Thursday, February 28, 2013

Orwell Warned Us About Republicans

In George Orwell’s 1984, the classic novel of utterdark dystopia, three slogans are at the core of the “ruling party.” This party is an ironclad dictatorship that depends on strict mind control. These slogans are: War Is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance Is Strength.

The bulk of the people in the novel embrace these contradictions as truth. They are so brainwashed that they deny they ever doubted these slogans, or had the ability to doubt them. The slogans are obviously true!

The people forgot the contradiction (and the pain of contradiction) and then forgot they forgot. Classic repression. Actually, Orwell’s concept of “doublethink” is even more elaborate:

“[Doublethink is] To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies.”

To doublethink properly is to subordinate your conscious to your subconscious to the degree that illogical and deep wrongs seem completely right (at the conscious level). In tandem, the subconscious acts diligently to keep the conscious deluded. Sadly, the conscious originally gave permission for this, even demanded it, and then afterward became a slave to the initial instructions. It’s like someone saying to another, “Enslave me, take away my ability to think logically, and make me forget I asked for it. Never question this slavery and devote your existence to maintaining it."

There is a kind of sick freedom in this at the surface level, the freedom from feeling deep doubts or pangs of conscience. It is the freedom to lie without feeling the lie. The ignorance of the conscious, in this sense, could also be a kind of twisted strength.

Note, though, that the delusion perpetrated on the conscious by the subconscious was, in the beginning, disseminated and propagandized by a heart-stealing government, its purpose to degrade the mind’s resistance and gain totalitarian control. In other words, the ‘freedom’ granted by doublethink is in perverse and diametric relation to freedom in the sense of having an open and decent mind.

The Republican Party of the US Empire promotes a solid and dangerous form of doublethink. Let’s start with War is Peace. The Empire is currently muddling through the longest war of its history. And we also just finished another long ugly one, which took over a decade. Both these wars are insane. There is nothing substantial in them to brag about, and plenty to show in terms of horror, corruption, chaos, death, forced emigration, and atrocity. And yet Republicans, in lockstep, maintain that these long, nightmarish wars--tantamount to torturing a country--are essential. They are tools to combat some great concept of Evil.

Just as bizarre, these long wars are why we are Good.

It’s the same strategy laid out by Orwell. In the novel, there is always some capital E evil to attack; some great glorious fight that requires constant violence on a massive scale. Once you split the world into Them and Us, Evil and Good, you inculcate in your citizens an unthinking hatred for the “Enemy.” You get zombie patriotism at its finest worst.

On the home front, Republicans support massive gun ownership. Why? Lots of machines for killing means less killing takes place. How contradictory is that? The illogic is especially vivid given our epidemic of school shootings and other mass-murderings.

Or just look at the basic math: if every house in a neighborhood has guns, the chance of gun violence will be far greater than if only a few homes have a gun. In a country that worships gun violence in movies, games, and cinema--entertainment that often makes the villain look ‘cool’--this is especially true and disturbing.

None of this slows down the GOP. In fact, it makes them argue even more vociferously for an endless flourishing of guns. When doublethink is involved, the more obvious and logical the rebuttal, the more illogical the doublethinkers get. They raise a mental shield that surges in twisted sophistry to compensate for the onslaught of healthy truth.

Moving on. Freedom is Slavery. The GOP currently leads the charge to destroy tens of thousands of good subsidized jobs in America. Why? We have to destroy jobs to create jobs. To grow the economy, we must shrink it. Crazy enough yet? Another way to put it is this: To make our citizens happy, we must make them unhappy.”

Unemployment is stressful, so another corollary: To make citizens less stressed, increase their stress.

A defender of the GOP could say, “The immediate pain is necessary for happiness later. We must treat the wound, painful though it is, to cure the whole.” However, this kind of argument, “the end justifies the means,” can be trotted out by anyone to justify anything. Our country has used such consequentialist canards, actually, to justify its wars.

