Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Trudy Pitts

Unfortunately, sadly, Philadelphia's "musical treasure" - "the best-kept secret in jazz" - pianist and organist, Trudy Pitts, has passed.

When I lived in Philadelphia in the mid-1980's and early '90's, I went to hear Bill Carney (her husband, drummer and vocalist) and whatever other fine musician was featured with them and the resident bassist that day, in the Meiji-En now legendary Sunday jazz brunches, and, before that, at Jewel's, my favorite jazz club, on North Broad Street. She was always just terrific "never a boast or a see-here" and her solo CD, produced by Mr. C, and titled "Me, Myself and I" is beautiful and forever.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

excerpts: from George Oppen and Charles Olson

Oppen, from section 27, "Of Being Numerous"

It is difficult now to speak of poetry ---

about those who have recognized the range of choice or
those who have lived within the life they were born to---.It
is not precisely a question of profundity but a different order
of experience. One would have to tell what happens in a life,
what choices present themselves, what the world is for us,
what happens in time, what thought is in the course of a life
and therefore what art is, and the isolation of the actual

* * * * *

One must not come to feel that he has a thousand threads in his hands,
He must somehow see the one thing;
This is the level of art
There are other levels
But there is no other level of art

Olson, from "Only the Red Fox, Only the Crow"

We shall not know, but you
remember this: the two-edged worth
of loveliness
The night's for talking and for kissing

And when, on summer field
two horses run for joy
like figures on a beach
your mind will find us,
as we have found,
within its reach.

This, then, under the leaves
or under snow,
you who come after us,
we send you for envoy:
make most of love.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jim Carroll: reviews of THE PETTING ZOO

The knives are out for Jim Carroll now that he is dead.  The two reviews I have read so far of Carroll's posthumous novel, THE PETTING ZOO, are beyond simply negative.  It is incomprehensible to me how one can be jealous of a dead man.  Both reviews of Carroll's novel are infested with obvious jealousy, and the most recent one, by Richard Hell (nee Meyers), in THE NY TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Dec. 12th) demonstrates only how in U.S. literary culture an unintelligent third-rate hustler is able to spew his shite into a major publication.  If you think this is harsh, note just one sentence from Hell's venomness diatribe.  "Carroll was a continuous generator of entertaining anecdotes featuring himself.  It beat working."  Or, as Hell writes in the "review": the book is "clumsy... the characters  seem like puppets and the sentences often lumpy...a mess."
The other review I have read, by Thomas Mallon in THE NEW YORKER, hides its venom more successfully, but in sentences like "this new book seems depressingly unnecessary" and in the closing paragraph: "...Carroll was at his desk, ransacking the exhausted imagination inside his vanishing body, surely knowing that its very real gifts had long been spent" one can see how this self-described "libertarian Republican"  who is proud of his photos with Cheney and Bush wishes he had one iota of Carroll's genius.  These resentful  "reviews" read much like Charles Simic's rant against Robert Creeley, after Creeley's death, published in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS. (Responses to which @ - 2007/10/17, and - June 28, 2008.)  
Patti Smith wrote a brief introduction to THE PETTING ZOO, and the blurb from her fine "note to the reader" excerpted on the back cover sets a different tone: "In the monastic seclusion of his room, Jim Carroll, with a prescience of his own mortality, reached out and drew this novel - his last work - from the nucleus of his mysticism and remembered experience." 

(N.B. 28 Dec. The most well-balanced and the fairest review I have read is by Susanna Sonnenberg in The San Francisco Chronicle, 26 Dec.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

bear facts in new jersey

one week open season for (not, unfortunately, on) bear-killers began yesterday in new jersey. 7000 permits to kill were issued. each permit holder is allowed to kill one bear. there are, supposedly, about 3000 bears living in new jersey. however, that figure is of unconfirmed bear sightings people called in. as the website "tiny green bubble" notes: "in a state that is notorious for big hair on women and bear like hair all over men, certainly some form of sighting confirmation should be made before assuming that the hairy thing crossing the street by the nail salon was a bear and not just someone's husband." 265 bears were killed the first day. there were many "nuisance" complaints this past year of bears rummaging for food. no human injuries were reported, however. the last person to be killed by a bear in new jersey was in 1870. new jersey superior and supreme court judges refused to grant the bears a stay of execution. new jersey judges have also ruled that the number of protesters at wildlife sites must be limited to 25.

the new jersey deer cull is scheduled to begin in January.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Some links, recommendations, brief notes on poetry, film, and other matters (including a few photos and a video of my reading of an excerpt from David Goodis's novel DOWN THERE, filmed by Truffaut as SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER), are on my Facebook site. Several reviews on - including WAY MORE WEST by Ed Dorn, THE DOOR AT TALDIR by Paul Evans, BALLAD OF JAMIE ALLAN by Tom Pickard, THE SEPARATE ROSE by Neruda, THE BLUE HOUR (a new biography of Jean Rhys) - and a review of Lyn Lifshin's book, RUFFIAN, on

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2 Arabic & 2 Persian love poems

(2 translations from the Arabic by Michael A. Sells)

from Ibn Arabi's TRANSLATOR OF DESIRES (Ibis Editions, 2000)

"Lords Of Love"

I wish I knew if they knew
whose heart they have taken

Or my heart knew
which high-ridge track they follow.

Do you picture them safe
or do you picture them perished?

The lords of love in love
are ensnared, bewildered.

from "Bid Hurayra Farewell" by Al-A'sha (Desert Tracings - Six Classic Arabian Odes -Wesleyan, 1989)

Bid Hurayra farewell.
The riders are departing.
Can you, man that you are,
bear bidding farewell?

Brow aglow, hair flowing,
a gleam from the side teeth as she smiles,
she walks gently as a gazelle,
tender-hoofed in wet soil,

As if her walk
from the tent of a neighbor
were the gliding of a cloud
neither slow nor hurried.

You hear her anklets whisper
as she turns away
like cassia rustling
suppliant in the breeze.

She's not one of those
whose neighbors hate to see her face.
You won't find her,
ear to their secrets, listening.

She braces herself
or she'd be thrown back flat
when rising to visit a neighbor,
by languor.

She entertains her companion awhile,
then slackens,
lower back and buttocks

Full at the bodice
at the waist sash nil,
a belle, seeming as she comes near
to divide in two.

How sweet a bedmate
on a cloudy afternoon,
not for some unbathed rude
to lay and take some pleasure,

Wide-hipped, delicate,
elbows soft, walk tender,
as if a thorn were caught
in the arch of her sandal.

As she rises
a fragrance of musk trails,
her sleeve-cuffs with the scent
of rose jasmine brimming over.

No meadow of the meadows
of the roughland plateau,
luxuriant and green, blessed
by dark-trailing big-dropped clouds,

When the sun is teased
by a blosssom in full flower,
drenched in color,
mantled deep in rushes and greens,

Is ever more fragrant,
more redolent
than she, or more beautiful
when evening shadows fall.

