Thursday, December 10, 2009
Homage To R.S. Thomas
Become one of us the gulls were saying
That night he
Rushed out stumbling on the jetty rocks in Wales
Believing the secrets of flight would soon be his
If he could risk it all and spread his arms
And fly out over the edge into the sea
But he became afraid. He became rational.
Fell down upon his knees and called for Christ to save him.
And the birds took flight
Crying their caw
And he walked slowly back
Leaned over the railing
By the old ruined castle
Filled with yearning
Filled with Hiraeth
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I was appalled today to read that the Bush-era policy of the U.S. refusing to sign on to the banning of land-mines as over 150 other nations have done will be continued by the present administration. It was equally dismaying to see our President bowing and scraping to the Saudi king, and also for the sake of international business enterprise to the Chinese dictatorship. Further, President Obama continued and expanded the payments to banks and bankers and others of that greedy ilk, appointed a tax cheat as Treasury Secretary, kept Bush's man Bernake in-charge of the Federal Reserve, and kept Bush's man Gates as Defense Secretary, while sending Hillary Clinton around the world to sightsee the poor. But not to American Samoa, where the tsunami-ravaged people there have to count on the old FEMA gang. Bush's environmental policies continue without much substantive change. In terms of help for Native Americans, I continue to receive charity requests from American Indian groups around the nation noting that their situation hasn't changed one iota: poverty, unemployment, elders dying in unheated homes, children without any schoolbooks. It now seems it was a mistake to return to the ballot box. The so-called health care reform is not simply putting a bandaid on a cancer; as Andrew Cockburn points out in The Nation, it is a public relations scam which further empowers private insurance companies, and it does nothing to address the real problem of healthcare being a right not a privilege. We are, to the best of my knowledge, the only country on the planet which does not have universal healthcare, but a single-payer option wasn't even on the table. Those who out of ignorance or out of self-interest shout "socialized medicine" will, I take it, refuse to accept Medicare when they reach eligibility? Of course there is no insurance at all, certainly not Medicare or any of the medicare "gap" policies, which covers the cost of hearing aids, good ones beginning at $2000; so the hearing-impaired in America continue to suffer in silence. Perhaps Obama will surprise me when he announces what he is going to do about the wars, but it seems now he is committed to listening to the self-serving, death-oriented, narrow-minded military leaders, and the private "soldiers of fortune" and "getting the job done" as he has said. Is there a difference between this and Bush's "mission accomplished" or LBJ's believing McNamara and Westmorland in Vietnam? It's not that we haven't progressed any from that era - we don't seem to have progressed any from "The Charge of the Light Brigade."
(I don't maintain a Comments Box on these OMOO posts I have irregularly done over the past four years because (a) I would feel obliged to respond personally to comments (as Tom Clark does in his "Beyond The Pale" poetry blog) and I just don't have the good will, or perhaps the energy, to do that, and (b) reading other blogs, I see the plethora of nutters who drop comments into boxes and I really don't want to deal with that. Anyone who wants to seriously address me about something, can click on my profile to find my e-mail address.)
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Those who love music and the sound of guitar especially and who are in London on the day will not want to miss this event: a celebration of the life and work of the late Davey Graham. On hearing of Graham's death, Paul Simon commented: Britain has lost its best guitarist. With thanks to Jill Doyle Lindsay, Graham's sister, for sending me the poster.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
A brief personal tribute, and my review of this posthumous Selected of Paul Evans (1945-1991), was published by Rupert Loydell @ http://www.stridemagazine.co.uk/.
The poems for this collection were chosen by Robert Sheppard, who also writes a decent enough introduction. The publisher is Tony Frazer (Shearsman Books).
Unfortunately, none of the poems Paul was writing during the last five years of his life are included in this rather small Selected, and the editor waffles on some, rationalizing why he didn't include an earlier poem, "Dark &" in this text.
However, the book, despite its failures, and the omission of the last poems, gets my highest possible recommendation since all of Evans' other published books are out-of-print.
In his essay "Paul Evans: A Book, Two Meetings And A Dream" published in THE EMPTY HILL (memories and praises of Paul Evans), edited by Peter Bailey and Lee Harwood, Skylark Press, 1992, Ian Robinson writes: "The light of his personality has gone, of course, but the light from the poems he wrote shines on: they shed a light over those of us who are left."
