Recently, I was interviewed by Kevin Cooper. He’s from the UK and runs a series of publications dealing with books and music. He asked several thought-provoking questions and I enjoyed digging through my life for the answers.
Kevin is a generous person, putting his energy to help other authors. If you’re interested, you might consider doing an interview with him as well. Details on his web site. Thank you Kevin.
Noris Roberts, a Venezuelan poet is an Ambassador of Peace. She presents her poems in her international project, a project in which others poets and musicians participate by reading her work and composing music to accompany it. The completed works are then published on her YouTube channel.
As Noris says:
I'm in the process of recording some of her works and putting music to them. As you may know, I love doing this kind of thing and this project is certainly for a good cause. Please note that Noris and others participate on a volunteer basis and that she isn’t looking for contributions or subsidies.
It seems that most people who read poetry want to understand it. They want to be able to “get it.” If you’re at a table discussing somebody’s work, you’re likely to hear comments that focus on the meaning of the piece, comments that either (a) praise the unambiguous language as a direct line to the meaning of the work, or (b) seek to decipher the metaphorical and symbolic significance of the words.
It’s generally in the second case that we run into differences of understanding. It’s here that we enter into the uncertainty of interpretation. And it is here where we find the most complaints of inaccessibility, complaints that the work is not understandable, complaints that are based on a subjective ability to make sense of the words.
But it’s not necessary to understand a poem in order to enjoy it. If you are able to extract some sense of resonance with a piece, whether or not you understand it in the literary sense, whether or not you can articulate what it is about the piece that resonated with you or what the piece is “about”, then the piece has reached you at some level and therefore has been effective.
Everybody has a threshold of understanding beyond which they don’t want to go. I do indeed find some works to be – as DE Navarro so elegantly put it – “a pile of esoteric, obfuscating goo.” Other times though, I catch a thread of something that may be difficult to explain – or fully understand – but I have an intuitive sense that there’s something deeper, and I might just have to dwell on it for a while, maybe come back to it later. Or just let it be the sweet aroma of fog.
As westernized human beings, we tend to be rational. We want explanations with those fries. It’s almost as if: when something can’t be explained, it doesn’t exist. Interpretations and explanations give us an opportunity to identify with a school of thought, to find like-minded individuals with whom we can form a collective. And frequently, in a sort of coagulating force, people are drawn to the interpretations of others.
But in the arts, unlike science, explanations – which are a form of rationalization and understanding – aren’t needed as much. Yes, sometimes they’re helpful, especially in the lecture hall, but in the end, the individual must decide what something means to them. Instead of handing out explanations as gospel from the creator (or more often, from the creator’s professor proxy), it’s healthy to our thought processes when we encourage the readers / listeners / observers to draw their own conclusions.
Most people don’t want to look dumb. They generally avoid that which they don’t “understand” or – in lieu of avoidance – passively accept the prevailing explanations and interpretations of their day.
But there is another way of looking at this. As with life, poetry is a vehicle for more than rational thought. It can propel us into the into the unknown, the unfamiliar. And we don’t always need to know where we are. We don’t always need to explain how we arrived there. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply realize – and marvel in the fact – that other worlds exist.
This morning, when I logged in to LinkedIn, I came across a photo of a U.S. Army soldier holding a cardboard sign that reads: “If you support the troops please ‘like’ this picture. We need your support”. When I saw it, there were more than 43,000 ‘likes’ and more than 2,400 comments. Many of the comments were of the “Thank you” or “God bless you for your service” variety, although some comments appropriately pointed out that the whole idea of supporting the troops by clicking a ‘like’ icon from the comfort of your chair is not only ineffective but absurd and lazy as well.
This is the sort of thing in which people participate as a feel-good exercise. It’s nothing more than jumping on some quasi-popular craze to collect intangible bonus points on a social media site. It’s yellow-ribbon bumper stickers without the need to get up and go to the garage.
