Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guest poem (came in the mail) (Arthur Tulee)

My friend Arthur Tulee lives in Seattle. He runs. He writes. He sends poems by way of post card. This is time honored. Even with e-mail, poems and other works of art are being mailed, artist-to-artist, around the country, the globe, every day.

What a nice image, luminescence in the hands of postal workers. Shining trajectories of joy, stamped wisdom here and there and there. Here is Arthur's poem. I received it on Saturday.

If you live in precarious circumstance
long enough this too becomes a comfort
an achievement of pride
a sign of an iron mind
an iron spirit and iron gut

And we are all iron
raw rude metal
poured into molds of broken
burning earth by starfire

We walk as iron
we breathe as iron
we love as iron
we die as iron

Arthur Tulee, June 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I shall sell you sell you: a N.Y. morning with Elizabeth Bishop

And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you'll sell me.
Elizabeth Bishop, "Varick Street"

Today I so happily went to unemployment for a shot-in-the-arm, a pep talk and new resources to keep me in the looking-for-work game. I was peppy; my counselor saw it but then, she's polite.

What was not peppy and really never is -- Varick Street on which my (my) state unemployment resources office is located. Varick tends toward no-nonsense. It runs from a vaguely nameless area, not the Village, not Tribeca to downtown. The small factories of early last century are replaced by industrial chintz--air conditioned buildings with glass and no architecture.

It used to be thusly, per Elizabeth Bishop:

Varick Street

At night the factories
struggle awake,
wretched uneasy buildings
veined with pipes
attempt their work.
Trying to breathe,
the elongated nostrils
haired with spikes
give off such stenches, too.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you'll sell me.

On certain floors
certain wonders
Pale dirty light,
some captured iceberg
being prevented from melting.
See the mechanical moons,
sick, being made
to wax and wane
at somebody's imagination.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you'll sell me.

Lights music of love
work on. The presses
print calendars
I suppose; the moons
made medicine
or confectionary. Our bed
shrinks from the soot
and hapless odors
hold us close.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you'll sell me.

That she mingles in italics the refrain quoted in italics which is New York -- and what I am trying to do -- sell myself -- sell you sell you, my dear--that I like. L.A., where I grew up, is a city of salespeople as well. I'm not sure what's being sold in this poem, Elizbeth to her lover, her lover to Elizabeth, their love (two women) to the world.

". . . and hapless odors / hold us close." The entirety of our joinings and mingling binds us to our cities and more importantly to each other.

{from The Voice of the Poet: Elizabeth Bishop; Random House. I never had the audiobook which accompanied; hmmm.}

Monday, June 28, 2010

What's with art anyway...? A morning with N.Y.C. & James Schuyler

Just back from a doctor's appointment followed by a walk across the Park, a stop at stony holy St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue, a decision to walk more later today when it's cooler and thus a bus ride down Lex.

My left hip needs calcium but my superpowered spine grows oddly stronger each year. I'm a medical anomaly. I do Gi Quion (spelling, please) spine twists most nights before bed. My doc. says that's not relevant. She's nice, but feh.

Now home I wait for my fan to rev, something that can take five minutes after I turn it on (pensive is my fan, thoughtful, unwilling to rush into even the most cooling of gestures). Waiting, I read James Schuyler's The Morning of the Poem. This one perfectly captures an urban mix, the joy of art mitigated by the acts of the titans who bought it for us; the pleasure of looking at other people's homes; of being in other people's neighborhoods; street vendor hot dogs. There was wind today for me, too.


from the Frick. The weather
cruel as Henry Clay himself.
Who put that collection together?
Duveen? I forget. It was nice
to see the masterpieces again,
covered with the strikers' blood.
What's with art anyway, that
we give it such precedence?
I love the paintings, that's for sure.
What I really loved today
was New York, its streets and
men selling flowers and hot dogs
in them. Mysterious town houses,
the gritty wind. I used to live
around here but it's changed some.
Why? That was only thirty years ago.

again: From The Morning of the Poem [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976] by James Schuyler

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Good Week: In which a poet gets compliments

Compliments may well be business as usual for many poets. Certainly it is a rare poet who receives none.

Well. In the past week I've received several compliments. Readers I don't know and who are not necessarily poets are saying nice things about my work.
I know this sounds like--and is--bragging, but I beg you to recast this blog as me sharing a good feeling with you. I'm not sure what the feeling is, but joy works, so let's go with that. Every day this week I've felt joy because a reader liked my work.

One generous woman even went so far as to tweet the URL to one of my poems published online ("St. Sarah Sarai Carrying the Infant Christ Child" -- pub. by The Mississippi Review). Tweet, as in Twitter so fellow Twitterers could read me. She said something about the poem's beauty.

I couldn't have felt more gratified if it had been flashed on a Times Square giganto neon signs. The very thing that can scare me--lack of control--works for me. I didn't ask her to read me. I don't know how she found me. But she did.

Oh! I went to see a young friend read at the Cornelia St. Cafe. The curator of all poetry events there spotted me sipping wine and told me he had to book me. I asked if he was sure he knew it was me he was talking to and he seemed to. We set a date in November.

Just before deciding to share all this on my blog I looked at Amazon and saw a second customer review of The Future Is Happy. An appreciative review. How exciting! I'm not going to peek at the number of reviews someone like Mark Doty or Marie Ponsot or any number of established poets get. I'll just reiterate I'm new and not academically affiliated. And people I don't know--or aren't my bff--like my work. A few do, anyway.

