Tuesday, February 28, 2006

For the Student of Poetry Who Asked me to Elaborate:

Excerpt From: Walt McDonald ~ ADVICE I WISH I'D BEEN TOLD

"Abstractions and generalizations are like chunks of lead tossed on a pond of water — " the art of sinking in poetry." Abstractions are hired assassins; they're paid to hold you hostage, to keep you bound to your couch, in house arrest. They don't want you to travel, to see the vivid images of other regions; they hope you won't discover what you're missing. Now let's stop and admit some obvious facts about the craft of writing:

1) There are no rules. All I can do is describe what works for me in the best poems I read. All I can do is share the best advice I can to help you write better poems; all I can promise is to focus on what I admire.

2) Let's admit it: for some readers "anything goes" — just as in human behavior. Anything you wouldn't do in a civilized society (or in wilderness!), someone will do — and not simply get away with it, but may even be applauded for it. But why should I urge you to write like someone whose poems aren't the most exciting poems I can find?

3) In some of today's journals, you'll find anything — from sonnets, villanelles, and sestinas to blank verse, language poems, free verse, prose poems, poems that look like grocery lists, bits of flabby prose, and worse. We know what a sonnet is. But now and then, someone will chop up a piece of pedestrian prose and give it a title such as "Sonnet." It may be the opposite of what we call a sonnet. But someone somewhere will publish it — even if in his garage on a second-hand mimeograph machine with a stapler. And that doesn't mean that good poems aren't sometimes published in such conditions.

4) Some poems are more powerful than others. Some give us more pleasure packed in a few words than we expected to find. I'm amazed at how some writers can make simple words implode. The images are stunning, vivid, and sensuous. I see and believe the lines. The poem is an intense experience; it doesn't merely tell me about something.

5) There's a difference between language that is utilitarian — merely for information — and language that tries to pack the maximum pleasure in words.

a) Utilitarian language is explosive, going outward, like a puff of smoke that evaporates and is gone (e.g. yesterday's newspaper, instructions that I'm grateful for when I start assembling a toy.)

b) Emotional language is implosive (e.g., fiction, poetry, powerful non-fiction prose, scriptures). Emotional language doubles in on itself, or implodes, for maximum pleasure — sounds, rhythms, images that conjure our deepest emotions. I'm compelled by emotional language that packs a power; at its best, language is striking, implosive.

Writing the emotional equivalent of feelings and ideas is a goal we probably can't ever reach; but intentionally to do less is too easy. Louis Simpson said the goal of poetry "is to make words disappear." Usually, we look through the glass of a window to see through the glass, not to focus on the spots or streaks. "

Appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics
Vol.1, No.1 - Fall/Winter 1999-2000

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why Poetry Submission is Becoming More & More Like Psychotherapy

Although I believe that sending submissions by e-mail is inevitably "the shape of things to come" and rightfully so since it is a much more efficient means of communication than snail mail. Alas, similar announcements to the following (by print journals) are becoming more and more common:

The ******** Literary Journal is now accepting submissions in all genres online. The fee for online submissions made from within the U.S. is $X.00. This fee is meant to cover the printing and other administrative costs on our end—including the hiring of additional staff to download and read the hundreds of pages of electronic submissions which currently arrive every day. We hope that this submission method will prove to be both convenient and economical, but you may always submit by snail mail following the regular guidelines. Acceptance rates for electronic and regular submissions are the same: currently, less than 1%.

Now I can understand an editor charging a nominal fee to read a full-length manuscript, but even though some poetry can be torture to read (and yes... I include mine in this category) - do I now have to pay to be told in that detached editorial tenor that in effect: I'm a lousy poet and that my work is "not currently what they're looking for"? To add insult to injury, they then usually wish you the best of luck placing it somewhere else? Yeah right!!! Yes, of course I am aware that snail-mail costs money to expedite - but at least when returning undelivered mail, the postman doesn't tell me that I don't know how to mail a letter correctly.

Maybe I ought to just start sending out my e-mail submissions while lying prone on my couch.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Paradise Motel

by Charles Simic

Millions were dead; everybody was innocent.
I stayed in my room. The President
Spoke of war as of a magic love potion.
My eyes were opened in astonishment.
In a mirror my face appeared to me
Like a twice-canceled postage stamp.

I lived well, but life was awful.
there were so many soldiers that day,
So many refugees crowding the roads.
Naturally, they all vanished
With a touch of the hand.
History licked the corners of its bloody mouth.

