Thursday, August 30, 2012

Acceptance: mgversion2>datura

This might be my most unusual acceptance ever because it comes from a fellow poet rather than the editor. The journal has a cyborg-ish name: mgversion2>datura. And it comes out at a lightning pace, a bold fountain of raw and frenetic art. Themes and issues stream and blur, but one of those themes “X & friends” allows a poet to choose her friends to appear with her--and that is how I came to be ‘accepted.’ Who chose me to appear? None other than that charismatic wandering woods-spirit of verve and versatility Karla Linn Merrifield.

It all came down like this: The editor of the journal, Walter Ruhlmann, contacted ten writers that he held in high regard, and told them that they could each pick five friends for their own special issue. Karla was one of those ten, and selected me and four others for her special issue, which will appear in April 2013. The other bards are:

Eve Hanninen (editor of The Centrifugal Eye)
M. J. Iuppa (author of Night Traveler)
Colleen Powderly (author of Split)
Michael Smith (chemist, mathematician, wilderness adventurer)

We are all going to supply five poems and appear with Karla in her special issue. Yay!

What a box-breaking idea by Editor Ruhlmann, who presents an energetic persona, indeed. Incidentally, he translates many of the journal’s poems into French from English, or English from French, while based in the UK. If you go to the website, you’ll find a hectic garden of roses and trellising flowers, which to untrained eyes like mine are as absorbing as they are overwhelming:

The original name of the journal was “Mauvaise Graine” or “Bad Seed,” but when it kicked online in 2002, it turned high tech, hence “version 2” and the shift from “mauvaise graine” to “datura,” which is a dangerous yet myth-shrouded plant with transformative narcotic seeds.

I never can give enough praise to Karla, who has done a great deal as a leader in realms poetic on many levels, from the ethereal walks of the internet to the gritty saw grasses of the Everglades, and in many other ecolands as well; for she travels quite a bit and is never afraid to engage with the thickest of brush or converse with the most vertiginous canyon.

I’m further honored that she recently dedicated a poem to me, published in Kudzu Review:

If you read the poem (“Everglades Baptism”), you might see a reference to a certain owl ...

In any case, it is a masterful piece, a triptych in stanzas. All three vignettes entrance, not an easy feat.

Thank you Karla for all you’ve done for us poets--but, also, please keep writing and writing. You're fantastic!



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Poem: Two Ghosts

This was recently published in Hobo Camp Review (Summer 2012). To see it in situ, along with another poem of mine, "Dead Cow," go here:

Best to everyone, and especially those, like me, who are wondering how they are going to pay for food.



Two Ghosts

look at us flow into each other
like wine drunk on itself,
full-bodied with faint delight
gone in a mutual sip.

look at us looking
through each other’s eyes,
sharing our mutual fingers,

as if the absence of saveable seconds
could be formed into a seed.

you made of my ribs, mine yours,
our pelvis a fulcrum.
hips wrapped, seesawing on a lost night,
defiant still against edicts of pain.

our togetherness a faint perch,
stuck somewhere
between toehold and substance.

in the bleed of a forgotten autumn,
we murmur-swirl side by side,
on an ersatz day.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The US Citizen Is A FKing Sheep

In 1970 the students at MIT crowded around the office of their campus President; then the chanting group parted for four young men carrying a battering ram, which was used to smash through the barricaded and heavily locked doors. A sit-in ensued, lasting for days. What were the students protesting? MIT had become the “Pentagon on the Charles.” In other words, it was steeped in military money being used for research into technologies of war and death.

Good readers, I ask you, What has happened to that spirit today? The Iraq War just ended after a decade-long run, and what did it accomplish? The Afghanistan War is the longest in America’s history and what is the point? These wars have been run with horrible inefficiency, made even worse by the corruption of the military-industrial complex. They are rife with atrocities of hellish magnitude, such as Special Forces operatives running around in the night and shooting down pregnant women in their homes, and rockets annihilating entire wedding parties by ‘mistake.’

Folks, what the hell has happened to our spirit of protest? Where is our ethical imperative? Where is our outrage at the horror of what our country is doing, as it prostitutes the ideals of freedom and democracy; as it brutalizes entire countries, hemorrhaging streams of fugitives, millions of people long, and laying a hydra-headed path of despicable murder and mayhem?

Why aren’t we breaking down Presidential doors and rallying in the streets? Why are we complacently bovine as our Empire launches self-destructive and appalling rampages, whose sole benefactor is the avarice-eyed moguls of the weapons industry?

We are selling the souls of our young soldiers to the devil of PTSD, the demon of disability, the monster of amputation and the ghoul of suicide.

