Friday, December 31, 2004

The Moy...Poem 13

Despite never seeing the Moy,
or, to my knowledge, a curlew
Bean An Fhir Rua still forces me to drink.




Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Sweet Silence, and when too silent, then add commentary.

Once again, I am going to take the bloghayana, as
it were, and bring up something unrelated (directly,
at least) to versifying.

Just watched the "special edition" Metropolis last
night. Not being the biggest of filmies, I may be
incorrect in the following assertion... but it seems
that no one has tackled a re-make of this movie.

I realize that the themes have been lifted for the
last seventy-four years. I wonder why no one has
applied big studio money to the project.

Possibly it is too small an audience; however, I'd
wager there are a fair portion of Fritz Lang fans
out there.

Plus, when you look at it this film has it all. We've
got allegory. We've got an honesttagawud proletarian
revolution. We've got the White Goddess manifested
as Virgin Mother and doppelganged (through cloning,
no less) as Judith. Ample room for a handsome male
lead (Freder needn't be anything but) and a sinister
villain. Beyond the sinister villain, an antihero. One
can employ a special effects bonanza! Also (and I
could go on for days, but I shall be merciful) I
smell Oscar for costume design!

Ah, what the hell. I'll give a treatment of sorts.
We'll stick to casting today. Tell me if you wouldn't
rush to the theatre for tickets on this one:

Wim Wenders Presents
METROPOLIS

Joh Fredersen.........Kenneth Branagh
Freder, Joh Fredersen's son....Jude Law*
Rotwang, the inventor.....John Malkovich
(and cue music)
The Thin Man.......Don Cheadle
Josaphat..........Paul Giamatti
11811................Ewan McGregor
Grot, the guardian of the Heart Machine...Mark Wahlberg

The Creative Man
The Machine Man
Death
The Seven Deadly Sins

Maria.........................Aishwarya Rai

Original Score by Tom Waits.

(* I'll admit ambivalence, but when one considers Freder
being the son of Branagh, and McGregor as the worker
who strikes out as Freder, it seems to work out. Also,
due to SAG bylaw 6710-C, Jude Law has to be cast
in one of every three movies. This way, I will not
need to include him in my casting roll for the
upcoming productions of Richard's Cork Leg
and Post Office.)

Tell me that doesn't merit $8!

A Drink to Bobby Burns tomorrow!

AND A FINAL NOTE... Does anyone else find the suggestions
within the spellcheck hilarious? For example, "Freder" suggests
"breeder"; "brainwash" for "Branagh"; "gamete" for Giamatti (I
find this the funniest, given his appearance); and "Persephone"
for "versifying." That last one is wild. The machine is
thinking on a level a lot of us aren't prepared for, I reckon.
N O S T R O V I A

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

When the Convivio Arc splits at fifty

Recently there has been a good deal of chatter about
MFA Poets versus what we might call their "folk"
counterparts.

The idea of folk and court literature has always been
of some interest to me, due in no small part to the
class I was born into and its relation to my own
experiences. To put it plainly, my existence has
been an ongoing identity crisis. On one hand, I
grew up twenty miles from the nearest town
of any significance... on the other, I've spent my
every waking moment pondering words and
ideas. My Aunt likes to recall how odd it was
that her twelve year old nephew was reading
Nietzsche for his summer vacation. There was
scarcely a person that knew me as a child or
adolescent that didn't expect a career in
academics.

Well, I may have been an odd duck in my pond;
however, much of the country contrariness
manifested itself in my early manhood. Ed Abbey
put it best: "The best thing about graduating
from the university was that I finally had time
to sit on a log and read a good book." Never got
around to the graduating part (well, if one counts
Universidad de Guadalajara, then strike first
clause) and wasn't concerned with feigning
interest in professional life. Beyond that, I would
never have dreamed of pursuing a "Poetry" or
"Creative Writing" degree, much less postgraduate
work. Seems like advanced lessons in fucking...
worthwhile for prostitutes I suppose, but entirely
unnecessary for any of the public at large. These
programs, like the university system in general,
are quite the swindle.

They do have their benefits, as Mr. Corral asserted.
These programs supply a valuable network for
Professional Poets.

It is surely a coincidence that American poetry
has atrophied since the inception of the established
Poet Class. Why is popular interest in poetry
waning year by year? I am sure it has nothing
at all to do with the presumption among readers
that today's "Proet" exists in a closed society that
consists of class elements, specialized instruction
and solipsistic fervor, especially related to sexual
congress. Why on earth are the ruminations of
an academic seeing a dead wren on his lawn
or a woman in his bed not selling in Peoria?
(To digress, I think that a dead wren or a
slap and tickle are certainly good material
for poetry -- the ineffectiveness of such stuff
lies in the writer's obsession with himself. The
wren is not a wren but an experience of the
poet. The vanity of a lot of today's Proets
can be nauseating. It was once said of James
Joyce that he lived in a Joyce-centered
universe. I suggest that is because he was
James Joyce. And as Auden said on a
different subject, "you, my dear, ain't.")

Which brings us to Abu al Atahiyah.
Abu Ishaq Ismail ibn al Qasim ibn Suwayd al
Kaysan lived in modern Iraq from 748 to 826.
He was certainly a firebrand, and much of the
controversy that surrounded him stemmed from
his lack of and disdain for formal instruction.
(It didn't serve him well that the culture in
question's "formal" instruction was also of
a religious nature, thus simple rebellion
quickly trods on the ground of heresy.)
His Zuhdiyat ruffled a feather or two, what
with its proto-Marxist wish fulfillments
regarding the vanquishing of the moneyed
class. As always, yesterday's heretic becomes
today's folk hero. When a Spanish researcher
brought the work to light in the eleventh
century, it "enjoyed immense popularity and
was frequently set to music." (Oldpoetry.com)

Our friend al Atahiyah did something daring
and important not so much by content but
form. In using "folk" language he forged a
lonely revolution. We find this throughout
the history of Farsi, Arab and Urdu poets.
And before anyone in the West feels like
getting up'n above they raisins, he or she
would benefit in noting that the verse traditions
and poetic skill of the aforementioned dwarfs
anything we've offered save Shakespeare.

