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WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND BY THE DAY BY THE DAY BY THE DAY -- in memory of Richard Pryor & Eugene McCarthy -- No, I do not weep at the world - I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. -Zora Neale Hurston
We (Susan and I) have decided it's just too much to generate a Woodburners fire and prepare 500 or so emails and trough these out to everyone. Better to slip it onto the webpage for Longhouse and let it just be found. Starting after the New Year we will begin this trait. Please plug into our webpage when you can for cornucopia books, films, music, rural news. I've been writing these a long time, and first started back in the dark ages of mimeograph: churning out an issue and snuck into the pages of a Longhouse journal of poetry, back then titled: Our Poets Workshop, Workshop, Scout, Poets Who Sleep! and none of it had anything to do with a "workshop" as it came to be known as an art form with academia. Hardly. This was 'in a cabin in the woods, a littler-old-man by the window stood' - the "rabbit" was poetry. The "workshop" was a hut hung with tools, wood shavings on the floor, icy to the touch by winter, the smell of mown grass by summer. Sharp blades, blunt tools, grime on the bench. A good place for poetry. These days, after the latest Woodburners, comes a little email shot in the arm from Hayden about what he liked. Just when I needed one. My thanks HC. We are now in a world over-taxed and gushy lopsided wagon collapsing with too many emails, too much electronics, too much scheduling, too much of everything. It was heaven when the Woodburners was on paper, mimeographed, and folks responded with postage stamp contributions for mailing, letters always, books in exchange. We're all dying now, the whole amazing living and system of publishing and communicating. None of us can keep up. We're sound-bites. The other day, in a college town, Susan and I watched four skimpy furred and bundled women students walking toward us, each with a cellphone locked to their heads: yacking away to someone else and not talking to one another! We were momentarily stopped in a dark pool of ennui. And we all make decisions: mine is to stay away from blogs (I only skim Ron Silliman's with a maple sugarer's ladle) and except for personal correspondence where we all save on postal costs, and running the bookshop (we'd be dead in the water attempting to run counter to the fold, since we did already for years), I am nothing with this new age technology. My days remain still down the center of a trail. Anyone who writes me regular mail and dares to send a book, letter, any shred of literature or semblance of handmade, gets the same in return. The kindness of strangers is literally now our family.
All week, with big snow finally fallen, quieting other quarters, putting a narrow shoveled path between our back door and the truck parked 200 feet away and close to the road,
under stalwart hemlocks, often loaded up with fresh snow - that forest green and white dapple sway wide of the landscape as far as the eye can see. And in the truck driving to town and when I've been the passenger at times, I've been reading aloud to Susan. It was crime writer marvels for awhile, but even Chandler got too wordy for us and so many films have driven ahead of the original text. So we see Bogey and Bacall in shimmering black & white and become almost impatient with the original text. The eyes have a gift all their own for visuals! Instead we went to James M. Cain for a spell and gobbled up The Postman Always Rings Twice. An ideal winner heard aloud. Later, to Grace Paley, but we found her earliest stories now hopelessly dated with domestic travails between women and men. Her ethnic neighborhood cityscape yarns often much finer. Her style not at all changed with its sure wit & wisdom. However, the reading broke down midway through The Little Disturbances of Man so I limped off and reread the rest of the book silently but not before taking down Thurber and many of his Fables and reading those aloud to Susan. Knitting needles in her hands. On the same couch. Three feet from the woodstove. After supper. The only place really warm in all of the house; unspinning Thurber antics about hens that fly on a duck's back and bears that don't get it.
Reading from my library shelf off the many volumes of The Library of America series. I once saw a whole set of these in a small housed and community funded library on Martha's Vineyard. Modest place, put together with yarn from small town, though someone must have donated this wealthy purchase of everything deeply good American. Since we were on a roll with the Thurber, I next pulled down Flannery O'Connor and read her story - second night by the fire husband and wife - "Everything That Rises Must Converge". I last read O'Connor, complete, when I was a teenager...now returning to her southern theme of Rosa Parks era characters on buses. Whites & Blacks. As often the case with southern literature: it's mother & son tall drinks, with a twist. Happy enough with one O'Connor (she has that power to satisfy with less is more) I then read from Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, just picking at it and never remembering just how powerful Walker Evan's introduction to the book (and Agee) is. Another book I read that flipped my life upside down and around at age 17. Now I find Agee's opening pages faltering, self-conscious, he knows he's in the hands of a masterpiece-to-be. I'm content for now just keeping with the photographer-splendor of Evans written piece; his own homage to the whole big picture. Susan is sleepy by fire, warmth, hearing tales, and just as I'm digging back to read all of Frost's Home Burial, which reads robust-made but stilted in these times. Who can any longer see the lantern lamp throwing up as much shadow as light on the old New England narrow staircase between characters: the home cemetery framed all in one small window, what depth of loss burrowed into the whole of a home? I need to fly around like a young barn swift to "Out, Out", woodpile's rot, birches lean, the simplicity of a poem about a handmade door frame - built to last longer than the carpenter who plumbed it and his later generations. In reading Frost one can almost pinpoint just where one of his children went mad, where a wife was lost, and success finally reigned.
It was with Zora Neale Hurston, Susan spoke up. In the truck coming home from town. I'm riding shotgun with a poor flashlight in hand reading from Hurston's The Library of America volume, where the editorial committee saw it sensible and knowing just to use the last name like a brand on an animal for the dust jacket and spine: "Hurston". There was only one. All the books in the library series are stamped this way. I see they have just issued "Roth" (but I might argue wanting "Henry" more than "Philip"). Rumbling on snow plowed roads, which means snow skimmed over potholes, we'd been going along on the earlier ride to town from Hurston and her Jamaica travels Tell My Horse (her titles are often terrific: spanning literary with lingo, routed landscape and life). It was daylight then and we're into "the Rooster's nest" of Jamaica, British West Indies, between one errand and picking up five gallons of kerosene for Susan's portable heater to warm up her legs where she works in a cubby hole on the second floor of a farmhouse built in 1790. Renovated by us both over four decades now and climbing. Rebuilding never ends. The Episcopal minister friend who sold us the place has just passed away down in Providence, Rhode Island. I'm still living up to what he gave to us, since that is good for you. Hurston does this on every line of her memoirs and folklore text. Not only is her work not dated, it's futuristic, never-ending, open minded despite her jabs with opinions; you know she is just sassing half the time and trying to figure it out for herself. A reader has to love this about a writer with these abilities - Twain had it, too, so did Stein; all those Thurber Fables are about: can I pull this off with a malarky "moral" at the end? The morals all read like Rodney Dangerfield punch lines...the band does a sour note by horn, the drummer slaps the hi-hat.
It's in the telling of the tales and to hear them aloud is magic; even better in a truck with dim flashlight, between errands for kerosene where I see my old friend Keith just kicked off our road by a new band of yuppies who don't like his junkyard. He really had no idea how to run anything close to a business as a junkyard has now become - or should, to stay alive in a community of very fussy taxpayers - who, naturally enough, need not one lousy old bolt or floppy distributor cap or rear fender off this junkyard of wares because they all drive super-duper brand new vehicles. We're driving a 1989 Toyota pickup truck wired together by chewing gum and old steel roofing parts (my specialty) and Keith would have probably gunned on heated bar and chain oil under the chassis for us if he were still around. The junkyard looks like a film set for some rural George Romero underground classic. The 16 inches of snow that fell a day ago helps a little at hiding steel and iron chunks and all I can think about is how much good is being wasted at the powers of recycle, renewal, keeping a country boy in some business, since there is nothing quite like driving your old clunker into a yard and having two or three grease monkey wunderkinds descend on it like nothing in the whole wide world is impossible. "We'll have it up and running soon", goes their simple minded steeped in blood and muscle refrain. This is what we have thrown away?! I worked in that junkyard decades pulling old parts and having royal rootin-tootin arguments and laughs with the feisty owner some years younger than me. And when I needed some help to build a stone wall in the village for a customer of mine, it was Keith I could tap to show up to lend a hand. You've no idea, ever, what you will be given in return if you make good with one native son, and even better if his or her whole family jumps on board. Be ready for home cooking, even if it is out of a ratty Cheetos bag.
As a country we haven't a clue how we are losing the very ingredient and heart string that has pulled us this far. The cities are already DMZs. Little oasis of urban renewal and boardwalks appease the money tourists, but country friends one day in Detroit, around Wayne University, saw their van hustled up and vandalized in a war zone all its own. They drove home nonstop in 18 hours with a busted window passenger side, happy to have their home and some trees to surround them. Those trees were planted - whether by bird, wind or hand, and nurtured, logged off, regrown, kept for company amongst an earlier generation that liked their trees; and as we rid the old guard and generations to come, we take the whole cream out of the milk, the baker out of the chef, throw the handsaw out of the toolbox at working with and maintaining a rural essence. Wendell Berry has that gorgeous poem I've enjoyed reading aloud on the sidewalk for these readings for New Orleans Musicians, called "Creation Myth"...where one brother listens to another brother returning home, wayward, bumbling his way through the woods and knowing full well, humorously, from his porch stance just where the brother is heading...until he remembers the deep quarry on the land and where his brother would be killed in a fall. The sound of the brother's boot steps tramping, the porch brother coming out to breathe in the summer night, the wayward brother going lost. Until the porch brother bellows out his brother's name and sets his direction right. I read it, with my reading companion Greg listening, on the street and at the point of the brother's name being shouted out, it roils up against a dozen buildings and a corner bank and almost everyone on the sidewalk turns to look. A surprise to us the first time this happened. But it's the brother's name - one word sounding, one word presence, one word care - turned this wayward brother around, away from the quarry, and back on course. That's rural, as much as inner city, and without it, we're lost.
So what was it by Hurston that Susan wanted to know about? She had much liked the nutty professor of Thurber's yarns, and the historical perspective of the West Indies through Hurston storytelling mind, but it held not a candle to her dog-eared and almost forgotten "Negro Mythical Places" where one can learn just where Big John De Conqueror ended up. All of these tales and dreamtime and real places from rural Florida folks this very persistent writer gleaned up. You look at the cover photograph of Hurston and she has that keenly knowing and steady but horribly vulnerable look on her face that Dinah Washington often had. And their singing was remarkably akin - pushing against the odds, of time, fame/no fame, going after the moxie. The essence. Not always ending up right side up. I believe that's the reader's job to pull right. Hurston's mythical tales will interest anyone in imagined zones: from Calvino, Borges, you name it. You'll know it when you are there. It's something to kick up the dust of these wondrous tales with a flashlight in a truck cab read aloud and as-one with a loved one asking, "where is Diddy-Wah-Diddy?" The answer: "way off somewhere".
Way off somewhere is where Jamaica Kincaid can be found in her latest book Among Flowers (National Geographic) this Vermont gardener-writer, seen here trekking through the Himalayas with botanist friends, gathering plants and seeds either by notebook jottings or literally into packets to be transplanted elsewhere. Ever cautious of marauding Maoist guerrillas and leeches (both share equal time with this writer's candid onslaught). There is a fleeting strength of storytelling, much as with Hurston, in this travelogue...where the reader is allowed plenty of daydreaming off the text as the writer is employing the same...so just as you think you've lost your place, Kincaid has remained diligent in her tracks. Not much is amassed here. It's core driven, height of the Earth's universe, amongst sherpas and you're as teeny-weeny with her. Kincaid is circling circling circling in one place like a cat into her nest.
All the while writing I've been listening, repeatedly - many times rising out of my seat and crossing the room to turn over the lp - side one to side two and back to side one, still one of my best "finds" from any dollar record bin: Get Right With the Swan Silvertones. I was turned on to these guys long ago in an interview I read with Al Kooper (another American genuine), same way Jimi Hendrix, by interview, first turned me to The Band's, Music From Big Pink in 1968. The power of the word. The power of big name telling secrets. And The Band's debut remains one of my favorite holiday/religious albums - to kingdom come - every imaginable music sphere on this disc: classical, blues, jazz, vaudeville, opera, bluegrass, folk, rock 'n roll, minstrel around tears of rage. In the meantime, goose bumps up and down my arm now a million times over with the Swan Silvertones, riding high from 1956-64, oriented somewhere between the coal fields of Kentucky to West Virginia (where angel falsetto Claude Jeter worked) and if Neocons and some Red State/Blue State phony Christian values have turned you away from peace in the valley - allow Jeter and his streamline gris of gospel-meets doo-wop like you've never heard it, clasp you in "Mary Don't You Weep". One song worth a thousand points of light.
The other day something new was playing on the speakers and my California gal came into the room and asked with the sweetest slur,"What's. This?" It was none other than Jimmie Dale Gilmore's brand new Come On Back. And when I informed my in-house critic that they were thirteen beautifully drawn old tunes Gilmore gathered up to remember as his dead father's favorite songs: "Saginaw, Michigan" to "Train of Love" she felt a little terrible and listened closer. Jimmie Dale Gilmore is "Smokey" from the film The Big Lebowski for those that haven't yet a mental picture. His voice continues to kill anything out of modern razzle-frazzle Nashville, and this would be an ideal gift for any codger - young or old - you may have dragging tail around the house. Pick me up on your way down
Baby Beat Generation, translated w/introduction by Mathias de Breyne (La Main Courante) : the second San Francisco Renaissance, tagged roughly from the latter 60s through the 70s and it's anyones own list who was involved with this disperse group of self proclaimed "Beats", "Baby Beats" and the whole wild tribe. It did exist. With the big-hearted assistance of Thomas Rain Crowe (who was there and participated, laying in a fine introduction for the book and showing up in many of the photographs) the better portion of the Baby Beats herein have been pulled from Beatitude magazine, founded by one of the royal real McCoys of the Kerouac-Ginsberg-Coro era, Bob Kaufman. I've never been fond of the "Baby Beat" label, supposedly a choice of two words taken from the drunken speech of one Richard Brautigan in Spec's Bar one night in San Francisco It's like calling someone a "Baby Be Bopper" - you're either "Beat", or you ain't. The proof's in the poetry and there is plenty of it quite good herein by whole displays of Beat forefathers (and mothers): Ferlinghetti, Di Prima, Micheline, Meltzer, Hirschman, Valaoritis, Snyder and more. An interesting selection...then to the Baby Beats themselves: Crowe, Ken Wainio, Neeli Cherkovski, David Moe, Janice Blue, Kaye McDonough amongst others, plus "peripheral poets" who I would have liked reading larger portions of - mostso Andy Clausen, Max Schwartz, Sharon Doubiago, Andrei Codrescu, Cole Swensen, Dale Pendell etc. No one is ever happy with these anthologies because of who is missed and left out. Forever Donald Allen's The New American Poetry anthology will haunt the ages for how to grab an era by the scruff of the neck and bottle it (almost). Baby Beat Generation is one of the best thus far: splendid looking, well built, fine utility attachments and biographies of everyone, bilingual (French-English) with a young French translator ready to rumble. Plus a CD included from Marin County's Sleeping Lady Cafe circa 1976 and its gala reading "Benefit for Irish Prisoners in British Jails". An excellent array of readers. It isn't easy to tame a beast; this collection makes a grand selection and just lets it roar.
Not To Miss: Hudson River Art, summer 2005 (241 Warren St, Hudson, NY 12534) - exceptional magazine for the cost $5.95: surveying art galleries and artists up the waterway and small towns of the Hudson River area of New York. Interview with photographs and poems by Gerard Malanga, a Mary Woronov feature, music 'soundings' with Gabor Csalog, reflections from the artist Charles Frazier, plenty of exquisite illustrations; John Ashbery and other poets dot the landscape. It all hangs well.
You might have thought the coffee table venue for the book Farm Aid, a song for America (Rodale) with its foreword by Willie Nelson is something not worth fighting for, or reading, but it is. Begun by Willie Nelson, after an idea by Bob Dylan, Farm Aid concerts have now reached its 20th anniversary of raising music and cash for the plight of the American family farm. As Nelson states it in good earth parlance:"We're fighting for the small family farmer, which means that we're fighting for every living American". He's been helped by the greater music community, which splashes throughout this anthology, mixed with a wholesome collection of writings from Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie to Wendell Berry, Howard Zinn, Gene Logsdon and many excellent chapters on grass roots community work and the consequences of industrial agriculture. It's a serious labor of love that balances nicely. Even Iggy Pop played a show.
I can't get free of, and don't wish to, the image of two riders on one horse woven into a rug texture and floating under and down the clear pool Iranian brook of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film Gabbeh (1996). The title is from the hand of sheepherding nomadic tribes of Iranian weavers, mostly women. "Gabbeh" is also the lead character in the film: a dazzling young woman kept from marrying her suitor on horseback by a rifle touting father. Age old tale. Minced with an appreciation of landscape-as-art becomes art like you've rarely seen except in the hands of masters of outdoor cinema. That doesn't include computer nerd geniuses. This is pure catch the wind quality, stilled a moment and birdlike, let go. do what you want with me / but don't break my heart
Another one not to miss, and make sure you watch the director's commentary along with the film, because he enhances the film double-fold, and one could almost argue that Pedro Almodovar is one of the few now working in cinema on the grand scale who can both exquisite a film, and mine commentary into the whole, as well as Fellini did in his time. The dicey Bad Education is no easy animal to tame: timing scaled to a literary sharpness, meeting up with transvestites, priests in frock (and out), the naughty tale of young love and predatory sex as blackmail. The sweetened advantage of a DVD is having a special feature of the director Almodovar there to hold your hand.
Only 150 made and I hold one. Sent by Ted who claims this is about all she wrote in his long life of about 100 books of mostly poetry (but try to find his excellent prose from a few Conjunction journals long ago where Ted revealed a beautiful story or two, as if a dream. Influenced from years reading Marquez, Fuentes and knowing his own duende) One Day And How It Was,Theodore Enslin (Granite Press 2005) is issued from made-by-hand John and Jasna Phillips of Cornwall, UK: 27 Treverbyn Road, St. Ives, and it is literally Ted's size of it, one day spread. There is a magic in this world and I / have dared to try to find it... Indeed.
© 16 December 2005 Bob Arnold
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND MAKES A PITCH I have always wanted the hands of people to be seen in poetry. I have always preferred a poetry where the fingerprints show. A poetry of loam, where water can sing. A poetry of bread, where everyone may eat -Pablo Neruda
There are many publisher's travel and journey book series on-going, and I have reviewed a handful of these in the last few Woodburners. One of the better drawn is the Jamaica Kincaid book from the National Geographic series, which also boasts a W. S. Merwin title I also liked quite a bit. I've yet to read the others, though I see William Least Heat-Moon is writing a book on Western Ireland. This attracts my attention and also drives me crazy: why is it this series - along with the Crown Journey Series (Frank Conroy, Ishmael Reed, Michael Cunningham all have fine books therein) - are ever eliciting known and well established writers into its fold? Where are the editors today that should be digging up great little books by great unknowns? Is it just a plain and simple marketing investment? Are we left now with a world of publishing where editors from publishing houses grab well fed hired-guns who make pretty packages to sell, and around and around we go? What happened to finding a no-name and believing in the work? Instead we are fish in a tank: writers made to make books and an audience spoon-fed on these writers ad nauseam - book after book and New Yorker magazine issue after issue, the same stable of purebreds. If I see one more stale and half-baked poem in this magazine - well, I'll quit. Oh, wait a moment, I have. After reading it for 40 years. One recent marvel is Arun Kolatkar's Jejuri (New York Review Books) a sojourn of poems, as pilgrimage, to the poet's native state of Maharashtra (India) sweet as grapes / are the stone of jejuri. While I advocate the Jamaica Kincaid book (a New Yorker staple herself), I can't help but wonder just what wonder would have been made if Janine Pommy Vega had written her Himalayan tale and had it published by a large publisher. And Jonathan Williams shelling us walking tours from old England's trails, Thomas A. Clark all-Scotland, Tim McNulty and moments in the rising mists of the Olympic Peninsula. How about James Koller telling tales of a full Europa travel from a very small backpack spanning the last 20 years? Joe Napora speaking of Indian Mound dwellings of the midwest, Drummond Hadley riding the Mexicana range on horseback, Bobby Byrd on the air-up-there between El Paso to Juarez; how the rain's been falling four decades in Bill Deemer's Oregon? Just imagine what Cid Corman could have given us after a half-century expatriate in Kyoto - or Jonathan Greene visiting Cid and then Basho's shrine - a story or two, I bet, there! Lax of Greek isle, Jack Gilbert Greece-to-Northampton as subsistence living. Ted Kooser on the Plains, John Martone in quiet neighborhood garden, Ted Enslin as backwaters music. How about Louise Landes Levi's travels between translations Daumal, Michaux etc., and going into their lands. Cralan Kelder's homeland floating sails from California, Africa, England, Amsterdam...or Alec Finlay doing the same as body and poetry...David Giannini's travels via his Dust collection circling the globe with contributions rung in and each place could have a written text of where-from. Shouldn't Jim Harrison seal Michigan as his own after Hemingway? Can't Lawrence Ferlinghetti tell us the best about San Francisco? Isn't it time Thurston Moore put the candles on the cake and be given the publisher to experience Punk and Beyond. Charles Plymell remains one of the last and best Beat nobles: it's better we pay him now to write a masterpiece about the open road. Let Ed Sanders show his mastery of where one goes between music, art and history: there has to be a trail there, no? Patti Smith might lend a hand. Diane Di Prima on the whole of Mother Nature? You betcha! We missed Fielding Dawson and his chance, so how about Kirpal Gordon or Gerard Malanga explaining what a New Yorker is, in the best Whitman sense. Mikhail Horowitz on baseball! Now! Hayden Carruth on longevity of spirit spanned jazz to poetry to cowshed blues? Ginsberg gone, Creeley slipped through our fingers, how about Anne Waldman on globe-trotting poetry wares? If Anne can't get to it, then I'd ask Marie Harris. You never heard of Marie? Exactly my point! It's a blessing. Eshleman in French caves, Coolidge on drumming and language essence, Dale Smith and Hoa pinpoint Austin once and for all - with Kim Dorman's help, his head ever left back in India...where Andrew Schelling, Andy Clausen and a potato bag of others are ready to go. We need real writers who know off-the-map to take the reader off the careful and situated page. I've sketched out a bird's eye view.
- Bob Arnold is the author of American Train Letters (train traveling through USA/Canada) Coyote Books-SUNY/Buffalo
! FLASH ! : Legendary troubadour Bob Dylan will start a new career as a radio DJ when he launches a new weekly music show on XM Satellite Radio next March. Pinch yourself.
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND TRY OUT A HOLIDAY SEASON & NOT
TO MISS : NEW ARRIVAL BOOKS ! FOR SALE IN OUR CLOSING PAGES
in memory: Link Wray let us
find out a few things
- Besmilr Brigham
I find it broadly interesting that in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, natives in at least four parts of the world kicked out their white invaders in a final surge of native powers. All had intense dancing as a means of preparation; all felt that if they danced fervently enough they would become invulnerable to bullets. (This belief still surfaces occasionally.) The four groups were:
The Boxers in China.
The Mahdists in the Sudan.
The Zulus in South Africa.
The Sioux and other tribes in North America.
The Boxers were convinced of their invulnerability as they marched on the trapped legations; the Zulus believed it as they prepared their triumphant ambush at Islandwanda; the Mahdists believed it is as they faced Kitchener's guns at Omdurman; and the Sioux believed in it in South Dakota-some wore Ghost Shirts that were to keep the bullets from finding them.
Fair Greetings to Morgan Gibson and his many years duty and now celebration to Kenneth Rexroth's centenary (1905-2005) http://www.thing.net/~grist/ld/rexroth/rex-cont.htm
Here are books, films, music, the last few weeks in hand, I couldn't get enough of. And some others that didn't do all that much: a book on poetry by Camille Paglia (okay); Joan Didion's latest - about the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne - captivating, but somehow too inspected; Maureen Dowd's herky-jerky book asking: 'Are Men Necessary?' What a question! Of course they aren't. And I would like to read the Doris Kearnes Goodwin biography of Lincoln if anyone would like to gift it to me for the holidays. I'll take the Ted Berrigan Collected Poems as a substitute: beggars can't be choosy. (Please, I'm only joking...or, is he?)
Also included: please check out the list for Longhouse New Arrivals at the end of the Woodburner's - let the curtains part for a delicious table setting of gift choices of poetry and other books! Someone's got to compete with Barnes & Noble, Borders, box bookstores. It goes without saying to support your local independent bookstore, poets, on-line independents, and all street corner sellers of rare goods.
Just to let you know the reading series for relief funding for New Orleans musicians continues with no let up - we haven't missed a week on the street since Katrina raged through the Gulf region and have been sending our quarters and dollars down to Preservation Hall as they gather up in the old violin case stayed open on the sidewalk. Other poets and musicians have mentioned wanting to come and join in. Be my guest. Just let me know, and we will arrange a time. With snow now on the ground, we're playing footsie with what best weather comes each week. Hope to see you there.
