Saturday, October 23, 2004


A critique that stands alone? I wrote a critique for a poem posted on a bulletin board. I wrote it as though I were writing a poem, with the particular concentration I apply to writing a poem. But I figured it would be just one of those things you write and let go out into the world. Never see it again. Then one of the other poets at the board, a poet whose writing gets more interesting as I watch it, said she thought the critique read rather like a prose poem. Does it stand alone?:

The 3rd stanza repeats the first. In the 2nd stanza a car goes by -- is it the car's door that shakes? I was placing the speaker at home, listening to the next door neighbor's dog bark, watching it bark, the dog in the yard? The door that shakes could be a house door, could be a car door.

The speaker "with eyes closed ... look[s] inside [himself]." Sees "nothing there but white with teeth." The speaker's own teeth? Speaker experiencing empty-mind? A clear whiteness? The dog barks at fog, which is white, so perhaps the speaker is visiting his own fog. And the teeth could be threatening. Teeth bite, dogs use them thus. Teeth also speak, people use them thus. Perhaps these teeth will tell the speaker something and the speaker will pass that along in his next poem.

I am not convinced the dog is barking at the breeze that moves the fog. Dog might just be barking at the fog. Dog might be barking at something else, the car maybe. I am not convinced the way the speaker has observed the dog barking gains strength (or gains anything, maybe loses something) when it is repeated. I am not convinced the speaker sees anything inside, even white. Though teeth maybe. Colors probably. White? Maybe it is the white that comes out, that is outside. Maybe it is the white that is moved by a breeze rising from the speaker. Maybe it is only white outside.

Is it night?

The poem to which the critique is addressed.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

poetry is not one thing

On her blog Kelli Russell Agodon muses about people's attitudes toward poets & poetry:

"I think to limit yourself to one class or type of poetry is to limit your own writing. You may prefer a certain type of poetry and be drawn to poets who write in a certain way, but it's important to continue to explore other ways to write, even if they seem too simple or too complex. It's similar to music. You may always have your station on jazz, but check out what's happening on a pop station once in awhile, or alternative music, or country."

I don't have any objection to this. It's a good way to look at poetry. When I first started reading poetry I saw right away that there was poetry I didn't like. A lot of poetry I didn't like. This was bothersome. Wasn't I supposed to like Poetry? If that's Poetry and I like Poetry what's wrong -- with it, with me? Maybe I don't like Poetry. I kept reading it to find out. I started my copying project, where I copy out poems I read that I don't want to leave behind. Yes, in fact I don't like all Wallace Stevens poems, but this one I've written into my notebook is really really cool. I like reading it. I look forward to reading it again.

Poetry is not one thing. Can you say Issa and Tennyson are the same thing?


sparrows at the gate--
the brothers' first


              Forward, the Light Brigade!'
            Was there a man dismay'd?
            Not tho' the soldier knew
                Some one had blunder'd:
            Their's not to make reply,
            Their's not to reason why,
            Their's but to do and die:
            Into the valley of Death
                Rode the six hundred.

Can the complaint be that one is poetry and one is not?

I prefer the former to the latter. I'm much more likely to copy out the Issa. I can appreciate the effects of the Tennyson, even find it stirring. I'm not big on martial themes, especially when they're bound to glory. The Issa is simple but it unfolds. Brothers compete. Cain and Abel knew that.

And no claim that Issa and Tennyson exemplify the diversity of Poetry. But they are different enough.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Mom's checks III

I'm looking at a Wells Fargo Bank check register that covers "5/29/69 to 9/10/72". On the inside Mom has written a P.O. Box for Wells Fargo in Santa Rosa. This, I believe, is the first check register after the divorce. My brother's birthday is in May, which means he was five when Mom recorded the first check in the register. I was 3 1/2. That's the age Mom always quoted when I asked how old I was at the time of the divorce.

It's just a check register. The only thing that gives it emotional resonance is the time it was filled. I'm nervous. It seems like I'm exposing something.

Starting balance: $119.45
[Gee, that don't seem like much. I know Mom didn't fill her checking account beyond what she felt she needed, preferring to keep the bulk of her cash in savings.]

"5/29 A&B -$20.00"
[I think this is a grocery store. A&B recurs frequently in the pages that follow.]