My great wish is to be read by people. People. Poets, sure, but also that rare breed who reads poetry for pleasure.

Tomorrow I have to get up early for a follow-up doctor's appointment, send out resumes, follow-up previously sent-out resumes with phone calls, in some way or other, drum up work. Tonight I'm a poet who knows the time she puts into writing is not unappreciated, which is to say, is appreciated.


Image From Heinrich Khunrath Work: Amhitheatrum Sapientae Aeternae Date: 1606

Friday, June 25, 2010

Poem: "Further Arguments" -- Nonbelievers, sisters

I dedicated "Further Arguments" to one of my sisters, a nonbeliever to her core.

She was a good mother to my niece and nephew and though she considered retiring in the Southwest, didn't because, "I don't want to miss out on E- and E- [her grandchildren]. They're too much fun." Friends, financial security--or as much as anyone not wealthy has--she led a good life.

Given our fanatical Christian Science childhood--Mom was a convert, and you know the fervor of converts--with tones, jokes and intellectualizations of our secular Jewish father--any spiritual closeness or abhorance makes sense although the other three daughters found "spiritual paths."

I'm a mystic (bold of me to say, but there it is) (more to it, but I'll leave it there for now). My only complaint in this regard with my sister was her antagonism toward belief. You could not say a word to her about anything remotely related to spirituality, let alone cast your eye upward before digging into a good meal without a sharp remand.

But sharp and quick criticisms generally mean a deep nerve has been struck; a childhood memory is unhealed. The four daughters had plenty of them.

My sister died far too young, of cancer. She went through four years of chemotherapy. To the end she held hard to her nonbelief; foolish or brave; definitely honest. After she passed I went to Gilda's Place for grief support. On hearing the above, a counselor said, "Well, now she knows for sure." Here's the poem (not written with her in mind but dedicated to her).

Further Arguments

If there is a god you must sculpt my bellied likeness then
bury me so dirt chokes my cry.
If there is a god you must bruise me with your broad hand,
the one with the Rolex.
If there is a god, you must snap my bones and giggle.
If there is a god, you must punch my womb and admire
my body’s pliancy.
If there is a god you must plunge me to a watery death,
as an argument rivaling Aquinas’ that there is a god.
If there is a god you must burn me, millions of me,
and warm to the frisky stench.
If there is a god, pray gratitude you were not born me,
and who will blame you?
You are reading this, you are not reading this. There is
a god.
You are listening, you are disinterested. There is a god.
You feel shame, or none. There is a god.
I am four hundred dead in the desert yet there is a god.
My children are target-rage and yet there is a god.
I am laughed at and condescended to and there is a god
there is, trust me.
I took the leap of faith over your life, proving there is
a god.
We are kneeling on our hearts agreeing this thing in each
of us is what I am calling god.

Published in The Minnesota Review [Spring 2007] and in The Future Is Happy [available at Amazon; SPD is restocking the collection].

Image from

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"...for sheer brute strength, it's incest all the way" Marathon Man. No, it's still not safe.

"I tell you, the poets are always declaiming on the power of love, but for sheer brute strength, it's incest all the way." Biesenthal, a (fictional) superstar historian in Marathon Man (book and screenplay by William Goldman).

I recently read Marathon Man for a quick escape. (Saw the movie in 1976.) I was startled, blown away, in fact, by the above horrifying yet freaking intelligent insight into Biesenthal--a secondary character, I'd thought, who lords over doctoral students, his peers and the American public (as one of those talking head historians). It's not in the movie.

Bisenthal is not what Marathon Man is about. Nazi dentistry, the shadow of the McCarthy era—those are the two main characters. And then there's Levy, the Dustin Hoffman character, fresh from his Rhodes scholarship at Oxford, who is going to write his dissertation under the great Bisenthal's tutelage (Biesenthal is played by Fritz Weaver in the film).

It's a page-turner, but the above quote, on page 223, almost a throwaway line, stopped me cold. Was Goldman aware of what he'd written? I suspect so and admire him for putting these words on the lips of someone who but for geography ("Biesenthal" is German) would have suffered under Hitler. Similarly I wondered if Goldman approved of Levy's shallow perception of women—he would prefer a pretty waitress to a scholar.

Levy's not a character I like or understand, except for the fact that he has spent his young life reacting—to his father's scholarship, to Senator Eugene McCarthy's denunciation of his father, his father's suicide, to his idolized older brother, to Biesenthal, to a imperious male-centered, 24-hour animus, no anima, culture which is arrogant, hierarchical and mean-spirited to its core.

A male-centered world is not the only world available but it's the only one he's known. Significantly his mother died when he was six.

Whatever Goldman's intentions, he deftly presents a culture where men use women. Here's the full quote from Biesenthal. His daughter just brought him his wallet so he could help the already dentally enhanced Levy. And note, Goldman both describes her as a "Jewish princess." Spooky, eerie, given the number of "Jewish princess[es]" killed in the camps.

"Bright child, senior at Barnard, she'll be Phi Beta barring a complete collapse. She wants to be an archaeologist but then she wanted to go to Bryn Mawr. I stopped that, I'll stop this – she should be more than contented looking after my bones in my dotage, don't you think that's fair? I tell you, the poets are always declaiming on the power of love, but for sheer brute strength, it's incest all the way."

