Friday, December 30, 2011

Liberating Ourselves from the Thrall

2011 has run itself out. The world will not slow down. A whole sea of wonderful things happened this year, as did some not-so-wonderfuls, but that's the way it goes. I'm hugely grateful for all the kind and funny people in my life--and look forward to more in 2012, where ever it takes us. Thanks for stopping by--happy new year!


Rookery, Traci Brimhall’s smart, sensual debut and the recipient of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry’s 2009 First Book Award, opens with an epigraph from Emily Dickinson: “Split the Lark—and you’ll find the Music.” If we read this as an imperative to find the muse in birdsong, it stands in useful contrast to the preface poem, “Prayer for Deeper Water.” In that poem, a man attributes his hatred of women to those who do not recognize “the frightened wingless birds” singing within their chests; he abhors their “stuttering” flutter against his body. The speaker gently resists, citing the blessings of the earthly moment—“Even the shape of your mouth is a miracle”—and her confidence in her own inner mystery. She asks him to “forget the beginning,” to move forward and embrace the real world and its flawed denizens.

-Sandra Beasley reviews Traci Brimhall's book Rookery in the new issue of Blackbird, which also has some of Traci's lovely poems, as well as excellent new work from Matthew Nienow, Erica Dawson, and Malachi Black. Go get you some.


I am now going to proffer some little things that may combine in your mind to mean something, or not. They may mean something discretely, or not. They may combine better in an order I do not have the wit to determine, but that is okay, since you are having to hear them in the air where they are already subject to the Brownian motion of podium slur and so are already combining in the weird indeterminate order of the misheard and the partially heard. I grasped Brownian motion before flunking out of chemistry school. Had the mother-in-law who powdered herself so prodigiously spilled talc into the toilet, a distinct possibility given the liberality of the dusting of her cruller, you could have seen the talc move on the toilet water in what is called Brownian motion. If there is calculus to describe Brownian motion I mercifully flunked out still innocent of it. That one can even now utter the clause “if there is calculus” is an indicator of supreme naivete because there is calculus to describe everything, which is why, aside from reading Mr. Williams when I was supposed to read Mr. Morrison and Mr. Boyd, I flunked out of chemistry school. I am going on about this now not merely because of my giant reluctance to start the Craft Talk without Craft but also because remaining innocent of things is in my view an important part of writing, which will become clear if I ever start the talk.

-Padgett Powell's winding and wonderful craft lecture from a recent visit to Columbia University.


In fact, I don’t want to consider erasing any of the poets she includes; since we’re in virtual space, for now, hurrah for abundance. Let them stay; we can simply agree to disagree about who the rising stars might be. I think Dove should, however, come clean about two categories she refers to – the too-expensive poems and the buried antipathies. It would be valuable for me to know exactly what poems and poets were disqualified for economic reasons. It must have been frustrating to know that, although she was engaged to render a personal, rather than a consensus, anthology, she would be constrained by inadequate funds. If she would reveal those expensive works, we could see more clearly what her ideal anthology would have looked like. I would really love to see her ideal Table of Contents.

-Editor R.T. Smith weighs in on the Penguin Anthology


MONEY DERIVES ITS MEANING from society, not from those who own the largest piles of it. Recognizing this fact is the first move toward liberating ourselves from the thrall of concentrated capital. We need to desanctify money, reminding ourselves that it is not a god ordained to rule over us, nor is it a natural force like gravity, which operates beyond our control. It is a human invention, like baseball or Monopoly, governed by rules that are subject to change and viable only so long as we agree to play the game. We need to see and to declare that the money game as it is currently played in America produces a few big winners, who thereby acquire tyrannical power over the rest of us as great as that of any dictator or monarch; that they are using this power to skew the game more and more in their favor; and that the net result of this money game is to degrade the real sources of our well-being.

-Scott Russell Sanders, via Orion Magazine



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Best Deal

Woke up this morning to find my poem "Problems with the Dictionary," from the latest issue of the Southwest Review, featured on Verse Daily. Talk about a great Christmas present--I've had Verse Daily as my home page for about four years and have always admired their taste, their mission, and their simplicity. The poem comes from my manuscript-in-progress, and risks (near) rhyming couplets.


-a compelling conversation between Rita Dove and Jericho Brown, from the BAP Blog


When public opinion on the big social and political issues changes, the trends tend to be relatively gradual. Abrupt shifts, when they come, are usually precipitated by dramatic events. Which is why pollsters are so surprised by what has happened to perceptions about climate change over a span of just four years. A 2007 Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would cause the climate to change. By 2009 the figure had dropped to 51 percent. In June 2011 the number of Americans who agreed was down to 44 percent—well under half the population. According to Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, this is “among the largest shifts over a short period of time seen in recent public opinion history.”


Op-Ed by Richard Russo in NYT


This was an amazing night of music.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Takes Away the Luster

Seattle is gray and cold, but mostly dry. Hard frosts in the morning. Great notebook-scribbling weather.



-an interview with W.S. Merwin (which has sent me back to his books, which have me wide-eyed all over again)


Killer first line of the moment:

Now close the windows and hush all the fields:

from Robert Frost's "Now Close the Windows"



How about some end-of-the-year lists?