"6/3 Bruce ck +$256.34"
[Dad's first child support check?]

"6/6 Bon Air Apts -$120.00"
[Bon Air. Our first home in California? I think Mom brought us to Southern Cal initially to her mother's but I don't guess we stayed there long. I remember Bon Air. I remember a calico cat. Learning the word, "calico." Fascinated by its mottled coloring. It wasn't our cat, just one that lived in the building. I remember a room, a hall?, that was entered by at least 2 doors. It was tiny and close, comforting and scary when dark. I remember being shut in there, when playing. I remember it being something I liked. I remember Mom not approving -- maybe because it was a passage Do I have any other memories from this time? A presence of adults. I think Mom's friend Beverly lived nearby. She had two daughters a bit older than me & David. Some of my memories of playing with them may have come from this time. Nothing specific. Tag or something. I think they were enough older they seemed Big. But I was a shy kid. ... That rent. $120. Wow. The only thing you'd find for that these days is a shared room in a house or apartment. Maybe.]

"6/6 C.T.A. $5.00 Member, $5.00 Placement -- -$10.00"
[California Teacher's Association membership. The teacher's union. Mom taught elementary school.]

"6/6 PG&E -$8.20"
[First utility bill. Pacific Gas & Electric.]

Dad's $257 reappears on 7/8. Lots more A&B.

8/4 records the last rent check to Bon Air.

"8/26 Bishop Hansel Ford -$700"
This entry paired with "Gr. West Saving +$900"
[Confirms the theory that the bulk of Mom's money was in a savings account. Here she buys a car with cash. She was not one for borrowing. Mom had credit cards, although I only remember the store-specific kind. One for Penney's, one for Mobil. I'm sure she paid them off each month. When I was little there were commercials for something called BankAmeriCard, which at some point transmuted into VISA. A generic credit card. Did Mom ever have such a thing? Seems to me she eventually cut up all her credit cards and paid for everything with cash/check. ... The car must have been the Cortina. It was copper-colored. We named it Charlotte. I don't know who chose the name. David or me. Sadly, Mom was ever disappointed in the car. "A lemon," she said. Always giving her trouble. A station wagon, it had a rear door that opened upward giving access to a flat bed. You could fold the back seat down and have good cargo space. I think we slept there on a mat when car camping sometimes. ... The savings account was at a savings & loan, long before the savings & loan crisis killed off that category of bank. Great Western. I don't know what her savings came to.]

"8/27 freight -$15.30"
[Moving ...]

"8/30 House rent -$95.00 (70.00 + 25.00)"
[This was the house in Johnson Park? I think Mom got a teaching job in Burney. Johnson Park was a neighborhood or suburb of Burney, by the way Mom would talk about it. ... Is $70 the house rent, $25 a security deposit? ... I remember this house. It snowed here, drifts which seemed huge -- up to my waist! I don't remember hating the cold the way I later did in Sebastopol (where it doesn't snow). There was at least once enough snow for a snowman. A dirty snowman. A small dirty snowman. Was this where my thumb got smashed playing with an old gate balanced on the ruins of a brick fireplace or bbq? I think so. The vacant lot next to the house. I remember being stunned to see my flattened thumb and its rapidly changing colors. Kids would take turns sitting on the metal gate while others rocked it up and down like a seesaw. No surprise my clumsy little kid hand got caught. It was a lot of fun getting rocked, though I probably didn't get to do it much. I think it was scary, too. The bigger kids would make the gate rock furiously, which made me beg them to slow down. When my thumb got crushed I howled. I was a big howler. I remember the bandage that wrapped my thumb, how it got stained with blood and pus -- and dirt. When the bandage came off my thumbnail came off with it. That was pretty shocking. Looking at the naked flesh where the rigid thumbnail had been. I remember watching the nail grow back, ever so slowly it grew. I remember some neighbor girl eating cherry tomatoes, my briefly liking their taste before finding them inedible. Being lonesome. David & I mostly played together, rather than in a larger group. I remember envying the big kids the bikes they'd swoosh by on. The road was paved at least to our house, I believe, but turned to gravel. Mom recently remembered the pretend friend Kathy. She lived on the other side of the wall. I remember wearing a piece of white sheet like a wig, tied on around the forehead by a black ribbon or sash. Wearing this one became Kathy. Kathy probably came from David, was probably usually played by David. I say that because I was too young to be original. David was a year and a half older. If there was a game it was his idea; I was happy to go along, at most embellish. I'm sure David & I shared a room. Did Mom have her own bedroom? It was a small house. Did we stay long enough for me to go to kindergarten?]

