Tuesday, December 29, 2009

comments on “I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling”, version 4

New title. I edited down what had been the first three lines to a title. I decided the old title was merely the spark and didn’t need to stay. I grew to dislike the word “kingdom”, especially. Lopping off the beginning of a poem in revision was a lesson learned from my first poet-teachers. The beginning is also often the hardest bit to part with, as it was what got the poem going and can seem like the poem entire. The new first line is better, though.

Some other changes, but I won’t itemize.

My opinion of the poem over the course of its versioning has gone from I-love-it to I-hate-it and back. I’m in an I-love-it mood right now. Or I was when I started writing these comments. Now? Oh, now I’m just sorta tired.

“I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling”, version 4

House on Foundation of Cloud

In the hall my heart stopped.
The wind dragged past to the bath.
And I had to tear loose some fear,
some little of it
that caught in the hinge,
that had stopped things up.

To one of the tongues of flame
that searched the walls for words
already eaten, I was sure,
eaten and digested,
smudge now across a watery way between
white monuments,
I pressed it.
To one of the fatter
I pressed it.

Wasn’t it falling?
Wasn’t I?

I reviewed my expertise in falling,
tested the latch and release of the heart.
The wind dragged off in the other direction
toward one of the dark rooms
far back.

With cold fingers I tore from my fear what would come.
Put it in your ears, I told myself.
They burn, too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

comments on “I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling”, version 3

When I started this version I thought I was maybe just fiddling. I don’t know. At the moment the rather minor changes feel important.

I note a lack of agreement in the phrase, “the words that had been eaten … that was smudge now”. “Words” is plural, “was smudge” should be “were smudge”? Yet I prefer “was”. Words a singular like team or language. Then there’s getting rid of “was” … “eaten and digested, / smudge now across a watery way …” Hm.

Paul Mariah’s workshop, I recall, was the place I learned to look at the tiniest words, like “it” or “was” or “the”. One tends to overlook them. Then the question, if overlooked, truly needed? I can see other places that might profitably lose small words. “I had to tear loose some fear, / some little of it / caught in the hinge …”


I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling, version 3

The house, on foundations of cloud,
replenished smoke tapestries
from the burning of fear.
In the hall my heart stopped suddenly,
the wind on the way to the bath dragging past.

I had to tear loose some of that fear,
some little of it
that caught in the hinge,
that brought things to a halt.
And to one of the tongues of flame

that searched the walls for the words
that had been eaten already, I was sure,
eaten and digested,
that was smudge now across a watery way between
white monuments,

to one of the fatter
I pressed it.

Wasn’t I falling anyway?

I explored my expertise in falling,
tested the latch and release of the heart.
The wind dragged off in the other direction
toward one of the dark rooms
far back.

With cold fingers I tore from my fear what would come.
Put it in your ears, I told myself.
Keep them burning.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

comments on “I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling” version 2

I used to avoid melodramatic language. Didn’t I? Well, I’ve always used it. But I tend to edit it down cuz people find it objectionable. I think I’m camping anyway. Exaggerating, dressing emotion in gaudy excess. I think that’s one of the things that poetry does – excess. Non-poets turn to poetry in extremis. When the heart hurts, when they feel an agonizing grief, a flaring rage, a deep calm. Ordinary, daily emotion isn’t what poetry is for. It’s also for an excess of language strategies – sound, pun, structure, destruction. Excess doesn’t mean not serious. But serious doesn’t mean fun-hating.

Used to be the dedicated poet soaked in agonies and spewed ecstasies, too. But fashions changed. Restraint. A cool intellectualism. These became the acceptable poetry. All that panting and moaning and running through the streets – even if only safe on the page and bound – ugh – the sophisticated reader recoiled. And I’m not saying I don’t share the reaction. Poems of centuries past that wordily roved about the poet’s oh-so-important sentiment remain anachronistic.

But I like passions. If my poetry is sometimes more WWF than street brawl, okay. I like capes and shouting. A poem is not a fist in the face. Not really. It’s display, not attack. Not that the two aren’t frequently confused.

When I showed the poem to Kent he said it was familiar. Yeah. I knew when I was writing it I was revisiting a dream that’s found it’s way into many an earlier poem. There’s a terrain that I wander through that a reader used to my work could begin to anticipate. It’s not that we refrain from repeating ourselves; it’s that we’re trying out variations.

I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling, version 2

The house, from foundations of cloud,
replenished smoke tapestries
with the burning of fear.
In the hall my heart stopped.
The wind dragged past to the bath.
And I had to tear loose some of that fear,
some little of it
that had caught in the hinge,
that had brought things to a halt.
And to one of the tongues of flame
that searched the walls for the words
that had been eaten already, I was sure,
eaten and digested,
that was smudge now across a watery way between
white monuments,
to one of the fatter
I pressed it.
Wasn’t I going to fall anyway?
I explored my skills in falling,
tested the latch and release of the heart.
The wind dragged off in the other direction
toward one of the dark rooms
far back.
With cold fingers I tore from my fear what would come.
Put it in your ears, I told myself.
Keep them burning.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

poem I bought a book with

“I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling” is the poem I bought a book with. Today was Small Press Distribution’s annual open house and in a nook of one of the office cubicles they’d set out yellow writing tablets. If you brought a poem or story you could fill out a voucher form, then hand over your writing and choose from several shelves of books. If you hadn’t had the foresight to bring anything you could sit down and write something on one of the yellow pads. I liked that. So I sat down, cast my gaze about the walls at posters, at the bookshelves, nothing grabbed me. I turned to the page and wrote down a phrase that has visited me now & again for decades – “I fell into a kingdom of falling.”

They say they will publish a selection of the poems. The young woman who stapled my poem to the voucher asked if she could read the poem. I said yes; once she’d read it she didn’t say anything. If she’d loved it I suppose she would have said something, but who knows.

I saw one familiar poet waiting for the scheduled reading to begin, Dale Jensen. He showed me a couple books he’d plucked from the boxes of books being offered for a dollar per. After the reading (which was good; I really have to sit down with that Andrew Joron book I bought years ago) I applied myself to the task of spending $10. There were about fifteen full boxes – poetry, novels, essays, literary magazines. Did I succeed? I did. I will list them all at DIR.

A big storm is coming in. It rained a bit on the car on the drive over to SPD, and maybe it rained while I was safely inside the warehouse poring diligently over the dollar books. Having bought them I was asked repeatedly if I was sure I didn’t need a bag. No, I said. Somebody took a picture of me holding them against my chest.

I Fell into a Kingdom of Falling

The house, its foundation of cloud,
replenished smoke tapestries
with the burning of fear.
My heart stopped in the hall
as the wind dragged past to the bath
and I tore loose some of the fear,
some little of it
that had caught in the hinge,
and pressed it to one of the tongues of flame
that searched the walls for the words
that had been eaten already, I was sure,
eaten and digested,
now smudge across a watery way between
white monuments.
I was going to fall anyway.
I explored my falling skills,
tested the opening and closing of the heart,
the wind dragging past my mouth
toward one of the dark rooms
at the back of the house.
I tore at my fear with cold fingers.
I should put them in my ears, which
are burning.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finding Fowl

Here I am at the Info Desk again. I helped a woman (mother?) find the 3rd & 4th novels of the Artemis Fowl series - the books don't feature a number on the cover, and our online catalog doesn't tell you. There are tricks - like sorting search results by publication date - #3 in a series is never published before #2, right?

I haven't had many live people asking for help. And most of the phone calls make me feel like a receptionist - "Let me transfer you to her office."

A preteen girl wanted the Dear America series. A friend had recommended them. I found the series in the catalog, then set her up at a catalog terminal so she could scroll down the list until she found one she liked. She found two. Neither was on the shelf. One was checked out. The other? Who knows. While we were looking for the Dear America books the girl started spinning a rack of paperbacks and said she was okay with not finding the Dear America books as she was finding other things of interest.

I don't do the children's paperbacks. I will help with the processing of them - entering the titles into the system, slapping on a barcode, whatever. But I don't choose any. So if there's great stuff there I can't take the credit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Info Desk Blogging

Quiet night. I'm usually not on Info Desk the last two hours of a Thursday. I guess I got plunked here cuz the head of the branch is taking part in a public meeting to gather input on the renovation of the branch. I just got a phone call: "Are there many people at the meeting?" Being as I can't see the meeting room from the Info Desk I tried encouraging the caller to come and have his say. "We welcome the input," I said. But the caller wasn't right nearby. It would take him fifteen minutes to get here. He didn't want to come unless nobody else was here. So I put him on hold and went to see. "Looks like there are five people at the meeting," I told him as I got back on the line. "Oh dear," he said, "I'll be there as soon as I can."

Tonight is also our day of the month to host Lawyers in the Library, a volunteer service of the Alameda County Bar Association. There's only one lawyer. So it's Lawyer in the Library. Rather than Lawyers ... donchano.

The Lawyer night brings more anxiety than usual into the library. I don't hear any of the stories that lead people to need lawyers, but worried faces come up to the desk wondering if the lawyer is in, how long does the lawyer see each person, what's the order people are seen, and so on.

One of the slightly weird things about our Lawyer night is this: "In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5pm. Names pulled by lottery at 6pm." You are not seen in the order in which you show up. You are seen in a random order. This seems to change somewhat according to who is at the Info Desk. Some Info Deskers give people a place in line. This changeability is kind of annoying. The Berkeley Information Network page (linked above) has the rules; I read the rules to anybody who asks and whenever they tell me someone else told them something different I tell the questioner all I know is what's written. If the policy has been changed the written version needs to be changed so we all can give out the same information. Blah blah blah. I try to say it nicely.

