Monday, July 29, 2013
Note: The link to the review is below
An extremely rare and wonderful moment in my journey as a writer has occurred: a five-page review of my full-length collection Jugularity. The review is a tremendous morale-booster, much of it focused on sensitive analysis of individual pieces, which makes me feel like I’ve been truly heard, my muses exquisitely engaged and heralded through the internet. I can count on one hand the number of people who have made me feel so validated as an artist (my wife, though, gets a whole separate hand of her own!). Adding to my enthusiasm, the reviewer is Karla Lynn Merrifield, a fantastic poet , wilderness bard, and magnetic leader. Moreover, the review takes place in one of my favorite journals, The Centrifugal Eye, edited by the impeccable Eve Anthony Hanninen.
Over my eleven years of writing, Merrifield’s review stands out as a cherished nonpareil. Many seasons ago Lissa Kiernan (of Poetry Coop fame), reviewing my chapbook “Gordian Butterflies,” said, “It just might become a collectors’ item someday.” This brought me great courage to persevere. Now, I have another source of vitalization, based on a much larger selection of my work.
If you read the review (link below), you will see why I am so touched. There are many stunning compliments. I don’t want to wallow in transfixion, like some absurd mirror-dweller, but I would like to mention one point that particularly intrigued me: Merrifield said I might have created “a new kind of nature poetry.” This is heartening, for I have been worried about my connection to the Earth, and whether my attempts could be original and raw (hopefully shamanic).
I am also grateful to Merrifield in that she saw past the ambient agony of Jugularity, discovering its tender and even humorous sub-motifs. However, the general thrust in Jugularity fosters a harsh and treacherous psychological terrain. This relates in part to the publisher, Stonesthrow Press, which is affiliated with Danse Macabre Magazine, and its alarmingly morbid yet excellent editor, Adam Henry Carriére. Indeed, Jugularity contains distilled fugues taken from my dark side’s raves and howls. It would be understandable for any reader to shy away from this demanding collection. Merrifield dares to pursue all angles, while remaining intrepid and alert.
Regarding that alertness, it is honest as well as fearless. Merrifield is not altogether full of praise for my artistry. She suggests some style tweaks, such as indenting some of the lines for emphasis. More telling, in my regard, are her suggestions about phrase length, how I kept it “shortish” to maximize a compelling aesthetic/semantic sorcery, and yet thereby avoided certain modes of conversational tone. This much-appreciated appraisal brings up personal questions -- about how I sing out my passion--and why. Perhaps painstaking effort and relentless redaction have given my verbal brush a streamlined strictness, an efficiency that caters to certain kinds of flight (or submarine depths).
Merrifield is also insightful when she refers, near the end of the review, to my style as “hermaphroditic”; but I am not a fan of that particular word as a precise description of my oeuvre. It is true, I summon many voices through my pen, and they sketch various facets of psyche, both male and female. But “hermaphroditic” is too clinical-sounding for me, too neutralish, too mathematically balanced. There is also a stigma associated with this word in another context (not used in the review). This stigma uncovers trouble with its useage in general:
On the masculine and feminine: as a feminist, I have come to find the traditional gender roles oppressive. Modifying and transforming their respective elements is necessary for finding one's voice. We all can do this, and probably should, if we are to truly know ourselves. Toward this end, everyone must find their own path.
Confusion comes from stepping away from social programming, but also liberation. Artists, especially, need to walk through the firewall of cognitive dissonance--that uncomfortable feeling that arises from uncertainty--and dare to wander on the other side, where there are no simple anchors, though knowledge awaits.
Ultimately, I think of myself as primarily masculine; but the definition of “masculine” encompasses a range far broader than the old macho trope. I do not want to deny, nor should any writer who speaks through empathy, care, and openness, a strong feminine aspect in my being. I like "bisexual" as a descriptor better than the institutional "hermaphroditic," but even that term is not specific enough, not even close, to capture a single person's vareigated personality. “Bisexual” is also, of course, primarily a term of sexual preference; but I am talking more widely, about female and male characteristics in general, and the need to blend them to find one’s one unique being.