Rumi (from THE MASNAVI - Book One)

translated by Jawid Mojaddedi (OUP, 2004)

(from "The Healing Of The Sick Slave Girl")

Being a lover means your heart must ache,
No sickness hurts as much as when hearts break,
The lover's ailment's totally unique,
Love is the astrolabe of all we seek,
Whether you feel divine or earthly love,
Ultimately we're destined for above.
To capture love whatever words I say
Make me ashamed when love arrives my way,
While explanation sometimes makes things clear
True love through silence only one can hear:
The pen would smoothly write the things it knew
But when it came to love it split in two,
A donkey stuck in mud is logic's fate,
Love's nature only love can demonstrate:

(from "The Song Of The Reed")

Love's fire is what makes every reed-flute pine,
Love's fervour thus lends potency to wine;
The reed consoles those forced to be apart,
Its notes will lift the veil upon your heart,
Where's antidote or poison like its song,
Or confidant, or one who's pined so long?
This reed relates a tortuous path ahead,
Recalls the love with which Majnun's heart bled:
The few who hear the truths the reed has sung
Have lost their wits so they can speak this tongue.
The day is wasted if it's spent in grief,
Consumed by burning aches without relief -
Good times have long passed, but we couldn't care
When you're with us, our friend beyond compare!
While ordinary men on drops can thrive
A fish needs oceans daily to survive:
The way the ripe must feel the raw can't tell,
My speech must be concise, and so farewell!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Homage to Tony Judt

All organized religion is either evil or leads to evil.  I used to think that after a millenia or two, religious leaders and their faithful followers might settle down some and we wouldn't have something like the Inquisition or Holocaust repeated, but I was disabused of this notion when Israel turned to institutional terror, and Jewish people, especially in the U.S., became blinkered about Zionism.  It is true in my opinion, as Alan Sillitoe had noted, that too often anti-Israeli pro Palestinian mouthings are anti-Semitism by the back door, but that does not excuse the ugliness of things when an oppressed people become the oppressor, as here in the U.S., the early settlers, after achieving Independence, began to systematically attempt to eliminate Indian tribes.  Fueled by a strangely quick and for the most part unanticipated economic meltdown, white liberal guilt, a monolithic black vote, and the righteous disgust with years of Republican domination, Obama became our President.  Despite his primary skill, sophism, and a quick intelligence easily mistaken for intellectualism due to the fact that the U.S. is controlled on all levels by lawyers ("laws written by lawbreakers"), the military and police, investment banking honchos/dishonest business entrepreneurs and others of that cultureless ilk, many did believe that a more humane country would emerge.  With eight years of Bush and Cheney and cohorts no one expected anything other than crony capitalism favoring wealth, oil, and war-mongering.  But even a slight amelioration, which is what Zizek said was the best we could hope for, has in no way occurred.  The latest wrongheadedness on the part of the President is his approval of the mosque complex.  I for one do not believe that Islam is a religion of peace.  The Koran is filled with vicious anti-Semitism which cannot be excused as something merely historical.  Leaving aside similarites with evangelical Christianity, with both Moslems and Christians slaughtering each other for centuries in the name of holiness, what we have today is a continued incursion of Arab oil money moving West adjacent to the very spot in New York where so many were killed. Non-Muslims cannot even visit Mecca; what would Islamic leaders say if President Obama asked for a church or synagogue or inter-faith complex to be built there? It is the duty of every Muslim, as stated in the Koran, to convert unbelievers, by the sword if necessary.  More oppressive of women than any other religion in history, the mad mullahs, ignorant imams and their lackeys, especially in Iran, desire to Torquemada the world.  Obama's approving the mosque is another one of his errors in the name of a more forgiving country.  Perhaps he would like to have al-Megrahi dedicate the mosque?  A year now since his release at the behest of Scots nationalists (betraying the ideals of Wallace) working with New Labour corrupt Blairites (indistinguishable from Tories, really), and BP, and their deals in Libya dependent on said release.  As one blogger put it: "Of course there is freedom of religion in the U.S. and the idea of discriminating against a particular religion offends our fundamental values.  But it is a separate question whether the plan to build a mosque is a good one that persons of good will should choose to pursue as they exercise the freedom they are most assuredly guaranteed."  The problem is not simply the wishy-washyness of Obama and centrist republicrats, nor the greed-laden legacies of the Clintons, but the continued lowering of consciousness in America.  There was hue and cry raised by people when Obama called for a moratorium on drilling for six months.  Gulf residents have become dependent on the filth of oil revenue. Health care scams, millionaire doctors, billions for bloated research leading nowhere, big pharma, and insurance companies continue unabated despite the illusion of progress generated by the self-congratulatory smugness of the self-serving congress and their Uriah Heeps.  I don't believe there is an answer.  "There is a plague called man."  To use a convenient myth, we were chucked out of Eden and a return to a pre-lapsarian state is not possible.  We could, of course, be a little kinder to each other.                           

PS & N.B. ... (August 16th).....Even the name "Cordoba Initiative" shows disrespect and intolerance to all who are not of Islam. It is deception (and self-deception on the part of Muslims) to believe that the Muslim army hordes who invaded and conquered and occupied the Iberian peninsula in the Middle Ages for several centuries before finally being driven out, had established some sort of "golden age" in Spain. The "conviviencia" as it is sometimes called was a golden age only for Muslims, everyone else being a second-class citizen at best. The leading Judaic thinker (Maimonides) and the leading poet (Halevi) both were forced to flee Islamic Spain in fear of their lives. Scholars and historians today disagree as to the extent of the oppression in Cordoba, but there is general agreement that towards the end of the occupation it was little more than slaughter of non-believers and a prelude to the horrors of the Inquisition which followed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010



This is a letter sent to Susan Schultz, editor of the poetry journal, Tinfish, which she publishes from Oahu, where she works as a professor at the U. of Hawaii at Manoa.     

dear Susan,
i am sorry to impose on your time yet again, but i was quite dismayed by part of your recent blogpost (july 26th) criticizing as "appropriation" the magisterial, deep, ennobling and great work by W.S. Merwin, THE FOLDING CLIFFS (Knopf, 1998), which i consider a masterpiece not just of late 20th century American poetry, but one which as Ted Hughes noted, is "an original masterpiece on a very big scale"....
i did read with interest the links on your blog, in particular the link to the rather nasty (even jealous) deconstruction of THE FOLDING CLIFFS a decade ago (which i had not seen previously) by Kapalai ula de Silva.  you should note that it is absolutely incorrect of de Silva to say that Merwin does not acknowledge the major source of his meditative narrative.  he clearly states that he read the translation by Frances Frazier of Pi'ilani's story, and of course his poem is dedicated to Olivia Breitha, whose own little-known book, MY LIFE OF EXILE IN KALAUPAPA, (of which i blogposted about 5 years ago - Dec. 2, 2005:, when i read it on Molokai, caused me to weep.  well, i am sentimental; i don't apologize for that. 
nor do i apologize for believing that when Haunani-Kay Trask (whose writing in other contexts (i.e. her book LIGHT IN THE CREVICE NEVER SEEN) and which i also blogposted on @iprefernotto, and like very much) writes (in your other link) that "Hawaiian culture is our culture.  It does not belong to everyone but only to us" that that is cultural fascism which i distrust and resist.  in fact, i think it typical of many Kanaka Maoli in Hawaii, to be so resentful, and in fact this goes completely against the grain of Polynesian sensibility, certainly in the islands south of the equator, which, despite all the horrors inflicted on the people there (far moreso than in Hawaii in point of fact) remains open and warm and sans the xenophobia which seems to exist in Hawaii, sad to say.  
you don't of course speak for the people of Oahu or of Hawaii so it is wrong of you to say that Merwin's extraordinary poem (and i do not know Merwin personally so i have no ax to grind in his defense except a poetic one) "was seen here as an act of appropriation" unless by "here" you simply refer to the academic world of Manoa.  you use the word quite negatively as you must know; would you also say that the lovely short film, KALUAIKOOLAU, made by the Ke Kula Ni'ihau O Kekaha Learning Center, is also an act of "appropriation"?        


be well... aloha.....

