist it maniacally, though sometimes such resistance is needed. Sometimes you must be a rock in the river of life, as the river is going the wrong direction for you.

My ECT designation allows for inherited tendencies and informed and uninformed choices, with a philosophy of eternal redemption attached. Here Christianity does Existentialism one better: Every choice in life leads to damnation or salvation. Choosing one's self over all others is the path to damnation; choosing one's self and others, or in relation to others, respecting in them the same spiritual center that all men share, is the path to salvation. And the path to salvation is not the lonely, haunted, desperate path Kierkegaard paints; it is rather the joyful submission to a process in which our choices are informed by our best beliefs, chief among them "Love your neighbor."

Still, extremism does not obtain here; before becoming a Christian one must first become a person, preferably an adult. If religion (esp. fanatical devotion) is introduced too early in a child's development it can be stunting, leading to fear and closed mindedness. Christianity is meant as a blessing, not a curse. To love and be loved are its central constituents. To do good works is an outgrowth of this spiritual contract. To pursue healing of others, as Christ did (and the first hospitals were established by Christians), is witness to the fact that we are not whole, that we bear diseases we did not choose, that there is something essentially wrong with a world where beings capable of salvation are subjected to suffering not of their choice.

I agree with Sartre that man's chief desire is to be God, and that this lies at the center of many of our choices--the wish to control everything, the infant's wish to control its mother, the broker's wish to control the stock market. These are infantile longings that nevertheless seep into our adult consciousness and cause continual havoc. Sartre argues that in our wishing to become God, God is relegated to the limit of our powers, a "god of the gaps" if you will. I agree with this in part, as does the Bible, where the Fall originated from a desire on man's part to become as God. Yet in Sartre's formulation God is no longer necessary, he is only a symbol of the pinnacle of man's striving, beyond which we feel the need to posit a god.

But it's much simpler than this. The process of development is a ceding of the imagined, narcissistic powers of infancy in favor of individuation and socialization. This happens whether we like it or not, and here choices can be revealing, as in the unpublished poet who considers himself the greatest undiscovered talent in the world and sneers at editors who have rejected him. Such a one has been able to maintain his imaginary centrality and importance in spite of experience. But in most cases experience chips away at our narcissism until we see others as equal in value if not ability. This is the necessary and normal education of this life. And if in this experience one feels a lack, an abiding need for something or someone greater, it is also natural to adopt a religious stance, not as a defense but as a hope for the best in us.

Religion is not a defense against insignificance; it is not a band-aid for suffering; it is not a reward for good behavior or good works; it is a necessary longing for transcendence that religionists believe is natural to man and his development.

To make it absurd, what would the Existentialist say to a risen Christ? That he chose to be resurrected? A priori, Existentialism does not allow for miracles except those that are achieved through our choices and work, perhaps with a little luck. An Existentialist could pass his fingers through Christ's wounds and say, "How interesting! What choices did you make to attain this?" There is no room for the supernatural in Existentialism, indeed no room for fate as we understand fate as the intersection of natures and events. If I encounter a bar room brawl I will likely try to end it or take up one side of the struggle. Others might retire to the safety of the bathroom or outdoors. Just these sort of encounters put the lie to pure Existentialism, as our choices flow from our natures and our natures derive ultimately from our inherited biology, secondly from circumstances over which we have no control, as in our parents' treatment of us. Being the second-born son in my family, in addition to my inborn sense of justice, makes me take up the defense of the innocent, always tempting me to join the fight. My brothers are more peaceable than this.

Should I remove "Existentialism" from my acronym? No, because I think as one matures, the primacy of choice becomes more dominant. What one chooses at forty differs immensely from what one can choose at twenty. Experience tempers hope, hope informs experience, and no forty-year-old is going to take off for a career as a professional baseball player--that choice would be absurd. One has the freedom to make absurd choices but the wisdom of experience tends to narrow such choices to the bounds or reality as we move forward.

Here's one: Did I choose to be a poet or was I chosen? I go into this a bit in my essay in Pif, "How I Became a Poet." I was already making up songs and poems before I could read. I wrote poetry from an early age. Why? It was part of my nature. In the essay I refer to people and things that discouraged me from poetry, but I could never stop reading it or writing it. Thus a poet is both born and made. We suffer our natures and our choices. When our choices are most in accord with our natures we are most happy. Then happiness is not a concern of Existentialism, rather integrity--the integrity of acknowledging one's choices. I say choices pre-exist in us according to our natures, that essence precedes existence, and if in saying this I no longer qualify as even a junior existentialist, so be it. I have made my choice.

2 Kilobunnies,


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to Blogging; Poem, "On Resurrection"

I haven't blogged in a coon's age and my readership has fallen by two thirds, but I am not concerned. Facebook and Twitter are downsizing prose into convenient bites, endangering the language until it becomes a telegraphic utility. Imagine Joseph Conrad or Henry James trying to twitter--it beggars the imagination.

Likewise I like a good deal of blank page to initiate thought, and language must prepare us for denouements, for set-ups and set-downs and cruise control as well.

I am a classicist, I admit. Not all changes in the use of language are propitious, and poetry is certainly one of the casualties of modern reality speak. It's the subtleties I love, the difference between "indifference" and "neutrality." It's the fine lines between connotations that Shakespeare exploited, not to mention his joy in puns.

The reason I have ceased blogging for so long is that I've been happy. Happy, happy! And whence this source of happiness? Good chemicals! Yes, my mood has been purring along like a satisfied cat after a meal of fresh bird. Only me and my psychiatric headdresser know for sure.

I have been writing poetry though reading much more of it. I've recently sampled Ashbery, Merwin and Stevens. Stevens outclasses them in spades. Indeed, Stevens ranks as one of the top five poets in English in the 20th century, IMHO. Throw in Eliot, Frost, Yeats and Larkin and you have my preferred current quintet.

