Tuesday, May 25, 2004

nothing more boring

Nothin' more boring than writing about technical glitches, eh? But I'm a little miffed at having had to publish that last post 3 times -- Sunday, Monday, and today. Maybe tomorrow, too?

I've been telling myself I'd try out some of Blogger's new features. Could happen, right?

I'm blogging at the Info Desk at the library, which is probably a no-no. But, what the heck. It could get busy any time and I'm lo --

OK. Three questions in a row: Where's the fiction section? Where do I return books? Where can I return these tapes?

One of the circulation supervisors just came by, seems there was a patron last night who came to the desk 5 minutes to closing (after the money drawer had been put away) and protested not being allowed to check out books even though she had a $23 fine. "But they knew I owed money last Friday and they let me check out books!" Seems ms. patron had come up 5 min to closing the previous Friday and the desk worker bent the rules because it was too late to take money that evening. Ah, yes. So the patron, finding out the rules can be gamed gamely tries the gambit again. Circ supe was distinctly unamused.

Phone call: No, we don't seem to have "Sacramento Book", a history of Sacramento by David Niven, name same as the actor.

Don't know why the due date of one of the parts of a DVD series has been checked out for 2 months -- maybe checked out to mending?

Had to run off and check shelf for books with pictures of the White House for a patron on the phone. Found 2 of 3.

"I need to make change." I direct her to the circulation desk.

My Info Desk partner, Susan, tells me she's off to the sorting area in the back to look for an item. So it's all on me now.

Boom boom boom, question after question: Magazines are on the 2nd floor, as are bathrooms, as is internet access (also on the 3rd floor); cancel a library card at the circulation desk; yes, you can borrow one of those little pencils; no, we haven't been able to locate the item you requested ... ring! ring!

Susan's returned so she got that last call.

Oops! Time to go! Relief is here!

Sunday, May 23, 2004

saving email

I've been saving email to a Word file because my yahoo account is at 99%. I think it's at 98% now.

If these were paper letters they'd be dropped into a box. And would I ever look at them again? Oh, I don't know.

From what would the "Selected Letters" book be culled?

I've never read a collection of letters. Not all the way through. I've picked them up and read a paragraph here and there. Mostly they're pretty dull. Somebody must be reading these books. I find published journals dull, too. I find my own journals dull.

When I spent a semester in London my English teacher had us read Boswell's London journal. I can remember almost nothing about it. Except that it was dull. The teacher assigned us journals of our own. A great souvenir, he said. I actually kept two journals. One in which I wrote what I thought, a censored one for class. Teacher said he greatly enjoyed the one I turned in and wished someday he'd have the opportunity to read the other.

I understand Anne Frank wrote then rewrote her diaries.

Diaries are life without the story. We try to make the story as we go along. The autobiography (or the biography) sees the life as a whole and chooses from the past what is remembered, what there is record of, and what helps the story along.

I keep a diary. I don't write daily. I probably write less frequently in the diary than in the poetry notebook. There have been gaps in diarykeeping of months. I don't think that's happened with the poetry. Oh I've attempted fiction and that has taken the poetry energy. Maybe for months once or twice.

I tried once to construct a work out of my mother's letters. Part of my mistake there was showing her and expecting encouragement. She did not much like rereading her letters, nor did she like it when I edited them. Mom is not a storyteller. Neither am I, really. Not that either of us incapable of narrative. But I saw material to rework and she saw telling the truth about her life and the truth is not something you mess around with to get a better story. Not that I was trying to get a better story. Story wasn't it. I was trying to make an art object. I liked her lunch menus, for instance. Her weather reports.

I may yet go back to that. It's one of the projects. So many projects. Few will get done. Most will simply cease being worked on.

Monday, May 17, 2004

thinking alike

I read Ron Silliman's Blog frequently. It helps that he posts new stuff nearly every day. Unlike me. If you read this blog frequently it would mean committing the stuff to memory. Once or twice a week me. Tho' there are odd days like today (a day off from work) when I post 2 or more times).