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jose Saramago..... (1922-2010)..... (R.I.P.)

"The man at the ship's wheel looked for the cleaning woman, but couldn't see her, Perhaps she's in the bunk to starboard, resting after scrubbing the deck, he thought, but he was deceiving himself, because he knows perfectly well, although again he doesn't know how he knows, that, at the last moment, she chose not to come, that she jumped onto the quay, shouting, Goodbye, goodbye, since you only have eyes for the unknown island, I'm leaving, and it wasn't true, right now his eyes are searching for her and do not find her. At that moment, the sky clouded over and it began to rain, and, having rained, innumerable plants began to sprout from the rows of sacks filled with earth lined up along the bulwarks, they are there not because of fears that there will not be enough soil on the unknown island, but because in that way one can gain time, the day we arrive, all we will have to do is transplant the fruit trees, sow the seeds from the miniature wheat fields ripening here, and decorate the flower beds with the flowers that will bloom from these buds. The man at the wheel asks the sailors resting on the deck if they can see any uninhabited islands yet, and they say they can see no islands at all, uninhabited or otherwise, but that they are considering disembarking on the first bit of inhabited land that appears, as long as there is a port where the ship can anchor, a tavern where they can drink and a bed to frolic in, since there's no room to do so here, with so many people crowded together. But what about the unknown island, asked the man at the wheel, The unknown island doesn't exist, except as an idea in your head, the king's geographers went to look at the maps and declared that it's been years since there have been any unknown islands, You should have stayed in the city, then, instead of hindering my voyage, We were looking for a better place to live and decided to take advantage of your journey, You're not sailors, We never were, I won't be able to sail this ship all alone, You should have thought of that before asking the king to give it to you, the sea won't teach you how to sail. Then the man at the wheel saw land in the distance and tried to sail straight past, pretending it was the mirage of another land, an image that had traveled across space from the other side of the world, but the men who had never been sailors protested, they said that was where they wanted to disembark, This island's on the map, they cried, we'll kill you if you don't take us there. Then, of its own accord, the caravel turned its prow toward land, entered the port and drew alongside the quay. You can leave, said the man at the wheel, and they immediately all trooped off, first the women, then the men, but they did not leave alone, they took the oxen, the donkeys and the horses, and even the seagulls, one after the other, flew off, leaving the boat behind, carrying their nestlings in their beaks, something never seen before, but there's always a first time. The man at the wheel watched this exodus in silence, he did nothing to hold back those who were abandoning him, at least they had left him the trees, the wheat and the flowers, as well as the climbing plants that were twining round the masts and festooning the ship's sides. In the rush to leave, the sacks of earth had split and spilled open, so that the whole deck had become a field, dug and sown, with just a little more rain there should be a good harvest. Ever since the voyage to the unknown island began, we have not seen the man at the wheel eat, that must be because he is dreaming, and if in his dreams he fancies a bit of bread or an apple, it would be pure invention, nothing more. The roots from the trees are now penetrating the frame of the ship itself, it won't be long before these hoisted sails cease to be needed, the wind will just have to catch the crown of the trees and the caravel will set off for its destination. It is a forest that sails and bobs upon the waves, a forest where, quite how no one knows, birds have begun to sing, they must have been hidden somewhere and suddenly decided to emerge into the light, perhaps because the wheat field is ripening and needs harvesting. Then the man locked his ship's wheel and went down to the field with a sickle in his hand, and when he had cut down the first few ears, he saw a shadow beside his shadow. He woke up with his arms about the cleaning woman, and her arms about him, their bodies and their bunks fused into one, so that no one can tell any more if this is port or starboard. Then, as soon as the sun had risen, the man and the woman went to paint in white letters on both sides of the prow the name that the caravel still lacked. Around midday, with the tide, The Unknown Island finally set to sea, in search of itself."

Sunday, May 30, 2010


As the rather Shylockian character of Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby refers to the University..........

Ed Dorn in his long poem titled "Oxford" from his early book The North Atlantic Turbine (Fulcrum, 1967), writes in part V:

..........But I said everything ?
has been talked about
around Oxford. I was assured
it had been. I didn't say while walking
but I thought well then make up!
something! Because baby if you don't
they's gonna take all your wine away
they's gonna turn you into a state
institootion and you'll all be working
for the state just like in America
and you'll have to prove
you're useful, the most useless
sort of proof you'll ever have to make
you'd better at least start digging up
some hills
to talk about. Get laid, describe that.
the world seems endlessly interested.

The election for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry is being held now. Although Geoffrey Hill appears to be the front-runner, those eligible to vote could surprise the establishment by choosing a long-shot who is in the running, Britain's foremost Beat/post-Beat poet, Michael Horovitz.

Horovitz is the only poet except for Allen Ginsberg to have read at both the 1965 Royal Albert Hall reading, and the follow-up thirty years later in 1995. Still an active poet, performer, independent publisher, poetry entrepreneur, organizer and troubadour, his 1969 Penguin anthology, Poetry of the 'Underground' in Britain, remains one of the best collections of the alternative and innovative.

His own work continues to demonstrate a Blakean seriousness of purpose tempered with a kind intelligence and wit. Here is a brief excerpt from his elegy, published in Wordsounds And Sightlines (New Departures, 1994), for his wife, Frances, herself a fine and sensitive poet:

Night after night your muse's breath
in the trees and scrubs comes calling,
tugs me away from habit and routine
- owl cries swoop in on reveries
calling back a secret music,
the unfinished symphony
of your life and work
- how it steals upon the senses
stately, flowing, clear - the sabbath of
your poetry's leaves

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Obama Could Do

(1) Fire Salazar and all of his epigone underlings at Interior who continued past administrations' corrupt policies of refusing to regulate permits and safety procedures. Appointing him Secretary of the Interior in the first place was like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

(2) Order his crony, the Attorney-General (who called America "a nation of cowards" in his Feb. '09 race-in-your-face speech), to issue arrest warrants for the executives of BP in addition to the CEO's of Transocean and Halliburton, and an international arrest and extradition warrant for the billionaire Chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, sitting on his derriere in Sweden saying things to the press like "BP is big and important...The U.S. needs BP just as much as BP needs U.S. business." Since, realistically speaking, he cannot freeze all BP assets and nationalize all oil companies operating in the U.S., he could at least expropriate and comandeer every scientific and tecnhological honcho of all oil companies, who are doubtless praising Mammon that they don't work for BP, and perhaps, just perhaps, one of them knows of and is sitting on a solution which BP does not have, if the "top kill" fails.