A friend from Ireland who had the temerity to purchase and enjoy my book recently sent me a CD of a rare Larkin recording, and what a joy it is! To hear "Whitsun Weddings" read aloud by the master is nonpareil. It has encouraged me to scour the net for recordings of all my favorite poets, though I must say about my all-time favorite, T. S. Eliot--yes I must say--that his recordings don't do justice to his poems, so dry and monotonic and unforgivably English in his performance. I may get over this. Sam Rasnake, editor of Blue Fifth Review, famously listened to "The Waste Land" every day for a year. I don't want to repeat his experiment, but I would love to lard my CD player with more spoken verse than I ever have before.

Speaking of which I am a good reader, and when faced with an audience my verse rises to new heights for both audience and reader. The least inflection, pause, or variation of tone can put a poem into a three-dimensional matrix that carries the hearer along in its sweep, aiding the experience immensely. I love to read. My next date is August 29 at the Mendocino Hotel conference room at 7 PM in Mendocino, CA. If any of you are in the immediate geographic region, I hope you can stop by.

As for Stevens, I read aloud his "Esthetique du Mal" yesterday to great profit. I needed to read it out loud to understand it. Same with Rilke. Eliot I find easier from long study. The spoken word revolution is right in this: a poem is two-dimensional until launched from the tongue.

Recent adventures include a ride in a jet boat 52 miles up the Rogue River in Oregon and a kayak adventure up the Big River here (for which I paid in sciatica). At the turnaround point of our trip, Kathleen and I went skinny dipping in the cool water, a real Adam and Eve encounter with no one in sight.

I find the rhythm of rowing delightful and only wish that the chronic disability of my spine might let me indulge in previous occupations like backpacking and bicycling and body surfing, but alas, one must live within one's limitations. I can still hike without a pack and swim as well; prolonged kayaking would likely land me on my back, and already did as I spent sometime on the kayak supine on the benches, resting my twisted spine. But no matter; as I said, I'm happy! And happiness should not be questioned too deeply or it loses its sheen; one should not go Descartes on the experience but accept it with gratefulness. Periods of joy in one's life should not be analyzed lest the butterfly become the man.

I have decided to hoard my ongoing work in poetry until I have a cache sufficient for an assault on the "good" journals. I feel I have sold my work too cheaply in middling journals to this point for the sheer thrill of publication. But to enhance my modest reputation would be best served by pursuing journals of reputation. I know the rejection rate will be much higher, but the reward is proportionately greater. Despite this I can still post poems here, as in most journals it does not count as publication and posts here (usually in earlier draft form) can be easily erased from the cyberworld.

BTW, there is a new review out in Chimeara from a reluctant reviewer who was won over by the poetry. I'm convinced that if you buy the book you might experience the same, even if you are not a regular aficianado of the art.

Poetry seeks to universalize the particular and particularize the universal. It can be read as a Whitman's sampler, no need to eat the whole box (or whole book) at one sitting, though with practice you can read longer. Nevertheless the impact of one good poem ought to be savored, as in my reading aloud of Stevens.

Here's one of my latest:

On Resurrection

I saw English ivy swallowing up
the wreck of a Bishop pine
in a colonnade of green,
how life incorporates death--
not resurrection but displacement
as if the pine had never been--
not transformation
but vegetable vampirism.

Last year's angelica's
brown umbrella ribs
sway beside new white umbels,
bright clones with no
recollection of death
like a phoenix shaking out
its brilliant feathers
on an extinguished cinnamon pyre
without a name.

Displacement, re-growth;
these examples fall short
of immortalization, as when Hercules
was penciled in the heavens
to join the eternal pattern
though he did not remember--
no snakes to crush, no stables to wash.
His night is a mausoleum
of connected fires whose figures
cannot speak or gesture,
imprisoned in stars.

Ah Hercules, who were you?
Your fires will not recall
eons of fusion, collapsing
into dull iron. If stars were sentient
you might be reconstructed.
For now comets streak by without remark.
Not to be recognized again
is equal to death.

The soul, a compromise
between consciousness and pears
necessitates a resurrection,
a thought fantastic in this age
of polls and corpses
but no other myth
preserves the person.
How would I know myself
if I did not remember?

I'm saving this for a good journal, should I be so lucky.

For now, adieu, my few readers. I do love blogging, much more than the telegraphic pronouncements of Facebook and Twitter.

Happy Trails,

At two kilobunnies,

Craig Erick

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Comments on Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling"

Kierkegaard, in idealizing his "knights of faith," of whom Abraham is the chief example, exalts faith to such a pitch that it is impossible for the common man. We are left with an absolute relationship to the universal ethos at best, but cannot move infinitely toward a particular's absolute relationship to the absolute. In other words, we're screwed. We need a counter-Kierkegaard who celebrates the sheep.

Kierkegaard thus creates a double standard for faith; the truly chosen, like Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, Mary and others--and the rest of us who are told to do as they say, not as they do. They can do outlandish things because they have an absolute relation to the absolute, while we have only, at best, an absolute relationship to the universal. But the universal breaks down precisely where faith's deeds violate it

If I celebrated the simple faith of the sheep, those believers who do not exceed a vision of the universal ethos wedded to the numinous, but do the acts of faith faithfully, Kierkegaard would accuse me of elevating the bourgeois to the level of believer. He could find no true believer in his society but had to imagine one. In all, he repeats the psalmist: "Our God is in the heavens and he does whatever he pleases."

If then the common believer cannot exceed the universal ethos without the burden of sin, he is condemned to a less than intimate relationship with God, the same that Kierkegaard achieved. The tragic hero discloses the universal ethos; the knight of faith exceeds it by special dispensation. In creating "the knight of faith" Kierkegaard comes dangerously close to Nietzsche's "Ubermensch." Both despised the average man, the bourgeoisie.