At bottom, the Republicans worship two things: a patriarchal white conservative God, and (b) a purist economic theory developed by Milton Friedman at the Chicago school, never successfully tested, which says, via abstruse mathematical equations, that markets beautifully regulate themselves if government is very small and unobtrusive in the market. Friedman tried to prove his “free market” theory by working with Augusto Pinochet, the vicious dictator of Chile. It was a dismal failure. Social welfare and government jobs were slashed and slashed. The cruel police state tortured any protesters. Welcome to Orwellian freedom.

By the way, Friedman’s whole calculation rests on a disproven premise. He assumes humans are completely self-interested and constantly seeking more material gratification. Both psychology and history show that (a) humans are not purely selfish and (b) we are not locked into an incessant need to buy stuff (unless it is trained into us by consumerist advertising culture. How many logos have you seen lately?).

At bottom, what I offer you today, in contrast to the GOP, is simple logic and, more importantly, your own common sense.

Another point: the wealthy have quadrupled their wealth over the past decade, while the rest of the US citizenry has stagnated or sunk. Does this fact slow the Republicans down? No, they are adamant that larding the rich will, someday, help the poor. Research shows otherwise. Trickle down does not work. Even a previous Republican President of the United States, George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) called it “voodoo economics.”

It does not matter to the Republicans. For them, the Rich are Good. It follows, on their polar model of thinking, that the poor are to blame for their own plight--even though we live in a country where 50 million folks cannot afford a doctor.

Not surprisingly, Republicans think that government programs to give food directly to the poor are bad. The GOP wants to cut social welfare that directly helps the suffering. At the same time, they are fanatic about transferring money to people who own yachts and private jets.

Starve the poor to feed them. Eliminate access to doctors to cure the sick. All in the name of a “free market system.” Because big corporations, through legalized bribery, have become corrupting influences on our democracy, we can add: freedom is corruption.

Lastly, we have Ignorance Is Strength. The Republicans are trying to tear down the educational system. They claim it is wasteful. Indeed, this is what they claim about any social or governmental organization in their cold iron sights. And so we get this doublethink slogan: We must cripple education to educate.

The real GOP motive--which they will never admit because it is buried in the doublethink corridors of their minds--is to remove learning as a threat to their Orwellian techniques.

Look what the Republican Party of Texas wrote as part of its 2012 platform, in the section on education:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Notice how they accuse educators of “behavior modification” when such a mechanistic term better applies to the irrational propaganda-driven tactics of GOP doublethink.

It is a classic defense mechanism of Orwellian autocrats to accuse others of what they themselves are doing. Not only accuse, but passionately believe these witch-hunts with fanatic blinkers.

Here is a summary of some of the GOP doublethink points:

We must destroy jobs to create jobs.
We must remove access to doctors to cure the suffering.
We must starve the starving to feed them.
More guns in every home is less violence.
We must torture countries and their citizens because we are Good.

Should you be afraid? Remember, the Republicans shut down the government last year by refusing to raise the debt ceiling on purchases already approved. They did this in service of their fanatical Orwellian beliefs, heedless of the consequences for the country. As a result, the credit rating of the US was downgraded by Moody’s. Once you accept doublethink, you are locked into the soul-crunching momentum of an illogical mind control, one far greater than you, one that demands complete obedience from both your surface and deep levels of being.

The battle against doublethink occurs in the minds of every citizen in American. It is taking place all around you, right now, through various media. It is taking place through conversation, innuendo and body language right there in your own community.

Fly well in the dark.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'm Working With Artist Kenny Cole!

It is a great honor and pleasure that I will be providing a poem for Kenny Cole’s Parabellum project, scheduled to display at the University of Maine at Augusta in early 2014. Cole is well-known and highly productive artist, with recent shows across the State, in both public and private universities and galleries. His productive energy and the turmoil of his genius produce intense, norm-cracking drawings, gouaches, murals, and columnar installations. For recent shows and examples of his dynamic and evolving style, seek his web page:


From my perspective, the greatness of his unfettered conscience rivals his visual prodigy. If a brilliant artist without an ethical edge asked me to participate in a project, I would be happy about it, but somewhat reserved. But Cole is more than a mere Picasso. Cole has the added and heart-soaring trait of moral courage.