Is Biesenthal a better man than the Mengele-like (Szell) character played by Sir Lawrence Olivier in the movie?

You can attempt to destroy a culture, ethnic group, race, gender en mass as did Hitler, "Szell" and those lunatics, or simply woman-by-woman, princess-by-princess, like Biesenthal. How interesting William Goldman is. More to learn.

See also my blog on The Omen, in which major decision making is in the hands of men. Things don't turn out so well, unless you're rooting for the Antichrist. ["The antifeminist fathers the Antichrist"]

[And for a photo of Olivier in the role, see my blog--"The Craft of the Gum" about my dentist:]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poem: Buñuel's Magic Arrow (an editing saga) (Achilles' pudgy ankle)

Last December I was asked to write a poem for a series on on Sophocles' Philoctetes. I was excited to be asked and read three different translations of the play which intrigues but is no match for drama of Oedipus, Jocasta and Antigone. I was stumped.

Finally I planted myself at the Mid-Manhattan Library, open to 11 p.m. (at least then it was), wrote and refined--the usual. Then became involved in a ten or so emails back-and-forth with the guest editor (who had come up with the Philoctetes theme and was going to post a poem a day for a month). He was very young and this was his first run at editing.

I trashed my draft and wrote a new poem, trashed that, revamped the original. Writing a poem on a deadline was new to me. Articles, reviews, yes, but a poem?

When my poem was published online, I was bowled over to see no mention of Philoctetes. Instead of telling me the other writers had sent in whatever they wanted the editor had kept up the pretense with me. Man, I'm naive and studious. I posted a comment following the poem with a note about the play. He was furious and said I was insulting his editing. What the . . . !#?!X!

But the poem is fun with its references--my life history in lit--to Buñuel's seared-in-my memory film Simon in the Desert, Penelope in the Odyssey, Laura in The Glass Menagerie, Job. To a Franny & Zooey quote I've remembered since, what, junior high? Of course baby Achilles' pudgy ankle (oh, once it was). And my long-held belief that men would be improved by wearing make-up. Enjoy, PLEASE.

Buñuel's Magic Arrow

Place thumb and forefinger on a baby's ankle. So pudgy!
Obtuse Rex-es and the gods plague my self-esteem.
Hard to keep them separate: gods; Rex-es; me.
Penelope was tricky herself. Laura primped for
genteel callers while a thousand putti wept.
Job loved too much, perhaps, and was bewared of gifts.
Philoctetes needs a good talking to.
I'll escort him to a showing of Simon of the Desert.
Simon stood on a pillar in a bright Bibley landscape.
Philoctetes is a study in shadow puppetry.
A lot of people are forsaken then learn a craft.
The Greeks don't have “that goddam Bide-a-Wee Home
heart of [Franny's]” do they.
Life would be gentler if gentlemen wore make-up.
For the discothèque, St. Simon Stylites and Philoctetes
might rub a Hercules beetle exoskeleton before
its blue is black. Is everything subject to change?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Poem: Experiential Philosophy

One of my earliest romantic loves was Baruch Spinoza, the 17th Century Dutch-Portuguese-Jewish philosopher. My emotions were Wagnerian operas roared. I had no control; gentle Spinoza understood. That man knew me. Blew my mind though I was unable to work his logic on my passions or "consider human actions and appetites just as if it were a Question of lines, planes, and bodies."

I read both Spinoza and Descartes while cozied in a chair I inherited from an upperclassman (who was in truth a woman but upperclasswoman feels like gentry rather than year in college). That chair so padded and accommodating was the chair of chairs, the eidos (Platonic form) of reading zones. I am unable even now to distinguish the philosophy I read from my experience of reading the philosophers.

Experiential Philosophy

Descartes was not a philosopher,
but a chair with one arm
around me and another
under my legs,
carrying the puny selfhood
I crawled from at 18
on knees and elbows.
You can live in the ring of mist
around the leaning Chinese peak
if a hung-up life’s enough.
Ah, the consolation of

Spinoza was the man
I’d have married
if I’d moved to Salinas,
worked in a Woolworth’s,
lived over a bar, not “matriculated,”
written. Smiled at the gentle.
To know who you are
is to be complete. “Your mother
tried to protect you.”

Rationality is fearless,
mysticism a corolla of the sun,
a parley with the soul,
hot gold and warm honey
in the melancholy beehive.

Each substance has attributes,
i.e., the cat’s meow: is

proof enough of my existence;
existence proof that paralysis
is a few pages of the history,
that history is just a word and
“now,” this one, I said, here,
is a liberation, if observed new.

Published in Fogged Clarity and collected in The Future Is Happy.
Note: The whimsical and imaginative illustration is from a blog which I'm unable to read (Italian): [Blog di riflessione, critica e discussione filosofica a cura di Mario Domina]

Monday, June 21, 2010

On, Footwear. On Footwear.

Hey, Whomever(s). Here's an old and unpublished short-short. How's that for a come-on? This may meet 'gurlesque' criteria. Have I joined a movement?

On, Footwear

I have two pair of really cute black shoes, really cute. To a party Saturday night, I was going to wear one pair of my totally cute black shoes.

I could have chosen Pair #1, whose darling heels slant like a ramp, like risers ascending to a stage. I would have been, of course, the actress and star attraction performing my greatest, yet workman-like role, in my really cute black shoes. This pair is sling back, and, incidentally, very cute.

