Wednesday, January 30, 2013

North Korea and Nazi Germany

Google just announced an update to its maps of North Korea, including the location of city-sized gulags. Think about that: prisons as large as cities. Reports indicate that what goes on in these places is as bad as Hitler’s concentration camps. Not only that, if a NK citizen commits a crime against the State, the citizen’s whole family can get thrown in a camp.

No wonder the images we see from NK show mass conformity on an energetic and zealous scale. If you dare express the slightest deviation, your whole bloodline could be gone--everyone you care about slowly tortured to death in a hell hole as large as a city.

Truly think about it.

I ask you to do this because most of the time, we don’t. And that’s a problem. That’s why humanity might be doomed. We have it in us to ignore hells. To adapt without questioning. To lower our heads. Numb our sensitivity.

And yet without such sensitivity, how can we muster the passion and courage to challenge injustice? If injustice remains unchallenged, it spreads to devour as much as it can.

We all look back at Hitler’s camps and say “How terrible.” We tremble inside. All the books around us, the media, the internet, tell us how horrorific Hitler was.

People in the future (if we have one) will look back at us and say, “How could they have been so blind to such evil in North Korea?”

Sensitivity. Empathy. A poetic passion. These are hard to regain. They are stolen from us early in our lives. When I first allowed myself to realize what evils the US Government was supporting (the CIA overthrowing democratically elected leaders; the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, and so on and on), I fell into utter despair--nervous breakdown--for about two years. It was like cracking a stone shell around my heart, and the eruptions almost killed me.

But they also brought effusions of bright beautiful emotion. New eyes, ears, tastes and all the other senses alert. Raw life. I am so glad it happened. It brought so much pain and, in paradox, meaning and also the joy of the struggle to be on a good path.

To seek The Good.

I guess what I am saying in this blog entry is this: we need as many people as possible to ‘wake up’ in the sense of breaking the stone shells around our hearts. Denial. Dull habit. Deadening alienation. These harness and harm the human spirit.

It is well known now that humanity’s shared culture is evolving. Our collective consciousness shifts on. Women can vote in some places. Huge change. Gay marriage accepted in some places. Huge change. Awareness of the Earth as vulnerable. Huge change.

These positive changes must win the race against another kind of change: the sort that refuses to look beyond the acculmulation of money. This latter sort of change, this kind of “growth,” “expansion,” and “reconfiguration” is ultimately soul-numbing. Greed is at the helm. Greed blossoms in the numbed soul.

Unfortunately, humans will adapt to and accept an uglier, more poisonous, less happy, more busy, incredibly stressed world. We can be just as lockstep as ants. But there is another option, one that makes us more than ants: we must wake up our sensitivity, our empathy, our love of life. We must embrace the ethical motivation of the liberated heart.

We need to be sickened by places like North Korea. We need to hate atrocities like global sex trafficking. We need as many people as possible to start to fight for The Good, by which I mean human rights and universal dignity.

Vast changes in consciousness are possible. History shows that. Little acts can have big unintended consequences. Chaos theory shows that.

Simply loving the fact that you are alive, this itself is a powerful act. It has ripples.

It’s that easy--and hard. Find yourself.


PS: Do I spend every moment of every day in a deep state of awareness for the suffering of others? Absolutely not. That’s not what I’m saying.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Acceptance: Danse Macabre

Visit Danse Macabre

My Review of Danse Macabre

That master of dark debauched eloquence, Adam Henry Carriére, took three poems for issue 66, which he refers to as Soixante-six, Sky. The poems are:

"God Watches L.A."
"Night Cave"

As a teaser, here are the first two stanzas of "God Watches L.A.":


God Watches L.A.

an unimaginable
blur of brains in a sluice of cars
oozes downtown,

there to split
dull as filament
into greedy fortresses:
wars of nerve-endings, hormones,
and throats.

... [five more stanzas to go!] ...


Of course, Carriére & Co. have published my full-length collection Jugularity through their publishing house, Lazarus Media:


My soul is bared in this book, a fate of which I am decidedly ambivalent.


To any and all loyal readers I might or might not have: I am incredibly busy this semester, teaching courses across multiple universities, plus trying to persevere on my novel and also write new poems (and submit them). This blog may suffer. My apologies.