(3) Demonstrate some humility and compassion.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

F.R. Leavis at Gregynog, Wales, 1969

"By the close of the 17th century the conditions of Shakespeare's kind of greatness had vanished for good. Shakespeare could be at one and the same time the supreme Renaissance poet and draw as no one since has ever done on the resources of human experience, the diverse continuities, behind and implicit in a rich and robustly creative vernacular. By 1700 a transformation as momentous as any associated with the development of modern civilization had taken place, never to be reversed. The new Augustan culture represented by Pope and The Tatler entailed an unprecedented insulation of the 'polite' from the popular. There could be no reversal: the industrial revolution, which by the end of the 18th century was well advanced, worked and went on working inevitable destruction upon the inherited civilization of the people. Dickens was the last great writer to enjoy something of the Shakespearian advantage....What has been achieved in our time is the complete destruction of that general diffused creativity which maintains the life and continuity of a culture. For the industrial masses their work has no human meaning in itself and offers no satisfying interest; they save their living for their leisure, of which they have very much more than their predecessors of the Dickensian world had, but don't know how to use it, except inertly....But it is fatal to let the cultural inertness of the technological age spread and prevail till everything else is forgotten and incredible....What we are rapidly heading for is the hopelessness of America."

Dr. David Craig, Lecturer at the University of Lancaster and a Marxist theoretician, asked Dr. Leavis "how can the man in the street be helped to appreciate literature?" Dr. Leavis' answer was that he did not believe that they could. The days are gone, he said, when Shakespeare was both an author esteemed by the intellectuals of the day, and the great national entertainment as well....The study of English literature, he said, should give people a sense of the continuity of our literature and this sense should be instilled through a whole range of studies in which mediaeval ideas and mediaeval texts should be as freely discussed as the moderns, so that in studying the mediaeval period we should become aware of of the mediaeval tradition behind the development of Shakespeare. It was only towards the end of the seventeenth century that the break came between popular and sophisticated literature.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"and the hippos were boiled in their tanks"

Hippopotamus on menu at Beijing zoo

Visitors to Beijing zoo are warned not to feed the animals, but they are encouraged to eat them at a restaurant that offers crocodile and scorpion on its exotic menu.

After watching the beasts in their cages, diners at the zoo's restaurant can gnaw on the webbed toes of a hippopotamus, chew a kangaroo tail, nibble a deer's penis or slurp down a bowl of ant soup.

The sale of the dishes has caused outrage since it was reported by the Legal Daily newspaper earlier this week, with conservationists condemning the practice.

"It is utterly inappropriate for a zoo to sell such items," said Ge Rui of the International Fund for Animal Welfare."One of the zoo's missions is to foster love of animals and a desire to protect them. But by selling the meat of caged beasts, this zoo stimulates consumption and increases pressure on the animals in the wild. It is socially irresponsible."

Chang Jiwen, a legal expert at the China Academy of Social Sciences who is trying to draft an animal protection law, said: "Although it is legal, I don't think it is humanitarian. It is very inappropriate and immoral of them to sell such products. It is against the aim of the zoo."

Online comment was also predominantly critical. "Watching animals imprisoned in a limited space while eating their siblings, how would you feel?" wrote Zheng Yuanjie, a famous Chinese writer, in his microblog.

The owners of the Bin Feng Tang restaurant were unwilling to comment to the Guardian, but they have told domestic media that the meat was from exotic animal farms and its sale had been going on for several years with the full approval of the authorities.

In the wake of the negative coverage, however, staff said they would be revising the menu, which also includes set dishes of scorpion, peacock, ostrich egg, shark fin soup and other delicacies for between 100 and 1,000 yuan.

The criticism is a sign of changing times. In the past, notices on each of the zoo's animal cages included information about which parts were the tastiest and most useful according to traditional Chinese medicine. Those details have now been omitted. Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fascism and Modernism

"The development from Imagism in poetry to Fascism in politics is clear and unbroken." (Donald Davie, Purity Of Diction In English Verse, 1952.)

Pound, Eliot, Yeats: the three giants of first generation English language modernist poetry. Pound, late-in-life, recants his anti-semitism, saying to Allen Ginsberg at Spoleto, 1965, it was a "suburban prejudice" and, referring to The Cantos, "I botched it." Eliot, worse, was clever and pernicious, and he never recanted, but reaffirmed, cf. his letters to Leslie Fiedler.

In After Strange Gods (1934), Eliot wrote: "Reasons of race and religion make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable." He did omit this sentence in a reprint after WWII, but "Gerontion" and "Burbank..Bleistein" confirm his prejudices and embody them in his poetry, sneeringly. The best biographyof TSE is Carolyn Seymour-Jones' biography of Vivienne, which brings everything into the light of day, including his same-sex affairs, and his role in committing his wife to an insane asylum (probably, she suffered from Tourette's) and keeping her there, perhaps not just for reasons of his social embarrassments, but also to spend her inheritance, because she was declared incompetent. Also, as the major acknowledged arbiter of literary taste in Britain, with politics far to the right of, say, Philip Larkin, TSE wielded enough power to keep William Carlos Williams, for example, first published in the U.S. in 1909, out of the mainstream of UK publishing until 1964, one year after Williams's death. Eliot was keen as well to keep heterosexual poets well away from Faber and Faber, and other major publishers.

Marcus Klein, in his book Foreigners (1981) was the first to point out the extremes of Eliot's anti-semitism, and Anthony Julius devoted an entire book to the subject: T.S. ELIOT, ANTI-SEMITISM AND LITERARY FORM.

But et tu, Willy?! W.J. McCormack, Chief Librarian, Edward Worth Library, Dublin (and formerly Prof. of Literary History, Goldsmiths' College, U. of London) has written a most condemnatory text, BLOOD KINDRED: THE POLITICS OF W.B. YEATS. Yeats was never exactly "liberal" in his political views, but for the most part he managed to keep his politics out of his poetry; however, as is pointed out in his Letters it is clear what his real feelings were. He supported the 1930's German race laws passed at Nuremberg in 1935, and even went so far as to accept an award from the Third Reich, the Goethe-Plakette, from Oberburgermeister Krebs in 1934. He wrote ballads for the Blue Shirts, supported Mussolini in an interview in the Irish Times, describes democracy as "muck in the yard" during the Spanish Civil War, and refers to a "Negro girl who lived near Sligo" in his childhood, noting "she is among those our civilization must reject." (On The Boiler, 1939, p. 266) Writing to Olivia Shakespear about Germany in 1934, he says "what looks like emerging is Fascism modified by religion. This country is exciting."

