Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
In front of me in line was a nice looking woman pretty typical of Oak Park, IL where I live.
You know Oak Park is allot like other towns of its ilk, Berkeley, California, Montclair, NJ, Bethesda, MD, lots of organic groceries, Liberals, New York Times bags on the front stoop in the morning.
My wife and I moved here as part of the Great Sort and we have liked it.
So back to the pretty woman at the grocery store- as we are waiting on line she is hiding her Credit card in her hand so that no one can see it. At the last moment she swipes it and it is revealed to be an Illinois Link Card (food stamps). With a moment of apparent embarrassment she quickly puts the card into her wallet and leaves the store quickly.
As she got into her Volvo, with the faded Obama '08 sticker on the outside I knew exactly how she felt.... at that moment
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Last night I could not sleep.
I find this to be a state I am in allot recently. The life of a tramp and the life of the poet tend to meld together and one realizes that trying to live two lives is not always possible.
Last night however on HBO they aired their documentary on the Schmatta (apparel)business in New York that is the Apparel and Fashion industry. As I watched it I could not help but remember the great quote by Martin Niemoller about Nazism
Monday, October 19, 2009
Documentary Poetics: Mark Nowak Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - 6:30pm
In his spectacular book of Essays Oranges and Peanuts for sale Eliot Weinberger says something that many poets do not want made public- in the late 1960's many poets moved from politics to theory. Weinberger argues that this retreat by poets into academia and away from politics has removed poets from political discourse and left that field to others.
It is hard not to argue that point. Except for Sam Hamill's effort with Poets Against the War in 2001 most poets are much more comfortable in the library then on the barricades. One major exception is poet Mark Nowak who will be reading here in Chicago on Wednesday at Think Arts Gallery.
His new book Coal Mountain Elementary sits on a par with Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America, Neruda's Canto General and even Walt Whitman as a chronicle of our world today in poetry and photographs. With his collaborator he bridges the gap between coal workers and places in the US and China and creates and masterpiece.
I have the honor of introducing Mark and I am sure that this reading will be worth the time to travel to Wicker Park. His work is always timely and politically engaged which makes his poems and the photographs of his collaborators essential reading for today.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
German minority and a fine poet and
writer has won the Nobel Prize.
Below is a list of the last 1o winners notice a trend?
2009 - Herta Müller-Romania/Germany
2008 - Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio-France
2007 - Doris Lessing-UK
2006 - Orhan Pamuk-Turkey
2005 - Harold Pinter-UK
2004 - Elfriede Jelinek-Austria
2003 - J. M. Coetzee-South Africa
2002 - Imre Kertész-Hungary
2001 - V. S. Naipaul-Trinidad/UK
2000 - Gao Xingjian-France/China
1999 - Günter Grass-Germany
All these writers except for Orhan Pamuk and JM Coetzee are either European or based in Europe for many years. There are no North Americans, No Latin Americans, No South Asians, No East Asians, No Australians, one South African, one Turk, one Chinese person who writes in French, and a Trinidadian who has lived in the UK for many years.
It appears to me that the Nobel Prize has become a version of the New York Book Critics Circle which is normally an award for someone who lives in the five boroughs of New York. The Nobel for those who live in Europe.... what does Philip Roth, Don De Lillo, Mario Vargas Llosa or Bei Dao need to do?
Move to Europe...
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
For most of my life I have lived two parallel tracks. I returned to the US after living and working South America in 1998 and I have been both poet/critic and businessperson. The result of this dichotomy is that I could move between these two worlds picking and choosing my reality at will. It was a comfortable existence because you were never totally consumed by one or the other and this lead to innovations in my thoughts and a variety of influences. I spoke about this with Ron Silliman once that not being an academic allowed for more innovation and sense of being grounded in two worlds and he agreed. In this area I have always admired Ron and tried to emulate his efforts living my parallel lives.
The Dichotomy of parallel lives ended for me in January when I lost my job in the Tsunami that is the Great Recession. Immediately self reflection and the Nexus of change became reality and for me and I began to search for answers. I found some in books of course.....
I have always loved autobiographies, collected letters and memoirs. I find these books to be very revealing. In the way the Bible or Zen Koans give us guidence I find solace and inspiration in these types of books. I began by re-reading old favorites, St Augustine's Confessions, Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Pablo Neruda's My Life, and from these old friends I found some solace and some inspiration.
Then I moved on to other books, Nadezha Mandelstahm's Memoir, Kenneth Rexroth's Fictional Memoir which I have come to really treasure, The Duncan/Levertov Letters, William Everson's Autobiography, the Pound/Zukofsky Correspondence, the Camus Diaries and Letters and many other books.
Out of this melange of reflections I realized that I was standing at a nexus in my life. That I was being broken down and watching all that I knew being destroyed in front of me. All that was to be decided was whether this destruction would be creative or just plain destructive. The verdict is still out on that front. But one thing that has become clear to me is that for many of my literary heroes the key to their creativity and growth has been a lack of fear of what would happen if they dispensed with convention.
Rexroth's fictional memoir offers us a vision of poet on a quest that is inspiring because he did not lose his self worth as poet even in the fact of national depression. He continued to quest and search as a poet and that made his memoir interesting and inspiring. Merton, and Kerouac owe something to Rexroth. He is going through the same type of questing that they would go through in the 40's and 50's ten years earlier. These three writers for me encapsulate this type of Augustinian literature that in many ways in lacking in our society. For an unemployed executive/poet they offer much solace in times of despair.
Mark Tardi, recommended the works of Nicholas Mosley to me. I am reading Inventing God, Children of Darkness and Light and Hopeful Monsters. Normally Mark's recommendations are spot on. Mosley is a real brain fuck. Mosley is not light Sunday afternoon reading. But the one thing that comes out of this work is a sense of loss and a sense of piecing together what was once the established assumptions into a kind of Antonio Gaudi crockery work that makes some sort of crazy sense.
Mosley's books do not give solace but I am challenged and this too is good for someone reading at a Nexus in their lives. Robert Frost in his hackneyed poem Yellow Wood talked about two paths- but there are really hundreds and in our current environment these are full of minefields where one's legs can also be blown off without sentiment. I think that is what comes out in Mosley's books.
In the end what I have left is my writing and my literary life for what that is worth. As the rest of what I have known and assumed would always exist continues to melt slowly into the sea like a soft glacier the books are still there holding me and letting me know that something else has meaning and value.
It is in books that we will receive our answers- not by watching CNBC or reading Tarot Cards....