Ride in the Night, Honesty your Light,


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Acceptance: Crack the Spine


Astounding and ultra-impressive, Crack the Spine is rolling out quality issues every week! This deserves a big


The editor in charge of this rapid-run literary outlier is Kerri Farrell Foley. “Editor” isn’t even the right label. Foley has earned the title of demigoddess.

Another impressive aspect of CTS is the number of comments generated. Most lit mags and blogs--including this one--wax anemic in terms of input from readers. Foley has come up with an efficacious gimmick: contributors’ chance of getting into the quarterly print anthologies hinges, somewhat, on the number of positive remarks their work gleans. In some cases, this has resulted in over twenty comments being left on a particular issue, presumably because contributors importune their friends, colleagues, acquaintances and connections.

Wow, again!!!

I have two poems in Issue 51: “Thoughts of a Fly” and “Daily Bread.” They bleed elegantly, hoping to circumvent your sentimentality filters. I dare you to dance with them.

Dance on in the sustaining dark.


PS: To leave a comment, if you wish, you can go here:

Comment on Owl's poems

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Acceptance: Melusine


From the first poem I read at Melusine, I was stunned. My excitement still runs around in my head like a happy sage, never finding any boundaries. The poem was “Equinox” by Leah Silvieus. Honestly, it is as good as anything in the three journals I subscribe to, all of them in the category of “the best.”

“Equinox” transcendentally wows by leaping the jaded barriers that my mind has accumulated against the incursion of awe. But don’t stop reading there: a euphony of talented writers awaits in the current issue (Spring/Summer 2012). This is one of the best collections I have seen on web or paper, all the more impressive because the editor, Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom, is going at this without affiliation, no university or any other type of organized support. She recently, in fact, gave birth to a daughter, and yet continues on with this magnificent journal. It is more than reasonable to infer in her a virtuous stamina and driving passion, fine allies of her uncanny perspicacity.

The variety, skill, and depth of the voices in Melusine validate its radiant goal. The full title is: Melusine, or Woman in the 21st Century. From the description:

An online journal of literature and art by women (but not only women) about women (and just about everything else.)
It is a bold endeavor, perhaps, to be so sweeping; and yet there is no hubris here, but rather a vibrant, eclectic drive to celebrate, lament or explore aspects of the human condition. The eternal debate over the meaning of “woman" is fruitfully bolstered by Melusine. It is an unbowed, sensitive, and cadenza-rich venue, and in proportion to its success in these senses it also offers philosophical insights, disarmingly nuanced in the incessant literary excellence.

As someone with a PhD in philosophy, I can state with authority that reality is very much a creature of narratives and metaphors, of irreducible lyrics and dithyrambs. Go to Melusine to find these. It is a very rare place.


PS: The poem accepted, “The House,” concerns abuse and “gaslighting,” a frequent theme of mine.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Poem: Lying In Bed

Originally published in Wilderness House Literary Review, by one of my favorite editors, Irene Koronas.

Fly Well In the Dark,



Lying In Bed

the ceiling knew the curse of sand,
slithered as he stared back
and spoke in stony jests.
it bared or hid its peekaboo runes,
no peace in the lobotomy,
salad of gestalts,
straitjacket of stucco.

febrile ants
battled germs of a gawking plague.
and the boiling skullmeal, and the screamless oatmeal,
spiced from infant to hearse.
dismembered sins
latched onto each other
so none of them could repent
or even cry.

it was a seduced waltz
that burst into cobweb roses.
shreds of petal and mask
forming scrappy jaws,
which thrusted like wolves:
everyone eating everything,
all of them in fact murderers,
victims and kitchen knives
trading place.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Acceptance: The Germ


The Germ is a new magazine, sprouting some time this month to bring you revivifying poetry, haiku, fiction and more. Editor Sara Bickley describes it this way in the guidelines:

We are seeking work that is fresh, sincere, and authentic, with moods and details that are drawn from the author's own experience even if the work is set in a distant time or place.

On the home page, she writes: “The germ of an idea . . . the central living part, good to eat and better to plant.”

I’m quite honored that my poem “Bay Glide” was accepted for the inaugural issue. For years, I’ve been fascinated with sizeable bodies of water and the strum-like effects of ripples. The iconic image of a single bird gliding a smooth expanse, leaving a lovely yet ephemeral train--akin to visual music, an exemplar of the basic fidelity of the universe--is mesmerizing. In “Bay Glide” I think I finally represented my awe, a little of it anyway, with grace.

Thank you, Editor Bickley, and best of luck to The Germ in ’13!