Here are two lyrics not included in the Selected, the first a "Poem improvised on the back cover of O.I.N.C." is dedicated to Lee Harwood, his good friend, and published in the final issue of Branch Redd Review (2002).
seen from a train
to London (again)
I almost caught
the last primrose
of late spring.
down the lens
of a shining periscope
next to me
in the buffet-car
ah Lee this is not
the Brighton Belle
I'm not a tripper
and my heart's not here
there goes a bluebell wood
Life, it is true
has not turned out
as I expected
the second poem is titled "let me explain (courtesy of Thomas De Quincey) (1834)"
"it is a great misfortune, at least it is a great peril, to have tasted the enchanted cup of youthful rapture incident to the poetic temperament. That standard of highly-wrought sensibility once made human experientially, it is rare to see a submission afterwards to the sobrieties of daily life."
yes, purple and impassioned
prose! it is to you I turn
to lose my tedious self
as in a mist (footsteps
of Leon Janacek I adore)
as in the mist
through which, one dawn
the soft body of
the Downs came clear
and in the hollow
east of Clayton
that white house appeared
in a light
I knew would spill
if I should breathe
And so I breathed
destroying as I must
the shape of everything
Saturday, October 3, 2009
it could have been worse. it could have been like the film of The Basketball Diaries (the worst thing in that film being the basketball, and the best the appearance of the author himself). it was, nevertheless, shlock, if quite pretty costume design shlock. it is a hell of a great "date" movie, no doubt, and far superior to violence howsoever stylized, or most digital/computer-generated animation. but it was BORING. i kept thinking, oh get on with it, just get on with it, and i must admit, the last 30 minutes, when the uninitiated learn that he is dying, is decent enough cinema, and would have done fine as a half hour BBC TV (one of the film's producers) slice-of-life special. one of the problems is that it follows the Andrew Motion biography as source. that would have been fine for a Philip Larkin biopic, but for Keats, Tom Clark's JUNKETS ON A SAD PLANET would have been better, especially given Jane Campion's bent toward the impressionistic. what the film chose not to mention (beginning as it does when Keats moves into the house in Hampstead) was that he studied to be a doctor, and so he knew right from the first drop of blood that he was doomed. in fact, you can visit the old operating room at Guy's Hospital in London where Keats would have observed surgeons in action, and the sawdust, cutting instruments, and fake blood on sheets make a frightening exhibition. not for no reason were doctors called sawbones. i enjoyed Campion's THE PIANO years ago, and her breakout film, SWEETIE, prior to that, but even with the best intentions, you can't do Merchant-Ivory without a Ruth Prawer-Jhabvala. of course, i am jaded. due to increasing deafness, even with a hearing aid i strain to catch more than half of the dialogue at best in a movie-theater setting, so i don't go to english language films much these days, but knowing the sad, and yes, tragic, tale, and the poems, i don't reckon i missed much. i did miss which version of LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI was used; the one where he is "in thrall" or the one where she is.... if it encourages people going to Keats' poems, and encourages love and romance and compassion rather than hatred, one could still say it is better than 80% of the films which continue to be made. and the large crews give the UK and Australian workers an earned payday, and why not. to say nothing of the actors. i didn't, however, much catch a cockney accent, and his working-class roots were a quite small leitmotif indeed. but then, it wasn't just class distinctions which caused Byron to rail against Keats. Keats had attacked, in his early poetry, the "neo-classicism" of the 18th century poets, whom Byron venerated. Keats wrote: "they swayed back and forth upon a rocking horse/and called it Pegasus." even after Keats' death Byron felt the need to retaliate, and personally. very nasty stuff. i must admit to being irked as well by the comment in the after-film credits that although Keats died thinking he was a failure (i'm not so sure about that!) that he is now regarded as one of the greatest of the Romantic poets. i would have said one of the greatest poets of any time in any language. but let that be. Tom Clark, in his brief take on Keats on the Vanitas blog (Sept. 18th), titled "Jim Carroll and the Imaginal Particular", writes what in my opinion is the best short piece of what used to be called "lit. crit." i have read on a computer site. it not only illuminates, it is "an active engagement with what the work proposes" (Lawrence) - which is what great "criticism" is. if Keats had consummated with Fanny Brawne, however, i have no doubt he would have been more than capable of writing deeply of psycho-sexual matters perhaps in an even deeper way than his "purity" permitted. or was he? virginal, i mean. no biographer has addressed this, but many in London feel that as a regular Cockney lad, he would have had sexual experience prior to meeting his great love. is his "purity" a myth, like The Virgin Queen? but why should anyone care about this anymore than we should care if Zukofsky insisted on Lorine's aborting, or even whether their probable affair resulted in pregnancy..great bio-pics of poets? well, Glenda Jackson did an admirable job with Stevie. a long time ago. and who knows? maybe it WAS really like that in some respects. cetainly, without Keats' consciousness and his yearning love we wouldn't have the great Odes. although it was filmed in Rome and in London, i didn't recognize much of what purported to be the Heath. there's no moving water on Hampstead Heath, just old oak trees, ponds. and swans.