If you really want to support the troops, do something real. Give some money to a veterans organization. Volunteer your time to work with returning vets. Write letters to your representatives. Bring some chocolates to a hospital. Or – if you’re of the right age – get out of your chair and join the military.
Better yet: put your time and energy towards efforts to reduce the need for so many troops. Work for the cause of peace. Organize events. Speak out at events. Do what you can to reduce the number of men and women coming home mangled or dead.
These sorts of things go a lot farther in demonstrating “support for troops” than mindlessly hopping on some patriotic-click-me bandwagon. It’s not mandatory to support troops, but if you really do, then quit faking it on LinkedIn or Facebook. Get out and do something.
Well, I’ve been hard at work updating the web site. Trying to simplify the navigation somewhat and keep up with mobile friendly technologies. I'll probably continue to tweak with this and that in the next few weeks.
Recently, Ditch Poetry accepted five of my pieces and have included me on their Editor’s Choice page. Ditch operates out of Canada and has an incredibly rich library of pieces from a wide variety of poets. Take a look, there’s something for everybody.
I’m pleased to say that Poetry Salzburg Review has accepted my piece Only When Gods Arrive Covered In Red Dust Will We Recognize Their Child Faces for publication in upcoming issue #26. PSR has published many authors, including Naomi Shihab Nye, Jerome Rothenberg, Rae Armantrout, and Brian W. Aldiss. I’m very happy to have found a home for this piece among such notable and accomplished writers. PSR is published at the University of Salzburg in Salzburg, Austria.
From The Generations Literary Journal website:
I'm pleased to be part of this issue with a piece from The Second Book of Muwadi titled How I Arrived Here. Other artists and writers in this issue include Latisha Baker, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Andrea Hernandez Holm, ire'ne lara silva, Alan King, and Phillip B. Williams.
Please consider supporting this small, independent journal. Issues are now available for pre-order at the Generations Literary Journal Store
Two poems of mine were accepted by Cerise Press a few months ago and now have appeared in their Summer issue. The poems are Incrimination and The Madmen Among Us. Cerise Press has a great looking magazine and I'm honored to appear with distinguished poets such as Dorianne Laux, Patricia Fargnoli, and Vénus Khoury-Ghata.
The web site of Subprimal Poetry Art is now up and running - and submissions are open for the inaugural issue. This has been a personal dream of mine for a long time and I'm excited to finally launch. I'm enthusiastic about the idea of reaching out to unusual, thought-provoking poets and artists from various corners of the universe! Take a look:
39 Boys on Ground is now available on Smashwords as an ebook. There's several formats to choose from including Kindle, EPUB (for Apple devices, Nook and others) or just regular PDF file for reading on just about any computer. You can also get it at many other retailers (partial list below)
Also, see excerpts from 39 Boys.
Lately, I’ve been studying up on ebook publishing as I prepare my manuscript 39 Boys on Ground for ebook distribution. Among other things, I’ve been reading titles offered by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords. These include:
These titles are well-written, illuminating and fun to read. If you’re looking for some good ebook information, check them out. One of the things that really stuck with me was how Mark mentions that in the traditional publishing world, if a book arrives at the store and doesn’t start selling well, they have to remove it to make room for something that (hopefully) does sell well. With ebooks, that’s not a factor. The shelf space in not limited - and some books go slow at first but later get discovered and start selling.
When 39 Boys on Ground is ready (January 2013), I’m going to offer it for free, at least at first. One of the great things about the ebook route is that I can change the price later if I decide to. In fact, many authors experiment over time with the price to find the sweet spot.
Another thing: I’ve rather given up on the idea of line breaks. It’s just too much trouble with a very shaky guarantee that the breaks will appear correctly on all (or even most) devices. For me, that’s okay. Most of my work is written using paragraphs anyway. Those that aren’t, I can change. One of the key guidelines for ebook formatting is: Keep It Simple.