Considering that just yesterday I posted notes similar to these on Silliman's Blog (exerpts):

"[Concerning poetry contests judged 'blind':] ... there is no method known to human beings to remove the social from a social practice, but this is what would be required to fully expunge personal preference from the process of identifying “the best” manuscript. For the most part, blind screening such as is done, for example, by that National Endowment for the Arts, simply inserts a filter of incompetence as a randomizing factor. But ultimately the judges, real human beings, will sort what makes it through this literary spawning challenge to select those texts to which they most respond. [My bold. "texts to which they most respond" is what in practice editors / judges mean when they say "best" ... There is no such thing as an objective Best in poetry. -- Glenn]


What seems to me more disturbing, actually, is the idea anyone would have that a prize, whether it’s the Nobel or Jimmy’s Crush List, represents some kind of “objective” or “impartial” validation. That isn’t how prizes work – it’s the other way around: the winner validates the prize. Or not, as the case may be. Consider, for example, the Oscars. Does anyone imagine that giving the Best Picture award to a film such as Rocky or Chicago or Out of Africa means that these celluloid dogs can dance? ... It’s this need for external validation that strikes me as sad, finally, though I’m sure I crave it just as badly as the next human being, maybe more. What makes it sad is what it says about how our culture doesn’t let us value the act of writing itself, for its own sake, as its own reward." [My bold -- GI]

wedding party

A nice Boston Globe article about the first gay weddings there (excerpts):

"What started in the afternoon [of May 16] as a sedate lawn party in front of City Hall, with running children, glow sticks, and panting dogs, had by midnight become a celebration so huge that it was hard to walk across the thin lawn without getting a face full of bubbles, knocking into someone with a sign reading “Mazel Tov,” or colliding with women singing “Going to the Chapel” accompanied by a brass band.

The cheer that went up at about 10 minutes past midnight, when it became clear that the first gay couple had filed their application for a marriage license, was so long and so loud that it nearly drowned out the final strains of Mendelssohn’s wedding march.

By 12:30 a.m. [May 17] those cheers were erupting every minute or two, as each couple emerged from the building, marching down an impromptu aisle cleared by the crowd, one step closer to full-fledged marriage.

By then the throngs had spilled into the center of Massachusetts Avenue, which police closed off from Central Square to Harvard Square. It was filled with local well-wishers, college students in school T-shirts, families from nearby towns who came out to cheer their friends. Some threw rice, others roses, and one man passed out cupcakes with pink hearts on them.


Inside, there were more people than could fit in the City Council chamber or the overlooking balcony so couples waiting to apply for marriage licenses clustered on stairways that had been draped with bunting, some holding hands, some chatting with friends. They held gifts they had been given from supporters outside -- flowers, Mardi Gras style beads. Some were garishly flashing oversized rings on their fingers."

Sounds a bit like the happy hoopla at San Francisco City Hall when Mayor Newsom started handing out marriage licenses Valentine's weekend.

regretful soldier

I followed a link in one of the diaries at dailykos to get to this Sacramento Bee interview with a Marine returned from Iraq (excerpts follow):

"Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core, some say gung-ho, Marine. ... [Massey:] 'There was this one particular incident - and there's many more - the one that really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. From all the intelligence reports we were getting, the cars were loaded down with suicide bombs or material. That's the rhetoric we received from intelligence. They came upon our checkpoint. We fired some warning shots. They didn't slow down. So we lit them up.

Q: Lit up? You mean you fired machine guns?

A: Right. Every car that we lit up we were expecting ammunition to go off. But we never heard any. Well, this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: "Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong." That hit me like a ton of bricks.'


Q: Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out [a small group of unarmed civilians]?