So it is difficult within our culture and history
to draw a parallel to al Atahiyah. (As I mentioned,
there were many down the years like him
shaking things up, but he seems particularly
appropriate.) Though English writing has
displayed tendencies towards formalism, there
is nothing nearly as strict as the structure
of Medieval Arabic or Farsi verse. For our sake,
the only apt comparison would be Sandburg.
(Hart Crane occupies a slightly different space,
which could serve as an archetype later in the
conversation.)

And to digress again, but briefly...
It seems all cultures draw a line between "folk"
poetry (usually in a troubadour tradition, lute
or guitar or baglama in hand) and "court" poetry.
To go outside of ourselves, I'll use an example from
modern Turkey.
Asik Veysel Satiroglu (link to the side) is recognized
as one of if not the most important folk poets (the
term "Asik" is for all intents and purposes a Turkish
title like "troubadour." Interestingly enough, "Asik"
also means "to love" or "lover.") whose songs
are an integral part of the national character. One
would be hard-pressed to find a person in Turkey
with anything disparaging to say about him and his
work. One doesn't, however, compare him to Orhan
Veli Kanik or Melih Cevdet Anday. They are "formal"
poets. This cannot be related in concrete examples
from the U.S. or U.K., such as a comparison of
Bob Dylan to Robert Pinsky. For starters, Veysel's
work is far more developed and powerful than our
"song and dance man" has offered, and it occupies
a more primitive space. If anything, we might refer
to Veysel as Turkey's Woody Guthrie.

The main point being that "Kara Toprak" is as
good a poem as I've ever heard or read in any
language. It does precisely what every writer
wants, which is to move the audience and
act as a catalyst to profound emotional response.
Yet, with the exception of Robert Burns (whole
lot of Bobs here!) I cannot name a folk poet
who has received proper recognition for his
abilities.



Exit "Special Features" Section, back to
Main Menu.



So, back to Sandburg.

Most of the best of American poetry has come
from people like Sandburg. Rustic roughness
has long been one of the more endearing elements
of our national identity.

Alarmingly, that element is conspicuously absent
nowadays. Genuine banjo pickin' rustication
is as easy to spot in the American landscape as
a Minotaur. Increasingly, our collective identity
(and each respective offshoot in different
corners of the country) is dictated by a media
culture. Organic development is rare indeed.

The coarseness of this culture we've been given
is troublesome for the development of art. The
question becomes: just how do I
deconstruct, break the rules, tool with
form and structure without simply being
crass or artless? When observing contemporary
American "folk" culture it seems that
precious little of value can come out of it.

The American intellect is lamentable.
One might say we have a "Philadelphification"
on our hands... a civilization split into
pompous trust funders on one side and dullards
on the other. Naturally, there is a lot of
gray and when one gets to know people
they defy their caricature; yet, this divide
is increasingly apparent.

The problem with the Proets is largely that
their banalities are luxuries to the vast
majority of people. The human experience
is still a search for food, clothing and shelter
for most, and the self-obsessive "crafting"
of the Proet has no emotive value to anyone
occupying the Actual World. There is a
psychological reason for this deficiency.

One need only to consider Dante's Convivio.
Essentially, life arcs into four general stages:
adolescence (to age 25); maturity (25-45, with
35 being the prime year); wisdom (45-70); and
finally decrepitude. This would be the ideal
from Dante's perspective, and I can't disagree.

The problem is that the Proet finds himself
dependent upon authority beyond a reasonable
age of independence. Michael Hofmann had a
wonderful take on it in Poetry: "I think what
you have in America is basically a gerontocracy.
The ninety-year-olds are kingpins. The eighty-
year olds are jockeying for position. The seventy-
year-olds are gofers. The sixty-year-olds are
waiting for permission to breathe. I exaggerate,
but basically that's the way of it."

To put it another way, back to Abbey: "In the
modern technoindustrial culture, it is possible
to proceed from infancy into senility without
ever knowing manhood."

I would posit that not only is that possible in
the world of Poetry (big "P") but in many
ways inevitable. And so the leaders of our
aesthetic considerations are increasingly
flaccid. Too many words not saying a bloody
thing. Dichtung, goddamit!

The result, and I say this in full awareness
of the truism, is that today's recognized
writers by and large are born sitting down
to write and confusing this process with
standing up to live.

Shall we roughs show kindness and
remember to include the "A"
at the end of "MFA Poet?" Certainly.
Will American poetry see another Sandburg,
another Crane, another Ginsberg
under the yoke of the Proet Fraternity?
Most likely not. Is it far easier to spot
deficiencies in others than to compose
good verse? Absolutely. What shall
today's non-Professional poet (small
"p" -- we're a humble lot) do to emerge
beyond the black of the Elbowpatchers
and the white of the Openmicers to
illustrate that gray is always where it's
at in art? I welcome suggestions.

Nostrovia.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Talking with the Taxman about Lula

Today is Billy Bragg's birthday. I would say that I hope
it is a happy one... maybe it is. For all I know, auld Billy
might spend this one day each year not paying
attention.

Or simply whistling and looking on the bright side
of life. (Where the Flying Circus-es-es-s invasion
came from, I don't know.) On this day, I thought
it'd be a good idea to highlight bright spots hiding
in the news.

1. EU Talks scheduled (in honour of our birthday boy,
that's pronounced "shedjyoueled") for Turkey.
Seems as though a number of EU nations are interested
in allowing Turkey into the EU in earnest. (Though some
members suggested a sort of compromise, which basically
consisted of Turkey being allowed as a second class
member.) Talks were scheduled to begin next October.
The pessimist in me would point out that whereas
"Christian" nations in Eastern Europe were in
the EU in five to fifteen minutes, Turkey's accession
is likely to take at least a decade. (Vienna isn't walled
off overnight, you know.)

No matter what happens, the very encouraging thing
about this is that Turkey has been bending over
backwards to get into the Union. At first, this
troubled me.

