...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Poem in Miramar

A poem of mine, "Usky became whisky in English," is in the new issue of Miramar [#2]. It's a beautifully made book, in an era when most new poetry is being posted online. Though I haven't read through it much, yet, I did read all of issue #1, which contained several poems I've returned to. Check out the website here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tomas Transtromer


We got ready and showed our home.
The visitor thought: you live well.
The slum must be inside you.

Inside the church, pillars and vaulting
white as plaster, like the cast
around the broken arm of faith.

Inside the church there's a begging bowl
that slowly lifts from the floor
and floats along the pews.

But the church bells have gone underground.
They're hanging in the sewage pipes.
Whenever we take a step, they ring.

Nicodemus the sleepwalker is on his way
to the Address. Who's got the Address?
Don't know. But that's where we are going.
 - trans. Robert Bly

source, w/ notes

[In the version of the poem found at the link, the poem ends w/ a question mark. I'm familiar with the poem from this book, which ends the poem w/ a period. I prefer this version.]

Friday, August 15, 2014


Free verse really got rolling about a hundred years ago. It wasn't just free in the sense of being very loose in the rhyme and meter department. Free verse was sexually free. That's what nobody understands. Free verse meant free, naked, unclothed, un-Victorian people scampering around in an unfettered sort of way. That's why it was so exciting. I was trying to explain this to my next-door neighbor, Nanette. I ran into her when I was out walking my dog, Smacko. Nan was out again picking up trash with her plastic trash bag. I asked her what she'd found. She'd found some beer cans, a pair of panties, half of a meatball sandwich in a paper plate, an ice cream wrapper, and an old, laceless shoe. We walked back to her house, and she asked me if I knew anything about Toro lawnmowers. I said I knew a little, because I do. Her lawnmower was starting and then dying after about a second. I pulled off the air filter and banged the float cup with a wrench and suddenly, to my surprise, the mower worked. I went around her yard once with it.
     Then she asked--out of politeness--"So why did poems stop rhyming? Were all the rhymes used up?" I said no, no, the rhymes weren't used up, they can never be used up until the English language itself is used up, because rhyme-words are really just the ending sounds of whole phrases and whole lines. It doesn't matter whether "breath" and "death" have been rhymed before, only whether the two new lines that end with "breath" and "death" are interesting and beautiful lines. Although sometimes it's good to give certain rhymes a break for a century or two.
     She said, "So then why?" I told her about Mina Loy, the beautiful free-verse poet whose poems were published in a magazine called Others. Mina Loy had romped with the famous Futurist Filippo Marinetti, and he treated her badly, because he was an unpleasant egotist who liked wars and cars and didn't like women. He'd written a play about a man with a thirty-foot penis that he wrapped around himself when he wanted to take a nap.
     "Golly," said Nan.
     I told her that Mina Loy wrote a poem about sex with him, or with one of the other Futurists, in which she compared Cupid to a pig "rooting erotic garbage." And American newspapers picked up on this phrase, and it made her famous as a free-verser.
     "Very interesting," said Nan. We said good-bye. She began mowing her lawn, and I went into my kitchen. I opened my freezer, looked at the motionless mists in there, and then closed it.
- from The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker

Friday, August 8, 2014

Leonard Cohen

"I have seen the future, brother: It is murder."

The Future

Robots are taking all the jobs. But are we, the average, moderately skilled humans, screwed, or aren't we? Let me just get it out of the way now: We are, unless there are drastic, immediate changes to education and economic systems around the world.
It’s possible that today’s hand-wringing is simply a result of people underestimating the power of capitalist economies to adapt and thrive. They’ve certainly done so in the past. And remember, half of Pew’s respondents still think we’ll be just fine.
If the education system doesn't change to start pumping out technologically savvy, creative people as the rule, not the exception, the rise of robot workers is "certain to lead to an increase in income inequality, a continued hollowing out of the middle class, and even riots, social unrest, and/or the creation of a permanent, unemployable 'underclass,'" the Pew report concludes.
Still, there’s no guarantee that the future will resemble the past. It should be deeply unsettling to policymakers that so many of the smart people who think about these issues believe this time could be fundamentally different.
Some questions:
    Why does man feel so bad in the very age when, more than in any other age, he has succeeded in satisfying his needs and making over the world for his own use?
    Why has man entered on an orgy of war, murder, torture, and self-destruction unparalleled in history and in the very center where he had hoped to see the dawn of universal peace and brotherhood?
    Why do people often feel bad in good environments and good in bad environments?
    Why do people often feel so bad in good environments that they prefer bad environments?
    Why does a man often feel better in a bad environment?
    Why is a man apt to feel bad in a good environment, say suburban Short Hills, New Jersey, on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon? Why is the same man apt to feel good in a very bad environment, say an old hotel on Key Largo during a hurricane?
    Why have more people been killed in the twentieth center than in all other centuries put together?
    Why is war man's greatest pleasure?
    Why is man the only creature that wages war against its own species?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014