Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adrienne Rich Dies, Rage Is Good

The first sentence in the New York Times eulogy of Adrienne Rich starts out, “Adrienne Rich, a poet of towering reputation and towering rage." Right there I broke down. Someone dared acknowledge it: rage is good, rage has wings, rage is poetry-producing. And you know, I am full of rage and was so glad to be reminded that Adrienne Rich was, too. Look at what that beautiful, bold, brilliant woman did with her anger: she championed honesty and justice with a voice that stopped the dull tick of obedience and made both the sheep and the angels cry.

She was “triply marginalized” says Margalit Fox in the eulogy, “as a woman, a lesbian, and a Jew.” Today we have already forgotten that mere decades ago women were much oppressed and constrained and downtrodden even more than they are now, considerably more. I remember those times as a child, and remember how most people in that ultra-sexist world, women and men, had no voice that spoke to the severe inequality, let alone a voice with rage. They just kept playing their dysfunctional roles in predictable rhythms, dutiful in their daily swallow and conceal, la-de-dah la-de-day ...

But a few courageous women, in the midst of that gross denial, dared to point a middle finger at the ugly king, Domination. They punctured the hot air of the status quo, deflated the unctuous condescending smile. It was these women, full of rage, and also enough virtue and strength to channel that rage into irrefutable ignorance-breaking arguments, who saved us from own our worst side. They were the ones who needled, with defiance and eloquence, the dumb dark beast of inequality, until it shivered in shame--shivered so pathetically that its stupid outrage yielded a bit, and some layers of deceit crumbled off its thick stubborn hide.

If you think the injustice that Adrienne Rich wrote about, cried about, yelled about, raged about, is gone, you are living in harmony on the hirsute back of the beast. These are perilous times. Right-wing fanatics yearn to replace evolution with Creationism, want to damn gays to hell, and they don't believe in reason, science or art. They are the sort would would stone Galileo and burn Sappho and Hypatia at the cross.

We live in a deadly and awful time, one which we will either escape from, so much the wiser, or which will drag humanity down into a hate-fueled doom. Faith-based ignorance lurks everywhere, baring its fangs of Fear, threatening to engulf and extinguish the light of creativity, common sense, artistic vision and fairness. This great ignorance, backed by a wall of faith impervious to logic or pathos, would make women obedient to males and uplift white conservative Christianity as the only escape from hell.

All of us who understand the great victories brought about by the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, should be full of “towering rage” or some other tempestuous passion that uplifts us to be artists, poets, philosophers, protesters or whatever it takes. We must provide windows and prisms for the healing radiance of justice in our hearts, so it might shine out into the world and transform it. Make plants and flowers grow in the soil of minds.

Throughout my life, people have come up to me and chided, “Oh, you are so angry.” Then their ears lock tight, immune to anything I might reply. Well guess what? I am in good company. The best. Adrienne Rich, one of the greatest poets and one of the most noble and progressive geniuses of our time, embraced a “towering rage.”

She remains one of the few beacons who I turn to when I need a salve of profound inspiration. She always will be. One of my greatest fears is that as ethical giants like like Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde and Alice Walker pass the torch of Equality to the next generation, no one will step up to take it.


For all her verbal prowess, for all her prolific output, Ms. Rich retained a dexterous command of the plain, pithy utterance. In a 1984 speech she summed up her reason for writing — and, by loud unspoken implication, her reason for being — in just seven words.

What she and her sisters-in-arms were fighting to achieve, she said, was simply this: “the creation of a society without domination.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Owl Asks God about the Burning of Tibetan Nuns and Monks

Dear God,

Tibetan monks, nuns and other protesters continue to set themselves on fire to protest China taking over their country and destroying the heart of their religion. I dare you to look at these photos:

Meanwhile the citizens of the US Empire continue to buy things made in China without blinking. Every purchase makes that godless police state stronger and the US weaker.

Why do you allow people to be so selfish, stupid and cruel?

Although I'd like you to wave your magic cross and make everything better, somehow I know you are going to be pretty useless.

