Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Acceptance: The Writing Disorder

Visit The Writing Disorder

It is an awesome honor that five of my poems have been accepted by The Writing Disorder. I love the ambience of this online zine, which seems based in Los Angeles. (You can send your old-fashioned postal submissions to an address there, care of one of the Editors, C.E. Lukather).

The website is both professionally sculpted and successful in conveying an intense passion for the literary arts. Something about the style is retro yet also edgy. Poets are showcased individually, including a photo and significant bio. It is obvious that great care was taken in choosing the contributors, who bring many well-crafted styles and soaring, daring tongues.

You can buy Writing Disorder t-shirts, some that feature towering minds like Woolf and Joyce, others that play on the insanity of the writer's task. There is even one with Nietzsche on a motorcycle (“Nietzsche Motorworks”).

I can see that TWD is a very special place, and yet more importantly--I feel it. The new Poetry Editor is Juliana Woodhead, who wrote me a marvelous and personalized acceptance letter, including specific praise but also an insightful correction. This is a generous gift, indeed, above and beyond the daily grind of editors, which is already considerable. I bow down to you, Ms. Woodhead!

Every poetry journal has a personality, which involves many aspects, including an excitement factor. TWD gets me very excited through its quality, aesthetic and enthusiasm--its sheer ability to punch through my visors of gray and make me sing of life like a reborn Scrooge. If poetry is your conduit to zest and depth, check out this wonderfully neurotic zine!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Release: "Solar" at Bolts of Silk

Read my poem "Solar," currently featured at one of my favorite magazines. Editor Juliet Wilson is one of the most intelligent, passionate and wise guardians of the wilds we have left during our mechanic-consumeric-hedonic rush toward global collapse.

Solar at Bolts of Silk

Thanks for reading and carry forth!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Release: Aberration Labyrinth #3 (Nov 12)

See my poems "Romeo Reads Himself" and the grotesque "Source" in the latest issue of this hard-edged journal. The publisher is Issu, so to get access, go to AL's main page and then click on the cover:


Don't do anything I wouldn't do ;)


PS: To see my review of this journal, go here:


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Acceptance: The Vehicle

Read my dark, cynical vicious poem “Cerberus” in the Fall 2012 issue of The Vehicle:

Cruising In The Vehicle!

This formidable zine, run by students out of Eastern Illinois University, has been publishing poems since 1959, but only in 2011 changed from in-house to extrovert. Now everyone can send them high-rev writing for consideration. I’m honored to be in the vanguard of their quest to publish the best they can find on a national and even international scale.

Special thanks to Editor Nikki Reichert who had to deal with me on an email-to-email basis.

Happy Reading To All!


PS: The Vehicle asked for a recording (MP3) of the work accepted but that hasn’t appeared on-site yet. (Singing badly): Somedayyyyy my audio will come...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Mark Pawlak's Go To the Pine


It is extremely rare for me to review anyone’s work on this blog. I’ve only done it once before, when the stars aligned in a bizarre yet catalytic syzygy. The ‘poet’ I reviewed was Kenny Cole, who probably doesn’t even consider himself a poet. He is widely known and self-described as an artist, one who happens to use phrases and quotes in many of his canvases and drawings. That is one of the reasons I reviewed him, the challenge of explaining why he could be seen as a poet, an alchemist of symbol who transforms words into groundbreaking, permeable states.

I also know Cole personally, in the face-to-face kind of way, not through the aether. We don’t just kibitz as avatars in a web. Also, I greatly--and I would like to underscore the adverb many times--admire his ethos and its manifestation: his all-out, courageous and incessant criticism of our addiction to war, including the financial double-dealings, mendacious rhetoric and weaponized consumerism that goes along.

Today I am reviewing Mark Pawlak’s poetry book, Go to the Pine: Quoddy Journals 2005-2010, published by Bootstrap Productions. Why? Pawlak has a formidable presence in the history of modern poetry. He studied with Denise Levertov in the late 60’s (more on this later), and has edited the venerable journal Hanging Loose for thirty-two years. Hanging Loose has been around for forty-six years, an incredible tenure, and recently celebrated its 100th issue at the Brooklyn Public Library. Harvey Shapiro, past editor of New York Times Book Review, started off the panegyrics, followed by many more personages.