Patriot Readings: please go to: Vegetarians Between Meals: This War Cannot Be Stopped By a Loyal Opposition by Jeremy Scahill / Published on Friday, November 18, 2005 by www.CommonDreams.org
What's Love Got To Do With It? (everything)
Highly recommend on DVD - Films -
~ The Brown Bunny, written, directed, acted in, devised, amplified, courageously brought to a finish line by Vincent Gallo. The film Entertainment Weekly wrote "...no one in America will ever see one frame of this film..." hunt it up and prove the mass market, once again, wrong. With Cheryl Tiegs as lonely park bench "Lilly" and Chloe Sevigny showing some guts as "Daisy". Gallo goes by "Bud". It's a cross-country in a one man van heartbreak from New Hampshire to Los Angeles.
~5 x 2 (French) one more itsy-bitsy masterpiece by Ozon showing the dissolve of a marriage, and because it's French, it's done backwards in time. Ending with a sunset.
~ Bad Timing (1980), the Nicolas Roeg masterpiece of editing splicing montage brilliance appearing when Quentin Tarantino was but a babe and no doubt influenced. Most of the male roles are twerps so the screen gets eaten up like July cotton candy by one Theresa Russell, new to cinema and thankfully not a Julia Roberts. Twenty five years later and the film still roars. Nicely framed in Criterion's library along with the other Roeg gem: The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976): how an Alien becomes a Human Being, or is it vice-versa? : Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry: when cinema was pithy, Swiftian space-traveling. Taken from the 1961 novel by the late and not to be forgotten Walter Tevis, whose literary works worked splendidly with imagined worlds. Of the 2 dvds The Man.. is by far the greater package from the Roeg oeuvre, with 2 discs, packed as letterbox version of the film, interviews with everyone, including Tevis (only audio), plus theatrical trailers from around the globe. A mind spinner.
~ Nanook of the North, shot in the early twenties by film pioneer Robert Flaherty with a lot of help from his friends, like Inuit hunter Nanook, who would die of starvation two years after the film was made. Upper Hudson Bay region, Nanook, family, sled-dogs, the barrens. Everyone suffered getting this classic finally into the can. 2005 update: "Nanook of the North" soundtrack by Starbird, issued from Becky & Carson Arnold and a musical adaptation of the original film. Either one is one-hour each of emptiness finding sound. Starbird's ambient breath of spacing and time stopped/accelerating at once, makes gorgeous connections. In line with Eno & Cage.
~ Man of Aran, Flaherty ten years later, now off the western coast of Ireland when land was stone, moss and precious few tourists. The ancient world was still forming. Flaherty has searched and cajoled and made his ideal family of islanders - woman, man and boy along the sea, upon the sea, and in the rock. It's breathtaking. Many faceted features beyond the original film showing the island in present time, interviews with some participants from long ago, plus an excellent interview with the filmmaker's wife, Frances Flaherty, in 1971 from their home in Dummerston, Vt. A heady time of antinuclear power resistance watching Yankee Power Plant being constructed in her near backyard, feisty core opposition, and how a woman who traveled with her filmmaker husband to every quixotic outpost during filming, and now in her late 80s, still believed in taking a stand.
~ Landscape in the Mist (1988, Greece) declared a "masterpiece" by some, and in the finest tradition of Tarkovsky, a small boy and his older sister find their way on a long bleak trail to Germany in search of their missing father. It's the kindness of strangers (all male, like father-figure figurines) and the wretchedness of another met along the way that fill this road movie, sparked with the children's revelations and determination to believe. In many ways akin with the brother & sister searching in Agee's The Night of the Hunter. There is a small boat journey to the other side, as well. And a Tarkovsky lone tree in a field to hug. Quite bleak, but the children, like children everywhere, are glow bugs in the dark.
Ciao! Manhattan (1972) the disintegration of Warhol Factory girl, and model for Life and Vogue, Edie Sedgwick - not to be missed but probably best watched these days with the "Car Talk" tempo of commentary by filmmakers John Palmer and David Weisman, exclaiming their surprise that they are still alive, considering their drug choked star would be dead, shortly after the film's release, at age 28. There are two films here: the often gorgeous black and white film first shot in 1967 at the first Be-In in Central Park, Max's Kansas City and other city parts (Edie slim, tall legged, before her silicone breast implants), and then picked up three years later after a breakdown of the drugged star and probably some of the film crew. Three years later isn't pretty - now in color, with a larger budget to mess with and the only redeeming interest is the black and white footage spliced into the glamour color whacked-out world of poor Edie. She's half naked most of the time and living in an emptied California estate swimming pool. Famous posters of old friends surround her living space, losers keep her company. You wait for the flashback black and white '67 uninhibited scenes to pull you through. Not as coherent as Jean Stein's book Edie, but it's an action film.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004): one that can withstand more than one viewing, and one of the few films these days that matches the integrity and storytelling strength of the book its drawn from - in this case, Ernesto Che Guevara's youthful diaries on a journey from Argentina with his pal Alberto Granado northward: Chile, Peru, the jungle and mountain life that will quickly revolutionize the soul of young Che. If one can tolerate the bestial Neocons the last 5 years; two hours is a snap in a lover's arms like Che's, watching his story unwind. Director Walter Salles hits all his marks, with a stellar film and portraits from Latin America to close out and enrich the last note before closing credits. Applause.
Finally, after all the cult & classic films, a simple American yarn set in San Fernando Valley interweaving the lives of six women exceptionally cast: Glenn Close, Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Amy Brenneman, Holly Hunter and Kathy Baker: Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her (2000) is probably fast asleep on some video store shelf just waiting for you to find it. As I did. Be a 'romantic' (so unpopular these days) it's better than grumpy - put a tear in your eye.
The Recording Angel, Evan Eisenberg (Yale): music, records and culture from Aristotle to Zappa. Everything it says it is and thensome; a testament and worship with storytelling spunk on the history and travails of the phonograph. If you still own a collection of old records, and, are still buying them, add this book without a moments hesitation to your collection. First published in 1987 and now reissued with a broken heart in the advent of digital technology, file trading etc., it's a wonder of down to earth writing, subject matter, dirty in the vinyl like you've lucked into some guy's private workroom of old turntables, well filed phonographs, drawers and drawers of parts & accessories and a head full of stories - like Stockhausen's belief on listening to electronic music at home as, "the inner eye opens to visions in time and space which overstep what the laws of the physical world around us permit; spatial perspective and the logic of cause and effect in temporal events are both suspended." Go there. It's good for you.
Wisely pulling from a rich aquifer of Appalachia & more: Jonathan Greene, Thomas Rain Crowe, Joe Napora, Sebastian Matthews and many others, Asheville Poetry Review #15 is a very sharp looking and balanced issue boasting a quartet of special features: "A Short Memoir of a Friendship, Cid Corman (1924-2004)" by Greene, "A Last Interview with Philip Lamantia" by Crowe, Andre Breton's "The Manifesto of Surrealism" (should be reread from time to time to stay honest), and a farewell for Robert Creeley by Jeff Davis. Gunned with well chopped poetry and book reviews in there as mixed nuts rather than the typical swamp of reviews at the tail end of a journal. This bird flies. (ashevillereview.com)
The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, edited by Elizabeth Alexander (The Library of America): from a series of horribly designed little books on the shelf that haven't quite busted out yet, and may not, but it is a good day to have Gwendolyn Brooks. One of the very few Pulitzer Prize winning poets - if not the only one - who went from a comfortable mainstream perch with Harper & Row and recognition with the big time outlets, into the bowels of Black Power (1967 is the dividing line for Brooks) and published from then on only with black presses like Dudley Randall's Broadside Press, later to Third World Press and the poet's own The David Company. Allegiance is this poet's middle name, and there hasn't been a poem she wrote that hasn't proven that true. Now if this "American Poets Project" can get on the stick and add Zukofsky, Niedecker, Baraka, Stein we might have something here. America has always been rich with the work - deep, fluffy, in layers, shelves and shelves and rooms full of fine sandwich eating poetry, and at the same time silly (and harmful) with partisan. marketing blinders. It keeps us digging, way past the usual reviews and even what can be found in the funneled-for-market bookstores. Think of Brooks as a grand example of how it can be done. We real cool. We / Left school. We / Lurk late. We / Strike...
Speaking of which, what is all this noise between a Garrison Keillor and August Kleinzahler scuffle: "one is better than the other!" Since when? Never mind bad mouthing Keillor, or even Ted Kooser's poetry. Like: down-home cooking doesn't taste mighty fine all of a sudden? It all seems to have stemmed from Garrison Keillor's anthology (another ugly looking duckling by design) Good Poems (Viking ) getting published with its sort of working-joe appeal and poetry - meaning: if it can be read by regular'folks, it must not be poetry. Please, smug comments like that, please pipe down. Kleinzahler - an excellent poet, isn't in the anthology, but, what do you know, I am. Some have asked me how I happened into such an anthology and I haven't a clue. I was solicited by a crew of hard working Keillorites with my poem in their hands: asked for permission, paid pretty well and the poem appeared in the anthology and was spoken by Keillor on radio. End of story. The anthology has since been seen in every Barnes & Noble in the USA and all bookstores with a halfway decent poetry rack. Chalk one up for poetry! because it puts poetry where it should be in the first place: bookstores, chains if we wish them to take over the planet, grocery stores, hardware stores, health food stores, music stores, let it rip. Keillor had his own plan and the type of poetry he likes to make up a collection. His prerogative. It serves a purpose. Should Kleinzahler have been part of it?: certainly, with a bunch of many others if we want to think of an impossible book impossible to market in this bizness poetry land we now live in. Where poets muscle against one another instead of working with one another. Dream-team is having August Kleinzahler side by side with Ted Kooser and Clark Coolidge heralding with Jean Valentine and get yourself an editor that isn't a scaredy cat at finding wholesome poems with that 'inner ear' (and eye) that Stockhausen spoke of above with listening to music. To have a great poetry we need not only great audiences but poets who will shut their mouths complaining and bickering and dividing into schools, camps, fisheries and get back to work writing "Good Poems" - the stuff you want to share, and hand down, like any good tool. It doesn't matter if its brain surgeon Language Poets, to the guy who changes your snow tires poet. It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing.
August Kleinzahler has written such a fine-tooled memoir I've reviewed early in these pages, so has Ted Kooser, and now Stanley Kunitz has The Wild Braid (Norton) a poet reflects on a century in his seaside garden, which seems conceived and edited by Genine Lentine and made into an attractive garden book album of sorts, with photographs and poems by Kunitz. But the sparkle of the book is the poet's reflection on plants, gardening and care because all of it is an easy switch hitter's stance on the subject of poetry. Weather, location (Provincetown, Ma), seasonal duties, garden paths, yard trees, ocean breeze, transplanting and recycle, all part of the poet's own technique in the subject and composition of his poems. Like a garden, some of the poems have become weary, old, a few hackneyed lines, but there is an overall decency in Kunitz throughout his life of writing that remained emboldened after all those many years. Dip in and out of this little fancy coffee table sleeper if there ever was one, though I believe it will grab you in first, and humble you quick.
Stone By Design, Lew French (Gibbs Smith), photographs by Alison Shaw: one more coffee table splendor but it's still tough and dirty work by those who lay the rock...in this case, for mainly the wealthy on Martha's Vineyard, and barely an old rambling stone structure and farmland pose despite minute patches of this still remain like hen's teeth on the very wealthy isle. For seeing how the upper crust live and keep a workingman and his crew solvent, enjoy. But it is mainly blockbuster stonework to Wow! the wowers. The author maintains a sensible working text in his self-taught (the best are: makes for raucous invention) range of working with stone, tools, inspirations, techniques and the all important motivation. There are many examples from cutesy to outstanding fireplace setups. May be best to first leaf in a bookstore to see if too-pretty is your sort of thing, but one to add to any stone-cult library.
Oh What A Slaughter, Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster) for some time now Larry McMurtry has been writing small books on big subjects from the American West. Not his best selling fiction, but his somewhat forgotten and expertly dished nonfiction. This thin volume, with of course Custer on the cover surrounded by serious Plains Indians ready to chop him down to size, deals with massacres in the Indian Nations 1845-1890. This would be settlers being killed by Indians, US calvary killing same Indians and Mormons killing settlers for still one of the most controversial massacres in US history, at Mountain Meadows in 1857. Being a native of the west, McMurtry brings along his evocative personal history and deft strokes to sum up the untold dead in less than 200 pages of straight talk. He's an author who has always allowed those that were there to have the last word: "Near the end of his life the tenacious Sioux chief Red Cloud remarked that while the whites had made his people many promises, more than he could remember, they had only kept one: "They said they would take our land and they took it." The bloody work that taking it required is the subject of this book." It still is.
Autobiographical Moment #333: while a passenger with Susan in the truck the past few days I have been reading aloud all of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, ever a killer. The book is finer than any film version, and besides, neither film had quite the right actors for the roles. My picks for the eternal roles in my head are fleshed out, dynamically, and with a bit greater grifter expertise, by Jean Peters (Cora) and Dan Duryea (Frank). Peter Jackson's computers-can-make-anything crew should get right on it.
The Wave in the Mind, Ursula K. Le Guin (Shambhala) daughter to Theodora and Alfred Kroeber, the latter who founded the Department of Anthropology at the University of California/Berkeley in 1901, whereas Theodora went on to write a biography of "Ishi", a 'wild' Indian, last of the Yana tribe, who suddenly appeared out of supposed hiding in 1911 in northern California with a language none of the local Indians had ever heard. In a state, where years earlier, Indians were massacred like flies, since gold was in them thar hills. "His story is, I think, essential reading to anyone who thinks they know, or wants to learn, how the West was won, and who Americans are." This excerpt is from but one essay called "Indian Uncles" (Ishi passed away thirteen years before Le Guin was born) that reveals the brilliant concentration and ease at once in this writer, who pans fearlessly and with almost humorous abandon over a spectrum of talks and essays on most everything: from women's shoes to Tolkien to the merits /or not, of writing workshops. There is something really clicking in this writer's head - lots of thrust and trust - where she has a craftsman sureness that is remarkably attractive. Prose and poetry-all art, music, dance-rise from and move with the profound rhythms of our body, our being, and the body and being of the world. Physicists read the universe as a great range of vibrations, or rhythms. Art follows and expresses those rhythms. Once we get the beat, the right beat, our ideas and our words dance to it, the round dance that everybody can join. And then I am thou, and the barriers are down. For a little while.
Just in, and I mean just in: I turned off the screen writing the Le Guin review and opened the morning mail: Here from Twelve Bells Press run by Chris Morton at 3 Bathurst Row, Coates, Gloucestershire, UK GL76NW: is The Boreal Poetry Garden, Marlene Creates (Dwelling no. 7) which "commemorates certain fleeting moments of my interaction with the land where I live (Newfoundland). The brief texts reflect some of the site's particular geophysical and climatic characteristics, its plant life, wildlife and social history, and my experiences here. For me, the location of the words in the specific spot to which they refer is fundamental to the radiating energy of their meaning and, of course, their beauty. The place I inhabit is both wondrous and constantly changing, which, I know, entails loss. My cosmology, I suspect, is basically elegiac." I like her already. Mawzy color photographs with brief text and a Rilkean lacing around it all. No price, so write Chris and make contact - Dwelling is an occasional series devoted to an exploration of the notion of dwelling in the work of contemporary artists, writers and researchers in a variety of disciplines, so Morton says, and carries forth to a tee.
Doings, Jackson Mac Low (Granary) assorted performance pieces 1955-2002 and a masterpiece of bookmaking: selecting a skilled doer and innovator, complete with the poet's handwritten, drawn, typographic and musical notatons, along with an accompaniment audio cd, enhanced with both studio and live performances, plus workbook style commentary by the poet guiding personal insight and instructions. Being Mac Low, the instructions are to be followed as much as barked at, forcing newer inventions and the hope for endless renewal. As Steve Clay states in his excellent introduction (yet another plus for the book) "Mac Low stated throughout the making of Doings that he was not particularly interested in creating facsimiles of his original compositions but rather in making a book that would facilitate further performances of the scores by whatever means seemed most efficient. Doings is thus several books at once...perhaps most important, young poets will find a sourcebook for creating and performing new language art - determining for themselves what can be done." One of the essential books for 2005 and the future. Call it a gift. Mac Low is only as "experimental" as the day dawning. Is that wool hat my hat? Is that wool hat...
I just keep looking at it, tempted, swayed away, just too much Bob Dylan all of a sudden with newly released classic songs repackaged for yet another generation, documentary film, even some cd released through Starbucks (a place I've never been in) but soon I will dig in the sandbox of his The Bob Dylan Scrapbook 1956-1966 w/cd (Simon & Schuster) found appropriately enough a few months ago in Woodstock, NY., and I'd be a fool not to plug the very fine and cozy bookshop in town for whenever you get there next: drop into The Golden Notebook on Tinker St., all the locals swear by it and it's in a fighting cause to be there forever as a real bookstore, rickety on the outside and many tiered book treasures inside the belly. I even heard one excited visitor drop in, plunk his bags down and set his hands together in prayer and nearly shout, "Thank god, a real bookstore! Not a chain! I promise to buy something. I will." I believed him without having him also fall down on his knees. The Dylan is like a lunch box serving of everything Bob over his early years, definitely a must sifting through photographs, journeys, tours, playlists, concert ticket stubs, the eternal background. It's in your hands and not a blog or shifting 'pages' on a screen. It's a companion volume to Martin Scorsese's film "No Direction Home" in sturdy illustrated slipcase. Where great guns and ephemera meet up in one book with a blast.
Best Music Writing 2005 (Da Capo): I always read each annual book issued from Da Capo cover to cover. Too bad this year's bread-basket is cut down considerably in size from the earlier years. Our son Carson's essay "Patti Smith: The Art of Trampin'" published from Longhouse, was one of the "other notable essays of 2004". Shouldn't a maverick now sweep up the notables and publish them with glee? If only it took hard labor and not money to get it done. Michael Ventura, Steve Erickson, Gary Giddins, Chuck Klosterman, Monica Kendrick all on that notables list. Well all right so I'm going steady / It's all right when people say / That those foolish kids can't be ready / For the love that comes their way (Buddy Holly)
Music cds: Liking about everything I've been listening to recently of new kid on the Indie block Devendra Banhart, whether solo or with Jana Hunter - both come with music as if composed and recorded up in a treehouse, as did Kendra Smith years before them and Vashti Bunyan decades before them all. Banhart is a grand mimic of styles and voices, ranging from a street singer to Caetano Veloso and thus has drawn his own mimics. Quite a compliment. With the death this week of Vermonter-Texan Chris Whitley I've been pulling out all his music to pay homage; the least a neighbor could do. You should too. Spangled voice and guitar work matching. I've already mentioned Carson & Becky's Starbird recording of "Nanook of the North". Chip off the old blocks they are giving them away as fast as they can press copies done the old fashioned way: all by hand, in a small apartment with a new kitten named Pearl. Visit Carson at his Turn It Up! music store location in Brattleboro and contribute some bucks for a copy and the cause. Listening to everything by Cabo Verde's Maria de Barros, how she swoons and owns a room! Cream Royal Albert Hall 2005 which is currently playing in its documentary concert form on PBS stations is a keeper by audio two-pack cd and definitely the dvd of the concert. Clapton is the least interesting, though he pulls off a none too shabby version of "Stormy Monday" but sometimes seems a little lost at finding himself where Jack Bruce's vocals want to take him back to psychedelia heaven. Bruce looks ravaged and is in a perfect place to show time is a killer and how many of the blues songs they rocked in the 60s now make perfect sense in their present condition. "World Gone Wrong" is all-beautiful-Bruce. Somehow Ginger Baker looks fitter and finer 40 years later and his drumming rolls throughout the hall. African band Konono No. l on crammed discs resounding Congotronics finally getting surfaced after 30 years terrorizing trance method sonic distortion from ensemble instruments jerry-rigged microphones, megaphones, percussion ala old car parts, and electric likembes (thumb pianos). It is its own ghetto-blaster. Finally, out a few years now and circulating used, the boxset of John Coltrane/Live Trane, The European Tours (Pablo): the wellspring only deepens since his death 35 or so years ago and he remains, for me, one of the few players out of the 60s that I can listen to all day alternate takes and repeated performances night after night as he tours through Europe with his crackerjack band - Dolphy, Tyner, Workman, Garrison, Elvin Jones - receiving tremendous support from both audiences and critics than they ever received back in the USA. 7 discs from "My Favorite Things" through "Afro Blue" bliss. Hearing is believing.
© 7 December 2005 Bob Arnold
Longhouse New Arrivals
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : ALL HALLOWS EVE, RECENT BOOKS & MORE There is another world, but it is inside this one - Paul Eluard Do you think Arabs are dumb? They gave us our numbers. Try doing long division with Roman numerals. - Kurt Vonnegut The maverick Progressive Era writer Mary Austin became convinced that environmental rhythmic patterns are translated into the physiology of people attuned to them. So the prosody of the Gettysburg Address, as she reads it, expresses the rhythms of a man who spent many hours splitting rails. - Forrest Gander
Despite the fact most of us have not gone through a sex change, all of of us are being boiled down to a neutered state - philistines now run our country willy-nilly: after indictments have been handed down onto "Scooter" Libby, his case has now been assigned to U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, nominated by the Punk in 2001. Let the Magic begin! The petroleum industry, of course long associated with our phony President's family dynasty, is scoring quarterly profits in the billions and still raising prices while we keep madly pumping...the hobgoblin' vice-president's long tongue cronyism to Halliburton, profiting like kings in two lands of devastation man-made by this administration: Iraq, and drowned New Orleans... and now Rumsfeld will cash in on the latest Fear Factor - a possible avian flu outbreak - by his stock holdings at Gilead Sciences, which holds the patent on Tamiflu, an antiviral agent. Rumsfeld before becoming secretary of defense was chairman of Gilead. Local woodchoppers are doing everything in their power to follow suit by jacking the price of a cord of firewood 100% in some cases, and this load of basically a renewable resource and often unseasoned-creosote-gumming wood, could be mixed with most anything, so learn how to measure a true cord of firewood, and what is wood and what isn't, to be fully empowered. Same guy chopping, same truck (soon to be newer), and figuring like everyone else: you screw me / I screw you. So, let's read books ! published by subsidiaries of the oil, airline and other "well-read, enlightened industries", and a few small presses you need not be too interested in because, hey - they won't make you famous. So...do you feel lucky punk? Well, do ya?
BOOKS TO COVET -
* available from Longhouse
Passage, Andy Goldsworthy (Abrams): I wasn't sure what to do about Goldsworthy with all his fancy books. Coffee table culture for coffee table money, until I watched a film on the stone builder and weather trickster deluxe - how he built in all seasons, scrapped up his fingers and hands, monkeyed with balance and didn't seem to mind at all when some of his stone or wood concoctions, many wonderfully constructed, and quickly, would be felled by the evening tide, winds, or just gravity. His stone mind is my own, ever discovery. These days he has jumped into the big arena and large equipment but hasn't lost dickering together a simple twig design in the woods when the notion strikes him. In this film there is a scene with the British Goldsworthy in the USA working beside a team of US stone wall guys on some rural spot, and he doesn't quite fit with his elfin manners and quirks of experiment. You can see the good ol'boy Americans just tolerating the little guy. Just look at what he can do with stone when opening to the glossy title page of this book. If you like your stone, it will stop you cold.
Anarchy, Protest & Rebellion, Fred W. McDarrah (Thunders Mouth): it was Fred McDarrah, the photographer, who single-handedly introduced me to the faces of the Beat Generation as a kid in his musty looking book The Beat Scene - an album of clockwork vintages from all around Greenwich Village in its heyday bohemia Howl, with assorted shots of west coast poets that wandered east for a visit. Some of those exclusive photographs from that era make it into this much larger survey, but it is mainly riveted to the 60s counterculture: almost everyone of the bad guys are here, and all the good guys that McDarrah can call his own. Who else could have caught Tiny Tim, Hugh Romney and Moondog in one photograph quite so right? Someone also worked hard to organize and write up many page short biographies of everyone shown in the book. A fugitive, classy dossier in itself.
Once Upon A Time in the Italian West, Howard Hughes (I.B.Tauris): Eastwood on the front cover, Van Cleef on the back cover, the span ranges from A Fistful of Dollars (1964) to Henry Fonda's last best western My Name is Nobody (1973), plus The Big Silence (1967) isn't missed. Ennio Morricone runs down the center of the book like blood. This is the heart of the heart of the Italian Spaghetti Western galaxy guide. Loaded with photographs and film stills. Go get dirty.
