Saturday, January 31, 2009

AWP is Coming to Chicago

In February AWP is coming to Chicago and I
have been deluged with readings invitations
and calls for books.

Cracked Slab Books the press that I run with
William Allegrezza will have a table so if you want
to say anything to me I will be there and if you are
especially mean I will give you free book if not you
have to pay for them. I am only kidding of course. I enjoy AWP but this year's edition has some problems. First off most of the sessions look tired and filled with Poets talking to poets or Billy Collinesque poets talking about how they feel.

These events usually make me want to vomit.

But my biggest crit is more of the attendees not the organizers. There must me 30 reading scheduled off site during the conference. I am reading in two of them but I live here in Chicago. I am always amazed at poets who travel to another city filled with fine poets and then they organize a reading for their poetry community. The truth is you can listen to yourself at home perhaps you should seek out new poets that you don't know in a new city?

Or must we bring New York and San Francisco to Chicago?

When I was at AWP in Austin, a town filled with good poets (Joe Ahearn, Hoa Nguyen, Dale Smith just to name a few) I read with a group of poets from Chicago. I enjoyed it but I think the organizers of AWP should do more to highlight local poets and writers when they come to a city.I know that the Poetry Center of Chicago proposed a session on Chicago poetry and reading and they were rejected. So on Friday February 13th at 630 PM they are organizing a reading for Chicago poets in which I am reading. Why wouldn't AWP want to have that kind of reading affiliated with their event?

A quick look at the featured presenters at AWP includes only three writers who have anything to do with Chicago, Luis Alberto Urrea, a fine fiction writer, Stuart Dybek, a fiction writer and Tyehimba Jess who is a poet. In a city with as many poets as we have writing at this time this is pretty thin on the ground? What about all the other fine poets here in Chicago and fine fiction writers? You could have bumped Carolyn Forche for a local poet or writer who would bring more?

Who did the organizers call?

I can name at least ten poets writing in Chicago today whose work is seminally important, Garin Cycholl, Chris Glomski, Peter O'Leary, Simone Muench, Phillip Jenks, John Tipton, Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, Robert Archembeau, Kim Lojek, William Allegrezza, and Kristy Odelius are just a few of the names. In the region we have poets/writers as diverse at Gabriel Gudding, Kass Fleischer, Joe Amato, Cole Swenson, Meikal An, Chuck Stebelton and Clayton Eshelman .

None of these poets or writers merited being featured?

Our press Cracked Slab Books published two years ago an Anthology of Chicago poetry that has sold over 1000 copies and I am sure someone at AWP has seen our book? If not, I could have sent them a copy. We had over 30 poets in our anthology all of whom have published books, why not feature the city that is hosting AWP? This is an oversite. They are doing a Gwendolyn Brooks tribute reading- ok- she is a great poet but there are many living poets or writers who should be highlighted as well.

It appears to me that AWP needs to decide what it is? Is it Book Expo America? Is it MLA? Is it
Poets and Writers Live?

The fact is that there are too many writing programs, churning out MFAers, taking money from young writers who then go into debt to pay for a degree that will not get them anywhere in the job market.

There are many great writing programs but there are also writing programs that exist for the same reason that many other programs exist- to collect money.

How many more unemployed MFA's do we need?

As Rexroth once said get your nose in the armpits of the world and then go write- this is the great anti-MFA Sentiment. You do not need an MFA to to be a poet or a writer- but you do need direction and community.

What Poets and Writers need is an organization that leads the artist to grow in his/her art and craft.

The following questions would be good ones to answer....

How do you start a website? Blog or online Magazine?
How do you start a press? Is it worth it?
How do you build a life as a poet or writer?
What does it mean to work outside academia and write?
What should I be reading?
What is the best way to educate yourself?
Do you really need an MFA? Or are you throwing away money?
What is the place of the poet or writer in our society?

If AWP wants to organize an educational conference for administrators or professors of creative writing that would be good but that is not what AWP is.

Anyway come by our table and let me know that you disagree with me I love a good argument!

If you come by we can go out for a Beef Sandwich- on me.

Special kisses for New York and San Francisco poets who are out of sorts in the middle of the country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I would love to show you around our little town....

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Death of the Creative Class 2009 RIP

This is the headline on the Huffington Post today and as a person who is an unemployed media exec I sit amid all of this mess and hope that I will not all be washed out to sea. Literally tens of my friends are now unemployed and we are all fighting for the few jobs left. Magazine, Book, Event and media people all cut loose at once.

Some clever author called us the "creative class" many of us migrated to Media, Internet, Events and Magazine publishing because we wanted to do something creative and also be able to make a living. These creative people moved into the internet, events, media and the web and we created the new economy.

Now the creative class is being destroyed. In the places where those people live, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Austin and Los Angeles we are being let go wholesale and our jobs and our properties are being liquidated.

The death of the creative class is here and all those highly educated world citizens are being let go the world Tom Friedman is not Flat it is a crater and we are sitting at the bottom of it...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wall Streeters in Jail? Why Not?

