Friday, September 26, 2014

Aspirational Heroes and Super-People Stories

I think a lot about Superman. The big guy. The classic cape.

Superman is a great image. He's really difficult to get a handle on, while being remarkably simple.

Superman, famously created by two small, awkward, and Jewish young men. Superman, who has been decried for decades for being dull, "goody goody," and one-dimensional. 

I was one of those people. I devoured comics with a voracious appetite for my entire childhood, but I never owned a single Superman comic until my 30s. I just didn't care. He didn't seem to have the depth and humanity that I wanted from my super-people, and I ignored him. My childhood especially was the age of gritty, "real" characters. Even super campy and absurd Batman became dark and serious. I loved the X-men, Spider-Man, the Marvel heroes who seemed so like me. Only, you know... superhuman and powerful and stuff. But otherwise!

Sadly, I didn't get Superman. Because Superman's appeal is exactly that he isn't normal. He's a classic aspirational hero, someone who you look up to and wish to emulate. He's not someone who has relatable flaws and weaknesses- though he sometimes does. He's distanced from humanity by the fact of his nature, but he's an ideal to strive for nonetheless. He's our collective wish that we grow better, that we become great. He's that imagined self inside of us that walks to the ledge to help the sick girl. 

I avoided superhero comics for many years. The male power fantasy irritated me. The characters I loved were still shallow, simple caricatures of real people. Actual human problems were occurring, making me ashamed of the ludicrous problems playing out on paneled pages. 

But I forgot one thing, and that one thing drew me back to comics as an adult- The stories reflect our human stories. They are out-sized, silly or absurd. But they're humanity writ large. They're our aspirations and dreams. They're our fears and pains in our heads that force us to the edge, and the heroes in our hearts that pull us back. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to the Ithaca

I'm back in Ithaca, preparing to move into our new house. It's been an insane year, but a fun one. I can't wait to get rolling in our upstate NY life once again. Once I'm settled, this sporadic blog will return. Perhaps to be less sporadic for a short time!

On an unrelated note, today is Charles Reznikoff's birthday. Enjoy his poem!

Now that black ground and bushes——
saplings, trees,
each twig and limb——are suddenly white with snow,
and earth becomes brighter than the sky,

that intricate shrub
of nerves, veins, arteries——
its knotted leaves
to the shining air.

Upon this wooded hillside,
pied with snow, I hear
only the melting snow
drop from the twigs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Poets Wha Hae

Rabbie Burns looking dandy and Scots
Poets don't stand much of a chance in the 21st century. The art of poetry has been supplanted by other mediums, and poetry itself is relegated to either ancient history or teens scrawling in margins. Sadly... because poetry is a living art, and should stay alive. Poetry is the spirit of language, and language is a fundamentally human endeavor.  In fact, I would argue that poetry is the logic of the heart. 

Let me explain!

In the days of my friend Robert Burns, poetry was living language. He communicated politics, love, national sentiment, revolutionary fervor, and much more in poems. Poetry was alive in a way that seems quaint to us but was very much a continuation of what words had been for millenia. From ancient sagas to pamphlets, poetry moved through human existence, informing and enlightening. Somewhere along the line, sometime during the 20th century, poetry ossified. The logic of the Word, the power of Logos itself, ceased. We needed to rely on a colder, more precise logic to communicate. We became newspaper men and trivia experts, and moved away from the truth of the poem. 

Logic as a formal discipline is important, don't get me wrong. Understanding mathematical logic is a great task, and I enjoy a good discourse on deductive, abductive and inductive logics as much as the next person. But poetry is a logic of words. 

We exist as creatures of narrative reality. Our stories, our words, inform the world as much as anything else we consider objective and infallible. Ideas like integrity, honor and chivalry are communicated through poetic logics, the Logos. The ability, through words and speech, to make what was unclear clear. We are stories, as much as we are anything. Humanity exists in that realm, and tells stories to frame what we are for the present and the future people. If we lose poetry as an art, or diminish it to some academic and linguistic ghetto, we diminish ourselves. 

Burns died at 37, like so many fascinating figures of history have. At 37 now myself, I think of what I can communicate and leave to my children, my students, my peers. Certainly not a Burnsian body of work, or a linguistic and cultural revival on his level. But a few words. A step in the direction of humanity, of real logos as a meaningful discourse in the world. A verse of the narrative that moves and defines us, humble though it is. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Crisp June Evenings and a Slight Wavering Towards Home.