Secondly, Pawlak’s interactions with Levertov were the opposite of superficial. Her morality, her passion, her motivations, moved the young lad vastly, opening his heart to social justice with an impetus that proved enduring-- a lifelong momentum of questioning authority, especially its twisted relationship with mass violence. Think Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex.”

(Don’t make the mistake of mothballing Einsenhower’s warning. See Aaron B. O’Connell’s recent and chilling op-ed in the New York Times, “The Permanent Militarization of America”).

Think of advancing technology for one primary purpose: to create bigger and stronger weapons to inflict wider and greater damage. This is the political vista that Pawlak surveyed in 1970 as he contemplated a full-paid scholarship to graduate school at MIT. The awakening poet and humanist ended up rejecting that scholarship (part of me wants to say “refuting”), unable to reconcile with what had come to be known as the “Pentagon on the Charles.”

Pawlak dared to face what Walter Cronkite’s evening news could not: the Vietnam War as a monstrous evil. Not in a Biblical sense but rather in the secular logic of inducing mass murder and nightmarish denial. In the middle class suburbs of America, Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” played on, even as Nixon dropped more bombs on Laos than all the bombs we dropped during WWII.

Pawlak dared crack his eyes, propelled by Levertov, and became permanently stung. Psychically transformed. His memoir is forthcoming and I look forward to purchasing it. How do I know so much about Pawlak? We sat down to lunch in my hometown of Lubec, Maine. Face to face. The awakening of the late 60’s still burns in his heart. Fervent.

And why, you might ask, was Pawlak, a professor of math in Boston, having lunch with an Owl in the remote town of Lubec?

Well, Go To the Pine punctuates six years of visits in and around Lubec. In sum, I am reviewing Pawlak’s book because: (a) I greatly admire his Levertov-inspired ethic, (b) he is a tremendous leader and legendary figure in realms poetic, (c) we met face to face, (d) the book focuses on the region around my home, which is pretty amazing given that I live 50 miles from the nearest traffic light.

You might be thinking: Is that darned Owl ever going to talk about the book itself? I am indeed. But my philosophy is that an artist’s ethic affects the aesthetic of his or her work. This is no doubt so controversial a premise that many would call it laughable. But this is my blog, my review, and I think it is important to spell out the ethos of Pawlak. Without hale ethos, the quality of a poet’s work, in my thoughts, is lesser. I know you disagree. Let’s move on, happily because Pawlak satisfies one of my chief criteria.

Given all my hullabaloo about justice, you might be surprised that Go To the Pine is not at all a work of protest. At least not overtly. As a full-time resident of Lubec and previous denizen of Los Angeles, I can say that simply being Down East is a relief from the hundreds of insidious weights that can laden the shoulders of the urban dweller, unnoticed until the cement landscape is traded for the green, granite and brine of streetlight-less space.

I don’t think you will find a single phrase or reference in Pawlak’s book to anything industrial, machine-like or military. And yet he isn’t taking a naive bucolic approach to the Quoddy region. I hate to say it--because it is going to draw attention to Lubec, invite more visitors, which could well lead to philistine fence-posts and yuppification--but Pawlak has, in these poems, crafted the sort of apt spell that comes from (a) dedication to a demanding midsummer muse, and (b) the application of a poetic brilliance, cultivated painstakingly over decades.

This book could well crack the damn of anonymity that has partially protected Quoddy from a horde of tourista attention. It is a trenchant masterwork, superbly honed, and very accessible. The works appear in the chronological format of a diary, and yet might as well be a capricious assemblage of emotion-rich tinctures for tattooing the adventurous soul. There is a feel of optimal aphorism. And a dash of the economy of haiku. But also much more, none of it reducing to the methods it subsumes. The basic foundation of the oeuvre, as I read it, is free verse that somehow siphons into itself some of the magic of structured tradition. Once in a while, Pawlak will label a piece “Sarabande,” “Passacaille,” “Chaconne” or some such thing; but the playfulness and creativity far exceed any implied constraint.

