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).




  1. I'm not sure of the publishers but those who have gone through a stressful life, would surely enjoy your posting, just as I do. The means and ways you adopted to overcome these trials during this stress filled life are great.

  2. Vivian,

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Like my spirit guide, the raven, I'm a survivor.

    Endurance in suffering is an advantage in this life and perhaps the next.

    Steadfastness, a word you don't hear much anymore.

    I hope to blog again soon,



Please share your opinion!

Unexpected Light

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