Sunday, December 21, 2008

Marathon Reading at MLA San Francisco

Bulleted List

Poetry readings are like attending Sunday Mass. You attend out of obligation and hope for grace. The grace received from a poetry reading helps you move up in the purgatory that is poetry and hopefully up to a place of respect. If you are not invited to read then your ego takes a hit and you feel that you are wasting your time with poetry and you are not part of the 'in' crowd. But like a good Catholic your continue to go to the waters and hope for Grace.

Last year the MLA (modern language association) was in Chicago and Patrick Durgin and Robert Archembeau organized a marathon reading of40 poets two minutes each. The reading was kind of like speed dating. The lineup was wonderful- Barrett Watten (Homo Tweedius Poeticus), Kevin Killian (Homo Radicalus), Harryette Mullen (Homo Marvelousus) and big fat me with this company of bards;(over 40) on and on. But after about 20 minutes all the poetry kind of ran together as one big noise.

Marathon readings are not for the attendees. Marathon readings are communal exercises like going to Mass. Those who are in communion are invited to read and the communal song, like the daily office or the liturgy is conducted and grace is spread around. I have been in many marathon readings. One in Texas during AWP a few years ago went on for hours as we read outside with a nightstand as our only light in a back yard of a bar- I am sure that this year at AWP here in Chicago there will be a cacophony of readings. I am not demeaning the reading but for what purpose does a reading with 30 or 40 poets serve. When I lived in Dallas we did marathon readings for fund raising- these I understand- but who except for our loved ones really sits through a marathon of 30 poets?

During AWP 2004 in Chicago Kerri Sonnenberg did it right at her late Discrete Series. She had two nights 8 poets each night with breaks. The readers were stellar, Jen Hofer, Charles Bernstein, Pierre Joris, Cole Swenson and many more. The readings were a real celebration of the artform without the rush of 30 poets in two hours.

Having written my critique I hope you all go to the SPD Marathon in San Francisco. The reality is that SPD is sponsoring it and they need all the help they can get in this economy. But, I wonder what is the future of the reading? A few years ago the reading started to revive poetry but now in the age of the ipod and internet does the reading have a future as more than a vanity exercise?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Theotokos and Me

The Council of Ephesus held in 431 proclaimed that Mary is the Mother of God (Theotokos). The council proclaimed this canon at the urging of a virgin empress, Pulcharia. Ephesus is a city of Goddess worship. For thousands of years the city held the largest shrine to Artemis (Diana) in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor was the birthplace of Goddess Worship.

So the Bishops replaced the name Artemis with Mary and converted the Temple into Mary's shrine. It is also believed that Mary died and ascended into Heaven from Ephesus and until 1923 when the Christians of Ephes the current city were expelled they celebrated this fact. That is five thousand years of Goddess worship in one place. I think that Mary is happy about this worship.

This week Playboy magazine 'apologized' for publishing and issue in Mexico which garbed a nude model as the Virgin and then 'apologized' after selling thousands of Magazines. Amid all the puritan outrage I have to say what is it about the Virgin, the Mother of God, (and another 200 names that were once used for the Goddess) that so motivates protection?

I do not think that Mary really cares and Playboy is read by old men who should know better anyway. I am sure that all the other sexism is Mexico is still there and maybe they should get outraged about that?? Mary was a young pregnant refugee and she became the object of Cathedrals there is something miraculous about that- something that a few girly pictures cannot hurt.

I have always loved the fact that in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity paganism is right below the surface. I have lived in many Catholic places where Mary and the local goddess (Pachamama, Yemanja or others) are melded into an wonderful organic mix of pagan and Christian and I am sure that Mary the Mother of God does not care about this melding. This melding is what makes us human and I think it connects us to thousands of years; back to those cave painting in France and the small art pieces made by the first Americans and it makes us human.

I have never understood the need to strip away these paganism and look for some pure religion. Even the Jews had to steal monotheism from Pharoah Akhenaten in the end. It is one big river and we are all flowing in it. Also, what could possibly be uglier than a modern mega church?

These austere stadiums with no mystery and no sensuality- this is vulgar and disgusting.

Compare those places to the great pagan Cathedrals like Chartres and then tell me where God dwells. I think he dwells in great beauty and does not care if you are born again out loud all frothing at the mouth- God just desires that you have a true Metanoia in your soul a real change of heart a real transformation that you are changed by the fact that God is with us and is one of us.