A: Higher command. We were told to be on the lookout for the civilians because a lot of the Fedayeen and the Republican Guards had tossed away uniforms and put on civilian clothes and were mounting terrorist attacks on American soldiers. The intelligence reports that were given to us were basically known by every member of the chain of command. The rank structure that was implemented in Iraq by the chain of command was evident to every Marine in Iraq. The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials, including intelligence communities within the military and the U.S. government.

Q: What kind of firepower was employed?

A: M-16s, 50-cal. machine guns.

Q: You fired into six or ten kids? Were they all taken out?

A: Oh, yeah. Well, I had a "mercy" on one guy. When we rolled up, he was hiding behind a concrete pillar. I saw him and raised my weapon up, and he put up his hands. He ran off. I told everybody, "Don't shoot." Half of his foot was trailing behind him. So he was running with half of his foot cut off.'


[Massey:] DU [Depleted Uranium] is everywhere on the battlefield. If you hit a tank, there's dust.

Q: Did you breath any dust?

A: Yeah.

Q: And if DU is affecting you or our troops, it's impacting Iraqi civilians.

A: Oh, yeah. They got a big wasteland problem.

Q: Do Marines have any precautions about dealing with DU?

A: Not that I know of. Well, if a tank gets hit, crews are detained for a little while to make sure there are no signs or symptoms. American tanks have depleted uranium on the sides, and the projectiles have DU in them. If an enemy vehicle gets hit, the area gets contaminated. Dead rounds are in the ground. The civilian populace is just now starting to learn about it. Hell, I didn't even know about DU until two years ago. You know how I found out about it? I read an article in Rolling Stone magazine. I just started inquiring about it, and I said "Holy s---!"'

Massey also talks about cluster bombs, which seem to spread small bomblets all around which explode if stepped upon. One of the soldiers in Massey's command stepped on one of these and lost a leg. And he was (minimally) trained in what not to step on. Iraqis haven't had opportunity for such training.

Sunday, May 16, 2004


The Lettrists? "Lettrism is the almost-forgotten visual poetry movement of the twentieth century. Preceding the concrete poetry movement by almost a decade, the world all but ignored the Lettrists during its infatuation with the concretists in the 1960s and ’70s. ... Lettrism was the creation of Isodore Isou, a Romanian who moved to Paris in the mid-1940s before he could even speak French. ... His ideas were simple enough: To atomize language. To reject the idea of language and the word itself as the exalted conveyors of meaning. To reduce art to its most elemental form, the atom of language, the letter. ... Lettrist visual poetry rarely includes readable words, rarely even includes readable letters.

[ ... ]

Lettrism is the bridge between Dadaism and concrete poetry, between the now-quaint avant-garde and the always-sedate avant-garde. ... The Lettrists broke into more factions (the Ultra-Lettrists, the Situationists) and made fewer friends [than the concrete poets & Dadaists]." -- Geof Huth

Huth includes links to Lettrist works so go on over to dbpq (the "Letrrists" link above) to check 'em out.


I read this at Vanishing Points, "Geof Huth ... writes of a notebook he uses for everything but what he first intended. That's pretty much been the case with every notebook I've ever owned. ... No master plan. No ability to stick to one in any event. Gambling on gut impulses. In the moment. Trying to find the wherewithal to trust one's heart."

I posted this response, "I have a notebook for poetry. I have a notebook for writing about things happening in my life. I keep them separate. There once was a time they were the same. But the life notes would crowd the poems, especially when I did a bunch of revising. And I'd get tired of rereading the life notes. It's not like I was going to perfect them into art; they were just so I didn't entirely forget everything about my life but the few horrendously embarassing events that eternally haunt me."


Some stuff from the notebook:

Poetry things that bug me:

-- the idea that a poem does not exist until it is published -- and its existence is greater when published in a magazine like The New Yorker or Poetry

-- the idea that there are great poets

-- the idea that there are too many poets and too many poems

-- the anger at poets over their (a) not buying enough poetry / not subscribing to poetry magazines (especially the ones to which they send their poems), (b) teaching people to write poetry, thus creating more poets and more poems

-- the idea that more is worse, the best Collected Poems is the slimmest

I can see the seeming disconnect: there is a lot of poetry, there are a lot of people writing it, shouldn't there be at least as many buying it?

