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,


Unexpected Light

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