(written as a quick riff, margate, new jersey, october 3.)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
The previous post (July 1), photos of dolphins and whales being slaughtered for sustenance through the winter (though there is no food shortage), and for cottage industry products in the Faroe Islands (Denmark), was e-mailed to me after being uploaded from the site which lists itself at the bottom left of each gruesome photograph: lail-alsahara.com. It is an Arab website. Although it is true that much of the Muslim world has been targeting Denmark due to the cartoons picturing Muhammad, and the Danish government supporting the rights of its people to freedom of expression; nevertheless, the photos, unhappily, are accurate.
Perhaps it is time to support SEA SHEPHERD, not just Greenpeace. Greenpeace can't be everywhere, and it has become very bureaucratic, though they have demonstrated indisputable courage in the southern oceans. SEA SHEPHERD is more confrontational as a rule on the high seas now, in the struggle to end whaling. Perhaps it is more like PETA, on land, one of the best of the large animal rights organizations.
BIRDS, the new chapbook by Allen Fisher (Oystercatcher Press, 2009) just in. It is good to read Allen out there expanding a tradition of shifting discourse within the poem, first noticeably appearing (at least in English) as leitmotif in Dorn's GUNSLINGER, Books I and II (prior to its becoming more and more of a comic-epic, as in Chaucer and Pope), and at about the same time, quite independently of any American models, in the poetry of Asa Benveniste. J.H. Prynne took up this organic way of writng (natural, because it is present in the synapses of mind), and HIGH PINK ON CHROME (1975) is seminal. That distance which Dorn notes in GUNSLINGER "between here and formerly" is carried in Fisher's sequence into a hard-edged politcal space as the poet takes a train out of London and sees:
...a culture too
late for recovery to
avoid narrative traps to delineations
of low blow whistles to
demonstrate sonic coherence
or some parody of fairness
In the sequence of ten poems, hard riffs, which he calls "Proposals" - there are echoes of the methodology of Bill Grffiths's having the sound register slightly before the sense, and the post-Beat imaginative catalogues in Eric Mottram's poems, where the things which are creative energies are strung together like beads on string, what that often misused word "parataxis" signifies. In a different way, Allen Fisher's early work was a part of the innovative mainstream of The British Poetry Renaissance, 1965-'80, where "the matter of Britain" became a psychogeography, in the work, say, of Iain Sinclair. 30 years later, Fisher takes each line out into indeterminate space before melding it or sometimes defamiliarizing it, with a time cross. He wants a "negative entropy". The machine begins its exodus:
His thick neck and head lean from the
train with internal comprehension
of the departure moment and return to
a forward seat to narrate the occasion
he drives the engine out of the station over
exit junction towards the straight rails north
sound of a mallard a moped
a sheet of ice skidding
down a roof hitting
These ten poems of ten lines each (except for one of 11 lines), like Braques's latelife bird paintings, are single-voiced rather than cubist and earn a lucidity rather than a turgidity. In his multi-voiced work after PLACE, Fisher thrashed through phases of fragmentation which disguised or rejected most lyric personisms and the merely decorative. Having moved laterally some, away from the turbulences of the more opaque procedures of GRAVITY AS A CONSEQUENCE OF SHAPE, which occupied him for 20 years, this little chapbook may herald a change.
Elaine Randell, Carlyle Reedy, Paige Mitchell are three on the English side of the pond who also have worked with this mode of lyric non-linear. They would make a nice Penguin. Among the younger poets, the poems which Claire Crowther recites on her website, and one of hers published by Carrie Etter (no relation to the great west of Chicago poet, Dave Etter) on her blog for June 27th, are excellently surprising, as is the generous sampling from Jennifer Moxley on that same blogsite on June 30th.
Among les jeunes in contemporary U.S. poetry, I like very much what I've seen of K. Lorraine Graham's book TERMINAL HUMMING (Edge), a 21st century use of Kathy Acker/Patti Smith, or Pam Burnell (UK). Also referenced on June 30th, on Jessica Smith's "looktouchblog" is an interview with Graham by Elisa Gabbert, on "The French Exit" (June 25th).
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
be as Manuel
in Hemingway's The Undefeated
"Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings. The courage, the composure, the confidence; the emotions and principles; every great and every insignificant thought belongs not to the individual but to the crowd; to the crowd that believes blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and of its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion."