As McCormack points out: "Irish paramilitary politics has displayed a steady right-wing bias, even when the rhetoric was socialist." Then there were the war years, and an alliance between the IRA and Nazi Germany. Yeats wrote of "Judaism's disappearance from the historical backyard of Christianity" Despite schoolmaster Deasy's comment in Ulysses alluding to Jews in Ireland, that we "never let them in" Jewish people were in 1943 10% of the population of Dublin and Cork. Never was there a public statement from Ireland on the issue of persecution in WWII. Orwell favorably reviewed Indian scholar V.K.N. Menon's THE DEVELOPMENT OF W.B. YEATS , a book pointing out the sinister side of Yeats' politics.

"He gave comfort to democracy's enemies, to decency's enemies, to the enemies of art and culture" writes McCormack, and continues "he was fascist on (for me) too many occasions. Perhaps the hurtfulness of this judgment should be tempered by the qualification that, on many of these, he was fascist by doing nothing (p. 433). He declines to act because he cites "the Irish nation as his one and only loyalty."

The Rest Is Noise as Alex Ross titles his his interesting study of the politics in and of modern music (2007).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2 poems by Patricia Clare Lamb

from her latest book, A LOSS FOR WORDS (Harbottle Press, Houston, Texas, 2009). THE LONG LOVE (new and collected poems 1957-1998) was issued by Harbottle in 1998. Pat Lamb is one of America's best and most under-rated poets.

All Lines Down

1 Kings 19:11-13

All roads being closed and all lines down,
You'll have to make your own
Language now. No one except the one
Who is himself the word can answer you.
(I preach what you've already proved is true.)
I pray you may have found
Peace amid the clamor, discipline
In the confusion, eloquence within
A tiny whispering sound.

I Want To Say

I want to say don't go, this is your spot,
But you are inching onward every day,
And what are we here for, if not to go?
You are changing even while I look
Across this trifling table and this unread book,
Going even as we say hello.
Say to the waters, stay,
And to the sea, change not.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Pacific You Won't See On TV

MUST reading, especially for anyone who still believes it matters who the U.S. President is, or anyone who cares at all about Pacific island people: LIVING AT THE 'TIP OF THE SPEAR' by Koohan Paik in "The Nation" (May 3, pp. 26-28). Also recommended, the blog titled THE DROWNING MERMAID.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

@ the Beach

Margate, NJ, resident Glenn Klotz (son of Red Klotz, the most important basketball icon and player not yet inducted into The Basketball Hall Of Fame), blogs on He usually adddresses local issues. Note his post for April 20th.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

re: the hypocrisy of Barack Obama

They must be vermin, surely, who defile
Their very Homeland coasts, mile after mile.

-----James Norman Hall

Or is "hypocrisy" too strong a word. I have read that he never said he would not consider drilling for oil in the ocean. So were we gulled by "the art of the possible" - "poly-tiks" as Cid Corman used to put it....To get a "climate-change" bill through. More nuclear power stations. Just what we need.

(April 29th...In light of the catastrophe for sealife/birds/mammals as the oil spreads, will Obama rescind his energy policy in terms of East Coast drilling offshore? The Philadelphia Inquirer believes he should. I wonder if he can admit that he was wrong. He's been around clever lawyers much of his life, at least since leaving Honolulu. Is his intelligence less superficial than theirs? Come to think of it, I can't remember a single time when he admitted he was wrong about something.) (May 1st...Disconcerting that friends I've known for years and years bash me for criticising Obama (for whom I voted in the belief his Presidency would help Native peoples) saying this makes me a racist right-wing tea party nut, or at least aligns me with them.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

more of Melville


They'll give me a nibble - bit o' biscuit ere I go.
Sure, a messmate will reach me the last parting cup;
But, turning heads away from the hoist and the belay,
Heaven knows who will have the running of me up!
No pipe to those halyards - But aren't it all sham?
A blur's in my eyes; it is dreaming that I am.
A hatchet to my hawser? All adrift to go?
The drum roll to grog, and Billy never know?
But Donald he has promised to stand by the plank;
So I'll shake a friendly hand ere I sink.
But - no! It is dead then I'll be, come to think.
I remember Taff the Welshman when he sank.
And his cheek it was like the budding pink.
But me they'll lash in hammock, drop me deep.
Fathoms down, fathoms down, how I'll dream fast asleep.
I feel it stealing now, Sentry, are you there?
Just ease these darbies at the wrist,
And roll me over fair!
I am sleepy, and the oozy weeds about me twist.

(Recommended reading: MELVILLE - His World And Work - by Andrew Delbanco)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


No matter what your feelings about Roman Polanski, there is no denying he remains a world-class film-maker. THE GHOST WRITER is not a CHINATOWN (or a KNIFE IN THE WATER), but despite its biographically beyond improbable conclusion, it is an excellent film in the thriller (and Hitchcock) tradition, with a leitmotif of Billy Budd-like Innocence as a subtext, quite subtle and, since it is Polanski, consciously done, I would venture to say. Not to give anything away to spoil the viewer's enjoyment, but when the ghost writer is questioned before his release near the end of the film, he is asked if he had reported a certain conversation. He did not, and readers of Melville are reminded that it is that omission which allows Claggert to accuse Budd to Captain Vere. Not that THE GHOST WRITER is an allegory of any kind; however, when, in innocence, the writer lets the chief villains know he has discovered their secret, there can be then no way out.... And the great Eli Wallach delivers a marvellous cameo half-way through.

(And highly recomennded, for the serious cineaste only, Haneke's film THE WHITE RIBBON.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

dogs: the new weapon of choice

from Rowenna Davis in The Guardian :

(N.B. One more reason why it is becoming difficult to live in London....As I blogged in a former post on gangs and knife-crime, the police seem powerless to intervene on time. The days of the Bobby-on-the-Beat are long gone, along with bowler hats and Dixon of Dock Green.)

The number of dangerous dogs being seized by the police has soared as young people increasingly use them as 'weapons', rather than carrying knives.

Teaser is a 10-stone Staffordshire bull terrier cross-breed, flanked like a horse and with a head the size of a rugby ball. It lives in a small flat in Somers Town, central London, and local kids on the estate often knock and ask to walk it, amazed that the 22-year-old owner can make it sit and give paw. Many of the kids have their own dogs: staffie crosses, rottweilers, and illegal pit bulls and the numbers are multiplying as they are bred with other dogs on the estate.

"It's a status thing - one or two people get them and then everyone's got one," says CJ. "Kids think I've got a pit and I'm a hard man, but they're the ones running around estates being pulled on leads. [The dogs] keep spreading because they're so easy to get. Just go on to the internet and type in 'pit bull puppies'. It's not surprising everyone I know has a dog."

Yet a growing number of dog owners are irresponsible. In London, the number of dogs seized by the police under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) soared from 263 in 2006-07 to 719 in 2008-09. So far this year, 1,000 dogs have been confiscated a fourfold increase in three years.