We Americans have an almost religious obsession
with sovereignty. Ataturk was a proponent of
strong national sovereignty, almost to the extent
of America's lip service to the idea. The first time
I went to Istanbul (this was in the happy days of
the '90's) I couldn't possibly understand why
a majority of the people I talked to were determined
to be an EU nation no matter the cost. "Why," I'd
ask them, "is this so important that you're willing
to put up with the existing EU member states'
prejudices towards your country, which has not
only a strong military and an extremely important
geographic location, and, by the way, is one of five
or so self-sufficient countries on earth? Besides,
just about every country to the east seeks to
emulate you. Why not begin a Central Asian (or for
that matter, Asian) union with the due respect
Turkey deserves, rather than kowtowing to
these Westerners?" There was some sympathy
for this reasoning, but it wasn't the point. As recent
events have shown, the attempt to gain entry into
the EU has improved conditions in Turkey and
brought about some official changes that would
have been slow in coming without the EU carrot.
Even though Western Europe is sure to drag its
feet, the terms and conditions for entry are
positive for Turkey domestically.

2. BBC World reports that Brazil is ascendant.
South America just keeps getting better and
better. The standard for improvement in the
Global South is a pretty low bar, but Brazil and
Venezuela are feel-good stories for international
democracy. First, Venezuela exercised the vote
to reinstate their "Negros y Indios" president.
I won't lay out the pro and con sheet about
Hugo Chavez; but, I will say that it is nice to see
people voting in their own interests despite
a propaganda media doing everything within
its power to prevent it. Second, Brazil's Lula
has the nation poised for many improvements.
(This is "Good News Day" -- I won't get into
the GM soy that is helping some economic
gains.) What I find particularly positive is that
Lula comes from the country's poverty-
stricken northeast. He's a real mensch, as they
say, and he's risen to the highest office in
his country. Add in the orange armbands half
a world away in Kiev, and it is safe to say that
democracy is alive and well in the second world.
("GND" demands I don't mention the first and
third.)

3. On demand, In demand.
Finally, publishing and music are enjoying a
freedom unimaginable since the Industrial
Revolution. I've been introduced to dozens
of writers online without the intermediaries
at college reviews or larger magazines. Right
now, any musical act can give anyone in the
world an entire album on a website for free
and let them burn it. (Covers the fame angle
if not the money.) It has never been easier
to make an artistic statement and put it out
into the world. Imagine the difficulty in
disseminating fifty pages of poetry to an
international audience (even if it is twenty
people in the U.S. or U.K., and one person
in thirty other country) twenty years ago.
Publishing a reasonably attractive chapbook
would set one back at least a few hundred
dollars, and the postal fees and networking
to get it "out there" would be daunting. Now
it is free and easy. One can even receive comment
at the click of a button. This positive
development far outweighs the small
negatives... namely, when something's so
easy just about anyone can do it (on the
good side to that, we can better empathize
with the editors of magazines who must
sift through a mountain of submissions
for a gem) and getting paid is still every
bit as hard if not harder. Still, what a tool
we have. Only the noble crow is more
adept at shaping and using tools than you
and I. As writers, musicians, or any other
variant of vagrant one might be, it is
instructive to observe our friend in his
habits. You see, Corvus brachyrynchos
has a funny habit of irritating other birds
and instigating a chase just for the
sport of it. Though it is frustrating for
the less intelligent birds, it keeps the
crow interesting to the Brahman thus
sustaining him in this little blink of the
eye on earth. I think I'm going to instigate
a few e-mails. For sport, of course.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


"Years ago, I was an angry young man/ And I'd pretend that I was a billboard./ Standing tall, by the side of the road/ I fell in love with a beautiful highway." David Byrne

Notes on Records and Algae

I hate to admit this, but I drive... a lot.

Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, I must
have put out a ton of greenhouse gases into the
spheres. In my defense, the land travel I'd embarked
upon was done mostly in that fuel-efficient dynamo
known as the Ford Festiva. To give you an idea
of said efficiency: I once drove from Kansas City
to Puerto Vallarta and burned half a quart of
10-W30! I was also on a shoestring budget (needed
food and gin money for two people for two
months) and the price of petrol in Mexico
didn't decimate the funds. (I haven't been to
Mexico in a few years, but then petrol prices
were more than double that of the United
States. I didn't research that expense at the
time.)

Anyway, Hercules (the Festiva) escorted myself
and my wife to about 33 American states and
around 7 Mexican states. Add in a sea journey
across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and
Adriatic (including the fun spot of The Democratic
Republic of the Congo) and you might say I've
put in my fair share of fuel consumption before
reaching a quarter century in age.

And now...

A year ago we moved from downtown Kansas
City (yes, it exists) back to the welcoming
arms of Larrytown. Lawrence is a community
with an amazing vacuum effect. We left
it after Umut (wifey) graduated William Allen
White Journalism (now Strategic Communications)
School at KU and went, well, pretty much
everywhere. It is amazing how many
people we run into on every rung of the
social ladder who've done the same thing,
in varying degrees. People used to ask
Burroughs what exactly he found compelling
about a humble house on Learnard Street in
East Lawrence. I guess it's one of those things
that is.

She'd just finished a yearlong (I think that's AP
style) assignment at the Star and went on
to work for another publication. After
much soul searching, I decided to retain my
post in Kansas City and commute.

I was never a commuter before this. If my
automobile needed an oil change, it was
usually because I'd driven at least 1,500
miles of it in one direction. It is a bit
depressing to see how quickly a trip to
Presque Isle, Maine adds up on the
daily venture into Overland Park, KS
or Kansas City, MO.

I won't go on any further to lament how
this pattern of (I borrow from Homer)
"Honk, Honk Punch!" life is against everything
I stand for; rather, I'd like to offer a few
nice side effects of the lifestyle.

1. Reconnecting to a lot of old records.
When the drive doesn't correspond with
a local broadcast of Democracy Now, I
find myself listening to tapes (yes, tapes)
in the Volvo 940. (Hercules is still around,
but he hates cold and moisture... he's a
desert rat at heart like his father.)
When I buy a new album, it is always
on vinyl if I can help it (was, is and will
always be the superior way to transmit
tunes -- ask Neil Young or the archivists
at the Smithsonian) or a CD if necessity
calls. As a result, my car music is seldom
updated. (The cassette deck on my home
stereo isn't up to par, so I no longer make
blanks of records.) Like many things, this
frugality results in many pleasant
unintended consequences.

Among them, hearing music I'd almost
forgotten about. Three in particular really
struck me:

Naked, Talking Heads. "(Nothing But)
Flowers" is the best song ever written
in pop music. Period.