Don’t think that Pawlak is painting Quoddy as some ideal Arcadian oasis. He can wax kind, and rightly so; but he also bares the gruff, harsh underbelly of this angular, frangible region, sometimes, I think, without even knowing it. The title, for instance, Go To the Pine, has special and personal meaning for me. One of my favorite backpacking trips in Lubec involves a 300 acre stretch that has only a single white pine left. Pine trees were largely logged out, leaving mostly spruce, which is true of the whole region. Pawlak’s use of “Pine” instead of “Pines” has captured, in a subtle way, that rarity.

Pawlak also reveals that he embraces almost secret things, Lubecker kind of things, that most all city-rushers don’t know or hold special. We have around here a mammal called a fisher that eats our local porcupines, leaving only the spiky skin. On a recent backpack, I saw four such gutted quill-shells. Not redolent with the glory of nature, is it? But Pawlak isn’t afraid:


The fisher is a fearless predator ... will face off with a porcupine, snapping at the animal’s snout until it goes into shock; then it will roll the body over to get at its soft underbelly. Evidence: the empty sack of quills in roadside ditch.

You can find raw variegated vignettes like this all through the book, from the grim to the chucklish to the honorific. The Down East culture gets its share of notice, too. I was tickled that the talented bard from Boston found interest in local flavor that had long ago settled below my conscious:


... violation of scallop rule, $250
... hand fishing sea urchin without license, $500
... negotiating worthless instrument, $150
... violation of marine worm rule, $250
... failing to kindle in prudent manner, $100

Machias District Court Cases, Bangor Daily News

The serene, the beautiful, the sensuous and the colossal are fully represented in this book. Here are a couple of the “Six Acts,” which wonderfully engage coast, horizon, sky and sun (20:VII:07):

Mist peels away
slowly in bands
to reveal the crown
bristling with firs.

Fog thins
while sun climbs,
hand over hand, up
a ladder of branches.

Maybe my favorite Pawlak theme--maybe--emerges in those entries where fringes of nature serve as both seeress and gorgon, a font of unstable magic and bittersweet bliss. Such places are always perilous yet rewarding for the human touch:


Today, my preoccupation
is this cracked, seamed,
frost-heaved, tarmac road
along whose crumbling
shoulders, edged with gravel
squadrons of bees patrol
the hydra-headed chamomile
just coming into flower.

Go To the Pine reminds me of that one isolated white pine near Porcupine Mountain where I have more than once pitched my tent, and found myself able to observe ranks of eagles in smooth, bark-shucked grandmother trees, and passels of frogs, half turned into waterlogged leaves, in a beaver-created pondlet. Go to the Pine reminds me of the jokes, jingles, jabs and a bit of drunken jabberwocky at my favorite eating holes and local stores. Go To the Pine, which is ultimately tinged with nostalgia (a ghost from a different kind of existence, in an unpresent world, is channeling through Pawlak) reminds me of what we have lost in the cities, in the bowels of capitalism, and the advance of its isolative cubic egoism; and yet Go To the Pine is not offering answers or solving dilemmas. It challenges you, with a disarmingly simple eloquence, to find your own path, to make the Down East region your guide not only to Maine but also your way.

You must say how, though. Pawlak will not do it for you.

My fear is that this book will open the floodgates of capital and cottage. It is that good. Its pages swim, lope and soar with meanings that you, the person who has money and the will to travel, are missing in the city--and yet that lack will accompany you to Quoddy if you are not careful. In this sense, like all great works, Go to the Pine offers healing and yet, paradoxically, it is a dangerous tome.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Acceptance: Red River Review

See my poem “Double Dip” in the new release of Red River Review #45 (November 2012). Michelle Hartman, Editor extraordinaire, is doing a great job, having revivified the journal a few years ago. The poetry she publishes is receiving both national and international attention. Some recent work in RRR by Rob Walker was taken by The Best Australian Poems, 2012. Here’s the journal link:

Red River Review

Also, If you search “Red River” on this blog, you’ll see my previous ponderings on this mighty journal, which is somehow affiliated with that mysterious literary ambrosia known as Ilya's Honey ...