Good old fashioned paganism is ok with me and knowing that the Goddess whatever she is called has been praised for 5000 years gives me solace. So when you see an Icon of Mary, you know the one with the globe and the snake and the blue and white just remember that Artemis and Cybele were portrayed the same way and that it is in fact natural.

My people from northern Italy have been praying to the Goddess and various Gods forever. They carved their rock carvings in Val Camonica before Abraham, before Moses and Before Jesus and it is their blood and history that flows in my veins. I am a Catholic but I am also part of all of that and it is all valid and it is all organic to who we are a humans.

I celebrate the Incarnation, the bearing of God a live human being this week I continue a story that is older than I know and I keep a tradition alive- the one where God inseminates a woman- and creates something new yet also eternal.

That is what Christmas is about-- God with us-- God entering us and making us whole and new again.

God with Us


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas is a Week Away

Christmas is a week away and the economy continues
to decline.
Detroit's newspapers no longer deliver daily
Hundreds of formerly rich people have lost everything because of the Madoff scandal.
President Obama is still in Chicago.
There are presently no southerners in Pres Obama's cabinet- it is nice to have a president who does not have to pretend to like NASCAR and sweet tea- Fuck the South.
It has been said that there are too many Chicagoans in the cabinet- again I say Fuck em. It is about time.
They are rioting in Greece but for what reason i do not know.
There is a hot rock band from Saudi Arabia of four young women but no one can see their faces because of fear- when are we going to tell Islamic Fundamentalists to Fuck Themselves?
Job anxiety is everywhere but I hope the Republic Windows and Doors occupation results in something better- Job action not Job Anxiety.
Las Vegas is falling apart from the recession....
2008 is over and we have a new president
The Rio Pact countries met in Brazil this week and excluded the United States but included Cuba.
Gas is 1.66 a gallon in chicago
It snowed again
I am tired of wearing boots

Friday, December 12, 2008

Herbert Hoover Territory

Yesterday in a closed door meeting with Senators, VP Dick Cheney said
that voting down the auto bailout would put the Republicans at risk of being in Herbert Hoover Territory. That is remembered for disemboweling the American Economy and pushing our nation into a Depression.

I watched with the rest of the nation as Senators Shelby (in the pay of foreign auto makers) Senator Vitters (of Brothel Fame) and Senators from around the South demanded that the UAW give up wages for existing workers and that the UAW cut off the millions of retirees who depend on pensions and health care from that contract.

They insisted that American automakers operate under the 'same rules' as the foreign plants in their states. It is interesting to me that their hypocrisy is not exposed. Here are the realities of the foreign plants in the USA:
  • These companies are all from nations that have national health insurance paid by taxes in their own home countries. The result is that unlike American companies they have no legacy costs.
  • These companies all receive support in terms of training and retooling in their domestic plants from their home governments freeing up money to expand globally.
  • These companies also do not have to exist in the USA under that VAT tax system in their own countries and most pay little or no taxes here.
  • These companies all received huge government subsidies from Southern States to locate there plants there.

The reality is that American companies receive none of these benefits. These American companies have had to compete for years with Japanese and European and now Chinese car makers that get all kinds of perks from their home nations. We have done nothing for our domestic industries.

That is the reason that Japan and Germany both nations that approach our standard of living still make large amounts of money from exports of cars, machinery and technical goods and America's industries are dying or dead. This is not to exonerate the automakers of their guilt but why is it that Southern Senators who are in the pay of these foreign companies can be allowed to destroy the domestic, American owned auto industry?

Why is it that these rapid anti-Union hating senators can demand that American workers see years of wage gains lost but we make no demands on foreign companies that benefit from our markets? Because it is not about money it is about a failed ideology, Neo Liberal Economics and even now in the face of Obama's ascent they will not stop their assault on the Middle Class.

The fact is that I do not come from a Union household in fact my family has always been ambivalent about Unions. But as someone who has worked globally my entire career it is unacceptable that we let foreign companies receive subsidy from their governments which I have seen with my own eyes- and yet it is considered "good" and "just" to let millions of Americans lose their jobs for some crazy idea that free markets and Social Darwinism are just.

Senator Jim DeMint said that if we bail out the auto industry their would be riots in his region.

Riots, huh?