Underground Motion Picture Soundtrack,
Goran Bregovic. This album can turn
the mundane into the ecstatic. Like audio
Ouzo.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold
Us Back, Public Enemy. This album has
been back in the rotation (along with some
Gang of Four lps) ever since 3 November.
I was a kid when this came out, so I
didn't have the tools to digest it fully (though
it is probably responsible for many of
my views as an adult); but, as an adult,
I realize that Chuck D. and Co. made
a masterpiece there. It helps that George
the First was in power at the time.
PE should re-release (if they haven't) an
enhanced CD now. Relevant as ever.
Even for a Kansas cracker.

2. Quick nutrition.

I can't attribute it directly to auto
life, but many in my position may have
discovered the little beauty pictured above
(linked on the title) as a result. There
are three "machines" from these folks
that are my lifeblood... okay, those three
and Fat Tire ale... Two of which are
perfect for the holiday season. The Green
Machine is ideal for a wake up immune
booster, the Red for a heart-healthy
drive home companion. (I sometimes
wonder what goes through the heads
of the suburbanites when they see this
guy with the red beard chugging a
green vegetable shake with one hand,
puffing on a Camacho in the other, and
flowing along with Chuck to "Louder than
a Bomb" in-between breaths.)

"And what precisely," you might say, "does
any of this have to do with mythical language,
poetry, or anything at all relevant?"

To that, I refer to Monty Python's Meaning
of Life, in particular the waiter scene.

Friday, December 10, 2004

On a related note

Wangari Maathi received the Nobel Peace Prize
today. Some people get it. She had an interview
on 10 December's Morning Edition (npr.org.)
Didn't see a link posted there, but surely
there will be one by the end of today.

Finally saw I Heart Huckabees last night.
Worth a viewing if for no other reason than
Mark Wahlberg being the only actor in
the ensemble worth mentioning in the
same sentence as Tomlin and Hoffman.
(I would have been more than a little skeptical
if one proffered this as a possibility
back in the Calvin Klein underwear days!)

The protagonist's versifying was rather
a treat! (No, the irony wasn't lost on me.)

Given the way events impact arts (i.e.,
the worse things get the better art seems
to become) we are in for a whole
lot of good films, books and music
in the near future... most of it no doubt
appearing in spite of studios, executives,
etcetera.

No matter what happens, there is always
that woman in Kenya.

I am encouraged.*


*copyright A.D. Thomas. I think three words are still
in the fair use arena; however, that may change
in the course of new trade agreements. Nostrovia.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Not a Zarathustra booster.

Trois Freres, Container Gardening and Public Transportation.

The stated goal of this humble page (and by extension, its author)
is to research and develop a new narrative style for poetry.

Easy enough, eh?

I've been reevaluating the writing process lately, and I find
myself mired in a crisis of coherence.

The quest for the poetic ideal is a walk backwards. One might
start with the modernists. They're an appealing enough
group, with plenty of giant shoulders to stand upon.
And Ezra Pound can offer a sort of cheat code back in time
through his comprehensive analyses of poetry. It is
safe to suppose that many people have come to be
acquainted with Camoens, Li Po, Tu Fu, Provencal writings,
&c. &c. through Ez. (Once one is introduced to these
characters, it is incumbent upon him to read them
independent of Pound's assertions. Nevertheless,
for many Pound was him what brung ya', so it is
easier said than done.) "So, I'm in T'ang Dynasty China
on a direct ticket from a 1934 Nude Erections
paperback... guess there are a few blanks to fill in."

There are a myriad of directions in which one can go
now, and each person has his own course to follow. In the
interest of autobiography (this is the easiest way to
maintain some brevity in the backstory and get around
to the topic at hand) the road led to a wrestle with
Whitman, i.e., a love-hate pact that ended eventually
with the latter half of the equation dissipating; a
fascination with Burns and MacDiarmid; ecstatic
poetry from Urdu and Farsi; all the English regulars;
and on and on, crisscrossing centuries with no
particular map.

Through all this, it seems evident that the sorts and
conditions of poets from Bion to Baraka fall into one
of two categories: The Classic and The Mythic.
Especially now, where the world seems divided
neatly by the diametrically opposed notions of
science and "faith," for lack of a better world.

In the 21st century, I would posit that "Science" can
be broken into subcategories that include detached
observation, industrialization, technology and
humanism. "Faith" is the province of Auld Time
Religion, Luddism, and all things mystical.

As with everything, science and faith share
more commonalities on some planes than one
might find within their subgroups.

An example: the scientific outlook of observation
and humanism may well lead to Luddism. The more
we know about ecology, the more we are made
aware that the creature comforts of modern living
will one day be the snake we brought in from the
cold. Though a "back to the land" movement has
roots in a sort of Paleolithic consciousness, it is
a worldview fostered by understanding of biological
relationships. Likewise, industry and modernization
lead to sprawl and devastation, which fit nicely
with the Judaeo-Christian idea of dominion.

So, The Classic and The Mythic intersect. A concrete
poetic illustration of this might be Auden's assertion
that Graves was England's best poet.

What of the origins, then? Shall we take our cue
from the Neolithic or High Neolithic, from settled
society with its advances and vicissitudes? Or,
shall we commune with the Paleolithic, the
shamanistic impulse that was a product of
the hunt?

I propose a syncretistic approach.

Direct Language. From our Paleolithic progenitors,
we inherit the ethos of immediacy. There is no use
in planting flowerbeds around a yurt that you'll
roll up when the first storm comes. The better
language for transcendental transport is that of
grass, the more utilitarian vegetation. I hate to
keep bringing up Ted Hughes, but it seems to me
his poetry was the gold standard for this sort
of muscular verse. Eschewing "form" is a
hunter-gatherer quality as well. Blank and
free verse are mediums best suited
not only to this mindset, but to the English
language as well. The strict forms are companions
of Romance and Near Eastern languages.
Our bastard tongue has somewhat
native forms, of course; yet, it is a trifle
anachronistic to compose in alliterative lifts
and dips in this day and age. (Besides, blank verse
provides stresses and rhythms that recall
our Anglo-Saxon beginnings.)

