Saturday, October 29, 2011

Very Human Dangers

Happily undertaking a 7 poems in 7 days sprint with a few other folks. Draft, draft, draft.


In order to stay alive as artists, we need to resist the very human dangers of resentment and bitterness. Resentment comes from attending to the injuries and rejections of the past, or to fears of the future. These difficulties are exacerbated by loneliness, and of course writers are perpetually alone with their work, no matter how embedded they are in communities. For many years I thought I needed to write in my quiet study, in a corner of my house where I could get away from anyone except a dog, and I’d be a little annoyed when people walked by talking on the nearby street – which was, after all, a good eight feet from my window. How dare they interrupt the process of my poem! After I moved to New York City I found myself not enjoying writing at home. I found a coffee shop congenial to writing (the location of which, as any urbanite would understand, I would never reveal). Soon I realized that in fact I liked having company. I liked some evidence of activity – milk steaming in the espresso machine, dishes rattling in the plastic bin where you’d put your empty coffee cup. These provided, as Frank O’Hara said about record stores, “some evidence that people do not entirely regret life.”

-Mark Doty's speech from the Whiting Awards Presentation (Heck yeah, Eduardo!)



Pickwick - Blackout (Suzzallo Reading Room) from Tyler Kalberg on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Propositions of Any Religion

Talented friends writing beautiful and important things:


The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won't mind that narrative either, if it can get enough "facts" to back it up. They know how to do that story and most of our political media is based upon that Crossfire paradigm of left-vs-right commentary shows and NFL Today-style team-vs-team campaign reporting.

What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle.

via Rolling Stone


Well it seems to me that if one takes the propositions of any religion seriously, there's going to be doubt in the experience, there's going to be intermittency and one is going, as D.H. Lawrence once said, "to be converted over and over." And I remember Mr. Eliot, T.S. Eliot, saying that doubt is inseparable from the experience of faith. It's something we shouldn't be ashamed of, and it's funny because, if I may digress, Eliot is also the person who said that fancy thing about how the spirit killeth but the letter giveth life. I guess he was objecting to a sort of hazy spirituality one finds sometimes with some people. But he seems there to be saying that you'd better believe every word in the creed, and he thus represents both ends of the doubt and belief pattern, he's saying wouldn't it be nice, really, to believe that whole marvelous Nicene concoction that we say in church, and at the same time he's saying that any energetic religious life involves doubt.

-wonderful interview with Richard Wilbur


Lemony Snicket has some things to say about Occupy Wall Street, over at Occupy Writers.


Dear Parents:

Thanks to their group e-mail, we now know that the families of Millie and Jaden M. recognize Jesus Christ as their Saviour. There still seems to be some confusion about why, if we want to celebrate life, we’re actually celebrating death. To better explain this “bewildering detour,” I’ve asked Adela, who works in the office and makes waffles for us on Wednesdays, and who was born in Mexico, to write you directly.

-Arrested Development writer Maria Semple over at the New Yorker


Start this at 5 minutes and enjoy. Seattle music continues its amazingness.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Don't Speak the Same Language as We Do

I've been finding poems in the morning, before going to work at the pet store. The poems are unsteady on their legs, but they're trying. Was happy to have one picked up fora future issue of Quarterly West, and to hear the excellent news that I'll be one of 62-Washington artists to receive a GAP grant from Artist Trust. It's a remarkable organization that educates, supports, and connects artists in Washington state, and they're another reason I'm proud to be living here. It's stuff like this that gets me to the desk an hour earlier in the morning, before hauling kibble and cat litter from the warehouse to the shelf, to carve lines in hopes that they might resound. Another writer works at the store, and we were talking about process. I told him about the butt-in-chair rule I stole from the righteous Sandy Longhorn. I asked him what got him to the page. He looked at me and said, "Luke, if we're not writing, we're just selling dog food." Up early, tomorrow.


Socio-economic mobility has always been central to the American dream. But our civic culture is actually carefully structured to keep us segregated. The wealthy lock themselves away in luxury vehicles and gated suburbs. The impoverished remain in blighted areas, obediently out of view.

The system is self-reinforcing. As the money concentrates at the top, less is devoted to those resources that are shared by all of us – parks, schools, community centers, subway trains – the very places where people of different classes might peaceably mingle.

The wealthy hire lobbyists and tax lawyers to game the system. They remove themselves, physically and psychically, from their duties to the poor. In this way, the interests of the few crush the interests of the many.

-Steve Almond on Occupy Wall Street over at the Rumpus


The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.

-Paul Krugman at NYT


Killer first line of the moment:

You found it in wet dirt: blue parchment, slice

from "Feather" by Sally Rosen Kindred
(Cave Wall 10, 2011)


Sherman Alexie has 3 beautiful little poems in the new issue of Narrative Magazine. And if you subscribe, you can read a wonderful poem by my Hollins-poet-brother Will Schutt. Do it.


Although I am ashamed to admit to knowing almost nothing about Scandinavia's leading poet, whose books are regular bestsellers in his homeland, this does seem to be something of a regular occurrence with the Nobel. The committee makes a habit of bestowing its laurels on respected, worthy, but often fairly obscure writers who, even after they are anointed, don't exactly go on to become household names.

No doubt this attitude partly reflects my provincialism. It's true that British literary culture is shockingly closed to writers from those parts of the world which don't happen to speak the same language as we do. We translate far fewer titles than most other European countries, and publishers that specialise in literature in translation – fortunately there are some – struggle to get attention for their books.

-interesting take on Transtromer's Nobel, and the significance of the Nobel in Literature, over at the Guardian


Have watched the first half of this 2 part HBO-doc--can't wait to watch the rest.