Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Open Books: my alma mater

I was living a few blocks from Seattle's  Open Books: a poem emporium when I started writing poetry. Owners Christine Deavel and John Marshall hadn't yet made the move to stocking only poetry, but shelves devoted to poetry easily outvoted the rest of the stock. Worked for me.

By the time the store moved a bit down the way, the Deavel-Marshall team went all out: poetry and its handmaidens only.

Grand to know the bookstore's thrived; grand to learn tastes and interests, if one is educable, can be further educated under the tutelage--the personal shoppingness--of its owners, both graduates of Iowa's Writers' Workshop. If you are set in your ways, no problem. The books are there.

I learned to distinguish between reading for...pleasure/out of interest/to keep up and reading poetry to learn how to write (this may be Sarah-specific--I don't mean to hold John & Christy to conversations that took place fifteen years ago). I also got necessary feedback on my first poem to be published, First Appearance of the Angel Evelyn.

Deavel and Marshall are both poets. John (John W. Marshall) won the Oberlin College Press FIELD Poetry Prize a few years ago with his wonderful collection, Meaning a Cloud

Click on the bookstore name in the first paragraph for address, hours, mail order info, readings and events.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rossellini & the Bird Whisperer

Criterion Collection released a new edition, remastered and revived, of Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis. When I saw it at the library I grabbed it.
While the film is less magnificent than Open City or Il Messia, it is crisp, visually elegant, distinct, simple, making use of the richness in contrast and drama of black and white; an intended giving over to and joining with the impossible revolution Francis instigated. Something critics may have missed in their annoyance with the first half hour.

Even with cultural differences of era and gender, I must say, Claire and her band seem stilted, but what's new.

Included with the DVD is a chapbook of several essays about the film and an interview with Rossellini, in which he discusses how he came to make the movie. In part:

When I made Paisan a unit of the American Army gave me some help to make it. I got three German prisoners of war to play the roles of the Germans. We were in a little town in southern Italy and there was a guard for the prisoners. The guard disappeared one day and, as those Germans were prisoners of war and they were very conscious of it, they wanted to be guarded by somebody. They asked for help in a little convent of Franciscan monks. So they slept and ate there, came to work on the film and went back to the convent. That is how I discovered the convent and the Franciscans. I was very moved by their innocence. It was magnificent. A very wise old monk, Brother Raffaele, who was a servant, not a real priest, said he was a poet. I asked him what kind of poetry he was doing. He said, "I wrote a poem about a rose." I asked him to tell it to me. He closed his eyes and lifted his face toward the sky and said, "Oh, Rose!" And that was the whole poem. How can you have a better poem than that? It was also a sign of tremendous humility. I became very close friends with a number of the Franciscans and I thought of making a film about St. Francis.

From "Interview with Roberto Rossellini" by Victoria Schultz. First published in Film Culture, no. 52, 1971.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Patricia Spears Jones: PAINKILLER; that blue napkin

Literature remains alive only if we set ourselves immeasurable goals, far beyond all hope of achievement. Italo Calvino*

I have a sampling of poems from Patricia Spears Jones' new collection, PAINKILLER (Tia Chucha Press), in my little hot hands which will heaten-up even more when the full collection's in them.

In advance of that, a word from Calvino (above), one of Jones' poems and Confessions #1 and #2.

Jones is a furnace: of clear-sighted appraisal, of love, of rage, of engagement with and holy belief in poetry. And that's what Italo Calvino asks us to be. Her poetic voice forensically aligns with her real-world voice; I can hear, mind's ear, Patricia speak the challenge of her lines as I read them; that signals good writing. The old rules reveal their stilted imperfection in the light of. . .when scrutinized by. . .these poems' greater truth and earned lamentation.

Which is what Calvino wants, a grand ambition borne of a grand pain, a sleight of hand that can work only when the artist is confident and has necessary intelligence.

Patricia Spears Jones is a friend, and, no, I don't post poets because they are friends. I post when a little spark burns my fingers and I must cool them by fast fanning movement on a keyboard.

My Confession (#1): I stole the napkin, Catullus' napkin. I was young, it was hand-made and the beautiful blue of cyanide, the orgy was too much for me, I sensed the {Roman} empire was going belly down  (or up) soon enough, and I wanted a souvenir before historians-of-power faked the crime scene. But (Confession #2) I snuck back in to the party and returned the napkin, quietly, subtly, Catullus wasn't looking, really. So it wasn't me who was the kill-joy of our world. You gotta believe me. As the Roman empire, the "civilized" sphere, stomped on conquered cultures to end Original Fun, so its second-hand but wild revel was messed with by some little sneak who, as poet Catullus wrote a long time ago, ruined the party, and keeps sneaking back into the fun, ruining it, even now.