I try to say everything nicely. Nobody likes attitude. Frankly, attitude just makes the job harder. Of course, part of the job is enforcing rules and that's not always happy-making.

Ooh. Is cold out. The door opens and chill air pours in. Just think, at home now we have central heating! It's cheering me up.

Monday, November 16, 2009

pre-Thanksgiving thoughts

The renovation project drags on. It’s stressful. Working on our fourth* month. I’m sure other people have had it worse. Do you ever actually feel better when you hear how much worse other people have it? Better, in a relative way, maybe. It doesn’t make you feel good, right? It just puts your misery into perspective. At least I’m not in prison or wandering homeless in the desert. My hands are cold – but I could be starving!

Really, I don’t get the could-be-worse strategy for bucking oneself up.

Last night in bed I was counting my blessings. Most of them came with a yeah-but (“Praise be for two orange kitties. … Yeah, but it would be better if they didn’t pee in the house, and if that big fluffy one didn’t act like we were just this side of enemies and run away from our affections.”); I tried to quiet the yeah-buts and came up with a pretty good list.

We don’t have concrete plans for Thanksgiving. … uh … Cooking in the new kitchen?


* actually, we're working on our fifth month!

Monday, November 09, 2009

a haiku sequence written at sunset Nov 8, 2009

too chilly to sit
on the porch, have to pee
write about that

white apartments sunset pink
cherry tree porchlight yellow

two old toilets under a tarp
chimney now a pile of bricks
grass green again

cat circling me
hunting a chin scratch

the mop propped outside
gets wet with each rain
but not clean

all right, daylight
leave the page
to my imagination

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Info Desk Blogging

Don't have the approval to clear the weeding shelves yet. So. Not doing that.

And I did a heckuva lot of paperbacks last month so I want to wait till people adjust to the new stuff before processing any more. And I kinda don't want to kill off any older paperbacks right now.

On lunches & breaks I choose a book from among the deleted paperbacks (yes, I hang onto those that look interesting). Last week I finished The Boys and Their Baby by Larry Wolff. I started The Good Conscience by Carlos Fuentes at lunch today. I ate a veggie sandwich at Nabolom Bakery and in two chapters worked my way through two generations of a Mexican family.

Weather is nice. The front door is propped open.

Browsing paperbacks that have been checked out today so far:

Karen Joy Fowler - The Jane Austen Book Club
Emily Griffin - Baby Proof
Anne River Siddons - Sweetwater Creek
Anna Quindlen - Black and Blue
Robert B. Parker - High Profile
PD James - Shroud for a Nightingale
Adrienne Brodeur - Man Camp
Jane Smiley - Ten Days in the Hills
Cecelia Ahern - P.S. I Love You
Anne Tyler - Digging to America
Velma Wallis - Two Old Women: an Alaska legend

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Info Desk Blogging

I've completed the weeding project. That doesn't mean it's finished, tied with a bow, put away, all done. After all, we're still getting in new books and the new books have to go on the old shelves. Even though I've removed many books from the old shelves, the new books will fill them up and more weeding will need to be done. Plus there are small collections that I haven't worked on yet - the Chinese books, the oversized books.

A couple years ago I took on the weeding when I was annoyed by the book trucks in the meeting room that had been set aside for overflow, that is, all those books there was no room for in the stacks. I was sitting here at the Info Desk, you know, looking over at the crowded Fiction thinking, "I bet no one checks that one out, or that one." There was a period not long ago when I had made enough room on the shelves to clear the books trucks. That was satisfying. Unfortunately the most popular collection, the Mysteries, is full again. The DVDs are crowded, too. And the area set aside for them was small to start with. I haven't attempted to weed those. I suspect the best way to weed them would be for condition - do they play? But we don't have a DVD player here.

Actually I'm waiting on my boss to approve for deletion that last batch of weeding. Once she gives the OK that'll be the work of a couple hours.

Monday, October 12, 2009

morning jackhammer

Let’s see. A jackhammer is beating away at the concrete that was just laid last week? That would be under the house. I think that’s what’s happening. I haven’t actually gone to look. Or asked. I just get to hear it. That was a hammer wielded by hand, that was. Thunk thunk thunk. Felt that one through the floor boards.

Living in a construction project. Fun? Or not fun?

Ambient temperature outside: 59 degrees fahrenheit
Inside: 61 degrees
I got the first number from Weather Underground. The second was the last number I saw on the thermometer upstairs. The one on the downstairs thermostat is less precise but looks about the same.

There are still holes in the roof. These will be filled by skylights. Sometime. Not by tomorrow, though. Tomorrow a big storm is supposed to be coming in. Supposedly the holes will be covered enough to keep the rain out.

The project is a kitchen remodel. It keeps being other things. The jackhammering is related to the structural deficiencies our contractor discovered upon tearing out walls that were holding the kitchen in. He wants to make sure the house rides out the next big quake. Which is overdue, he insists. Earthquakes are not library books, I almost say.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Angry that we have to fight and fight and fight.

Watching the fight to keep Maine’s new marriage law with a feeling of dread.

Just as important is the fight in Washington state to keep marriage-in-all-but-name.

Angry that we have to spend lots of money to run these expensive campaigns so we can live out our boring, normal lives.

Angry that we lose these fights over and over.

Nobody wins anything when we lose. Nobody’s life is easier. No one is protected from anything. Nothing is served except pain.

Monday, September 07, 2009


I feel like going for a walk. I wonder if I am going to go for a walk. It's getting late-ish, toward dinner time. I feel somewhat less like going for a walk than I did a couple hours ago, time I've spent reading, mostly, also eating the cold, sweet watermelon Kent cut. Drifting around the house.

Part of what's stayed me from a stroll is lack of destination, but all the routes have been traveled, too. If Black Oak Books hadn't closed, I said to myself earlier, I would probably walk over there, a mere two blocks, and while away an hour picking up books and trying to talk myself out of buying them. But today is Labor Day; even if Black Oak were still there wouldn't it have shut for the holday?

Kent & I ate lunch at Bel Forno, a North Berkeley cafe, then took advantage of $10-off coupons to buy some stuff at CVS Pharmacy (formerly Long's). Kent got new earbuds for his iPod. I got toilet paper.

That was our walking for the day. Which didn't seem quite enough. But if I were to step out the door now, where would I go? Half Price Books is open as is, I believe, Comic Relief - and Half Price is even offering 20% off on everything - but we poked around there yesterday and I managed not to buy anything.

I could walk up to the Rose Garden. The sun's getting low so maybe I'd be in time for sunset. (Timeanddate.com says sunset is at 7:29, so I can dally and still make it.) Views of the bay and the Golden Gate are good from there.

I've seen 'em so I know. Plus a walk up that way would be good exercise.

If I walk north I end up at Solano Ave. Which is of interest. But I was there just last week. And what would be open?

If I walk west, what? The Ohlone Greenway? It's okay, a long stretch of urban park. Kids on monkey bars, dogs in the fenced-in off-leash zone, homeless people.

Sometimes I like looking at houses or imagining myself living in different neighborhoods. I could do that in any direction.

It would be fun to have a friend (or three) that's also a neighbor who doesn't mind an occasional visitor dropping by. You know, for a chat, a cup of tea, a game of checkers. Whatever. But I don't have any quite like that these days.

I guess I'm a little bored. Not frustratingly so. I've banned myself for the rest of the day from the political blogs because I was just leaving angry comments that weren't doing me a lick of good, really.

Walk. Or no. Having written about it I'm sleepy. Perhaps I'll take a nap.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Info Desk Blogging

It's quiet here at the Claremont Branch. I can hear over at the circulation desk an older woman is being told she returned a DVD case without the DVD inside. "I found that at home. I was wondering about it. If you really want it, I can get it back today," she says.

Thursday nights we stay open until 8pm. And when the light lasts people linger. During winter by 8 it's been dark for two or three hours. Few people hang around.

A warm day. The front door is propped open.

A man just asked me what our wifi security protocols are. We have security protocols? The Wireless FAQ page on the BPL website says, "Your information is not protected while using wireless." So I guess there aren't any.

Another man asks me if he can talk to me about a missing book. It seems he got a notice saying a book he checked out had not yet been returned. "But I know I returned it," he says. "I know because I opened the door to the drop box and looked in to make sure it had fallen all the way in."

I took the library card, scanned it under the laser frog scanner. The patron's library account popped up. He had exactly zero books checked out currently and had no fines. "No need to worry any more," I said.

I've been working away at the weeding project, book by book reviewing the collection for damage and for books that just don't go out the door. The section I've been going through just lately used to be very tight and has been weeded in the recent past. So mostly I'm carrying books from the shelf to the Info Desk then, a few minutes later, carrying them back. Still, a few things have been put aside: Chinatown, USA: a history and guide (1965), a 17 year old collection of George Will columns, superceded editions (a Suze Orman book, a Nolo book on 401(k)s, a J.K. Lasser Income Tax guide).

Saturday, August 01, 2009


The mouth opens black
under an inaccessible sky.
You look at the mouth,
black and open like that,
no way into it.
You're considering the ways
you might get away from it.
There’s left
and right
and back the way you came.
You could walk under it, too,
duck right under its big black gape,
those two broad teeth poised to bite,
one tooth to each stiff jaw.
You could stop,
and with an open palm,
whack that mouth -
Then on into the unfenced field,
leave the road stopped before the mouth
that’s going to bite, looks like,
going to bite a piece off and swallow it.
You’d be brave,
marching down the throat of that future,
past where any road’s allowed.

photo by Art Durkee
found on blog post by Jim Murdoch
in which he talks about writing poems in response to artwork

Friday, July 24, 2009

Winkie report?