Miller at Big Sur
Henry Miller spoke of the word home with venomous hatred. He saw home as an oppressive, stifling concept. While I don't necessarily share his passion, I do tend to agree with the sentiment. Home in an American context is a dull, harsh and sterile place. While Japanese people have tiny sweltering apartments filled with laughter and joy; and the Italians live in run down buildings with two simple pieces of furniture and smile through a shared meal. We sit and brood and compare in giant cavernous mansions filled with every convenience and luxury. Or we pine in noisy, cramped apartments for that same luxury we see in manufactured images of home. We find it unbearable or untenable to share any space at all, and we yell and scream and drive off others. Americans are the chattering birds of public squares.

I'm not excluding myself here, by any means. I'm as incapable of living with people as any other American. My spaces are as filled with gee-gaws and wasteful practices as any suburban American. And I'm certainly not making a moral judgment. Unlike Miller, who was disdainful of the American, I'm more baffled. I've lived in other places. I see how societies can work. I see the appeal of what my wife calls "intact societies." Not in a utopian sense- these societies are flawed as well, from top to bottom- but in a functional sense of being cohesive, relevant to human issues... well, intact.

All that is in my mind as I return to my new home. My place that is suited to me, ridiculousness and all. I'm settled, for as long as my children live here, in Ithaca, New York. The New York that isn't New York. It's a fine place- I may lament in my romantic weakness for a Prague in which to cross bridges... I pine in a bizarre academic sense for structured Berlin... I even long to round a spiritual corner in a Kyoto park. But Ithaca is a fine place. We have a lovely little house, the kids are thriving and growing. My own wanderlust is tied securely to nonsense I need to purge, and Ithaca is the place to do it.

And best of all, perhaps, Ithaca is filled with people who would understand completely what Miller means by home as an oppressive concept. Without malice or anger, they could listen and hear. They could, as Miller himself would say, talk without just heaving facts at one another. I can get into that. I will get into that. If a small part of me pines or laments from time to time, hey... I'm only American. Only human.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Some Certain Amount of Ado about Something

Much Ado About Nothing is far from the greatest of Shakespeare's works. I don't often see it referenced in scholarly works about the Bard. It's certainly not his best writing, though it does have some interesting commentary on the human condition that still resonates with me.

It's a bizarre, farcical comedy about marriage and friendship. Shakespeare himself probably had a pretty low opinion of marriage as in institution- he certainly wasn't terribly fond of his own- but Much Ado looks at it in a bizarre but favorable light. He manages a few jabs. (Forcing someone to marry the cousin of the girl you've murdered with slander? Do they make a card for that? What's an appropriate gift to give?)

Mostly it's a cute and odd little play about honesty, trust, and how illogical and stupid love can be. I still think one of the things that draws me to Jaime is her Beatrice like disdain for the common trappings of relationships. Not that I can spar with her on the level of Benedict. It's more like Beatrice and Claudio. But I do try.

I think what makes me love this play beyond all reason is that love itself is a ridiculous concept. Romance is strange and wonderful, and the play captures this perfectly. One of my favorite scenes is when they are trying to figure out what to do with Beatrice, and she goes on about how she needs someone more than a youth, yet not more than a youth... She admits the ridiculousness of the entire endeavor. It's such a nice scene, because she's fully aware that she sounds absurd, but doesn't care. The entire situation is absurd!

Ultimately what makes it work out for everyone is admitting we're lost and confused. We admit it's insane and we just have to try our best to be there for one another. It's marvelously human, like Shakespeare could be at his best.

I do still wonder if Hero doesn't bring it up from time to time when Claudio annoys her.

"Oh you don't seem to be enjoying your dinner. Remember when you were such an ass to me that I almost died?!"

"No honey that's okay I don't need a new dress. Oh hey remember when you turned my wedding into a slut shaming party? And you got my dad to tell everyone he wished I were dead?"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Blogpost of Albion Moonlight

There are so many writers and painters and musicians and artists of every stripe that have profoundly and irrevocably affected me. It would be impossible to even imagine a me that isn't shaped by art. I suppose I can see hints in my family past of what I could be without the billions of words... but they're subtle and fleeting glimpses. Not really me at all. I've been tied to words and paintings since I was conscious, and that's just a fact of my being. I like to imagine that it's been thoughtfully and reasonably, and it isn't just indulgence in cliche. Flaubert lamented that mass media would replace thought, and we would become parrots of ideas regardless of content. I hope I've avoided the worst of that, but I guess I can't exactly know. I'm a prisoner of my "received ideas," as he would possibly put it. And even in quoting him perhaps I fulfill that dangerous prophecy.