As you can see, Merrifield’s review elicited much reflection in me as well as joy. For both reactions, I am exceedingly grateful. And, again, I marvel at her bravery. Even I shy away from Jugularity, but she took the plunge.
I do have another full-length collection, a complement, which celebrates and fascinates on life. It is called Escape From the Orchard of Wheels. It remains unpublished, but I haven’t put much time into a sales pitch. I’d rather focus on creating new poems and attempting to learn from the many I edit. Also, the inevitable gamut of rejection is a draining time-eater, especially for a highly reactive introvert like myself.
Fortunately, wonderful people like Merrifield exist, those rare powerhouses who manage to turn their brilliant light inward and yet also shine it magnanimously on others. Such folks are most exceptional and precious, and those of us who they put on stage would do well to remember how we got there.
Thank you, Karla!!! You’ve added a permanent layer of subcutaneous bliss to the alloys in my soul.
PS: The link to the review is below. And of course you can purchase Jugularity, now, for only $2.95 at Amazon. Thank you for stopping by and reading!!
To see the review:
(1) go to:
(2a) Click on the cover and flip (click) to page p.74. Done!
or, optionally, to navigate through the pages faster:
(2b) Click on the two opposed arrows in the black rectangle near the bottom right of the screen. This brings up advanced navigation.
(3) Five thin white bars appear at the very bottom of the screen. Click on the fourth bar (pages 60-79)
(4) Now Pages 60-79 will emerge in miniature at the bottom of the screen. Slide your mouse pointer over them until p.74 is indicated. Click to open p.74. You’re there!
Friday, July 26, 2013
CLICK HERE FOR CL POEMS
(note: if you follow the above, you have to click on "read more" to get the correct formatting)
See my poignant reflection “Shadowy Room” and two other intense works--“Drop of Water” and “Personal Identity”--now up at Chicago Literati!
Also, you will find a nude work of shamanic art (“Owl-Headed Man”) by artist Shanna Wheelock. One of my favorites. Such a blend of animal, element, and the primal masculine.
CL is a fairly new venue, but Editor Abby Sheaffer has terrific energy and an acute literary sense. Now would be a good time to submit to this up-and-coming blogzine. Within a few months, I predict it will be swamped with high quality submissions, as the word gets out.
Thanks to you for stopping by. And a huge Thank You to Abby Sheaffer for all the hard work and wonderful presence she puts into her flourishing journal.
Best To All,
Thursday, July 18, 2013
I have been thinking of my wife, who I haven't seen in weeks, and missing her.
Thanks for stopping by,
streams of moments
eddy into a long-sought face.
his fingers spiral
to follow the half-seen contours.
his breath makes the sound
of memory’s water.
the past runs clear and obvious
slipping through his fingers
like her hair.
minutes, years and seconds
form a shape. he can run his palms
over the seamless body,
the pure details.
he can feel the girl
that time has become.
her presence overtakes.
the ensemble of her silks, warmths,
softnesses and scents.
there is no morning
and night meanders
between awe and dream.
nothing is more real,
the rest of his life an afterthought,
a weakening ripple
from that far-off immortal
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
See three of my poems in the recently released issue of WHL, a great journal out of the Cambridge area, masterfully edited by Irene Koronas. Strangely, two poets I recently mentioned on this blog (AJ Huffman and April Salzano)appear close to me on the contributor roster. A strange flex of the collective unconscious.
Below are a couple stanzas from one of the poems in WHL, taken from its midsection. I’m hoping to whet your interest. If so, please go to the above purple link.
Best To All,
All Knowing [excerpt]
it was a railway plexus
where any twinge could twist.
whatever boxcar could be
whoever in the whenever
of the how.
as signposts crumbled.
decades wound up
in tresses of medusae,
slipping through a grate.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
The following was on a thumb drive that fell out of a homeless woman’s pocket. She seemed quite unusual to me, and had a beauty of presence. Maybe Native American? I tried to give the drive back to her, but when she saw me coming, she gave me a strange, teary-eyed look, and then ran away!
Although it has been a great honor to be chosen to go back in time, it has also been most difficult. I see now why the candidate pool was huge, and the selection process rigorous. At first I thought I had won the lottery, but now I am feeling intense pain.