If you read over my blog, it is unavoidable, sooner rather than later, that you will learn something stubborn about me. I am an inveterate foot-stamper and lambaster when it comes to serious injustice, one of my greatest sore points being this: denial and willful ignorance in matters political and global. I embrace Noam Chomsky’s statement, “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies." Furthermore I extend this exhortion to artists and poets as well. Let me just quote Chomsky right out:

Intellectuals [I would add poets and artists] are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us. The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the "responsibility of people," given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.

The US empire has overthrown elected leaders to install tyrants; it abetted the murder of tens of thousands of people through such coups and strategems; it initiated horrifically wrong and dysfuctional wars; and of course the genocide of the native Americans. The Phillipine War is an outstanding example of a little-known atrocious brutality. (See the book Killing Hope for the scores of US invasions, coup attempts, and so on). Most recently we have the Afghanistan War, still ongoing, and the longest in US history. No one knows what the hell we are doing there, besides seeking a claim on vast mineral deposits. Parallels between the Afghanistan War and the Vietnam War are striking. The CIA’s Phoenix Program in Vietnam was a mass murder, concentration camp mill. Also recent is the Iraq War, another long crazy debacle that fed the guts of giant corporations while brutalizing an entire country for over a decade. Our accomplishment? Removing Saddam Hussein, who was an ally before we decided to attack him. We even supplied him with chemical weapons while he used them to gas his own people.

All the above is just the tip of the infernal iceberg. So, there are a lot of cover-ups and lies to expose, as Chomsky would say, and there are a lot of truths to be told. Kenny Cole is doing it. His art screams accusation and does it through fantastic beautiful dark tempestous canvases. Additionally, the man is humble, kind, down-to-earth and just all-around unpretentious. This is the essence of a true champion.

I don’t know what to say (though I have tried) to properly thank him. I never can. He didn’t need to choose me or anyone else to write a poem for Parabellum. I have argued, in fact, that Cole is so permeable in his dimensional shifts that he is as much a poet as an artist. He doesn’t need another wordsmith because he is a consummate one.

These are unstable times and speaking out in our partisan country can be highly uncomfortable or even deleterious to personal security. But, like Chomsky and surely Cole, I feel it is a responsibility. Let art and philosophy and poetry stand together to lead us out of the barbarity of militarism and into a future of hope.


PS: to visit the Parabellum website or my review of Cole:



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why March To the Despicable Drum?

Think about it. Seriously.

We can do this. We don't have to be helpless hostages to the great numb greed-driven lack-of-democracy that infects this Empire. Nor must our names be added to those who ignored the huge horror of the wars and miseries that the Empire's rapacious Machiavellian grasp inflicts on peoples all over the world, and also here, in our very core.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Poem Featured at Bolts of Silk

My poem "Birdwatchers" is the current entry at Bolts of Silk, a fabulous journal run by one of my favorite editors, Juliet Wilson. Here is the link:


Editor Wilson informed me that the publishing of the poem coincides with some birdwatching classes she is starting up. Read more about her love of nature, her environmentalism, and her other activities at her blog:

At this point, twenty-one of my poems are available at Bolts of Silk, a whole chapbook's worth. It only takes one click to access them.

Best To All--And Thanks, Juliet!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Release: American Poetry Journal 12

APJ 12 is out and I am fully honored that two of my poems are included. This is such a time-worthy journal, edited at the senior helm by someone who has done tremendous things as a leader in the poetry world, and who is a spellbinding poet himself, at the most stunning levels of thaumaturgy. I’m talking about J.P. Dancing Bear, one of the great influences in literature of our age. APJ operates outside the aegis or governance of any university and has no reservoir of inheritance money like the Poetry Foundation--and yet it reaches out to continuously attract the best poets in the world. It is wide-eyed and gracious before the talent of new voices or those tender in their blossom of genius.