What the First Cities were All About

Cylinder seal/lapis lazuli
Yes, all blue, all the time
beer drinking Mesopotamians
dancing to the music made on the bull-headed lyre

The best in time best in show
best to know that partying is ancient,
inexorable and A LOT OF FUN

But where is that bull-head liar?
With whom is he flirting?
And what is she wearing, breasts perfumed
gleaming curls, black eyes encircled by kohl?

And how did the pig become THE NEW BULL?
Or is he THE NEW DOG, canine, Roman,
that other world, not as old, but just as festive--
togas, pendants, wine and moon madness.

Where is Catullus’ napkin?
Was it blue?

Patricia Spears Jones, PAINKILLER, Tia Chuca Press. Click on title for purchase info.

*More on "Multiplicity" and Italo Calvino's challenge to artists at Italo Calvino: immeasureable goals; dare

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Poem Published: at MiPOEsias

scarlet elf cup {fungi}
My poem
"A Scarlet Moss"
has just been
published in
{Vol 24,
Issue 1}
a journal, under
the witchery of

You have options for receipt and
enjoyment of
explained and
upon thusly and so at
. {dot}
com and urls
listed below.

The issue is fully beautiful and convinces of the viability of pdfs as a delivery system for the written word. In addition to going to MiPOesias.com, various routes to this issue are along the following cyberways. I don't understand the difference between and among any but simply list them.


Print and iPAD available from: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/Issue/134923 

Also published in this issue include David Olimpio, Melissa McEwen, Ron Androla, David Krump, Fred Longworth, J.A. Tyler, Laura Sheahen, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Lara S. Williams, Laura Sheahen, Sam Rasnake, Samuel Peralta, Luc Simonic, John R. Cornwall, J. Michael Wahlgren, Sheila Murphy, J.P. Dancing Bear, Suzanna Frischkorn, Laura McCullough, Michael J. Martin, John Campbell, Jess Burnquist, Michael Milburn, Chris Pexa, Barbra Nightingale, Adam Field, Ken Taylor, Diana Adams.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: blueberries on the Frost

I've picked blueberries in a whimsical, oh, I'm in the country, let me be natural manner common to city dwellers. 
I also buy them frozen. The frozen blueberry can be eaten one-by-one like popcorn. I rarely eat a frozen blueberry in that manner, however. Instead I pour them over Greek yogurt.

It's like a chemical experiment, or so I imagine. It could be a chemical experiment, but chemistry was not my subject. If Lavoisier froze blueberries, bully for him. 

On contact with the berry the yogurt freezes up. Wait for the thaw then slightly mussh (not mush) the berries and the snowy yogurt.  The berries' sweetness will ooze.

The result is ersatz ice cream. It is also, a thing being equal to itself, as I often maintain in my bid to let everyone know I once read whoever that was, Euclid or Aristotle, I'm no longer sure, blueberries and yogurt.

Frozen blueberries.  Greek (or any plain) yogurt.  A bowl.  A spoon.  An open mouth and open heart.  Paradise.

To read Robert Frost's "Blueberries" in the full version click on the title. For an abbreviated, blog-size version I found the following on Poemhunter.com.  {Note: I now understand that sense of someone else having thought of it long before I did when I used "thumb" in "Six, Seven Strawberries." At least I steal from the greats.}

from "Blueberries"

Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe!
You ought to have seen!
Robert Frost

The illustration is by Garth Williams, of course. There's great one of his, well, they are all great, in The Golden Book of Elves and Fairies. A bear eating blueberries.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I love a guy born in Khabarovsk, USSR in 1941! Thanks, Sarah Palin

I thought it was just me. Who could I tell and not be scorned? 

Now, thanks to soon-to-be leader of the formerly free world, Sarah Palin, I can look each and every one of you in the eye and shout, I love a guy born in Khabarovsk, USSR in 1941!
You betcha. Kim Il Jong is ALL-MAN.

What gal doesn't find nuclear capability a turn on? None I know of!  He may be "Dear Leader" to the millions of North Koreans who cower in joy every time his name is shouted endlessly through a nationwide speaker system, but to me he's that shy maniac who won my heart with his mom's kim-chee recipe.

I know, I know. North Korea is always on the brink of famine. Tell me; how else can Kimmy's people fit into those stylish, "distressed" jammy-like slacks hoping to copy his "merciless dictator" look?

