Friday, December 24, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Carl von Ossietzky won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1936. He was also not allowed to recieve it in person. von Ossietzky was not allowed to recieve the prize by a new and dynamic political system that also viewed "national sovereignty" as more important than the rights of the individual. He died in a Nazi labor camp of a heart attack after being abused for being a pacifist.
The difference between what happened in 1936 and what happened in 2010 with Chinese poet Liu Xiao Bo is that Germany was never as powerful as China is today or will be in the future.
I have been to China many times and there is not a more creative or harder working people but like the German people who are also creative and hard working they are victims of a system that preaches National Renewal while ignoring human rights. People are regularly imprisoned for going to Mass, or writing poetry or asking for the most basic human rights. The Chinese have unfettered Capitalism with none of the human rights that should come with that system.
The problem with what happened to both von Ossietzky and Liu is that out of fear the free peoples of world's response has been muted and quiet because of fear of the oppressing government's financial power. Yes, I know that President Obama said that he supported Liu and I know that President Roosevelt's administration decried the death of von Ossietzky's death in a Nazi labor camp in 1936 but that was not enough then or now.
I am writing this blog post on a computer made in China. My clothes are made in China. My iPod is made in China and the money in my bank account was loaned to the US government by China. Unlike the 1930's it is impossible to boycott China or Chinese things as it was with German things but the principal is the same. The Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and the UN Charter should not be sold out because the Chinese might be offended. Or they might foreclose on America. It is often said that China is the future. Does the future include being put in a Labor Camp for writing poetry, working as a journalist and asking for China to become a multi party democracy?
That is why Mr Liu is in a Labor Camp.
It is time that we in the Free world, the inheritors of the legacy of Washington, Jefferson, Voltaire, Mazzini, Bolivar, King, Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi ask ourselves are our cheap iPods worth supporting a regime that regularly imprisons people for asking for basic human rights?
I realize that by saying this I might offend the Chinese. But, I choose to stand with Mr Liu. And ask when will this end and when will offense stop being used to justify oppression?
Or is everything for sale?
Friday, November 19, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
President Obama, what are you doing in Martha's Vineyard?
President Obama you need to come home to Chicago and see what is happening to your People.
Mr President, try to really understand and channel the rage and anger and do not let your enemies capture that for themselves.
By the Way Enough Organic Gardens and Spain Trips for Michelle as well she is certainly a long way from South Shore now maybe you ought to spend some time eating Harold's Chicken on Stoney Island instead?
Most Americans do not now what you are passionate about? Tell us please?
They knew what George Bush was passionate about. How About you?
They want to understand why you did not respond to a rally by Glenn Beck against you on the very anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech? What is the deal? You let all the harpies demean you what's the deal?
We want to understand why no one seems to be fighting for us?
They do not want to hear anymore Harvard talks?
No more Organic Vegetables.
They want the Barack Obama who said Yes We Can?
Where is he?
Come Home President Obama and see what America is going through...... and stop going to Martha's Vineyard it is not where you belong?
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I grew up in what Rick Perlstein called Nixonland. The place that White Ethnic Americans migrated to to escape change. My people have been demonized by many on the left as ignorant or stupid because their families bought into a set of principals that suddenly changed and they did not know how to change with them. It was not that the Nixonland people hated Blacks or others it was just that this was not the deal they bought into when they voted for JFK and LBJ.
The moonshots were the embodiment of what Nixonlanders thought America should be. We should all work together. IF you dissent from the norm on social policy you are hurting society they believe. If you demand to have your rights respected you are hurting America.
In a recent conversation with my Dad he could not understand why a judge in California ruled the referendum against Gay marriage unconstitutional. He was sure that Gay rights did not measure up to Civil Rights that somehow recognizing legally one's deep personal affections was not a civil right. I realized how much our world has changed but I also realized that the world that created the Right Stuff- you know moon shots and interstate highways was also gone.
There was a time when American respected their presidents. They also respected change but now we live in an America of two camps. We are a nation that is divided and that divide deepens each year. Some people swallow the Fox News line, they believe that what happened to Shirley Sherrod was no big deal and that Barack Obama is not legitimate for reasons unspoken. These Americans believe in America's greatness but they also believe that Progressives are the cause of decline. Another America has moved on from the Right Stuff. Everything is relative and America is just another country sometimes good and sometimes bad. For these Americans the world is a relative place.