Kierkegaard exalts those who violate God's "law" in the name of a higher vision of God, just as God violates his own laws by raising Christ from the dead--though one can presume a higher law. If there is a higher law, it is the unpredictable aspect of God's nature. Thus God can conscript a man like Abraham into immoral ventures because the first necessary attribute of God is omnipotence, hence free will.

In summary, rather than a democratic existentialist, Kierkegaard becomes a spiritual elitist, holding us all to a standard of a special revelation of God--particularly a revelation that conflicts with the real ethos--as proof of our absolute relation to the absolute. In all this he ignores Christ, who is the absolute relation to the absolute, who in fact embodies the absolute. It is through Christ that we find the faith of sheep and the giants of the faith. One should not be dismissed by the other; prophets need followers, gods need disciples. We are Christ's hands and feet. For the foot to say to the hand, "you are above me," or "I don't need you" (as Paul instructed), denies the body of Christ.

Sure, Dante painted a picture of heaven where each soul rose to the highest sphere of what love it could receive, with Mary at the top because she could receive all of God's love. Each of us is filled to our capacity with love. That some have greater capacities is understandable, and is no reason for jealousy.

Kierkegaard, in essence, makes faith impossible by holding up impossible examples. It's the sorrow of the unattainable that runs through his work. He should have been a poet.



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Personal Update

My blog is flagging. I notice I haven't posted since June 14. My readership is naturally sagging faster than a woman who nursed quintuplets.

What have I to report? Or what to report have I? Or to report, what have I? I have what to report? My strength has never been reporting, and it's not just the syntax. I try to do "creative nonfiction" as it's being called today. Nothing new. Just another category for Mark Twain's "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," if I remember the title properly, though "jumping" seemeth redundant.

But I can report. My lovely 20-yr.-old daughter just concluded a two weeks' visit which made for a pause in our lives, what with all the hiking, shopping, and catching up on her life and ours.

Also, the relative contentment I've experienced chemically over the last several months has given me no urgent condition to confess.

I was at the Kate Wolf Musical Festival on Sunday, mainly to see Richard Thompson--who played solo and did not disappoint--though he left the headliner, Emmylou Harris, in dire straits by playing first. People started leaving during her set, and no wonder--that breathy, whining voice playing so many slow, essentially three-chord songs made for a painful anticlimax.

Some earlier acts were good, notably "Po Girl" and "The Girlie Boys." The latter group had some amazing harmonies.

On the literary front I can't remember how many links I've given you to reviews, interviews and the like. The reviews of my book are available at my website. I've had the most success in promoting the book at actual readings. My next comes on July 5 in LA at Beyond Baroque, a premier venue, so I'm told. Then I'm reading on July 28 at Amnesia (bar) in San Francisco. In between we hope to go on a journey north to Eugene, Oregon and the Olympic Peninsula to see friends, and old friend from high school and a longstanding literary acquaintance in the Peninsula, Laird Barron, whose new collection of horror stories, The Imago Sequence, I highly recommend.

I'm still recovering from Sunday's music marathon. It seems wherever you looked someone was passing a funny cigarette. And it was hot by Mendocino Coast standards, and combined with a healthy dose of beer I found myself immobile for long periods, punctuated by my need to wander through the campsites where I ran into a number of friends from the coast. In fact, I met the coast Rabbi for the first time, the wife of a friend. The Synagogue out here is a healthy concern.

Below, as you will see, I completed a long poem on "The River of Life," which also happens to be the theme adopted for our men's retreat this year. The poem diverges from much contemporary poetry by being Parnassian, or seeking the "high seriousness" that Matthew Arnold spoke of. That is to say, the poem relies more upon knowledge already possessed by the reader rather than any quotidian revelation or experiential epiphany gained. It talks about the river of life on two levels, but that is quite straightforward and I won't belabor the poem anymore here. I put it at the end of the post because I don't know how many will have the patience to read it, although it goes fairly fast--under ten minutes out loud, the best way to read any poem (and especially this poem because it relies so much on rhythm for its advancement).

If you get a poet talking about their art, be prepared to be bored for a while.

Driving home from Laytonville at 3 AM was a trial, after the long day, and my eyes blurred and watered so bad that I feared I would cease to see. Highway 101 north of Willits has some long-ass curves you can't really see at night, even with your brights, so I felt properly lost and stayed under 55 mph in the right lane (when there was one) despite the 65 mph speed limit. Once I got to the 20 in Willits I was better off because of familiarity, despite the two-lane endlessly winding road with turns sometimes designated at 15 mph.

The velocity of modern living is nothing to sneeze at, however, for how many have tweeted me in the interim, how many new literary publications have surfaced on the Net, how much Facebook news has passed me by--also I have been rejected again by Poetry, which seems to mark each quarter-year passing of my life. On to another rejection!

What does rejection mean from the top-flight magazines? Presumably that you're not top-flight yet. I accept that, though in some individual poems, like "Boundaries" (recently named the best poem on the net for one week), I may have risen above the glass ceiling, but that's just another poem rejected by Poetry (no, wait--I didn't see that specific work in my long line of rejections, but I swear I sent it to them once).

I'm told Jack London had near 600 rejections before he really started rolling, but his literary naturalism was a relief from current fare in his time, and he went on to become the biggest celebrity author in America, in fact, after Mark Twain, truly defining that role. I read twenty of his best stories recently, and his perspective of social Darwinism is often punctuated with stories of trust and brotherhood in the face of the wild, so it's not all survivalist literature. In particular I enjoyed his South Sea tales. Most only associate London with the far north, but he spent much time in the tropics as well.

As I said in my last post, I'm also recovering from the Laker's victory. Next year looks promising again. Meantime I'm so bored I'm watching the first season of "Lost" at night, a gift from my middle daughter. I can't explain why I like the show so much, I suppose it's the characters, though they do not face survival as London's characters did, as food and shelter are provided by previous inhabitants of the mysterious island.