On the pay channel, a man and a woman
Were trading hungry kisses and tearing off
Each other's clothes while I looked on
With the sound off and the room dark
Except for the screen where the color
Had too much red in it, too much pink.

A Wedding in Hell, New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1994

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Industrialization of Poetry?

"Don't worry that the process of revision seems slow. The writer's tools were developed early -- paper, pen, and ink; a watchful eye; an open heart -- and good writing is still the patient handiwork of those simple tools. A poet who makes only one really fine poem during his [her] life gives far more to the world than the poet who publishes twenty books of mediocre verse. The Industrial Revolution did not reach imaginative writing until recently, and today black clouds of soot belch from the smokestacks over the creative writing schools. Poems get manufactured and piled on the loading docks where many of them rot for lack of transport. Wouldn't we all be better off if there wasn't such an emphasis on productivity? "

(Ted Kooser: From - The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, published by University of Nebraska Press, 2005)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Olympic Gold

Kudos to Canada's Women's Hockey
Team for Bringing Home the Gold

Team Canada's Jayna Hefford (16) celebrates her second period goal against Sweden with teammate Sarah Vaillancourt (26) in the women's ice hockey gold medal match at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy Monday Feb. 20, 2006. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Team Canada's captain Cassie Campbell looks at her women's ice hockey gold medal during ceremonies after Canada defeated
Sweden 4-1 at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy Monday. (AP Photo/Julie jacobson)


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Stirring : 02 -2006

by Joanna Pearson

Ports are made for entering and leaving,
thus this city redolent of sadness:
like walking off alone to cry, triste;
or, tryst, the lover’s short-lived entanglement,
almost foreboding happiness, but only for a moment.
Two people giggling temporarily on sunlight and Chianti—
like that joy, it doesn’t last long.

We drove here, our last stop, from Sloveniain
a banged-up communist-era two-door car.
This former center of industry and ships,
its harbor filled with cranes and metal works,
seemed too ugly to be Italy almost,
except for the chatter of girls
clattering on heels, the leather stores,
and baby cappuccinos, the women’s tiny waists
and dark hair, their hands swirling
with furious significance, their words rolling,
glamorous and vowel-rich. Ahhhhh.
We saw an amphitheater in ruins,
climbed the hill that overlooks the city.
The Adriatic stretched meaningless before us
yawning a great blue, speckled with boats stalled with their cargo
and cruise ships drifting off to Venice. To the left
the land melted toward the Croatian coast.
Our backs dripped, we squinted through sunglasses,
and wandered into Indian import shops,
fingering cool silk saris and batik shirts,
eyeing bangles and semiprecious stones.
Flip-flopping down the sidewalk, we watched
men push up the shirtsleeves of their light shirts
and frown into folded gazettes beneath the awnings,
impatient for the news from elsewhere.
The gelato stands were still beneath the noise of flies,
their abandoned colors dripping, sickly bright.
It was a hot July. We sat sticky-legged at the station,
bored voyeurs with our lives on pause,
watching other people idle away the morning,
stir lukewarm café con leche, one man running for his train,
another pleading, face to the sky, as his girlfriend left him.
We saw him cry, not even wiping off his tears:
an ancient taste, and Trieste, an ancient city
with its centuries’ accumulation
of leaving.

from Stirring : A Literary Collection Volume 8, Edition 2 : February 2006

Joanna Pearson's work has been included in Best New Poets 2005, the anthology edited by George Garrett and published in conjunction with Meridian at UVA. Her writing has also appeared recently or is forthcoming in the Mississippi Review, storySouth, JAMA, The Raleigh News & Observer, The 2River View, The Journal of Medical Humanities, Small Spiral Notebook, Amarillo Bay, Poetryfish, and Yemassee, where it received the Editor’s Award. She lives in Baltimore, MD.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Top Ten Dick Cheney T-Shirt Logos!

10 - Cheney's Got a Gun
-----Cheney's Got a Gun
-----Everybody Had Better Run
-----'Cause Cheney's Got a Gun

9 - Dick Cheney: Weapon of Mass Destruction!

8 - Guns Don't Shoot People - Dick Cheney Does!

7 - I'd Rather Be Bill Clinton's Intern,
---Than Dick Cheney's Hunting Partner.

6 - Dick Cheney's Hunting Tip No.1:
----Shoot First; Don't Answer Questions Later!