First, take two corned beef sandwiches and post them on YouTube. While everybody is eating, dial your cable company from a long distance phone booth and ask for their service advertising department. They won’t be able to connect you. With nowhere else to go, backwash fills up the pipes that connect to central switching. Nobody can Google. Start a petition to ban paper. Now new bookmarks can’t be formed and through attrition, the few remaining ones disappear. Trademark the color blue. In a few months, most online stores go belly up. Repeat, substituting green for blue.
What if there was a guy sitting in a room somewhere drinking dog juice who decided if you lived or died? Let’s say that after your plane rolls a few times, spilling luggage and cocktails, you’re going straight down. You can see the city lights getting closer, turning into grids of streets. You’re thinking: This Is It, but this guy laughs in his room somewhere and twists a knob. “Let’s keep him around a while longer,” he says to nobody in particular. You swing back to the horizontal. The engines quit their screaming.
Objection! Too much good god for us to believe in. Can’t place our faith and fate in the hands of a guy with dark framed glasses at a blinking console of lights. Also – we live in an era of systematic rationality and laws of physics are not to be trifled with.
But what if this guy exists? He sits in a room inside your head, wraps wires around your plans and emotions. His bones are the same color as yours, the same color as God’s for that matter. Okay, he can’t change gravity into wine and usually, he’s circumspect, maybe even unremarkable. But when your metaphorical plane is in a dive – maybe you’re under a lot of stress and think it’s never going to get better – it’s refreshing when this guy (let’s call him Charles) flips a few electrical breakers on the big board of your brain and your heart. Instead of spiraling into a block party of bodies, you get off at the next stop and go about your life – and not as if nothing had happened but exactly like something special had.
Gene Krupa and his orchestra performing the classic Drum Boogie, from the movie Ball of Fire (1941) starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Fun movie!
Saw this ad on Craig's list. Wow! If only I had a pickup truck (and knew how to fix this thing)...
Had a great reading at the C&P this evening with Janée J. Baugher who read different sections from a personal essay of hers about her brother, his ability to fix anything, the ride up towards Wenatchee and their harrowing trip down the river on inner tubes. I’m very pleased to have had a chance to hear her and read some of my work on the same stage.
Also had an opportunity to meet some great new people and hear poetry from the open mic participants, which included Michael Hickey, former Seattle Poet Populist. Michael was elected as Poet Populist on the same historical day on which we elected Barack Obama, our 44th president of the United States. I had known this because President Obama frequently mentions this in his speeches, but I hadn’t had a chance to meet Michael until tonight.
(Okay, so Obama hasn’t mentioned it yet – we just need to let him know. He’s a busy guy.)
If you have a chance, come on down to the C&P Coffee Company on California Ave in West Seattle on the fourth Wednesdays of the month. There’s two featured poets plus open mic. The C&P is one of my favorite places for coffee and hanging out when I’m in Seattle. It’s inside on an old, converted residence from a time when houses were built with a lot more flair.
También, antes de que me olvide, tuve la oportunidad de practicar mi español con una maestra allí. Está trabajando en un proyecto artístico en San Felipe (Baja California) y espero saber mas sobre esto pronto.
Here’s the poem I opened with tonight. It’s from The Second Book of Muwadi.
When my death melted away and its mortal sickness passed, men and women became translucent again and once more I could see the color of their hearts. They bore their heaving breath in bushels as they rolled boulders aside to call on me in my tomb.
“We have forgotten your face,” one of them cried and another said “No, it is your name that eludes us.”
If I could, I would have spoken and advised them to look no farther than their own heart where all the truthful bits and pieces of God dwell, as a single rabbit though chopped and sliced, inhabits the stew.
But my throat was a cactus, as it is after every bout of death, and I thirsted for a lake of wine. The people saw my need and fetched a bowl of blood to wash the spines away.
Replenished, I dribbled thanks on my shirt and broke a bubble on my lips. “It is I who have forgotten,” I managed to utter. “When ill, I see only devils; when in health, even the snakes are saints.”
So, I’m watching a movie on Hulu the other night and since they’ve gotten very good at making sure that ad blockers don’t work, I get to see the usual bunch o adverts for cars, cell phone plans, celebrity sightings, and my all time favorite: psychotropic medications.