Stamped into the leather of Pair #2 is a peek-a-boo filigree, evoking the ambiance of an in-your-face flirting Spanish contessa. This is no ‘weave,’ you know, where the shoe pretends it is a hurachi, and a pricey one at that, but is, in fact, totally north of the border, toe-to-heel. Perish it, for, pair #2 is, to be boldly truthful, cute.

Those are my two really cute black shoes.

Alas, Saturday night partiers never got a chance to see either pair ON MY FEET, as both of the two really cute black shoes which I had tucked my breezy, swingy, flippy, strappy, perky, pert catch-all were for my right foot. The slopey-heel-one--right foot; Senorita Contess--right foot again.

The good news was that everyone got to see two distinctly different really cute black right-footed shoes because I held them aloft, all the while expressing a version of mirth on my face at having worn this mismatched “pair.”

People said I was the life of the party, but deep inside I had two really cute shoes I could not wear. I would not look absolutely great cramming one right shoe on top of another and then limping through the evenings’ antics with my left foot unshod. Upon realizing I had two right shoes, cute, cute shoes, mind you, I refrained from yanking off my broken-down, soiled running footgear in which I do not even run. A brisk walk does it for me. So I looked athletic which is not to be desired when one is not really, truly athletic and no one thinks otherwise.

Would you care to attend a party in beaten-in running shoes you purchased three years ago on a January 2nd whim?

My two pair of really cute black shoes have been joined by a third pair of ground-breaking cute, pick-o-the-litter jaunty, oh-so-comfy gay-divorcee-like black shoes which now abide in my California-esque snappy sunny straw bag. So if I mix or mislay pairs #1 or #2, I have a fallback plan: A pair of really cute black shoes!

‘What totally cute shoes those are,’ I shall hear upon the odd social occasion.

Upon my shoulders my head shall be held high, and beneath my ankles, well lower even, my feet shall be steady. And my response will be a gracious, ‘Aren’t they, now?’

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Trees Grow in Brooklyn

Brooklyn is to be loved, and more than Manhattan. It's strange and mysterious. Finding my way in Brooklyn brings with it the confusion of streets not parallel which cross each other often, like solemn nuns.

It's as if pick-up sticks had been thrown and their random design used as a template. When I moved to New York and scheduled a date in Brooklyn I knew I'd be lucky to show up at the right place at all.

Before living here I was in Seattle across and over and down and up which I walked so that within months I knew my way. And before that I lived in L.A. which--I contend--I know so well I knew back alleys and cul-de-sacs across its extensive length and breadth. But Manhattan took a few years and I'm still figuring out Brooklyn.

That said, I believe I am at an all time personal best for visits to Brooklyn in one week. For me that's four--three readings and one party.

Sarah Sarai is all about Brooklyn.

The beauty is the beauty. One reading happens in a shop's backyard, and next door there's a green and tended garden. Blue skies, endless variations of breeze--on-leaves and the garden. Plus poetry.

Saturday night I was at a supper party. Our hostess moved us to the backyard where her neighbor had recently set up a table. On either side trees and the unkempt greenery I think of as true Americana. The moon, wine, good people with active minds. the neighborhood modest.

Real people CAN still find places to live in Brooklyn, but I wonder for how much longer. It's freaking hard in Manhattan (I'm hanging on my the skin of nails of my teeth). Anyway, I'm rambling.

Which is not a bad thing to do in Brooklyn.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Poem: Street Love

Street Love

The impossibly skinny
young man
loping east
on 28th St.,
light brown like
a clear cut,
pants struggling for
and against
closeness with hips,
T- shirt sleeveless
to the collar bone
tarnished over his heart
by heavy chains of
allegiance, a giant S
falling short of
his long-waisted navel
on a stretch of stomach
that should receive
only love
every night.
. . . Sarah Sarai

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Melancholic or Bummed?

What a beautiful woman, crowned and winged. The cherub is melancholic. The woman looks bummed, verging on angry. Maybe testy. The sun is an eternal promise. How perfect the water, row boat, shapes. Is the ladder functional or Biblical. The Geometer, not pictured, is, like Bach, a lucky human. Albrecht Durer, hello. Good night.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Tolerable and Efficacious Complaint: the idiots of industry

One of the great ironies of life: The minute you complain about someone's behavior heretofore pure you mimics that behavior. I discovered this in college and have allowed myself an unexamined mystification about same for many years. Why unexamined? I sense it's so clearly and universally fair; and I always hope I'll stop complaining.

Lo these many years later (yesterday) I was discussing a complaint-free and/or criticism-free life with a dear friend. We agreed it was alright to "complain" about BP and the oil leak, because such complaints came out of caring for the oceans. For the whole planet. Possibly for the questionable and shaky soul of civilization. Sorry. "Civilization."

While I want to avoid that dusty and or sludgy anger that helps no one, I am angry and critical of the unbelievable mismanagement, lies, cavalier capitalism, greed, cowardice, lack of imagination and lack of foresight that the idiots of industry wear--with pride as if their lies were Versace.

My favorite graffito in Manhattan shoots straight: Wake the fuck up. It dates from the Bush administration.

My complaint, shame and horror are wrought of love and many are feeling their, probably greater version, of compassion for life strangled, coated, glutted, strewn. Let's see how much love can heal. As for solipsistic me, I was told long ago by a female Lutheran minister that I have the gift of the believable compliment. May my gifts expand to the tolerable and efficacious complaint.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No More Promises, Pal

I promised I was going to blog every day in June and missed yesterday, choosing to go to bed because I was tired. It was only 10 p.m. and I could have pushed myself but my overall goal is in fact in life to begin slumber earlier than I have been and thus rise earlier, knowing productivity and a general and overall feeling of accomplishment as well as sensual pleasures of early light and even dew if I go to a park are more available to the early riser.