Monday, June 15, 2009
Recently here in south Jersey a state trooper (NJ State Police Officer) was acquitted in a jury trial after he ran a stop sign at 70-75 mph at night on a small New Jersey backroad in pursuit of an alleged speeder, and without his flashing lights or siren on. He rammed into a minivan killing two teenage girls (driver and passenger) age 19 and 17. The jury, acting on what the judge had noted constitutes a criminal act under these circumstances (as, apparently, it does in many other States as well), voted unanimously for acquittal, because a police officer in pusuit should not engage a siren or flashing lights until the gap between the speeder and the officer in pursuit is being closed. He claimed not to have seen the stop sign. The state trooper had to pay several hundred dollars in fines and court costs, and his attorney is now asking that he receives all of his back pay for two years prior to the trial after his suspension, and also that he be reinstated as a state policeman.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I first came across her work in the "Poetry of India" special issue (#10, 1968) of Allen De Loach's INTREPID. This particular issue was guest edited by Carl Weissner.
There are 2 hyperlinks on Silliman's Blog (June 12th) to pieces written of her: A respectful N.Y. Times obituary by Margalit Fox (June 9th), and a warm personal tribute by Pritish Nandy, whose poetry also appeared in INTREPID (#10). Kamala Das has several YouTube videos, and there is a sensitive essay @ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ (June 13th), in their "obituaries" section. She converted to Islam at age 65 in 1999 and took the name of Kamala Suraiya.
Born in Kerala to a Nayar family, she wrote initially in Malayalan. Here are 2 excerpts from early poems written in English by her in that issue.
There was a time when our lusts were
Like milticoloured flags of no
Particular country. We lay
On bed, glassy-eyed, fatigued, just
The toys dead children leave behind,
And we asked each other, what is
The use, what is the bloody use?
from "The Descendants"
We have lain in every weather, nailed, no, not
To crosses, but to soft beds and against
Softer forms, while the heaving, lurching
Tender hours passed in a half-dusk, half-dawn and
Half-dream, half-real trance. We were the yielders,
Yielding ourselves to everything. It is
Not for us to scrape the walls of wombs for
Memories, not for us even to
Question death, but as child to mother's arms
We shall give ourselves to the fire or to
The hungry earth to be slowly eaten,
Devoured. None will step off his cross
Or show his wounds to us, no god lost in
Silence shall begin to speak, no lost love
Claim us, no, we are not going to be
Ever redeemed, or made new.
And in that same issue there are some early poems by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. Mehrotra was the third of the three candidates for the (now tainted) Oxford Professorship, and he says that he will keep his name in the running. The Oxford electors there could do far worse than offer the position to Mehrotra, who was certainly one of the wild ones as a young man, and they thus could avoid yet another faux election.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Initially led by a hyperlink on a May 31 post by Angela Veronica Wong on her "smart stuff" blog, I can now join the growing chorus of praise for Suheir Hammad's poetry.
Although somewhat boringly written, but definitively researched, W.J. McCormack's BLOOD KINDRED, does what no full-length biography of W.B. Yeats had done peviously. Only Indian scholar V.K.N. Menon, in a text favorably reviewed by Orwell over 60 years ago, dared to delve below and retrieve the sinister black box of his politics and prejudices. For example, Yeats had accepted the Third Reich's Goethe-Plakette (1934) from Nazi Oberburgermeister Krebs, and he was a supporter of the 1930's Nuremberg race laws, and during the Spanish Civil War describes democracy as "muck in the yard." In other letters and documents and drafts for poems, McCormack uncovers writings like a reference to a "Negro girl who lived near Sligo" Yeats noting "she is among those our civilization must reject" (p. 266). McCormack, Chief Librarian, Edward Worth Library, Dublin, and formerly Professor of Literary History and Head of Department, Goldsmiths' College, U. of London, discusses Yeats specifically in relation to Ireland and Irish politics, including the IRA, and concludes: "He gave comfort to democracy's enemies, to decency's enemies, to the enemies of art and culture." "Et Tu, Willy...? Modernism and Fascism" is the title of a brief piece I am writing.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
addendum, Wednesday, May 27: click here @ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/8067432.stm
and scroll down to the bottom for Michael Horovitz' excellent take on the whole business and its relation to poets and poetry.
addendum, Monday, June 8.....Not that the incest-ridden world of American poets and poetry is any less tawdry (and even more obvious). In THE NATION (issue of June 15), a weekly newsmagazine which purports to be both independent and left of liberal in its politics (despite its policy of accepting adverts from all groups, including the right-wing and firms raping the Amazon of its natural resources) there was, for the first time ever in that journal, an entire page devoted to poetry; actually, it was one page with one poet and one poem. Brathwaite. Well, perhaps not my cup of tea, but always interesting, and a major Caribbean poet. And with "Kumina" he achieved greatness - at a heavy price. But to whom is this new poem dedicated? Peter Gizzi. And who is Peter Gizzi? The poetry editor of THE NATION of course.