If the next generation of poets midway in their career walks and talks and writes as well as Forrest Gander, there's hope. A Faithful Existence, Forrest Gander (Shoemaker & Hoard): is a very big book at less than 150 pages, and you will want to crawl through it as you suck up smart stuff, southern legacy, poetics via geology, and pristine homages to the likes of Henry Dumas, Besmilr Brigham, George Scarbrough, Araki Yasusada, Vic Chestnutt, and I know Creeley and Oppen and Laura Riding are hiding in there because I've snuck ahead but I don't dare read out of turn. Gander has enough mysterious science about his way of writing that you don't want to veer off course, in case you miss something. I absolutely honor any writer who refrains such quotes as the one above regarding Mary Austin and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and then goes ahead and puts that same rail-splitting grain into his own abilities. Just try this paragraph on for size - it's better than whole books written by poets about themselves - If not a writer, then I would probably be a geologist. I majored in geology, was heading to graduate school in paleontology, and the doe-eyed dark angel touched my shoulder with a finger and the doctor said, third-stage melanoma, let's go. In no time, I'd lost my spleen, a line of lymph nodes, a bear's mouthful of flesh and muscle over my shoulder blade, and a rectangle of skin, about the size of a City Lights paperback, that had been stripped for use as a graft. Lying in the hospital, nothing but words in my head, I began to imagine another way to love the earth, and to find something to stand on. In a time of the poet's cry, "Me Me Me!" and shocking waste, the marvel of this book is just what the author kept out, and then put back in. One of the star throwers.
More downright fine books - each tidy in their own worlds:
The Polysyllabic, Nick Hornby (Believer Press): "a hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of books he's bought and the books he's meaning to read" promo filler but essentially a true summing up, and proceeds from the book going to a great causes: split between 826NYC, a writing center in Brooklyn for students between the ages of 8 and 18, and Treehouse, a London based charity for children with autism.
Povel, Geraldine Kim (Fence) : all "verse" is "confessional", so a 'confessional verse poetry/novel' is just one more to add to the pile, until we arrive at Kim's total package of best author's photograph in years (take a look), designed whipped and presented by a deservingly hot small press (their author's list is-to-discover - and that's the point of an excellent small press: believe in the unknown - and Kim's fine writing that experiments with full backbone, written in that land before she was lauded. You ain't quite literary fit until you've put this book under your belt. Only if you are searching for a narrative
The Selected Poems of Du Fu, translated by Burton Watson (Columbia): self explanatory greatness. Brook water cold splash to the face. But I still prefer the spelling and look to "Tu Fu" - the contentment of the woodland birds puts me to shame
A Defense of Ardor, Adam Zagajewski (Farrar): These great scholars, who seem to know everything, who've counted the disks of the vertebrates and the syllables in Archilochus' poems, can't manage to identify whatever it is that catalyzes human minds and creativity. They analyze the outcome, but are blind to its essence; they study the fire but can describe only its ashes. And as we know, Nietzche gleefully calls this principle that the scholars overlook none other than life itself. "Well, what do you know, Ollie."
TEACHING IN THE PRISON
She falls from the cliff leaving her
Three-fingered hand print on the cave
Leaves the future hanging on the wall
Like a scythe in Checotah thrift shop
She picks up moonlight
Striped light in five directions
Running from the pick-up
With knife in her hand
Behind these bars
Even the ghosts turn their backs.
"Come on in Poetry Bitch
What you gonna teach us today?
Push a little harder
This ain't no screen door."
- Terry Hauptman
* from Terry Hauptman, On Hearing Thunder (North Star Press / email@example.com) with an accompaniment CD-Rom and paintings by this poet/artist. Let the above poem speak. Terry Hauptman is grounded, passion hurt and loved, the not-to-be-last of the singers as she shares each song, poem, color of paint - maybe your own. This is a very full book of poems lived & learned.
The two hefty poetry collections of the moment in my sphere (w/June Jordan coming up) are by Ted Berrigan and Drum Hadley. One is dead with a family heritage coming through for him, the other one is lucky he isn't dead for what he has put himself through. Both lived their own way and the poetry says so. For some reason Olson is hanging around on the Hadley edges, as if one part Drum can't drop it (and shouldn't) after Olson paid the utmost of poetry brotherly nods by taking some of Hadley's poetry and putting it into the geography of Maximus. But I believe other literary types just can't get comfortable until they pigeonhole a poet as hailing from somewhere literary familiar: coming out of the blue, the shadows, the greater territory, just won't do. Early Hadley had the Olson rouge, but everything about Voice of the Boderlands (Rio Nuevo) (foreword by Gary Snyder) is more conjunto/corridos, Tex/Mex rawhide, much more Sandburg folk than any Olson, the stuff Mary Austin would have walked miles and miles to meet. Hadley is another one of the rail-splitters that modern America hasn't got a clue what to do with. At one time he would have been termed bigger than life goodness - like cornfields, desert winds, Will James tales. Astronauts and test pilots used to be made of this Right Stuff - poetry formed off your living straight off the range - maybe 30 years at least in the making, these are poems, tales, hollers, songs, wisecracks, short film escapades, love letters, prayers from someone who is truly gifting us what he could just as well kept to himself. Imagine that. Many years ago Drum Hadley called me from one of the early cellphones a rancher would toss onto the seat of his pickup truck as he drove into the wild blue yonder called his ranch on the New Mexico/Arizona border to tell me how much he liked a book of my poems. He drove to the highest part of his ranch possible to make the call. I was receiving this on a four-party line rural phone myself. It's incredible we even got a word in. What I'm bragging about is Drum's generosity. And it floods this book of charms. When I was the wisp of a broom /Sweeping the herds of cattle /Across the great rangelands
Like Fred McDarrah with his photographer's eye to social commentary, Proof by the photographer Jim Marshall is the cream of the crop of 1960-70s music sphere. It just doesn't get any better, except that it does: instead of just showcasing the hero print from a roll of film, Marshall gathers up over sixty proof sheets and shows them in their entirety on the opposite page from the master. So in essence, the reader is receiving an encyclopedic tour as if Marshall's private work book is open for all to see. Beautifully designed by Chronicle Books at a modest price. The fuck finger-shot of Johnny Cash was Marshall, and no one ever came close to catching Janis Joplin and early Bob Dylan quite like Marshall. Only Billy Bob Thornton's spread seems fixed, fashionable, and a waste of time.
Treehouses of the World, Pete Nelson (Abrams) - photography by Radek Kurzaj: for many of these shots the photographer deserves a medal. More than thirty-five treehouses from around the world are documented by the guy that helped build them from his builders nest of Treehouse Workshop in Seattle, Wa. Everything from little mansions a few feet up a stack of trees, to true indigenous woods muse splendors, along with commentary on materials used, new hardware such as the Garnier Limb (the "GL") a turned-steel limb anchor, which has essentially advanced the adventure into trees and what they can hold up immeasurably. These guys are good. But none of them quite reach the heights and magnificence of the Korowai people of New Guinea - building in perfect harmony with their site: tree poles, plant tie wrap and all - but they're getting closer. Full color, splashy, taking you higher.
When next in the mood for a rereading (I do one every few years) go find neighbor to Henry David Thoreau, Michael McCurdy's wood engravings edition of Walden in the 150th anniversary edition published from Shambhala. It's of a higher law and makes for almost a new reading. My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles; to be hindered from accomplishing which for want of a little common sense, a little enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as foolish.
* For two months now I have been reading a pair of Ed Sanders' poems on the street as I share a sheaf of what I term the Great Americana with the public at large. This is all for reading poetry and writings to earn donations for Katrina relief for New Orleans musicians. And you can't predict a thing. These two poems jumped right up at me as I was reading Stanzas For Social Change (Shivastan). Don't you love a guy who puts his money where his mouth is...these are merry and tough pitted poems exclaiming everything from Blake-light to the great Henry Wallace. The two poems I keep going back to and sharing in the arena of public domain are "The Question of Self Publishing" (something the author knows a thing or three about) and "You have to be Ready for Ridicule" (which goes hand in hand with the other poem). At this point in the sidewalk reading I just about have anyone who can hear and pay attention for a half-minute saying the refrain through the poem You have to be ready for ridicule back to me in follow-the-bouncing-ball agility. Nothing like a poem that makes such goddamn good sense to live high and wide on the street. Keep writing 'em, Ed.
Another rail-splitter, Dave Van Ronk, The Mayor of MacDougal Street (Da Capo) is the book not to miss on music appreciation straight from the soul of blues. Van Ronk died before completing the book, so Elijah Wald comes to the rescue without much of a hitch, and besides, Van Ronk seems to cover ground from his favorite era: 40s-50s bohemia jazz, folk, blues America, before he is gone. There is something akin to Van Ronk's own music finding the book unfinished, open ended, in wonder. They all who became famous (Dylan, Baez) and every other strumming minstrel younger than he, bowed to Van Ronk's dimensions. The author's appreciation for John Hurt, The Rev. Gary Davis, a multitude of early jazz pioneers stuck to a guitar or piano come from the vast depths of a true Brooklyn born autodidact. Hear what will kill him in the timbre of his voice. An excellent companion CD to this book would be...and the tin pan bended, and the story ended (Smithsonian Folkways): live Van Ronk in concert (2001) talking and preaching and fussing aloud with song. Incredibly, and poignantly, he never sounded better.
I realize many, but not all! of us are sick to our stomachs of the misfit and mongrels in the Punk's long term nightmare (one hour was long enough) - and as I wrote to a good friend this morning, I take it personally, big-time, what hell and ruination we've all experienced or fallen to ever since Reagan...so it comes with a good dose of greatness and highly recommended, mostso for teacher's who just need that perfect text for their students: head to, please: Eliot Weinberger's, What Happened Here (New Directions) for a breakdown of history, like the masterminds once drew them up. From Gulf War 1 1991 - through 2004, dissecting the all important theater of 9-11 from Weinberger's vantage point of downtown Manhattan where he lives, and somehow remaining sane as he gulps down and spews out more analysis on cronies and their hideous habits. Since the book was published, we have had hair on fire nickname playthings like "Brownie" and "Scooter" and "Harriet" for further good work from the man who hasn't let his guard down, and one should at least buy and read his book as a way of paying back thanks. Unity. You've already paid enough war tax to kill a country. It's the duty of the patriot to protect his country from the government.--Thomas Paine 'The Rights of Man' c.1792
I am I because my little dog knows me is just one of the crackerjack zest molecules once written or said and certainly lived-by one Gertrude Stein. I know the Language Poets think they are improving on the Stein model, but I just haven't seen the evidence. Everywhere I look and read and blow thick academic dust off of (even if they don't work or are paid by such, they are being heavily endowed from their writing programs and basic allegiances) this Gang comes across dowdy, clams for a laugh, wound barber pole word play. Thank god Ann Lauterbach is among them because she is brainy and exploratory at once, consistently her own pacemaker in poetry for decades and now her first book of essays The Night Sky (Viking) is out, and I probably would have bought the book for Lauterbach alone but there hasn't been a Joe Brainard illustrated book cover done yet that didn't first attract my eye, as Jess Collins used to do. A good deal of this book is fluff and puff and muff but it's good for you. Like most of the Lang Gang, the women are almost always finer then the men, chalk it up maybe to fluidity of mind, colors, landscape encounters and such a dependable facility of memory. From a poet who made her living for years in art galleries (it shows positively) and claims she didn't find her bearings until she began to teach (now at Bard) these are stitched together essays over twenty years, with care. Okay, thanks. It's getting dark, I think I'll go out for a walk now. Blink. Blank.
* John Sinclair's name rings bells for all sorts of folks well over 60 years of age and has always been ringing dem bells for folks in their late teens. He must have something! Associated with all sorts of wild ended parties from The White Panther Party to Detroit's own MC5, and he's kept that weird and wizened look about him, drawing in crowds for his poetry and jazz venues,. And last but not least one must not forget the guy can write about music, and write well. Amiri Baraka does the writing honors for an introduction for Sinclair's Fattening Frogs For Snakes: Delta Sound Suite, and he does it in one of his more tonal oral tributes that really puts some gris on the page. You might expect Sinclair to be as dramatic, but instead he shows up and writes a tour de force giant killer of a long poem on the Delta Blues sound and stroke and folks and history, exclaiming with virtuoso reach his own historical smarts mined in with celebratory lyrics and comments and biographies of all the chief players, who can still be complete unknowns to this day in this country, despite their qualities as Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Rice Miller, Muddy, Wolf, Robert Lockwood, Johnny Shines, Robert Palmer and all sorts of bitten terrain and text savvy been-there that I never read anything quite like it before. Not forced, not polished, not crummy, mainly downright sincere. The press: Surregional was in New Orleans, now Slidell, LA. and was smacked around by Katrina but still afloat and constant. Copies can be had soon from Longhouse or through inquiry to Dennis Formento, 1640 Fifth St., Slidell, LA. 70458. The print run is low but the publisher and author deserve a second and third and fourth print run. Designed in black and white with eerie blank promotional copy. None. The Blues always took care of itself.
I picked up a tattered book the other day in town rounds and decided to keep it because of an opening sentence: The Connecticut River begins in the clouds that surround the mountains of Canada and New Hampshire. I did fall into the clouds with that line. Out of The Complete Boating Guide to the Connecticut River with no specific authorship, more a manual and advertisement brochure once upon a time. The sentence I like will last longer than us and the book, and I've kept the book just for the appeal of this sentence. Someone got it in there. The river was a journey place once upon a time for the likes of John Ledyard, lone sojourner in Jeffersonian stripe (Jefferson lived vicariously through Ledyard before he moved on to the team of madman Louis and frontiersman Clark) who as a dropout from Dartmouth College left the environs not by road or trail but in a canoe he dug out from a tree and then paddled 140 miles south on the river that began in the clouds.
After Kurt Vonnegut gave up the ghost and stopped writing masterful books, as he had his first eight books - a few downright classics - he seemed to stop having an edge seriously as a writer but never lost his best edge as a commentator and all around quixotic prankster. Despite dragging on unfiltered Pall Malls since he was 12 or something, and soon to be age 83, he's always been with us. I love the fact there remains this seasoned author, with a reputable World War Two honor (a soldier and surviving the bombing of Dresden), with a king-size fame registry, who would have the free for all mind and aplomb to write a skinny little book titled A Man Without A Country (Seven Stories). Forget sitting on your laurels, Vonnegut is pissed off, wisecracking, innovative and still teaching us how to write, live and maybe survive. The writing is so simple and easeful and ordinary that you might think you are much more the wiser, and then it hits you Today we have contraptions like nuclear submarines armed with Poseidon missiles that have H-bombs in their warheads. And we have contraptions like computers that cheat you out of becoming. Bill Gates says, "Wait till you can see what your computer can become." But it's you who should be doing the becoming, not the damn fool computer. What you can become is the miracle you were born to be through the work that you do. Vonnegut has been saying such things for umpteen years now in umpteen college commemorative speeches. Wouldn't it have been great to grab up all his tarter and insight and head off into the big bad world to conquer it from evil? As Vonnegut continues his train of thought, sighing, Progress has beat the heck out of me. Go wonder why a WW2 vet is a man without a country. Not you adults, it's almost too late. But you kids.
Finally a sumptuous summing up of history that roils and boils and tides in on shore not with the scientists, historians, politicians or even the wealthy. But with the poets: from A Little History of the World, E.H. Gombrich (Yale) -
The history of the world is, sadly, not a pretty poem. It offers little variety, and it is nearly always the unpleasant things that are repeated, over and over again. And so it was that, barely a hundred years after Charlemagne's death, in times of chaos and misfortune, hordes of mounted warriors from the east invaded yet again, as the Avars and the Huns had before them. Not that there was anything remarkable about that. It was easier, and therefore more tempting, to take the path which led from the Asiatic steppes towards Europe than to launch raids on China. For behind the protection of Shih Huang-ti's great wall, China had now become a powerful and well-organised state, with large and prosperous cities, where life at the imperial court and in the houses of its learned high officials had reached levels of refinement and taste undreamt-of elsewhere.
At the same time as people in Germany were collecting ancient battle songs - only to burn them soon after on the grounds that they were too heathen - and monks in Europe were making timid efforts to turn Bible stories into German rhymes and Latin verse (that is, in about 800), China was home to some of the greatest poets the world has ever known. They wrote on silk, with elegant flourishes of brushes dipped in Indian ink, concise and brief verses which, in the simplest way, express so much that you need only read one once and it is in your head for ever.
The day so wind-swept clear that while working outdoors we could hear the Amtrak passing-thru 12 miles away in Brattleboro. All above written in the company of music by Sam Beam /Iron & Wire, then Holcombe Waller, running straight up the tree of Tuli Kupferberg's masterpiece "Tuli & Friends" hearing is believing! followed by gorgeous wondrous Cesaria Evora & Maria de Barros (do you want heaven & earth?) and finally tearing the room to pieces with older Charlie Feathers. Hey now, it could have been Hasil Adkins! Please send any books, music or films to be reviewed within the limits of possibility and no guarantees except lightning strikes twice. For personal, address and website, drop your eyes below.
© 31 October 2005 Bob Arnold
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : FIDDLIN' & POESY in memory of Shirley Horn
It certainly is a moment to celebrate when poets & fiddlers get together. This happened a week ago when fiddlers Jacqueline and Dudley Laufman drove over from their home in Canterbury, New Hampshire to play their fiddle and barn dance music on the sidewalk in Brattleboro. Dudley is equally known as a poet and so already his interest was perked as to what I've been up to with other poets and musicians ever since the levee broke and flooded most of the city of New Orleans. Darkening the lives of countless musicians and artists from the city. We have been raising money ever since. A wise one broached the subject about how the recent flooding in our New England neighborhood of Alstead, New Hampshire and other parts could use similar donations. Good point. Money should also be raised for that damaged part - many homes and lives have been lost, ruined, at least horribly upset. We may get to that later in the season, but for now it would be something else to see another part of the United States also addressing the plight of Alstead, NH and sending some donations their way. One of the reasons for our sending funds to New Orleans is to get folks out of their own neck of the woods, into other cultures, and toward the goodness of actually being united. I believe it is working, however small it may be. Add a stick.
I knew fiddlers must be coming to town when last week Susan and I were setting up shop at our spot: old crate, old violin case on top of crate, now old but still attractive poster leaned up to describe who we are and what we are doing. The poster has had many rain days on it, so I framed it onto a pine board which also helps the poster from not blowing over quite as easily. So coming down the street I see two almost Mutt & Jeff wonders: heavyset guy in cowboy hat, white beard, strolling like a bear with a winning smile. Next to him a roasted wisp of a fellow, woolen lumber clothes from the 50s, ragamuffin gray beard possibly aging him ten years and his eyes still blinking getting used to the town life and brighter lighting - woods folks, fiddlin' folks. They drifted up and asked for "Dudley". Said they were old friends. I suggested they settle in beside the parking meter because poetry and music was soon to happen. I spotted tallward Dudley coming down the sidewalk . Greg Joly with him. They had probably met up in the parking garage and this was a first meeting for the two. Both being Scott and Helen Nearing fellows it took only the short walk from the garage to our reading site and they were new friends. Dudley with his fiddle case strapped over his shoulder. In his 70s but still with boyish hair and grin. Younger Jacqueline arriving shortly thereafter with her own fiddle case and beaming smile. I swear country folk are going to save this planet yet! A brisk day and we're all now formed in a tribe ready to work.
Right out of the box I notice a fellow walking toward us, shirt & tie, not looking particularly happy. I throw a rope and ask if he wants to hear some reading. Normally no reason to be this out spoken but the gathering of many workers ready to read and play music causes a storm of improvisation...so I begin to read from Bob Dylan's Chronicles, his passage about New Orleans. My visitor is nodding, he knows the book, has read it in fact. So many of us bond by this realization. Something in the reading, the telling, the unity of spirit, maybe the maple lighting from the nearby tree cast around us convinces the guy to leave a very generous donation. The day has started. Greg, my sometime but stalwart partner from the beginning of this reading series, stands by the violin case and sends me a wide-eyed nod. We're cookin'. Fiddlers are warming up. Soon they will lift the lid off the whole neighborhood and replace log trucks down-gear, traffic busting and general commotion of side street small town America into a sweep of ears, feet and heart. The neighboring bookstore owner leans out the door for a peek. Across the street a mother with two young daughters passing has the two little girls dancing. Add music and there's an immediacy of pleasure. The poets know to run their poems up this spine while the feeling lasts.
When not fiddling, Jacqueline runs off to do an errand. Poems go on, passersby mingle, keep going, at least glance over. Definitely people walk slower to catch a little something of what is being said or played. As I'm finishing up a short poem, Jacqueline is back armed with many sticks of thick chalk. Multicolored. With no hesitation she begins to draw on the sidewalk what she is hearing for poems. As soon as a poem is heard, she writes. Thus: "I think/of a tree/to make/it last" Lorine Niedecker. The line breaks are now oral, reinvented, catch as catch can. There's a brilliance to see the poems go so splendidly from street reading onto sidewalk in-the-moment permanence . Jacqueline doesn't stop there - she florals each poem with accompaniment tree design, laurels...and moves to the next poem as it's heard. One of mine on purple Japanese irises, one of Dudley's on square dancing. People, despite their tastes, are curious, they are now stopping in their tracks realizing they are standing within a poem! They read. Especially the children. Before we know it fiddling, poetry, conversation and thirty feet of sidewalk has been taken over. Dudley has earlier asked if we needed a permit to do these readings. I shake my head, "We've always lived quietly, neighborly with the local businesses. No one seems to mind." We both nod in agreement while surveying the sudden anarchy covering the sidewalk.
Next up is a UPS truck and young driver sliding in to park right at our curb. The driver has unloaded and begins to push his handcart of goodies our way. I look at him and teasingly say, "So, you're going to ride over our newly painted sidewalk?" A smile from him that wins our world immediately, "Yes! I have to!" he cries. These brown uniform workers always on the go. I throw my hand in waving gesture as if an old tale Arabian sheik allowing passage....off he goes. But! he has to return. On the rebound we all stop his cart with a full motion of celebration and say, "Now, it's time for a poem." He smiles, fusses, even shouts, "But, They are watching me. I-know-They- are," he pleads, as he looks to the sky with that possibility of cameras, video, Big Brother dooming his job and life. "But, we are watching you as well", we jest. He acquiesces. Out comes one more of the short poems; no matter, he's in the clutches with us. Right after the poem (15 seconds) he almost jumps and blurts, "Look! See what I mean?" and sure enough, there's his supervisor (even surprises us) leaning against a parking meter and taking mental notes to everything before him. The full form fest of poetry, music and donations. Circus miniature. He isn't a hard ass, is even cordial, smiling, but all business when he gets his minion back up into the box truck. So I follow them in and read a very short poem on the truck steps to the boss and tag him with "Now, you've been read to." He gets it, the driver is still smiling, but the tension and the authority and who-is-who-here is clearly rippling off the small space. We've all been there.
Soon after, a twelve year old boy, timid, hoarse low voice and clearly curious as to what antics were going on in his town, came poking over and in his curiosity was gifted a poem about "a perfect world". He smiled at the title as if possibly a genie were in some bottle and replied, "Boy, wouldn't that be nice". Yes, you wanted to hug him. So I read the poem, which was about as close as I could get to embracing him, and being a simple poem but loaded with dense parameters, the boy thoughtfully blinked once, twice, then smiled with that sureness of knowing. It restored enough energy and hope in all of us to stay on the sidewalk for maybe the rest of our lives.
How did the day end? With Mount Wantastiquet, towering over the main street buildings, losing more of its sunlight. A chill coming and some fine donations made in the violin case. We headed down to the Korean restaurant and a window table and shared bowls of hot soup. Jacqueline handed over to us the many remaining chalk sticks for another day. And another day after that.
For more on Jacqueline & Dudley Laufman please go to: http://www.laufman.org/
copyright Bob Arnold 24 Oct 2005
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND: SIDEWALK READINGS FOR NEW ORLEANS CONTINUES, RAIN OR SHINE / PLUS KING HARVEST TIME
It's their reality. We just live and die in it - Maureen Dowd on the Bush Administration
Your today is followed by no tomorrow and comes afters no yesterday. Your today is Eternity. - St. Augustine
For those keeping score - recently James Koller and I read on Elliot Street in Brattleboro and we were joined by Jim's son Bert on guitar. I liked the way Bert held his guitar as he stood and played, sort of a cotton belt sling wrapped around the hollow body and back to him. It's a lot of gas in a Ford pickup truck coming from and returning to Maine, so Jim and Bert showed some class putting in their time. For some reason only the gods have an answer to, the rain clouds shutup for the two hours while we read and played on the street...I started off with more readings from my Americana series: Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Bob Dylan, Gertrude Stein, Ed Sanders, Carl Rakosi, Willa Cather; and then Jim aligned with many pages out of the ever fertile A Coney Island of the Mind, which has to be one of the finest ways to hear Ferlinghetti - by one of his friends. Jim then went to Lorca as I was going to Neruda and Niedecker and I saw he even had a vintage edition of Ezra Pound in his satchel but we started to then read poems of our own. While Jim played on one of his jaw harps (he keeps a ring of them in his coat pocket) some guy crossed the street to be with us on the sidewalk as Koller finished up a tune, Bert strumming along, this guy digging it. When all was done he asked Jim the history of the instrument (good person to ask) and then he waited for my turn since I was next to read. After one poem, our visitor said with complete seriousness, "There isn't any technology at all in your poetry. (pause) You can't live like that, can you?" Almost up there with Creeley's: was that a real poem or did you just make it up yourself? Jim and I just smiled at one another. Bert looking like Jesse James.