I'm just desperate.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Owl Hits Up God With A Request

Dear God,

If you exist (which I don’t think you do, at least in the heaven/hell way), please know that 45,000 people die a year in my country, the United States, because they can’t afford health care. At the same time, I constantly hear people say things like, “I don’t want to give a single dollar to pay for someone else’s health care. Being able to afford a doctor is not a right.”

In other words, God, my country is full of extremely selfish citizens who prefer the death of their fellow citizens over giving up a single dollar. A dollar, in case you didn’t know, is enough money to buy about a third of a loaf of bread.

I just want to say that it is disgusting for me to watch this spectacle of stupidity. It has been going on for decades now. Please wave a magic wand and turn the millions of idiots into compassionate people with some empathy.

Or maybe they are the punishment you are inflicting on the United States for being a consumeristic militaristic Empire, one that participated in the greatest genocide in human history, the annihilation of the aboriginal American cultures? Or maybe it is all the evil dictators we installed in puppet countries, the ones who proceeded to torture and terrify their own people?

Thank you for your busy time. Well, I hope your time is busy, anyway. We need your help, and I am truly afraid we are not going to help ourselves, except by killing each other off with guns , bombs and biologically engineered disease.

Your Pal,


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Dare To Breathe Under

I was skyrocketed out of a writing funk by an email from Editor Shannon Peil, who accepted my poem “Weekday Tunnel” for his original and absorbing journal. Its intriguing name is and, yes, that is also the web address.

Peil publishes a good dose of authentically dark poetry (as opposed to Grade B simp), which is important during these dangerous times, as the US Empire flounders in dysfunction. I don’t mean to label as a political journal, because it is not. It escapes categories, slipping back and forth between private and public sub/conscious zones. In this sense, it swims blurry blended realms.

amph, as Peil calls it, is adroitly amphibious.

Really good journals that dare to ‘do the dark‘ are hard to find, and amph is one of them, up there with journals like and Gloom Cupboard.

The format is blog, so my poem will appear as the entry for a certain day, coming soon. Another thing I like about amph: no bios, no medals, just the raw bones of the poems, which do a good job fleshing themselves.

Go check out this deadly good site; but make sure you are ready to scuba dive the underworlds below the big yellow happy face.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Great Essay On Sexism in the Slam Poetry World

This is a fantastically perceptive essay that covers many aspects of the subconscious sexism in slam culture, resulting in many more male 1st place winners than female. It appears in the literary journal, Radius: From the Center To the Edge

Click Here


Friday, March 16, 2012

A Desperate Note

The following is my version of a diary entry. It isn't edited much. I'll edit over time.

Suggestions are welcome, but I may or may not exit my solipsism.

Thanks for reading.



A Desperate Note

i sit in the poorest corner
of a crumbling Empire,
fifty miles from the nearest traffic light,

but in front of me on a glowing screen
is a massacre by a rogue solider, 16 more
innocent people dead,

which reminds me of the 12 dead
at Columbine High School, the first mass murder
of students by students,

which soon became more,
and continues to become more.

here in the violence-worshipping Empire
there are natural born killers,
and serial killers stalk through TV land

every night.

outside my window, somewhere
in the wilds of remote woods,
a quick burst of gunfire:

pop, pop, pop.

how prevalent and contagious guns are
in our land of the free, which is owned by
big corporations

who make profit off wars
in which millions of foreigners die,
but these human beings don’t count,

not like money counts.

Emperor Nixon dropped tens of thousands
of bombs on a country we were not even at war with
because he thought it might save just one American life.

Emperor George W. Bush got us into two long wars,
which are now sinking us
finally and pathetically.

our soldiers go insane and massacre civilians;
or they piss on the corpses of the "enemy,"
or burn the Muslim sacred book, the Koran.

our country is so full of hate,
and there are guns everywhere
and we are so very very sick.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Despondence, Despair and Some Apathy

Every once in a while, I feel a dour responsibility rise up in me: the need to reflect on the American Empire. All citizens of the Great Behemoth should. We owe at least that much to the scores of peoples and countries we have immiserated.