What the F*** is wrong with us! Why don’t we yell about the horrors of what our country is doing on a global scale. Are these wars idiotic or what, people? If your answer is yes, please do something, write something, say something, send something, an anonymous card, do anything, speak out -- because at least on paper, at least theoretically, we have free speech; but it means nothing if we let Big Media flood the airwaves and saturate impressionable minds without our own staunch and fervid resistance.

Turn off that TV and go out into the streets to fight, whether they are real streets of oil-stained tarmac or the equally powerful boulevards of the internet.

For god’s sake, our military establishment is absurdly off course and insanely addicted to slaughter. It is a disease rotting out the marrow of our nation, one that splits our population into a pathetic mass of the toiling and floundering, and a small cadre of selfish rulers lavished in luxury.

Honestly at this point, I don’t expect anyone to do much. Future historians will look at the educated American citizen of the early 21th century and wonder how we could be so docile and intentionally helpless as our dignity crumbles inside us and all around us too.

And when it comes to Republicans, those sheep at the feet of the Corporate Gods, historians will wonder how so many people could become willing advocates of a Greed so antithetical to their own safety, health and soul. To wear the bridle of your own self-effacement so blindly is an immortal stain on the right wing's ability to employ the faculty of reason, and a searing caveat concerning the frailties of human nature.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Poem: Hit

This poem recently appeared in The Vein, a great young zine. To read it there, and my other poem, "Booby Trapped" go to this url:

To see my review of The Vein, go here:

"Hit" is from the perspective of a soldier who has just been shot.

Will the American people ever protest the evils of war with a 60's-intensity again? We have become so beaten down, so docile, so unsparkable.




what was was fragile.
a shard of scream to the jugular.
he had no could not compensate.
to come back was not to couldn’t be a new start:
only trench itch and a mouth of cotton,
friends blown to fleshy scripts
sheaves of them in sheets.

there was no did no had no
felt no saw no meant no god.
bodies left by the bulldozer
in mud that turns red where
even a worm is great. five worms
are almost tender, like a girl’s hand.
there would no couldn’t kiss a girl again.
less fireflies than stars
under the battlefield moon.

such secrets in breath!
strange that ever would surprise him,
or that legs weren’t sticks.
bird lying wings cracked back broke by canon roar.
sad chirp stomped boot-flattened
last thing couldn’t be but must
he had to see.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Incredible Night at the Catbird Seat!

On August 13 at 7pm, I had an unforgettable experience. My wife, Shanna Wheelock, and I were invited to lead a discussion in Eastport, Maine at the Catbird Seat. The flyer for the event included a picture of one of Shanna’s powerful works of art--a pomegranate merged with a grenade--and announced:

a poet & a potter
Chris Crittenden and Shanna Wheelock discuss war and peace at The Catbird Seat.
(#3 Dana Street look for the big clock opposite the Tides Institute)

Shanna and I had never presented together, which alone made the night a new kind of adventure. Add to that the incredible ambience of the Seat, which enveloped us in good vibes as soon as we walked through the door. I had never been inside, and felt like a bibulous bard stumbling upon a trove of the vine.

The Seat used to be a theater; and I’m not talking one of those boring boxes that pepper our fast-food nation today. Imagine a real ol’ time vault, nestled luxuriously in a semi-Victorian townhouse. Venerable floors with broad hand-cut planks. Ceilings of baroque enameled tin. The owner and host, Heidi Reidell, marvelously furnitured the entry room to include velvety couches and chairs. Can you say maximum comfort? To me they were like low-rider motorcycle seats: nice and easy and free.

After the entry room, you go through a short hall containing a honky tonk piano, which surely has sung many a sociable song. And then suddenly you are in a towering space, both hospitable and commodious, at least forty feet up, and who knows how long and wide. Everywhere I looked there was art and sculpture, not crowded but positioned so as to allow each piece its own special aura.

Ms. Reidell indeed has an fine eye for spatial aesthetics.

And the artwork itself was stunning. The voluptuous gallery harbored giant kiln-fired sculptures wrestled into being by the recently deceased Donald Sutherland, clay wizard of Eastport. I have no idea how he mustered the physical strength to fashion these Picasso-esque behemoths, each an harmonic congeries of suggestive shapes. They were grand, primordial, and absolutely original. I sensed animals moving in the collages of abstract contour, yet also sometimes machinery. And ghosts.

On the wall were mesmeric oil paintings that somehow twined liquid and solid in an interplay of color and shape. The canvasses simmered and flexed yet maintained an underlying armature of the recognizable. Crowning it all, surrounded by small meek spotlights, was a formidable painting by artist Arthur Cadieux. I stared at this painting (whose name I don’t know) off and on for most of the night. It was, according to Ms. Reidell, worked into its fierce gang of frightening faces just after September 11, 2001. I could feel on my skin the palpable rage and angst and despair and violence. Amid the spearhead of fearsome visages crept a brocade of small black tanks, marching like ants.