The act allows dogs to be seized because they are illegal, dangerously out of control, or if they are used to threaten or intimidate someone. So legal breeds, such as Staffordshires, can be seized under the act. Pit bull-type terriers, Japanese tosas, and the dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro mastiffs are all illegal breeds, but many owners get around the rules by mixing illegal breeds with Staffordshires and calling them crosses.

The increase in seizures in London has been driven by a crackdown and the opening of a Metropolitan police Status Dogs Unit (SDU) last March, but national data suggests there has also been an increase in violent dogs on the street. According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of dog owners prosecuted for causing injury rose by 50% between 2003 and 2007. The RSPCA says that calls about dog fighting have increased massively over the last few years, with two-thirds of complaints now directly connected to young people using dogs as "weapons" in streets and parks.

A series of high-profile attacks have focused public attention on this issue. Last February, a baby died in south Wales after being attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier and a Jack Russell. In November, four-year-old John Paul Massey was mauled to death by a pit bull in Liverpool. And just before Christmas, a guide dog was viciously attacked by another dog, whose young owner was walking it unleashed by in north London. CJ says that walking without a lead is too often used as a sign of power and control on the street. "I'm always paranoid that some dog off a lead is going to attack Teaser," he says.

David Grant, director of the RSPCA's Harmondsworth hospital in north London, picks up the pieces of irresponsible dog ownership every day. His hospital is full of emaciated staffies that have been abandoned often in the hospital's reception by young men who don't want to give their names or pay veterinary bills. Many of the dogs are sick, as their owners haven't had the money or the knowledge to apply for vaccinations. In the worst cases, dogs have been abused by irritated owners or been forced to fight.

In 40 years of practice, Grant, whose veterinary operations were seen by millions on the BBC's Animal Hospital television series, says things have never been so bad, and he has started documenting the worst cases. His computer now hold hundreds of images of dogs that have been shot, stabbed or burnt.

"A typical problem owner will be from an inner-city estate, unemployed, without any educational achievements," he says. "Young males predominate, although the fighters often register the dog in a girlfriend's name." Names such as Terror, Chaos, Killer, Ice and Asbo often tell a dog's story, says Grant, as does evidence of harnesses accessories often used to glamorise dogs before gang fights.

But Grant is keen not to sensationalise or oversimplify. He wants to distinguish between "fashion dogs", which are simply part of a craze, and "status dogs", which are bred for offence and defence. "Fashion dogs tend to be staffie crosses that are naturally good-natured, turning nasty only when they suffer abuse, or neglect when their owners get bored," he says. "Status dogs, on the other hand, are bred to intimidate. At the worst level, gangs will use them for mascots, muggings, safeguarding territory, and fighting enemies and other dogs."

Grant, along with dog wardens and police officers, has repeatedly drawn attention to the parallels between dogs and knives. Both are carried by young people in areas where crime is high, often for defence. In some cases, even parents have been known to encourage their children, particularly girls, to walk with dogs as a means of protection. However, in contrast to possession of knives, a young person will not face five years' imprisonment for having a dog.

But if fear and fashion are multiplying dog numbers, so is the potential money that unemployed young people can make from dog dealing. Staffordshire puppies and their crosses can sell for 400-500 each, and with an average litter size of eight and a bitch able to produce two litters a year, an owner can earn up to 8,000 annually from a single dog.

From his council flat in north London, Dion, 24, supplements his living by dealing dogs. He's got a few scars from violent dogs he's owned in the past, but now he's got just one, a mixture of a staffie-pit cross and a presa Canario. "My dog has had her first litter and two generations of grandchildren," he says. "I wanted to keep the bloodline going. The money's not the priority though. I'll sell them for half of the 350 I could get when I know they're going to a good home."

Security is another reason Dion hangs on to his dog. He says: "My dog attacked my stepdad once for good reason. He was a bit of an alcoholic, and when my sister got scared of him once she screamed and the dog went straight for him and shredded his forearm before he could hurt her. It's another reason to feel safer."

According to Sergeant Ian McParland, chief officer at the SDU, simply banning more dogs under the DDA is not the answer. The problem is not genetics, but upbringing, he says. Most dogs can become aggressive or peaceful, depending on how they're raised, he says.

"You could go on banning breeds until the cows come home and it won't make a difference," McParland says. "We're almost fortunate that the status dog of choice, the pit bull terrier, is illegal. I don't know what we'd do if Akitas, German shepherds and rottweilers started becoming fashionable [as status dogs]. Akitas were used by Samurai warriors."

He points out the threat posed by selective breeding. "Breeds are getting more dangerous," he says. "If you've got a nasty dog and your mate's got a nasty bitch, they're the ones you're going to breed."

So far, local authorities' response to the problem has been mixed. Last month, the London borough of Harrow proposed vetting and chipping all dogs owned by people waiting for social housing. Anyone with a dog that it suspected of being used for fighting would be refused a tenancy, though deputy council leader, Susan Hall, insisted that this would be a last resort. "We will work with the RSPCA and police to make sure that people in council properties don't keep dogs that are a menace to others," she said.

In south London, Wandsworth council is already piloting a programme that will see residents threatened with eviction if they fail to keep their dogs responsibly. Other London councils employ specialist dog wardens who are on call to answer residents' problems; others simply slide dog issues into the files of the resident environment officer.

In Liverpool, following the death of John Paul Massey, councillors voted for an amnesty on illegal dogs, free micro-chipping, and tougher rules on leads and muzzling. They are also investigating a dog registration scheme.

According to Grant, it will take more than punitive measures to curtail irresponsible dog ownership. "A lot of the time I feel as sorry for the owners as the dogs," he says. "These young men have been on a conveyor belt of social deprivation since the day they were born, and we're at the end of it, trying to pick up the pieces. They've had no upbringing, and they've got no educational qualifications and no prospects. Society has let them down. We need to address the root causes if we're going to solve these problems."

Back on estates in north London, young people are talking about breeds, bloods and lineages. Videos of dogfights recorded on mobiles are changing hands, and an old cage for dog fighting sits in a garage.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

R.I.P. Michael Foot

(from - March 3rd)

Michael Foot, the most improbable literary romantic to lead a major British party since Benjamin Disraeli, has died at the age of 96 after a turbulent political career that left him a much-loved but also deeply controversial figure.

A brilliant orator, steeped in Swift, Byron, Shelley and the great political struggles of the 17th century, Foot was first an incorrigible rebel who helped foster the left-right Bevanite split that damaged Labour throughout the 50s. A champion of British unilateral nuclear disarmament, one of the left's great post-war causes, he gradually moved towards office in the economic crisis of 1974.

Foot led Labour from 1980 to 1983, presiding over the party during the formation of the breakaway SDP. He resigned after Labour fell to a stunning defeat in the 1983 election, the voters having rejected a manifesto later called the "longest suicide note in history".

In a statement, Gordon Brown said: "Michael Foot was a man of deep principle and passionate idealism and one of the most eloquent speakers Britain has ever heard.

"He was an indomitable figure who always stood up for his beliefs and whether people agreed with him or not they admired his character and his steadfastness."