Nonetheless. The art and artists are a part of me, and I accept it even while acknowledging I'm largely powerless to change it. Especially as I near 40.

And no artist has affected me as profoundly as Kenneth Patchen.

That is not to say he's the greatest, or the most important. He's not. He's not even, like Robert Duncan or Ronald Johnson, one of the poets who altered my perception of how poetry is understood. But he's the poet who most resonated with my own idea of a life lived in art. He, like me, was inexorably linked to his one lifelong love. He was largely unrecognized during his life, but continued to create and communicate in his work. Unlike me he lived in pain and relative isolation. But even that has served as a lesson for me. I resisted the temptation, strong at times, towards misanthropy that many artists succumb to. I also had children, which provide a perspective and a joy that helps a person to find some solace in human company.

After all is said and done, I'm still more Kenneth Patchen than anyone else. I'd prefer to be a Peter O'Leary or Ezra Pound as a poet. But I'm KP.

Enjoy Lawrence Ferlinghetti's amazing elegy to him below. Hopefully someone as awesome as Ferlinghetti will someday see fit to honor me with such amazing words. But I'd take a sincere thumbs up if you're offering. Even a manly nod of approval!

An Elegy on the Death of Kenneth Patchen

A poet is born
A poet dies
And all that lies between
is us
and the world

And the world lies about it
making as if it had got his message
even though it is poetry
but most of the world wishing
it could just forget about him
and his awful strange prophecies

Along with all the other strange things
he said about the world
which were all too true
and which made them fear him
more than they loved him
though he spoke much of love

Along with all the alarms he sounded
which turned out to be false
if only for the moment
all of which made them fear his tongue
more than they loved him
Though he spoke much of love
and never lived by ‘silence exile & cunning’
and was a loud conscientious objector to
the deaths we daily give each other
though we speak much of love

And when such a one dies
even the agents of Death should take note
and shake the shit from their wings
in Air Force One
But they do not
And the shit still flies
And the poet now is disconnected
and won’t call back
though he spoke much of love

And still we hear him say
‘Do I not deal with angels
when her lips I touch’
And still we hear him say
‘0 my darling troubles heaven
with her loveliness’
And still we hear him say
‘As we are so wonderfully done with each other
We can walk into our separate ‘sleep
On floors of music where the milkwhite cloak
of childhood lies’

And still we hear him saying
‘Therefore the constant powers do not lessen
Nor is the property of the spirit scattered
on the cold hills of these events’
And still we hear him asking
‘Do the dead know what time it is?’

He is gone under
He is scattered
and knows what time
but won’t be back to tell it
He would be too proud to call back anyway
And too full of strange laughter
to speak to us anymore anyway

And the weight of human experience
lies upon the world
like the chains of the ‘sea
in which he sings
And he swings in the tides of the sea
And his ashes are washed
in the ides of the sea
And ‘an astonished eye looks out of the air’
to see the poet singing there

And dusk falls down a coast somewhere

where a white horse without a rider
turns its head
to the sea 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I, Ryan of the Mountain State, To You

I'm fascinated by the return to home. Even as a kid who had no experience away from home, the mythological return was a source of constant inspiration and reflection. When I first read Whitman, extolling the virtues of his native land in poetry, I was enthralled. Here was a person who wrote about himself as a voyager headed back to himself! It was perfect!

As I grew up, I discovered that most of the work I loved was about that connection of past and present. Van Gogh painted peasants in France who looked and acted like the peasants in his boyhood Dutch villages. The title of Olson's masterpiece Maximus Poems that I stole my post title from was himself, looking at his Gloucester youth. It was all about home.

Home is that idyllic place, home is the hell you raise up from... Home is the paradise of the people or the hell of the boredom. I laughed when my Seattle friends lamented being from "boring, backwater" Seattle when I had grown up in such a tiny little town. But it was futile. It was a tiny backwater for them because of that familiarity. It didn't matter what my opinion was, or objective population statistics.

The familiarity itself is fascinating. Home is where you are loved and bathed in attention, or ignored and mocked as a freak... but it is familiar by definition. It is what you were, and where you were.

My frequent Kerouac binges also remind me of one aspect of the home that other writers sometimes ignore. Home is where the legend of your life begins. It is the primal narrative of you, the first story.