What I want to emphasize is this: they are open-minded and unwedded to the culture of mutual backscratching that renders many a mighty journal insular. Virtually unobtainable to the unconnected. There is, indeed, a level of inclusiveness in their appraisal rarely witnessed. I myself have a huge fear when I hold a journal like APJ close. The reason is that early in my writing days, I witnessed the end of Chelsea, an independent free-thinking journal that was one of the first to publish Sylvia Plath back in the 1950’s. Chelsea took my work when I was new on the scene, much in need of validation. The editor even supplied a kind, handwritten note. It was the only major journal to give me anything besides a cold formal rejection. Soon after this joyous moment in my life, the dreaded pendulum of fate swung the other way: Chelsea went down for lack of funds.

We can’t let these highest quality, unbiased journals die for the sole reason that they are unyoked from institutional taps of money!

As it stands, APJ has combined forces with another empyreal journal: the National Poetry Review, edited by C.J. Sage. What you get in the mail is a single slim book, beautifully bound with luscious paper. APJ starts at one end, TNPR at the other. This of course means flipping the book over when you want to switch venues, but they are both housed under the same roof.

I don’t want APJ -- or TNPR -- to go down, not like Chelsea did, in our brutal, greed-withered society. We are not free as artists if we lose the small islands of independent brilliance that carry a torch far greater than their size; that give us outlets unsullied by Boards of Trustees and all the corporate meddling that implies.

Support this journal, even just a $5 donation, if you can:

J.P. Dancing Bear, Editor
The American Poetry Journal
Post Office Box 2080
Aptos, CA 95001

You can also contact them through the website:

If you are a poet or poetry-lover, think about this. It is the dreamers and heart-stung prophets in the cracks that keep us motivated, passionate, driven to break the labyrinths of the dull that easily congeal then harden in our minds.



Poets and their poems in APJ 12

John Nieves


Lorraine Doran


Doug Ramspeck

The Dead In Their Forgotten Fields

Taylor Collier


Stephen Massimilla

At the Edge of Earth, Vacating On the Cheap

Chris Crittenden

Not So Vacant Lot
Whisked Leaves

Joshua Ware

"The Celestial Ennui of Apartments"

Rebecca Farivar

Westman Island

David Moolten


Mark Neeley

Night Birds Plumbed the Aspen Grove

Elizabeth Harmon Threatt


Jessica Jewell

Sisi, Queen of Hungary, On the Bank of Wurmsee

Alan Jude Moore


Rustin Larson

The Philosopher Savant Dreams of War
The Philosopher Savant Again Dreams of War

Paul Hostovsky

Half Moon
Staring At the Blind

Mark Smith-Soto

Human, Unguarded

Jennifer Boyden

As If I Hadn't Worn It Quite Enough, Time...
Tattoos My Arms and Face
Bad Advice

M. B. McLatchey



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Release: Lingerpost Issue 5

Lingerpost Issue 5 is available, including my poem, “Desert Cliff Prayer.” The poem actually is a kind of prayer, anguished and surreal, spoken in delirium. When writing it, going into an altered state, I had hoped for dream-honesty to seep into and undermine the blase of the conscious.

One great feature of Lingerpost 5 is The Letter From the Editor by Kara Dorris. She discusses Louise Gluck’s idea of the poet as helpless, the poet as in torment, the poet as obstinate, desperate, yearning to express what lurks and teases below the veil of the surface. The poet always wants more time to write, but not having it, or not daring to have it, lives with anticipation that can break into creative tempests. These, in turn, can be failure-ridden or, perhaps, sublime.

You’ll want to read this editorial missive for sure! And also the many intense poems afterward. Soul-wrung stuff. Anti-conformity incense.

Dorris has done it!


PS: To access the issue, try here, and click on the cover:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Poem of Praise: The Stars

A few days ago, February 5, was the painful anniversary of my brother’s death. He died in 2000, so time has salved the intense wound. Nevertheless, it is a difficult part of the year, and once again I was geering up for dark thoughts (I suppose, given my personality, I should say especially dark thoughts).

