Sunday, June 30, 2013

Watch the Movie: The East

Watching “The East” has reinvigorated various moral emotions in me; and so once again I am going to use this blog as a podium for some themes I return to again and again: greed, denial, environmental disaster, and imperial decline.

Like “Avatar,” another of my favorite movies, “The East” highlights major ethical flaws in the fabric of our culture, ones that are damning. Although corporate avarice is a well-worn plot driver, it has a stark basis in truth. Gigantic business organizations, tremendous in power and persuasion, deceive and pollute, inflicting damage to peoples and environments on a mind-withering scale. Most Americans seem numb to the prospect of actually challenging this destructive perversion of economics; but at a subconscious level, most seem aware of it. We seek out ‘entertainment’--movies, songs, video games, whatever--where the evils of excess are exposed and defeated by the protagonist. We derive catharsis this way, through song and story, for what we know subconsciously and yet refuse to fully process into awareness.

Why do we act like sheep? Well, as “The East” suggests, if you want a good job (or any job in your skill range) you knuckle under and not only do what you are told, but also work hard despite the gnaw of anxiety. Others want your job and there is plenty of competition. The competition and the necessity of a paycheck eclipse the observations of conscience. Survival comes first, with the plus of comforts. Another cog is born in the machinery of the Empire’s “free market” capitalism.

The ‘good guys’ in this movie are the subversive members of an anarchist environmental group eponymously named The East. They challenge and expose the entrenched corporate hegemony, employing violence that is measured--no bombs or outright murder--and yet still extreme. Their tactics are labeled as “ecoterrorism” by the mainstream media, and rightly so. The fierce methods are also very successful. When pharmaceutical executives are surreptitiously fed a drug they knew was highly dangerous and yet sold across Africa, the mass media refocuses its fickle lens on the wrongdoing of the company.

In another civil-disobedience op, a coal CEO is kidnapped and made to swim in waters rendered carcinogenic by illegally sluiced effluents. The East smoothly executes these “jams,” augmenting the exposé via internet.

As in many movies, the two dramatic antipodes, in this case hippie vs corporate, are hyperstylized. The East romps rustic and emotionally free in the woods. The suits, on the other hand, are irretrievably callous, lacking even a Potemkin village of decency (though one of them finally buckles to apologize in the nude--both literally and figuratively--while standing among dead fish and effluents. It is the sort of shock meme The East can inject online to viral effect).

What makes the movie great isn’t the template but rather the exquisite, evocative way it is trellised. From a nuanced weave of hypnotic acting, script and scene, emerges an arresting and soul-provoking achievement in incisive cinema. Through the eyes of the main character, who slowly shifts Eastward, the audience is seduced into a rare and special state of passionate philosophy: a zone of immersion where worldviews can be appraised and modified. Reality vicariously comes under the magnifying glass.

The US empire is badly in denial about its chasm of wealth and poverty, its monstrous corruption of government, its abject servitude to globe-spanning violence, all of which induce absurd quantities of pain. We citizens are not stupid, and any good movie on these topics should propel us to think about what true freedom is, and what the meaning of our lives should be. Given its power, you can’t watch "The East" and not question the status quo. How saturated with business dogma do we want the layers of our cortexes to be? Can we shrug off vast malfeasance and not tarnish the very nature of who we are? What are the dooming consequences? And if we decide to challenge the societal vise-grip of cupidity--how?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Poem: God Watches L.A.

Originally published in Danse Macabre.

Soon I will be on a plane to L.A. My anxiety always spikes at the gate.



