Friday, August 31, 2007

Two Books that Changed my Life

In the fall of 1985 I was a freshman at the University of Iowa and I read two books that changed my life. In many ways these books were tandem in history and they have always been in tandem for me as a poet and a person. It is the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road by Jack Kerouac and next year will be 6o years since the Publication of The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.

Kerouac's work gets dismissed often today because it is such a male book. We have become a feminised literary scene where expressions of maleness are treated as odd or oppressive. There is nothing female about Kerouac and this has elicited negative responses but like Merton's book and the Confessions of St Augustine Kerouac's journey is one that is taken by a man into his soul and he comes out as a new creation. In reading Kerouac I realized that I could fuse my Catholic self with my poet self with my child of immigrants self and make myself something new.

While it might seem strange Thomas Merton is doing the same thing. Merton unlike Kerouac is fancy people. Child of intellectuals- bon vivant- who chooses the most austere order in the Catholic Church. His book the Seven Storey Mountain is viewed today as naive but in many ways it encapsulates a Catholic sense that comes out in other writers as diverse as Flannery O'Connor, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. The romantic allure of ruined monasteries, Rome and monasticism that makes the hokus pocus of Catholicism seem romantic and real. Merton's book is again a male book but one where instead of going on the Road like Kerouac he goes into himself and contemplates.

As a 40 year old poet and professional I often go back to these books as pure mind candy. I have moved on from much of them but they remain lodestars for me and they allowed me to remain what I am a Catholic, a Poet and a questor. When I moved to South America these were two of the books I brought along and they sit with Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara as the greatest inheritors of Augustine's Confessions as books of journey and questing for more than the ordinary.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Time more time for Poetry

Today driving to work (it takes about an hour) I was listening to Francine Prose talking about Novels and writing on the Bob Edward's Show. It was nice to hear that someone is making money from their creativity.

I usually get up very early, like 330 AM I sit and breathe then I eat breakfast, I write, and then I work out . I am at my desk at 7 AM for work.

I have always been jealous of MFAer Pro Poets because they get so much free time. It is true that because I work in Business (I am Director of Events for a Business Publisher) I make allot more money than they do but time is always missing. I talked once to Ron Silliman about this he is another poet/business person and he feels that being outside of Po-Biz gives him more freedom I am not always sure that this is true.

I am always stealing time- like I am right now blogging- on airplanes or in hotel rooms or early in the morning to work on poetry or essays to remain engaged with the poetic and to listen for the still small voice and to create good work.

Mark Tardi always says that 'in the end the work will stand up or it wont. " I am not so sure about that? So many poets have either family money or academic insider status that their work is published more readily than work of others.

There is allot of great poetry out there but having the time to do the political work of po biz helps so much. How else does anyone explain Fence? A perfect example of the poetic dilettante magazine that caters to this world of MFAers, Pro-Poets and Biz Poets who are good at playing the game. Rebecca Wolf is a great marketer and I wish my company would hire her but as a poet/publisher not so much.

So time remains a constraint. I worked for my Dad for three years and I had allot more time to do stuff but most of it was the kind of Po Biz political stuff that really has nothing to do with poetry and much more to do with Socializing- I have ended this trend in my life. In the end I look at poets with whom I am friends who are committed to the Work of poetry and wonder why they are not recognized as readily and I wonder if the work really matters?

It is funny too because now that I own a book press people are NICER than before I get readings more easily and I get called for stuff but I doubt it is because of the WORK. In the end I wonder if those of us with less time on our hands are any less productive than the MFAer Pro Poets?

The Poet it seems in Capital Letters is dying. I look at the generation before me, Duncan, Notley, Silliman, Bernstein, and the Generation before that, Creeley, Olson, Waldman, and I wonder do any of us measure up to them? Find me a poet who is as good as Alice Notley? Or are we all made up phenomenons coming from Blogs and Websites? Who has the range of great poets from America's past, not even talking about non American poets who blow away our poetry easily.

I know who I like, Peter Gizzi is a master, Liz Willis too, Lisa Jarnot makes me proud to have been born in 1967, Chris Glomski makes me proud to have gone to Iowa with him at the same time even though we were not friends then, is their any poet more real than Joe Ahearn, Joshua Clover is a Villagevoiceesque poet but you know I cannot put his books down and I have come after much vomiting to love Joyelle Mc Sweeney's verseplay. I know that I have come to enjoy Simone Muench's tight lines and Mark Tardi's darkness-

Time- Time- Time

- if I only had more of it--- maybe I could get up at 2 AM??

Thursday, August 2, 2007

il Purgatorio

purgatory that place between heaven and hell where one is purged is the place where White Sox fans now dwell. I imagine this is what Cubs fans felt like two years ago- and I don't like it.

The Cubs, the embodiment of evil is the Postmodern World to paraphrase Ronald Reagan are in First Place. They seem to know how to play ball and for someone whose heart and blood in Black this is Purgatory.

In Chicago you can tell allot about a person on which baseball team they support. Cubs fans are attractive optimists, Sox fans are unattractive pessimists. Sox fans have anger under the surface, Cub fans have hope under the surface.

It separates us.

Quietly however I hope the Cubs win (while I will be rooting for their adversaries at every chance) because I am tired of the of the HBO specials and the celebrities and that aweful GO CUBS GO Song that makes me want to vomit. The loveable loser thing is disgusting and makes this White Sox fan sick.

In the end there are a few Cubs fans I respect- Like Mark Tardi and you have to respect a Southside Cubs fan; but in the end some of my deepest sports joys have come at the Cubs expense, Bartman, 1984 against the Padres (Still have my Padres Hat) it is pure joy for me but it is less joyful because I know what a World Series Champion feels like and maybe-just maybe Mark ought to have that pleasure once in his life as well....

Go Cardinals!!