I've been avidly listening to a new bird call that swirls and rises and echoes itself at the end; we think it's a Swainson's Thrush, as thrushes are the most elegant singing birds in this neck of the woods, indeed of North America. Robert Frost has a lovely poem on one, "The Oven Bird," as does Hardy in "The Darkling Thrush." These birds can actually manufacture two tones at once and harmonize with themselves, something humpback whales cannot do for all their length of song.

I feel a little stymied at present; my long poem was roundly trashed at a poetry workshop site; I need a boost of creativity or insight or something to get my muse back at the table. Perhaps I have insulted her by going my way too much in the poem below. The reader must judge, if indeed any reader braves the poem.

"It's OK to be content," my wife assures me, but what I'm experiencing is sort of a boredom with contentment. I need a new challenge. I will be teaching a health course at the local community college if things work out, but this may depend upon certain uncertainties with my insurance company that pays the bill for my disability. I don't know if they'll even let me earn a small income through any constructive means--"totally disabled" means no work of any kind, and by putting limits on what such a person can do, the insurance company makes it an all or nothing proposition; I mean, if I do the slightest menial work for wages I might be disqualified from my benefits. I'm gathering the courage to write them, my main obstacle before confirming my teaching gig, which I would very much like to perform.

The teaching gig raises that terrible question--will they google me? And if so, will they find the record of my struggle with manic-depression? No doubt, but I hope all the publications listed first will discourage them from further seeking.

Once you've gone public there's not much privacy to protect. As I try to live my life transparently, this is no problem, but it could present a problem to future employers. My response to that would be to block my blog, where most of my confessional agonies have been posted.

Think: When I began this blog on July 27, 2005, I was embroiled in legal complications in Mexico regarding the return of our dog and other possessions that were being ransomed by our former maid. Overall, Mexico was a disaster for us, emotionally, physically and financially. It was truly the land of dreams, though in our case, failed dreams. If you want to get blotto and hang around with wanna-be artists and expats, San Miguel is the place for you. You can even build a lovely house and get divorced afterwards, as some of our friends did. Affairs abounded. All rules were off. Kathleen and I survived with our love intact but not much else. And by this I do not mean to imply that any unfaithfulness occurred on our part, it didn't; it's just that so many free spirits were pursuing adolescent dreams in their 50s there.

So Michael Jackson's dead. For me it's sort of like Bob Hope: "You mean he was still alive?" I kept waiting for Bob Hope to die until I convinced myself he had done it quietly. Then I found out the man presumed dead finally died. So it goes. Can't keep up with all the icons, past and present. In fact, the second page of our paper from Santa Rosa is often filled with celebrities whom I don't know or know of. And who are the real celebrities? Did I need to know that one member of the band, "Men at Work," was having as birthday? That's stretching celebrity to a fine thinness of irrelevance.

So much for today's bloviations. Here's the poem (I removed it because I thought it of poor quality, apologies).



Sunday, June 14, 2009

Short Take on the Lakers' Victory

The Lakers have won it all and my anxiety is slaked. How nervous and pessimistic I become as I watch! Even a 16 point lead in the 4th quarter wasn't enough for me. I could only think of how we might blow it, and victory was more a relief for me than a celebration. Call me a nervous fan.

I lived through last year's sixth game blowout just as the Lakers did, and we came to the same conclusion: toughen up. And toughen up we did. We played hard in the post, making Dwight Howard ineffective. Just as importantly, we shot better tonight than they did from three point range. Ariza was wonderful, as were Kobe, Lamar and Fisher. We had the grit. We had the determination. And it feels almost as if Kobe willed us this championship. He was hungry, he let everyone know it, especially his teammates. And they took their cue from him.

Who's better, Kobe or LeBron? I'd have to say LeBron. But Kobe has a superior "supporting cast," it's clear. There's talk of Shaq going to Cleveland, but they need youth--what with robotic Ilgauskus and washed-up Ben Wallace and can't- shoot Varajao. All LeBron has is Mo Williams and change. He needs a real post player like Garnett or Gasol to excel in team basketball. And may I say, regarding Garnett, that if he and Leon Powe were healthy (for the Celtics) they would have represented the East, and the series would have likely gone seven. Because of injuries the two best teams did not meet in the finals.

Good to see Kobe with his first MVP award as well, and for Phil to get that number ten over Red Auerbach, longtime nemesis of the Lakers.

"So what will we do now?" my wife and I exclaim. Basketball takes up a big portion of our psychic life in its season, and now perhaps we'll be freed to work in the garden and socialize a little more. Like I said, it's a relief.

At Kiloneutral,


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Garden Tours; Osprey Poem

Today I led two tours at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, the first with Kindergartners and the second with seniors. It became obvious to me that the kids needed to stay in motion; to stop and lecture about heritage roses only frustrated them, but to watch them smell and touch the roses was a trip.

Seniors tend to wander away on their own to whatever interested them, a natural outcome of the freedom and economy shortened time imparts. By the end of the tour I had only three seniors left; all the others had detoured.

Quite a contrast, the energy of the very young and the wanderings of the old. To know what you want in your remaining time is a good trait, it saves wastage, but to be a five-year-old is to want everything, to experience everything. In a healthy kid with a good family the world can be Disneyland. Because of that impression, when I went grocery shopping afterwards, I tried to enjoy each choice of goods and interaction with others in the same way, and it worked well. I was in no hurry, simply open to new experiences with no timetable or agenda. Of course, one of the stops was at the pharmacy where I picked up my antipsychotic medicine, Abilify, which allows me to experience "normality." Gotta love the name of that drug. Makes me think of others:






Wouldn't it be fun to work in the name department for new drugs? Whoever invented the palindrome Xanax was a genius.

Words and diseases should sound like themselves, why I don't like the word, "pulchritude," meaning beautifully voluptuous. Sounds more like a mortal sin. "The hubris of his pulchritude betrayed him."