The next day we read in an art gallery organized at the last minute for a reading - it was an idea burst by the gallery curator Catherine Dianich Gruver. Her gallery has been showcasing all month fine letterpress broadsides by poets Kinnell, Carruth, Kumin, Ed Cain (nice surprise) and many more, and Catherine reveals absolutely nada stuffiness at inviting in two street readers who have also done their share of gallery readings. Come to Brattleboro and find the alley way down a lane toward a view of the Connecticut River, The Hooker-Dunham Theater and Catherine's gallery blocked in with a group of other artists tucked away at various adventures. The elegant printer Dede Cummings works alongside Catherine, and for our little show Dede had made up handsome posters . When I finally got to meet Dede, what did she have to say when we shook hands hello. "Yes, you once rejected one of my poems. (nice smile) But I kept your rejection letter." You never know what to expect in a small town.
Koller and I read for two hours. It's a blur at who really came since we were supposed to be reading to a long lunch hour interest who just might walk in awhile, listen, then mosey on; while Jim and I shared our poems back and forth sounding like a very long back road tour from Vermont to California's old & new dreams. Blame it on the rain.
Now eight days of straight rain, robins in migratory loss for the moment stuck up in our woodlot where I've been laying up stone cairns for over a month, and now a flock of flickers in our rain flooded yard...tomorrow Susan and I push off for Eero Ruuttila's farm and festivities we have been invited over to attend and participate with. I'll be reading with Wayne Atherton either near some bonfire, in a barn, perhaps gathered in a greenhouse? and it all sounds like perfect pitch poetry to me. Come to it, if you can. Each year the farm hosts a public Nesenkeag Farm Day, the 3rd Saturday in October, rain or shine..."organic veggies get sold," so Eero robustly writes to me, "the local bee-keeper sells his honey & a nearby buddy sells his organic meats...I give a farm tour for the local gardeners & farmers who come to see how organic systems work on the farm's 35 leased acres...farm Board members walk kids & their adults on the Nesenkeag Brook interpretive nature trail we have created with a couple of modest grants...there's paints & games for the real little kids & a few musicians play during the afternoon... at day's end I host a poetry reading around a bonfire near our wash area...past years poets have included Gary Lawless, Janine Pommy Vega, Jim Koller, & Simon Pettit." Fine footsteps to walk in. You want poetry out of the ivory towers and the halls of montezuma? Here's your chance. Directions to the farm: Nesenkeag Farm is located in the historic center of Litchfield, NH on the riverside of Route 3-A. Call 603-429-3163.
Next week the poetry will continue on the sidewalk. Fair weather will return. A few maples still have their leaves up. I just may have a few giving me a call how they want to come and join me. Donations being made for the New Orleans musicians fund and certainly at keeping a line of poetry down in front of your path. Happy Trails.
copyright Bob Arnold 14 Oct 2005
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND: SIDEWALK READING MAKES A BAKER'S DOZEN
"We picked up one excellent word a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word "lagniappe." They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a 'baker's dozen.' It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city..." from Life on the Mississippi - Mark Twain
7th October will be our Baker's Dozen moment in the Sidewalk Readings, having stretched the show from western Massachusetts towns back home to Vermont and aligning today when the Brattleboro Literary Festival kicks off, which will entice a few more folks to town. Yesterday we were heckled by a friendly enough kid in big black work boots, who was seething over something about putting a bullet between the eyes of pandas. He seemed to have his reasons. He then asked if we had any poems by Gary Snyder? "No". WS Merwin? "Nope". Then his fat chance wild-card, "How about Lew Welch?" turning to go; but we surprised our visiting crank call when we said, "Sure. We happen to have a poem from Courses in the bag." He was talking to two vintage backwoods types. Then I asked him to take the brick 'stage' and put his money where his mouth was. I was almost proud at how well he quieted down and got the job done, setting the Lew Welch poem out onto the street. When it came time for our reading, naturally enough, he was back with mysterious jabs, hoots, comments. Blithering nonsense. At least he was active.
With the13th reading under our belts, I would like to thank, so far Greg Joly for sticking with me. He brought more & more Scott Nearing readings to the curb. Likewise Terry Hauptman and our way of corralling any sort of school child into our circle for poetry. All kids chimed in how they wrote their own poems. There's hope eternal! To my new daughter in law Becky, violin floating with her walk. Susan, ever there at every match. For our neighbors on the street, Brattleboro Books, and their 75,000 used books and how they put up well with customers who would duck off the sidewalk into the store and ask, nodding back toward us, "Were (we) a religious group?" Yes, religiously spiritual!
Thanks to each and every passersby who left us heartfelt donations in the violin case. Every penny went to New Orleans musicians, and more will follow.
I've made invitations to other poets and musicians to come along and work with me, and we'll keep at the readings wherever we can find a patch of sunshine to stand in, come winter. All you can do is invite.
Networking continues with good folks in the devastated Gulf region like Dennis Formento of Slidell, LA (across from New Orleans) and his very fine Surregional Press. Here is his recent contribution to the Scratch My Brain blog which will make connections for any of you to tap into.
"Monday, October 03, 2005
For New Orleans
Regarding "Woodburners We Recommend": Poet Bob Arnold writes, publishes, and distributes books in Guilford, Vermont. He is currently raising money to help displaced New Orleans musicians through street busking: poetry and fiddle, guitar and verse. You get so used to big bureaucratic relief efforts, Red Cross, FEMA, these sometime giants who arrive in your ruined neighborhood, stay a month, and then take off for the next disaster, that you lose sight of what one person can do to assist. A nation of activists is what we need. Yesterday Bob raised $40 on the streets that he's sending on to a musicians' relief effort. Today he sent $100 to a fund established by Preservation Hall. It takes just a little, to mean a lot...
Each one, reach one.
The poem below, by Mikhail Horowitz, was published by Bob Arnold in his Woodburners We Recommend series and is available as a postcard for $5 American money. Bob's "mission statement" for the Woodburners' series follows the poem..." Please go to http://scratchmybrain.blogspot.com/ for more of this and other postings.
LATE AFTERNOON SIDEWALK READINGS (Elliot Street, Brattleboro, Vt):
11 October: poets Bob Arnold & James Koller read their poems.
Bert Koller on guitar & music aura
8 October: Bob Arnold reads, Becky Arnold on violin
7 October: poets Bob Arnold & Greg Joly read their poems & other works, 4:30-6 pm
(all above subject to rainouts, or look for them under a nearby overhang!)
all donations to benefit New Orleans Musicians' Hurricane Relief Fund.
online Sidewalk news & updates on readings at: http://www.LonghousePoetry.com/sidewalk.html
copyright Bob Arnold 7 Oct 2005
Great guns! I'm having all sorts of mail coming in after everyone watched the two nights in a row Dylan/Scorsese No Direction Home. And everyone seems to have watched. I was receiving mail after the first night, because people were just itching for the second night to roll around and needed to talk about it. Mail from around America, UK, into Europe. PBS/BBC doing their thing. Sorry about the censoring of language because PBS folks missed Baez roll into a classic and ribald Dylan as mimicked by Baez remembrance jingle. A friend in the Bahamas can't swing a copy of the dvd for maddening shipment reasons, so I offer to find him one, and of course find out everyone has sold out. The fun starts, but I'll locate a copy for him. It honestly feels like the very week Highway 61 came out when I was a kid and everyone owned a copy. If you didn't, I didn't want to know you. There is that incredibly poignant tribal essence and momentum - if but for a moment - between Monday through Tuesday...I'd ask every adult to try to maintain that, retrieve it, we just may be next to nothing without it.
On a second viewing of the film I am just as glued to the scene - part Dylan wonder continuing, mostso the wonder of the era. Our folks had World Wars. We're likewise allowed to be proud, and flaunt our time. You'll be dead soon enough. Besides, we're in a War that just won't end, since Vietnam. Three cheers, in the film, for the editor allowing a segment of Peter LaFarge to remain; and he's in motion. Where else are you going to see Pete Seeger? ...he's a champ, and he's nowhere else on television, radio or magazines. A glimpse, because they're freaks, to: Bremser, Romney, Orlovsky, O'Hara & beatific others etc., but a glimpse has always been enough. There's plenty of books where they come from if you dig and dig and dig. The film's two support columns are: John Cohen on all things traditional folk adventure; and a wizened better-mood- than-last-time Tony Glover, with some of the sweetest insights on Dylan's movements and meanings. Even his tone of voice is perfectly crazed mystical, plus razor sharp. Bob Neuwirth is Dylan's ghost of Christmas past, a key player. I've written about most of the others but you just had to love Izzy Young appearing to be in a lit dungeon, unspecified, with filing cabinets and a robust energy to Villon his way out. Too bad Scorsese made the film since his mood is already fixed, exaggerated, a made up mind from the time. There just has to be another young, wily documentary bestial sort, like the original DA Pennebaker of his time, where someone with money could shove a camera and accessories into these hands and say, "Go shoot. Don't complain. Be invisible." On the other hand, it's remarkable Scorsese is still up for it. His fame got the film placed and planted. Today, famous people don't have to do anything, and they're worshiped as doing something. Very good of the Italian-American director, who readily admits in a later interview: if Dylan hadn't gone electric, he would have never heard of him.
Back at the Ranch -
"one should always go further than one should go" - Cocteau
This is what happened the other day on the sidewalk during readings for raising funds for musicians and Preservation Hall in New Orleans....
...The weather was a delight. I went into Brattleboro and read poetry for 90 minutes on the sidewalk with Becky, my daughter-in-law, she sawing with elegance on her violin (nearing the depth tone of a cello). Susan stayed with us throughout it all. Like new 'parents' to this young woman we can't resist being overwhelmed by her taking on this act, freewheelin', thinking up something to do on the spur of the moment with poetry, and how gorgeous and lifting-high each note floats out over the street. A moment later we find out all the power on this side of town is out. People are on the street, clerks wander from their darkened, worthless stores, in a dead volt instance this corner of town is moving and thinking at foot-speed. It's yummy for a poet.
We attracted all sorts of folks. The energy level was mesmerizing, because there was an old mechanic I once knew, in one of his other lifetimes/my other lifetimes, sitting in a car with his wife right at the curb near me as I read. As we worked out music & poetry, he rolled his window down a crack. I was able to chase by hand gesture his young grandchild out of the vehicle to come hear a poem about deer hunters. As I read, my young participant watched me closely. When I was done I asked what he thought of the poem; tiny, 10 years old. The child pointed to my belt and said I had "something on my pants." I looked down. There was a hornet climbing up. Great kid. Poem was hornet.
Then I saw three teenage guys come around Becky as she played, and one seemed to be teasing on her as she tried to swoon some Gershwin...the kid was mouthing off Beck lyrics. I told him, "nah nah nah, come with me"...as I tugged his sleeve and brought him into the open onto our brick 'stage' of a sort, and said, "Fire away". Good of him: out came the Beck in a steady stream a la Subterranean Homesick Blues. When he was done, I smiled, then said: "Maybe now it's your turn (looking at all three guys) to listen to one from me?" They nodded. I took out the Henri Michaux poem for them by Louise Landes Levi's hand translating. A poem Michaux wrote deep back in the other century, for the masses/for the one, for boys who would die in wars. These three boys listen. Closely. A ton of shattered nerves and attention smattered problems and rotten schools, neighborhoods, families, bodies, down to the molecular infinity of hopelessness, and they're listening. Looking at one another to see if the other one was listening. He was, so they are. It's always how it works.
They dug it.
I went into my books of bear poem, love poem, farm poem: after the third poem, one of the guys asked, "Are these all by the same poet?.. I like them." I nodded. "Yep, they are. By me." Me becomes him because I'm standing right in front of him. We can talk. Touch. Breath/breath again. Sound goofy? Well, for years now I haven't seen anything work better, just worse.
"Really!": they jumped. Then they wanted to buy all my books out of my hands. Kids. No money. All heart. Suddenly they had money. Who was planning on selling books? Not me! A few dollars, each day, in the till has been the m.o. for weeks now. I was left with an old ragged volume of selected poems I made up years ago for a reading session. Becky started playing violin again. It's amazing, like a large bird leaving the ground. Wing span.
Every face looks radiant.
Carson strolls up from his music store and is thrilled at all the street action around us. I went up to the old mechanic's open window, creeping down lower, he's still there, and asked, "Do you want to hear a poem?""Sure", he says. Trying to sit up straighter. A cane at his legs. I read him a poem about the time I built a stone building ("Specifics"). The other guy in the poem is a mutual friend - the mechanic doesn't know this until I get to that part - the beam in his eyes spans centuries when he looks up at me.
Today we're setting up our little scene of milk crate, violin case, our miniature classy poster and ready to whirl. An old guy, whiskered and sassy, is standing there and wonders aloud: "Where are the two pretty girls who were with you yesterday?" Ah, showbiz! I have Greg with me today and say to smart-as-a-whip, "Isn't Greg pretty enough for you?" The old one gets right to the point, studying Greg's hair halfway down his back, "Are you a man or a woman?" he quips. Greg tugs on his beard and grins. Then we made nothing after almost two hours of reading poems about local losers like ourselves in the backwoods. Some grandchildren think these same losers are heroes. Trucks, dogs, chain saws, old boots, seasonal clothing. During the last half-hour two 12 year old girls appear like what can only be called magic. One is clasping a paperback copy of In Cold Blood. The other's straight out of great blond tomboy fame. I ask if they'd like to hear some poems. Like my mechanic, they're quick with a "Surrreee!" And they're right there, ready to listen. Some love poems get passed out, since that is actually their request. The woman I wrote them for decades ago, years ago, a moment ago, is standing on the sidewalk watching. Smiling. These little girls like that fact, I can see that....so a certain unannounced gift is exchanged between us all. Sound goofy? Show me something better. A dollar in their hands is $100 in their parents hands, but bless their hearts, they leave us $2 for our time. We say goodbye and close the violin case up. A fellow and his wife walking home from work want to leave $5..."Can we?" he asks. "Sure!" we all chime in, as the bill is slipped under the strap that keeps the case closed.
"Don't shit in camp" - old old saying
We've been angry, we've been bitter, we wise ones who know it all and sit with royal arts to explain it all one more jaded, ugly, senseless, erudite way. As if we're smarter than Emerson. Time's up. We need to hug.
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : BOB DYLAN / IF YOU ARE NOW 50 YEARS OR OLDER, YOU WERE THERE
We watched the Dylan / Scorsese dvd last night, No Direction Home, spanning the music of the artist's mercurial wonder years of the 1960s. Of course, it is spellbinding - not so much the current Mr. Bob but the Dylan of old. For many of us, it is "our time," but countless youngsters have easily adopted the era as also their own. More power to them. It was a terrible-terrific decade of bloodshed, peace and compulsions. In this film, the Dylan of today is extensively interviewed in sound bite form, and all of it is surveyed by his close associate Jeff Rosen, so the questions are canned, and Dylan already has some answers tuning up in his control board head. It would have been a much grander film - an expose, a Happening - if the interview was live, done by a wily specialist, and Dylan was forced to act on his wittiest and inventive impulses (as press conferences from his early years showcase): he was once a wonder at taking off the cuff questions and dishing double the energy back. "Triple!" One will also have to know a bit more than brief knowledge of Dylan-aura to follow the story line by Scorsese, and some of the editing is stupidly shoddy, perhaps to catch a certain wild time. But one could have illustrated far better seques. There are vintage shots, excerpted from concerts rarely seen before: the infamous Newport festival booing, many of the spectacle shows in UK, even the concert in Santa Monica 1965 when my wife saw him perform...a memory of the polka-dot shirt. Van Ronk, Pete Seeger and Izzy Young are excellent. Suze Rotolo knows more than she says, mesmerizing. Bob Johnston has the best one-liner about Dylan. Ginsberg aged and ever thoughtful. And Joan Baez on Dylan, and vice-versa, comes across as a lost segment from tv's "Divorce Court". Still, I sat, without moving, for three and a half hours. Al Kooper is a gas to look at and listen to.
copyright Bob Arnold 25 Sept 2005
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND: NEWS & QUOTE OF THE DAY/QUOTE OF THE CENTURY (September 22 '05)
We continue our work this week with the Sidewalk Reading Series for Hurricane Relief - having visited the Brattleboro farmer's market for a few hours on the last day of summer's blazing sun, and we will continue on Friday back at our spot on Elliot Street in Brattleboro. I have invited poets Greg Joly and Terry Hauptman to join me on separate occasions, and have recently stretched out the invitation to others - mainly musicians - but none, so far, have come acallin'. Unlike many street readings of yore, these are nonperformance Performances: asking not for just the political or social commentary poem but more in these desperate times: poems of love, family, companionship, community, earth people chants. Poetry of survival. So if you happen to be coming to Brattleboro and want to read alongside with me, send word. Words are the start. It is music. ~ BA
We are involved everywhere in a war against the world, against our freedom, and indeed against our existence.
Our industrial accidents, so-called, should be looked upon as revenges of Nature. We forget that Nature is necessarily party to all our enterprises, and that she imposes conditions of her own.
Now she is plainly saying to us, "If you put the fates of whole communities or cities or regions or ecosystems at risk in single ships or factories or power plants, then I will furnish the drunk or the fool or the imbecile who will make the necessary small mistake."
And so graduates, my advice to you is simply my hope for us all:
Beware the justice of Nature.
Understand that there can be no successful human economy apart from Nature, or in defiance of Nature.
Understand that no amount of education can overcome the innate limits of human intelligence and responsibility. We are not smart enough or conscious enough or alert enough to work responsibly on a gigantic scale.
Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made.
Put the interest of the community first.
Love your neighbors - not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have.
Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us.
So far as you are able, make your lives independent of the industrial economy, which thrives by damage.
Find work, if you can, that does no damage. Enjoy your work. Work well.
- Wendell Berry, from his essay "Word and Flesh" from a commencement address to the graduates of the College of the Atlantic and excerpted here from the author's book What Are people For? (North Point, 1990)
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND : POETRY HITS THE STREETS I got down on my knees,
For rain I thought I'd pray.
Along came a great big flood,
Washed everything away.
There('s) not a thing for a poor man
In this world.
- Frank Proffitt
I stopped writing because I was repeating myself. It is the beginning of the end when you discover you have style. - Dashiell Hammett ~
Every day, almost by the hour, I have msore & more ideas and dreams and tugs about what to do with these sidewalk readings. A few days ago, Greg Joly met up with me on the main street sidewalk of Northampton where we earned donations over two hours work. A guitar player 50 feet up the street had made about the same, according to Susan after surveying the scene. Noontime passersby. One woman came up, listened awhile, read our sign carefully about all donations going to New Orleans musicians, and set her dollar down like it was a million bucks. These are the graces.
Later that day, we drove over to Amherst and read another two hours. We positioned our camp right near the door of our friend's music store Mystery Train, and it was their contribution into the kitty that started off the swing of things. Mostly students strolling past, we seemingly oblivious to them all, a fairly intimate situation and easy to stop, listen and add in. I remember this town in the late 60s and early 70s when students stopped the campuses and shut everything down for common causes, justice, all those freedoms. To End A War. Completely unrecognizable today. In those early 70s, it was Black Power strikes that spunked the town. Where we read was less than a five minute walk from Emily Dickinson's home. In the other direction, go a five minute walk to her gravesite. There is no complaint here. Poetry remains constant. Even if we make little.
As trucks down-geared that day alongside our street of readings, I came right onto a poem of mine with a line about a work truck downshifting, as one, on cue, gear rumbled by. Greg looked up with a smile, "You got your sound man working it!" It's what I like about Greg; he can also pick up from a natural act.
Remembering earlier that day in Northampton, when I opened up the reading with three poems by: Samperi, Deemer, Carver, it took less than a minute to share. Expending energy at a bare minimum, the results magnificent. Right out of the box a young Christian zealot came up to me, stood a foot away as I peacefully read aloud a group of Cid Corman poems. I picked up on his Jesus fling and so read Cid's poem "Solomon". Naturally, the Christian's eyes perked awake. Most of these modern Christians are as junkiefide as the greatest street hustler - it's all about their Lord. Call it what you want, but we all have a "Lord". So I swam into the Jesus pool to see what would bite. He was gushing, spinning, stabbing at ideas, then he had to spin away like something was getting the best of him. So off he rambled with his worldly possessions pack on his back . But he didn't get 10 feet down the sidewalk when he hollered back, "Hey, I was wondering: are you a Christian?" I knew something would be coming, so shot back, "No. Human". He chewed on that a second and then went on his way with a hand wave. A half hour later, he was back, while I was midway into one of my poems and asked to hear the "Solomon" poem again. I said, "So, it's song request time, eh?..." picking up the book, looking into that dead serious look on his face waiting for the poem to reappear. "Now, when I see a smile come back on your face, I'll begin to read," I smiled. He got it. Gave me a grin. I read Cid.
Meanwhile, the military takes over New Orleans. Many in America now figure this is normal. Blackwater mercenaries (trained killers) moving throughout the Crescent City like marauders of old. Civil War. Red Legs. Lynchings. Drownings - have never left our history. It's our own fault we have a corporate junior executive in charge of the Presidency (Eisenhower knew this was coming) as he and his cronies fleece every morsel of soul left in our pastures of plenty. Crooks walk free, gas and oil prices sky rocket monumental profits for a few corporate cultures, while the truest homemade businesses diminish like forests in the Amazon. Fear is a doctrine coursing our bloodstream as an implant. Tear it out.
Yesterday, in Brattleboro on a side street, I read Lucille Clifton's gorgeously biographical (for anyone) poem "memphis". Her claim of "northern born", here where I now stand northern born and northern placed, reading of the foreboding and magnificent Mississippi. "I'm a-gonna tear down that devil's kingdom," as Frank Proffitt sang it. That's what we are doing with the sidewalk reading series. It's organic, spontaneous, normal, natural-voiced. No program, no flyers, no rent, no chasing the choir into the audience to hear more poets listen to more poets read. That power of worship is essential for a march on Washington 24 September 2005: showing expanse and community action. The sidewalk readings are daily, continual, active by the second, spring-fed. There is nothing better these days than to have a poet read and be lost in the hum and crash of daily existence! It's humbling. These poems of usual life: farm doings, animals, love touch, sea bearings, cloud shade, harvesting. No audience. No schedule. No theory. Voice played and addressing for some inclusion. To show the poem is ordinary and remarkably unique in its durability to last out in the weather of the street. Read again and again and again. There isn't much else to take its place.
That day on the sidewalk - another two hours - a middle-aged woman and her husband stopped a moment...the guy walked a little ahead...one of those: 'what is she up to now?' looks on his face as he studied his wife. The woman seeing the open, battered violin case that holds donations, asked me (while I'm midway reading a poem), "Where's the violin?" I smiled and pointed to my mouth saying, "Much older than the violin...the violin is but a tool, the mouth is the first instrument." She's listening. A small crowd gathering. At that point, I take out the Bob Dylan quote I used in the last Woodburners on New Orleans. It's from his book Chronicles, page 180 - ending with comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way - then the William Gass quote used in the same Woodburners - culminating with So be advised. For works of art, the rule reads: never enter Time, and you will never be required to exit - finally, I read an Ed Sanders poem on ridicule - you have to be ready for ridicule, as the poem's fine chant rolls along. Another woman has stopped and has a wonderful and steady eye contact on the Dylan passage. She contributed in her way. The violin betty kept on me..."I play the violin. I don't like seeing a violin case without its instrument. I have a violin shop right up the street..." "Oh yeah?" I inquire. "Yes", she says. "I tell you what," I offer, "bring your violin back and we'll play together. You with music, and then I'll read some poems." "What? Oh no, it's going to rain any minute now," she frets. "Then come back next week when I'm here," I say, adding with a friendly twist, "I dare you." You can only invite, the rest is reply.
We then noticed, next door to us, over a dozen people pile up outside one of the richest restaurants in town. The door will open at 6 o'clock. The owners and workers all seem hip to us being there. The customers are in a soft tangle behind us and close enough to hear all the poems. But no replies. Instead, a heavy set woman came out of the neighboring pharmacy with her purchase and still a little money left in her pocketbook. She stopped. Listened awhile. Read our sign, and allowed the gears to roll in her mind. And like that woman earlier in the week in Northampton, set a dollar down like it was gold. And it was.