Whether he's tying lures at the Wonpyong Taehung Fishery Station, milking cows in a Cattle Farm in an undisclosed location or hammering out a shield to put Achilles' to shame at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex in Chongjin, north Hamgyong province he's a sensitive and caring megalomaniac, never too busy to issue a threat to some nasty western imperialist.

Today is all about giving thanks, so thanks to Trey Parker and South Park's Team America: World Police for showing us Jong's crazy, zany side. 

"We gotta stand with our North Korean allies!" Sarah Palin told Glenn Beck. Amen, sister! But keep yer hands offa Kim.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spinoza and Borges: Someone is building God in a dark cup

Today is Baruch Spinoza's birthday. Of Spinoza, Patrick Kurp in his blog Anecdotal Evidence wrote, "His thought seems inhumanly subtle and demanding, yet Spinoza is among the most humanly compelling, even lovable of great philosophers, excommunicated from the Portuguese-Jewish community of Amsterdam at the age of 23."

Jorge Luis Borges and Spinoza represent a destined pairing of imagination with capacity. Demand and reward. Here are two sonnets by Borges, both translated by Willis Barnstone.

Links to poems by me are at the end of this posting.* Benedictus de Spinoza, November 24, 1632 to February 21, 1677.  "No one / Is granted such prodigious love as he: /The love that has no hope of being loved." [Borges]

Baruch Spinoza

A haze of gold, the Occident lights up
The window. Now, the assiduous manuscript
Is waiting, weighed down with the infinite.
Someone is building God in a dark cup.
A man engenders God. He is a Jew
With saddened eyes and lemon-colored skin;
Time carries him the way a leaf, dropped in
A river, is borne off by waters to
Its end. No matter. The magician moved
Carves out his God with fine geometry;
From his disease, from nothing, he’s begun
To construct God, using the word. No one
Is granted such prodigious love as he:
The love that has no hope of being loved.

tr. by Willis Barnstone


Here in the twilight the translucent hands
Of the Jew polishing the crystal glass.
The dying afternoon is cold with bands
Of fear. Each day the afternoons all pass
The same. The hands and space of hyacinth
Paling in the confines of the ghetto walls
Barely exists for the quiet man who stalls
There, dreaming up a brilliant labyrinth.
Fame doesn’t trouble him (that reflection of
Dreams in the dream of another mirror), nor love,
The timid love women. Gone the bars,
He’s free, from metaphor and myth, to sit
Polishing a stubborn lens: the infinite
Map of the One who now is all His Stars.

tr. by Willis Barnstone

Two related My 3,000 Loving Arms posts:
Today No One Is Your Friend
Experiential Philosophy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Prose poemish: I was the flag on a certain mailbox

Yes . . . there are rumors I was left in the hollow of a tree stump near the crossbridge on the blue China platter my mother used on Flag Day to signal the Russians, who were then our enemies, that we were shining up the samovar for tea, would they come? I was the flag on a certain mailbox and much has been written in support of my being up, though it was conjectured the owner of the 'house' simply forgot to put me down. Up meant there was a letter for the postman to collect, something elegant in an envelope tinted Atlantic Ocean-blue. The letter's subtle and glib chattiness really meant, The submarines are ready, Nurse; or Dr. Eckleberg will see you now, 'Sir;' or Their eyes are watching too much television. I was rumored to divide my time between A and B but after careful calculation decided time wasn't divisible. Euclid didn't consider time that I know of and was satisfied with a Timex. He did suggest there were two points to a line and the line could be bisected. New lines will spring up in its place, I assure you, like flags on a mailbox. They will be vertical lines. I would imagine every line is parallel to some line somewhere, just as every human has a twin. Wasn't that common knowledge when I was in sixth grade? The sexual masochism of the male black widow is inspiring as a kamikaze. You know my heart but that's simply because you have X-ray vision, not because we've ever met (we haven't) or you're extra intuitive (you're not). I'm just a writer who must write every day. Today is November 23 and I've hit my mark. Phineas judged a playwriting competition; stage directions for a cat to hit three separate marks. Alas, that was the year Sophocles won. I always thought those competitions were fixed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cathie Black, major bosom action, keep her out of our schools

Catherine "Cathie" Black should not be Chancellor of New York City Schools. Bloomberg's previous Chancellor, Joel Klein, turned students into test-taking machines and bad ones at that.

I've read and heard many reasons why Black is an odd, unwise choice. She has no direct experience and hasn't exactly shown interest in schools. Here's one more reason, and in this one, I suspect I may be alone, a tired moralist in the city.