"8/30 Shasta Pines -$27.30"

"8/30 Burney Army, Navy -$36.76"
[Mom was a big fan of army surplus; we had a wool US Army blanket which she treasured. We had small folding shovels. Metal drinking cups/bowls that stacked, one with handles which folded and snapped tight shut.]

"8/31 Safeway -$25.00"
[A&B no longer appears. Now it's Safeway.]


OK. This one is spinning me around. I was right to hesitate before plunging in. I'm going to put it aside for now.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


I drove up to Sebastopol today. Are there really that many boxes of things stacked up in the basement? This was my first visit since Mom died at the end of July. C & M, who are renting the place, have boxed everything and stacked it all neatly in corners in the basement. I loaded all my records into the Jeep. Also a box of books. Mom's diary. She kept a diary for awhile after I moved out. There was much I didn't even touch, however. Much that just needs to donated or thrown away. It's getting easier to throw things away. But I hate the waste of throwing out usable things. C & M have adopted several pieces of furniture. Vic when last I saw her at her jewelry/minerals booth on Telegraph here in Berkeley referred to "C's place," then realized she was talking about my old house and apologized. "She's just made it so C," Vic explained. Maybe to somebody who didn't live there. I'm pleased to see C & M using the house's nooks and crannies, and asserting their own identities there, even doing some landscaping, but it looks like the old same place to me. I don't want to live there.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Mom's checks II

I posted several entries from Mom's check registry from 1973-74 yesterday. Today I'm going to post on checks written 1971-72.

The front cover doesn't have a bank logo, Mom has handwritten on the "name of bank" blank, "Shasta Co."

Mom named her sister as joint tenant on the account. In case of emergency, I believe. Sylvia could swoop in and take over Mom's accounts (& Mom's kids, of course) ...

First entry 12-20-71 "Joyce -- Glenn sick one week -- end of Jan."
[Mom was teaching elementary school. Did she stay home an entire week while I was sick? I wonder of what? This might have been the time I had mumps or chicken pox. I was 6.]

12/27 "Early Years mag." -$7.00
[self-help subscription?]

12/27 "I can Read Bk. Club" -$2.17

1/9/1972 "E. Burney Milk $1.20 D&G" -$2.40
[paying for milk at school for David & me?]

1/11 "Redding opthamology" -$25.00

1/23 "Johnson Park water" -$3.00
[We lived in Johnson Park near Burney in Northern California.]


lots of entries for utilities, groceries, bank ... several entries each for "Joyce Lindler" [maybe she was a babysitter?] and "James Barfuss" [no idea]


4/24 "Disabled Am. Vets" -$15.00
[I'm always interested in what charity somebody donates to.]

4/29 "Fall River Pay" +$572.58
[Mom's teaching paycheck?]

5/21 "Hyatt's Bk 2130 Hil Hop Dr." -$5.60
[no idea but it's so specific]

7/25 "Nevada State Dept of Ed" -$1.00
[An application? We were living in California, not very close to Nevada ... maybe she was thinking of an eastward move?]

9/18 "Exchange Bank" -$156.65
[This is the final entry; it's followed by another $500 transfer to Exchange Bank and the balance to Sacto Teachers C.U. ... We moved from Johnson Park? This seems about the right date for it. To Santa Rosa, I think. Or was it Rohnert Park?]

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Poetry & Pizza reading

Last night we hosted a Hogtown Creek Review reading at Poetry & Pizza. As I'm now poetry editor at HCR (yay!) I hosted; besides me we had Tim Donnelly, Dale Jensen, and Niloufar Talebi. We had a good turnout. Maybe half the audience was Katharine's students from Skyline Community College.

Niloufar asked me if I'd brought my cats. She can't keep a cat where she's living and misses the critters terribly. She came late and after the reading left for another function. But it was nice seeing her.