As America goes into decline and we fight over the scraps we forget that at one time these two divisions were one. The America of Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt and Kennedy had room for Civil Rights and Great Dreams like the Space Program. It was the America of great universities. Imagine in 1965 the University of California was free to students. The average college cost for a student at a major Big Ten University was $450 dollars a semester. That was an America that invested in the future.
That America also believed in innovation and growth but it also believed that millions who are unemployed should be helped. It was the America of Medicare and the Interstate Highway System it was the America that was not petty or small. But we have become petty and small. We cannot pass a highway bill, we cannot agree that people should not go bankrupt because they get sick, we cannot agree that America needs the best educational system.
Today we have become a small minded nation we worry about Reality TV shows and political scream shows. Imagine if Barack Obama gave a speech like JFK's about Space? Immediately Fox News would destroy him. Imagine if Obama risked like Nixon and went to China? What would happen? Remember when we all laughed at George W Bush when he spoke loftily about freedom?
It seems that America has the Right Stuff no More.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
What has made Aufgabe Magazine, and Litmus Press one of the most important places in contemporary poetry and critique is the fact that unlike so many other "avant garde" magazines they have always championed real diversity rather than a false diversity. Litmus and Aufgabe have championed the normal diversity syphers
race, gender, sexual orientation but they have also championed regional diversity and have never been a place where the anyone can feel comfortable. I know this from personal experience. As a distinctly "hetero" male I was welcomed to bring to light one of my passions- Brazilian poetry and poets to a wider audience in an earlier edition of Aufgabe. But Litmus has also brought such new and diverse poets as Mark Tardi, Roberto Harrison and Jennifer Scappettone to light and given these poets and critics a great megaphone to get their clear poetic messages before a wider audience and for that Litmus must be thanked and revered.
So now for Aufgabe 9. After the spectacular Aufgabe 8 which featured the poetry of Italy curated by Jennifer Scappettone you had to ask yourself what more could be done? Mark Tardi, my dear friend, has taken a taunting subject, Polish poetry to a new level. Mark (and by the way Scappettone as well) come at their subjects out of a motivation that is too often ignored they are members of a diaspora.
Mark Tardi is a member of the great Chicago Polonia one of the great diasporas of the last 100 years and he brings that sense to his fine curation of a great section. Tardi is a classically trained poet and critic and the fact that he went to Brown and studied with the Waltrop's does not hurt his level of taste but this editorial job is something else entirely- it is in short Tardi becoming his own poet and critic before our eyes. The fact that Aufgabe let him do this work in this way is a testament to the efficacy of Aufgabe and why as a journal it needs to continue to feed our poetic conversation.
The Polish section is divided in the following fashion;
Gallery II: Erroneous Emotions Miron Białoszewski, Seven Poems Justyna Bargielska, Six Poems Miłosz Biedrzycki, Three Poems Katarzyna Szuster, Five Poems
Gallery III: Were & Whir Miron Białoszewski,
Monday, July 5, 2010
Yesterday I went to a family friend's Fourth of July party. At this party were the usual suspects from my youth people in whose spiritual grasp I was formed as a person an whose concerns I became imbued. These people are dear to me and among the group were priests and sisters who cared for us and loved us. It is because of the fact that I come from a great Catholic community filled with the right virtues that when faced with the facts of the Danze Macabre of Pedophilia I am so offended and feel that I must vomit it out of my mouth and speak the truth.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
What is it all for, this poetry, This bundle of accomplishment Put together with so much pain? Do you remember the corpse in the basement? What are we doing at the turn of our years, Writers and readers of the liberal weeklies?
As a poet I have often straddled two worlds; one that is filled with those who care about art and what it means to be a creative soul. As a business person I have striven to bring poetry into the banality of life as it is lived. Poets normally live in one world and business people in another world. For me at the moments when my soul could be sucked out there is always one or the other to make a difference.
Poets and writers who once meant allot to me have been discarded. After enduring unemployment and watching others whom I love suffer I no longer have time for poets whose primary objective in life is to be clever. While I never liked their work my patience for Flarfists is at an end.