The US is the #1 poster child for rapid disintegration. If any country shows the dangers of greed and fear, it is this one. After WWII, Uncle Sam became the Earth’s supreme power. Today, it is bogged down by the effects of ugly and immoral wars, and is no longer considered all-mighty. Communist China is taking over, in large part because almost everything we buy in American seems to be “Made in China.” Why? Greed.

Horror stories come out about China all the time: illegal imprisonments, suppression of speech and religion, censorship of art, and general mind control. Every couple months, a news emerges about Tibetan monks burning themselves to death to protest China’s usurpation of their spirituality and country. However, the American people keep buying “Made in China," blindly flaunting the myopic selfishness for which they are well-known.

Part of the reason Americans are so superficial and whiny is because businesses and corporations, craving larger markets for their industrial muscle, saturated American culture with shallow, glitzy, materialistic advertisements. The psyche of the average citizen caved in, and became hostage to wanting more and more stuff.

As America crumbles, the people generally blame everyone but themselves. Denial is as rampant as hate. Republicans hate Democrats and Democrats hate Republicans, and if you aren’t in one of those two camps, you will quickly be seen as siding with one or the other. The political landscape is completely polarized.

Big corporations and mega-millionaires own the 'democratic' system through unlimited campaign donations and perpetual lobbying, which has become an industry in itself. The USA doesn’t manufacture anything much anymore, it is full of spin-meisters and propaganda artists and of course there is the financial game of FIRE: Financial, Insurance and Real Estate.

The big banks on Wall Street destroyed the economy in 2008 through reckless gambling. The government bailed them out and left them in power, while the equity of the American home dropped by 30%. The rich win, the rest lose.

Insurance, an industry that got its start through fear, has thoroughly corrupted and bureaucratized the health sector. It is so bad that at least 50 million Americans can’t even afford to see a doctor. About 45,000 citizens die every year because they can’t afford insurance. 19,000 homes are sold to pay medical bills, which have skyrocketed due to the competing greeds of hospitals, insurers, and doctors.

In America, everything is about making money all the time. Short-term profit is god, resulting in long-term tragedy. The so-called ‘free market’ economy (which is actually a corrupt plutocracy) rewards the wealthy and punishes everyone else. The rich have become much richer while the middle class is sinking away.

Fear was a major monster before WWII, but afterward, it took over entirely. Out of fear, the US attacked its bogey, Communism, everywhere and anywhere. The threat was vastly and absurdly exaggerated by kingpins like J. Edgar Hoover, who led the FBI for fifty years, and defied Presidents.

Along with fear comes corporate greed. Here’s the typical pattern: the US engineers a coup or wages a war against a 3rd world country (in the name of fighting Communism or Terrorism), installs a vicious right-wing dictator who tortures his own citizens. In the aftermath, the big corporations make a killing buying up the resources that the vicious dictator privatizes for them.

Once Soviet Russia fell, our fear of Communism shifted to a more general Terrorist threat, a threat vague enough to endure forever. Indeed, the US has been in a state of emergency since 9/11/2001, which means the Constitution is hostage to fear. Our intelligence services and military torture “enemy combatants” at will, if not directly then through the practice of rendition.

My last point today: The US is incredibly violent. School shootings are increasingly common. Some kid takes out a gun and kills, kills, kills. I think it is happened at least a few times a year. It has even happened in an elementary school. A few days ago, a US soldier in Afghanistan, the site of our longest-running and incredibly inept war, walked off a military base and just started shooting Afghan civilians. 16 died, including women and children This kind of stuff happens all the time now--

And more and more people are buying guns in the US. Guns are everywhere, concealed, open, wherever.

The US citizen is mostly in denial about this moral disintegration. I think the country is going to break into two parts.

I’m tired. Those are some of the ways my country has enslaved itself to greed and fear.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

UMVA Invites Me To Read!

In April, the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA) will be exhibiting at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine. The topic is “Occupy Art! The Union of Maine Visual Artists in Action.” And I am one of four poets invited to read at the reception.