Theme. Here's where the syncretizing plays
largely. Of course, there's the truism that
unless you're Phil Ochs, 80% or more of your
"songs" are about women. (Opposite sex in
general.) Naturally, romantic love has always
been a prominent theme. In macro, that would
deal with the life cycle. The planting cultures
provided us an outlook dealing primarily with
community relationships, to wit, the wheat seed
is nothing until it dies and causes regeneration.
To paraphrase Solzhenitsyn, the writer who
doesn't focus on the life cycle, be it in the political
or purely scientific sense, is barking with the
village dogs. It is a bit late in the game to be
writing about one's feelings towards the suburban
ennui of an associate professor of literature
in Providence. We are living in a time of ecocide,
and with that understanding it is of grave importance
that the collective consciousness is raised at least
as quickly as high tide in Kiribati. If that doesn't
float your boat as an artist, you may choose to
deal with the hundred thousand or so lives lost
in our little colonial adventure through
Mesopotamia. This global communitarianism
is our Neolithic inheritance.

Our hunting ancestors can provide us with
a mythological framework for the Gaia Principle
and the long overdue dismissal of Descartes's
syphilitic doctrine regarding nonhuman animals.
I would point to the Venus of Laussel for the
first and just about any buffalo dance for the
second. The post-Christian history of global
society is informed by pre-Christian mythology.

Without a return to those reverential
practices, we'll remain monsters and slaves.

The life cycle theme bridges the eternal themes
of romantic love and informed animism, while
leaving latitude for decidedly more self-
interested concerns. After all, the individual's
life is part of that cycle. One can lament individual
pains; however, it is incumbent upon him
to address them with an understanding of
proportion.

To summarize, the advancement of poetry
lies in its beginnings. One needn't go directly
to the root, but one must incorporate the
origins to return poetry to its status as
transmitter of mythology and social mirror.
This is for the good of our culture, and in that
respect may assist in rescuing a
civilization staring directly down the
precipice of the abyss.

Why, then, revert to old modes of
thought? Well, only a fool strives to do
something new under the sun. Poetry
hinges on a continuum of influence. Further,
the old modes of thought serve us far
better than the current one.

Today's verse is lacking in oceanic appeal.
The effectiveness of poetry lies in an
unquantifiable emotional impact. I do not
know what makes Leaves of Grass able to
bring one back to his youth, but I know that
it does. I am not sure why Moortown makes
a person's perception of brown patches within
a wide field of grass more finely tuned, but
it seems to. I could go on with this ad infinitum.
Essentially, poetry worth reading has a gut
impact that transcends other writing. The
marriage of ideas and musicality is powerful
beyond our understanding. How often does one
experience this with contemporary poetry?
The aesthetic ethos of coolness (detachment,
choose your word) leaves the reader squarely
in the pedestrian world. Speaking strictly for
myself, if I want to remain in the pedestrian
world, I'll read the New York Times. Poetry
should provide us with far more than that.

***

Alright, then. As a template for this Classic-
Mythic, Science-Faith marriage, I'll present
a poem that has been perfectly written.

Which is to say, it works within the aesthetic
construct I propose for the resurrection of
English poetry in the world... Namely, its subject
matter is that of the life cycle; its language is
bereft of fat; and it has an oceanic element that
transports the reader from his chair into a
trance-like unconsciousness. I'm sure you can
guess the author.

Lineage

In the beginning was Scream
Who begat Blood
Who begat Eye
Who begat Fear
Who begat Wing
Who begat Bone
Who begat Granite
Who begat Violet
Who begat Guitar
Who begat Sweat
Who begat Adam
Who begat Mary
Who begat God
Who begat Nothing
Who begat Never
Never Never Never

Who begat Crow

Screaming for Blood
Grubs, crusts
Anything

Trembling featherless elbows in the nest's filth


I'd be remiss without mentioning that this poem,
from Crow serves its own ends within that work.
I am pointing to it because one can divorce it
from the larger work for the stated purpose and
use it as an example.

Poem 12...Animism .

Auden insulated himself,
though ineffectively.

We read biographies,
pore over notes.

We know about Kallman,
about Kirchstetten.

We worship Hemingway,
and all his faults

as he gathered totems
around himself.

Skulls and heads,
full skins with the face still on...

His prey. The White Man's way
of giving tribute.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Stars and Heavens... poem 11.

One danger of this format is that one can compose a writing
and instantly post it -- without regard to revision, etcetera.

One benefit of this format is that one can compose a writing
and instantly post it -- without regard to revision, etcetera.


The Stars and Heavens
I don't concern myself with the Sea,
with Its tides and movements with
your vain mythologies.
The skies could cause the tides to rise
tomorrow,
and the deluge could engulf your progeny
wholesale...
it wouldn't trouble me
any more than a squashed roach.

Your lands could be given to the Sea,
your lungs collectively swallowed
in the salt,
and my complexion would be unchanged.
The rivers would cease to know themselves,
and the epochs would recede,
and your history would end,
and my existence still phosphorus beads
is the same.
An open book in a language you cannot read.

Still, you seek communion with my essence,
my gods,
the breath of which is
nothing
to you,
is
your nothingness. If there is any reaction,
it is likely laughter.

While you ignore your own deity,
and seek the favor of mine? As though each
didn't know of the other. Now,
come on.
I don't concern myself with the Sea,
with Its colic and coughing with
your unintended consequences; but,

you'd damn well better.

Fragments

i.
liquored up in birmingham
the steel smells like rain.

ii.
a metric foot.
contradictions?

iii.
That what we recognize as civilization
viewed Descartes as an enlightenment
speaks volumes to our backwardness.

iv.
Were it not for Seasonal Affective Disorder,
how many great poets
would Scotland give us?


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

To Attar, Poem 10

To Attar

The mockingbird's discourse digressed into mimicry,
while under the treeline the worms
staggered around, drunk with sod.

The crickets fought their impulses and their legs itched,
giving themselves away
and the cardinals laughed.

Vultures follow the pioneers and blessed rewards
are bestowed upon them
in the form of deer and dogs,
and their song is crude, but truth.

You can never step in the same river twice, but on a subatomic level it may be possible for the river to step in you at will. Posted by Hello

Combing as Revolution Posted by Hello

The Tao of Favre, The White Goddess and The Middle Way

Recent events have turned my thoughts to matriarchy. (See
new links.) The social structure certainly influences poetry and
politics... and one wonders whether or not our defiantly
patriarchal leanings in the United States are at the very least
partially to blame for our atrophied arts and pernicious politics.