Yes, her experience is managerial. But what has she been managing? Cosmopolitan. Esquire. Country Living. Harper's Bazaar. Marie Claire. O, the Oprah Magazine. And others. So what's wrong with those. On the one hand, nothing. The magazines entertain. I was a slave to Seventeen in high school, so I understand the pull of fantasy and impossibility. "Average" people aren't that beautiful, skinny, witty, rich. Who wants to be average?

On the other hand, there's a soft-porn aspect to many of the above magazines that has bothered me, especially since I moved to New York City, a walker's city. Here I see magazine covers and ads for the magazines on street corners, at subway bodegas, Times Square and many inevitably show major bosom action. While I have no problem with major bosom action,

I have a problem when that's made so public that infants, three-year olds, teenage boys, over-sexed males (and females either over-sex or trying to please men) are constantly exposed to and/or stimulated by the, inevitably and with design, soft porn. Maybe I'm a prude but I don't want to see the blossoming crotches of male underwear models, little sacks of joy behind white cotton, also on street corners (and billboards).

And that's the kind of environment Cathie Black has been so skillfully managing. Is there any educative element to these magazines. Well of course. Ways to apply mascara and no-fail bedroom skills for him and her. But really. Those magazines are commercial ventures shilling for advertisers.

I don't want that woman or her $40,000 bracelet in charge of New York's kids. Well, maybe the bracelet is okay.

Italo Calvino: visbility, imagination, Balzac

Of Italo Calvino's six lectures (Six Memos for the Next Millennium, one of which I've previously written considered*), "Visibility" is the richest. He considers imagination, a writer's most essential and complex tool, in all six lectures but here he bears down on the image as spark, and looks ahead to our millennium, more image than substance (or so I say) and challenge the imagination with its bombardment of images.

Writing about Balzac he acknowledges the impossibility of fully transferring the image imagined to the page. . . Balzac rejected the literature of fantasy, which for him had meant art as the mystical knowledge of everything, and turned to the minute description of the world as it is, still convinced that he was expressing the secret of life.

Since Balzac is pioneer and master of realism, I assume he made a good choice. The fact that he made a choice is important and enviable. To choose he had to envision, however incompletely, his new direction. He had a vision of the way.

Earlier in this lecture, Calvino identifies imagination as springing from and connecting to Plato's forms, an ultimate perfection we're doomed (or lucky) to incompletely achieve. Art is, in a sense, the history of the effort to create the impossible, though artists like Balzac, Michelangelo, Sappho, Cassatt have made me wonder if some aren't lucky enough to have their hand guided by angels. Or if the hierarchy of angels guiding is evident in the final draft. Visibility is not the same as vision, however. Calvino challenges us to make visible as much of our vision as we're able.

So here's one of Calvino's definitions of imagination. I urge you to read the full lecture. This posting is an imperfect reproduction of a more perfect form.

The poet's mind, and at a few decisive moments the mind of the scientist, works according to a process of association of images that is the quickest way to link and to choose between the infinite forms of the possible and the impossible. The imagination is a kind of electronic machine that takes account of all possible combinations and chooses the ones that are appropriate to a particular purpose, or simply the most interesting, pleasing, or amusing.

Quotes from Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millennium,Vintage International, tr. Patrick Creagh.
*See previous posting Italo Calvino: immeasureable goals, dare.

Image from: http://www.printfection.com/twigadesign/Fractals/_s_13841

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Butterfly Effect of the Pope's Change of Heart: AIDS, Africa, the world, new hope, Thom Gunn poem

The Pope has finally condoned use of condoms (in "limited" circumstances).

That is both not enough and the most exciting, heartening, lifesaving news I've heard in a long time. How any institution could watch as women and children and men suffer--when that institution could save millions (what, at least twenty million deaths in Africa?) has been disturbing and it's hard to say how the west or the Church can ever make sufficient reparations. But this is a major, huge development. My heart feels anunciated, filled with golden light.

Meterologist Edward Lorenz's theory of a "Butterfly Effect," that small changes in atmospheric physics can have a momentous impact--popularized in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, an examination of how trends begin and spread--sure holds true today.

The Vatican's decision isn't so small. Its effect will be enormous. The fact that a conservative Pope reversed a policy is in itself a model of listening to the heart. We can't raise the dead but at least we can prevent more tragedy.

Here's a poem by Thom Gunn, a memory of friends who died. As I was searching online for relevant work I was unable to find poems by Africans although I'm sure there are many. By International AIDS Day, surely, I'll find some.