5 - Be Vewwwy Quiet!
----Dick Cheney is Hunting!

4 - How many lawyers does it take to make a covey?

3 - Dick Cheney - Seasoned Lawyers Quail Before Him!

2 - The Bush Doctrine: Shoot First, Aim Later!

1 - They Shoot Republicans - Don't They?

The Death of Melic Review: Final Issue # XXVII

Melic Review
Final Issue # XXVII
Selected artwork by Scott Odom

The Melic Poetry Workshop was one of the first on-line forums that I called a home of sorts. There were some great moderators there and of course the presence of C.E. Chaffin was always felt. His critique was always apropos and incisive and he didn't mind posting one of his own from time to time. His work on the Melic Review was also exemplary and it is no wonder that it flourished for nine years. The final issue No. XXVII contains the following writers & poets:

Marcus Bales
Norm Ball
Walter Bargen
Christopher Barnes
Kristy Bowen
Greg Braquet
Laurie Byro
Jared Carter
C.E. Chaffin
Srinjay Chakravarti
Phillip Henry Christopher
Debi Cimo
Alfred Corn
Debra Di Blasi
Camille Dungy
Taylor Graham
John Gray
Frank Haberle
Jessica Harris
Bob Hicok
Mark Jackley
Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis
Kirsten Kaschock
Meg Kearney
Charles Lowe
Rachel Mallino
Frank Matagrano
Cathy McArthur
Michael Mobley
V.C. Nash
Richard Newman
Chris O’Carroll
Scott K. Odom
Lee Passarella
Lee Ann Roripaugh
Jim Simmerman
Andrew Slattery
Gary Sloboda
Michael Virga
Emily Waples
Dara Wier's
Michael White
Can V. Yeginsu

A Sampler:

The Wind’s Odd Needlepoint
by Frank Matagrano

It is January 23rd and the image of me doesn’t care
that four to six more inches are expected to fall late
tonight. The image of me will not offer to shovel
the driveway tomorrow morning, nor will he scrape
ice off the windshield. Most likely, he will be lying
in bed or roaming around the house in a bathrobe, trying
to remember the name of an old acquaintance who made
a cameo in last night’s dream. But at the moment, it is still
January 23rd and I am watching the image of me whisper
sweet things to the image of my first wife, who now lives
in Colorado, where it takes weeks for the sun to go down
and where they are making omelets in the kitchen
with something that looks like an onion though no one is
crying. The smell, Old Wisdom says, comes off your hands
with lemon juice. Pharaohs were buried with onions, bound
to their ears and soles. One king was entombed
with a bulb in each eye. He was found
flowering. I am feeling out loud. I don’t know
a better way to work through this stuff, and believe
you me, it is January 23rd and I am dragging out
the bedroom from my last apartment to give
the image of me a place to stretch, a chance
to reach across the mattress and trace
the mouth of a certain memory. There are people who love
things that cannot love them back in the same way, things unable
to say Yes, unable to say I never stopped ___________, things lost
in the drift. Banks of old snow are piled high along the roadside,
the tops sewn by the wind’s odd needlepoint into a sheet
and draped over the road, as if to put these things to rest.

** poem originally published in the Cimarron Review

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Per Aurora

Time and Again

Time and again, however well we know the landscape of love,
and the little church-yard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, February 13, 2006

Friday, February 10, 2006

No Instructions Necessary!

[You are reading this too fast.]
by Ken Norris

You are reading this too fast.
Slow down for this is poetry
and poetry works slowly.
Unless you live with it a while
the spirit will never descend.
It's so easy to quickly cut across the surface
and then claim there was nothing to find.
Touch the poem gently with your eyes
just as you would touch a lover's flesh.
Poetry is an exercise in patience,
you must wait for it to come to you.
The spirit manifests in many guises;
some quiver with beauty,
some vibrate with song.
What is happening?
Slow down, slow down,
take a few deep breaths,
read the poem slowly,
read the words one at a time,
read the words one by one,
and the spaces between the words,
get sleepy, this is poetry,
relax until your heart
is vulnerable, wide open.