The meek have already inherited the earth.
© 2005 Bob Arnold
Woodburners We Recommend: SIDEWALK READING SERIES
Bob Arnold & Greg Joly are now taking their sidewalk reading series of poetry on the road for the next month or so. On Wednesday, September 14, they plan to land the pickup truck from Vermont in Northampton, Massachusetts and begin reading from the hours of 11:30-1:30. Their usual m.o., is to arrive, case out a sidewalk location and begin reading. In Northampton, the best chance to find them will be on the Main Street, or possibly around the corner down Pleasant Street. It all depends on the friendly nature of the natives at allowing these critters to bark. Though they are quiet. Look for a battered violin case and its small sign for HURRICANE KATRINA RELIEF FUND. That's them.
That same day, from 3:30-5:30, they plan to be in Amherst, Ma. doing another reading stint. Their location will be around whatever music store or bookstore that will have them outside their door on North Pleasant Street. They are shooting for the good graces of the great record store Mystery Train's sidewalk vicinity.
On Friday, September 16, the reading sled-dogs plan to be back in Brattleboro, Vermont at their "spot' on Elliot Street, close to Peter Havens Restaurant, through the hours of 3:30-5:30. The Brattleboro Food Co-op is another possible location. They work catch-as- catch-can. This past Monday they read in Brattleboro on the main street and counted 8 log-trucks, a few Harleys and each with their distinctive rumbles and down-shifts. The best sighting was a bobbing town backhoe seemingly lunging out of control toward a stop light. The poems were buried momentarily in all this noise, but the poems went on.
All proceeds to benefit directly New Orleans Musicians' Hurricane Relief Fund. 100% of the money raised through this fund, and these readings, will go directly to New Orleans musicians.
Through hook or crook, we will all, again, be Walking to New Orleans copyright Bob Arnold 2005
in memory of Clarence Gatemouth Brown
New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don't have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there's a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There's something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands. A lazy rhythm looms in the dreamy air and the atmosphere pulsates with bygone duels, past-life romance, comrades requesting comrades to aid them in some way.
- Bob Dylan ( from Chronicles, volume one, p.180 )
Poetry makes nothing happen, because it refuses to be a happenstance. Poems are not events. They are realities remarkably invested with value. They are a woman, a man, a mind made of words, and have no body, and hence no needs.
So be advised. For works of art, the rule reads: never enter Time, and you will never be required to exit. - William Gass
Like I just wrote to a good friend, I'm now doing readings on the sidewalks of towns. I've asked Greg Joly to join in my troubadour fling and he is in-step and thankfully as much a hair-brained dreamer. We did Brattleboro on Friday for two hours. A small sign was prepared requesting donations - all proceeds being sent to Preservation Hall and their musicians fund. We open our violin case on the sidewalk, set up the sign, and begin reading poems. For awhile we were reading to the side wall of a parked UPS truck, then a little later a Coke truck slid in. Motorcycle mufflers are the toughest noise of the crowd. We made $25 in two hours. Barely anyone stopped but I remember every one that did. The usual sidewalk stragglers were the most comforting - a young woman, first to stop, bemused and high cheek bone smile on her face, dug into a tin can ala throat lozenge canister and around a few loose dollars she picked out two silver coins and was the first to contribute. Folks walked by with dogs and rarely looked at us. Poems drifting or sweeping or floating over their heads as we read. A mantra. Easeful and quiet. Their dogs always gave us a look. I've lived nearby Brattleboro going on four decades so at least two friends stopped by. Big smiles. They stood there in the cacophony and seemed to enjoy 4 or 5 poems. That was the most consistent audience we had at one time, except for Susan and Greg's wife Mary, who hung in there the two hours smiling, diligent, proud, faithful, the drawing card permission that it was okay for others to stop. One young kid flew by and at least shot over to Greg that he liked "his beard". I would have said, also, his hat! Greg likes to wear a straw made Amish brimmed hat. At that point he was reading aloud one more Thomas McGrath poem. I read a little Cid to top off the morning, then all of my book Where Rivers Meet, plus a James Koller poem I know by heart. So we had our friends there. A little brick court yard with a young maple tree to the southeast of us. Bookstores to one side, a record store on the other end, a gaggle of street kids, used clothing store, cars stalled a moment waiting on the street light. We plan to return for another day and another and another. And maybe take it to a few more towns. Little of the poems have anything to do with Katrina, politics per se at the moment, beastily topical. The poems are about bears, farmers, hand-work, love potion number 9, the blue sky day. Life, in other words. Life, what we are itching for. Demanding it.
Broader report: a day after the sidewalk reading premiere, Susan and I headed at dawn for NY State. We had a few bookstores to do business with, rode our bicycles for a half hour on the outer edges of one farmland location. Hit the road for the town of Woodstock after that. We heard a few friends might be taking part in a reading for Katrina funding. Get to the town, and in a pickup truck, it's like a cat trying to snuggle up into a shirt sleeve. Busy bee hive - tourism and everything for sale in a spot that can still supply a nirvana-nothing. We park the truck at the pastures of plenty town park (reminds us of the one in Taos, in fact the hills surround closely as well) and hopped on our bicycles again and begin a tour. Tried a pay phone to let Janine know we are in town but no answer, no machine, she must be away and the messages are loaded. Keep on sweeping on two-wheels. Flea market, and the people are more interesting than the stuff. In a shady grove. Here and there: low key record shop (find Basho for Carson, psychedelic Temptations for Bob. Not the Hardin lp Dan and I are looking for but I can feel it's close). I've always loved the town library, near the tent shaped roof laundromat, the glory of the mammoth lawn shade trees. Sit awhile and reread parts of Michael Ayrton's early novel The Maze Maker that I found on a sale table in the library for 25 cents. Susan strolls across the street to check out one more yarn shop. Traffic continuous, day heating up. A reading for Tsunami and Katrina now with a poster outside the town hall. See that some of our friends expected up from the city are not on the bill...walk in, that immediate sensory whiff that everyone in there are poets waiting to read. That circulatory rhythm that only poets read to other poets, unless the poet is well known...and then a crowd descends. No one is well known in this bunch, which makes me love them. There is trouper Donald Lev in baggy jeans cuffed at the shoes. His poems are poignant work bench models. Hustlers, losers, speech makers, true singers, drama queens, the desperate, big hearts, nobles, old fighters, the sick and the lonely keep a reading rag going. We sit for awhile. Hollow P.A. system, one more beautiful late summer day right out the door. People in here are geared to speak for justice, for others, all sorts of wandering hearts and nowhere yet to go with it in the country of the damned. More credit cards are being slapped down and authorized right outside the door and on this quarter mile strip of commerce and Woodstock Nation than you might want to imagine. I'd suggest to these poets that they head outside, especially today, and begin to patrol the sidewalks and just open up and read their poems to all the folks out there. But I'm a visitor and don't want to start a riot.
That evening we figure to stay awhile longer. Maybe Janine will show up (still can't reach her by phone) for another gala reading event of 50 poets. Woodstock can sure pull'em in! In a local cafe, two floors and a charming surround balcony tippled with art showcasing all the walls. That murky beer glass lighting. These 50 poets will start off the show in the late afternoon and then Carolyn Forche plans to read and she will be introduced by native son Ed Sanders. Sanders won't just introduce, he will come loaded for bear: an ancient instrument in hand, some new Sappho poem he has translated after not liking what he has seen from a published London Times version...and who could have done it better: an explanation, a tribute from the heart about Sappho, then the poem, followed by the literal version with ancient fingering to ancient instrument and up it drifts along the balcony edges. Ed also finishes up his stint - which has no way of upstaging Forche but comes completely across as a mesmerizing welcoming of another poet - as he boots into an antiPunk new poem song. And he hits all the keys just right by voice. I'm thrilled by a stately old hippy in rumpled suit coat in a great fluid stance posture. Forche is streamlined on board. Anyone who has read poetry steadily for the last 30 years has read Forche. She's been heralded by Kunitz as a Yale Younger, Rexroth liked her looks, and the first book was, back then, a very promising start. The second book, with poems from El Salvador, divided the poetry heavy plank table of board of directors like a broadax chopped down - for those that swooned with her political kohonies, and those that never would trust her again - something touristy about a poetry trip to a revolutionary land. Forgive her. This evening she is sweet and humbled and will even read two poems from that notorious book (The Country Between Us) including the ill-fated, for some, "The Colonel" which Ed Sanders lauds to the heights of a Shakespeare sonnet. I believe #28, but don't quote me. I often tune out on Shakespeare comparisons. Carolyn Forche reads elegantly, givingly, just rightily with enough time so she doesn't overstay her visit. An art form in itself. We are left with immersed poems of action from El Salavador, Beirut, and the solace of a new long poem that seems many-branched spiritual and common...crossing a field and not breaking through the snow. You look over the audience and it's every poet you saw earlier in the day at the first poet-fest, and thensome. The whole space comforting as that cup of tea you were once served. Woodstock is one of the last places on earth you can believe poetry does stand a chance. The little town library has a book-sale almost every month. There's a poetry reading nearly every week. The only regular business bookstore in town is called The Golden Notebook, and its stuffed with books and that gift of lighting like a new barn after a community raising. Don't give me any of your shit about "Retro". Little millionaires visit and keep the town alive. The dreamers do the rest. After the reading, Forche signs her books at a quiet table corner for an hour. I look over and see and hear, "Hi, (big smile). What's your name?...Okay..." her pen begins to work. I'm sitting with Andy Clausen and Ed Sanders who has come over to visit. Friends amongst friends amongst friends. The Earth is working. In that little lull that comes with conversation Ed and Andy spark awake and begin to reminisce about a recent full reading of Ginsberg's Howl they did together with others down in New York City. They beam to one another in that communal laser-light. Andy reflects on how he was given all the dirty parts to read.
We drive back home that night to Vermont, in a spaceship.
There is a history of terror in the bowels of every nation only awaiting the moment's impetus to be articulated and made general - Richard Blackmur
What is really at stake is one's image of oneself - Jean-Luc Godard
Incredibly, the Punk's plan is to set-up committees looking into the Gulf disaster - you know, getting to the bottom of things - and he plans to lead one! Pick yourself up off the floor only to fall down again laughing, weeping, near insane. We've survived enough banal: Nixon crook, then Ford fluke, to Carter epiphany, to Nixon redeemed, to Reagan frankenstonia to Very Punky to Monica's boyfriend to full-fledge Punk, and nobody but nobody could have paper-dolled two baby-boomer guys best capturing the kind of dudes you just didn't hang with.
51.8 billion dollars has just been approved by Congress and the Punk, and it's going to FEMA to manipulate (all our tax dollars) and these are the same people that took years (as it was felt by those on the other end) to reach the Katrina disaster the first week.
We have been hidden from witnessing the soldiers - dead - returning from Iraq - never mind no-number high enough civilian deaths. So the waters have risen and shown the bodies here. In an American city. It's not just Biblical, it's sleepers awake! This is the big story - the one many of us have been involved in most of our working lives: remembering the first Earth Day and resourcing ecological awareness, next to the grim prospects of cheating executive government (Watergate) and here we have both, in the year 2005, right at our door. No greater example, no greater prophecy come true. The true order of the real work. We are now seeing it on reporters faces all throughout New Orleans. Brian Williams, anchorman of the NBC Nightly News reporting rifles being raised at him and his crew as they attempt to report the news to all of us. A killer elite is forming in New Orleans to keep the truth - a horrific city lake of toxic sewage and dead bodies, out of sight - as a massive country wide police force descends far too late to save, but now ready to corrupt our freedoms.
Dog and cat lovers by the many thousands gripping their rights to love their animals and not separate from them, or their homes. New Orleans residents, you have to love them, are not your typical walk blindly into government 'ovens' (Superdome etc.) and are the real deal Americana individualism. Despite the widespread panic from the Right declaring at the same time the filth of a welfare state inner community of the city. Show me an American city not plagued by a welfare borough. Now tell me why that might be so after witnessing this government's racist and marauding behavior. Behavior? Nah, its Doctrine.
How to act? Yes, give to the Red Cross, about a notch above FEMA in a little less bureaucrat red-tape. But millions $ will be lost in its cruddy pipeline. AmeriCare seems far better, perhaps the NAACP and many more. Already bogus "relief" sites abound only to trap us to give to the bureaucratic pipeline. As I recall, when New Orleans was struck and then its cereal bowl gushing full with levee busted water, the Red Cross was nowhere to be found. Nor in the Superdome on the first crucial night with a massive exodus of the lost, bewildered and wounded. Thankfully, the Red Cross is up and acting now. I still believe we can't be lost to individual action, no matter how small. A friend, Greg Joly and I, will head to the biggest town close to us hill folk and set up an open violin case and read for a few hours our poems to whomever would like to listen. We'll have a sign that reads: Please make a donation to New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund (www.preservationhall.com). And yes, we may look like two nuts, some will certainly think we are hustlers, the little violin case will be open for anyone to share a dollar or a dime. Maybe we'll do a few days of this, a few weeks. We're begging for a little attention to the plight of sorry- assed shape musicians (in the hundreds from the Crescent City) and besides, what's hurting with a little poetry in the air? Sidewalks everywhere should be flooded with it. Music.
Thousands dead. Gas prices rising beyond meaeeeeeeeeeens. Headless government. A friend writes to me from Japan and warns how we might not want to go the route of poor John Ruskin who couldn't stand to watch the industrial devastation of nature. It destroyed him. So stay in darkness? Or prod and demand? Feel and unite and ring them bells? Your choice.
It must be coming soon: the military wanting the entire city empty of people, reporters, any media. To begin their rebuilding process (and hiding). At this point you are either for rebuilding a casino, or wanting all torn down. The land grab real estate on this 90,000 square miles is going to rival Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase. It hasn't quite hit us yet but the loss of New Orleans is the loss of a good deal of our poetry and music steeped since childhood: blues, rock and roll, zombies, voodoo, dangerous living, southern belle, beautiful tongue. It was the last of the true Civil War cities and the last of the no man's land. It was planned for the taking, and they'll get it. Andrew Jackson be damned. Or returned.
At this stage in life we have - a tree branch, sunlight, leaves. No one's asking for it.
Surround yourself with things that don't make money.
copyright Bob Arnold 2005
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND: FUNCTION AT THE JUNCTION in memory of
Hello 'thar. Of late very smart folks have been writing back to me about recent Woodburners and saying, essentially: "All well and fine, Bob. Entertaining as hell. Keep up the good work. But, what is the answer?" The answer? The answer! I know they are not quite the same folks that have asked me all my life, "what does that poem mean". As if poetry isn't all meaning.
There are no answers, except the obvious ones: know what you see before you and know where to then step.
New Orleans is in ruins. The poorest, white and black, have been bussed all over tarnation and many may never go back to the city they left drowning from its own natural landscape. About as avoidable as you knowing not to overfill your own bathtub, or watching the spillway on a farm pond, or how to build a city right as the Netherlands might one day explain to our bureaucratic uptight city planners. It's been this bad for a long time. Even poets are tied up in endless meetings, for the birds. Teachers barely teach anymore, they meet! Our education shows for it. And the great teachers, natural acts, persist and die a little more every day in this land of quick fix and plenty of tricks.
The answer just may be what the many poor are showing us gallantly and on their last legs right now: stay with your house and die with dignity. Being black, Creole, white poor, outsiders, inventors, or "stragglers" as they are now being called, they've already grown up in a world denying them, bitching at them, waiting on them to wait on them, they know the score: they aren't about to lose the last thing they own.
If you are 50 years old or better in this country you have already seen the best of times to come: a WW2 family, a big fat car, lots of kids, a neighborhood that rocked, shade trees, old farms, monumental sports figures, classy music, revolution in the form of very loud to spacey music, quixotical world leaders, brutal racism, liars in power revealed, leaders murdered, Aquarius badly drugged, systematic thread-like disease killings in large groups, genocide called by any other name even justice!, buildings brought down, countries raped whole, an ancient city pillaged and destroyed under the guidance of a wide berth dime store patriotism that has worked wonders for those caught up in it (quite a majority). If you are white and over 50 years of age you have been taught by the best how to be a racist and prejudiced and still believe in the savior Jesus Christ. You actually swallowed it whole. Some smart aleck fruitcake Neocon then knew just how to cheap psych the punch we've all been offered to drink to convince whitey how every enemy we've ever had wasn't white (even the Russians: they were Communists. Like earth is dirt.) and it is an absolute Us against Them syndrome. So look around: the Iraqi evil doers against Pat Boone. The Korean evil doers against Tab Hunter. The French against Perry Como. Now those scary, looting, lazy, starving, cornered, straggling poor of New Orleans are up against the Punk. And bless my soul, it just may be possible 50% of this demented though I love them and have traveled across this country many times with them on trains public will side with a puny white knight leader every day of the week over the Unknown, the poor, the black, the Forgotten. It's that place whitey has worked feverishly all his life not to land in - and somehow in this screwy mindset: to join them, is to be them. Won't happen. It's just possible 10,000 will be somehow found murdered, dead, lost, drowned in New Orleans. Say it again, 10,000. Lives. Babies, children, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, fretting uncles, grandparents. All like you and me. That isn't supposed to happen in the age of the cellphone, psychic heights brain surgery, and debating whether we walk another human on a solar planet. No accident wipes out thousands of people in a city without a volcano, and with a billion dollar transportation and water system. Not unless it was meant to.
Denial is a mean fixture. Get stoned another night. Slug back more wine. Fiddle with the cellphone, video, big screen tv, ratchet up the credit card, turn up the old Hendrix, get mad some more, hike the hills until you finally feel stripped clean.
Nothing's going to work. They got our number. You've been raised by racists but you want to be better than that. The enemy is a documented 'easy target'. The poll numbers is the daily slot machine. There's talk that New Orleans will never be the same. Shocking news? - of course it won't be! When the first dozer blades drop down and begin to shove you better be crying - wetlands, period placed neighborhoods and communities, batture brick, whole century formed graphics and buildings, West Indian style plantation houses, entrenched blues and slippery gumbo, goes with it. Like blood. Sounds romantic, eh? If you have something better, what is it?
In this throw-away culture - where farmland those last 50 years has now become boxstores, selling crap you don't need and meant to just throw aside when quickly broken, so you buy another one...ad infinitum. Those are our rebuilders.
The answer is first to feel. Do.
copyright Bob Arnold 2005
Below is some terrific news about the tribe of New Orleans musicians of every stripe -names, background of where you might help, addresses, emails and dire diamonds in the rough contacts to lend your hand. Thank you Roots & Rhythm!
We've all watched with horror the devastation wreaked on Mississippi, Louisiana
and Alabama by Hurricane Katrina and particularly the ongoing tragedy in New
Orleans. It's hard to imagine the American musical landscape without the contributions
of so many musicians from the Crescent City. And that musical heritage continued
until a week ago when the levees broke. Now there are hundreds of musicians left
without a job or a home and it may be a very long time before they are able to
work again, if ever. There are also musicians whose whereabouts are unknown and
may number among the dead when we learn the whole story.
We thought it appropriate to pass along to you some information about musicians
that are known to be safe and also let you know ways in which you can help musicians
Firstly - here is a list of musicians that are known to be safe, courtesy of
Mary Katherine Aldin of the Post War Blues mailing list
Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, Steve Allen, Kevin Allman, Brint Anderson, Theresa
Andersson, James Andrews, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Johnny Angel, Christine
Balfa, Marcia Ball, Lucien Barbarin, Mike Barras and family, Rebecca Barry, Bruce
"Sunpie" Barnes, Dave Bartholomew, Harold Battiste, Jamal Battiste, Russell Batiste,
Tab Benoit, Beausoleil (Michael Doucet and all band members), Doug Belote, Better
Than Ezra, Terrance Blanchard, Eddie Bo (plus sister Veronica and his band),
Bonerama, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, John Boutté, Lillian Boutté, Tricia "Sista
Teedy" Boutté, Alonzo Bowens, Russ Broussard, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Jody
Brown, Maurice Brown, Wendell Brunious (Preservation Hall Jazz Band), George
and Nina Buck (Palm Court Cafe), Henry Butler, Grayson Capps, Big Al Carson,
Ricki Castrillo, Topsy Chapman, Alex Chilton, Evan Christopher, Jon Cleary, Rick
Coleman, Harry Connick, Jr., Cowboy Mouth, Susan Cowsill, Davell Crawford, Jack
Cruz, Dash Rip Rock, Jeremy Davenport, Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet, Dirty Dozen
Brass Band (all members), The Dixie Cups (but lost everything), Big Chief Bo
Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, Michael Dominici, Fats Domino, Rockin' Dopsie
& the Zydeco Twisters (alll members), Dr. John, Snooks Eaglin (and family of
12, all now homeless), Lars Edegran, Nancy Edwards, Joe Espino & New Orleans
Brass Potholes Band (all members), Charlie Fardela, Jack Fine (of the Palmetto
Bug Stompers), Pat Flory & Donna, John Fohl, Frankie Ford, Andy Forrest, Gina
Forsyth, Pete Fountain, Derrick Freeman, Jonathan Freilich (N.O. Klezmer All-Stars),
Bob French, Peter Fuller, Funky Meters, Galactic, Katrina Geenen (WWOZ dj), Banu
Gibson, Steve Goodson, Tim Green, John "Papa" Gros and all members of Papa Grows
Funk, James Hall, Tony Hall, Jeff Hannusch, Corey Harris, Leigh "Lil' Queenie"
Harris, Duke Heitger, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Corey Henry, Andi Hoffman, Kenny
Holladay, Peter Holsapple, Hot Club of New Orleans (all members), The Iguanas
(all members), Burke Ingraffia, Benny Jones Sr., Leroy Jones, Dave Jordan and
family, Kirk Joseph, Jerry Jumonville, Chris Thomas King and family, Joe Krown,
Julia LaShae, Joe Lastie (drummer, Preservation Hall Jazz Band), Tim Laughlin,
Washboard Chaz Leary, Bryan Lee, David Leonard & Roselyn Lionheart (David & Roselyn),
Herman Leonard, Lil' Rascals Brass Band, Li'l Stooges Brass Band, Eric Lindell,
A.J. Loria, Jeremy Lyons, Ronald Markham, Ellis Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, Steve
Masakowski, Irvin Mayfield, Tom McDermott, Humberto "Pupi" Menez (and aunt Caridad
Delatorre), Charlie Miller, Charles Louie Moore, Deacon John Moore (band members
unknown), Bill Morgan, Tom Morgan, Chris Mule, Kenny Neal, The Neville Brothers,
Charmaine Neville, Ian Neville, Ivan Neville, Kevin O'Day, Anders Osborne, Joshua
Mann Paillet (owner of A Gallery for Fine Photography), Stevenson Palfi, Earl
Palmer, Panorama Jazz Band, Joshua Paxton, Michael Pearce, Spike Perkins, Dave
Pirner, Renard Poche, Pocketfoxx, George Porter Jr., Dirk Powell, Shannon Powell
and family, Gloria Powers, Wardell Quezergue, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, The Radiators,
Jan Ramsey & most Offbeat staff, Rebirth Brass Band (Kabuki unknown), Herlin
Riley, Marcus Roberts, Coco Robicheaux, John Rodli (New Orleans Jazz Vipers),
Biff Rose, Brent Rose and family, George Rossi, Wanda Rouzan, Dixie Rubin, Kermit
Ruffins, Scott Saltzman, Mark and Will Samuels (Basin Street Records), Ben Sandmel,
Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, Marc and Ann Savoy and family, Alexandra Scott, Mem Shannon
and the Membership, Derek Shezbie, James Singleton, Johnny Sketch, Michael Skinkus,
Robert Snow (New Orleans Jazz Vipers), Steamboat Willie, Sally Stevens, Armand
St. Martin, Brian Stoltz, Marc Stone, Bill Summers, Ken Swartz, Irma Thomas,
Dave Torkanowsky, Rick Trolsen, Allen Toussaint, Willie Turbinton, Johnny Vidacovich,
Rob Wagner, Mark Walton, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Melissa Weber, Raymond
Weber, Mike West, Dr. Michael White, Marva Wright, June Yamagishi
Here is some information on how you can help the surviving musicians - from the
Jazz Foundation of America
Message from Wendy Oxenhorn Executive Director at the Jazz Foundation of America
Two Organizations helping the musicians in New Orleans:
We are directing folks to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC) which has the
names and addresses of so many musicians in New Orleans, and are working now
to find them and find temporary housing for them in schools etc.
But let us remember...
... it will be the Jazz Foundation who will be called upon to provide money to
the musicians for first month rents and security deposits on new apartments and
relocations. As well, we're going to try to get instruments replaced.
Please let your contacts know if you think they can help, ask them to email me.