But during my time without work a few poet’s work really asked the right questions. Rexroth’s fictional biography is a work that speaks to those of us who are nearing middle age and who are asking “is this all there is” my old friend Thomas Merton always satisfies, Peter Gizzi’s poetry cools the soul and Robert Creeley gives me back my spine.
Having left the shadow of darkness that is poverty I still am listening to the quiet. I am listening to those who are ignored and forgotten and trying to understand what I am to do? I continue to read- real paper books- and understand something clean and clear.
Do poets have anything to say? To this generation? To help us understand what has happened?
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
I understand that at AWP in Denver that the Flarfists and Conceptualists have taken over and that is fine I just hope that they left some beer for the rest of us? Flarf and Conceptual poetry are about fast. The speed in which poetry can be created from the collage of the world and fused with the torrent that is our life today. You have to give those people credit because they are responding with art that is innovative and interesting.
In this age of iPads and Kindles many of us who are invested in the book as an object are feeling that our passion is becoming as passe as Dance Cards or Virginity. The idea that bookstores and printed books may no longer exist is chilling but we fear that it may also be true.
So Saturday, I went to Seminary Coop in Chicago's "elite" Hyde Park neighborhood the home area of our Socialist president Barack Obama (Irony and Scorn here) to buy some real printed paper books. Of course in Hyde Park their are elitists but most of those are not Socialists they are heart surgeons. I had a chance to talk to Jack Cella the boss of this subversive establishment who also has the virtue of being a White Sox fan and he pointed me to a book that is more of an art object Anne Carson's Nox.
I tend to shy away from Canadian writers. They tend to be intimidating like Lemon Hound Sina Queyra or Christian Bok but Anne Carson has always been loved by poets whom I love and so I took a look. Nox is quite a book. Unlike anything I consume on my i Phone Anne Carson's Nox requires time. Her book is like a fine meal in a provincial Italian city rather than a cheeseburger eaten in the car off the seat next to you.
"I wanted to fill my elegy with light of all kinds. But Death makes us stingy"
The book is in a fine box and it costs only $29.00 so someone at New Directions is not getting a bonus this year because this book must have cost allot to make. Nox is an elegy for Carson's brother and the whole book is filled with collage it is almost as if Ezra Pound and Joseph Cornell got together and made a book. The object makes one want to sit and peruse it and then your creative juices flow and you see that her elegy is meant to force us all to write.
"repent means the pain again"
This book is filled with collage shots, poetry of Catullus, Mary Magdalene, scripture and like a secular breviary it unfolds and her grief fills the room but also her artistry and slowness.
In many ways Carson's Nox is a manifesto of "Slow Poetry" like Slow Food it calls on us to stop and to listen, savor--- to actually touch the poetry and to ask ourselves if the poetry created by cut up or internet or Kindle or i Pad is really better or just different? Carson is doing something that has not been done recently, except by Eleni Sikeliano's California Poem she has created a poetic geography that makes one stop to listen to what she is saying.
I think that slowness is something Poets are yearning for just look at the fashion of Lorine Niedecker recently is there any poet who embodies slow poetics more?? I think that by losing slowness and downplaying opaqueness poetry has become more gimmick than art in Nox Carson avoids that trap. Now if we could just get the FlarfistConceptualists to do the same to slow down a little and force us to spend time with the work then maybe the next big thing in poetry could begin again?
So go out and buy Nox by Anne Carson, turn off your i Phone, shut down the computer and sit on the couch with a cup of coffee or a shot of grappa and read it... slowly
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
"This new generic horizon rising before us is one so saturated with embedded calculation that it sucks almost every prior mode of literary production out of view. A new ecstasy of language has emerged, one of algorithmic rationality and machine worship; one intent on flattening difference: meaning and nonsense, code and poetry, ethics and morality, the necessary and the frivolous. Literature is now approaching the zero degree of blunt expediency — a chilling, thrilling, almost Darwinian opportunism in action. Writing it appears, at this scale at least, is dead"
I admit that I read the Harriet Blog and the Poetry Foundation website in secret. It is out of jealousy at not being able to contribute to it that I read it. With this envy in mind I am amazed by some of the poets who are highlighted. Sometimes posts make me think and challenge me to be more as a poet.