The field of poetry, for example, has always drawn on the
female influence, if not in outright worship (though usually so) then
at least in tribute. There's hardly a society whose poetic roots
don't stem from a relationship to The Mother Goddess. It would
be fair to say that our poetic tradition is dominated by a classical
strain, if we are to understand "classical" in the Socratic context.
This manifests itself in the contemporary favor understood by
writings of coy detachment.

As for political relationships, I don't think there is much need for
elucidation. The martial culture of the Western World, starting
arguably with the proliferation of the Near Eastern tribal God
that informs the Judaeo-Christian social structure, hasn't
exercised much in the way of decency.

The historical strength of Christianity has been its adaptability.
The inhabitants of the British Isles recognized the story of The
Virgin Mother giving birth to a son who would be sacrificed from
their own lore and took to the new religion with little effort. (The
Germanic Tribes maintained their feasts, which was quite enough
I reckon. Provided there is sufficient beer, there is little to
ruffle German feathers.) The course of Christian expansion in
Europe was greatly facilitated by the ecumenical character of
the culture.

It seems as though Europe is settling back into the Old Ways.
Surveys show a dramatic decline in church attendance and
other indicatiors of Christian identity.

One must fill the mythological gap, though. I'd suggest that this
is the most fundamental truth to the human psyche. We cannot
survive without our myth-systems. And just about any living system
is preferable to a dead one, or none at all. So what fills the gap,
then? Seems to me The Mother Goddess is back, in the form of
Gaia (again), and it is about time.

Essentially, rational and scientific thought have brought us
around to our primordial beginnings. This ecosystem is all
we've got, and to damage it in the ways we have is tantamount
to attempted deicide. The Green Movement in Western Europe
seems to be a recompense for our collective patriarchal missteps.
This is interesting from a "religious" perspective largely
because of an emerging syncretism within human thought, bridging
scientific inquiry, "oceanic" thoughts and the larger force
around us, which can only be understood through personification.

Before we close the lid on patriarchal organization, I would
hasten to add that I would be loath to return to Lupercalian
rites! Also, it seems to me that much of the male influence
has been quite positive in poetics.

I would point out Rumi and Hafiz, who are distinctly
male in character. (There is almost no female involvement
whatever!) Still, the dervish lodge has historically been a
beacon of tolerance towards women. Li Po and Tu Fu also
illustrate a sort of male comradery that is rather admirable.
As to the general culture: Who doesn't love Brett Favre?
And why shouldn't we?

I find myself returning to the most basic idea, because it
happens to be correct: there is a balance of opposites in
the universe, and when one side tilts too far, we're all in
trouble. This balance is all but impossible to attain in political
affairs at one time, so it seems the solution is to return to a
matriarchal social structure for the next 6,000 years, give
or take.

Patriarchy in action... Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 27, 2004

S.S. Orizaba/Minneapolis... Poem 9

S.S. Orizaba/Minneapolis
I don't have a prayer in America.
I don't have a prayer for America,
nor an epic or series of dreams...
It is just as well.

The expanse of the epic has been determined obsolete
long ago. This seems to have been a rallying cry.
Thirty years after declaration, a hundred attempts,
all of which have failed. Mas o meno.

Let it drive the others crazy. I haven't established the resume
to write the goddamned thing in the first place.
This is the contemplation of butterfly collections,
the stench of ivy, the work of workshops,
the ricochet of the echo chamber, the muse befitting
the language of the monied class; or, lacking that,
the language adapted for consumption within the monied class.

"You aren't getting started on Chavez,
and International Communism, now,
are You?"

I don't have another word for America,
for Chicago, for Otero Mesa,
for Poughkeepsie's architecture.
Not even castigation, not even criticism,
not even a review of past indignities.

     Landlocked I walked stem to stern, and observed Gibraltar to Port and Africa to Starboard. There was occasion to jump; but my thoughts were to swimming, an impossibility. The Sea is Sick, yet Vibrant and Brave, and promises to bury us unceremoniously. There are more than a
million Harpies singing shanties to the luckless crew, all of whom would give anything...

But then, other braveries.

With reverent steps a boy from West Virginia jumped
from the forecastle into Chesapeake Bay,
into the squalid waters where drowning
was the least of his worries.

I met him at a movie theatre in Portsmouth and admired
his assertiveness in the face of self-conscription.
We fought delirium tremens in the hatch,
sang songs in a mumble, in our bathrobes
in our paper shoes. Shot billiards and darts,
amused that they'd let us have them in the first place.

Amused that I'd received my liberty card, I drove
through his hamlet later that night in a black Pontiac.
It was a village of spent mines.
That same night I'm sure he was transferred to the Brig.

Assuming they ever let him out,
assuming he never attained success in the waters off of Florida,
assuming he'd managed to somehow parlay
those adventures into a comfortable post in the halls,
then I would challenge him to write it best.

There was nothing in the Mexican desert that asked me to share its secrets,
there was nothing between the Tropics that needed my rendering,
there is nothing in Bloomington, Indiana that I have to say.

Shall we turn our attention to Istanbul?
Someone's been appointed.
Is the Optimism in Caracas a Song of Songs?
It will be sung in Spanish.
The languages leave me with three countries,
the weather with two,
my pockets with one.

Illinois, I've grown tired of looking at your face. At your Mouth
in Cairo, your Two Eyes in Chicago, North and South,
at your Nose formed by a statue of a Black Comic Soon to Die.

New Mexico, You've bled me dry of sentiment. Restricted Your
Magic to the Well heeled. New Mexico, Your betrayal is the deepest wound.
Your occupation is the hardest to witness.

You bid me fond farewell back into the Texas Panhandle and through the Oklahoma winds;
but You didn't mourn my loss a day.
And You've invited a thousand in my stead, provided
the paperwork clears.

The Vistas and Vocations of Imagination have been reserved in advance of my arrival.

In my relative youth, the lands of Occupied Mexico were presented to me,
in the squall of storms, the calm of 7 AM overlooking the gun battles of ghosts,
the floral effects on the Death Valley Bed of the Sea's oncoming Revenge.
The vibrant green of the orchard lands and into the cities.

In my relative youth, the concept of judge and king composing prayers to the West
seemed inevitable. Now, to seem possible...

Let them worry over it now.
Let them compose
in lean prose
deliberative psalms to the disappearing majesty witnessed
from their bay windows.
They're well-suited to it.
It takes the contemplation of scholarship,
presumably.
It is theirs. Let them have it.