Tuberculosis sounds like a slimy disease; syphilis sounds nasty; pancreatitis is as painful as it sounds. Pustules, boils, fractures, hematomas, you gotta love it. But there are exceptions--like "fifth disease," a common and harmless virus in children.
As a poet I like words that sound like what they are.


I may be teaching a health course at the local community college this fall. Gotta be sure to invite some local healers--Mendocino is full of them--to be in tune with the culture around me: herbalists, naturopaths, yoga teachers, and all sorts of specialized services for the spiritually aware--not to imply that these are better methods to health--only that 90% of illnesses are "self-limiting," so it doesn't matter whom you go to to feel better in most cases. But as I always say, if you're in real pain you'll go to a real doctor. Crystals won't make a bad appendix ascend out of the abdomen. (Unless you have double-blind studies to prove it.)

I tried to write a poem yesterday about two ospreys but according to my wife and editor it didn't turn out so well. BTW, the new Blue Fifth Review is out, edited by Sam Rasnake. I recommend it even though I have no work in there!

Here's the poem my editor didn't like (it's no great shakes, just what I saw yesterday):

At Frolic Cove

In the osprey's spiculed talons
a green fish wriggled headfirst,
righted like a torpedo
so that its tail resembled
a flapping rudder
beneath the tail fan.

The waterfall was low.
I cupped my hand and drank.
The creek disappeared in sand.

Circling back, with crooked wings
she signaled to her mate
a return to the massive nest.
Four times she flew around
until the fish grew limp
and merely hung.
North he flew reluctantly,
a fisherman embarrassed.

Frolic Cove is the site where a ship foundered and broke back in 1857, full of silk and china. Pieces of the cargo were discovered in Pomo Indian settlements up to 20 miles away. All the seamen escaped as the captain managed to beach the boat after breaking on the reef. Sometimes Kathleen thinks she has found there remnants of broken china bits polished by the sea. I'm sure the poem would be better if I included the crash. But "It is what it is." I'm fond of that newspeak tautology, I admit. And the experience was what it was, though likely not enough for a poem--yet.

All for today,

At 1 Kilobunny,


Monday, June 01, 2009

Update on Publications and Reading Venues; New Poem

I wanted to alert you to some new publications and readings.

Here's an essay in Barefoot Muse on "Intellectual Substance in Poetry":

There is a companion essay in Umbrella:

I think I already told you about my memoir "On Becoming a Poet" in PIF:

New poems in The Avatar Review:

And my upcoming readings:

First, "Poetry and Pizza" at 333 Montgomery at Bush in SF on June 5 at 8 PM, hope some of you can come.

I'll be at Beyond Baroque on July 5 at 5 PM, 681 Venice blvd, Venice, CA for any in the LA area.

More to come...

And thanks to all who have purchased my book--like the reviews, I've heard nothing but good reports!

As for my previous blog, hashing it out on paper has helped me make peace with ambition again. It's about the poem. Publishing and recognition are secondary, but I for one need the encouragement to go on. So I do.

June gloom has hit Mendocino and Kathleen hates it. The overcast days don't affect my mood one way or the other. Then I'm Nordic by descent.

There were some great comments on my last post if you haven't read them. Thanks Mittens and Beau Blue!

Since I find myself with little else to say, here's a new poem I may have posted in rough draft form before but I doubt it. Ah memory, where hast thou gone?

Of Book Trees

First, do not pick a green book,
the print is faint
and there's often no ending.
They also fail to develop the proper musk,
that smell of paper and glue.

Paperbacks mature more quickly
but are usually known cultivars
and lack the vigor of hybrids
that hardbacks display.
Still, where the soil is poor
or shade diminishes
the literary vigor of the tree,
occasionally a masterpiece
may appear. These are usually
grafted onto hardback stock
as soon as possible.

Pulp paperback trees
have no peer and can produce
more fruit than any other
though as in a Chinese meal
you may be hungry afterwards.

The rules for nonfiction trees are simple:
lots of room and lots of light.
Space them too close together
and they share the same opinion;
give them too much shade
and the research isn't up to par.

Reference trees are orderly as beech forests,
their tall smooth boles spaced widely,
an air of gravity in the light
that floods the oblong leaves.
Silence and history walk there.

Beware a brown book,
usually overwritten or overripe,
with stultifying reams of overexplanation
and overelaboration as in how many paradoxes
can fit on the head of a heading.
But you might find Henry James there
or the critical prose of Eliot,
so a discriminating taste
in aged books should be cultivated;
not all their fruit is dry.

A red book should be picked immediately.
Bright red has the genius of youth
though Shakespeare and Dante
come in gold and are common now,
having been cultivated for centuries.
The Bible is black but remember,
licorice tea is sweet
like the scroll Jeremiah ate.

Poetry trees are rare
and do best in the high desert.
Overwatering them
leads to self-indulgence
while soil too rich yields verse
in love with its own diction.
Planted in unforgiving soil
they have a chance,
though most die young.

At 1 Kilobunny,


Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Battle for Poetic Recognition

I recently bought a new "Poet's Market," an intimidating book printed on cheap paper of 572 pp. In it is an interview with a "successful" poet, who does 75 seminars and readings a year, up to 150 if he has a new book or album out. He edits a literary magazine and is also a songwriter.

He estimates that 1400 Americans may make some living through poetry, which sounds like a lot to me. Obviously this man works hard. Yet in researching him on the net he had only 5% of the references I do on Google. Apparently he has not published extensively online. Then I checked his latest book from 2007. It ranks below 1,600,000 titles on Amazon. My new book ranks just above 900,000, for comparison, rendering them likely equally obscure. I also did not recognize his name from the article.

T. S. Eliot wrote "There is no competition." Unfortunately, in this day and age of proliferating poets, Eliot is wrong. There is competition. Each poem published in a journal that rejects me is a potential place where I might have had success. Each reading booked up in advance in a major city is one reading I can't get.