Having broken as if it were a potato chip and my intention a solid onion dip one promise I don't make another about a second blog this day but adopt a wait 'n see attitude.

My clothes are in the dryer. The want ads call. The kitties I cat sit cry out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some Spirit Drifts to the Cornelia St. Cafe & Tom Lux

My first attempts at open mics in New York were disappointing enough to convince me there was no ground-level community here. I kept finding a huge overlap in comedy, songwriting and poetry and purist me wanted poetry and only poetry.

So I gave up and not too long after stopped writing poetry. My hiatus lasted some years then ended (how specific was that?). Then I heard Tom Lux was going to read at the Cornelia St. Cafe.

Let me tell you about Tom Lux. He talked to me when I was in grad. school. He treated me as if I were an intelligent human being with reasonable insights. Not once did he appear worried I emitted noxious gaseous funk. He's like that, has a decent streak.

I didn't know Jackie Sheeler's Friday night Pink Pony reading was an event, a guaranteed room of poets, but it was, and for Lux the room was packed. I was second-to-last on the open mic list; I was so anxious (making this about me, not Lux).

This was the first time I'd read a poem in public in maybe eight years. Jackie Sheeler didn't know me from Emily Dickinson but she squeezed me in, giving me a chance to read "Some Spirit Drifts" (which I posted in yesterday's blog).

I'd reintroduced myself to Lux. When I read I fell back on the old Sarah Sarai strength and stage presence. I was fine, plus I'd found an open mic dedicated to poetry. I began to show up every week and found other open mics.

It was the beginning.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Poem: Some Spirit Drifts (if not a love poem, an observation-of-love poem)

Insights come to me at Twenty-third Street and Third Avenue. Among them are a zowie re-collection of weirdness (not sharing) from teenage life; a sense of a sweet, hot old couple joining hands and flying to the next phase; a observation of toddler radar--they know when a peer is in proximity and do what they can to acknowledge and scrutinize, maybe nonverbally communicate their expected and ultimate victory over adults.

Some Spirit Drifts

Some spirit drifts between us,
not as barrier but resemblance
why lover thinks he is drawn
to lover. Drifts not exactly as
bridge but more, gravitational
deity. If we open dozing eyes
and note an other like a stroller-
bound toddler at the corner,
sensing there a fellow toddler
twisting body towards his
peer possessor of wily truths
the two have sworn in code
to forget three years hence;

like Walt, more shy with physics
of unity than I first thought, and
comfy Emily quite enough in
her sly petal life, the two poets
hopeless before this spirit
of which I must write, having
wondered it nights into being;

like my nephew and great-nephew
victorious in the Crenshaw
District because they are black
and male and still alive in L.A.;
like any of us awkward and
overly civilized and thus drawn
to the raw. Undeniably false:
that you reading, that you
watching, listening were meant
to be in my arms; and please
recollect I have pondered this
long, being no more an agreed-
upon young. To define the spirit
we are drawn each to each,
yet who believes this, not even
me, not all days anyway,
hungering across a void
more promising than fulfilling.

Sarah Sarai, from The Future Is Happy

Friday, June 11, 2010

BlazeVOX [books]: A poetic trove turns 10!

Happy TEN years of existence to BlazeVOX [books], my publisher. Here are a few words from publisher Geoffrey Gatza on the anniversary and an opportunity to support poets. Donate and you'll receive a gift. Hoorah!
From Geoffrey:It's true we are now 10! And to celebrate we are moving forward with new and exciting books, ebooks and other fun projects. Our journal is going strong! We just put out our Spring issue of BlazeVOX2kX, with 100 writers! So if you missed this, it makes for great Spring Reading!

We are beginning our fundraising season with a real zeal for the future. We are currently full of life and operating within our means. We are looking to publish 1000 new books in the next 12 years and I hope you will be able to help us keep up our fine work. We are looking to develop our board, administrative outlook and business practices so as to move into a larger arena of publishing. I hope you will be able to help us reach our goals!

We have 3 easy ways to donate to BlazeVOX [books]. You can donate $10 and receive a thank you book of your choice! You can donate $25 and receive 1 pound of Handmade Chocolate Covered Popcorn. And we have once again, 10 books for a $100 donation. We brought this back again this year due to overwhelming demand! So here you go, thank you for all of your kind support! This highly successful book sale is much easier than in previous years, because we have set up 8 groups of 10 books for you to choose from. But if you still would like to pick your own, you are very welcome to do so. Yes substitutions are welcome. So hurray! Thank you again and again for your interest in BlazeVOX [books] without you and your support, where would we be? Hurray!

Best, Geoffrey

$10 ONE
1 book for a $10 donation

Donate $10 to BlazeVOX [books] and we'll send you any of our titles! This includes shipping to anywhere in the Continental U.S. Go to our full catalog and pick out your favorite title. Then email me the title at I'll send it right to you! Thank you!

Chocolate Covered Popcorn
$25 - 1 pound of Handmade Chocolate Covered Popcorn!