Winkie good. Compliments to David Maxine for putting together a solid program. Um. Nice drive down with John Bell who was visiting from Boston; I picked him up in Oakland and we chatted (or I chattered?) all the way down. I asked him once on the way down & once on the way back what sort of music he liked – I’d intended to bring a batch of the playlist CDs I’d burned, but had forgotten them at home, the music preference question being not just idle curiosity but checking to see whether he would hate what I was going to slip into the car’s CD player – except, of course, I didn’t have the CDs with me. Still, John said he liked “American Standards.”

American Standard?

Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Eloise McGraw. Um. No? I didn’t put on the radio because I was talking, plus I was driving, so why distract from the moment?

I liked John. Smart guy. Personable. Didn’t interrupt me.

Anything else about Winkies? The old regulars. They are getting older. I guess that was a surprise. We youngsters of the 70s & 80s? Middle aged. Anybody coming up behind us? Um. Anthony? The 15 year old local? I liked him. Bouncy. He was puzzled by the lack of attention to the MGM movie. “That’s what I really like,” he said. “I haven’t read the books.”

Meanwhile David Maxine was saying we really need to get people to join the club who are into the Oz books. The books!

There is only one MGM Wizard of Oz. There are 14 sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. And many sequels by subsequent authors. I run out of things to say about the MGM movie rather quickly.

But I don’t know. I got one thing at the auction, an early edition of The Giant Horse of Oz. The other night Kent asked me if it was a book I really liked. After he noted that I wasn’t answering that question I furrowed my little brow and said, “I’ve never thought of it that way. I’m going to have all 40 books in the Oz series, and, yes, there are some I like better than others … but the issue of whether to buy something has little to do with whether that particular book is a favorite. Some editions of the books have more illustrations. I’d like the ones with all the illustrations.”

Friday, July 17, 2009


"On a recent night, [diver Shanda] Magill watched ... a dozen squid with doleful, expressive eyes circle her group, tapping and patting the divers and gently bumping them before dashing away.

"One especially large squid suspended itself motionless in the water about three feet away and peered at her closely, its eyes rolling, before it vanished into the black. A shimmering incandescence rippled along its body ...

"Other divers have reported squid pulling at their masks and gear and roughing them up.

"Roger Uzun, a veteran scuba diver and amateur underwater videographer, ... said ... The animals taste with their tentacles ... 'As soon as we went underwater and turned on the video lights, there they were. They would ram into you, they kept hitting the back of my head,' he said. 'One got ahold of the video light head and yanked on it for two or three seconds ... trying to take the video light with him.'"



"[A] huge search [of NASA archives] that began three years ago for the old moon tapes led to the 'inescapable conclusion' that 45 tapes of Apollo 11 [moon walk] video were erased and reused. ... The original videos beamed to Earth were stored on giant reels of tape that each contained 15 minutes of video, along with other data from the moon. In the 1970s and '80s, NASA had a shortage of the tapes, so it erased about 200,000 of them and reused them.

"[NASA senior engineer Dick] Nafzger, who was in charge of the live TV recordings back in the Apollo years, said they were mostly thought of as data tapes. It wasn't his job to preserve history, he said, just to make sure the footage worked."


Thursday, July 09, 2009

life in Berkeley

Banging upstairs as our contractor & his assistant tear up the floor. New kitchen on the way. We had walls taken out and the ceiling is gone.

Weather is nice. So if I’m driven from the house by the noise I won’t be wandering in the rain or fog.

I’m off to Monterey this weekend, the Winkie Convention. Looks like I’m giving a lift to another conventioneer who’s making his first Winkie appearance.

Kent will be helping a law school buddy celebrate his 50th birthday. So we’ll be in different place this weekend.

The cats seem to be handling the renovation okay. They make themselves scarce during the day then show up once the strange destructors take their leave. Sundy goes upstairs and cautiously investigates the changes. I don’t know if Sutra has gotten past a frightened glance.

Couple nights ago Sundy came down – his face black! I knew he’d poked his nose into some new hole. I grabbed him up to show Kent. Kent delicately removed the spider web black with dust that had neatly framed his orange eyes.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Try This at Home

I like to pick up cheap sampler CDs. I’ve found lots of great music that way. At Half Price Books this week I found a sampler from Shut Eye Records, “Wrapped in Plastic”. The names of the songs, the bands, even the engineers and studios come together into fascinating tiny stories.

Catholic School Girls “Meat Wrench” (from the new album “Emily’s Basement”). Recorded at Smegma Studios.

Female Chauvinist Pigs “You Lied” (from the debut cd “So You Think You’re a Man”). Recorded at Spock’s Brain Studios.

Public Safety “Need a Reason” (from the album, “Try This at Home”)

Happy Campers “Things Could Be Worse” (previously unreleased). Recorded at Bombshelter. Engineered by Adam Bomb. Produced by Happy Campers. Mastered by Alien Audio.

I haven’t listened to the music yet. It would be nice if I liked it at least as much as the liner notes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lt Dan Choi

I feel encouraged and inspired by Lt Dan Choi, a man living his principles, his hopes, his love, and wagering his life's work that those really matter to our government, to our military, that America is not just a word but meaning.

I added the above to a Courage Campaign letter of support they will be sending along with Dan:

"On Tuesday," Dan says, "I will face a panel of colonels who will decide whether or not to fire me -- to discharge me for 'moral and professional dereliction' under the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.

On Tuesday, I will try to prove that it's not immoral to tell the truth."

Dan Choi is one of the West Point graduates who have founded Knights Out, an organization devoted to overturning the military's anti-gay rules.

Dan will be one of the grand marshals for this Sunday's SF Pride. Kent says he read that Knights Out will be riding with Dykes on Bikes at the head of the parade.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marriage or Don't-Call-It-Marriage?

Tuesday the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, deciding that an amendment to the California constitution approved in the last election makes the word "marriage" off limits to same sex couples. However, the court seems also to have decided that same sex couples cannot be denied equal protection of the laws, thus the don't-call-it-marriages (in California currently it's Domestic Partnership?) must be precisely the same as dual-sex "marriage" (minus the name).

Today I posted a diary at DailyKos:

Don't like "Marriage"? Here's your chance!

Which dual-sex couples are going to challenge their exclusion from Domestic Partnership in California?

The California Supreme Court just ruled that same sex couples are entitled to all the rights of marriage but for the word. If we are all now equal, what is a Domestic Partnership? (In other jurisdictions the don’t-call-it-marriage equivalent is termed Civil Unions. In California it’s domestic partnership.)

There are many Kossacks who demand the government get out of the marriage business. At least, say they, the government should have all the rights of marriage available under a different name. According to the California Supreme Court, now it does (or must?). At this time you can’t file a domestic partnership if you are a dual-sex couple*.

So you’re a young het couple who doesn’t think the government should be using a loaded religious word like “marriage”, right? Here’s your opportunity to get don’t-call-it-married, ie., Domestic Partnered. In the eyes of the state (the California Supreme Court, anyway) a domestic partnership and a marriage are identical. What’s the justification for denying a het couple freedom from the word “marriage”, just like their gay brothers & lesbian sisters?

Looking down the road a bit, you’re safely dp’d, now you can ask the feds to recognize your Domestic Partnership as a Marriage. After all, it’s just a name. The California Supreme Court says there isn’t (or must not be) any difference whatsoever. Why shouldn’t the federal government recognize a het domestic partnership as marriage? Is there an argument against it?

The more people choose against “marriage” and for marriage-by-another-name the less power the word “marriage” will have? Isn’t that the golden key to this locked up argument? That’s the assertion I keep hearing. Here is your opportunity to test it! Who will step up?

(By the way, can anybody source the “18,000 same sex marriages” figure? I can’t seem to find the authority.)

*There is an exception to the current het exclusion to Domestic Partnership. If you are over 62 you can get dp’d because the federal government won’t consider you married, thus you won’t lose benefits – many of the widowed old rely on pension benefits from their dead spouse, benefits which evaporate upon remarriage. It’s another issue but WTF? Why do you lose pension benefits?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

B.H. Fairchild v. David Mills

today’s Poetry Daily poem battles today’s Verse Daily poem:

My memory crowds weeds and flowers onto its shoulders
so the old gray guy & I, shambling in our shackles,
dust in our drawers, and darkness on our scythes,
sandwiches of mincemeat, cockleshell and inebriation
in our iron pocketbooks, our boss’s jaundiced eye

a yellow pall so vile you must’ve puked it out
on the mad ball’s wilful architecture last night late, or maybe
it’s the stout shit the Portuguese left spinning in the bowl
still spinning with each piss swipe, or perhaps
despair in orbit, stripped of ghost, ready to shoulder

harmattan messages. Who knows! Do you know?
Spit! Where was I? Shuffling in chains under a looking
glass sky, water aching from my skin canteen,
poor wounded fruit, weeds all around me like letters
from collectors asking politely, like letters lizards

ape, contorted in sun-smashed meaning, a sea
of slippery clouds and cutting jokes, gold and dull
as fishermen missing their yanks and sighing with
enemy love, the drowned tears diligently drifting
out of childish knots, harried by ferries fetching ancient

promises for fresh plantation and quick twilight.
Wasn’t I going to cut something with this black blade?
Why’s it a spoon now, its yellow stripe a property line
divvying snowing from skipping, sleeping from rowing.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Talking to God

Hello, God?