From Canadian Poetry Now: 20 Poets of The '80's
Edited by Ken Norris
1984 - House of Anansi Press

Ken Norris was born in New York City in 1951. He emigrated to Canada in the early seventies and quickly became one of Montreal’s infamous Véhicule Poets. He attended SUNY at Stony Brook (B.A.), Concordia University (M.A.), McGill University (Ph.D.). Recognized as one of Canada’s most prolific poets, Norris has always given his readers quirky and edgy poetry that continually reveals unanticipated possibilities and explores new horizons. He is the author of two dozen books and chapbooks of poetry, and he is the editor of eight anthologies of poetry and poetics. His work has also been widely anthologized in Canada and in the English-speaking world, as well as published in translation in France, Belgium and Israel. His 1998 poetry volume Limbo Road has recently been translated into French by Pierre Des Ruisseaux and published by Écrits des Forges.

Norris now teaches Canadian literature and creative writing at the University of Maine and divides his time among the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.

Books by Ken Norris

Dominican Moon
Hotel Montreal: New and Selected Poems
Limbo Road

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Early Works

Portrait of Linda

Pencil on paper
circa 1978

Self Portrait

Pen & Ink on paper
circa 1980

Study for Mural - "The Way of Life"

charcoal on paper
circa 1981

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Al Lewis - a.k.a. "Grandpa Munster" - 1923-2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

Galaway Kinnell

On Frozen Fields


We walk across the snow,
The stars can be faint,
The moon can be eating itself out,
There can be meteors flaring to death on earth,
The Northern Lights can be blooming and seething
And tearing themselves apart all night,
We walk arm in arm, and we are happy.


You in whose ultimate madness we live,
You flinging yourself out into the emptiness,
You - like us - great an instant,
O only universe we know, forgive us.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On Stereotypes, Typifications & "Goombas"

What’s Wrong With This Picture

Now the truth of the matter is that we all do it. We do it every day. Every day we wake up, shower, primp and comb; dress, eat breakfast and race to our daily grinds. Every day we go out carefully into our socially constructed realities. In the process, each and every day we use stereotypes or typifications. For instance in a busy social setting (i.e. - street corner at rush-hour) our minds use social constructs to quantify and qualify all the data that is inputted by our senses.

“The reality of everyday life contains typificatory schemes in terms of which others are apprehended and “dealt with” in face to face encounters. Thus I apprehend the other as “a man” [“a woman”], a European, a buyer “a “jovial type” [etc…].” * Unless challenged (whether internally or externally) these typifications will hold sway until further notice and will affect one’s actions in this social milieu. The other person also apprehends us in a typified way. The ensuing interaction is a negotiation of sorts.

“Thus, most of the time, my encounters with others in everyday life are typical in a double sense – I apprehend the other as a type and I interact with him[her] in a situation that is itself typical.” ** The typifications of social interaction become more and more anonymous the further away they are from the immediate face to face social interaction. In fact these typifications inevitably become empty projections; social constructs that are almost completely devoid of individualized content. Some of this content may even contain elements of the mythical or legendary. This fact does not impede the anonymity of these constructs or typifications to enter as decisive elements in the reality of everyday life. The social reality of everyday life is thus cognitively received in a continuum of typifications.

Now when one sees this swarthy looking man of Mediterranean descent we immediately typify or stereotype him. Question is what “typificatory scheme “ does one envision for this persona. Even if this were not a “mug-shot”, I do not believe it would be a positive objectification. Irrespective of its context we have already woven a stereotype of him. We have projected our cognitive mindsets onto him – real or imagined- legendary or based on fact. Of course this is Charles "Lucky" Luciano (1897-1962) and yes he was a legendary Italian American mobster: considered the father of the National Crime Syndicate and the mastermind of the massive postwar expansion of the international heroin trade.

But why has Luciano been singled out and given the dubious honor of representing mobsters? Why doesn’t the site: Mobster Threat Generator (affiliated with Bright Bomb Inc. of California) offer other choices such as: Dutch Schultz , Meyer Lansky or even Bugsy Siegel just to name a few of Luciano’s contemporaries? Why has the HBO hit series “The Sopranos” chosen to depict Italian Americans that are involved in organized crime? Why not portray an Italian American/Canadian family that works hard and contributes in a positive fashion to the American/Canadian way of life? Because it plays better that’s why. Because it’s easier to prop up these typifications that contain mythical elements than to portray reality without prevarication. Because it’s hollywood. Because a North American viewing public eats it up.

...Rant over!
* & ** - (Berger & Luckman:1967 - "The Social Construction of Reality")

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Meet my Literary Agent

Can you tell I'm having fun with this?