Chef Geoff's best treat going! As a thank you for a donation of $25 we'll send you a pound of Fresh Popcorn drizzled with Belgian Milk Chocolate! A limited edition poem broadside by Geoffrey Gatza will accompany each order! This is a delicious way to help out a wonderful press! The sooner you donate the sooner you get eating!!!

This includes shipping to anywhere in the Continental U.S. (But if you cannot live without a box and you are in the Andes, please do email and we'll work something out!)

$100 TEN Collections
10 books for $100

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chronic need for sleep thwarts blogger's blogging

Owing as last night this blogger ("yours truly") slept not enough and furthermore owing as this very night is the occasion for said yours truly to catch up (as if) (see: Xeno's Paradox) because tomorrow is another day (talk about chronic, jeeze, if it isn't Monday, it's Tuesday, if it isn't Thursday (which it is but whatever) it's Friday (which it will be, like that impresses anyone).

Or, it is what it is. That's my philosophy and I'd put it in a nutshell if I were a carpenter.

So I am not blogging more as of this moment herein right now though not to be believed in perpetuity merely in the moment. But let it be known throughout the land by all of my many fan, that I herein live up to my promise that I (yours truly) am blogging every day in June (thank God for 30 days). (Next time I so declare it'll be February.) (Did I mention the chicken in every pot?)

Night'all. Night'll. Knightel. Sarah "yours truly" Sarah

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Omen: The antifeminist fathers the Antichrist

With what passes for benevolent husbanding Gregory Peck (Ambassador Robert Thorn) decides in the beginning of The Omen to hide the truth (as he knows it) from Lee Remick (Ambassador's Wife, Katherine Thorn). Their son didn't survive childbirth. The baby handed to her isn't hers.

Granted, without deception and bad decisions, horror movies don't get off the ground. Still the idea that father knows best, that (the former) Atticus Finch, for godsakes, is willing to fake out his wife because he believes it's for her own good (that phrase), is business-as-usual in this movie classic, as if Lee Remick were being served rice pudding instead of jello, well, it sticks in my girlish gaw.

The movie came out in 1976 when feminism (whichever wave) as a concept was no longer novel, though the struggle was still raw.

Peck's decision to lie may seem less strange because they are in Italy, not America. I wonder if that's why director Richard Donner or screenwriter David Seltzer chose Rome, because of its direct link to "mysteries." Obviously near the Vatican is a good place for the Antichrist to hang out.

I stray. And while I'm here let me commend Jerry Goldsmith for an Oscar-worthy score. That chanting: Sanguis bibimus, corpus edimus, tolle corpus Satani (We drink the blood, we eat the flesh, raise the body of Satan) [tra la] and Ave Satani! Ave Versus Christus (Hail, Satan! Hail, Antichrist!) [yo ho].

Back my point. Peck didn't believe his wife could handle the truth, when in fact she couldn't handle the lie. Nor could he; a photographer; at least one priest; the "this is for you, Damien" nanny; and a few assorted others (not to mention prospective victims, to wit, everyone in Christendom and onward).

It's a sweet idea, that women are innately sensitive in various degrees. That our lives best be determined by the men. (Hey, I just turned my head and there on a shelf is: On Lies, Secrets, and Silence by Adrienne Rich.)

The conflict that male caretakers like the Gregory Peck character have is within: They are as afraid of the truth as the women they purport to protect. I wonder what the construct would be today. Would Peck and Remick be replaced by a Santa Barbara couple who adopt an infant they think is a Romanian orphan born in an Italian refugee camp (plausible). I don't see why the far right doesn't finance a version in which the Antichrist is raised by a lesbian or gay couple using surrogates. Or maybe the Antichrist could be Chinese and adopted by a single mom.

While it makes sense that the living opponent to "love thy neighbor" manipulates, it doesn't make sense when husbands do the same, easy breezy, in a plot premise.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Poem: Microscopia (the reasonably unpublished)

It is easy puzzle over editorial choices, why one poem and not another gets accepted. The following poem, however, has never been submitted to any journal, and I feel okay about that. While I take dibs on coining "greasium" (and I sense posterity will vindicate my claim), I take nary a dib on being the first to poeticize Van Leeuwenhoek, because I can't imagine that to be the case. He invented the crochet needle, after all. I'M KIDDING. He was the father of microscopy owing as he made slick choices in fashioning a microscope, which, considering the Dutchman's early business as a fabric merchant (I'M NOT KIDDING), is especially impressive. See the link at bottom.

Miscellanea: "I'm Not a Waitress" is indeed a cool and flashy shade of red nail polish; Opi. Was everyone as thrilled to learn of cilia as I was, in early years? Cilia. I wish it meant more than it does (the silk cilia of her scarf tantalized all the women in the bar) but am happy it's around.


I am a paramecium
who slops on gobs
of greasium

So my cilia don’t
dangle or get into
a tangle.

I moisturize
my cuticles
to make them look
more beautifuls

And paint
“I’m Not a Waitress”
on my fingertips.
good gracious.

Van Leeuwenhoek
discovered me,
through primitive

But never brought me
candy, or told me,
“You look dandy.”

...Sarah Sarai, Herself
On Van Leeuwenhoek:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Poem: So Implausible

Some of my dreams are driving dreams, along roads, winding or switchbacks. I did drive the Oregon highway. That was fifteen or so years ago, and it was spectacular. The "you" here is Seattle friend, and of course me. I dreamed "you." This is a dream poem and real. I was born in a speakeasy (former) on Long Island, where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dr. Eckleburg loomed, though not, for me, until years after I left (at age eight).