** New Orleans Musicians Clinic (NOMC) **
This is a fantastic hands on organization who has the names and addresses of
so many great musicians because they have them all coming to their FREE health
clinic all these years and now, they are the ones who are tracking down the local
musicians and finding them shelter.
They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
They are the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and know the whereabouts of the local
musicians down there.
Contact: Kathy Richard directly at 337 989-0001
Send donations to:
NOMC Emergency Fund
funds will be distributed by:
SW LA Area Health Education Center Foundation, Inc.
103 Independence Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506
The New Orleans Musicians Clinic is determined to keep Louisiana Music Alive!
It is our beacon to soothe our souls. We want to relocate our New Orleans musicians
into the Lafayette/ Acadiana community where they can remain a life force! But
most of them have lost everything... we must help them rebuild their lives.
They can't access any of their NOMC accounts. They desperately need money to
fund these efforts.
** Jazz Foundation of America **
We will be addressing the longer term needs of these jazz and blues artists who
will have just lost everything.
We will be raising funds and distributing money for the musicians to get a new
apartment or room for rent: by giving a first month's rent, possibly more, for
them to start over, a place to live. (This is what we normally do on a daily
basis for musicians across the country who become sick and can't pay their rent,
we also keep food on the table and get employment to hundreds of elderly musicians
through our Jazz in the Schools program. Our operations normally assist 35 musicians
As well, we will be attempting to help New Orleans musicians by replacing the
thing that matters most and the only way they can ever work again: their instruments.
To those who lost their instruments, like drummers and bassists who could not
carry their heavy equipment, and guitarist with their amps, we will be making
an effort to work with manufacturers and music stores to replace those instruments
for as many as we possibly can.
Remember, New Orleans was only "New Orleans because of the musicians...
Send donations to:
Jazz Foundation of America
322 West 48th Street 6th floor
Director: Wendy Oxenhorn
Phone: 212-245-3999 Ext. 21
To make an online CREDIT CARD DONATION OR PLEDGE:
go to: http://www.jazzfoundation.org/index2.html and click bottom right corner
of page where it says "instant pledge
Thank you, from our hearts.
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND: TAKE ANOTHER CHORUS, LAD!
to rapper Kanye West - the Patrick Henry or Frederick Douglass but better white Patrick Henry(for the irony) - and his big balls comment on NBC during one of the first relief benefits for the victims of Katrina and said so on sparkling uncosmetic live tv - all other contributors with good hearts and sharing, and this comment from West, which even made old Wayne's World hip Mike Meyers stand stunned beside West in Meyers' millions of dollars made Austin Powers make-over, as the blessed words were said straight as an arrow, "George Bush doesn't like black people". Oops! Give that man a hand.
Yes! It is the time to be paranoid, time to be suspicious and time to think of conspiracies. It is also the time to give - money, food, clothing, body & soul - and it is time to be paranoid. Riveted. Attentive like an animal. Watching all the signals: how the mayor acts, the governors, where the wily Punk goes on his mission to protect his ass: the airplane ride over and tipping the wing about a week ago didn't cut it. Dropping by the first time into the devastated Gulf region with a smirk and chuckling about the good ol' days once up a time in the "great city of N'Awlins", went over like a drowned body. So on the second trip the Punk decided to bring back his mother (I mean his wife) to see what magic the Librarian could do since she has the squeaky-clean teflon touch, unlike a Hillary or a Rosalyn, and even an elderly Nancy just doesn't quite have. Plus the Librarian is a 'mom', no screwy kids like the Reagans or the Carters, and while Hillary hasn't a screwy kid she does have a screwy husband, who in fact was deep-sixed by the Punk's cronies and probably the Punk's old man, Very Punky. Screwy husband (or Monica's boyfriend) and Very Punky are miraculously teamed up again as a relief effort bi-partisan mutt & jeff, since the Congress - who we actually pay to represent us decently, fairly and with bipartisan savvy - can't do it. So you see, it's a regular Soaps afternoon when you overview all the above. And like any top-notch soap opera the m.o. is ever powerful: be paranoid, be suspicious and do think conspiracy.
Some have written to me that I must be acting with a screw loose thinking that the Punk could actually be capable of all that I assign to his scrawny behind. But don't take your eye off the ball - it isn't the Punk we worry about, who after all is no more than a two-bit junior executive from a free for all state - it's his athletic henchmen, plus one company Negro (get upset, but tell me how you would like to describe her/it?) who are anything but fumblers, dopes, idiots or vacant. They have shown themselves powerful enough to scam us all on two elections, a phony "surprise" terrorist attack, Anthrax up the gazoo, barbaric prisons and torture chambers all our own (not just the Romance novelist's) complete with 5 x 7 glossys, and still they walk around lawless and all smiles. Untouchables. Creepy. And hell, the sun shines in my back door today, why bother?
Why? Because they're good at it, and better than we are, at creating a new nation state. Word is circulating perhaps the levees were dynamited by the New Orleans mayor. Get off it. Washington has been 'dynamiting' these levees for scores of years. People wearing uniforms will tell you this. Dynamite is negligence, dynamite is repairing something to break etc. Right now be paranoid because we are all in the moment, the sweet spot, even if we are dead, we are not to be forgotten...and that's what each and everyone of us must give back to the fallen, the wasted, the homeless more than ever, the drowned. It's sugar coating season and if we miss this moment of actual revealed death sewage in the thousands, and do nothing! Imagine what you are made of. Go a notch deeper and believe this flooding was planned, followed by icing an already ill Rehnquist to shoe-in the Quayle look alike John Roberts. It's scary the lineage of Very Punky back to the Punk, but that's what happens with like-father-like-son. Very Punky moved Cap Weinberger to safe digs on a asleep-at-the-wheel holiday. The Punk is moving his pieces on a out-to-lunch holiday. I don't know about you because I don't hang around Lefties much anymore and I hail from some conservative lineage who think nothing at all about sticking with their white bread boy through thick or thin. In their book: "Hey, it's those godawful looking Iraqis"...or else, down in New Orleans is nothing but "kooks, those gays, weirdos, niggers, and white trash". When the VP isn't much in evidence, watch out! If NOLA gets hairy for the White House, if the spin goes wrong, if the media for the first time in years actually begins to stick to a story and bite down...we just might see another "terrorist" attack. Not as big as the one we are now witnessing in New Orleans and elsewhere, but big enough to divert attention, cameras, reporters, emotions. We are but pawns in the game, always were, always will be. If you don't think so, you're just whistlin' Dixie.
copyright Bob Arnold 2005
New Orleans was meant to happen, that should be more than obvious by now. The plan of the Punk and his hench team of Neoconservatives. Same diddle they pulled with 9-11. They knew it was coming, turned away (or perhaps contributed). The attack on NYC created the' justifiable ' coup in reaction, and from that day on we lost civil government as we knew it. It's the same m.o. in New Orleans: let a mighty storm do its business, wipe the city flat, justify all the police state to come, the leveling of the old city, and rebuild another Disneyland: complete with casinos, luxury homes, and get rid of the subterranean dreck of the old beautiful city. This is the New Order. The Left can't even catch up with this. The Democratic Party has already sold out as miniature ponies in government, novelty items. Just remember John Kerry's race and lack of guts, ditto Al Gore, and right now every sensible minded person left in this country is reeling trying to figure out "why the government took so long to respond to the catastrophe in the Gulf?" It's the Plan, Stupid.
How else do you get rid of a generational entrenched and cultural mind blowing venue as New Orleans is? Run by old music and dicey characters bigger than life. First you ignore it, then you neglect it, and if you're a Neoconservative bent on a New World Order, you drown it and drown it good. Not just helpless people in its path, but every home in its wake. The middle class and upper crust scrambled to dry land a day before the storm. They owned the rights, had the means, flew. The Punk announced today in one of his ad hoc all boys club meetings - all white, slaps on the back all around with the military guys - that his buddy Trent Lott's house (one of his two homes, the other one is in Jackson, MS) was destroyed...but the Punk is going to make sure that home is rebuilt and a porch put back on so he can visit and once again rock in a chair on that perch. I know all the myriad souls helpless and forgotten and near death wading in toxic waste for five long nightmare days through the Gulf are going to get the same thing. I know they will, Santa.
Instead of leadership, we have chaos. These bastards are all getting paid well to run a country this way. Also a reminder just what sort of Hell on Earth we would have if there was a terrorist attack. A lot of good all the talk, propaganda, and brain washing we've had to endure for years now a la Tom Ridge and this bozo squad of protectors. Our homeland security just happens to be in Iraq making fools of our good name (we once thought we had one) as marauders and death squads, while true homeland security is nowhere to be seen for the American citizen when they are destitute and harmed. Unless you're wealthy, white and toe the line, of course. Wouldn't we have wanted to be an open-mike dangling above the tragedy inside the Superdome the last five days, just to listen in to the American voice.
The other response the last five days for us all?: gas prices have leapt from $3 to $6 a gallon. Yes siree, if only we could find Osama, if only we could remember how to maintain a levee, ah if only the gigantic and saviour pumps of New Orleans could have worked when the city needed them, if only Cindy Sheehan and her ilk would disappear. Just think, last word was Fats Domino, Irma Thomas and other masterpieces of modern music - the nightingales of New Orleans - may also be in danger in the new Atlantis. Nary a word about it. Imagine old blue eyes Frank Sinatra in the same trouble spot. Not on your life! Imagine if this was Naples Florida and the water was rising around the million and one white owned condos. 100,000 white, retired and wealthy golfers in such jeopardy? On the roofs of their minipads starving, waterless, baking in the heat, clutching as life-rafts their golf carts and swimming in death sewage, losing their minds. Has this country ever once seen such a scene? No, we round-up the Blacks, we round-up the Injuns, we round-up the homeless, depressed and poor, we round-up the Japanese, we round-up the undesirables from civil rights workers to peaceniks, butcher the gay community, systematically destroy any given thousands of lives to prove a point and raise a forum for a phoney patriotism. And finally, have the audacity of still running a concentration camp at Guantanamo, while a Punk calls himself a "Christian" and a President of Peace.
Don't wait for your congress person (unless they're part of the Congressional Black Caucus), they'z bought or hog-tied. Demand the truth. It's swimming towards you.
copyright Bob Arnold 2005
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND, SUMMER 2005 (CODA) In memory of Gustaf Sobin
I love and I hate
who can tell me why? - Catullus
If there is any substitute for love
it's memory. - Joseph Brodsky
Fascinating - some of the suspects in the recent London bombings have been shown to be of Pakistani descent. On Wednesday (13 July), in Pakistan, there was a mysterious 3 train pile-up killing 123 and injuring scores. Anyone keeping score? Of course, sabotage has been ruled out.
The earth, dark sentence *
* (from the film: Cuentos de Hadas Para Dormir Cocodrilos)
Suddenly there is a flush of reissued film noir American classics on dvd - don't hesitate! All come with period-styled packaging, restored visuals like you've never seen, and often a helpful commentary inspirational enough to take you to the film a second time and follow the dialogue of some personality chosen to do the dirty. Sometimes, in the case of Dillinger, with commentary by John Milius, who made his own and a bit more exact film version (starring Warren Oates as John Dillinger), he lazily goes through the motions plugging in comments as the film rolls on, just a spackling of insights. The original Dillinger is for Lawrence Tierney, plain and simple, but you'd do better with a more venal film for Tierney, clutched up with Claire Trevor, so go immediately to Born To Kill. Plus, it has an excellent ride along commentary by Eddie Muller which is definitely worth setting aside a full second viewing of the film for - commentary on noir, San Francisco locations, past & present cinema history - it doesn't get much better than this. For a clean machine, see Narrow Margin, Richard Flesicher's classic in under 90 minutes and almost all of the film shot convincingly as if aboard a passenger train carrying hit men, cops, and a few wanted women. Close quarters! William Freidkin does the honors with his more technical, but candid appreciation of the film. Once you're hooked, go find Bad Day At Black Rock, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, The Set-Up, Clash By Night and other restored gems about miserable souls.
One note to a recently reissued divine comedy - most likely to be found buried away under "W" in the mystery or cult shelf of your video store - is Winter Kills by William Richert. From yet one more film out of the imagination of Richard Condon (ie., The Manchurian Candidate: the original, the remake is forgettable). WK is one of the better films on the mystique of the Kennedy assassination, the corrupt American power elite (no better period of time than now) and a film being financed from the Caribbean and South America, with scenes not altogether connecting and shady operatives (the producer was an ex-convict) making for synchronized conspiracies between the film and true life. Much worth another look, and make sure you watch it with director Richert's johnny-on-the-spot commentary, it's invaluable. The only film where Toshiro Mifune appears about the size of a midget.
Some months ago I read a borrowed copy of Stuart Dybek's second book of poems, Streets in Their Own Ink (Farrar). Nothing trendy or huge poetry scene name but as I read, the book grew on me, grew around me, pretty much overcame me with a graceful urban telling of back-alley firmness and lighting, poems floating untitled into place of straight ahead nonliterary characters, maybe with an ethnic tinge. Dybek is a professor of English at Western Michigan University but there is nary a hint of professing in any of these poems. More a haunting memory and search back through his traces, plus a continuity of such soulful writing. I can't get this from his fiction as I do from these poems. Here is one -
The third rail
and the electric chair
are charged with the current
that glows tonight
in the bedside lamp
illuminating your body.
and that's just one of the short poems. Others come varied: as couplets, formed stanzas, searching experiments. Ever sure. When done, standing across (in my mind) from the El, in metallic cacophony, high brick, musty rooms, it's all nature. Rain stirs backyards to broth
I know someone is just going to love Budget Travel Through Space and Time, Albert Goldbarth(Graywolf) - it just isn't me so much, but I was drawn in to reading pieces and of places in this sprawler of a book. It is of invented and real worlds, such as "the dream life of a glass eye", a whole nation sinking into the Pacific, pop culture hanging within the blast of a satellite, cosmological ferry rides for the mind, classical visions brought up to date by a modern egghead's versatile imagination. An old carpenter I once worked with, if he even cared to give the book a thumb-through might say, "this boy's got alot of idle time on his hands." I also remember a small poetry bookshop, clean and white inside, books selected like museum artifacts and the owner requesting any books at all by Albert Goldbarth. I told her I would keep that in mind. Imagine Magellan's navigator. he lost her / she left him / so many ways to say it
Everyday Genius, Gary Alan Fine (U/Chicago) great title! self-taught art and the culture of authenticity, and everyone comes up for some scrutiny here. Glad to see someone finally come along who queries the so-called famous artists, their exhibitors, curators, galleries, in the same breath as getting an angle on the ever more popular outsider artists and their likewise collectors. Fine seems to have a sharp head on his shoulders and has become one of the authorities, without having to say so (relief!), as to the paradisal and often grubby commercial world of self-taught artists and their social marginality. How artists are "created", their collections, communities, markets and whole institutions. the collector's passion borders on the chaos of memories -Walter Benjamin.
It should be no surprise that the politics of self-taught artists are highly diverse. Perhaps no surprise, yet when we examine academic life and the elite art world, such diversity is often absent. Much academic and artistic life, politically contentious to be sure, has politics ranging from the soft to the hard left: from pink to deep red with a few dashes of green. A central theme of Julia Ardery's discussion of the consecration of Edgar Tolson is that his supporters embraced progressive politics. Ardery asserts that, "The Civil Rights movement was the primary earth-shattering force that led us to the self-taught art field," coupled with alienation from the mercenary, establishment art world in contrast to the "nobler ends" of the folk art maker. (Fine)
(Keep this all in-mind on your next gallery walk)
More folk. Tribal & Village Rugs, the definitive guide to design, pattern & motif, Peter F. Stone (Thames & Hudson) it says so and looks-so as the definitive guide, with 1600 color illustrations gathering up the lifestyle weaving traditions of the Near East and Central Asia. Recognition through patterns has long been the I.D. to pinpoint the origin and age of rugs, never mind the terrain and heritage of the lands where they come from. Too long of a study and reading will have the motifs playing saucy games with your head at seeing double, as the text becomes a mere mathematical plane. Come into it like a forest, approaching. Caucasian motifs alone are enough to wander and be lost in the rugged Transcaucasian Mountains. Isolated valleys and plateaux have fostered independent peoples and distinct languages. In these isolated environments, ethnic loyalty has survival benefits. Before the museums, the collectors, the piled up expensive rug merchant dickering, and even this book, there are people who live with their out of doors, landscape and survival, tribal, often religious, made by hands.
Want mountains? and not want to get out of your chair: head to the mountains galore of The Mountain Encyclopedia, Frederic V. Hartemann and Robert Hauptman (Taylor Trade) two professors with enough mountain weathering experiences beneath their nails to keep you company with their compendium- deluxe from the Abominable snowman to the Zagros range in Iran. 2300 entries on mountain terminology, locations, personalities in large size format well illustrated and pocketed with sidebar venues on: websites, "major unclimbed peaks above 7,000 meters", "the worlds 1,000 highest peaks", and a center crevice of 400 color photographs, and all of this without getting your feet wet! One may argue all day long with the descriptive entries - here is one for example - "Hermit: a religious ascetic who often repairs to a mountain cave or hut to live out his or her life in contemplative seclusion. Hermits are found in many religious traditions. When ascetics band together and live in mountain monasteries (Mt. Athos, for example) or lamaseries (Thangboche), they are no longer hermits." Must a hermit be "religious?" Even Olivier Messiaen, the composer, is described here as a "religious artist"...even though he described himself as a Frenchman from the mountains. For some publishing mystery, the soft cover edition is far more dashing and wantable than the clothbound stolid text. Venture forth.
Last seen jumping off a bridge and swimming the backstroke up river and then disappearing under its current, Ray Johnson lived a five decade artist's career doing it his way. Another must on dvd is the film How To Draw A Bunny, a sketchbook documentary on all things Ray: associates, neighborhoods, the artist's background, art-work and most importantly Ray Johnson shaking things up throughout the film. Literally up to the last moments of his life, plus the investigation into his suicide, the body of work left behind. Correspondences (Wexner Center for the Arts) is a classics of its kind since it deals specifically, and much for the first time, with the 'correspondence art' of Johnson's career, his hallmark: the silhouette collages, mail art postcards (New York Correspondence School mailings circa 60s-70s) and that ever mischief of chance and wonder never absent from a Johnson work. If there was a son of Duchamp, and one to hold the trickster bag confounding modernity, while being the chief participant of performance as art, it was Ray Johnson...whose favorite artists were, afterall, all the graffiti artists
I hesitate to plug yet one more Joseph Cornell study: ever popular, but still long dead, and one of the artists Ray Johnson felt "wasn't all that important." Which has to be a downright fib, naturally (look at the work side by side, there's brilliant continuation from Cornell to Johnson). With Johnson, like Cage, like Dylan - masters of the 20th century medium of performance, media and the text (much finer than Warhol, who received the credit) - one cannot escape Cornell. Lindsay Blair's, Joseph Cornell's Vision of Spiritual Order (Reaktion, UK) is a smashing appraisal of both the Utopia Parkway (was there a better mailing address for such an artist?) mind and overview art work: spanning collages, cinema and the artist's handmade alchemist boxed interiors. Seeing is believing. The layout for this book is compact and stunning, as a miniature Cornell absolute -
I asked him how he managed to do the compass sets. He said, 'Well, I was walking along Bleeker Street and I saw these boxes and I went in and bought them. I didn't know what I would do with these boxes but I kept walking along the same street and then I saw a man was selling compasses so I bought a whole bunch of those. I was looking for compasses and I was looking at these boxes and I thought now that really goes with that.' From John Bernard Myers' account of Cornell - which is far more than describing how a work of Cornell was formed - as to how Cornell woke up each day with this mind and survival, and made the day I kept walking along his art.
The book of the living dead, The Tombstone Tourist, Scott Stanton (Pocket), already with a remainder mark stripe on the bottom of the book (half-dead), is a dedicated soul guide to almost every grave, shrine, tribute, cross, marker, location and biography, photograph, associations (Jim Morrison is extensive) of all the legends, and many of the forgotten, in blues, jazz, country and rock and roll music. There's a grisly photograph of the Otis Redding plane wreckage being lifted out of Lake Monona, Gershwin's tomb, and whole back-pages dedicated to "Has beens, should-have beens, one-hit wonders, and a few really great artists" all made on creepy to read-and-touch cheap paper stock so you feel in the land of the untouchables. A devotional page given to passengers on Buddy Holly's last flight (also known as: musicians who should have flown commercial), and causes of death read like a police logbook. Go into it laughing, or else it's death by misadventure
The cover photograph from Jack Gilbert's, Refusing Heaven (Knopf) is Kailasa Temple in India. The jacket blurbs seem almost god-like, or at least a poet described from a classical mode, and the poems inside are often glory be good, but maybe too polished and even self-conscious and standoffish and with that magnificence of women that so many male poets think to reveal, as long as it reveals more about themselves. Where Gilbert is finer with this touch is in a much smaller and tough to find collection titled Kochan, concerning the life and death of a love. Despite the fact there are some real duds in this larger collection, diamonds show, and the overall book aura is contemplative and pulsing with a low and high ebb gaze -
BY SMALL AND SMALL:
MIDNIGHT TO FOUR A.M.
For eleven years I have regretted it,
regretted that I did not do what
I wanted to do as I sat there those
four hours watching her die. I wanted
to crawl in among the machinery
and hold her in my arms, knowing
the elementary, leftover bit of her
mind would dimly recognize it was me
carrying her to where she was going.
Gilbert does this as one of the best, and he often attempts to cut it down to the essential backbone of no chaff and only bone - where we are often left with a lentil in hand, the blue sea, the sound of fishermen, and it just doesn't work. Emptiness must have surroundings. Where Gilbert is unmatched, is when he lets colors bleed over time.
Linda Gregg is a younger friend of Gilbert's, and in fact one feels too much of the master is given over to the other.Whereas Gregg, actually writes the poems Gilbert can only dream of writing these days - they're more socially rich, confidently sexual and often with similar locations of Greece, since at one time or another the two poets were lovers, and their poems read, of late, of a love at least for a formal poem written with the rigors of the old logic and heavenly graced for passions: what in the world is left for us in this world, anyway? They are two of the best, and I'm glad they've been aroused. In Things and Flesh (Graywolf) Gregg has lost none of her courage -
This body does not smell human,
it smells of oregano in heat.
This is not your world
where people work and live in a house.
It is a place before or after.
After and before that.
Things in parts and pieces.
The wind turning silver
in the olive trees.
A red pomegranate on the table.
Silence with a ringing in it.
This is a beginning
or long afterwards.
I like the dimensional pull of the lines without language abstractions, plus a poet with eyes and actively out of doors. There is connection here. I could read it to my son, his girlfriend, and out their apartment window to their neighbors. Let poetry ring. I'm just not interested in one more word-game Language poet stuck away in their university rich program playing mad scientist with language as if it is theirs to own, like a novelty item. As if poetry was meant to be written and understood by only poets! Holy shit, what a world! Like politicians that speak only to politicians. Been there! As corrupt as the honchos that used to rule the roost in the poetry world that gave us only men, or else only women poets deemed acceptable by the boys club. Donald Allen's anthology helped break in some light, but the Beat men were known to be just as misogynist, while opening language, scuffing up experiments and giving a poetry of body and delight. Robert Lowell is disappearing right before our eyes, as he maybe should, until 1000 pages of his collected poetry is distilled to drinkable water. I found him appearing on a recording played last week, and while I try to be tolerant and am already eclectic, I ran to lift the needle. I could care less if the poet is Language or Lowell, just have it be good stuff, wholesome, understandable, lively, embodied, visionary, common, pliable, and waterproof. The same thing you look for in any boot, tool, dog, cat, menu, night out on the town: life! Isn't it something that for a very long time women have been writing the best of our poetry and don't make any mistake about it - whether it's Stein, H.D. and Niedecker from the earlier age (such magic in its time, and remaining of our time, makes timelessness); to a host of middle era poets like Levertov, Morley, Rukeyser, Rich, Brooks, Kizer; to later-on and present run of crashing waves: Kyger, Vega, DiPrima, Waldman, Guest, Howe(s), Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Lisa Jarnot, Catherine Walsh, Hoa Nguyen and the list does become ad infinitum for me as I look to the horizon to poets that come unexpectedly and bring the unexpected -that quality to the line. Fewer know the line and the mind attachments of a compound-cut in carpentry than Barbara Guest, Miniatures and other poems (Wesleyan). A book impossible to be issued in the original and mighty run from the Wesleyan program but the dominant signature of the press these days. So much today is cockamamie and "experimental" (often unreadable) but Guest is a wonder, paring the page like a peeled fruit and leaving the reader with all the silence, sounds, immediacy, made inventions cut in glass at less than 45 pages. Yes, a hint disappears inside the earlier one. This is what poetry is meant to be: sizing man down to an existence. What is happening all around us. Not gibberish and egghead manifestations, but the logical step - clarity, as since Dickinson and Whitman - Sound lays the structure. Sound leaks into the future, sayeth Barbara Guest.