On a scholarly front, studying the decline of the American Empire firsthand, in situ, is fascinating. It is every historian’s dream to actually time-travel. And here I am, immersed in a country that no longer exists, two thousand years before I was born.
We consider the United States as the end phase of the massive genocide that followed Columbus’s contact with the Arawak, and rightly so. In the first half of its existence, the country decimated and deceived millions of Native Americans, wiping out entire cultures. In the second half, it became a world Empire, expanding on its “Manifest Destiny” in brutal and barbaric ways. At its height, it had solid tentacles of power latched all over the globe.
However, as quickly as it rose to world pre-eminence, the Empire faded. The whole process took about seventy-years, less that the lifespan of a typical patrician. If you were born in 1945, at the end of World War II, and died in 2015, you would have approximated the timeframe of the supremacy of the United States of America. This fall is considered, properly, as one of the greatest tragedies of unconscionable error in the history of civilization.
We tend to look back on ‘the Stars and Stripes’ with something akin to horror, tinged by a little fascination. How could human beings commit vast genocide, drop two atomic bombs, and engage in dozens of barbaric wars based on ignorant fear (e.g., the little known Philippine War of the late 19th century, Vietnam, and near the end, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars)? We also ponder, perhaps a little too haughtily, how greed could have infected their institutions so thoroughly without their knowing? How could they have ignored all the signs of moral decay? Even blatant physical evidence, such as tangible environmental destruction from global warming, was unable to impact their mental walls.
From my vantage, now, ensconced in the early 21st century (I can still hardly believe it!), I will dare to draw one solid conclusion: we have been too harsh on the bulk of the American people. I would say that over 50% of them are aware they live in an ethically disgusting time. This majority correctly predicts they are headed for disaster.
As evidence, one of the big newspapers (as they were called then, in reference to writing on slim physical sheets called “paper”), The New York Times, just ran an editorial that is entirely accurate and heavily condemnatory.
It starts out this way:
On two crucial issues this week, the extremists who dominate the Republican majority in the House of Representatives made it clear how little interest they have in the future prosperity of their country, or its reputation for fairness and decency.
This coheres with our own understanding of the extremism and fanaticism that took hold of the populus. It could have been taken from the writings of one of my colleagues.
The article continues in this harsh yet absolutely honest and correct vein. A few paragraphs later:
These actions show how far the House has retreated from the national mainstream into a cave of indifference and ignorance. House members don’t want to know that millions of Americans remain hungry (in an economy held back by their own austerity ideology), and they don’t want to deal with the desperation of immigrant families who want nothing more than a chance to work and feed themselves without fear of deportation.
(Here is the ‘link’ from their simplistic unimind, for archival purposes:
Now, this is truly amazing. This newspaper, NYT, is generally supported by many millions of citizens, and it is proclaiming loudly and unequivocally, well, I can’t put it any better than they do: a powerful faction has “retreated from the mainstream into a cave of indifference and ignorance.”
So, here is what I have learned. Not all Americans were blind. Not even most. All it took was a sizeable minority to lock the governmental process into stalemate. Quoting from the article, again: “On issue after issue, they have passed radical bills and then refused to negotiate.”
As my research proceeds, it is becoming clear that this minority is the primary culprit in the imminent collapse. Of course, it is not that simple. Those citizens that vote for them are also to blame. As are the huge business organizations--the “corporations” as they are referred to--that effectively bribe them (the corruption in the Empire is definitely as bad as we surmised, though not atypical in theoretical models of imperial degeneration).
And the large majority of folks, including the "liberals," continue certain woeful practices, such as buying products made in slave-labor countries.
Another huge caveat: the seeds for this self-destructive intransigence were laid decades ago, when the prideful country, brimming with wealth, went on a consumer binge. This stoked egoism and avarice, and undercut the social fabric of kind humility that had been prevalent since the Great Depression.
What is the demographic of this blinkered group, the Republicans? Their politicians are elected in districts that are about 75% white. This ethnic group, white, has been known for racism since the inception of the USA, and still stubbornly clings to its unethical privilege. In other words, whites who vote Republican are supporting racism, whether consciously or not. And this psi status has overridden their ability to see clearly (or “decently” to use the wording of the editorial above).