Just making sure you’re there.


Yeah. Always. Then why don’t you ever talk to me?

What is this?

This? This is an interview. You never just talk to me. You know: God here. Loving you. Nearby if you need me.

What you said.


God here. Loving you. Nearby if you need me.

You just said that cuz I said you never said it.

Is this an argument?

Is it?

What is it you would like?

Why do I feel shitty? I would like not to feel shitty. I want just to feel good and happy and content and easy.

You feel that sometimes.

Not very often! I feel shitty way lots more than that other stuff.


So. I’m appealing to you, oh Author of the Universe, All Powerful, Omnipresent, help me out here.


No? Fuck you! You can do anything! Anything! And you don’t want to allow me a smidgen of good feeling?

OK. If you insist. Peace.

Huh? I don’t feel any better.

No? Let me try again.

It’s not working.

Oh? One more try.

… Yes? … This is just frustrating.

That’s not a good emotion?

I’m asking you to make me feel better and you’re making me feel frustrated?

I tried. What more can I do?

You’re not God! If you were God you could fucking do anything! My happiness could effected without the slightest effort.

I see.

Is God out there? Helllloooooooo!

What is it?

Are you God?

As ever.

Are you the same guy who’s been yanking my chain, claiming he can help me out with my mood then doing nothing? Or are you really God, the Author of the Universe, etc?


Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!

Do you feel better?


Come on. You know you feel a teensy bit better. I can tell.

Don’t you have a volcano to belch?

Monday, May 11, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 5

I didn’t expect any reaction. I get so few comments on this blog. But, you now, I’m ever hopeful! No good at publicizing myself or my poems but it’d be nice if somebody read!

When I see other people answer the question: Why Do You Write? – they usually say something about how people reading them gives them incentive. Well. People don’t read me. (Except, OK, two or three people. I know, it’s like when someone walks into a concert hall and looks around and there are five or six seats taken and the person who just walked in says, “Nobody’s here!”) So I’ve gotten accustomed to putting a bunch of effort into writing that, so far as I can tell, goes unnoticed. Why would my April project be any different?

I did wonder if using the names of the people killed would make LuvSet show up in searches for those people. I didn’t think LuvSet had a high enough profile to bring attention, though. And I was right. For 29 out of 30 days, that is. Where else you gonna get a prediction 97% accurate?

During the month, the site’s stats bounced around as the search engines briefly brought visitors looking for information about person X or Y or Z. Just about all these visitors quickly moved on. K says the poems didn’t strike him as much different from a news report. They were all pretty bare.

So what about that one day somebody noticed? On April 2nd I edited down a news item about an elderly man strangling his ex-wife. I got two comments – both hating on the piece. One scolded me for not knowing whether the dead woman “loved flowers, or that she loved babies, or that she gave her whole heart to her family.”

I didn’t know anything about the dead woman. That was so. I didn’t know anything about any of the people I was writing about. Learning biographies was not part of the project.

This commenter accused me of making the dead woman “an irreverency.” I hadn’t thought of the series as irreverent, but rather a form of prayer. A meditation on transience. A daily pause to reflect on unexpected death.

Should I have used the real names? If I hadn’t I doubt anyone would have found their way to LuvSet looking to find out about the stories I appropriated. It’s not like I was looking to build an audience that way, anyhow. It did make me uncomfortable – the thought that someone might come across a loved one’s name in this peculiar context. I figured I’d let that play out, though. Probably nobody would, right?

I don’t know whether the commenter knew the dead woman. She doesn’t say. She’s offended for the dead woman or for her relatives or for the very idea of talking about this woman in this manner. Something like that.

A day or two later another commenter showed up, somebody claiming expertise in Death. Her scolding was more sophisticated than commenter #1 and more vicious (& started out with an hors d’oeuvre of self-promotion). Commenter #2 called me (in a particularly clumsy coinage) a “Death Vulture” and accused me of “prey[ing] on celebrity … for personal financial gain.” As she herself quickly acknowledged, there isn’t any money in poetry blogs so the “financial gain” accusation had no traction. And far as I could tell the only celebrity the dead woman had was conferred by the sensational nature of her death – that is, that she was an old woman strangled to death by an old man. The police lieutenant said such a death was “somewhat unusual.” So my exploiting her celebrity? Seems a bit of a stretch.

On the other hand, it hardly came as a surprise that some people were upset by a death. Nor did it surprise that those people would scold me. Commenter #2 did something commenter #1 hadn’t. Commenter #2 (after slagging me) asked me to remove the post.

I didn’t remove the post but I redacted the names? I took out the names because the names were bringing a lot of visitors and I decided LuvSet being a destination for people looking for information about this killing was not what I wanted. I may return the names to the poem in another version. I may redact all the names in the series. We’ll see.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Don L. Emblen, 1918 – 2009

My English teacher from Santa Rosa Junior College died last month. “Of heart failure on April 24th, at the age of 90,” says the latest issue of The Reader’s Rejoinder, a monthly newsletter/zine Don has been putting together for about the last 20 years. He added me to the mailing list a couple years ago after he proposed doing a chapbook for me on the fine letterpress he kept in his garage-studio. I was delighted. The chapbook never happened, either because he wasn’t able to get to it, or because I was a lousy correspondent (I blame myself).

Friends are going to publish one more issue of The Rejoinder, a memorial to Don.

Visit an earlier post to see Don Emblen at Petaluma Poetry Walk 2006

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 4

What can I say about death? Nothing new, I’m sure.

Does one have to say something new in order to have justification for saying anything? It’s a cultural thing. Originality just messes up the great patterns handed down from wiser ancestors. Some would say.

I don’t know. Does everybody get a unique life, let alone a special death? Are we archetypes recapitulating ageless patterns? If we think we’re doing something new, we’re fooling ourselves?

Considering that rockets don’t go to the moon every year and when I was a kid old ladies weren’t flipping open their Star Trek communicator-look-alikes to make sure the nephew was coming by to switch out all the light bulbs to those energy saving compact flourescents, I guess everything doesn’t repeat itself exactly as it always has. Those thousands of years of hunting-gathering? They probably were pretty uniform - from the perspective of living memory, anyway.

So what’s news? That an elderly man strangled his ex-wife? That another suicide bomber blew herself up in an Iraqi café? That a lightning bolt took out a biker on his way home from a charity event? That an earthquake in Italy killed kids in classrooms?

Monday, May 04, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 3

From a story by Julio Cortazar:

“… a writer can argue that if his inspiration comes from reality, and even from the crime news, what he is capable of doing with it raises it to another dimension, gives it a different value.”

Sunday, May 03, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 2

Was it plagiarism?

Did I write them?

I didn’t add much. Mostly I edited down the original news article. I would rearrange. One of the things a news writer tries to do is put the most important facts in the lede – the first sentence even. That deemed most important comes highest in the article. Partly this is so readers can get all they need without reading to the bottom, partly this is so editors can snip off the last few paragraphs when they have space limitations. The space limitations problem is less salient with news on the internet, though brevity, punchiness, is probably more important than ever.

So did I steal or did I write?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

NaPoWriMo Project Thoughts, part 1

I’ve long wanted to do a project based on the news. I’ve thought about working with a front page – whether the front page of a physical newspaper or what’s on the home page of newspaper’s website or newspaper equivalent like Google News.

On April 1st I decided to do that. Rather than work with the welter of information on a news site’s front page I chose to limit the resource. Going with a wish to notice deaths, to bring them out of the ordinary news feed, I went to Google News and typed “killed” into the search box. I copied the first story that came up into MS Word and edited it down, four words to a line, four lines to a stanza. When the story didn’t fit perfectly, I looked back at the source page to see what other (unrelated) story I could use to fill up the form – reintroducing some of the context of the original “ordinary” news feed.

After I posted the first poem I saw that I’d used five words in the line that mentioned the number of persons killed, so I thought that was an interesting addition and tried to retain that in future poems.

Is a compound word one word? “A five-year-old child” – three words or five? Usually I decided that would be five or edited to avoid compounds.

K says the form was invisible to him. He didn’t see that there were a particular number of words per line.

Friday, May 01, 2009


April was National Poetry Month. April was National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). During NaPoWriMo poets commit to writing a poem a day. Been there, done that, I thought. I learned some things from it; one of the things I learned was that pushing myself to produce a poem every day meant not enjoying the writing of bad poems. Now it’s true that pushing myself to write has produced good or interesting results, but day after day? Best not.

Then the last day of March I got an invite to join a NaPoWriMo group. The morning of April 1st I wrote a piece based on a news article. That piece became the template for a piece I would write (or craft or edit) each day of April.

Was this a successful project? Did it do anything?

I’m going to be thinking on the blog for the next few days about the April series.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Three people are dead
after a vehicle went
out of control and
slammed into a utility

pole in southeast Missouri.
Randy Williams, the driver,
was 55; the passengers
were Larry McKinney, 65,

and Cynthia Hall, 48. All
died at the scene,
four miles east of
Doniphan. Save on Craftsman.


Source: Associated Press, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009



A bus carrying a
group of tourists skidded
onto its side, ejecting
several, and killing at

least four instantly. The
crash occurred around 3:20
p.m. on U.S. 101.
The bus hit a

center divider on the
four-lane highway in
Soledad, perhaps on an
overpass? Responding to the

accident were more than
a dozen ambulances and
eight helicopters. Without cafeteria
trays, colleges find savings.


source: The New York Times, April 29, 2009
Jesse McKinley, reporting

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Charles Morrow II, 23,
and two other men
were standing near a
taco truck at the

corner of 48th Avenue
and International Boulevard when
someone in a car
opened fire on them

shortly after midnight. The
three were taken by
car to Oakland’s Highland
Hospital, where Morrow was

pronounced dead. Sacramento has
2 more swine flu
Cases, raising the count
in California to 13.