Thanks for Reading and Fly Well In the Dark,


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Peter DeVeber Paints Me

Artist Peter DeVeber recently offered to do my portrait. Here is the photo he worked from:

And here is the outcome, of which I am most pleased (acrylics, 20x20):

I strongly recommend going to his blog to see some of his other work, as well as the above portrait. He is a talented, generous and all-around stupendous artis t/poet:


Thank you for stopping by,


PS: That Owl-Man Mandala next to me in the photo is another of my favorite works of art. It was created for me by Shanna Wheelock.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Long Day's Journey Into Hope

A lot hangs on the military Empire’s big election today, including whether tens of millions of citizens will be able to afford a doctor, even for minor illness. It is also a pivotal for the forces of Greed and their shameless mind-manipulation. It is noteworthy and nefarious that Romney, champion of the rich, ended his campaign on a big lie: the claim that GM was moving all its JEEP jobs in Ohio to China. The company itself said this was not true, and the newspapers in Ohio printed prominent rebuttals, calling Romney out. But instead of apology, Romney upped the lie, adding more such ads in Ohio, and so he was called out again and again by the auto manufacturer:


Blatant lies are dangerous and can be effective. Let us never forget one of the most important quotes of our time: “The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” That would be Hitler himself speaking, a truly great and monstrous fear monger. Back to Romney: with the auto industry countering his deplorable tactics face-to-face, the lie is red and exposed. Voters in Ohio will notice the vast ugliness and be repulsed. And yet we should all be very scared: a major candidate for the throne of the military empire, one who could well win, is resorting with full gall to a tactic endorsed and wielded by the worst kind of leader. the sort whose conscience, if it exists, is far secondary to powerlust.

Despite the importance of the day, neither major candidate has focused on climate distress. The ecosystems of our planet morph on unpredictable courses. Unless dealt with directly and calmly, this perilous change will prompt many humans to panic, and that could lead to a chain reaction of anomie. The collapse of civilization is on the table. The next hundred years are crucial to the survival or doom of postmodern life.

Sadly, a third of the good citizens of the Empire think that global warming is just a conspiracy theory. A fabrication for intellectuals to get money. We have so much denial, in other words, that it drags us into inertia. It’s the kind of denial that comes with addiction. Think of a person addicted to cigarettes, except instead it is an entire nation addiction to oil and coal, oblivious to the consequences. Meantime, more and more scars maim the Earth, and the balance of forces that make up the homeostatic rhythms of our planet commence to fibrillate.

We are also in denial about the crescendoing business of violence. An Op-ed titled “The Permanent Militarization of America” came out recently in the New York Times. It starts, “In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office warning of the growing power of the military-industrial complex in American life ... He cautioned that war and warmaking took up too large a proportion of national life, with grave ramifications for our spiritual health.” The author, an Assistant Professor of History at the US Naval Academy, writes that Eisenhower’s warning “concerning the spiritual effects of permanent preparations for war is more important now than ever.”

As the author states, many children in America have lived with war their whole lives. It is the norm. The death of soldiers. The drone attacks. The fear of some nebulous enemy. Increasing surveillance makes our country part Orwellian; and the hedonism of our jingle culture, coupled with the shadowy threat, reminds of Huxley’s Brave New World.

And so, while key issues are at stake in this election, the best we can do is take a halting step down the right path. And unfortunately, the worst case scenario, a Romney victory, is much bleaker.

The difference between humans and machines is that we can contribute to our own inner programming or narratives. And yet too often we think we are in charge when instead we have been narrated by other forces, even to think we are doing the narrating ourselves.

The battlefield for the future is the human mind, its ability to change and yet also its vulnerable spot: to be deceived, manipulated. It is not like we can just reboot. Reprogramming is much like what feminists call “consciousness raising.” It’s a slow process, though disaster and crisis can speed up both the good (awareness) and the bad (panic).

Actually “reprogramming” isn’t the best word because it is associated with primitive polices in the 1950’s, such as B.F. Skinner’s reductive behaviorism. What I’m talking about is more like a therapeutic process, not a simple application of positive and negative stimuli. We need to crack our denial and howl in catharsis, taking the entire hero’s journey. Others can assist us, but we must each do it, in the end, on our own.

But again, all we can do tonight is take one step in the right direction. Let’s hope.