I always loved that aspect of home. "I was born.." is the cliche. But it is meaningful. It's a positive cliche in the sense that it can still carry meaning. Love it or hate it, that's the start of your story. "I was born..."

It's a fascinating thing, home. No wonder it keeps being the story we write.

I've read that early humans had a completely different relationship to home. They were nomadic or semi-nomadic, and home to them was the Earth. It was the land and the trees as a continuum, not a specific geographic locale. Certainly not a standing structure they completed. That is inspirational and amazing, and I wish I were that kind of person. But I am not. Home for me is a geographical location, with all of the love and hate and ponderous reflection that implies. It''s ridiculous and baffling. But it's true. Home is rolling hills and oak trees. I love other places and things. I prefer other places and things. But as much as I truly wish to say I come from the western spiral arm of the milky way galaxy, that would be a lie. "I was born..." still exists for me in a limited way. Like so many others.

So we write on it. I wrote my huge epic poem Un/Fettered while living in Japan, Seattle, New York... but it's suffused with home. The narrow, confined sense. The subtitle is Constructing the Wild Beggar, implying a liberation and frugality that I long for and never achieve. The accuracy of it comes from the constructing, I guess. The desire to push beyond the limited and limiting "I was born."

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Scholar's Art and Manliness

"Poetry is the scholar's art."

I'm not a big fan of Wallace Stevens. But I can admit he perfectly expressed poetry with the above quote. Poetry is the art of the scholar. That doesn't mean necessarily that poetry is for academics. I'd argue the opposite, in fact. Poetry is the classic art, for scholars who wander the world with ink under fingernails and madness in their hearts. But it's the art for people who look and listen and learn from the past. It's only accessible through study. The great poets can speak eloquently about their poetics. They've read extensively, they've broken apart and dissected every aspect of words. They don't care about philology- but they've read the sections of Ulysses that speak to it. Poetry is for thinkers and scholars.

Emily Dickinson is a perfect example of this, in a sad and circumspect way. In her newly released book The Gorgeous Nothings, we see the brilliance of the poet in a way that was never possible in earlier decades. The book collects pieces of poetry and philosophy scattered across envelopes and scraps of letters sent by her to various friends and colleagues. They are written in sly interstitial spaces, and they're brilliant.

I like Dickinson's poetry. I always have. But her poems are restrained and limited. The poems we see from her are half-poems, poems from a scholar who was thwarted by the perceptions and attitudes of the nineteenth century about her gender. The most amazing work she ever did was in the margins, quite literally. Poets today have to contend with institutional issues of sexism and general ignorance, of course. But poets like Susan Howe are free to express themselves in a way poets like Dickinson never were. And seeing the amazing words written on the margins of the pages in The Gorgeous Nothings... it's a reprehensible wrong that it ever occurred.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Japan Pan Syndrome: Nihon Remix II

I've previously expressed my bafflement and enduring confusion with Japan. I mean I love it. But it has been a subtle kind of curse, as well. I find myself missing it a lot lately, for some reason. Maybe the weather, as I see the cherry blossoms are due to bloom in Kyushu this month. Maybe the culture, as I'm currently living in the whitest, most suburban place I've ever lived. Maybe it's the kids- Taviri has just discovered Japanese culture, and Arkaedi speaking Japanese would be the cutest thing that could possibly exist.

But mostly I think it's like I wrote five years ago- I'm not prepared for anything else. I lived my first 20 years as a prospective bhikkhu, filled with pretension and ideology. I had zero thought of the future, I was just skipping and ambling through life. I ended up in Japan on pure luck, doing a job and wandering over the country. It was as close to a logical conclusion as I could have hoped for. Except it wasn't a conclusion. I came back, went to school, had kids... I'm a teacher now. And I like that.

Except... again, it isn't a conclusion. I don't work that way. I'm already ambling towards the next thing. It's not healthy, or realistic, or smart. It's certainly not fair to the family. But it's true.

Friends talk about buying a house. I think of buying a house in the same way many would think of getting a fatal diagnosis. Which is silly. But it's how I feel. In fact, in the face of all the madness and instability in my life, it's practically the only thing that hasn't changed. I equate settling down and owning a house with death.

I'm better than I used to be. I can function as a normal person now, and I sometimes stay in a place for years. Even three years! But I'll never be settled in the sense that many of my friends are. I'll never be stable. And Japan is a big part of that. Japan is my crucible, where I lived during most of my twenties. It's where I grew up. Or failed to grow up.