I'd add Paul Celan's, Lightduress (Green Integer) to all of the above of rippling transcendence, once more translated with zip by Pierre Joris, and the GI compact edition catches the poet just right -
The loamy sacrifice downpours,
circled by snails:
the image of the world,
on a blackberry-leaf.
Likewise, Mallarme's A Tomb for Anatole (New Directions) translated by Paul Auster and now come into its own in the daylight of the Symbolist poet's "notes" as poetry, fragments really, toward a major work that the poet could never complete on the death of his eight year old son. Time has shown it was already complete -
true mourning in
- not the cemetery -
one feels the ragged, and existence fled. Auster's introduction is outstanding.
Finally, to round up a trio of Europeans, brilliant minded and able to be tossed into a gunny sack and taken off into the hills, Campo Santo, WG Sebald (Random House) the last of this great storyteller's essays, posthumously gathered and losing none of the writer's deep emotional presence toward the living/dying; whether essays on death, Kafka, Handke, the living that perished as in the essay "Between History and Natural History"; or, on the literary description of total destruction; or, why "to this day there is no adequate explanation of why the destruction of the German cities toward the end of the Second World War was not (with those few exceptions that prove the rule) taken as a subject for literary depiction either then or later..." or, as Sebald will quote Stanislaw Lem: The trick of elimination is/every expert's defensive reflex. All by Sebald should be read and shared.
Lastly - a final sketch-book of a sort - one C.D. Wright likes to call "an American poetry vigil" in Cooling Time (Copper Canyon). Maybe it's happenstance so much turns up on my reading list from Copper Canyon and New Directions, but one wants a nose for a good book and these two presses gimmie the gimmie. Wright is of a very generous mind. She has been long a supporter of fizzling under the leaf mold forgotten poets like Frank Stanford and Besmilr Brigham, dynamos and southern acquaintances, and this same homage and duty and open field sensory gift plays throughout all of this book as part memoir, long essay, all-poetry manifest. There's a poet here, a wife here, a mother here, a teacher here, an explorer here, and it's all the same person. I liked, immensely, the open blank page stare that came each time I dipped in and out of its narrative. Lucky for Wright, all things feel unfinished - I submit: the more our lives are governed by the great mix-master of egotistic, material, and technostructural forces, the more distorted the whole business of living and creating becomes...
Take it to the bank.
- Bob Arnold
© 2005 Bob Arnold
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND, SUMMER 2005 in memory of Robert Creeley, Chet Helms, Lorenzo Thomas Language is fossil poetry EMERSON Dusk is its native color LOUIS ARAGON Nothing is hidden LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN
I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused - a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love - then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning. It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.
- Rachel Carson: The Sense of Wonder
Almost 30 years ago Phil Ochs hung himself in Far Rockaway, NY. If you've never listened to Phil Ochs you are missing a toe on your foot. If you used to listen to Phil Ochs and have decided you don't need that sort of thing anymore, you've made a terrible decision. A good friend just mailed to me a 2-disc live set from Ochs' 1970 Carnegie Hall Gunfight, or Shoot-out or how else you wish to know it...it is to know-it. Mostso for Ochs' on stage banter and lectures and insights and swipes and brilliance long before his main man Bob Dylan did this sort of thing with his 'religious lectures' some years later. Ochs explaining - to a Carnegie audience! - how some day "3,000 people" will be cordoned off and wasted by the U. S. government, may be just a slip of the tongue by a fallen prophet.
the way (Frank) Zappa saw it: the only way to be a good Catholic was to stop thinking - (Zappa by Barry Miles)
"bob - i am not sure but you may be able to see some of the paintings in my current show, "rolling in the dirt" at seattle's francine seders gallery (up till july 10) by logging on to www.sedersgallery.com pass this on to anyone who you think might be interested." This from the artist (and poet) Alan Lau. I'm tardy at getting this out but the gallery remains, and the site may take you further onto Alan's excellent work. More of Alan's art to be seen in Cid Corman's next book of poems from Mountains and Rivers Press of Eugene, Oregon.
One more tugging line from cinema history: Fritz Lang's Clash By Night (1952) Robert Ryan slurs out to Barbara Stanwyck, "You're like me. You're born and you'd like to get unborn."
JOLLY PERSPECTIVE: "Steve Riggio, the chief executive of Barnes & Noble, said the company expected to sell 50,000 of the new Harry Potter book per hour in the first 24 hours after its release. 'Less than 1 percent of all books published sell that many copies in a lifetime', he said." (NYTimes 5 July 05) Poets keep those poems coming! handmade books! strong hearts & minds! It's like knowing that two millionaires are now ruling our days and nights post 9-11: the Punk in the White House, and Steven Spielberg with one more of his personal traumatic childhood angst film "masterpieces" War of the Worlds, calling up what terror sterilized corporate minds can mass produce. I was head down hunting in a video store the day the film was released and could hear three young guys working around the cash register giving the film less than 30 seconds commentary. Enough review for me! I checked out the original Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman dvd and let the master of sound, scent and balance show the ways of the world once again.
Lately, I've been framing a small studio, or maybe it's a playhouse since the recipient is a waitful and patient four year old, up in the back hills of Wardsboro, Vermont. Her parents are helping me out. Between that and mucho landscape work, transplanting, stone wall repair, and then Susan just came up with poison ivy in both her eyes thanks to working alongside a pile driver like me...but somehow some books have gotten read and thoroughly enjoyed. They come by various libraries, in the mail, accident and recommended, review copies from those that still have a very generous heart to believe and send with such grace (Maggie Jaffe, for one) and gifts - there is still nothing quite like receiving books by surprise in a big rural mailbox to hold in hand. The Internet revolution is fine and dandy and amazingly free, and at Longhouse we are pushing the envelope at selecting more to show on screen but it ain't ever going to match taking a few books on a blistering hot day out under a shade tree and reading a few hours away. Or set reading by the woodfire through a long winter. These are my Grandma Moses scenes, and a computer, that you are reading on now (hallelujah irony!) is a meddling menace opposed to real books. Keep the books coming!
Books To Own -
Genghis Khan, John Man (St. Martin's): a thrilling tale, superbly told in a storyteller's knack, and fewer subjects exist in world history bigger than life than the great Khan - to Muslims and most of the world he was a barbarian; to those in his homeland Mongolia, to this day, he is father of the nation, and they are loyal - including to this pestering author - to keep secret just where Khan lies buried. And in-the-field report by an author who gives Bruce Chatwin (and they look alike) a run for his money.
Just in the mail, gifted, stapled bound and original Alex Caldiero, Body/Dreams/Organs (Elik Poetry, 962 E. Lowell Ave. Salt Lake City, UT. 84102)
poems & drawings - few do it as well and kept fascinating as Alex:
no one's going to tell you what any dog in the street knows,
what every ant is dreaming of, what you already feel, starting
with this and ending with this and being this in turn and
returning to this: an education: it's in the eye already, the light
and the image at the heart of the glow: it's in the ear
already, the sound and the movement at the heart of the
circle: it's in the tongue already, already in the limbs and
marrow: wise, unwise, or otherwise: I am a temporary sound
Before I forget - slip in a cd - Tom Russell: Hotwalker (Hightone)
Good stuff finally done right in the tradition of folk: telling stories by song and rambling remembrance about Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Lenny Bruce, Harry Partch, Edward Abbey, Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin Jack Elliott, carny Jack Horton, and it all would appear heavy on testosterone but it's an elegant and soft rain prayer. We really do have an Americana - being buried, ignored, forgotten - and not laced in military and religious braced hardware, if given the chance.
WHERE THE 45 RECORD PLAYED LOVE TRAIN AS A POPULAR FAVORITE ON THE STAGE
Thirty years ago in the back shelves of an old bookshop I happened upon an outrageous book for its time, Carnival Strippers by Susan Meiselas (Whitney/Steidel) now reissued with accompanying cd that showcases a collage of voices from girl shows, plus an interview with Meiselas who traveled with camera and tape recorder around New England and selected pockets of the east coast in the early 70s through the rural backlots and lower depths of carny mentality and activity interviewing strippers galore (no holds barred), managers, and the proverbial man in the audience in black and white lust eating hunger. I remember everything. I was sitting in the dressing room and I kept saying, "Wow, nobody's nervous, not even me. I went out on the stage.." " Where in Vermont, Tunbridge was a spot where girls came on strong and Barton was known to be hardcore." This unglamorized portrait is in the best traditions of Danny Lyon and Larry Clark. A must.
Island, edited by Julie Johnstone (8 Craiglea Dr., Edinburgh EH10 5 PA, UK). All Wind and Sunshine issue spring/summer 2005 ($10 per issue): including a splash of poetry by each - Cid Corman, Gael Turnbull, Bob Arnold, John Martone, John Phillips, Alan Spence, with centerpiece drawings Ranunculus acris by Laurie Clark, all handbound in twine and pages etched and balanced. This is home cooking at its best.
Amidst the blossoms
how can anyone share them
and remain strangers?
- Cid Corman
I dreamt I stood before a tree.
The tree was rooted in the earth.
The earth was firm beneath my feet.
My feet were hidden by the dark.
The dark was lit by many stars.
The stars were mingled with the leaves.
The leaves were restless as they sang.
They sang the changes of the wind.
The wind came ever from the sky.
- Gael Turnbull
7AM the next morning since the last review - rained out from framing at the carpentry job - I set on Dolphy's Copenhagen Concert and keep going:
Exploring Stone Walls, Robert M. Thorson (Walker) nearly everything you might need to know as a field guide to New England stone walls, complete with index, appendix to tools, maps, internet sites and books. Loaded up with photograph locations of the oldest wall (Popham Point, Me), oddest wall (Stone Pale Wall, Hingham, Ma) saddest wall (on South Eagleville Rd. in Storrs, Ct) plus a thorough mining of stone culture - mineral & rock type, formation, and to this dying art aspect: Circumstantial evidence suggests overwhelmingly that the vast majority of historic New England stone walls were built by farmers, their hired hands, and their sons, daughters, and wives. The next time near a fallen stone wall, join the tradition: pick a stone or two back up, place it on.
There is always a little rebellion going on in New England. Near and around the Amherst, Ma., region: whether a Shays rebellion or Emily Dickinson's hot house attic room of poetry, there was a flashpoint radical insurgence of Marshall Bloom and his Liberation News Service documented for much the first time by Amy Stevens, Daniel Shays Legacy?(Collective Copies/Amherst, Ma.) I know, a lousy title, but the tale is invigorating and told well about a once upon a time leadership of mainly urbanite young radicals of the sixties 'come to the country to form communes in neighboring towns, plant their roots and food and attempt a subsistence life revolved around agriculture, politics, theater, music, literature, depending on which commune you visited. Some gelled all the above. Bloom's story is that he was a tough hombre, troubled, underground radical journalist par excellence who ended up taking his own life after years of devotional struggle. Too easily a pat overview for such a dynamo...read the book, then go find Ray Mungo's Famous Long Ago: My Life and Times with the Liberation News Service or Stephen Diamond's,What the Trees Said, classics of their kind from the 60s forest.
Richard Owens continues to rock the boat, in the spirit of all Marshall Blooms and Phil Ochs, with his debut edition of Damn the Caesars (PO Box 1223, Montague, NJ 07827: but moving soon to Buffalo). I finally met Rich when he drove, I guess nonstop, from his NJ home out to Milwaukee to join a bunch of us for the Lorine Niedecker centenary put on by the good folks of Woodland Pattern. Rich just wanted to meet people, catch the hum, finally say hello to Cid Corman. You have to love anyone with that get up and go. He has sent me scads of poems over the years and even gets pissed off and hikes a few miles off somewhere and returns all renewed. Apologetic. I like an editor who busts up a room and then works to pick it back up. You feel this sense in the first issue of Caesars and a second issue is right on its tail: expect work by Dale Smith, Clive Faust, Jan Bender, Scott Watson, Ken Knabb (a fascinating journalist who has written well on Rexroth). The book is homespun, made from every last dime in the editor's pocket. Give him back what he gives.
Write it down and take it to the bank: vital press, must know: Cedar Hill Books at cedarhill_ email@example.com. Edited by stalwarts Maggie Jaffe and Esther Rodriguez in San Diego, Ca. Great backlist of poets from Jimmy Santiago Baca, Sharon Doubiago, John Taylor, Christopher Presfield, Jaffe herself, who thought nothing (but she did it!) of boxing up a load of books to share and read between her door and mine. Heady political literature, prison writers, brave singers, sultry dish short stories by women like once upon a time (fearless), and this can all be kicked off by picking up Roque Dalton Redux, a tribute issue to the revolutionary San Salvadoran poet, son to one of the Dalton Gang outlaws, who after a short and mindful career of terrorizing Kansas banks, left for southern shores and a coffee plantation investment. It is said, he left his son Roque his surname and a Jesuit education. Go read much more.
What all this adds up to is a disease at the very center of language, so that language becomes a permanent masquerade, a tapestry of lies. The ruthless and cynical mutilation and degradation of human beings, both in spirit and body, the death of countless thousands - these actions are justified by rhetorical gambits, sterile terminology and concepts of power which stink. Are we ever going to look at the language we use, I wonder? Is it within our capabilities to do so?
Do the structures of language and the structures of reality (by which I mean what actually happens) move along parallel lines? Does reality essentially remain outside language, separate, obdurate, alien, not susceptible to description? Is an accurate and vital correspondence between what is, to distort what happens - because we fear it? We are encouraged to be cowards. We can't face the dead. But we must face the dead because they die in our name. We must pay attention to what is being done in our name. I believe it's because of the way we use language that we have got ourselves into this terrible trap, where words like freedom, democracy and Christian values are still used to justify barbaric and shameful policies and acts. We are under a serious and urgent obligation to subject such terms to an intense critical scrutiny. If we fail to do so, both our moral and political judgment will remain fatally impaired. (1990)
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the US throughout the world have been systematic, constant, clinical, remorseless and fully documented but nobody talks about them. Nobody ever has. It's probably more than a newspaper or TV channel's life is worth to do so. And it must be said that as the absolute necessity of economic control is at the bottom of all this, any innocent bystander who raises his head must be kicked in the teeth. This is entirely logical. The market must and will overcome.
The general thrust these days is: 'Oh come on, it's all in the past, nobody's interested any more, it didn't work, that's all, everyone knows what the Americans are like, but stop being naive, this is the world, there's nothing to be done about it anyway, fuck it, who cares?" Sure, as they say, sure. But let me put it is this way - the dead are still looking at us, steadily, waiting for us to acknowledge our part in their murder.
- all excerpts from Harold Pinter's masterpiece of prose, poetry, politics: Various Voices (Grove). Even with Pinter's prestige on the stage, his relentless, lucid and independent swagger and guts on the political front has made it difficult for him to land his pieces in magazines and journals.
For all things recent and Zukofsky (sing along:"he's hot, he's hot; when I was a kid he was not, he was not" (but he was)) go find: Zukofsky, Chicago Review (winter 2004/5) with its pitch perfect cover photographs and in typical broad sweep glory the Chicago Review remains seminal at how to pose a tribute. They've been doing it ever since the early Beat issues, through Concrete poetry, Japanese poets etc., the recent Ed Dorn bushel. The poet's son Paul Zukofsky is also aboard, so the seal of approval is in. Well ranged poetries coming from Taggart, Enslin, Sze, Pickard, Armantrout, a fine appreciation and interview with Ralph J. Mills, Jr., Dorfman photographs, LZs selected correspondence, and a goodly piece from Mark Scroggins' biography of Zukofsky The Poem of a Life. The next best thing - and we need all the guidance we can get - to the poet's work itself. Even William Carlos Williams admitted he had trouble unpuzzling his mind when reading some LZ - it took a two hour reading aloud ceremony from a young visitor, Cid Corman, who offered to read from "A" to Williams, that finally set the older poet's mind at ease.
Imagine: erasing from Milton's Paradise Lost to make your own poetry. What would a blind man have thought? "Who the fuck is touching what of mine?!" Time marches on and language is movable, thus we have the title of the great masterwork being first rubbed away a few letters at a time on the original poem's title to create Ronald Johnson's, Radi os (Flood Editions). Being a Johnson nut I bought this new edition after long owning the first edition from Sand Dollar (now rubbed by silverfish) and still feel it is one of those pleasures where the idea is maybe better than the final product. And in no way meaning to belittle a grand idea, since it is! and it's pulled off rather well: suspended and almost breathless, and absolutely essential to set down with the complete Johnson work of the greater Ark and the earlier Green Man and Valley of the Many-Colored Grasses. But forgive me if I don't attempt to excerpt a disappearing act poem (and now with Johnson gone too soon, who will take up either disappearing his poem into a Language tube?), and instead I'll share a piece of Guy Davenport's appreciation for the poem and free-making, as an afterword to the collection:
Nature has no nothing. To feel that it has what we call the devil, the enemy. In Blakean words, our predicament is that we can exist and still not be, for being requires an awakeness from the dream of custom an of ourselves. The self is by nature turned outward to connect with the harmony of things. The eyes cannot see themselves, but something other. The strange and paradoxical rule of nature is that we are fullest in our being by forgetting our being. To love nothing is to be nothing, to give is to have. - Guy Davenport
As Davenport, a few pages earlier, declares, and correctly: "The poem we are reading is still Milton's, but sifted. The spare scattering of words left on the page continues to make a coherent poem, Milton imagiste." Hurrah, I say. Now go play fair: read both poems and walk universal. Bright effluence of bright essence
Now to another nature boy, cream of the crop, never married and barely could survive financially by what he wrote and even paid for himself to be published. So he headed for survival sake into the surveying business (his small New England rural community was his to walk, stalk and even burn) when not conducting research on graphite, which would enhance the family's graphite-grinding mill to a prosperity level where the mere makers of pencils could now supply powdered graphite to electrotypers. The year is 1849. The place is Concord, Ma. The Thoreau family have now, with their new earnings, bought a very comfortable home on the Main Street because of their ingenious son's research. Yes, the very same Henry David Thoreau: the kook, the hermit. In Letters to a Spiritual Seeker, Thoreau (Beacon) seek and revel with the last thirteen years of the sturdy man's short life as he shares a correspondence with Harrison Blake on the "true significance of (Thoreau's) life." The damn publisher, in our present God fearing times, can't help themselves but to publicize the book with its claim, "Thoreau's reflections on God and spirituality" but Thoreau-the-mighty will tell you himself, "What is religion? That which is never spoken." Amen. Edited and skillfully annotated by independent scholar Bradley P. Dean, and a must for every library.
Nature boy #2, of the highs and lowlands of North Carolina to the walking paths of Cornwall, UK., and with an impeccable naughty ear for catching truths and half-truths and just what is a distillation of pure poetry through a lifetime of knowing everybody and publishing half of them at least, and still going. Jonathan Williams, Jubilant Thicket (Copper Canyon) is a book so long awaited for by its readers that it's going to take awhile for the shock to wear off. The book is large and wants to sprawl a bit (like getting to know an old post & beam house) and its author isn't exactly a household name the last 30 years in literary journals, and that's the wonder of his magic. And I don't believe a fuller collection of poems has been as maverick-realized and published since Philip Whalen's On Bear's Head. It takes a justso certain someone with a poetry, reputation, consistency, and hidden glow to pull it off. Williams poetry has always been from the wings of birds, tramps hollers, modern idiocy, deepest springfed classicism, spit & polish. It's exactly what can't be taught. It's why you should read it. One smooth shortie to share -
one clematis petal
glimmer on this pale
From the same press - man, Sam Hamill and his crew at one time hit home run after home run - is it no surprise after it took some heavy duty grants and foundations, and always the shitheads that come with that world, that he was either sent packing, or left on his own, or whatever the story. He's gone from the Copper Canyon he founded. The fact is we have some gorgeous books because of Sam and his hearty crew of bookmakers. The grants they procured made the books well built and everlasting and presented poets to the marketplace while losing none of their ingenuity. Oldest story in the book - Sam was then burned by the grant foundation fellowship government arm - nothing comes for free. In his wake we have the magnificence of a collected Rexroth, a big Machado, Carruth, Merwin and others (many, Sam's heroes: he followed his heart...younger publishers take note). Some nifty single collections as well, like David Budbill, While We've Still Got Feet (Copper Canyon). I was never convinced of Budbill's first collection from Copper Canyon of poems set in the scenery of some ancient Asian sect. Good enough poems, but hokey. 'Why in the world not write your own poems', I thought, 'from your own mountain and in your own time and see if you got the jissum of the ancients? That clarity. That bell rung. That hidden wholeness.' David did and David does. A lovely and struggling and trying hard to be honest collection of poems well spaced and directed and with the Budbill indelible ear for character, voices, and humor all tied in a knot. I'm no monk, that's for sure
Once upon a time I was invited to a very well known New England college to receive an honorarium after I had been hand-picked by one of the trustees as someone hidden away who represented that old New England spirit. Sometime afterwards, that trustee admitted to me the Powers at the college were disappointed because I was "too Yankee". Maybe that came about when sitting-in on a literature class and asked about poetry, I stood up and walked over to one of the elegant wide berth windows and threw it up for all the poetry out there to be seen. Such a corny act in a literature classroom, until you think about it. One of the best thrown-open-window-poets writing today has to be Bernadette Mayer, and each of her books only becomes freer and independent from everyone except the subject she is nailing in a poem. Scarlet Tanager (New Directions), I argued with as I read until I saw it was me stuck in place rather than the poems, which are lively, supernatural earth things, my bet even surprising the poet as she finishes a new poem up. There is daily living in Mayer, seconds in a minute platitudes, the common becomes an invitation, she maneuvers experimental with mundane in the same poem and the last thing the poetry cares about is "how?" It is. In the long list of sixties into seventies NY School of Poets - and back then so much was of the time - and precious little (but enough) reached past ephemeral, Mayer has reached way past. But ephemeral is okay. Lightning bugs are okay. Mayer takes language that is spoken by everyone and builds a poetry that will at least spin or take your head off without any tricks or legacy that you must be a trained poet to understand, alone in their towers. We are now making a poetry biz like we've made our super cars and needful of their super mechanics. My son watches an old film with me and exclaims, "Man, look at how great cars used to look." Yep, driven by anyone and anywhere and built to last....like Niedecker; like Zukofsky, Oppen, Corman, Enslin; like Berrigan, Notley, Brainard, Mayer i am the garden full of weeds and bees / i hope you like me
Susan and I were happy to publish a much smaller book but with the same title In the Absent Everyday by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa (Apogee Press) and now that selection of poems and many more are in the poet's second full collection. Don't be foolish, own everything this poet has published. For her attention to the marvelous and what we may have thought just ordinary. Let a poem speak -
The mountain air must see
time as passing in present.
The elders say times have
changed, as though they'd
forego a year if it was up
to them. Days grow in them
like a potato. They see
their body as a map
to the country's center
from where the young
never return the same.
Nothing is spectacular,
without a reference. Or
does that change? Snow
traps everything for a while.
The river stops flowing.
Michael Hettich was born a NY dude who bounced around the country a bit, while publishing chapbooks of poems and making a living anyway he could. While he was in Vermont twenty years ago, he ran an art gallery with his wife Colleen and drove a bread truck on the side. They organized poetry readings at their gallery and contributed to that wonderful era of being earnest despite little or no reward. Together they made a family, moved from Vermont to exotic climes of Florida, tagged himself after some more schooling with a Ph.D. and still wrote to me more about the trees growing in their neighborhood or what they planted in their own yard. The poems were prose poem or regular form and they never fell into a dead spot, lucky teacher! And the poems remain consistently exotic like its player's mind and landscape: full of love of family, children, darkness, waters, day & night dreams
PLANTING THE HOUSE
This man and his wife, happily married
for over thirty years, planted a garden
of herbs and berries and hummingbird flowers
down the middle of the mattress of their raft-size bed.
At night they slept amidst the vines and flowers
and let night creatures crawl across their bodies.
They let the garden spread; they wanted to see
whether it would cover their mattress and extend
to the floor, to the walls of their room, whether
birds might land there, whether they could attract
butterflies and bees. The husband put a bird feeder
in the tomato patch and a bird bath on the bench
at the foot of their bed. These old people whose children
had moved away, had married, had lives in distant cities
started making love again, started sleeping deeply,
started dreaming vividly and remembering their dreams -
so they decided to plant their entire house
in vegetables and flowers. Soon they'd be able
to harvest their dinners without leaving home.
The whole house was fragrant with love and blossoming.