Source: SFGate.com, April 28, 2009
Henry K. Lee, reporting

Monday, April 27, 2009


In order to thwart
possible May Day attacks
police conducted at least
60 raids across Istanbul.

In one early morning
raid on an apartment
block in the Bostanci
area shooting broke out.

A leader of the
“Revolutionary Headquarters” was killed.
A civilian and a
police officer also died.

Some officers were wounded
when the “leftist, separatist,
radicals” threw bombs in
response. A television cameraman

is among the injured.
In Iceland prime minister
Johanna Sigurdardottir claims
victory for leftist coalition.


source: Al Jazeera, April 27, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Six members of Topeka-
based Bikers Against Child
Abuse of Northeast Kansas
were returning home after

visiting children they had
helped (earlier in the
day they had participated
in a ride to

benefit the cause) when
one of the members
was hit by lightning.
The victim, 44, was

alone on his motorcycle.
“Strangest thing,” said Jefferson
County Sheriff Jeff Herrig.
Tokepa Dillons to close.


source: Topeka Capital-Journal, April 26, 2009
Kevin Elliott, reporting

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Joshua Cartwright, 28, of
Fort Walton Beach, Florida,
was being sought for
possible involvement in domestic

abuse. Okaloosa County Sheriff’s
Deputies acted on a
tip that he was
at the Shoal River

Gun Club. When confronted,
Cartwright engaged officers in
a shootout. Deputy Warren
“Skip” York and Deputy

Burt Lopez were both
shot and airlifted to
a trauma center where
they died. Fleeing in

his truck, Cartwright veered
off the highway to
avoid spikes. The truck
flipped over. After more

gunfire, Cartwright was killed
at the scene. In Jackson
County 30 tubers rescued
from flooding Chipola River.


source: WMBB News Dept, Panama City, Florida, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009


Just after 3 p.m.
Wednesday in a field
near Camp Creek Lake
a gas well blew.

A length of pipe
hit Robert Jost, 38,
in the chest. He
died at St. Joseph

Regional Health Center in
Bryan, Texas. Jost worked
for Express Energy, under
contract to Encana which

owned the well. To
deter camera-shy robbers,
some Houston banks ask
customers to doff hats.


source: Associated Press, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009


At least 75 people were
killed and 120 wounded
in two explosions in
Iraq on Thursday. In

the bombing in Baghdad’s
Karada district, a woman
wearing a suicide belt
exploded herself as dozens

of people lined up
at a food giveaway,
killing 28, including 12
police officers, and wounding

50. The food was
being distributed by members
of the Iraqi police
and the Red Crescent

charity in front of
an apartment building. In
the blast’s aftermath, the
street was littered with

bags of flour and red
apples, and pieces of
human flesh attracted masses
of flies. In the

attack in Muqdadiya in
Diyala Province, a bomb
went off inside a
restaurant where a group

of Iranian tourists were
eating lunch, killing 47 and
wounding 70. Of the
dead all but five

appeared to be Iranians.
Evidence for a suicide
bombing was not clear.
Slump lessens American mobility.


source: The New York Times, April 23, 2009
Timothy Williams, reporting

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Sharon Kelley, 51, of
Kansas City, Kansas, was
killed in Tuesday morning’s
rush-hour crash with

a pickup truck. The
truck, headed north on
North 99th, attempted to
turn left onto Donahoo,

and collided with the
motorcycle headed south on
North. The rider died
at the scene. The

driver of the truck
was unharmed. Vehicle sale
fees in Missouri to
be kept under $200.


source: Kansas City Star, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Christopher Wood, 34, discussed
his family's financial problems
in six notes he left
behind after he killed

himself, his wife, and
their three children Friday.
The 5 were discovered by
a relative a day

later. The sheriff of
Frederickson County, Maryland, said
the man struggled with
depression and was $450,000

in debt. After killing
them the man nearly
decaptitated the three children
using a kitchen knife

and saw. A second
home in Florida was
not selling. 24 hour
towing hotline, all makes.


Source: Associated Press, April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009


A standoff with Michael
Batchelor began just before
9 p.m., the Utah County
Sheriff's Office reported. When

called to the scene
officers were told Batchelor
was possibly suicidal and
may have shot himself.

They entered the home
after hearing a crash,
yet Batchelor remained hidden,
calling out threats. A

SWAT team arrived and
began trying to talk,
to convince him to
surrender. They said, instead

he brandished a gun, so
they shot him. Little
Cottonwood Canyon Road reopens
after avalanche debris cleared.


source: The Salt Lake Tribune, April 20, 2009
Jason Bergreen, reporting

Sunday, April 19, 2009


8 Mexican law enforcement officers
were killed Saturday in
an attack on a
police convoy transporting an

important drug suspect in
western Mexico. Of the
eight, four were federal
police officers, two federal

investigative agents and two
prison employees. The attackers
escaped in three trucks.
Prisoners in Mexico are

often transported in convoys
of regular SUVs, pickups
or buses accompanied by
heavily armed officers. Despite

the killings a top
lieutenant of the Beltran-
Leyva cartel named Jeronimo
Gamez, and eight other

suspects were delivered successfully
to a prison in
Tepic. Slash your energy bill
with two solar panels.


source: Associated Press, April 19, 2009
Mark Stevenson, reporting

Saturday, April 18, 2009


A Palestinian, 16, was
fatally shot by Israeli
troops after throwing firebombs
at the gate of

a Jewish settlement in
the West Bank; another, 19,
who was also from
the Jalazoun refugee camp,

was wounded in the
leg. The Israeli military
said the two were
among a group of

Palestinians throwing firebombs at
the Beit El settlement.
See Bible prophets organized
in time, one view.


source: Associated Press, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009


A Norwegian officer was
killed and another wounded
Friday in an explosion
in northern Afghanistan.

The roadside bomb blast
in Balkh province was
triggered by a suicide
car bomb, an Afghan

official said. The Taliban
claimed credit, identifying the
bomber as Abdul Based.
The Taliban spokesman insisted

that 10 NATO soldiers
were dead and three
tanks destroyed in the
attack. Norwegian Defence Minister

Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen
told reporters the vehicle
hit was unarmoured. B(l)aby
belt makes womb musical.


source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Edward Denson and Katelen
Blacklaw of Woodland, Washington,
both 15, were hit

by an Amtrak train
at 7:10 Tuesday evening
while standing on the
tracks. The teens were

waiting for a southbound freight
to pass on the
other track. Seemingly, they
did not hear or

see the northbound
train approaching, though there
is no curve in
that segment of railway.

Train safety expert Bob
Boston said many accidents
happen as Tuesday’s did,
one train’s noise drowning

out another. “When one
one train goes by,
they get hit, having
no idea the other’s

coming.” The train’s crew
requested to be taken
off duty. Tax on
cigarettes increases 62 cents.


source: The Daily News Online, April 16, 2009
Greg Garrison, reporting

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


11 police have been killed
and 23 people wounded
in a car bomb
attack in the northern

Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
Those killed had been
protecting an oil installation.
They were travelling through

a southern neighbourhood of
the city when the
bomb, which was planted
in a parked car,

exploded. Many of the
injured were civilians. Kirkuk
is the centre of
northern Iraq's oil industry,

and home to a
volatile mix of Kurds,
Arabs and Turkmen. Survey
finds Iraqis more positive.


source: BBC News

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


In Kinde, Michigan a
41-year-old man
may have been mauled
to death by dogs.

A neighbor found the
man’s body inside a
small camper. The neighbor
also was severely bitten

by three dogs, which
had to be beaten
off by another neighbor.
Film fest schedule announced.


source: Associated Press/Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009


An 18-year-old
man walked into the
Alcoholics Anonymous building at
2015 College St. in

Five Points about 10:48 p.m.
Saturday and demanded money.
“Gimme what you got,”
witnesses quoted the robber

as saying. As one
AA visitor dropped
something on the floor —
possibly his wallet — another

pulled out his own
pistol and shot the
robber “multiple times.” Kayson
Helms, 18, of Edison, New

Jersey, was pronounced dead
at Palmetto Health Richland
at 11:24 p.m. Saturday. An
autopsy showed bullets hit

Helms in the abdomen,
chest and neck. At
twilight Sunday, the center
was deserted. A sign

on the front read,
“No Money Left in
Club Overnight.” LeCorn's injury
sours offense’s strong day.


source: The State [New Jersey], April 13, 2009
John Monk, Rich Glickstein, reporting

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Two ambushes, suspected to
have been carried out
by leftist rebels, left
13 soldiers dead in a

mountainous region of Peru,
Ayacucho Province, a coca-
growing area and the
birthplace of the Maoist

Shining Path guerrilla group.
The rebels used grenades
and dynamite to attack
army patrols as they

passed. One soldier was
killed in the first
attack, while 12 troops
died in the second.

Peru’s government says the
Shining Path has all
but abandoned its fight
from leftist ideological in

favor of running drugs.
Bringing troops home from
Iraq might require Obama
to be like Ike.


source: Reuters (via NYT)

Saturday, April 11, 2009


A suicide bomber driving
a dump truck detonated
a load of explosives
at a police headquarters

in the northern city
of Mosul, killing
five American soldiers and
two Iraqi police officers.