I'm not 100% convinced there aren't people buying poetry. After all, if there are ten zillion books of poems out there the same ten people haven't picked up all of them.

But I also resist the notion that market defines value.

Whether or not it was (is?) really true I like the idea that tribal people take for granted the fact that each of us is an artist, artist as a role not being divisible from basketmaker or dancer or hunter. I'm, I must admit to myself, insistent on originality, on novelty, experimentation. Tribal people, it seems to me, tend to be limited to traditions that make the variety of human experience relatively homogeneous.

Then again, as I like to note when reading lamentations over the discarding of poetic form (sonnet, iambs, whatever), English itself is a form.

I like also the idea that making poems is a spiritual activity. Like meditation. Or a form of meditation. I might say prayer. Though prayer has such a "gimme this, God" connotation that I hesitate before that comparison.

Monday, May 10, 2004

comments on version 4

The transition from stanza 1 to stanza 2 is unacceptable as is, but that doesn't much matter right now.

Mine the only body but for the gull?

"Interoceptor" version 4

without dog unhooked from leather leash heaving himself at the frisbee with the chewed edge,
without brown bottles broken in the coals of old fires,
without anyone touching in the dark spaces of dunes,
without volleyball, without towel,

cold with sea and mine the only body
in which to warm itself
my tears the only other wet
the wind might dry

the sea’s hem a crackling yellow foam
tearing among the black kelp heads
then tugged back for mending

the sand flea burrows bubble open between washes
and there is one cry, I think, a gull I can’t see

one small stretch of me
walking, the one in cotton
among strewn and sanded wood,
not sharing this space with anyone with a camera,
no beer logo blanket, no sunscreen bottle leaking

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Happy endings are all alike?

"Happy endings only occur in fiction. In real life, all stories end sadly. 'Until death do us part' sounds very romantic until, y'know, the death part." -- Peter David

New Culture Cure

I've just been listening to CDs from 3 bands I think of as '80s bands. I have the CD player on random so it switches between The Cure, Culture Club, and New Order. The CDs are from recent box sets.

These three bands are the ones I return to most. I think I have almost everything they've put out.

Growing up in Sebastopol I only heard Culture Club on the radio (or on top 40 video shows). We didn't receive the SF stations that were playing the Cure and New Order. I wasn't an early fan of any of them because I didn't know they existed until they'd been around awhile.

I heard snippets of "Blue Monday" and "Bizarre Love Triange" emanating from other people's stereos (I distinctly remember hearing a car pass in Santa Rosa blasting "Bizarre Love Triangle" and thinking to myself, "There's that song again. I wish I knew who did it. I'd buy it right now.") When I finally knew who they were New Order were my gods. I had to overcome some internal (& external) homophobia to adopt Culture Club, what with that "big drag queen" Boy George so prominent in the band. But when I heard "Karma Chameleon" I knew I had to own whatever record it was on. The Cure had a whole atmosphere about them that put me off -- the slash of lipstick, the ratty hair, the girls who (rather like Duranies) adopted the Cure look. And sometimes Robert Smith's verge-of-tears voice got on my nerves. It wasn't until "Just Like Heaven" that I was really won over. The album that included it, "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me", grew on me until I was playing it regularly. I haven't gone back and bought all the Cure's early stuff but I have everything since "Kiss Me" and the singles collections.

After Boy George recovered from his heroine addiction and 'fessed to the torrid love affair with Jon Moss (Culture Club's drummer) he ditched the coyness about half his life and got more interesting. The Culture Club box set is varied and fresh. I read George's autobiography, Take it Like a Man. For a few years he was writing a weekly column for a London paper and I'd read it on the web. ... Just discovered a second volume of autiobiography is forthcoming. Price is listed in pounds; will there be an American release?