I expected to write a grim poem, which is typical. But something happened. Call it what you will, unconscious influence, supernatural touch, self-deceptive sleight, but to me it seemed that a presence, perhaps Gudger (his middle name, what we called him, though his friends used “Gudge”) told me to focus on wonder instead of gloom. It wasn’t a verbal message but rather an outlier feeling--part urge, part thought--of bright inspiration.

Preceding this communication, I had twice tried to pen harsh poems to relieve my anguish. But the channel wasn’t there. In each case, I quit after a stanza or two. After a decade of continouous writing, I can sometimes tell when the effort feels forced and out of synch.

It was time, I had been told, to praise life instead of blame it. This isn’t a new orientation for me, but I have minimized my pursuit of paeans. And yet we all need to remember the awesome and the magical. Our consumer society does everything it can to eclipse these traits; to make us rush around in stress, serving a monetary master whose dictums are enumerated in accounting books.

But that’s not what life is about. Maybe for an ant it is, maybe for a robot, but not for a human. It is a condemnation of the cultural system we live in, not of humans, that robots can do 'meaningful' work better than humans.

Although I’m diligent in condemning the shallow, I have long been weak on praise for the magical. In a sense I have been hostage to gloom. But Gudger gave me a push. I wrote the following poem (The Stars) on a bed, lying on my side ,with a tangible pen in my hand and real paper (an old sheet, dusty, with some irrelevant officework on the back).

Of the thousands of poems I’ve written, I have not memorized a single one. Maybe this is the first. And I might use it as a prayer at night, because I have been searching for a prayer.

It’s not a fantastic poem in terms of artistry or meticulous craft. Not really the point. I think the point is that we should be thankful and give praise, not to any one 'right' god, but to the nature of things--and in that way, we make our own lives special, regardless of the rat race. If there are gods, surely they would create us with the purpose of lifting our heads to see this way. (And if there are no gods, it is still noble and special, maybe more so).

Ultimate meaning is quite simple in a way. It is all around us. The trick is being able to remember. We’ve all been there. And it waits for us to return. Again and again.



The Stars

the stars,
so full of seeds to grow in our minds.
we blossom because the universe
has blossomed. that vast great garden
welcomes our gaze.
and in our hearts dwell the fierce burnings,
strong because of our wonder;
how trustworthy and ancient
those candles above our perch,
rich in the gleam of our awe;
and lifting us through ballets of galaxies,
many peaks our dreams to refresh--
and how lucky that brief yet eternal
bridge of sleep, chasing such ecstasies
beyond the envy of time.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Release: Red River Review #46

Check out RRR's latest issue, which includes my poem, "Bat Thoughts" (click on 'February 2013 Issue'):

Red River Review

Also, Editor Michelle Hartman has published a book of poetry called "Disenchanted and Disgruntled" that sarcastically sticks it to modern society in all its horrible and laughable dysfunction. Good for her!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Poem: Mingler


Pirene's Fountain is not ceasing publication as stated below but will be merging with the new Glass Lyre Press in 2014. Yay! The Fountain will be open for submissions in September this year, and after that will become an annual.


This was originally published in Pirene's Fountain, a wonderful journal soon to be no more. I believe this month, February, is the last chance to ever submit again, before they publish their last issue and close.

Sad, but I'm sure they deserve a rest.

Fly Well In the Dark,




a head bobs as if
the heart below
had hooked a fish,
something eely, old and trying.
the rubbery neck
has battled too long,
stuck on poor policy.
can't summon up
youthful premises.

the face a skin cream
that would never sell.
all its penchants
hawkable as one
generic wrap:
a tripe of urges,
spooled sterile
and restrained.

whatever struggles
under the vertebrae
is too dangerous
and alien to ever see.
it can't surface
and the eyes won't go down.
every movement,
from toe to hairline,
feeds the tension.