Over the past year or so I have withdrawn from poetic socializing as I have descended into the self absorption that is the Great Recession. I am more worried about surviving the deluge than jousting with poetic adversaries. I have not had the emotional energy to debate and I have concentrated on translations and writing while I have tread ed water and hoped that I survive this flood of despair and wreckage.
This morning on Facebook- I read Christian Bok's critique of Kenneth Goldsmith's post on Harriet. I have to admit that I think that Bok is the worst kind of poetic elitist. There is a whole world of poets whose work is simply academic masturbation and I usually find his work painfully self serving along with many of his poetic friends. Goldsmith on the other hand I have found interesting and unlike Bok he usually writes things that are profound.
I needed to read Goldsmith's post. So I found it on line....
Goldsmith expounds on the use of technology and modes of literary production in a way that I think is important. He uses the term "blunt expediency" as a hinge for the article. I think that this is the opposite of where we really are in poetry. He talks about the new ways poetry can be consumed and created and also the fact that poetry is no longer built around the book or the great work which is a shame for us who dream of re writing the Cantos.
The fact is that Poetry, the art form which I practice and love, is pretty close to the most irrelevant art form in the American artistic idiom today. Poetry has never had the place in American society that Painting (Pollock, De Kooning, Rothko), Novels (O'Connor, Faulkner, Hemingway) or Theatre (O' Neill, Williams) have held but poetry has often been the art form that lead the way.
In the past poetry and poets have been in profound dialogue with our society and been forerunners of what society could become. If you look at the last great Economic disaster of American life, the Great Depression, we see poets serving this role. Langston Hughes, Kenneth Rexroth, Gwendolyn Brooks and many others were echoing the times they were living in and challenging the society to change.
They used new mediums to do this work. No one can convince me that Film and Radio were not as revolutionary in 1925 as the Internet is today. Global poets like Vallejo, Alberti and Neruda were using their great gifts to expose Fascism years before it was an important issue for most ordinary people. This is a role that has been abrogated by most American poets. While poets in places like Mexico (Laura Solorzano) and China (Bei Dao) are in that place.
As a poet who does not dwell in academia but one who dwells in the non academic business world most poetry appears to be precious literary gymnastics created by academics and intellectual thrill seekers. So much poetry today seems simply written to impress other academics or to appear "innovative" when in reality it is simply artifice.
Goldsmith compares Poetry to the new business cycle where most people are disposable.
As one of those who was disposed I think that poets and poetry need to ask another question why do they write? And why does it matter? Does anything they are doing have a purpose or is it simply to self-serve ego and self worth?
Our society is transforming from one set of assumptions to another. The growing dominance of China and their model of unfettered Capitalism with political and academic oppression is taking hold in many places in the world.
Poets are regularly imprisoned in China. In China Poetry is a political act here it is not. The Chinese model is taking root and is having a profound influence on places like Brazil, Indonesia and many nations in Africa. We are living in an age where the ideals of Freedom that have defined the West since 1945 are in retreat and a new norm that is best embodied by China's new high speed train to Tibet are becoming ascendant.
Yet most American poets are choosing to remain within the crumbling tower of Academia doing poetic gymnastics for their friends not dialogueing globally or choosing to move outside their small restricted world. The Internet has made this worse since it kills serendipity and causes people to read only sites they agree with. Yes, we can read poetry from around the world on line but how many Americans do this? I would venture I know all of them.
The issue is not that poets who dwell in the academy are not essential and broadminded, Sina Queyras, Jennifer Scappettone and Mark Nowak are academics but their work is about allot more than pleasing that audience. But are poets using technology to create a poetic hot house where they do not have to challenge or dialogue with the rapid change around us?
The issue is why poets and poetry tolerate artifice and weak writing no matter in what form it takes? Why is it that we do not demand from our poets more? Why is it that the technology is used as an excuse to accept narrowness and lack of breadth?
Poets need to ask the question why do they write? Not how they write. Poets need to understand that the world is changing and that the new world being created will not be friendly to poets.