And ironically, I'd like my kids to see it and live in that world. I don't care if they grow up or not. But it's nice to have the choice.

Also, Godzilla.
Meow! Grr!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Perched on Fire Escapes under Lights

I've written before about my affection for and occasional ambivalence about cities. Ironically, I'm currently
in the most rural place I've lived in my adult life. But more than my love of cities, I have a love of change. And a love of finding fun and interesting places to work. So perhaps it's less ironic than I think.
The funny thing is that despite my love of cities, I don't know how to really live in them. Cities are intoxicating to me. But like a lot of things that are intoxicating, I can't partake in moderation. I go broke in cities, I go insane with different restaurants, foods, people, places. I run and run and end up in serious trouble and desperately late for work. 

Here, I don't. I'm less enthralled with my surroundings (As Frank O'Hara said I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy...though I'd say coffee shop.) I hate places without sidewalks. I love nature but I don't like spending too much time surrounded in it. I'm always worried it will get on me. I like it like city people do- I hike and climb, explore... then head to a nice bistro for lunch.

One problem is that I'm really enthralled by a city that never really existed. I love old stone buildings and rattling fire escapes of some television studio past. It's the city of a person who grew up in a bland exurban town. And though I've lived in many real cities since then, and visited hundreds across the world, I've never totally left behind that image. It's false, but like the imagined cities, intoxicating.

I wonder where I'll find myself in the future. I imagine I'll have to settle down and cease wandering at some point. Will that mean a city or a town? A rural village? I'd be lying if I even pretended to have an answer. I don't imagine a Tardis will whisk me away to any of my preferred sites, 1920 London, 1947 NYC, 1930 Paris... Since it won't I'll take a page from O'Hara and "wait for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful" and point me in a direction.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spring Music and Tropical Wishes

Spring is the time of music. I always listen to music, regardless of time or place. Music is one of the rare constants in my day. But spring is when it matters the most to me.

Even though spring is pretending to come to the Mid Ohio Valley, I know it's a lie. Winter will reassert itself in a few days. But soon... Soon it will be spring.

This week I've been revisiting one of my favorites, Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain. It's an incredible record, something of an oddity for Davis. It's an attempt by Davis to connect jazz and other traditions, mostly Spanish folk and classical. The first track is based on a piece by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, who reportedly was not fond of the final result. Which is astounding to me, because I find the record to be nearly perfect. It's certainly not the modal jazz of his masterpiece, Kind of Blue. But it was perfect.

And it's a spring record. It's fun, light, engaging. Which is what spring is to me. Spring is light, fun. Spring is easy going and casual. Maybe that's why I listen to more music in the spring. My tastes range all over the spectrum, but I do find myself coming back to music that is energetic and fun. It's a nice counterpoint to my tastes in literature, I guess.

So as I post this the warm spring day has turned back into rainy, chilly winter. I knew you were a lie, fake spring. I didn't trust you. But I'm still putting on Sketches and pretending. Miles and I know the secret. It's spring when we hear it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Revenge of the Dharma Bums

I've written before about my appreciation for Kerouac. It's something a lot of people don't understand, to say the least. People typically discover Kerouac as kids and then set him aside. I get that. He's certainly a terribly flawed writer. But I'm consistently drawn to Kerouac. With all the flaws and problems and madness. Because that's his appeal. He isn't ever pretending to be anything but flawed. He was the first to acknowledge his weaknesses, and he desperately tried to catalog every instance of his own failure. Later in life you saw the sadly logical conclusion of this self doubt and criticism as he drank himself to death. He died at 47, ashamed and broken. But still writing.

The secret to Kerouac for me, and perhaps for many who still admire his work, is the madness and contradiction. He wasn't sure where he was or what he was doing. He hated his generation, he hated the war that had just ended. He later romanticized his youth but seemed to resent the Lowell of his youth even as he idealized it. He obviously lacked an understanding of relationships yet sought romance every moment of his life. I can relate to that madness. Humans are complex creatures, and we're bombarded with our own contradictions every day.

Another great hero of mine, Walt Whitman- more genteel and philosophical than Jack- was accepting of it. "I am large, I contain multitudes" could very well be a mantra of Jack's, if he had stopped to consider it. Kerouac always seemed so afraid of his intellect, afraid to pursue the great thoughts and deep passions of his life. He was always running towards a smaller world. He avoided the wild friends and comrades he loved, and sought a middle class life that never really suited him. He constantly regretted not having that monochrome world to fall back into.