     Let us have a drink, then.
Let us vie for transcendence in the Prairies and Industries, in the callouses of our hands,
in the seedlings sprouting from rain and the nutrients in the river bottom soil.
Let us stare at our reflection in the city's fountains, eschewing the Moon in the Sea,
it has been done, and doesn't need repeated.
     Let us have a drink, and
perform the ultimate miracle,
solve the mysteries that eventually preclude prayers,
let us avoid those prayers
and quiet the songs into wind.
     Let us have a drink, and
perform the ultimate miracle:
We'll eat when we're hungry,
and drink when we're dry.
We'll sleep in the evening,
and in the morning we wake.

Friday, November 26, 2004


The James Caird Posted by Hello

The virtue of mutiny, Poems 3-8

I've spent some time contemplating Chippy McNeish. Were it
not for the proud Scot, none of Shackleton's men would have
had a chance at survival. While on the ice (after
The Endurance was lost) he'd suggested that maritime
conventions no longer applied, now that they weren't
aboard ship. Shackleton disagreed. Chippy probably wanted
to kill the bastard after needlessly shooting his cat,
but stuck admirably to simple mutiny under significant duress.

Later, when the team needed to make a lifeboat seaworthy, the
Scottish carpenter did the deed and saved the team... along with
the navigator, and Shackleton himself. This is a long story, but the
basic gist is this: when the team got back after nearly two years
surviving the Antarctic under incredibly harsh conditions, the
British government all but refused to recognize their efforts; yet,
a change of heart happened after WWI ended and most of the
team was awarded the Polar Medal. Not Chippy. Shackleton
never forgave disloyalty.

In my book, anyone that would begrudge a few simple moments
of mutiny is a tosser. Then again, Shackleton's strategy in regards
to morale can't be doubted. That notwithstanding, I think I'd
rather have a plain with Chippy than Shackleton. And a posthumous
presentation is in order. With this in mind, I'd like to share
something I wrote for an e-book, Vigorous Errors.


THE WOG INTERLUDES

i.
crossing the equator
the absence of shanties
was conspicuous.

ii.
jolly roger


what acts of piracy shall we
confer upon our captives?
the mind bristles, quivers
with sensations of power.
megalomaniacal fervor
instilled from a young age and descriptions of position.

shall we declare
a war on officers?
a blight on the privileged,
the well-dressed
the educated far from seas
in musty rooms on the mainland
and decree this boat a privateer?

accusations of mutiny, support
for our effeminate wardens
leaves me with no choice
save desertion.

iii.
traveler
some men are drawn to the elegance of the sea
with wanderlust, lacking proper understanding
of maritime conventions and rules.

some hail from small landlocked regions
and for the lack of currency
choose conscription as a mode of transportation.

but it is only after the ship is underway
that the traveler notices the line attached to him.


iv.

the north atlantic whistled tunes of ships submerged,
heavy rolls and mutinies
this
continued at length until the straits into the placid med...
another song,
grafted from satellite radio, Our Love
Is Solid as The
Rock
of Gibraltar...

DATELINE, VALETTA....
quiet shy schoolgirls trample erased hopscotch borders for home,
offer coffee to drunken sailors at each mother's behest... if their fathers knew they'd
skin us from scrotum to scalp.

3,000 swabbies and jarheads terrorizing unsuspecting civilians
pissing on eachother and forever casting a pall over maltese relations.
I suppose We felt like Mongols.

Three days passed, and back through the straits,
shooting the rock from telescope and sextant
to the equator,
something to do with Congolese Rebels.
I fixed my eye on Morocco from the bridge...
Thought of jumping, then considered the dorsal fins.

v.
Congolathn
weigh down the ballast, boys!
tonight we sail for dawn
deploying speedboats searching
on up ahead.
loose the orange target
so the gunmen
might take aim at it
under the darkness
the sea's stars
firmly in their crosshairs.

drop the refuse and spent food!
the day will not greet us with such smells
throw your ruined boots overboard
into the custody of equatorial water.
dispatch the supply ship:
REMAIN IN CAPETOWN!!!

When we reach our destination
the sun shall be our sustenance.

vi.

And we were happy
Sailors, taking on the hemp
Rope and mooring lines.







Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Blessed are the friendly kangaroos (and those, like Randy Newman, who do not wish to harm them) for theirs is the Kingdom. Posted by Hello

Eschatology and Etymology

The snow has come. It makes me think of some curious
elements of language, mythology, and contemporary fiction.
First, Orhan Pamuk's Kar. Only in the sense that "Kar" is
"Snow." Oddly enough, "Kar" (this, with the "a" having a ^
on the top) also means "profit." Then we think of our
humble bird "karga." But he is jet black?!? Well, one only
need to know that "kara" is "black." (Thus,
Karadeniz and Kara Toprak.) What does this mean?

Nothing, actually. The two "Kar"s are a bit of a
coincidence, a linguistic connection that was a product of
history. The latter ("profit") came about as a result of
some Arabic/Farsi absorptions, while the former ("snow")
is rooted in the Turkic. As for the relationship of "Kar,"
"Kar," (^) "Kara" and "Karga," well, I'm fairly sure there
isn't any other than as homonyms. I'd like
to know what Graves would have to say.

I've forgotten the beauty of snow. When it falls pristine,
you can't beat it.
Heavenly.

And to that end, I would like to share a personal religious
belief I've been working on.

Each night I stare at a glass featuring St. James's Gate,
including the zookeeper and all of his friends in a very
welcoming posture. It has been suggested that
should I arrive at heaven, this is what I'd see. I find
this a nice thought.

Let's accept heaven a priori for a moment. (Humor me.)
There are numerous cultural concensuses about who
gets in and what one might encounter. I have
a feeling that the Mel Gibson heaven recites the Latin Mass
frequently. He no doubt has numerous companions,
as many in the middle ages were convinced of the same
afterlife. These people focused on that post-life existence,
and may have brought it into being by exercising a projection
that survived consciousness.
(Jung would hear me out, I think.)

My contention is that of the dervishes around the world.
All religions are true.
The individual manifests theology through will.
So I've discovered something that works for me. If I
continually focus on the Great Reward at St. James's Gate,
and of all the friendly faces greeting me, my sole duty
is to be a good person and loyal stout drinker.
Then I enter that rarified air.