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.

not even
Jesus, Buddha
or whatever myth,
could cure this valleywide hive,
resolve its seethe of jealous

so much babble. and calumny.
subroutines and masks.
psychogenic deluge
of flocked lips.

to care about it all
would be to spread out too far,
until empathy crept so thin
it had no atmosphere.

sometimes, maybe,
when unscripted awe
breaks from the grey glue,
no longer part of everything--

perhaps then--

there are eyes and a face:
a fresh expression
so very much more important
than anything else at all.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Acceptance: Line Zero

Renda Dodge, Managing Editor extraordinaire, knows how to generate excitement for her many-sided arts and literary magazine, Line Zero. I was notified that I was a “finalist,” which means not only publication in the next issue but also a chance to be the “winner” or “editor’s choice,” and thus gain special feature. Being chosen as a finalist is jazzy in itself, because Ms. Dodge only takes ten poems per issue (one per bard). The quality of the zine is mind-blowingly cool. Here is a link to a “sampler” of issue 5, provided on the site:

The sampler starts off with a masterful cover, awesome of photo and captivating of font. After professional credits, and the wowness of the sleek pdf format, you find an article by Andrea Hurst and Brandon Lafave. Husrt is a major literary agent and runs her own company. Did I say major? Let me repeat: Major!!

The article is of vast relevance if you are thinking of writing/marketing a novel. Heck, here is a short passage:

Rejecting manuscripts is easily our agents’ least favorite part of the job, outside of receiving unsolicited pitches while on vacation or in restrooms. But it’s a necessary one. We’d love to sign every project we fall in love with, but just because we love a project, doesn’t mean it’s commercial enough for a large publisher. Reading the first fifty pages allows agents to see what’s working in a manuscript, what’s not, and whether it will appeal to a general audience. (“The First Fifty: Why Manuscripts Get Rejected”)

After this incredible start, the sampler goes on to give you frissoning visuals, short stories and poems. The “Winner” in poetry of Issue 5 is revealed to be Catherine Warren for her work “Apiary,” a soundstream of resonant Dickinsonian images.

(Reading “Apiary” I’m pretty sure I won’t be named the winner of the upcoming issue. I can’t sustain my voice for so long and so beautifully. I’m basically good for a few quirky ideas. In my accepted poem, “Face,” I compare human expressions to a scrotum...)

Other poets I recognize in Line Zero (not necessarily issue 5) include the well-known John Grey, and also Jami Kali, the courageously darkling editor of The Vein.

Bolstering Dodge’s savvy sense are some intriguing regular contributors , including one who “has edited over four million words of clients’ fiction in the past two years.” Also, there is Bailey Shoemaker Richards, mantled by the intimidating title of Literary Content Editor. Do not mess with this person!

You can’t beat Line Zero for the kind of professionalism and quality that grabs serious attention. I urge you to investigate!

Thank you, Editor Dodge and team, for giving so much to the internet kingdom of literature & art.


PS: As part of being a “finalist” I was asked to supply a list of ten songs I was listening to “right now” while I create. Although I don’t listen to music as I write, I do consider music a major influence over my afflatus. Here is my list (surely I won't get kicked out of the next LZ issue for supplying my music list in advance, right?):

deceptacon (le tigre)
right through you (alanis morissette)
fuck the pain away (peaches)
white elephant (volcano suns)
american idiot (green day)
exhuming mccarthy (rem)
hare krsna (husker du)
outside (staind)
criminal (fiona apple)
ready to go (republica)

And here are the ten finalists for the upcoming issue:

Ken Kesner—Bordering Why
Lauren Ziemski—On How To Remember Your Dreams
Lois Holm—The Labyrinth Walker
Mark Parsons—Course Of Desire
Drusilla NicGowan—Safe Room
Lynn Hoffman—Where the Ice Sinks
John Sibley Williams—The Sea Within
Michael Berton—Travelers
Chris Crittenden—Face
Mitch Grabois—Cat & Rat

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Poem: Flower In Diary

Recently published in Boyslut. To see the other four poems it was published with, go here:

Thanks for stopping by.