I guess they’re running out of kids because now we’ve got ADHD meds for adults, too. But don’t worry. The pharmaceutical companies that make them assure us that it’s a real disorder. As in, not made up. They tell you that just in case you were wondering. You know, just in case you thought they might be pushing their goods only to make some excellent currency for their coffers. Don’t worry. Because it’s real disorder, it proves that they have an altruistic desire to sooth the anxieties of the world with a cool cloth.
Watching these adverts is educational. I’ve learned that these drugs don’t do the following:
They only help with ADHD. Nothing else. Well, that’s what the guy says in the advert and I admit I’m a little disappointed because sometimes I wish didn’t have to bring the towels in and fold them myself.
But that’s not the funny part. After the guy stands around for a few seconds in his modern apartment and describes how well managed his life is now, they turn the advert over to a doctor-looking actor who comes on screen with some excellent doctorish advice. Don’t forget, she says. This stuff has a risk of abuse or dependence. Keep it in a safe place. Selling or sharing this stuff may harm others and (look out!) is illegal. This stuff may cause sudden death or at the very least, serious heart problems. And that’s not all. You (*cough*) might experience:
Also, don’t forget: decreased appetite, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, irritability, loss of appetite, nausea, trouble sleeping, upper stomach pain, vomiting, weight loss, chest pain, aggressive behavior or hostility. It takes twice as long to say what's wrong with this stuff than what it's good for.
So, remind me why people buy this stuff, again?
Yep, we really showed em, we really did. Why, we saved the hell out of our freedoms. I don’t know sometimes whether to laugh or cry. How much longer can people put up with this upside-down bullshit is beyond me. We’ve got people these days like Lindsey Graham saying on the floor on the senate for all the world to see and with a straight face that we need to be able to imprison anybody / anywhere / anytime-we-feel-like-it forever if we want and without trial to - wait for it - preserve our freedoms!
Of course, he and his ilk don’t dare call it imprisonment. They scrub the stains from their bullshit very methodically and deem it a detention, like it’s teacher keeping a student after school for an hour.
So, yes. We kicked butt and preserved our precious freedom to: kill, lie, torture, lock people up, bash the crap out of peaceful protesters, swindle mom and pop out of their life savings, buy your very own congressman / senator / president on the open market, and (most importantly and most revered) receive 577 cable channels of inane bullshit to help distract you from the fact that the average Joe gets only crumbs.
When I think of the young men and women that died in this insane debacle called Iraq, I absolutely DO know whether to laugh or cry and I always come down on the side of tears. They died for a buck. A filthy buck. That’s it. Cheerleaders, spin it anyway you want, but all you had to do was watch the constantly changing rationales of the swine that started this slaughter to see behind the curtain.
Wow! Badlanders (aka Prison Planet in some releases) is the greatest movie ever made! Seriously! But not for the usual reasons.
Not because it has great acting. It doesn’t. This is the worst acting ever. Terrible, amateurish acting throughout. The guy lying in the road calling for help is one pitiful example and of course the head-honcho baddie (Michael M. Foley) who delivers every line through clenched teeth like he has a rabid badger in his pants is another. But whew… I’m happy he finished the movie without having a stroke.
Dialog? What a hoot. “Welcome to hell!” not once, but twice! But to be fair, it was two different people in two different places so I guess it’s two different hells and they probably thought it was such a killer line that they should slay the audience with it once more and.. oh never mind.
Verisimilitude? Well, let’s see… this is a barren desolate planet where the evil king exiles prisoners (hence the title “Prison Planet”) but is the king really evil? I mean, really evil like everybody says? I don’t think so. He’s actually a pretty thoughtful guy. Check it out: as a notorious criminal in exile on a desolate planet, you get some cars, gasoline, guns, bullets and (my favorite!) large industrial power lines to drive under on the way through the wastelands.