So Implausible

I rode north on the Oregon highway
last night, to clapboard, yellow like
Dr. Eckleburg’s frames in the valley of ashes
off the Long Island Sound.
Got showed around but couldn’t fathom
the kind breeders’ address for a thank-you,

forgot and found lodging, then
curly roads fog-lit a cavernous basement
deep with nameless and chatty extras.
It was a road trip for two but I left and
motored toward home, figured you’d

be okay, didn’t really care, would live on
without me, as if mere endurance
were the point. For once I got real and through
waters of ice pushed to you (you

you you you), drop dead gorgeous
and fat. I returned to the speakeasy (which
I was born in on the Long Island Sound).
The displaced Oregon duo gave me a mixmaster
with a broken bowl.
Too polite to decline, I used it for eggs

in the part of the dream where a dog jumpstarts
my comely life (please refuse to think of me
otherwise) so implausible to so many.

Sarah Sarai, pub. in Ghoti

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Make it New" is tough enough; being open to the new is a whole other challenge

The publishing industry has changed since I moved to New York. I managed, with near-tragic timing, to hit the city coincident with a great downslide, when mid-list authors were dumped without fanfare. It made for hard times and grim prospects. One writer I knew back in Seattle, who had several novels out, quit altogether and devoted himself to reviewing. This was around 1995, 1996, 1997.

A teacher at my grad. school was offered a chance to publish her second book, direct-to-paper. No high-priced hardback, just a nice, soft cover. She asked me, in a manner that was more telling than asking, "I'm too good for this, aren't I?"

I wanted to shout, "No! Take the deal" but didn't say a word. She passed on the deal. Her second book has yet to be published, and this is over ten years later.

I have to remind myself to be flexible. When online literary journals started appearing, I was sceptical and resisted submitting to them. Print was queen. Every writer wanted to be in print. I was not atypical of my generation, which is, ahem, older.

But I changed my mind as I realized that a poem or story got a sort of, if not infinite exposure, then infinite possibility of exposure online. Every time I think something isn't for me, I remind myself to start questioning my reservation and explore the possibilities that a fair wind is a blowin'.

Oh, by the way. Ezra Pound suggested we Make it new. His suggestion continues to haunt writers and artists. That kind of haunting, old time though it may be, is good.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Into the lap of the adamant," where Emily Dickinson would lead us

This one's for Andrew, in Vermont, which out New Englands much of New England, being as northern as a state can be without changing its name to Alaska.

Okay. With Dickinson, with most poets, the "place" can always be the soul, and yes, we do strive, each of us, to appreciate, love, nature's analogs of joy--the sheer amazement of a flower simple as a daisy, let alone the rest of the garden, can serve as interior states of being.

The gardener Dickinson also loved the garden. So no analog is necessary, though we can identify with Summer taking delight in her daisies, and being subsumed by things Wintry.

What is delightful here is the idea of Summer, so notoriously lazy, as striving, in this case to overcome Winter's frost. Also delightful, Summer's inventories. Let's see, Summer thinks in January. Where'd I put those daisies; well, I guess they are lost.

And then in May (or whenever), the lost is found, the daisies can be checked off the list. Summer must be careful as a Virgo, or, more likely, home-centered as a Cancer. But oh, weak-willed Summer gives into the winds stirring things up. Dickinson is okay with that, and if she is, so am I.

Now frost is dew quickening to quartz. Lovely. "Quartz -- upon her Amber
shoe." I'm not sure, except that amber is like frost or ice in its attribute of encasing branches and twigs--anything available, and its sunny-ness implicates Summer Sun. In other words, the warmth of summer is caught by Winter, as if in amber, as the South Wind hums her sweet refrains.

Look it. I have decided to blog every single day in June. I left this until late, which isn't to say I don't stand by what I write, but that I recognize it's incomplete. Nonetheless, it's fun to write literary criticism-to-appreciation directly in a blog. Thank you for reading this. Dang, I see I'm a few minutes past deadline. Well....

I know a place where Summer strives
With such a practised Frost --
She -- each year -- leads her Daisies back --
Recording briefly -- "Lost" --

But when the South Wind stirs the Pools
And struggles in the lanes --
Her Heart misgives Her, for Her Vow --
And she pours soft Refrains

Into the lap of Adamant --
And spices -- and the Dew --
That stiffens quietly to Quartz --
Upon her Amber Shoe --


Thursday, June 3, 2010

*Next* by James Hynes; he's a wonderful writer but I'm waiting for his next

When I heard James Hynes had a new book coming out I become as excited as when I'd heard a movie of Lord of the Rings was in the works. Very.

I am a fan of Hynes' The Lecturer's Tale, Publish and Perish and Kings of Infinite Space, three contemporary works of fiction that live in the space between pop and literature--a good place. Hynes' first book, a mystery of sorts set in Ireland, The Wild Colonial Boy, lost me after a few chapters. I'm being honest here.

My fickle heart was won in the beginning of Next (Little Brown and Co.), before being lost. The narrator, Kevin, is on a plane from Ann Arbor to Austin for a job interview. With a wink at Joyce's Ulysses, the book is stream-of-Kevin's-consciousness, from take-off to its ending about six hours later.