Flower In Diary

fingers accost
mildewed bliss,
a derelict text

of must and grime,

like sad sandpipers
through shrouds of frogeye,


to zests of X,
elations of O,
avoiding shapes like bell jars,

or The Cross.

they pause on a flat insect,
its bluebottle
cerulean guess,

and then six flips later
a trumpet
blares its mane--

petal roaring
on the disintegrative

yet timeless

do not
for i dwell in the desert
of the crucified.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Release: UCity Review Issue 6


UCity Review, a smart, professional journal, has launched Issue 6 including my poem “Mist Cleanse.” I feel exceedingly privileged to be inside. The contributors, in general, are fully dedicated and decorated, most with incredible bios that blow me away.

Editors Cox and Sass, meticulous and astute as always, deserve radical kudos for this tour de literary force.

Please visit the issue and look around.

As for “Mist Cleanse,” it is unusual for me because I strove to harmonize past and present tense. It took me months to get it right (or at least okay).

At heart, it is a shamanic poem, channeled from a spirit guide.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Poem: Pain

This poem was originally published in Drunken Boat, edited by the genius Ravi Shankar, sometime in 2008 or 2009.

It is part of a chapbook that I have made available for free at Issu. The title of this chapbook is "Gordian Butterflies." Every poem in it has been published somewhere or other. Lissa Kiernan, of Poetry Coop fame, reviewed this chap very favorably. Here is her review:

Lissa Kiernan's Review of GB

Here is the chapbook itself:


May you transform into a bon vivant by day, and a sybarite by night.




are you tadpole or anaconda?
bugaboo or truth?

is your tongue pert
like a silver prick,
chic with cruelty?

or are you grubby,
slothful and broke--

glass crown licking
a gutter?

i run from your chase
till vigor laminates
my muscles

but when you catch my heart
i loathe

your horns, which gouge
peace, poise and trust--

like a minotaur
hid yet invincible,

trampling hope, and piety too--
as if to say to god

am i the monster
you intended?


Monday, June 3, 2013

Acceptance: Boyslut


Five of my poems up right now at Boyslut, a journal that dares to tightrope walk the thin sharp nexus between literature, erotica, rough trade and porn. In fact, one of the poems of mine they published is called “porn.” Is this is a good poem, is it literature? I would say absolutely yes, like most of the work at Boyslut.

There’s plenty of sexed up themeplay at this venue; but to me the most beguiling aspect is the chemistry between the two editors, which seems the tip of an odyssey a la Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

I’ll get to that in a minute.

First of all, the face-to-face editor is Jeremy King, who is gracious, modest, jaded, and disarming in his astute ambivalence. He describes himself as “just another editor” who “complains about quitting on a daily basis.” He took all five of my poems, he said in an email, because he “couldn’t make up his mind on which one to post.” His almost dramatic ennui made me think that he wanted to tack, “if any” onto the end the sentence. I loved it. He has a ragdoll cat’s charm.

The intriguing and dramatic part is that he seems to be locked into a trying yet galvanic dialectic with the other editor, Devlin de la Chapa. He tells us to “buy Devlin’s book so she can stop bitching to him on how self-publishing really sucks.” We are told further, in the “About Editors” section, that Devlin is taking time off to work on her libido-brimming novel of teen angst and malfeasance. She is more an eminence grise than a practical ally in Jeremy’s toilsome grind--and it is quite a pace he keeps up, publishing a new poet every few days. This is wonderful for us readers, as we get new features constantly.

My favorite in the recent line up is Paul Tristam, who has great lines like these from “They Jail People Like Me”:

But we are REAL!

and that’s what matters

in this constant assembly-line

of cardboard cut-outs.

We are the Van Gogh splash of Yellow

across the Daily Factory Grey.

Anyway, this is a unique raw-hearted journal and I’ve over-emphasized the sex because it is also about many other major and ecstatic and/or brutal aspects of life, extolled in throat-humming voices of resonant zest.

I hoot this with ecstastic confidence: there is nothing wrong with becoming a boyslutter if it means reading and raving about Boyslut!

Check it out, and try to break Jeremy out of his processorial glaze.



My five poems, featured at the site for only a day or so are:

flower in diary
ghost orgy
false apathy