Cadieux’s painting was a paragon of antiwar expression, and surely affected everyone as the presentation commenced. Ms. Reidell started off the night with a bold statement of her own, which included stories about courageous resistors in Nazi Germany. She was incisive and articulate, and throughout the night continued to catalyze the discussion with her intellect.

After her presentation, she introduced me, and I was a little unsure how to proceed. The format for the evening was vague, perhaps intentionally to keep it conversational. It had been decided beforehand that I would introduce Shanna, since I was familiar with her style and work; and that was a task of major importance, eclipsing all else in my mind.

Although it made sense that I should introduce her, I felt awkward being given the stage first. We were equal presenters, after all. I found myself fumbling and gushing in an attempt to describe Shanna who, honestly, is the most important person to me in the world, and who in addition is fabulously gifted, and flourishing as an artist. She deserves, and is starting to generate, widespread praise.

Two of Shanna’s artworks were brought with us and sat on a table during the entire presentation. They are some of my favorites: "Totem," which adorns the cover of my chapbook “Rebellion,”; and also "Grenade," which combines twenty-five life-sized grenades, sculpted by hand out of clay, along with a melon-sized pomegranate, also clay-sculpted. The pomegranate sits on top of a wooden square with sub-compartments for the ordinance.

You can see both these works at Shanna’s blog, along the right side of the screen. Or visit her new website:

I’m running out of time, so I will wrap this up: I read three poems and then a discussion commenced, starting with many questions for Shanna about her art, philosophy, technique and process. Then the discussion continued, on and on, with the audience getting very vocal and remaining attentive for at least an hour. An incredible exchange of ideas took place, enhanced, as I mentioned before, by Ms. Reidell’s smart comments and prompts.

After the official talk ending, the conversation spilled into the whole of the Catbird Seat, and continued on far into the night. What a magical time it was, full of art, architecture, poetry and a cornucopia of brave ideas.

I offer my most full and fervent gratitude to Heidi Reidell, gallery-keeper and artist extraordinaire. The twin bright lights of her mind and heart took us in the company of truth through the darkness of the topic.



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Acceptance: American Poetry Journal

Visit American Poetry Journal

It is a huge thrill to announce that the American Poetry Journal has accepted two of my poems (“Whisked Leaves” and “Not So Vacant Lot”). The Senior Editor is one of my favorite poets on the national scene, J.P. Dancing Bear. On the Advisory Board is Bob Hicok, who is perhaps my favorite living poet. He is in the top five, anyway. He is the only contemporary whose words I can quote off the top of my head, and only the following phrase, which obviously has tremendous power for me:

“If we named things what they are, our sentences would be monsoons. Long rains of sound.”

If you are going to subscribe to just one literary journal, I recommend this one. You should probably try to get two subscriptions, APJ and also Poetry (published by the Poetry Foundation).

I could try to praise this journal up here, but I think I would only sound mauldin and feeble. APJ doesn’t need my praise--but it surely needs support, so do consider subscribing. The Poetry Foundation has a huge reserve of money, due to a 100 million dollar inheritance. APJ does not.

Carry on, folks. We live in a bizarre and swiftly changing time. We are witness to what could well be the twilight of civilization, even if it turns out not to be.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I'm Running a Workshop For You!

My workshop at the Poetry Coop starts on Sept 6 and runs for four weeks. Please consider joining! If you go to the following link, you will see me smiling (a rare sight indeed), and if you click on me, the workshop info comes up.

Note: be sure to click on me fast because after a few seconds, I get replaced by another of the Coop's teaching artists. There are currently five of us, going in a circle.

Yes, the workshop will cost you: $50. Sorry about that. I could really use some extra ten dollar bills to pay for spaghetti, and the Coop takes a cut, which helps to maintain the site.

If you're serious about exploring the wild areas of your mind through the lens of poetry or philosophy, or both, you won't be disappointed, not if I can help it, anyway.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Poem: Crow In a Gale

This poem originally appeared in 2River View. If you have the right audio, you can hear me read it at the following link:


Now I'm off to be an auctioneer for the first and last time in my longish life.



Crow In A Gale

of disheveled tufts
on a catapult
about to throw,

the projectile
quilled yet frozen,
cinched by wind,

a talon
from hurtling
through a sky of cement
and oatmeal.

hood ornament
of a streamlined grove,

pitted against
a sharpened speed
of drooling gray.

a plight nearly fumes.
almost a serif