Tony Benn, his cabinet colleague and occasional nemesis, added: "He was one of the great figures of the Labour movement."

Foot's gallant reputation and prestige kept the left and the unions on side during his time as Jim Callaghan's deputy PM in difficult years from 1976 to 1979. He was also accused of irresponsibility and ironically in view of his past of appeasement of the unions by resurgent Conservatives and some Labour MPs.

For others his idealism, which included a life-long devotion to Plymouth Argyle FC, was highly attractive. Despite the defeat of many of his most cherished causes, he had a rich and deeply fulfilled life, which he shared, until her death in 1999, with his beloved wife, the filmmaker Jill Craigie.

In the crisis that followed the defeat of the Callaghan government and the rise of Margaret Thatcher, Foot led the Labour party from 1980 to 1983, presiding over it during the formation of the breakaway Social Democratic Party (SDP), which used his election over Denis Healey as the excuse for their defection.

He stepped down in favour of his protege Neil Kinnock after Labour slumped to a stunning 145-seat defeat in the 1983 election in the wake of a manifesto that a Labour colleague called "the longest suicide note in history". It fell to Kinnock to rebuild his party and put it on the road to three election wins under Tony Blair. Foot, who refused all honours including a peerage, must often have been unhappy with Blair's leadership, but in old age loyalty to his party was a paramount consideration.

It was not always so. The frail child of a West Country Liberal dynasty, Foot was always a rebel, who hitched his star early to the charismatic Welsh ex-miner, Aneurin Bevan, whose admiring biographer he became. Their radical socialist views did not prevent either of them becoming allies of Lord Beaverbrook, the Canadian press tycoon, owner of the then-mighty Daily Express, who shared their sense of mischief.

A distinguished writer and journalist with a passion for literature as well as politics, Foot gained his first great claim to fame as the author of Guilty Men, the celebrated polemic against the pre-war appeasers in 1940. Beaverbrook entered Churchill's cabinet, Bevan attacked Churchill, and Foot briefly edited Beaverbrook's London Evening Standard though the leftwing weekly Tribune was his life's love.

Tribune helped set the tone for Labour's victory in 1945 when Foot, alone in his Liberal family, unexpectedly won Plymouth Devonport for Labour and became a Westminster gadfly. It was a role he maintained from outside after losing Devonport in 1955 and resumed after succeeding Bevan in Ebbw Vale after his hero's death in 1960.

Foot and Bevan fell out over Bevan's renunciation of unilateralism. But Foot followed his mighty heart for much of his career. His firm support of Indian independence led him to back his friend Indira Gandhi when she declared a state of emergency in the 70s. In the 60s he joined forces with Enoch Powell, with whom he shared the title of best parliamentary orator, to block Labour efforts to reform the Lords though he wanted it abolished, Powell wanted it left untouched.

Such quixotic behaviour prompted his old Oxford friend Barbara Castle to complain that he had "grown soft on a diet of soft options". But when Labour unexpectedly took power again in the global energy crisis and domestic crisis between Ted Heath's government and the miners Foot accepted the tough job of employment secretary under Harold Wilson. Under Jim Callaghan, as Labour lost its majority after 1977, he was leader of the Commons and deputy PM, fighting night after night to keep the government afloat.

Among his many gallant defeats of that period was the campaign in which seven cabinet ministers, including Foot, were allowed to fight for a "no" vote when Wilson offered voters a referendum on Britain's still-new EU membership in 1975. The yes camp which included Margaret Thatcher won by a ratio of 2:1.

He and Benn were not peas in the same pod and Foot felt personally betrayed when Benn insisted on contesting Healey's role as deputy Labour leader in 1981 a divisive contest that Healey narrowly won when young leftwingers like Kinnock refused to back Benn.

After his leadership Foot stayed in the Commons backing Kinnock against Militant entryism for which his earlier tolerance had been criticised, until 1992 when his protege lost the general election to John Major. But his passion for books, as for Plymouth Argyle, never dimmed as the infirmities of old age took their toll.

In the bloody 90s when Yugoslavia was torn by civil war Michael and Jill Foot went there and made a film on behalf of their beloved Dubrovnik. No puritan, Foot was fond of drink and laughter as well as ancient historical ports. It was a fitting last hurrah.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eros Turannos by E.A. Robinson

She fears him, and will always ask
What fated her to choose him;
She meets in his engaging mask
All reasons to refuse him;
But what she meets and what she fears
Are less than are the downward years,
Drawn slowly to the foamless weirs
Of age, were she to lose him.

Between a blurred sagacity
That once had power to sound him,
And Love, that will not let him be
The Judas that she found him,
Her pride assuages her almost,
As if it were alone the cost.
He sees that he will not be lost,
And waits and looks around him.

A sense of ocean and old trees
Envelops and allures him;
Tradition, touching all he sees,
Beguiles and reassures him;
And all her doubts of what he says
Are dimmed with what she knows of days -
Till even prejudice delays
And fades, and she secures him.

The falling leaf inaugurates
The reign of her confusion;
The pounding wave reverberates
The dirge of her illusion;
And home, where passion lived and died,
Becomes a place where she can hide,
While all the town and harbor-side
Vibrate with her seclusion.

We tell you, tapping on our brows,
The story as it should be,
As if the story of a house
Were told or ever could be;
We'll have no kindly veil between
Her visions and those we have seen, -
As if we guessed what hers have been,
Or what they are or would be.

Meanwhile we do no harm; for they
That with a god have striven,
Not hearing much of what we say,
Take what the god has given;
Though like waves breaking it may be,
Or like a changed familiar tree,
Or like a stairway to the sea
Where down the blind are driven.

This post for all who have commented nastily/condescendingly/disparagingly on the late-life marriage of Lorine Niedecker.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Evils of Computer Technology

Destruction of the Romance of short-wave radio in the night from distant shores. The laying waste to the future of handwriting. An end to Letters. Post office closures. Pony Express gone forever with Henderson's Cyrenaican runners. "like to the man who was worthy of that city"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

John Rety, 1930-2010 (R.I.P.)