Guards fired at the
vehicle when the driver
disobeyed orders to stop.
The American soldiers "were

just in the vicinity,
passing by" when the
truck detonated. The blast
wounded 22. Sunni insurgents

target Iraqi security forces,
seeing them as loyal to
a Shiite-led government
installed by an occupation

force. Some Mosul residents
felt fresh outrage watching
a video that shows
Shiite National Police officers

taunting a blindfolded and
handcuffed Sunni inmate. It
is on YouTube.
Yellow ribbon magnets personalized.


source: Washington Post, April 11, 2009
Ernesto Londoño, Dlovan Brwari, K.I. Ibrahim, Aziz Alwan and Qais Mizher, reporting

Friday, April 10, 2009


The twister descended quickly
on Mena, Arkansas, shortly
after 8 p.m. Thurman
Allen, 79, said his

charitable group, the Order
of the Eastern Star,
had just sat down
for its twice-monthly

meeting at the Masonic
lodge when the last
siren sounded. Before the
19 attendees could take

cover, the tornado peeled
away the roof with
winds so strong that
some women had their

shoes ripped off their
feet. One woman was
killed by falling debris —
her body recovered after

emergency workers cut part
of the roof away.
A different roof collapse
killed a second person.

The body of the third
was found in her
own front yard. At
Mena Middle School one

portable classroom was destroyed
and part of the auditorium's
roof ripped away. Rick
Lanman, who manages the

Mena Airport, said darkness
fell quickly as the
tornado crossed the Oklahoma
border 10 miles away.

"Me and the dog
ran to the bathroom
when we saw it
on the TV," Lanman

said. "It was here
in less than a
minute." Morning showed century-
old pecan trees leaning --

some strung with pink
insulation. Sioux Falls man
has won National Meat-
Cutter of the Year.


source: Associated Press, April 10, 2009
Jon Gambrell, reporting

Thursday, April 09, 2009


A minivan ran a
red light in Fullerton,
California, striking two cars
and killing three people.

Angels pro-baseball player Nick
Adenhart was among the
dead. Adenhart, 22, had
pitched against the Oakland

A’s a few hours
earlier. The minivan driver
was caught on foot
and is being charged

with felony hit-and-
run. The three who
died were in a
gray Mitsubishi, which slammed

into a light pole
after being struck. Two
died instantly. Adenhart died
later at UC Irvine

Medical Center. A fourth
occupant is in critical
condition. Cindy Crawford on
a Bikini Beach binge.


source: FOX News, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Virginia Montalvo, 71, was
pushing a shopping cart
full of empty bottles
and cans Monday morning

when a van headed
east on Jamaica Avenue
struck her and kept
going. Bags of bottles

and cans remain strewn
along Jamaica Avenue under
the elevated tracks of
the J and Z

trains. Paramedics took Ms
Montalvo to Jamaica Hospital
Medical Center, where she
was pronounced dead at

1:15 a.m. Said Esteban
Cobos, 44, her son-in-law,
“She went and did
her collections to keep

herself busy, so as
not to be bored
sitting at home.” Beatles
albums to be reissued.


source: The New York Times, April 8, 2009
Mathew R. Warren and Al Baker, reporting

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


A car bomb, parked
near a mosque in
a busy area of
the predominantly Shi'ite district

of Kadhimya, killed at
least 8. The explosion also
wounded 18. This is
only the latest in

a string of bombings
in Baghdad’s Shi’ite neighborhoods.
Microsoft delays Stirling to
Better develop behavioral detection.


Source: Middle East News, Apr 7, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009


Central Italy has been
rocked by a powerful
earthquake registering 5.8 on
the Richter scale. At

least 90 people were killed
and hundreds injured. Dozens
are still missing. The quake's
epicentre was in the

mountainous Abruzzo region, northeast
of the capital Rome.
Residents of the regional
capital L'Aquila and surrounding

villages ran into the
streets in panic. Thousands
of houses and other buildings
have collapsed or been

damaged, including a number
of old churches. Thousands
have been left homeless.
Communists win Moldovan election.

source: Radio Netherlands, April 6, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009


An ambush that resulted
in the shooting deaths
of three Pittsburgh policemen
was precipitated by an

emergency call from the
gunman's mother over a dog
urinating in the house.
Richard Poplawski and his

mother argued about his
dog's accident Saturday morning,
prompting her to threaten
to evict him and

to call police. When
his mother let the
police into the house,
her son, already armed

and wearing a bulletproof
vest, began firing. Currently
the 23-year-old
Poplawski is recovering in

a local hospital from
gunshot wounds to his
legs. Catholic hierarchy finds
flock not easily led.


source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 5, 2009
Michael Fuoco, reporting

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Two men were killed
in Baghdad's Sadr City
slum after clerics urged
a crackdown on homosexuality.

Conditions are especially dangerous
for gays and lesbians
in Iraq since the U.S.
invasion empowered religious militias.

“Their tribes killed them
to restore family honor,"
said a Sadr City official.
At two Friday prayer

gatherings sermons condemning homosexuality
were proclaimed. Some who
shave their beards and
dress in a more

Western style are now
accused of being gay;
at least one coffee
shop’s a gay hangout.

"This (homosexuality) has spread
because of the absence
of the Mehdi Army,
the spread of satellite

television and a lack of
government surveillance," said Shi’ite
Sheikh Ibrahim al-Gharawi. At
G20 Queen shushes Berlusconi.


source: Reuters, April 4, 2009
Wisam Mohammed, Khalid al-Ansary, Ahmed Rasheed, reporting

Friday, April 03, 2009


Kevin Hernandez-Pinto, 17,
of Central Islip, was
driving a 1994 Toyota
Camry south on Church
Street when he hit

a taxi, a 1999
Ford Crown Victoria being
driven westbound on Suffolk
Avenue by Christopher Jackson,
33, of Central Islip.

A third car, a 2007
Mazda, being driven westbound
on Suffolk Avenue by
Marcia Ledwidge, 46, of
Central Islip, also hit

the Camry. Hernandez-Pinto
died shortly thereafter at
Southside Hospital where he
and his three passengers had

been transported by ambulance.
The three passengers suffered
non-life-threatening injuries. Two are
Central Islip High School

students. Jackson and a
passenger in the taxi
also were transported to
Southside Hospital and were

treated for neck and back
injuries. Ledwidge, however, was
taken to Good Samaritan.
Were you at Woodstock?


source: Newsday, April 3, 2009
John Valenti & Sophia Chang, reporting

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Exxxxx Hxxx Mxxxxx, 74,
was strangled by her
ex-husband, Wxxxxxx, 78. Mr
Mxxxxx had been at

the house to discuss
their daughter, 40. Neighbors
told the police they
heard screaming. Mr Mxxxxx

called his daughter who,
upon arrival, found Mrs
Mxxxxx dead.“The age
of the parties involved

makes it somewhat unusual,”
said Lt Chris Russ
of the Pasadena Police.
Women rescue unwanted bees.


source: LA Times, April 2, 2009
Jia-Rui Chong, reporting

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


A group of suicide
bombers raided a provincial
council building in Kandahar
on Wednesday and killed 11.

One bomber blew himself
up at the gate,
killing the guard, while
three more got inside

and started firing. Police
swiftly moved into the
compound and shot dead
two of the would-be

bombers, but a third
succeeded in blowing up
the explosives attached to
his body. The attackers

were dressed in Afghan
army uniforms, witnesses said.
Sixteen people, including members
of the council, were

wounded. A Taliban leader
said, "Our aim was
to inflict maximum losses."
Crisis hits moon sales.


source: Reuters Wed Apr 1, 2009
Ismail Sameem, reporting from Afghanistan

Saturday, March 28, 2009

cordite acts

I want to be loved, even at Christmas. The shapes suggested a nest. Lovers are leavers, aren't they, although we who stand at the intersections of beats, wait only for strings before raising our elective spirits.

Mother, did you remember the separator? Several august personages and a small packet were seen at the alphabet trough. Afterwards we heard things, carried things, and repeated our ideas with abandon on porches. Pop! Severally activated or lightly activated, action alerts, hack tactics. The rehearsals? We don't know if we can make them, other things interrupting our plates.

Tired in the pest's best. The lady's daughter called her other daughter and the answer was forthcoming. An agenda or a peacemaker, you never know. Despite a collection of promises, you never know. Never being the operative word. An electric shock where you expect a yellow facial tissue.

Friday, March 27, 2009

pobre me

Leave me to the bargains. Nobody looks in the door at the fratricidal envelopes. Even people whose ideas have been knotted for years are willing to forgo a sincere episode of the regular series, Mrs Edges has written in her column for the Sanguinal Section.

We don't know what rooms have let room in so we turn our heads to the left & to the right, repeatedly, in quick lunges slowed perceptibly by meager easements of the peripheral. A weary tear drags its gelatinous ass toward the maw of legends.

A new vigor was replaced before it had given a tenth its value. What can you do? You put your head back into the noose, but where is the gamekeeper's daughter? You crane your sympathetic nervous system but this time there is no attitude set to adjust.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

circs to Austen

I made a rough estimate of the backlog of paperbacks I have stacked up on shelves in the workroom here at Claremont: 160

I'd say with 95% certainty that I have between 150 and 200 paperbacks waiting. But I'm not going to count them to find out how right I am. Cuz who cares.

I processed a batch earlier. Mostly general fiction, a few mass market-size mysteries, a romance. I can do 'em pretty fast these days. A barcode, an RFID tag, rubber stamp "Claremont Branch", a spine label with the first two letters of the author's last name, some tape covering stuff easily torn or rubbed off, and an item record in the computer. Then out onto the shelves to see if anybody wants to read 'em.