Why is it that there is money for subsidizing water, power, roads, foreign auto plants, Wall Street Banks, in the South but there is nothing to save the economy in the Midwest and there has not been for 30 years?

It is because of an agenda that views educated, hard working, Union members as something less and views my region of the country as passe because we make things and do not push paper around.

I will say this to Senator Vitter of Louisiana imagine what your state would look like without bailouts? There would be nothing, no power, no roads no ports, yet for the Midwest there is a collective F-You- I don't see why we cannot get our tax dollars back that built everything down there?

Or would that be Socialism?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent--- Chicago 2008

We don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent--

There are pluses and minuses to Chicago's System. The minuses are the fact that everything is for sale and that we suffer under a strong corruption tax. The minuses are that because everything is for sale and corrupt and we are all cynical but I am not sure that those of us who live in Chicago want to change the culture?

There is a comfort in the fact that things can be fixed. In comparison to cities that have strong good government traditions like New York or Minneapolis Chicago gets things done while those cities dither. 8 years after 9/11 nothing has been completed in New York. In less than 4 years the Chicago Trump Tower (95 Floors) is completed. Chicago's streets are clean and services work and in New York it is a mess. The Chicago way is smashing and burley and tough and we like it that way.

The fact is that President Obama, like Adlai Stevenson and Paul Douglas has avoided the taint but he is like those other reformers of Chicago and the strong right hand. Having said that what Governor Blago did was new low. He is the king of the boodlers. We all pretend to be appalled. But this is the city of the Black Sox Scandal, Al Capone and Greylord.

The fact is that people here are ashamed of Blago because he got caught no one wants some liberal do gooder cleaning the streets we prefer the strong right hand and the tough guy be he Harold Washington or Richard j Daley. This culture gave birth to great chroniclers as well.How could Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel or Mike Royko have written in another city?

We are a city of toughness and corruption. When has this not been true? The first urban riot in American history the Lager Beer Riots of the 1840's was a riot against 'clean government' and prohibiting beer sales. Chicago likes its politics like its hotdogs full of fixings. The Chicago way is unique and corrupt. Now the whole world knows how we do our business and we sit a little ashamed- but when the lights go off to Washington-- we will return to our mantra....We don't want nobody nobody sent---

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Republic Windows and Door Protest Matters

There was a time in the United States when people worked at one company for their entire careers. Workers made things and managers sold them and people bought houses and lived middle class lives and the country prospered. Workers had pensions and healthcare and their kids went to college and life got better.

The America of that time has been systematically dismantled. Over the past thirty years the Conservative movement decided that if solidarity and stability were allowed to become institutionalized conditions in the United States that we would go down the road of European Socialism. In Europe there are laws regarding severance, vacations and workers rights. The conservative movement saw this happening here in the 1960's and so they created an idea to undermine this reality.

The idea is that what Americans really want is to have their own small businesses and control 'their own destiny' un encumbered by the state or workers rights laws. An entire philosophy was created to explain why Unions, National Health Insurance, Severance Laws, Low Cost College Tuition and Mass Transit were bad.

Moving your factory or business to the south where you can break unions or better to Mexico or China was good. National Health Insurance is bad because it takes away choice. National Health Insurance is bad for Conservatives because it controls costs and huge health care companies want to make as much money as possible. Mass transit is bad because you want people to think of themselves as individuals not as part of a group. Unions are bad because they drive up wages so what you do is keep wages stagnant but give people credit so that they do no have freedom and they use their credit to make up for the fact that they have not seen their wages rise.

The Conservative's goal was to spread the idea that we were individuals and that we all have a chance to be 'rich' someday. Why should we give our tax dollars for projects that benefit everyone? We are a society of rugged individualists not a community. If you dont succeed it is your own fault and we owe nothing to each other.

The dream of the Conservatives also came with a deep desire to destroy Social Security- the program that challenges their philosophy to its core. Since they could not destroy Social Security they created the 401K and they attacked pensions making them obsolete.

So a whole generation came to believe that if they put money into their 401k's and got alot of credit that they could parlay their home's growing value unto a nice retirement and a good life.
It appeared tht the Conservative philosophy had won. New cities built on this philosophy like Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, and Houston . While major older cities like Chicago and New York were doing ok, other cities like Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit were descimated. But of course the reason for their demise was the greedy unions and their bloated benefits. All seemed right with the world. The Europeans were laughed at as slow growing welfare states. They made fun of the fact that women in France get government help with maternity leave and help at home and money payments to raise their own children. We had our .com boom and then our housing boom. Our economy was filled with millionaires, on paper, and we all were buying huge homes in the suburbs. Unions and Solidarity and Community were quaint old notions while innovation and entrepenural capitalism became central to our society.