White power is slipping, and many whites refuse to admit it. It is too painful. It is too shocking to admit they have been greedy, racist, and, in truth, widely wrong. Indeed, it must be agonizing for them to even begin to face the horror: the Empire, associated for so long with white leadership, has fallen into a tailspin, pulled down by a heavy gravity of oppression and atrocity.
The denial is, in large part, a Republican mindset. This national denial produces rage, hate and the damming fixitive of stubbornness. It clogs Republican minds and they drag everyone into their vortex. If you challenge them rationally, they react with irrational attack. Their leaders are as intelligent as any, but use their skill to spin specious lines of complex argument, or to simply stoke up spite in the gullible. They are, in short, classic demagogues, those who have mastered the despicable side of rhetoric.
These are my current formulations. I can no longer look at the American people as we do in my time. They are far more sensitive and variegated, not a homogenous lump of stupid need. Many of them are more enlightened than many of us. We tend to see them as primitive and utterly lacking in conscience. But they are exquisite in mind. The difference is in their cultural programming and the resultant effects on their emotional lucidity.
It is true, they have no advanced understanding of swarm dynamics. They still consider themselves primarily as individuals. And though they are aware of the social forces of denial and racism (and sexism--the white leadership is mostly all male), even the wisest of them are like ill-placed corks bobbing in a sociological maelstrom.
I am even becoming shy to talk to them. It tears my heart.
Temporal Reconnaissance Scout
Los Angeles, California
Friday, July 12, 2013
Editors A.J. Huffman and April Salzano have orchestrated a major feat. They received over five hundred submissions for their anthology, Of Sun and Sand, and have dutifully waded through that thick electronic stack, reading all the work blind. I’m pleased that my poem “Bricks On the Beach” will be included.
A.J. Huffman is an uncanny literary force. I see her name often in my wanderings through web journals. For instance, she is in the latest issue of a wonderful magazine, Melusine:
April Salzano seems mighty impressive, too. A quick google search [her name + poetry] yields a number of sites, including three poems recently in Chicago Literati:
In addition to their skill as poets, these two leaders are Xena-esque in their editorial efforts. Kind Of a Hurricane Press oversees numerous anthologies and also various journals. Huffman and Salzano are vigorously seeking contributions for their next anthology, Insert Coin Here, which is themed to video games. Get more details of all the various goings-on at the site:
These editors have a phenomenal magnetism going. Go to the site and get the latest haps and subs!
PS: “Bricks On the Beach” draws inspiration artist Shanna Wheelock, who has been passionately creating sculptures and encaustics based on ruined sardine factories on the coast of Maine. To learn more about her work, go to
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
This was published long ago, 2002, in a journal named Diner, which is one of my favorite journals of all time. My style was a bit different then. The themes remain. There were two editors at Diner then, I think their names were Eve and Abbey. I'm just not sure.
Best To All,
my feet were scum on a lake of the obscure,
my sounds tripled in a cricketless silence.
heartbeat, nostrils, rustles of wool, all profane.
visceral, obvious, pathetic, selfish.
i waited for god to console me and
having frozen, felt my soles begin to root.
my knuckles branch. my nape
congeal toward an acorn.
no god came. no sign.
a car shot by like a black squid.
glowing white inky propulsion.
tentacles that splintered off shrubs.
somewhere dog squeals became sudden,
tore each others' decibels
until one lacerated the many
into a decree.
no god came.
i thought they were Athena's owls,
then i thought the Norns, but actually
when the chill cut my newfound legs,
only three lighthouses with cyclops eyes,
three pimples on three butts of land,
cordoning importance around White people.
Friday, July 5, 2013
I'm extremely busy, teaching an intensive summer course, plus other projects, and more.
It's a vida loca, hermit-style.
she’s buoyant like a mermaid
shedding gowns of water.
promises that breathe deep,
paradise without fruit.
our kiss shares a one-sided mouth,
no duet, stuck
between sunray and wet dream.
illusions of slave and pixel.
i shudder together,
pretend to know
nipple, thigh and cleft,
pelvis and thrust.
but only one pulse bares
the tempest of the ache,
no blush fading gentle
on the other side.