Saw a book had circ'd (that is, had been checked out) 30 times in the last three years. That's a lot. Standard circ period for a book is three weeks and renewals don't count as circs.

I can't remember what it was ...

Oh yeah. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Not quite three years, actually. I put it out there in August '06, so that's 2 1/2 years for 30 circs.

I was just scanning the list of paperbacks and I think it's the only one to have hit 30. In order to be sure I'd have to check through the stats on each individual title and I'm not that obsessive.

A few others that have more than 20 circs in 3 years:

Michael Cunningham's The Hours
Elmore Leonard's La Brava
Zadie Smith's White Teeth
Yann Martel's Life of Pi
Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex
Tom Perrotta's Little Children

At 27 circs Little Children is closest to catching The Jane Austen Book Club. And, no, at present I do not have any Austen-authored novels in the browsing paperbacks collection. On the other hand I do have latter day sequels:

Jane Fairfax: a companion to Emma by Joan Aiken (12 circs) and Elizabeth Aston's The Second Mrs Darcy (2 circs in the 4 months it's been on the racks).

Moments after writing the above a patron came up to the desk to check out Aiken's Jane Fairfax, so I suppose we should say that one's got 13 circs now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Active Dimensions!

Quiet so far today at the Claremont branch. Have had a few reference questions -- a caller asked if we had Moo, a novel by Jane Smiley (I knew there was a copy among the browsing paperbacks and, yes, it was on the shelf, so I put it aside for the caller to pick up this afternoon); another patron, who had placed a hold on a book this morning but came in before we had a chance to fetch it from the shelf for him, came to the desk saying the book wasn't on hold for him and it wasn't out in the stacks, help?, so I said first I would doublecheck the regular shelf cuz things get out of order, and, yup, there it was (and it was in the right place -- they always apologize when they overlook an item, which is nice, but I'm just glad when it's easy to find); just now I was told Berkeley Library books were setting off alarms in other places (a bookstore, the Cal library) but we don't use the magnetic theft detection system anymore (with RFID it's all radio) so we no longer have equipment that will desensitize the magnetic strips that are in so many of our old books, no way I know of to prevent the setting off of foreign alarms, the patron was understandably irritated at having his bag pawed through at the bookstore.

One of the books I've added to the weeding truck, a 1983 book on frugal fashion for men, suggested, "Substituting for the traditional sweater and pants, a sweat suit adds an active dimension when worn under a blazer." This is a caption under a photo depicting a handsome 40ish man conservatively dressed, suit jacket, white shirt, tie -- and a rumply gray sweat shirt and sweat pants. Active dimensions!

Another book (1984) promises, "The uniforms of policemen, sailors, farmers, equestrians, doctors, sculptors, cooks, cheerleaders, etc., can function as the most practical comfortable, durable, strong and chic pieces of one's wardrobe." The book is dedicated to Mao Zedong -- a photo shows Mao in a light button up shirt and khakis held up with a dark belt; he's resting one hand on a shovel. The book has been checked out 5 times in the last 18 years (and not since 2003). Time for it to be discarded?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

the new replacements

I want to. No. That's not what I want. If you've come for the high water, turn to it. If you've come for the higher, turn over.

A new perspicacity waits in the car, motor running, engine humming, future in gases.

I want to. But I am willing to change. I am willing to report what needs to be changed. If you've come to bear witness, bear it and smile. If you've come to the barrier, witless from beatings, cling to it deformed.

A new personality? What are you talking about? Where did you replace this?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

from Einstein's Daughter to Hemingway's Death

I weeded some paperbacks today. I tend the browsing paperbacks collection at the Claremont Branch in Berkeley. Because there's no budget for paperbacks I choose from donations and good stuff does come in. The flip side of adding new books is deleting old ones. Today I went through the list of science fiction and nonfiction and removed from the spinning racks books that have been going around and around under book hungry eyes for two years yet have left the building four times or less -- in a few cases, not once. Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, for instance. I'd thought we'd have a Hemingway die-hard or two passing through. But no. Either that or they long since pored over his every word. His fiction still does okay. I guess the bullfighting revival hasn't sparked yet. I wasn't familiar with any of the sci-fi/fantasy authors I was removing. I don't try very hard to keep up but I like a science fiction novel now & again. Oh yes, there was one -- Michael Crichton. His time has passed? His Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World, turned under uninterested eyes.

Other nonfic that came off the shelves today: Michele Zackheim's Einstein's Daughter, Lars Eighner's Travels with Lizbeth, Cleveland Amory's Ranch of Dreams, a 2006 issue of the literary magazine West Branch. Those, anyway, are the ones I'm hanging onto for possible lunchtime reading. Others that I turned over to the Friends of the Library for their book sale include: Surviving Schizophrenia, a Rita Mae Brown book on writing (I forget the title), and Vision on Fire (this one chronicles Emma Goldman's efforts on behalf of the good guys during the Spanish Civil War back in the 30s).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

the invisible book

We use RFID in the library. Patrons use self-checkout machines. An RFID chip in the book (or DVD or CD or whatever) is read by the machine, which then adds the item to the patron's checkout record.

The machines are temperamental. They seem to confuse themselves. This is one of the weirder quirks: Let's say you've stepped up to the machine. The machine features a helpful wide shelf for holding items for checkout. You lay your book there. You pass your library card under the laser scanner and the machine identifies you. Great! Now you watch the animation on the screen that demonstrates the proper method for checkout. The animation has disembodied hands laying a stack of books down on the nice convenient shelf on which you've already laid that one book you were planning to take home.

You wait.

Nothing happens.

You lift the book and lay it down again, imitating that animation that keeps repeating itself. Your book is not getting checked out. What's wrong?

What's wrong is that you placed the book on that helpful wide open shelf before you scanned your card. Anything that is sitting on that beckoning convenient shelf when you start the process seems to be invisible to the checkout machine. What you now have to do is remove your book, put it somewhere next to the machine or hold it in your hand out of the machine's RFID range, and restart the process. Now it works. Usually.

Except when it doesn't. Then you have to take the book to your helpful human who will use his or her staff checkout machine.

Most people are good at using the self-checkout machines. And most the time the self-checkout machines do their job the way they are supposed to. Once in awhile someone gets a techno-gee-whiz glow from the thrill of interfacing with the 21st century. Other times we see crinkly faces & curses. But mostly it's okay. We all get through it - patrons, library workers, and RFID machines.

Monday, March 02, 2009

reply from Hawaii

I got a reply to the email I sent yesterday:


Thank you for your e-mail regarding this bill. I am very sensitive to the arguments on both sides of this issue.

I will give your comments serious consideration before making a decision on HB444.

Senator Donna Mercado Kim
Chair, Ways and Means Committee
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 210
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Phone: 808-587-7200
Fax: 808-587-7205
email: senkim@capitol.hawaii.gov


Both sides? The good side and the bad side? Very sensitive!

Sunday, March 01, 2009


There's an action alert at DailyKos, the Demo political site, asking people to email Hawaii state senators. It seems there's a civil unions bill bottled up in committee. If moved to the full senate it could pass and civil unions may become law in Hawaii. That would be good.

So I sent the following epistle to sens@Capitol.hawaii.gov:

Aloha Hawaiian Senators,

Hawaii was one of the first big trips my dad took us on when I was a kid. Despite my terrible sunburn I had a great time and have been back four times since I grew up.

When the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for same sex couples, I thought it couldn't happen to a greater place -- except maybe California, where I live. Perhaps my partner & I would marry there? I thought. So I was, of course, disappointed when the voters of Hawaii chose to keep marriage rights restricted to double-sex couples.

After 14 years together we married last fall. It was deeply meaningful to us and to our friends & family and I am so grateful we had the opportunity. Was I hurt by the Prop 8 vote, the one that had voters choosing to de-recognize my family? I was torn up about it. Still am.

These marriage restriction ballot measures do nothing to protect anyone's marriage. They do nothing to help anyone's family. They bring joy to no one and support no one. What are they for?

I'm told the Senate of the state of Hawaii has no power to overrule the marriage exclusionary rule, but that you can create a parallel non-marriage, marriage-like, second-class, better-than-nothing, at-least-it-helps-a-few-people status called civil unions. I hope you will do this. I'm told the bill is HB 444, HD 1, and that it is stuck in committee. Please get it to where a vote of the full Senate can be effected.

My husband & I love to travel and enjoy Hawaii -- had a great experience a couple years ago walking the floor of Kilauea Iki -- and we look forward to returning to Hawaii. But it sure is nice to feel welcomed, not just tolerated, not just pickpocketed by people who begrudge our existence in order to pay for their own families' upkeep. So I hope you will say to us, despite the intolerance of so many Hawaiian voters, that you are willing to treat us in a somewhat equal manner, when you have opportunity. The California legislature has been supportive of gay couples, even since Prop 8 passed.

yours sincerely,
Glenn Ingersoll
Berkeley, California

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I think so. I don't think so.

Stop celebrating. Your head, carved slowly from events, costs double the suit sitting on a hanger like a frog made of frogs. Your creeps were similarly expensive, shakes talking for their own security. We lie, some of us, and we wish ill upon others. We seek a hole to plug with a cork that someone older and more ignorant passed to us with a kiss.

Such kisses close on potions. The tension pleases a never-ending collapse which has been civilized except when longer. The walk, the walk. Touching down on a silence constructed from bodies, the bodies we carried out ourselves and put into new circumstances that, still, refuse to clatter.