When friends came to visit, they marveled at the old couple's
energetic happiness, but they couldn't see
the fountains or the swimming hole the wife had installed
where the bath used to be. Neither could their children
or even their grandchildren. The swimming hole reminded them
of an underground spring they'd swum in once
so long ago it almost seemed a dream - a cave
full of clear water full of colorless fish
that nibbled at their bodies-like kisses-as they swum out
to the center in the darkness that was lit by a single
hole in the ceiling, through which sunlight streamed.
- Michael Hettich, from Swimmer Dreams (Turning Point, www.turningpointbooks.com)
"In a world like this one, it's difficult to devote oneself to art body and soul. To get published, to get exhibited, to get produced often requires ten or twenty years of patient, intense labor. I spent half my life at it! And how do you survive during all that time? Beg? Live off other people until you're successful? What a dog's life! I know something about that! You're always recognized too late. And today, it's no longer enough to have talent, originality, to write a good or beautiful book. One must be inspired! Not only touch the public but create one's own public. Otherwise, you're headed straight for suicide." -Henry Miller from Henry Miller, Happy Rock by Brassai (Chicago). Maybe they met in the whorehouses of Paris once upon a time where Brassai was known to work, but this book captures a later friendship between the 1950s-1970s when Miller has returned to America after decades writing and starving abroad, in an only-friends-could-say-this-to-one-another conversations and interviews showing forth Miller's dynamics and Astaire steps as a raconteur. Now that he has been plagued as a sex maniac, go read Miller at his very best in the legion of men of letters.
Aw'right, enough about Bob Dylan, already! He's probably sick of it, too, but it does seem the dust has settled from all the cynics (taught by Dylan) about just who wrote the first volume to his autobiography Chronicles. He did, thank you, and likewise revealed it takes much more than cynicism to tell a story in these jaded times. Heart helps. Greil Marcus, Like A Rolling Stone (Public Affairs) brings much of this same heart to his story about the making and recording of Dylan's song "Like A Rolling Stone" in its two-day recording session in June 1965. Once heard, never forgotten, unless you're prone to forgetfulness. My personal best memory of the song is traveling on a train four days across America, coming to Los Angeles at the break of day, finding a car and with my companion who knows the city as a native, rounding over one of the hills of LA (now a freeway) and just catching a glimmer of the Pacific as the song storms out of the radio as the first song turned on at its drum snap entry. The world can flip, if you'll let it, at that moment. Marcus researches and documents and shares a million threads since that song - takes you into the moment of recording, the players, what happened during and after to some (like Mike Bloomfield), the history of music and politics of the era which he now knows with the nose of a blood hound after a long professional life mining the pop music scene. One player who should be allowed top billing as you read is the producer and part architect of the song, Tom Wilson...legendary in his work with Mothers of Invention, John Coltrane and Bob Dylan, and need I say more? He was fired after the song that really lit our fire, in dead center of the 1960s, was in the can.
By the way, New York Times June 12/05 excellent article by Bill Wyman "Dylan Gives the People What He Wants" poses Dylan as contrarian (always was: his strength) and just how he not only plays his old songs in contrarian terseness but insists on playing his neverending shows anywhere he can, and likes. Showing the music scene what they can't believe with one of such stature - while the Stones, parts of the Beatles (McCartney), Springsteen play arena after arena and only in big blast short periods of time, then waddle back to their estates and grooming...Dylan, bless him, plays the road and maybe makes $5 million a year from it. Peanuts to Mick Jagger. Always embrace the lonesome pilgrim.
After 50 years of making poetry whoopee, it should be time to thank Robert Bly. Master of Bly-Culture: everything from homemade Minnesota rooted presses: Fifties, Sixties, Seventies etc., where plenty of millions cut their teeth on the new wave poetry and translations by Bly (and James Wright) of Lorca, Jimenez, Neruda, Transtromer, Rumi, Machado, Jacobsen, Vallejo and the list goes on, to Iron John worships, the better than you realize The Sibling Society essays, and of course the ton of cargo of the poet's own books. I lost track, purposely, of the poet's own work in the 90s when all seemed softened and plainly mystical, but never with the translations, and Bly's accompanying riding-shotgun commentary about poems, poetry and that leap of faith. Good stuff. All to be found in one treasury of a book titled The Winged Energy of Delight (Harper Collins). A little Olav Hauge, ala Bly, wouldn't hurt right about now -
IT IS THAT DREAM
It's that dream we carry with us
That something wonderful will happen,
That it has to happen,
That time will open,
That the heart will open,
That doors will open,
That the mountains will open,
That wells will leap up,
That the dream will open,
That one morning we'll slip in
To a harbor that we've never known.
An exiled Iraqi poet who fled her homeland, Dunya Mikhail closes her latest book of poems The War Works Hard (New Directions) with this poem -
He plays a train.
She plays a whistle.
They move away.
He plays a rope.
She plays a tree.
He plays a dream.
She plays a feather.
He plays a general.
She plays the people.
They declare war.
(maybe take a moment and read it again?)
With The Green Piano, Janine Pommy Vega (Godine) has realized and written her finest book of poems. Forty years in the making. And every single poem and book since her first book with City Lights, Songs to Fernando (1968) has been an absolute contribution to a long life lived of many lovely books, each written with the heart of someone (you?) on the poet's sleeve. Calling a book "the finest" isn't meant to diminish the trail behind the poet; the trail is there, made by Janine and with many others she forever in the day wishes to acknowledge and uphold: whether stuck in prison where she has worked tirelessly since a young woman, poems as a citizen against the State, poems to the downcast and shadowed, the lovers (all becomes love), family homage, and the luxury of her poems from new and old Europe. If Janine's been there, anywhere, you'll know she might have a poem and you will want to hear it. Don't wait until she is gone and you can then say, I heard she was famous. She's famous now. I said so.
I learned a hundred lessons
in the garden
deeper was the first
the least little root
of Jerusalem artichoke
carries a sturdy new
plant into April
like the vaguest hope for
buried, like a sliver of moon
in the heart in spring
there are hundreds of sun chokes
take more than you need
give them to people you've
look for me
in the garden laughing
and crying at once.
Willow, New York, May 1999
- Bob Arnold
© 2005 Bob Arnold
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND - SPRING 2005 Are you Chukchi?
And you want to fight us?
You know that there are a billion Chinese?
Really! Wherever shall we bury you all?
from The Shaman's Coat , a native history of Siberia
by Anna Reid (Walker & Co.)
Where were we?
Months have gone by, like an old ornery northern New England winter in the woods will, and while I have been reading up a storm, all time for preparing any Woodburners has gone into doing restoration work on a few rooms in a house 100 years older than Charley Patton. And that's old - just put him on for awhile and let the songs take you down dark hollers, where alot of misbehavin' goes on. A house 100 years older than that, and not built of rock, will have gone through its full share of slumped lumber, cracked plaster, dim paint, nail head popped sock rippers. Some of this work is being done in our son Carson's old room. In three months he grew up in butane fashion where others might linger for some years - got himself a car, found a solid job in music, fell in love, made his own bungalow and invited us over one day last week to see his hideaway in a sort of bird-leaf paradise. Five minutes from a shopping mall but it took us through a sugar bush on sluiced March roads to find his spot. I'd say he's doing pretty well for himself. Better than a few who have kidded him about leaving his family life and finding his old man rebuilding his room into a library & guest room (can two parts sound more heavenly?) with this "guest" being the son who returns each week for an overnight stay. Haven't they ever heard that when you raise a rebel one must allow the rebel to rebel? During the visit his mom & dad shared a bowl of hot rice soup, a slice of toast and looked around. Satie, Wagner, Slayer album jackets near the turntable, DH Lawrence paperback of essays, a sheet of paper rolled in the portable typewriter....ah, a mind at work. Keep going west, young man!
While I don't just review books, I do live to share books...also sell many books, publish so many different looking books, write my own books, seeking out every imaginable book and many are gifted from around the world. Just in for the first day of Spring from Rick & Rosemary Ardinger's Limberlost Press (www.Limberlostpress. com) are two books of poems that could be flashbacks to the best of times from Kayak Press: John Haines, Of Your Passage, O Summer and Jim Harrison, Livingston Suite, handmade letterpress books, sewn sturdily in wrappers and both volumes in two-color decorations. The Haines comes with an extra treat of photographs from the poet's homestead at Richardson, Alaska so many hidden miles south of Fairbanks. The poetry ranges from a favorite time for many Haines readers - the Winter News era - unpublished in book form since the poems were recently discovered in a forgotten file. The axe hasn't lost much of its edge -
In this restless air I know,
on this ground I can never forget,
where will I set my foot
with so much passion again.
The Jim Harrison is all Harrison pathos - not his best poetry but more of his poetry and that is always for the good. The writer seems ever in a different mindset when he returns to his poems...as if he is sneaking away from the fiction that pays and where he tells stories, to smaller passages, epiphanies, how he wants to think when he takes a walk with his dog Rose, and so that gets written here. The poet has moved back to Livingston, Montana after an absence of many years and he can't help but sniff around. First the neighborhood, sidewalks, children playing, mountains surrounding, the all familiar returning -
In 1968 when I was first here
there was a cool scent of pines
and melting snow from the mountains
carried by a southwind through the river's
canyon. The scent is still here,
the sure fresh odor of the West.
-then there comes a search for a local boy drowned in one of the rivers and the storyteller can't let go. One of Harrison's charms has always been his ability to be one of the local boys. Both the books are uniquely handsome, tall and bright limited editions well-handled as future poetry publishers should never forget.
David Meltzer has lived long enough to see himself write his best work - Beat Thing (La Alameda Press, 2004) - a long poem call-it-manifesto-if-you-like quality of all things Beat from one of the youngest survivors in the original Donald Allen anthology of yore (The New American Poetry) where the hall of fame of a sort was originally set in its own fantastical stone. Meltzer knew all the players and there has been enough distance and losses and changes gone on since the heyday (which remains any day if you wish it) where this archeologist, mystic, musical poet of note really lets it rip. There are other fine poems here but the title poem demands one to let down the hair and read, stamp and bop aloud. Photos, too.
At this point, we either bow to Franz Kafka (poor bugger) or else laugh at his antics if one wishes to be bold enough just picking on a sickly soul. Add in his books and he still overpowers our modern centuries. Nicholas Murray: Kafka (Yale) is as unfettered a biography as I've yet to read on one who felt he was a criminal without ever knowing his crime. The chapters are blocked thus: "Prague, Felice, Milena, Dora": the ancient city of tales / the three doomed love affairs. The poor bastard had a nickname at his job and a nickname at nature spas he frequented, where a vegetarian diet and nudism was relished. Just think of Franz as "the man in the swimming trunks". The afterword to the book holds a little gem from the entire obituary written 6 July 1924 of Kafka by one Milena Jesenska, who, for a time, knew him as well as one could - He understood his fellow men in a way that is possible only for those who live alone, whose perceptions are so subtly tuned that they can read a whole man in a fleeting play of the features....As a man and an artist he was so infinitely scrupulous that he remained alert even where others, the deaf, felt secure.
As Gordon Lightfoot once sang it - if only you could read my mind - but last night, since writing this last review on Kafka, I wrote much better reviews in my head. Don't we all! Ever since I've been trying to shake this flu fever that knocked me down a peg in the first place and out of carpentry work for awhile and so I put on the W'burner cap in the meantime. Of course with the flu (and the Kafka before bedtime) come fever dreams: in last night's, I am suddenly in an old jalopy with who appears to be the lanky young fellow working with my son occasionally at his record store job. A very personable guy and about the only one in the whole operation with any wit. He's driving, the car is having some troubles and we are approaching the downtown of my birthplace in the Berkshires...there's the old junior high-school, now boarded up, but it still releases a tinkerbell rush of memories...old hideouts, shortcuts, relentless kid possibilities. Since there's a roadblock near the school, for whatever reason, we decide to park...but not before we eye another car filled with my driver's other buddies, jammed up trying to just pull out of a gas station parking lot. The simplest thing to do in a small town but not when the under chassis is forked in place by a builder's tool box scrambled up underneath there - tipping out steel squares and handsaws - while all arms are flapping wildly from doors and windows of the car trying to grapple free each tool. It's too much for us to bear so we just keep moving along knowing they will get out, somehow. We park near the old school. My driver is no longer there as I step out. Instead, I'm being chased after by some happy kids as I chase myself to the school grounds, already liking the memory of its wooded shadows, and there's some woman chasing those kids who are chasing me but I seem busiest with a jug of heavy moonshine in my arms that doesn't appear heavy at all. I enter the blistering dead zone gravel of the school yard and know immediately where to go - to the far end, near an old barn, where I remember a hole in the old wire fencing as I duck up under and I'm now in the woods. Hugging the moonshine, I climb up the sloped forest which once was a jungle to my young mind but is really a mere strip of woodland. Scrambling up to a neat row of ash cordwood I cut sometime out of time sequence, but then there it is, bone dry and blond, it has to be true! I seem to know what I'm doing. The kids have naturally found the hole in the fence and are following...a woman's voice sounds very patient behind them...I'm cracking the moonshine jug over the broad ash stump from the tree cut down to commemorate an old worker friend, now long gone, since we used to cut firewood together. The moonshine is making a fizzling sound curling through all the brittle ash leaves from branches that had been tossed close to the stump after the job was done. The kids are there and just love the sound. Their eyes wide, flickering each eye to me hoping I am hearing it with their same joy. I am. The woman has caught up to us, not out of breath at all, with the most pleasant smile in all the world. It's Sissy Spacek.
There's a fellow - supposedly in a "loony bin" as he describes it, somewhere in Massachusetts - who enjoys tearing me to pieces, dreams and all, so all others need not send me their interpretation of this dream. Remember, I've been ill, and I seem to only dream at night when I have a fever. Otherwise, I sleep. No cluttering of this dreaming stuff. I save dreaming for the daytime.
We knew it had to come, and for all things - and I mean all-things-Bob Dylan - there is: Keys to the Rain, Oliver Trager (Billboard, 2004) a virtual google site in book form of nearly every sidebar or slippery nuance Dylan song or scripted piece he ever penned or sang in his now over 60 years. It isn't a joke but encyclopedic and without an index, so plan to invest some time at getting your hands dirty digging up every sort of scrap logic, to absolute pure homage testimonies, about some of the earliest Dylan comrades like the almost forgotten Peter LaFarge. Even if you care not a whit about Dylan (and shame on you) it's a history book of its own making. Still no clue, though (duh), on who is "Mister Jones".
In a small range of poet's memoirs - either of themselves and/or with others - three come to mind to my liking of late: Tim Reynolds, What Ever Happened (if publishing 2000): a breezy, yet concentrated, stream of consciousness reading on all things 20th c. poets, worldwide locations, recollections, and written at odd "jobdeath moments in the mid-80s" when the poet worked as a legal word processor at ARCO. Get it where you can. Reynolds has always occurred to us uniquely his own. Cutty, One Rock by August Kleinzahler (Farrar 2004), subtitled low characters and strange places, gently explained. And that's the review! It isn't Montaigne but I must say it entertained me just as nicely. Well written, kept at 150 pages and with all the weird experiences and travels some poets believe holds a certain rights of passage. It means they just don't fit-in until they write a good book, and so he has. The Book of Jon, Eleni Sikelianos (City Lights 2004) is another nugget of a book, prose as a poet writes it so call it poetry and mostso because it's about the poet's dad, a seemingly charming Greek descendant devil of a guy who lived it up in the best of times 60s California: musician, tree surgeon, jack of many hammers, who would die homeless and of an overdose after the turn of the new century. With photographs, journal entries, poems, snippets, and this daughter wanting the last word. Sikelianos' new and very long poem volume The California Poem (Coffee House) makes an excellent companion piece but Jon is her most grounded book to date. What this has to do with is pipe-dreams
Make a book of poems - slip it into a regular letter envelope - mail it across the sea and now I have it: Gone, John Phillips (Hassle Press 2004 : firstname.lastname@example.org) a dozen or so delicate and joinery poems that I can pick up in my rural mailbox and read the whole book while hiking back home along the river. Imagine that. And I leave it unanswered whether it's the poems, or the river, or what? that make it all work so right. Phillips should be better known. He lives tucked away in St. Ives, Cornwall which isn't going to help but it's made mint for his poetry. rain no / longer rain / I step / in
This is Pastorelle 8 from a bounty of the same and I believe John Taggart's best book. One poem leadeth -
green dress black apron translucent white prayer bonnet
strings of her bonnet trailing in the air
rollerskating down the road
by herself alone in the air and light of an ungloomy Sunday afternoon
herself and her skating shadow
the painter said
beauty is what we add to things
chainsawing in the woods above the road
say what could be added
what other than giving this roaring machine a rest.
(Pastorelles, John Taggart, Flood Editions 2004: www.floodeditions.com)
- if American poets could just tend their text this well, and wholesome, so that both language and meaning could be a registry, we should be okay. Another exquisitely formed book from Flood Editions - I can't get enough of 'em.
Ray Gonzalez, most often a solid thinker, is a bit off his rocker in the latest Bloomsbury Review stating that, "As stand-up comedian-poet, no one comes close to the marvelous Charles Simic". Hasn't Gonzalez been paying attention to the recent poems by James Tate? Return to the City of White Donkeys, James Tate (Ecco 2004) is the book I have in mind and don't try to kid yourself thinking you're going to read more than a handful at a time or you'll wind up with a hernia. I watched Tate unwind with a half hour or so from these poems last Fall at a reading when it was Sunday brunch hour and the folks looked nothing much local Vermont, and it wouldn't have hurt a farmer or welder or plumber a bit to listen to the poet's harebrained and deep-dish imagination go to work - particularly poems of the stuffed great horned owl that flies from room to room, or suburban bison, some back village Brueghel life the poet comes upon on his curious drives. For decades responsible minds like John Ashbery - ever wishing to make everything European rather than royal American - have tried to describe James Tate as one of their "surrealists". But give it up. The poet was born in Missouri, like another wry meister he resembles (Mark Twain), though he now sounds more like Steven Wright when he reads these poems with a professional comic's timing. His best book, easily, in years. Careful to be read in moderation or vertigo is a possibility. Residents in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts will recognize some things. I was a dog in my former life, a very good dog, and, thus, I was promoted to a human being
Bill Knott is another funny guy but think if Paul Celan had been Joey Bishop (wouldn't he be Lenny Bruce?). While Tate and Simic and Knott virtually grew up together in the small press world and within neighboring states and all in academia since my mother was a young woman, Simic and Tate have gone on to win awards and been appraised by larger publishers. Knott has stayed the real stick in the mud. The chieftain of sore sports. The absolute brilliant one. The Unsubscriber, Bill Knott (Farrar 2004) is finally a large press for Knott but don't expect him to change an iota and this is just what we want in our poetry...still a frontier. Mostso in this day and age of, well, not much:Neocon government weasels, bought and paid for media (Condi Rice and Maureen Dowd shop the same glitz shops in Chevy Chase, MD), zip-strip for cinema, cookie cutter fiction, poets climbing back up into their ivory towers - once burned down by the youngins that then became septic Language Poets in an elder age - and the best music still seems to be a kid with a guitar or a hand drum or a harmonica just left alone. This is where the poetry of Bill Knott comes in as pure natural element, something both mathematical and literary, the varied stylist, and he just loves to put you in that place where you don't have to think, since he's doing it for you. My choice for poetry book best gifted by school children for their English teachers. There is a valley / is the oldest story
Noone kneads us again from earth and loam,
noone evokes our dust.
Praised be you, noone.
Because of you we wish
were we, are we, will
we be, blossoming;
the nothing's-, the noonerose.
its pistil soulbright,
its stamen heavencrazed,
its crown red
from the purpleworld that we sang
over, o over
- Paul Celan
To my mind, ear, bones and beetlejuice, this is about the finest Paul Celan you will ever have - as translated by Cid Corman, who were both near the same age once in Paris. Paul Celan, Selections, edited by Pierre Joris (U Cal 2005) and with an excellent introduction to the poet, along with a green thumb as to which poems chosen and its all important translators (all poets). This is a book for the Celan age to come - with photographs, speeches and letters by the poet, and superb commentary.
It just dawned on me - good website - www.thememoryhole.org founder Russ Kirk, journalist (though he'd rather be called an "information archeologist") dedicated to salvaging official documents that have fallen into oblivion and where the Powers would rather they rest, or burn...Kirk posts them online.
And, good book of working class lives in the rust belt: Shut up Shut Down, Mark Nowak (Coffee House 2004): activist poetry at its finest in group narrative voices that are not invented or heard from granddad's knee but happening now, and a poet amongst the players making his own civil war patchwork quilt of a very long poem trail of tears. It doesn't matter your color when it's the same person killing you. Nowak gathers up field report, documents, battle cries and small town mongrel misery of job loss into making a poetry that clomps around with a difference. In a nutshell, this is the most devastating thing to ever happen to this town
Is anyone listening? If poets and singers and workers and doers don't start doin', we're up shit's creek. Already they've trained most youngsters that having a cellphone and car payments and being able to own for themselves, well, nothin' much! is okay and why not spend more. The ocean tide comes in and the ocean tide goes out. Stars at night. Rivers and streams. The cuckoo cries and once upon a time we had real folks and folksongs to make this real. Change that, and change will happen. Remember, they're Neocons..they even convinced bandits in film fluff like "Once Upon A Time in Mexico" to use cellphones, and Banderas and Johnny Depp and all other cute outlaws complied. Demand better. Plant a tree. Chop the towers down. Throw the contraptions out. Speak, sing, shout and whisper in the streets.
Lost your mind? - here's your book: The Psychedelic Rock Files, Jerry Lucky (Collectors Guide 2003) already a guzillion editions are circulating but the gist is the same: once upon a time in America there was rock and roll music, and for a little while there, it floated. Jerry Lucky details nearly a day by day timeline of this happening from 1965-1971, sifting through concert events, strokes of genius, a napalm sticking Asian war, civilwar in the streets, head promoter Bill Graham figures everywhere, and nearly any group that could tweedle the mind to take flight is documented from Amon Duul to Frank Zappa - did he ever own a Rolls Royce? John Lennon took delivery of his, repainted in mindbending colors, on 25th May 1967. As I always told my son: first learn to split wood, then learn to listen to everything
Love is a swollen
urgent, nearly touching
the lovers stand thwarted.
Parents like embankments
hold them back.
Face to face
motionless as paintings
they drink love's
nectar through lotus-stalk eyes.
from: Erotic Love Poems From India, trans. Andrew Schelling (Shambhala 2004) :there is a fine and long, gold bookmark attached with this cloth edition and you'll use it more than a few times.
Clean as a whistle from cover to cover - The Pueblo Imagination, landscape and memory in the photography of Lee Marmon (Beacon 2003) with text by the photographer's daughter Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Harjo and Simon Ortiz...a reputable gang of 3 if there ever was one. While the commentary and poetry by the authors is companionable and worthy, the photographs are of this world and reveal simple grace for all it's worth. Whether portraits, landscape, mystical, ceremonial, this photographer's eye never fluttered. Incredibly, this is his first showcase book.
Goodbyes: Goodbye quietly gone to live paint celebrate and pass away in New Mexico grand artist Agnes Martin. Goodbye real Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia well known in Europe and west coast poetries but still very hard to ever find on the east coast and so always a surprise (as if the man himself is being found) when he is; see City Lights Books for more. I love it that Lamantia, as a boy, was once expelled from school for "intellectual delinquency"! Goodbye Ossie Davis, dramatist, civil-rights leader, other half splendour of Ruby Dee and best performance ever of John F. Kennedy in the grandly cult and impossible to forget film Bubba Ho-Tep, where the president, and the other "president" (Elvis, as played crucially perfect by Bruce Campbell) are still alive and kicking in a typically haunted Texas nursing home. Go straight to video. Goodbye Hunter S. Thompson, like Bukowski, still read more by men folk than women and there may be a reason there and one of the faults of both writers. When Bukowski is read by Tom Russell, who takes the time to appreciate the old Hollywood and the Mexican grocers of LA and the ancient gallery of ways that Bukowski coveted but sarcasmed his way through, all meaning changes. When Hunter Thompson could get away for a moment from his throng of pistol whippin' chemical plied magpie cheerleaders, he seemed to like to shrivel down into a cozy heart of darkness moment with Joseph Conrad. A special place. If only he could have avoided becoming one of his own described upteenth-time causalities., or is that the point?Heck, the Hell's Angels beat him up once and he rolled with it. He always wanted to write thee great American novel and did in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Could he help it if he, as one of the main characters, was for real and larger than life? If Capote could get away with calling In Cold Blood, a novel, allow Hunter his due. Interviewers were always after Thompson to write another "masterpiece", as if three or four masterpieces wasn't already enough! I say he never let-up and simply was a sign of the times, as shown in exemplary taste in his recent articles for ESPN, which were hired and published to be all about sports and he was all about bashing a Punk in the White House. That's keeping your eye on the ball.
- Bob Arnold
Earlier Woodburner Reviews from 2002