Funny that Allen Ginsberg, so much more unstable in appearance, could appreciate Whitman and live to be an old man. While poor Jack was too frightened of his own mind to seek out the words that would have helped him cope. And as much as I feel for the person, that fear and self-recrimination is what draws me to the work. It's fascinating to me. With all of my own instability, wanderlust and hopelessly labile reflection, I never see any reason to run from myself. I never blame. It just seems counterproductive. I'm not sure if that's a sign of mental health or a signal that I'm lacking in some aspect of my reasoning. But if it prevents me descending into Kerouac's dark depression, I'll stay grateful for it.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Conquest of Initial Lines

"Read Poetry: It Makes Men Better." Pyotr Kropotkin

Leave it to revolutionaries to talk about art in such stark and serious terms. I love it. Peter Kropotkin wrote this advice, advice he himself received. He seemingly took it to heart. An amazing writer, scientist, revolutionary, and all around brilliant mind, Kropotkin was an early victim of the horrid backwards anti-revolution that was Bolshevism. But his brilliance was such that it outlived the failures of his age. Many great people do.

I'm working some interesting ideas about Kropotkin into my new poem. And it says a lot about myself that I'm having trouble finding a way to say a very simple thing. Below are several examples of one line that I'm struggling to include.

Kropotkin tended his gardens

Kropotkin tends gardens

Kropotkin has gardens in fallen Tsar’s shadow

Kropotkin tends his garden

Kropotkin, against mangled greenhouse glass, tending

Kropotkin and his gardens,

Kropotkin/ tends his gardens

In the spirit of my dear comrade and fantastic writer Hercules, let me analyze and compare! I don't promise to be as thoughtful and contemplative as he is on his many wonderful blogs, but let's have a look.

The general sense I'm trying to evoke here is this: Late in Kropotkin's life, he returned to Russia in the midst of turmoil. The Revolution had come, manipulated and controlled by a small elite group. Kropotkin and his communal anarchists were variously ignored, subjugated, oppressed, or placated. Kropotkin was famous and influential enough that Lenin allowed him some small leeway. But he was defeated, his revolution was stalled or lost, and he knew it.

In particular, I'm thinking of a scene in Emma Goldman's illuminating My Disillusionment in Russia, which details the pathetic state of the country and relates a meeting with the elderly Kropotkin in which he discussed his passions for botany, among other things. It struck me years ago, and even now I can easily recall that exact emotion- awe at a man so calm and focused, bittersweet regret that his dream died, admiration for a man still working and thinking when it felt so late in his life and his struggle.

With the line, which opens a section of my newest long poem Sophia, I'm going for all of this. This is the economy of poetry- and the curse. Sophia is about wisdom, all kinds and forms, striving for wisdom, reaching aspects, failing to achieve other aspects... It's broad and conceptual and challenging. So the line, simple and direct, needs to be all of that.

(Sometimes I envy essayists. Or raconteurs. Lucky bastards!)

In the beginning I leaned towards the simple, "Kropotkin tended his gardens" It was concise, it said what needed said. Never, poet, say more than you need to say. You're not a pundit. Yet I came back to the line because something was missing. Something was unsaid that needed said. So I tried to be more evocative, with "mangled glass" and "greenhouses." I even invoked the Tsar! With a T! 

But that was too much. It leaned towards biography, or that most immortal of poet sins, flower language. That would never do. So, Kropotkin and his gardens? "Kropotkin/ tends his gardens" has a nice flow and all, but it leads to confusing enjambment. Which, while an awesome band name, is bad for Sophia. So, what to do? 

Like all good poets, I wrote and moved on. The line will stay for now as "Kropotkin tended his gardens" and it'll do. I may come back to it. Strangely and wonderfully enough, in my mind the image of old Pyotr moving around his garden, sad but content, will come back to me time and time again. It seems only fair that the poem continue to return as well.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Muses of Fire

There is nothing in my life quite like writing. It's one aspect of my life that never changes. Regardless of where I am, what language I'm speaking, what job... I write. I write all kinds of things, but always it comes back to the Poem. Sometimes many poems but often it's one Poem, long and persistent and wordy. I can strive towards brevity in other aspects of my life, but the Poem has none of that. It's thousands of words, huge floods of words, ignoring all sense and structure.