I wanted to hear it. So I put both my ears on. Those clothes, suitable but not alive, can only go so far, so far as you know. A tear in the collar, weeping all day but not once falling. The air between songs thins until hitting tin. What breath caught on a thorn? Did you want it back? Again, it goes too far, far as the end of the line drawn by dark monkeys taking turns with a stick. Love in a package? If you say so. Stop celebrating the end of the world, the means aren't yet out. They need a likable accent, a frog's pity. What they need, not what they were given.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I think so. I don't think so.

I believe, leaving, that the mole is two-thirds done. An elevator of bronze and those toes, whatever costs two of those and three of these. You sit down, spitting and speculating, having taken medication.

A newspaper, spurious but well-behaved, escaped our notification, we suppose, otherwise what? You'd think they'd have heard. Their ears! And eyes, too. Some people crawl with obvious direction, you know? A little tucker, the spent wastrel explains, has cost too much -- rooms of virtue, rooms of guts, rooms set aside for heart and dreams and toothaches. Father, where is your battery!

You, too, are slowly exposing a sexual extension. Slowly, as though close to removal. In the days we were eating a variety of circumstances, you'd remember, but an extenuation, wrapped in rice paper, is made up and replaced. Cruel boys. Standing is not absolute; you keep having to come up with another blossom. Weren't you going to dance the elephant requiem? Dirges ripple over barges during the evening of the president's first victory.

It ought to be over and settled, like a cloud of means. The ropes belay their image. What are you looking at? The kneepad reified by the atmospherics of the rumor. Quit trying to be like me, feeling, feeling. It's not the thing recommended, even by cats. You pay out for a new thought and get hair. There, there. You who are repaired are also mentioned for singular awards in the nighttime, especially come August. You are paid up, aren't you?

Stronger things have been spared. A nice spat. If you must smoke, think of my holy soak in a holy pond in a holy clearing sale on a holy oldies station. Then banish the drums. Call them what you've always been dying to call them. New people, friends drowning. Dip into the tusks. Walk all the way to the can of place.

listening to six songs from U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind"

Monday, February 02, 2009

KNBC in kahoots with Mormon Church

I just read that KNBC refused to show that scarily innocuous ad featuring the AfAm gay couple and their kids. So I sent them the same email I sent KABC.

KNBC claims they wouldn't run any "advocacy" ads during the Super Bowl, but, as we know, they are full of shit:

"Despite this policy, other advocacy ads aired multiple times throughout the day's NFL-controlled programming. Among the advocacy ads which did air were PSAs for TobaccoFreeCA.org and DontBeAnAsterisk.org, an anti-steroids advocacy campaign."

What's with L.A.? Is this why Prop 8 passed in that otherwise liberal bastion? The TV stations?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I think so. I don't think so.

If the head had been replaced a new situation would be returned forthwith to the thin edge of the thinner. Here we supplicate that. On the other side? A new amphibian list. Don't expect a failure. What succeeds is dusk. Whose task is purposed by the next parsnip? We put on our little hats and confer. Oh no. Or oh yes. Such things are put in pretty chests and sealed with a tabulation of apples. When newspapers burn, a new voice emerges from the pendulous quips and assaults fogs. That is the last song on the record, isn't it? No, I don't think so. I think what it meant was mean, a failure of will, a willful wheel, a flurry of rituals. I think so. So I put my ear to one side and the whale calls back from her honey's real home. The rings open several times, too many times to count. It doesn't count now. Not tonight. No more colors. Your receipt remained sincerely secured to a lanyard all morning and the people saw it twirl in response to wings. Stairs. A new historical marker on the road to the sea. Water, put yourself to use. Come down here and put down a night master so we know what touches your burning lids. What broke is also what made my happiness list. The wind blew down the wad. Look to that awful act once more.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get to Know Us First

I like these. You can learn more at Get to Know Us First.

KABC-TV supports the elimination of civil rights

I read today that a So-Cal TV station refused to air a new ad. As Tips-Q has it: “The ABC affiliate reportedly said the ad – featuring two black men who are raising five children – was too controversial to air during the inauguration, when ‘many families will be watching’.”

I went to the KABC-TV website and filled in their comment form with the following:

Dears Sirs & Madams:

I read the news today that KABC refused to air an ad that featured an African-American family headed by a gay male couple. I am disgusted that your station is colluding with the enemies of civil rights to prevent the achievement of equality & justice in this state. The ad you refused to show is only controversial because you & your anti-gay agenda need to hide images of authentic gay people living boring, ordinary lives in order to prop up the fantasy image of us as weird, non-normal freaks. You will only succeed by lying and lying and lying. Prop 8 passed only because of a Yes campaign based on lies, a campaign, it seems evident now, that you materially assisted. It is pathetic and egregious that you, who squat on the public airwaves, are censoring the truth and backing up the lie.

Glenn Ingersoll

I first saw the ad (& a few others) in a diary at DailyKos. As Nazakhstan, the diarist, said, “I was very disappointed in the lack of actual gay people in the No on Prop 8 campaign ads. I have attended town hall meetings in the Sacramento area and the Bay Area and this theme keeps coming up over and over again... where were the gay families?”

The excuse the No on 8 campaign used for hiding gay families was that their focus groups told them they found gay families yucky and weird and actually looking at them made them less likely to vote in a friendly way. My DailyKos handle is LuvSet. I left this comment:

“These ads look good, they have a positive message, and they treat the participants & the viewers with respect. Wow. … If I'd seen this sort of ad proposed in spring of last year I would have been much more confident about the value being gotten from my contributions because, no matter the outcome of a particular election, these messages make progress.”

The ads were produced by Get to Know Us First, a group that formed “in the wake of California’s passage of Proposition 8.” Five ads/public service announcements are posted on the Get to Know Us First homepage.

Monday, January 19, 2009


In December I subscribed to Paste, a magazine of new music. I used one of the Amazon.com gift certificates sent me by my stepmother. I bought an issue at a local bookstore last year and liked a number of the songs on the sampler CD that came with. Then I found out the library has a subscription and -- delightful surprise -- most of the backissues they had on the shelf still had their CDs. (The library also has a subscription to Mojo but only one issue in five has managed to keep its CD.) I ripped a buncha songs from the copies owned by the library. The first issue of my own subscription is supposed to arrive next month.

When CMJ: new music monthly was in good health -- ten years ago? -- I liked being up on new music without having to listen to the radio. I got a lot of songs off their CDs. By the time I let my subscription lapse, however, CMJ's CDs were repeating songs (each month featured at least one song that had appeared previously), there were fewer songs, and what they offered too often didn't impress.

I read writing about music but it's hard to figure out what the music actually sounds like. The writer's personal enthusiasm or critical cred seldom seems to translate into my own enjoyment, when I've followed up. The internet has been very helpful when I've read somebody's effusing -- a MySpace page or a 30 second snippet on iTunes and I have some idea whether I share the opinion. But I do like giving a song the opportunity to play all the way out. A 30 second snippet can turn me off but it usually can't turn me on.

Kent pushes me to visit The Hype Machine, which is a music blog that consolidates a bunch of songs from other music blogs. I've spent a little time there. But it hasn't yet fit the way I listen; I like to only pay half my attention until the song hooks me. If I've got a CD playing then I can make note of which track is piquing my interest and revisit it later. That was the method I got going when I was working at the desk job at the library. While working I couldn't devote my full attention to the music even if I wanted to. For the first few months (working full time) I didn't have anything to distract me but the banging of my own thoughts; when I got my own cubicle I was given permission to bring in a portable CD player. The music perked my brain up. Then we got a new Mac and I could save songs and burn them to CDs.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

a political history of American poetry

I started to weigh in on one of the discussions about what "School of Quietude" versus "post-avant" mean aesthetically &/or politically, but as I wrote my comment I watched it wander away from the terms supposedly at issue. So I canceled out and came here.

Poetry is not one thing. Lots of different kinds of things are called Poetry. I've made that point before and it needs to made frequently, I guess. Still, I have to say I'm losing interest in the aesthetic arguments. I'm finding myself more interested in the politics of poetry. "School of Quietude" attempts to name a political as well as aesthetic group -- the people who win the prizes, the people who get tenure, the people who shack up at the swanky artist retreats, the people who cast their shadows onto the slick white pages of the prestige publications.

Are the most socially linked also the most frequently published? I know frequently-publishing poets like lyn lifshin and Sheila Murphy don't get the critical notice that much-less-frequently publishing poets like ... oh, who? ... Mark Strand? Robert Hass? ... seem to be able to take for granted. It's not quantity, it's quality! Yeah, well, I get ever more suspicious about the quality-wins-out argument. The tides of history will swirl away leaving the Best standing on their sea-weedy hillocks, eh? At present we really don't know which of us (them!) are giants?

The two giants-in-retrospect of 19th century American poetry seem to be: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Would either have boasted enough connection to be called a political force in the American poetry scene of their time? Though I've now read a biography of each, I can't say as I know. I'd hazard a no. Emily is easiest -- she hid out. She did have a handful of literary correspondents but she doled out her work in tantalizing dribs & drabs -- the mystery of Dickinson gave the publication of posthumous books an extra-literary excitement. Whitman, on the other hand, was a self-promoter. And he had in his corner (at least at times) the Colossus of American lit, Ralph Waldo Emerson. But one doesn't get the sense that he was part of the "in" crowd, politically speaking.

A political history of American poetry would be a different history of American poetry. Who influenced who -- not aesthetically but career-wise? Who got the most pages in the anthologies? Who racked up the most awards? Who sold the most books? Who got written about? Leaving aside the aesthetic programs, who got the goods?

The giants of a political history of American poetry -- who would they be?