Although K.F. admits that the poetry world has proliferated beyond his imaginings, from open mikes to slams, the Internet, etc., he has this to say about the art:

"What has not changed is the nepotism of the Biz and the preconceived notions of the academic sector. Most poets still teach to support themselves. There is still no one who rushes home to tell his parents that he is a poet and then is subsequently swamped with congratulations and financial support."

We all know this. Poets are not pariahs, just largely irrelevant to the larger culture. I have compared poetry to lawn bowling in this regard in past essays, "a cultural vestigial organ." Yet if one is truly infected by poetry there is no cure. I will go on writing and publishing until they take this computer from my cold dead hands. Yes, I want to be read. Yes, I would like more recognition. Yes, I have a new book to promote and eight interviews and eight reviews already. But I assure you my book is not jumping off the shelves. The most I've sold at once is five at a local reading. (I also importuned my bank manager, dentist and my shrink and family doctor to buy copies; after all, the monetary exchange for their services dwarfs a small purchase of my book.)

I did recently receive encouragement from Ireland, where a J. Patterson wrote me for my revised version of the essay on T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets." No one to my knowledge ever finished that essay before; I even had a standing reward of $25 for the first person who did. Afterwards this good soul ordered a signed copy of "Unexpected Light" and gave me a good report. I enjoyed the correspondence. I enjoyed the fact that he felt my treatment of Eliot was substantial and witty and fun to read. I also know, from my research, that certain Christian aspects of the poems were better elucidated in my essay than any others I could find.

In fact, everyone has given me a good report; the reviews have been uniformly positive. So where do I go from here? More reviews, more interviews, more publications? If this fellow is relatively famous and interviewed for "Poet's Market" and his book ranks far below mine (though at these numbers one or two purchases can shoot you back up the ignominious ladder of obscurity), and he has 5% of my references on Google, what should I say? That I'm better known on the Net? I suspect he makes most of his dough leading seminars, that's where the real money is for mid-level poets, while the truly famous can command $10,000 or more for a single performance--you know, Collins, Angelou and the rest.

The scale of celebrity among poets is more variable than the winners of "American Idol." Luck has much to do with it, but so does nepotism. An MFA with a close connection to a well-known poet/professor has a much better chance at ascending the ladder than a disabled doctor with few connections. That goes without saying, especially since this doctor only became serious about publishing in 1997. Yet since then I've published two books of poetry and edited one anthology while being included in many others. I even recently had "Boundaries" recognized as the best poem currently online for a week: (see May 18).

I have some obstacles to furthering my ambition, of course. First, I live far away from metropolitan centers where venues abound. Second, I'm manic-depressive and travel can really screw with my mood. Third, I loathe to be away from my true love, Kathleen. But paramount, above all these, is the program in my head forbidding self-promotion. My mother instilled in me very early not to blow my own horn, not to brag, to rather wait for my excellence to be recognized. That's the Emily Dickinson way that many poets cling to: "I'll be noticed when I'm dead." Fat chance if you weren't noticed while alive.

To be noticed while alive can be arranged, however. For the well-heeled poet of unlimited means, an expensive New York publicist can be hired and she will get readings and reviews in that great hive considered the center of literature in these United States. Still, if the quality lacks, such a poet would be rejected by the academic community, and rightly so, but that will not stop them from out-googling, out-selling and out-maneuvering others of greater talent. I see many poets self-publishing, even in their own magazines, and acting as if they have received recognition when they have essentially granted it to themselves.

I hate cold calling people I've never met to ask for open reading dates on the Pacific Coast. I'm not looking forward to the travel in my four dates coming up (SF, Sacramento, LA, SD) require, and only two of them look like first class venues. But I will keep my word and show up, I hope, unless my energy fails.

But look at the downside again. K.F. does up to a 150 readings a year when a new book comes out and his Amazon ranking is below mine. And there's also a strange feather in my hat; my first book, "Elementary," is apparently rare enough now (only 300 copies were printed) that it sells for $189 on Amazon, and only one copy is available. So someone thinks my first book is valuable. What does that mean? I don't know. Probably something to do with book collectors who hoard obscure poets.

This all boils down to one question for me: Is it worth the work? If I knock my head against the world of poetry venues, will it result in anything of note--sales, publicity, what? Some result, yes, a few books sold here and there, not enough to cover my gas, but in the main, it's doubtful. It is probably wiser to concentrate on breaking into the august publications like Southern Review and Poetry. So far I haven't broken that glass ceiling, though to be fair, at my best, I do not think myself the inferior to those I see in there, though I often admire the work. And one wonders (despite the "blind reading" claims of so many of these journals) what would happen if my name were John Ashbery or W. S. Merwin or Mark Strand. Wouldn't these instantly be kicked upstairs by the powers that be? I do not believe the editors are fair in this regard, whatever they claim. Nepotism by reputation and previous publication within a magazine still obtain.

If I were a purist it would be all about the work, the next poem, the next song, trying to achieve that artistic perfection or Logos that all artists aspire to.

But I'm human, ah there's the rub. Like any artist I crave recognition, yet my Lutheran background tells me that ambition may be wrong, just as self-promotion is wrong. But that can't be right. Even Jesus promoted himself by miracles and street preaching. So perhaps it's the Protestant inheritance that drives me; I can't have work without result! I can't just write poetry for nothing for magazines that don't pay and come with little recognition. Or can I?

Further, Jesus promoted himself for the benefit of mankind; to what degree can I say my art does something of the same? I know my manic-depressive and love poems have helped some, but on a scale of good works--which the New Testament rejects wholesale--I can't compare to a missionary distributing food and medicines--or is my calling just different and just as important in its way? So my wife would have me think.