Better yet, I'm pretty sure my company in heaven
will be quite selective. Shane MacGowan and I will
never have to share a drink with Jerry Falwell.
I'll start dancing with snakes post-haste.

Nostrovia.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Poem 2, With Apologies

This may have something to do with the fact that I am bracing for snow... that I've been drinking...
that I am well aware I have on my hands an unpublishable and in many ways ugly spit session
of a poem on my hands... well, with apologies, allow me to wax Ginsbergian. Original penning was
March of 2003. I shall also brace for harangues and general bad tidings. Nostrovia.


Ahem,
Let Me
Clear My
Throat.

So, this is it.
The End of History.
The New Rome.
The Crusades,
The Jihad

(second
connotation...)

The Inquisition,
The RedBaiting,
The Peacemongering,
The League of Nations,
Folk Singers,
Economic Downturn,
Stalingrad
Baghdad,
Snowdrifts,
Sandstorms,
Tanks out of Gas,
Vatican III.
The Death of the Pope,
An African Pope!

(some
kind of
unity
between
men, I
presume?)

No,
Thanks.

(well, I
asked
for an
answer
after all)

Demonstrations,
Bombs,
Promises of Armageddon,
Empires Growing,
And Growing in Audacity,
Testing the Patience of the Visigoths
And spreading out building Aqueducts in the MiddleEast.
Iniquitainment,
Violence and Drug Addled Sex Binges,
Replete with
Singing Starlets,
Well-built bravish men risking injury for the pleasure of the fawning crowd,
Mind Control
Information Control
Worldwide Censorship Networks,
Networks. PERIOD.

Ships Sinking
Hitting Icebergs,
Melting Icebergs,
Mass Extinctions.
Unbreathable Air
Unreadable Scripts
Unpotable Water
Not Ungood Vibes,

Sidewalk Cameras,
Francophobia,
The French.

Troop Deployments,
Combustible Buildings
Righteous Indignation
Anti-Semitism,
Anti-Semitism

(depends upon your
view of whether a
Semite is a Semite
or Something else
entirely...................)

Technology,
Wooden Shoes hurled at Factory Buildings,
Sex Police,
Thought Police,
Christian Soldiers
Muslim Martyrs
Jewish Settlers
War Protestors
Quakers
Habeus Corpus
Corpus Dilecti
Organized Prevarication
Good
Versus
Evil
Versus
Good
Feeding
On Life
Feeding
On Life
Feeding
On Soil
Feeding
On Fertilizer
Feeding
On Defecation
& Decomposition.

Poorly stated justifications!

My God
Is Bigger Than
Your God!

Ninevah,
Redemption.
Nahum.
Sodom.
Saddam.
Gomorrah.
Nukyular,
Falling Cities,
Lightly Salted.

Istanbul at the Center of the Universe!

Poorly officiated Sporting Events.

America
Smelling like feces
consuming various forms of carrion.

Dams giving,
The Seas Rising,
Shifting Poles
African Extinction,
Weird diseases from Asia.
Cigarettes.
Coffee.
Cigarettes and Coffee Blues,
Nashville,
Spaceships in Flames,
Cities in Unrest
Ungood Unrest
Urban Decay
Suburban Sprawl
The Automobile

The Earth's Last Line of Defense Rising out of the Desert North of Phoenix,
Coughing Construction Workers.

Work.

No,
Same old shit.





A Horrible Religious Error Posted by Hello

Poem 1, Incrementalism






Incrementalism

A pint of Beamish is $4.75
at O'Dowd's. I seem to remember
it being $3.00 just last year. Now,
look at how the bartender is sullen
over just getting a five dollar bill.

A pack of Natural American Spirit cigarettes
is going for $5.95. Do you
remember when we promised to quit
at $3.00, then four? And then
gave up on giving up. The market
is doing its work.

If memory serves, the state of California
was to take DNA samples
from pedophiles... maybe all sex
offenders. Sage advice, that one
watches his speed on the highway
just outside of Bakersfield. Those airplanes
are smarter than you think, and you
may be afraid of Needles.

Wasn't it just an Afghan wedding party
when a five dollar bill
was looked upon with gratitude
at O'Dowd's?

An exercise in solipsism.

Crow's Theology

Crow realized God loved him --
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow --
Just existing was His revelation.

But what
Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods --

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.

Ted Hughes, 1970.

Alright, then. Like many, I've had misgivings about the blog thing. First off, "blog" like "golf" is an unseemly word. It doesn't sit well on the tongue. So, there is an inherent trepidation to advising a friend or colleague to "visit my blog." Beyond the consideration of etymology, there is the issue of vanitiy or outright narcissism. A Warhol run mad element, if you will. Further, I've never been a big fan of autobiographical work, or diaries per se. I cannot remember the direct quote, but I would recall W.H. Auden's belief that it is preposterous to pore over the collected life of an author or artist and pay as much (or more) for personality as one does the art. (He says, while looking at Ezra Pound's letters, three biographies... segue into every volume of George Orwell... I'm sure Auden wasn't a fundamentalist on that, either.)

Then something changed. After conversing via e-mail with a person whose work (what I've seen of it) I like, and whose personality I found to be engaging, I caught myself visiting his blog daily. So, as a sailor after shellbacking, I'm throwing my boots and dungarees overboard and rising anew. Hopefully this will be a positive experience.

To share a bit of background, I should say that this blog is primarily intended to disseminate my ever-changing, seldom consistent theories on poetry and to share some of my work. (I selected Ted Huge to start me off. Cheating? Well, why serve up Napa Valley when you've got good Bordeaux in the cellar?)

The name "Karga" is Turkish for "Crow." Beyond the template of Hughes's brilliant work as an enormously influential milestone of later twentieth century literature, there is another meaning. I am at work with another editor on the forthcoming web/brickmortar publication Kuzgun. (Turkish for "Raven.") It would be unwise and unethical for me to use that endeavor to publish my own work (though it would be easier than finding writers!) so this is my little raven.

What one can expect from my posts: generous portions of poetry; criticism and outright slander upon the House of Professional Poetry; other literary and social theorizing; and, maybe some cigar recommendations and homebrew recipes. Shall we, then?