Tim read some new work -- always nice to hear new stuff from Tim. I've heard his older stuff ... some of the new pieces were commemorative of friends who've died: cancer, overdose, AIDS ...

Dale has long white hair and white beard haloing pink skin so he has a wildmanish look. Glasses which seem to magnify his eyes. I like his surrealist work. He reads well. Except for the barking, which plays to the wildman look, I guess. He had a new book and was donating sales of it to HCR. I got a copy and look forward to reading it.

I mostly read poems from my latest poetry notebook. I've been feeling disconnected from current work and was pleased to find it presented well.

Sadly the new issue of HCR has not yet gotten here. So I wasn't able to offer any for sale last night. I got an email from Elisa that she'd mailed them. Maybe they'll get here in time for me to lug them to La Pena, Oct 6, when Kirmen Uribe and his band will be playing. He has a poem in the new issue. Looking forward to meeting him and Elizabeth Macklin (a poem of hers is in HCR, too).

Mom's checks

Oct 20, 1973 "Cecil Cox -- work on the house" -$130.00

Oct 23 "City of Sebastopol Roof Permit" -$5.00

Oct 30 "Bruce -- Glenn birthd. $210 less $30 cash" +$180.00
[Bruce is my dad; was $180 the usual child support payment?]

Nov 7 "Palm Drive Hosp." -$200.

Nov 8 "Palm Drive Hosp." -$227.04
[more than $400 to the local hospital ... for what? David had his appendix out when a kid, but at this time?]

Nov 25 "Sequoia Mortgage" -$152.00

Nov 26 "Dr Jacobs -- Xray & fill front tooth" -$20.00
[only $20? even for 1973 that seems a small amount. maybe it's a partial payment.]

Dec 4 "Scholastic Bks -- David -- Darn Cat, Good Ol' Snoopy, Caves" -$1.35
[Funny that Mom recorded what books my brother David ordered from the Scholastic Book Service. I remember those book club pamphlets passed around in class. I always wanted to order several books. But I seldom did. I remember the books Mom notes. Except for 'Good Ol' Snoopy', though we had many Peanuts books.]

Dec 15 "KQED" -$15.00
[San Francisco public TV station. I remember Mom would say their basic membership was too expensive. Sometimes she'd send them $5 and would grump when they didn't seem grateful. I remember seeing their magazine around the house. Nothing I was going to read at that age. In Dec 73 I was 8.]

Dec 31 "Bruce -- check Dec -- $200 + $16.00 G. dentist LeDu" +$216.00
[G., that would be me, right? Just a check up? Or one of my many cavity fillings ...]

Dec 31, 1973 "Alaska Children's Serv. Inc Tx" -$5.00
[I wonder what this is. Though I was born in Alaska we'd been living in California for 4 or 5 years by this time.]

Jan 15, 1974 "Scholastic Books -- David -- Pnuts Cook Bk, Frankueler, Ghostly, Tunnel Time"
[It was "Time Tunnel" ... "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler" ... "Ghostly"? ... again I don't remember the Peanuts book, a cookbook? Curiously this entry is scribbled over, but I know we owned at least two of these books.]

Jan 24 "Ranger Rick" -$6.00
[a nature magazine for kids. I liked looking at the pictures.]

Feb 19 "PG&E" -$14.67
[Pacific Gas & Electric]

March 11 "Infernal Rev." -$87.52
[OK. Maybe it's not really an 'f' ...]

Mar 26 "Analy Veterinary Hosp. -- cat shots" -$14.00


June 15 "Press Demo -- ad -- Little Yellow Sch." -$6.24
[I remember this. Mom toyed with the idea of starting a private school out of our house. I know I was having trouble with public school and Mom thought it might be a way she could afford to home school me, I guess. She got a couple nibbles from the ad but nothing much came of it.]

July 8 "Back packers Tent, Sleep mats" -$17.81
[Tent? When did we ever have a tent? When we'd go camping we'd sleep under the stars.]


A very pruned version of Mom's check register from 10/12/73 to 7/12/74. I left out garbage service, grocery stores, cable TV, telephone, etc. Now I'm dropping this little book in the recycle bin. It doesn't even have Mom's name on it so it doesn't need to go to the shredder.