I have been undiscriminating about my best work, sending it to whatever e-zine suited my fancy at the time, or because of a submission call. I could have parceled my work out slowly, attacking only the best magazines. But initially I didn't have the self-confidence to do so, and the thrill of being published anywhere superseded the thrill of submitting to Poetry for ten years in hope against hope. (BTW, I do send them regular submissions, they may even recognize my name from the amount of rejections I endure.)

So what am I saying? Craig is confused. Plain confused. He loves poetry, he likes to publish, he loves giving readings, but he wonders 1) Does he have the necessary drive to promote himself like K.F.? And 2), Is it worth it?

In discussing this with my wife and editor this morning, she suggested that the best scenario is to be taken under a well-known poet's wing and mentored along. At 54 I feel I am in the mentor stage; I teach poetry online (see my website for the course offering) and every unpublished poet who has taken my course has been afterwards published, save one who didn't want to submit and likely wasn't ready.

I'm a little old for applying for fellowships at major universities for poets, and the stipend wouldn't cover expenses anyway. I don't want to uproot myself from my beloved Mendocino and go traipsing to the Iowa Writer's Workshop for instruction and connections. In truth I've only really been at this for twelve years, so perhaps, since I first published at roughly 17, I should think of myself as only 29 in the "serious poetry competition." So I would still likely benefit from a mentor. How do you get one? I suppose the way you do everything else: by endless queries.

"Cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return to you after many days."

But sometimes you only feed the ducks.

In a mixed state, between 2 Kilorats and 1 Kilobunny,


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chinese Brush Experiment Blog

I wrote the below without revision; it is what spilled out. I call this the "Chinese Brush Experiment," since the same is true of Chinese calligraphy and most painting, Japanese as well.

I haven't blogged in so long it seems a ring in a tree, a rose bare-limbed then blossoming, you know, the way a boat rocks in the water under the harbor lights, powered by pillows and gravity. And the gatekeeper always lurks with his skleteton keys to remind us of our anti-gravity, the digital blink of death, cancelling, cancelling, but you must believe! You must fight, fight, fight!

The warrior solves some things, the magician more. Better to twist your perspective into the guise of the gnarled than force the limbs to bend toward you.

Goldfish: the sacrifice of children.

Uninhibited writing is a phantasm. How can you write without editing? We edit as we write and good writers edit afterwards. Edit too much and you squeeze the juice out of a thing.

I love Sinatra. 50s are best.

How a wax myrtle tree became an anaconda in resisting sedge and a bog.

A bog does have a slow inlet and outlet, though no obvious streams. I saw a carniverous plant in Sholars Bog, the sundew. Sticky, sticky, sticky. Don't want to be no mosquito flittin there, no.

I'm too tired to put up my latest links.

Gotta get serious about book promotion, pull out all the stops, crash the dam, splinter the fort, suck the last drop of water from a rock, all the usual applications of perseverance.

All this stuff about Ruth Padel. I've met her and published her; I like her a great deal. I think she did indeed make an error in judgment, but a Freudian error. She didn't really want the post. She did not think she merited it unconsciously. Psychoanalysis can still be helpful at times.

1 Kilobunny,


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Poem; Akisthesia; Lakers

The Lakers won the first playoff game of the Western Conference Finals. They did it by grit and luck. Denver is a great team and this should be a great series. In the end, Kobe just wouldn't let the Lakers lose, and Trevor Ariza made a steal that sealed the game. I know this is not a basketball blog, but being a Lakers fan for 50years has me programmed.

As to my mood, several chemical alterations have happened. First I quit smoking. Then I withdrew from high dose morphine. My Effexor was doubled. Now I feel tired most of the time, need naps in the afternoon. I wonder if it is the increased Effexor or symptoms of withdrawal. One thing I can say is that I've felt that activated, uncomfortable "ants in the pants" feeling--clinically termed akisthesia--which often precedes a flip in mood. We shall see.

I feel so blase'. I have trouble putting my carcass in gear to do anything. I lack ambition. I haven't been playing the guitar. I'm in a sort of anhedonic desert where my crying spells have at least stopped. We don't want a repeat of the two-year depression of 2006-2008, do we? God forbid by his mercy.

Meanwhile I won a coup by having a poem published in Mannequin Envy, "Boundaries," named as the best poem online. It came as a complete surprise to me. I don't know who started the selections, but considering all the poems online that is some kind of an honor. Here's the link: Best Poems Online It appears to be an outfit out of New Zealand, since the link to my book where the poem occurs puts the price of my paperback version over twice what it is in American dollars. I hope some mad sheep farmer who loves poetry buys a copy.

I haven't much more to say. I don't know if this qualifies as a blog. Close to being a Twitter, I fear.

But I'll end it with a new poem:

The Wind

comes from everywhere
and makes the Bishop pines lean
the eucalypti sift and sift
as the west wind caroms north
and south and east in a forested cup
on the headlands of Pt. Cabrillo.

The wind scours the sky
and scrubs the stars so clear
it hurts my neck to look up.
“Like the sound of many waters”
the wind holds a million secrets.

Still to listen to the wind is dangerous
for it tells us nothing in a way
that seems a something--questions
wrapped in hush-swaddled answers
that lead to bigger questions.

If you do listen to the wind
try to shape a shape within it,
something to talk to, something
familiar with the unseen currents
that keep us talking to each other.

At 2 Kilorats,


Saturday, May 16, 2009

First Video, New Interview, Withdrawal

I was castigated by one Sissy T for not continuing this blog, even though her comment was below a post from 2008. Can't please all people in all times, as "Lost" and "Star Trek" (both of which I highly recommend) have taught us.

J. J. Abrams, producer of both, seems to have solved that old conundrum: You can meet yourself in the past because you're adult self is on a different timeline. Forget the math; it adds to the drama.

BTW, I bought a cheap webcam and here's my first recording:

Moodwise I've been sketchy. I've had a lot of weeping spells at my usual witching hour, 11 AM, though only once in the last three days. And with that emotion comes the cacophonous recitations of demons: "You're no good. You're worthless. Why exist? You're a burden." And blah, blah, blah.