Here are the details:

Harlow Gallery announcement

I will remember this honor all my life. The reason is that I greatly respect the people who run UMVA; in fact, they are my ethical heroes. They have wedded passion and brilliance to art and activism. They have done many great things over the years, visiting poor rural communities, speaking out against tyranny, and, yes, producing some of the best art in America.

Natasha Mayers, for instance, was the daily artist for for quite a while, until she chose other avenues of meaning. She has travelled the world, bringing communities together to paint empowering murals. Her art is well-known in Maine and beyond, shown in galleries and universities.

Go here to see hundreds of her common dreams pieces. The creativity and variegation are unbelievable; the use of color and icon, in surreal plays of archetypal angst, beyond astounding:

Natasha Mayers Common Dreams

As with the next two artists I am going to mention (below), Mayers has accomplished far more than I am mentioning here. Far more. I apologize for my feeble quick biography.

Robert Shetterly writes essays for national venues as well as merging his visual genius with ethical imperatives. He published “Americans Who Tell the Truth” a collection of his portraits of people like Sojourner Truth, Noam Chomsky, Emma Goldman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rachel Carson, and Caesar Chavez.

Go here to see the portraits and learn more:

Robert Shetterly Americans Who Tell the Truth

Shetterly recently won an honorary doctorate from the University of Maine, Farmington. The provost said he was being awarded for “remarkable accomplishments as a painter, as an educator, and as an unfailing and articulate voice for social justice in America.”

Shetterly’s work is shown far, near and wide. Like Mayers, he works tirelessly, blending art, activism and projects of community healing. I’m leaving out vast amounts of his accomplishments, and I apologize.

Kenny Cole is a fountain of original, incisive work that often blurs the boundaries between art and poetry. I’ve reviewed Cole before:

Owl's Review

Here is a sample of some of his virtuosity. He continues to produce art that fearlessly emanates passion. His style is so expressive, so vivid, so cutting, it often brings me to the edge of tears:

Gold, God, Guns and Girls

UMVA, including the three great human beings above, is a cynosure where leadership and honest emotion dare challenge ignorance. The light of the unfettered soul, expressed in art and words, intrudes on the dark.

There is no nobler pursuit. I look forward to my few moments, sharing my meager poems, at the reception. I will be reading with three seasoned, talented, devastating poets: Lee Sharkey, Henry Braun and Mark Melnicove.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Life is about weeding contradictions out of your mind. We all harbor them, the up-downs and helpful hurts. Go to a deeper level. Rework. Redefine. In this way, you can approach the Good.

Allegra Faer, Worlds Within Whorls


Friday, March 2, 2012

Poem: Stage Coach Trail

Another of my Chelsea poems. If Chelsea had not accepted my work those many years ago, when I was just starting out, I might have quit writing poetry. That legendary journal, now dormant, provided me with the boost of morale I needed to handle many years of rejections, self-questioning and artistic struggle.

Thank you, Chelsea!


Stage Coach Trail

in a cascade of sandstone,
i sat on a boulder,
staring out over
velvet ears of sage
and angry bursts of
nettle, crying
because smog
corked the San Fernando Valley;
and the mighty Los Angeles River,
once strummed by seasons
into dryness and flood,
cowered within a sheathe
of concrete.

and i wondered at the erosion of
Stage Coach Trail, its fracture
into huge tan molars
no horse could attempt,
let alone Wells Fargo—
how these chunky sharp stones
tore the hills apart
as quickly as developers
sewed them into green lawns.

and i wondered who would win,
lattice or the ancient crone
whose skin is these rocks,
whose hair is the smoke bush
and creosote, whose lips
are desert flowers and toyon berries,
who wrinkles beyond hope
of friendship with the smooth obedience
of asphalt.

twin vultures said no one
could win. but my eyes
lingered, tracked oozy black cloaks
that crept toward a cowardly sun.
an owl gave a rueful moan as i shivered,
waiting for bats to scrawl
their luminous violet prayer.