Thoughts stream into a former co-worker named McNulty from a record store in the late 70s. McNulty was an old-style doper-philosopher-slacker, working in a shop where a customer could go to a listening booth to hear five versions of a Shostakovich symphony (or the B-52s). Oh, I remember those stores. The McNulty/listening booths, fine with details, won me. Who knows where McNulty is these days--Kevin doesn't, though those memories are rich with humor.

And what happened to all the small bookstores, cafes, records stores which those of us who can remember the 70s miss? Well, we all know what happened. Big chain stores.

Part of Kevin's stream-of-consciousness is a lament for what's lost as in crushed by industry, and what is lost in our sense of safety, crushed by violent industry of airplanes flying into buildings and suicide bombers on trains.

However. Most of Kevin's thoughts center on his women. On the ones who got away and the one he is thinking of leaving. I guess Kevin is a healthy American boy, a 50-year old who is unmarried. His thinking take cracks at the cultural literacy of some of his women, which shows Kevin making wrong choices, his contempt, and is also (I am taking the high road), a shot at the country's continued loss of cultural literacy.

Mostly he thinks about his women's flat stomachs, the size of their calves, the tautness of their arms, their sexual charms. Yes, I am told in countless articles and books that men think mostly about sex. True, not true, Kevin is living testament to that theory. Other than McNulty, he has no particular memory of much besides sex and his women. The obligatory family memory (well told, convincing--Hynes is a good writer), but that's it. Regarding a fellow passenger he follows after they land in Austin:

"She's dwindled in the sunlight from a flesh-and-blood girl, with muscles gliding beneath her skin, her apple tattoo winking over her jeans, to an incorporeal, impressionist squiggle that means Girl, a couple of charcoal lines narrow in the middle and wise at the hips."

Nicely done but after twenty references to her tattoo and hips, well, my interest waned. Actually, I was insulted and bored.

I think about living within a star for eternity, per a passage from Spinoza; of course now about the Gulf; the Freedom Flotilla; unemployment; sex; nieces and nephew; the competitive world of poetry. Kevin thinks about sex and romance. Maybe this is chick lit for men.

By the time I reached page 175 I gave myself permission to skip thirty or so pages to get to the final thirty or so pages. This finale is convincing and much foreshadowed.

James Hynes is a wonderful writer. Next is skillful in many ways but it is not his best book or a book I recommend except to younger men. Hynes' fiction thrives on slightly loser characters encountering the bizarre; no matter how well-drawn or real Kevin is, he is not interesting enough to keep my attention and respect for the entire book.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Emily Dickinson Writes my Blog


WATER is taught by thirst;
Land, by the oceans passed;
Transport, by throe;
Peace, by its battles told;
Love, by memorial mould;
Birds, by the snow.

I copied the above Emily Dickinson poem from May fire consume me as I write these words but if this were the only poem of hers I'd ever encountered I'd say she was too reductionst. Surely there are more luxurious ways to learn than by opposition. But for six lines, I say she travelled far and did so elegantly and in style. In her brevity lie genius and compassion.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Poem: From the Dome of the Willing Firmament

I was noodling around and discovered a broken link to a poem I'd forgotten I'd written (FRiGG, 2005, link below). It was an exciting discovery, like reconnecting with an old friend or finding a sweet, cold, ripe mango I hadn't remembered was in the refrigerator. This poem took forever to write and now I see it is still too wordy in places, but so rich. I might mine it for new work. The initial impulse stems from outrage at how faculty was treated at one of those private commercial colleges advertised on the subway, this during negotiations for better pay; memories of previous jobs; experience of divinity. [Stanza vi.'s layout is spacier in the original, available at the link provided following the poem.] Thanks for reading this.

From the Dome of the Willing Firmament

I work for a college owned by a corp. repped
by NASDAQ. Look at me, Lord, I’m on
the Big Board. Compare with tedium editorial,
typographical, secretarial and it’s good.
Tried working phones ten bucks an hour,
the Woolworth Bldg., October 2001.
Pain chilled air invisible. Saw through folk
walking to skeletal fear. Grief-in-the-bone.
So now that familiar Miss, Miss? Prof?
(what’s her name?) Sarai? is snug, the work
of teaching, service—subject-verb agreement
a peace accord mellifluous as the melancholic
titterwoo of Shelley’s hailed blithe spirit.

O Visitation Friend, sweet whisperer who
blessed me, 4/99 (for example). Your presence
the anointed cubicle 5 Penn Plaza. I proofed
hard copy and CDs in Marketing, used 15 mins.
a morning to write You on post-its in a spiral book.
On stickies’ colored heat I copied meanings: “surrender”
“humility” while my life played the open-ended
help-prayer like a tape looped for companionship
on a long drive. Like a Carver character, I knew
things could get better: a premise to tickle, move.
You to descend a thousand glowing luminarias
from the dome of the willing firmament.

(This corp.’s stocks soar
on waxy wings.) Tuesday we faculty vote re:
going union. The admin.’s tried
persuasion, promises and $1 million
in spin and advisement. Ferrety guys (made
men) are on-site and menacing
faculty kneecaps.

I could enumerate other times,
like when I saw eternity in
the air space, but about that
later. About me now like wet
wool on a rank day are greed
stupidity and your sportive
free will and variance of critical
thinking capabilities. What,
My Furnacey Beloved, was
the plan? We went union
(by the way).

(It is possible.) (Things can get better.)

As for eternity
which I saw
in the airspace
outside the window: green
very small complete
like an Indian
of two people
in complex embrace.

Sarah Sarai, FRiGG Magazine 2005