The Poem is commencing. I know I'm hurtling towards a madness like my friend Ezra here, but I can't resist the poetry!

I've completed one 200 page epic, and I love it.

I had hoped it would cure the poetry... But it didn't. It ignited more poetry. I'm beginning to suspect cold turkey is the only way to salvage sanity, but I'm too weak to stop the Poem.

And it's worse than that. Because two competing poems are being written even now! I'm definitely careening towards squinty shirtlessness like Mr. Pound. Thankfully Ezra's poor political choices are not my curse... I'm too goofy and sentimental for fascism.

One of the poems is progressing nicely. It's a long poem based on the Gilbert schema of Ulysses. The Irish one. Not the Greek one. I love how it's moving along. Enjoy the first few pages!

Pattern Imposed


Stately it begins,

​​ending when years do,

​​at odds with bright energies and fortune.

​​O poem,

​​​think on it as journey to discover
​​​old dirt roads carved through temporary
​​​with temporary needs considered.

​​​All this a methodology of civilizing

​​​​under bridges, tired vestiges of old ways

​​​​​​old ​​days

​​​​​​old misanthropes

​​​​​for the lost dead.

history of you

framed devices​​​​​​​screened reality

​​trains pull against

​​​​​old world had
​​​​​horses cattle aquaducts

​​(what else but)
​​​organized civilization. Order and/Chaos

levels and pulleys machines and muscles
​​powerful plays go on

​Stones push up against nitrogen and oxygen

​Victorious dead
​​​​​​​past is

proscribed Arrow of time ---------------->
​​​​​​laws of
​​​​​​energy space

Forever motion
​​​​​to this, a conclusive statement


​​I am unsure of the surety
​​​confident of sincerity.

Friday, February 7, 2014

I'm 37! I'm not old!

Van Gogh died at 37. I don't know why that intrigues me so much, but it does. Van Gogh died when he was exactly my age. It's a meaningless coincidence. But it intrigues me.

Partially because I adore everything about Van Gogh. But mostly it's something else.

These years are odd ones. These are the work years, the family raising years. These are the times in which we settle down, we focus on practical things, and we summon whatever pragmatism lives deep inside of the most insane of us and get to work. And I've done that. By and large- my job still consists of wrangling kids and talking about magic.

(Today a student informed me that she didn't get money for her lost tooth because 'The Tooth Fairy is broke!' And if that isn't a confluence of magical and pragmatic I don't know what is)

But largely I've tried to be practical, working, raising kids, bedtimes, etc. I spend my evenings writing and creating, I'm eccentric enough, but I'm normal. For a given value of normal.

But 37 is where that focus on normalcy is not only most important to your life but also most challenging. It's harder to be normal at 37 than 20, because you don't truly get normal yet at 20. It's harder to be normal at 37 than at 70, because at 70 you're past concern with shallow ideological conceptions are either just live- ideally- or just stop.

37 is the end of "I'm just doing this til my big break." It's the start of being creative and delusional as a state of existence rather than a young person's hobby. 37 was Van Gogh painting through madness in Arles.

I think this is more profound to me now than it will be at 40. Though it's speculation- I've never been 40, maybe it'll awaken new levels of maddening introspection! I can only wonder and dread!

I can't help but think, though, writing my newest huge rambling work, reviewing everything I've created, love or hate it... How odd it is to be 37.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Blog Post Redux: The remastered tapes

My year is progressing nicely. Moving right along, busy and productive...

Oh except for the blog! I had almost forgotten!

I had planned on posting a long series of articles detailing my move from Ithaca to my current teaching gig in Parkerburg, West Virginia... But hey surprise surprise that didn't happen! Setting up in a new state, teaching kindergarten and managing my family has taken more energy than I had anticipated. More than I possessed earlier in the year.

I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things soon, however. For a few reasons. One, I have way to many images of Krankor not to share.

Two, I want to find some center in the mad whirlwind of teaching and working and moving, and that is best achieved through reflection. I assume. I've never been terribly successful at finding balance, however, so it's all highly speculative at this end. At the very least I can hope for a dogged professionalism.

So, that's the range. Perfect balance of mindful contemplation and work, seamlessly blended, or the dogged professionalism littered with bizarre pop culture references and Japanese movie stills from the 1960s. That's a fun spectrum!

I should have titled this blog The Fun Spectrum.

Location:5th St,Marietta,United States