My old friend, John Rety, died. Heart attack. He was the publisher of 2 of my books (Tahitian Journals, and Glimpses of India and Nepal) with the press in London (Kentish Town) he founded, Hearing Eye, which published over 150 books and chapbooks of poetry by a wide variety of mostly British authors. His Torriano weekly Sunday night poetry reading series flourished for over 20 years, and an anthology, IN THE COMPANY OF POETS, published some of the poets who read there. He lost most of his family to Hungarian Fascists in WWII, and as a teen he was sent to England, where he lived for all of his life. A political activist and serious anarchist, he actually chaired anarchist meetings at the Lamb and Flag pub, and during the 1960's edited FREEDOM, the British anarchist weekly newspaper. Always active in anti-war causes, he participated in the fast at Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, in protest against the Vietnam War. He was a graded chess player, who played internationally on the British Seniors Team. Essayist, poet, translator of Hungarian poets, editor, publisher, and activist, John was also a great friend to the down-and-out. He is survived by his son, Jacob, and his son's mother, Laura; his wife, Susan, and their daughter Emily, and his grandchild. Deep condolences to his family and friends.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

a film rant and a small tribute

Probably because of the supposed, rather than actual, political incorrectness of GRAN TORINO, Clint Eastwood has fallen out of favor with the Hollywood liberal elite.  INVICTUS, clearly and, in my opinion, undeniably the best American fillm of the year, wasn't even nominated. Nor did Eastwood receive a nomination for Best Director.  Going just a bit deeper and more speculatively, I wonder if his masterpiece, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, although far too fine a piece of film-making to not be nominated in its year, began to cause his downfall in the eyes of the self-righteous Academy.  That film, along with its companion, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, stand, when combined, head and shoulders over and above anything ever to have come out of Hollywood.  Eastwood never has received recognition for his work as an actor.  He should have been nominated for GRAN TORINO last year, and the omission of INVICTUS, an inspirational film, shames the Hollywood Academy.  Of course it is unlikely that Hollywood would honor a film in praise of a successful revered contemporary communist....  The rugby sequences in the film have been called "poetry in motion" and there is an excellent interview with Julian Lewis Jones, the Welsh actor and rugby enthusiast who plays Etienne Feyder in the film @ (January 26th).  Eastwood is the first director since Lindsay Anderson (THIS SPORTING LIFE, with Richard Harris) to accurately portray the game. (Note that rugby League was portrayed in This Sporting Life and rugby Union in the Eastwood film, and as Jim Pennington of North London reminds me: this is important because of the "class" difference between the two, not simply that League is "professional" and Union is "amateur".) Several world class rugby players participate in the film, most notably Isaac Feaunati as the incomparable Jonah Lomu....  Matt Damon (coached in his rugby by Chester Williams) as Francois Pienaar gives the best performance of his career, and Morgan Freeman (who initially had purchased the book rights) as Nelson Mandela, melds into the role (as one critric had put it) as the film progresses until he seems to become, uncannily, the man himself.  They at least were rightly nominated.            

I will watch the Academy Awards, however, if for no other reason than to see what will doubtless be only a brief mention in their honor role of "people who died" this past year of the passing of a great genius of comedic writing, Larry Gelbart, truly one of the last, as they say, of the "good guys" who I had the pleasure of meeting in London in 1965, where he played shortstop (I think it was) in the weekly American expatriate Hyde Park softball game.  He was kind enough to invite me to lunch with his wife, Pat, and then young family, and his grace, charm, and self-deprecating modesty (he was about to leave for Buenos Aires for the stage premiere there of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM), and his desire to help a fledgeling writer like myself, remain in my mind images of nobility.   

Friday, January 22, 2010

Casper the commuting cat killed by hit-and-run driver

Bus driver and passengers pay tribute to Casper the cat who would board Plymouth bus and ride around city


The tale of Casper the commuting cat, who would politely queue with bus passengers before contentedly riding around Plymouth, made headlines and raised smiles around the world.

Sadly the cat's love affair with the open road has proved his downfall after he was killed by a hit-and-run driver, it emerged today.

A notice appeared at the cat's usual bus stop saying: "Many local people knew Casper, who loved everyone. He also enjoyed the bus journeys. Sadly a motorist hit him and did not stop.

"Casper died from his injuries. He will be greatly missed. He was a much-loved pet who had so much character. Thank you to all those who befriended him."

Casper's life on the buses came to international attention last year. It turned out that for four years he had been riding the no 3 bus, passing the Devon city's historic dockyard and naval base, en route.

He tended to curl up on a seat or sometimes purr around fellow passengers' legs, all the way to the final stop, stay on and make the return journey. Drivers got used to letting him off at the correct stop.

His owner, Sue Finden, said she had never understood what he was doing until a bus driver let her into the secret of Casper's travelling.

"I couldn't believe it at first, but it explains a lot. He loves people and we have a bus stop right outside our house so that must be how he got started -just following everyone on," she said at the time.

Postings on the website of Casper's local newspaper [" title="Postings], the Herald, proved just what a popular character he was.

"Hail to Casper the cat, I'll miss ya m8 ride in heaven," wrote Chris the bus driver. "RIP Casper, you will be missed," said another reader.

There were, inevitably, a few sick jokes, while Mick from Plymouth said he would not have let any cat of his run across roads and jump on buses.

And Eternal Optimist questioned whether the paper should be troubling itself with Casper's story: "I am so glad that I live in such a peaceful and crime-free city as Plymouth where so little happens that a dead cat is considered newsworthy."

However, Mel of Plymouth summed up the feeling of most: "RIP Casper, you were one cool cat! Reading about your travels put a smile on my face."

Friday, January 15, 2010

2 Scots poets

The Watergaw (by Hugh MacDiarmid)

Ae weet forenicht i' the yow-trummle
I saw yon antrin thing,
A watergaw wi' its chitterin' licht
Ayont the on-ding;
An' I thocht o' the last wild look ye gied
Afore ye deed!

There was nae reek i' the laverock's hoose
That nicht - an' nane i' mine;
But I hae thocht o' that foolish licht
Ever sin' syne;
An' I think that mebbe at last I ken
What your look meant then.

Tom Leonard (from HESITATIONS, and from FOODIES)

a dont give a shite
fur any a thim

a dont give a
a dogs turd

supposin thi entire

fuckin lot
and all thir fukin wurks an pomps

copped it
copped thi fuckin

whole thing

it would serve
it would serve thim

entirely accordin
tay thaht
which they totally fuckin deserve

thats ma opinion
and having delivered it
I will now have my fucking breakfast

rest assured

the cattle in our pies
were once
professors of psychiatry

ah like ma egg turned
the white quite firm

ma yoke saft enough
- though no too runny

thanks a lot

a could go
a right big haddock

deep-fried in batter
crunchy at the tail

thick in the middle
dead white inside

a single fish

Tom Leonard's excerpts from the etruscan books 1997 triptych: Raworth, Griffiths, Leonard.

"Watergaw" rainbow

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2 Irish poets

W.B. Yeats.....a stanza from THE TOWER

Does the imagination dwell the most
Upon a woman won or woman lost?
If on the lost, admit you turned aside
From a great labyrinth out of pride,
Cowardice, some silly over-subtle thought
Or anything called conscience once;
And if that memory recur, the sun's
Under eclipse and the day blotted out.


No, no, no, I know I was not important as I moved
Through the colourful country, I was but a single
Item in the picture, the namer not the beloved.
O tedious man with whom no gods commingle.
Beauty, who has described beauty? Once upon a time
I had a myth that was a lie but it served:
Trees walking across the crests of hills and my rhyme
Cavorting on mile-high stilts and the unnerved
Crowds looking up with terror in their rational faces.
O dance with Kitty Stobling I outrageously
Cried out-of-sense to them, while their timorous paces
Stumbled behind Jove's page boy paging me.
I had a very pleasant journey, thank you sincerely
For giving me my madness back, or nearly.

a poem by Dylan Thomas

The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark

Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from a chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.

Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound

Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.

And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors

Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains

All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.