In today's New York Times Maureen Dowd asks why aren't people like former Merril Lynch CEO John Thain is not in jail? He used government bailout money to pay bonuses to failures and he also used our money to spend millions on a new office.

While I support President Obama and want him to succeed I would like a little more anger and a little more indignation. Literally millions of Americans are losing everything because of what these Wall Street hucksters did to our economy. University endowments and charities are closing because of their lies and deceptions. Companies are not spending money out of fear of what is to come.

Yet no one has demanded that the cheats who caused this on Wall Street come before the American people and make it right. Why is it that the Auto execs can be chastised but the presidents of these Banks are not sought to account for their miss use of the market? When Franklin Roosevelt railed in is first inauguration against the malifactors or great weath these were the folks he was talking about.

As a person who has worked in business since college I have watched what has happened close up. CEO's and senior executives consume all the revenue and leave only crumbs for their employees. Money people destroy good businesses because they want more return. In the end we are all poorer and weaker.

It is time to say enough.

People like Mr Thain need to be put in jail. Bernard Madoff should be awaiting trial in the New York County Jail not his penthouse- and the government should looking for money to make this right where it is in the Hamptons mansions of the Wall Street thieves. Their money was not earned- it was stolen and it is time for Americans to get justice.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Something Changed in Chicago- President Obama

Tomorrow Barack Obama of Hawaii and the SouthSide of Chicago
becomes president of the United States. The day after Martin Luther King Day.

For those of us who are now reaping the joys of the Great Recession it is a moment of hope amid dreary days where we worry about surviving.
Our lives and our worlds are on a knife edge and when BAM says that he will be thinking about us when he becomes president we have to hope
that he is really doing so.

In my lifetime- since 1967 allot has happened. Barack and Michelle Obama are roughly my contemporaries and since Michelle experienced growing up in Chicago at the same time I grew up in Chicago it is something to reflect on where we have been.

During Michelle's Childhood whole areas of Chicago were depopulated of White Ethnic residents many of them moving because of racism, fear or blockbusting. Amid a very sad and rough time in Chicago between the death of Richard J Daley and the death of Harold Washington Chicago changed and that difference made Barack Obama possible.

The neighborhood that my parents fled to was completely White in fact in my high school only 22 miles from the largest concentration of African Americans in the United States there were two black students. During my 13 years living away from Chicago something changed. Today for all of our problems in Chicago, Northsiders are Northsiders and Southsiders and Southsiders and skin color really does not have that much to do with it anymore.

Sure there are bigots and racists but a black family can shop at my local Italian store and there are no problems and I can go to Mac Arthurs in Austin and no one doubletakes and no one really cares. Sure there is bigotry but somewhere during my life and Michelle Obama's something changed and we stopped thinking about each other as enemies.

Now as a nation we wait for President Obama. I for one have put the President's picture in my living room. Like Franklin Roosevelt whose picture hung in my Grandparent's business I will hang President Obama's picture. The reason is simple we need and icon of possibility and Mr Obama is that person. President Barack Obama means something. It is not just an election it is much more it is the vindication of a dream but it is also the vindication of what happened here in Chicago from 1964 to the present.

I recently submitted a poem to a chapbook for the inauguration edited by a poet from De Paul University. The poem I submitted was about an Obama for senate rally I attended in Cicero, IL in 2004. It was held on the corner of Ridgeland and Cermak in the same exact spot where in 1967 the year of my birth Martin Luther King was hit with bricks and bottles for asking for open housing. Our rally had 4000 people and no one threw bottles or yelled racial slurs.

In 1968 74% of the people in Cicero voted for either George Wallace or Richard Nixon. Those were my people, Italians, Poles and Bohemians and they chose Wallace or Nixon. In 2008 Cicero, IL, now a multi racial and ethnic town went 69% for Barack Obama for president. Something changed in Chicago and America a small dream has been realized and it is with that hope on this Martin Luther King day that my despair is calmed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reading Camus and Looking for a Job


There is a great pod cast from Stanford that I am addicted to

This Professor Robt Harrison does a radio show and everyone is fascinating and stimulating and I recently listened (While on the treadmill) to a wonderful show on Albert Camus.

I have always been a Camus fan. He is by the far the greatest French essayist of the 20th Century and I don't want any guff about Sartre who is in my mind despicable and is one step away from a Fascist (Heidegger and Sartre are morally equivalent).

So as part of my descent into unemployment I am immersed in Camus. I am going to read the entire corpus and see what new wisdom I can ascertain. I am in love with Camus' idea of the north versus the south so lets see what he does to me.... ?


I am starting to get email invitations to readings at AWP. One of my pet peeves is the reading situation at events like AWP. Poets (and it is always poets) from cities outside of the host town (the Italian word Stranieri comes to mind) organize their own readings so they can replicate their poetry scene in the city they are visiting. When I read in Austin, TX during AWP a few years ago that was the case.

So on Feb 13th which is a Friday I am reading at the Chicago Poetry Center reading (630 Art Institute Ballroom on Michigan avenue with Chicago poets Simone Muench, Chris Glomski, Kevin Coval et al) and the Mandorla Translation reading at the Chicago Cultural Center at 830 PM. But there are another 5 or 6 readings going on at the same time.