Oh, and let’s not forget the tiny spaceship made from a painted-over Burger King box flying through the air on a string and the awesome way they show you how to escape from bad guys in a car by jumping up from the hill you’re hiding behind and running out into the road the car’s on.
But why is this the greatest movie ever? First, you have to watch the whole thing. But WARNING: be careful of your dosages. Watch maybe 10 or 12 minutes and then take a break. Rest your eyes before starting again. Wear a helmet at all times. Make sure you let somebody know what you’re doing.
With those few precautions, you should be fine. And don’t worry: when you’re done, it’s normal for your brain to feel like it’s on fire. It should pass in a day or two. And then you’ll be glad you saw this burning barrel of trash. Because after Prison Planet, you will never ever have to watch a worse movie. If you live to be 100, it doesn’t matter. The worst possible film in the history of film-making is behind you!
If I was not a guru, I would not have known that a simple operation would turn out to take two minutes. Of course, these are Guru Time minutes. In Ordinary (or mortal) time, probably six weeks or never. Simple as:
I have a 100 page Microsoft Word 2003 document that uses macros to repeat certain tasks with a quick keystroke as a guru knows how. It’s a great feature.
Oh no. One day, one of my LONG-TRUSTED macros broke. Right after Microsoft Word 2003 SERVICE PACK 3. Still easy. First (after weeks of BingingGoogle searches and basically just living with it)::::::: (for why)
Create a new Word document and copy everything (because I CHECKED to see if it was happening in OTHER files, but it was only happening in THIS one). The macros problem is gone (YEA!) but then I notice that NOT ALL of my custom Styles ambled over.
I LOVE Styles so okay! I can deal with that. My Heading1 (which I use for section titles) had gone dead. I only needed to copy it from the original file. TO THE GATES OF THE HARD_TO_FIND merry:
Templates and Add-Ins organizer. But it would not select back-and-forth between two of my user files (getting annoyed now, even on the Guru Annoyance Scale); only between Normal.dot and some-other-file. What language is my Computer written In?
apparently. Okay again. I will copy the offending Header1 text from the original document and replace it my copy that I needed to compensate for Microsoft Office SP3. THEN!!!!
All I need to DO is choose (Use DESTINATION format)
(or is it SOURCE??)
to convey me.
After that, it is a Simple Matter™
to choose the new document Styles Pane and command:
“UPDATE TO MATCH SELECTON!”
end of sequence
Oh boy. A high school boy was arrested for writing an essay. Good thing this happened in North Korea or China the United States of America. Okay, write whatever you want, the teacher says. Oops, he forgot to mention the possibility of arrest.
Once upon a time we dissed the likes of Communist Russia for this type of thing. Afraid of a piece of paper.
When I was a child, I once read about a boy who heard music in his head. His parents feared something was wrong with him and took him to a doctor, who gave him pills to make the music go away. That's always stayed with me. It seems so strange and sad that parents would want to do that.
Almost every day, I wake up with a certain refrain, a line or two maybe, from some song in my head. Sometimes it's the same one a couple of days in a row, but it's usually different every day. Many do repeat over time, though and it is sort of like a barometer of my day.
From time to time, I consider writing the jingle-jangle down each day and see if over time, it adds up to some sort of revelation. Kind of like Tom Hanks and the DaVinci clues but without all the running around from statue to statue.
Fri Jul 4, 2014
Sun Jun 29, 2014
Sun Jun 1, 2014
Sat May 10, 2014
Wed Mar 12, 2014
Tue Jan 21, 2014
Sun Nov 10, 2013
Tue Sep 17, 2013
Mon Jul 15, 2013
Mon May 13, 2013
Wed Feb 6, 2013
Sun Dec 2, 2012
Sun Dec 2, 2012
Sat Oct 13, 2012
Sat Sep 29, 2012
Sat Sep 29, 2012
Thu Sep 27, 2012
Sat Sep 22, 2012
Fri Sep 21, 2012
Fri Sep 21, 2012
Fri Sep 21, 2012
Fri Sep 21, 2012
Fri Sep 21, 2012