Among the mood-disordered, this is the chicken and egg question. For severe mood disorders like mine, the affect or emotion always precedes the negative thoughts. Thus to improve my thoughts I must improve my mood, not the other way around. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is more helpful is lesser cases, I think.


(I think that that's the first time I've used capitals on this blog.)

Although I will not admit being more than three kilorats down, to give you an idea of where my head has been, here's a dark poem from a dark mind.

Dark Christ


I kissed the thin lips
of the black Jesus of depression
ignominiously tacked
to a rough-hewn cross.
His eyes stared blankly,
black marbles in white.
His loincloth had a gold band
to match his yellow hair.
On his black wrists
blood was barely visible.

I wanted to fall at his feet
but his eyes were fixed
at some insensible point
beyond any horizon,
some future judgment perhaps
of the cockroach called man.
I knelt and pawed at his ankles
in hopeless supplication.
Blood dried on my hands
but he never looked down.

Larger than death he hung
never accusing me
but staring, staring
at a point beyond any point,
his face lost to man.
How could my salvation be so eclipsed?
What did I owe him?
He owed me nothing.
All was dark save his hair.
And why blond?
An attempt at a halo?


In those three hours
he agonized, separated
from every good ever authored
by the smallest angel
sent by the Father,
bereft, without heft
or substance,
an entire negation
of carbon-based life
staring, staring
at a point beyond points--
there was no room for man
so I threw my salvation down
like a piece of bloody obsidian
and like the disciples
had no faith in the resurrection,
the ultimate betrayal.

See? It's not the kind of art you want to hang on a hotel wall, much less your refrigerator. But I think it's powerful, and it's rare I'm fairly happy with a near first draft.

As a docent I lead lots of tours through the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, which I highly recommend. I'm most gratified when I get elementary school children and I can show them how a flower is both a girl and a boy.

Talk about narcissism! Self-pollinators, obviously not Catholic.

I have now successfully withdrawn from m.s. contin, a long-acting form of morphine I've taken for my neck and back. I have sneezing, loose stools and a great tiredness, but I know it will pass. I do feel a little clearer, which was my goal. And I've rarely smoked since April 1, so withdrawal from narcotics and nicotine, quoth my shrink, might have something to do with my recent dip? Or was it the unconscious memory of my two-year depression that began on April 1, 2006? I've had less than a year of normal mood since. But I am so grateful for it, when pancakes taste good and the blue jays shine and flowers explode like popcorn, yes this incredibly variegated world in which we live, the small blue flower by the roadside whose name you'll never know.

Before closing I'd like to share a new link to an interview with me in MyDepressionConnection.

Unlike the romantic blog interviews, this one focuses on the manic-depressive aspect of my work.

Thine in Truth and Art,

2 Kilorats,

C. E. Chaffin

Monday, May 11, 2009

Inevitable Net Progression; New Poem

I fear my blogability (borrowing a neologism from Bud commercials) has been declining. Here is the progression of net communication as I see it:

1) e-mail
2) posting boards
3) listserv, newsgroups
4) blogs
5) My Space and Facebook
6) Twitter
7) Video twitter (a prediction)

There are still intimate places on the web, small poetry boards and boards of special concern, and none of these "advances" precludes the use of a previous one.

I like e-mail best because I hate handling paper. I've been on boards, still attend one. I've been on listservs, none now. My blog is self-explanatory. I joined My Space and facebook but only pursued facebook where I now have over 500 (mainly literary) "friends." (The existence of such platforms naturally cheapens the word, "friend.") My publisher encouraged me to twitter and now I have a tweet deck. The time will come when short videos can be posted through twitter; links to videos are already possible. Then we'll have canned film snippets from personalities falling through the rafters.

What does this progression say about the Net? First, that things go from private to public quickly. Second, that associations expand exponentially if you keep playing. And third, the greater the audience, the less data shared, which results in the trivializing of life to buzz words and sound bites and branding. Don't we brand cattle?

It's a dehumanizing process that began with the telegraph. Nevertheless we can overcome it and preserve intimacy within it, for which e-mails and small boards thankfully remain.

As obtains in poetry today, where we have too many poets and not enough readers, on the web we have too many platforms and not enough players (think of the demise of Ringo). We have more people inventing platforms than people that can use them.

Speaking of poetry, here's a new poem, one of the thirty I wrote in April for National Poetry Month:

Flowers of Heraclitus

I watch the garden too much.
hoping for it to happen.
The deer could undo it all.
Last year they savaged the cabbage,
cropped the snapdragons
and beheaded the broccoli.
This year I planted only flowers
mainly of the daisy family,
deer and drought-resistant.

I watch the garden too much.
Heraclitus explained we only notice change.
As too much part of what is changing
the observer becomes oblivious.
If only I could return in two weeks
to see the changes, but who would watch
over the garden meanwhile?

I watch the garden too much.
In the late afternoon the sun
curls around the cypress,
lighting the plants a second time.
Copper daisy, heliotrope, princess flower--
their time will come, while all time
belongs to weeds, the wild radish,
nettles, mint and wild cucumber.
And in all these no real tropes
except the hands of a gardener,
the dirt beneath the nails
I poke at with a toothbrush.

I have several new interviews out at romantic blogs, emphasizing the love poems in my book. Here's one:

Kristina Knight

I also fired my web publicist for the book, as he had only pursued general web promotion and never gotten me a single reading or sold a single book. In marketing nowadays you start with the personality and then try to sell the product--at least in the arts. I want the book to speak for itself, why readings are so salutary. I have readings coming up in SF and LA and SD in June and July. If anyone reading this blog has knowledge of more west coast venues, please send them my way.

While reading my poetry to an audience I feel a wholeness, as if this was what I was meant to do. How good is that?

Bouncing between 3 Kilorats and Kiloneutral,

Unexpected Light

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