New Yorkers are To Blame for Everything

I tend to blame the New Yorkers for this- they are so provincial and they get out of sorts so far from the garbage dumps of the Meadowlands and the stench of the East River. They have to bring their own scene with them so that they can remain hermetically sealed in irony. The Californians are much more palatable- as always with sun people versus darkness people.

Cracked Slab at AWP

Cracked Slab Books the press I run with Bill Allegrezza is going to have a table at the bookfair. Any of my blog readers come by and I will sell you an autographed copy of Immediate Empire my book for $10.00 (A savings of $5.00). And if you say nice things about it I will buy you a beer and if you write a good review dinner is on me....

Happy Great Recession Everybody it is 38 degrees below Zero windchill today in Chicago the kind of weather that makes me want to tear my eyes out one at a time....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Not in A Poetry Mood

It is hard to be Irascible when things are as they are.
Poetry does not suffice as of yet
and questions are the central part of what you ask?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry and the New Reality

Poetry and the New Reality.

Many professional poets are academics and thus they are less than effected by the current Great Recession. Unlike the past when many poets were tramps or worse most poets today can continue in comfort.

But if you are a poet and a working person who is now living in the
Great Recession. If you are in the process of losing what little you have it is time to write poetry for the facts of the new America. We are a nation that is spinning out of control and it is up to poets to say something.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Abyss and Me

Well yesterday was my day to become part
of the Great Recession. The division of my
former employer eliminated many positions
including mine.
As we look at the world today we see so many
people who have played by the rules losing their
footing. It has been a long time since so many people have gone from
secure and middle class to marginal and poor.
But that is the world we are entering.
I hope will all my heart that President Obama's goals are achieved and that the economy is turned around. But having said that I fear for those people like myself who until recently were in the middle class who now are looking at the abyss with trepidation. The reality is that there are millions of us who are in this position and many are some of the most productive and the most educated but this does not matter.
I am more fortunate than others in my company since many of the others have children at least I do not have that burden. In the end however there is a whole generation in the prime of life who are seeing the world they have functioned in for their professional lives destroyed. We are entering a new phase and it is a mean season as the world decomposes before our eyes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Anxiety and the Great Recession

For most of the past six months the economy has been in a free fall. For those of us who work in business we have watched as colleagues disappeared. Like Soviet Russia in the 1930's they just disappear and we don't speak of them again.

Each day there is anxiety and fear "will today be the day?"
People say that this Recession is nothing like the Great Depression.
Paul Krugman disagrees and I am beginning to think he is right.
The fact is that everyone I know is leveraged to the hilt and they dont really own anything outright. That type of lifestyle does not fare well when you do not have a job.
I am lucky that I seem to be making it through today. But, tomorrow that is up in the air.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Noah Eli Gordon As Reviewed by Chris Glomski

I just read a review of star poet Noah Eli Gordon by Chris Glomski the link is above.
There are many points in Glomski's article that bear reflection and Glomski being a finely honed mind has brought those to the fore. I have been unfairly critical on this blog of poets who I think are elitists.

I have been unfair to poets like Peter O'Leary who while there is no doubt of the elitism are creating something new. While I might not like the 'style' or the 'intent' there is no doubt that something new is the Poundian sense is being created.

Poets like O'Leary are also coming out of the pleroma of the poetic gods like Duncan and of course Olson and his antecedents using tools to create new poetry and this comes from great depth. As a result the work while elitist or obscurist is original and has merit.

The same cannot be said for other poets.

Glomski notes in his review (please link above to read the whole review)

"If nothing else, Noah Eli Gordon’s work seems worthy of attention precisely to the degree that it causes one to reflect on how all poets may be at the mercy of an assiduous, if not obsessed, mimicry. It would seem that the best poets (to the extent that they become capable of forging something unusually novel) are those whose attempts at mimicry inevitably falter—just enough—that they stumble upon something unmistakable, appropriate, and yet new. Therein lies the master-mimic’s problem: he gets it all too right only when he is most unlike himself"

Mimicry goes back at least to the Psalms which mimicked the Canaanite and Egyptian prayers. But I think that the key to a good mimic is that there is variation and growth and that the mimicry allows the poet to give to his/her art a voice while using a form as his own.

A voice is something unique and urgent. Glomski encapsulates in his review something that I think is one of the most important questions for poets writing today- what is behind their mimicry? What is behind the craft?

I have always loved poets whose work allowed us to see into their innards. Pound, Williams, Stevens, Spicer (whose new Collected is Fabulous), Rexroth, Vallejo mimic and imitate but the sheer richness of their lives and their reading comes shining through and so the mimic is a tool for the ever richer work and it fills with interest. You feel like you getting an inside look at these people's poetic souls.

What Glomski is saying about Gordon- and he does it in a very elegant way- is that the mimic is a replacement for that kind of depth. It appears in Glomski's review that Gordon is skimming the surface and that the mimicry while masterful reveals something else about the poet.