Then the house of cards collapsed. It turned out that all of it was a lie to funnel money to the top and it was a drug that kept the average citizen dumb and happy. Unlike the Europeans who have a safety net where workers know that if they lose a job they have a certain amount of severance and national health care when Americans lose their jobs they get nothing. Uncertainty set in and the whole think began to unravel. People stopped spending money and the circle of confidence ended.

While the US invested in Wall Street workers paid them millions to move paper around other nations especially in Asia and Europe invested in infrastructure and manufacturing. The leading exporter in the world by value of products is Germany not China. After all the money and all the leveraged buy outs and all the downsizing America is weaker and our people have no confidence in their financial safety.

So now what about Republic Windows and Doors here in Chicago? 200 mostly Mexican American workers are demanding that they receive their severance and vacation pay and prescribed by law. A lender the Bank of America cut off credit to the company but yet recieved tens of millions of tax payer money.

The workers did something that I think will be as important for the American Labor movement as the sit down strike in Flint in the 1930's or the Haymarket Square Riot of the 1890's they refused to go away. They occupied the factory and refused to be ignored. They said we refuse to be ignored and we want justice, imagine Justice in the America of Rugged Individualists?

For 40 years American workers have been ignored. When the cities of Flint, Michigan, Newark New Jersey, Gary, Indiana and Galesburg, Illinois were allowed to collapse with no help from anyone no one really cared about all those workers. And instead of protesting and refusing to be ignored the workers moved away or took less or went to work at Wal Mart because they did not want to be a 'burden' on anyone. They did not protest.

The Workers at Republic refused to do this and they have set a marker for other workers. The ideas of Milton Freedman, Ludwig Von Mises, and Arthur Laffer are as dead as the ideas of Leon Trotsky.

Where do we go from here?

President Obama, your move.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Poetry Readings in the White House?

President Obama announced today that he wants to bring culture back to the White House. He specially mentioned Poetry Readings.
What kinds of poets will President Obama invite?
I would be interested in knowing what my fellow poets think should be the poets invited?
Here are my choices for the first reading;
Alice Notley, Mark Nowak, Peter Gizzi, Harryette Mullen
Tell me who you want to read at the White House

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Over the past few months my life has become filled with anxiety with the economy. I have watched as friends and colleagues have lost their jobs and then watched as few of them have found work. We are entering a new and mean world and that world makes much of what I see in poetry less than serious in contrast. It is hard for me to concentrate.

It seems to me that this is an axial time in history while I am happy about Barack Obama's victory it seems to me that he is swimming against a tidal wave. I see it in business no one is buying anything and no one is interested in investing. The trickle down effects are evident everywhere.

I keep wondering about the past few years. The Internet and Housing Bubbles, the outsourcing of jobs to Asia and Latin America, the war in Iraq and 9/11. Seems clear to me that powerful forces are making decisions that are hurting literally billions of people and no one has any say over those decisions.

Michael Moore was on TV last night and he said something profound. When the bankers and money people came to congress they were helped immediately, when the Auto industry came for help they were chastised. Sure the auto guys made mistakes but worse mistakes than Goldman Sachs? The fact as Moore put it the auto guys make things. Their workers are not suit wearing elites from New York and Chicago and Charlotte they are working people and those people do not matter in America.

As we go into Christmas I see the anxiety everywhere. The fear of loss and losing everything. I see in my own family retired people watching their life's savings go up in smoke. A recent New York Times article said that within 10 years college will be so expensive that no one who is middle class could afford it anymore. It makes me want to scream "stop" and ask why?

The reasons are simple really. The elite's will always get what they want because they have power. The rest of us will pay for that power. The guys on Wall Street may be losing billions but they are all still very rich- when US Steel lays off workers they take away their pensions and severance and those workers lose everything.

I hope that President Obama remembers the regular people and I hope he understands what is happening to the country and the world. The new world order is here and it looks allot like the 1930's. I do not know what the solution is to this problem but what I do know is that many people I know will never have the lives they once had.