The Man with Night Sweats
 I wake up cold, I who
Prospered through dreams of heat
Wake to their residue,
Sweat, and a clinging sheet.
My flesh was its own shield:
Where it was gashed, it healed.

I grew as I explored
The body I could trust
Even while I adored
The risk that made robust,

A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.
I cannot but be sorry
The given shield was cracked,
My mind reduced to hurry,
My flesh reduced and wrecked.
I have to change the bed,
But catch myself instead

Stopped upright where I am
Hugging my body to me
As if to shield it from
The pains that will go through me,

As if hands were enough
To hold an avalanche off.
Thom Gunn, http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/109

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Whitman, All truths wait in things, a nomination

I'm a bit spent this morning. Yesterday was worry, furious disappointment and a sign. Between furious disappointment and a sign was the comfort of friends--warm, tired, Friday-night bodies; people who see life for what it is and accept (and can still laugh).

Was there really a sign? My analysis is overly ambitious. Italo Calvino urges writers to be overly ambitious in our work not our lives [see My 3,000's Italo Calvino: immeasureable goals].  So, to reword, there was a bit of niceness in that editors of Redheaded Stepchild nominated my poem "Like Wings" for a Pushcart Prize. The five other poets nominated by this review are Carly Sachs, Scott Owens, Tim Mayo, Marge Piercy and Carrie Cutler.

Pushcart editors get a great number of nominations--six from each literary review or press. The nomination is the honor. "What is less or more than a touch?" as Whitman writes.

From Song of Myself...

All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,
The insignificant is as big to me as any,
What is less or more than a touch?

Logic and sermons never convince,
The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.

Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
Only what denies it is so.

A minute and a drop of me settle my brain,
I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or a woman,
And a summit or flower there is the feeling they have for each other,
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it becomes
And until everyone shall delight us, and we them.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Friday, November 19, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: negative capability, Keats, pineapple popsicles

There's nothing that says Thanksgiving like a pineapple FrozFruit bar.  Okay, yes, I agree, I see it, there is a prickly elephant in the room. The elephant's name originally {1398} described reproductive organs of conifer trees. I would imagine creationists and tea partiers of the Middle Ages stormed castle walls at the mention of reproductive organs.

We have digressed. No doctor in the house but a pineapple in the room, a pineapple the size of an elephant. There will be blood. Whether pineapple is a gateway foodstuff for FrozFruit bars or we go the other way or there's no gate {we already know the way is narrow} pineapple is an afternoon delight. 

{The moral majority protests and the immoral majority is busy elsewhere, so let's get on with it.}

Pineapple FrozFruit are chunky and pineappley. Cold. Popsicley. A friend of mine also has opened his heart to FrozFruit bars though he prefers lime; so be it. He'll sneak out on his partner for FrozFruit; will take their dog for another walk so he can pit stop at a bodega for a Froz.

Street vendor'll sell you fresh pineapple on a stick, in a cup or juiced, but you already like fresh cherries and cherry Twizzlers. Further displays of negative capability, John Keats' way of describing our intellectual acrobatic skill, our emotional capacity to love fresh fruit and fruit qua product, are inevitable.

If Keats was "certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of Imagination," I suggest lowering expectations for your own certainty. Truth is a pineapple FrozFruit bar, and a pineapple FrozFruit bar is beauty. That's all I know.

Happy Thanksgiving or anti-Thanksgiving, my little sweet potatoes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

George Herbert: thundering at goddess and god

Disclaimer:  I often cringe when I come across protestations of faith which assume rightness.  Nonetheless belief, life, death, life after life, the sublime, life before life, have always been been hobbies of mine. When I mention them I talking about myself as much as when I write on Mr. Movie Snack or politics. To hide my great interest would be dishonest. Okay, I'm not telling "all" but one size doesn't fit "all" so who tells the greater lie?

Yes, my choice of illustration (left) is whimsical and not necessarily referential or logical but, I suggest, charming, well, more likely weird. And who doesn't like weird? A related [R.S. Thomas, also Anglican priest and poet who admired Herbert]: [R.S. Thomas: I have heard...] is here.

I have no problem with atheism, but do think it's a belief and that belief is belief, even in reverse; right? My overstatement sweeps all the toy soldiers off the table--just like that; it's not going to win any mock battle. I did try atheism for two years. I was nineteen; edging twenty-one when I recommenced belief.

It took years and years, however, for me to sweep Sarah Sarai's ego off the table so I could deepen my sense of the divine. But that's a different story.

Yesterday I discovered this wildly famous sonnet by George Herbert, Anglican minister and poet; knew John Donne. I had to have heard it quoted; probably read it; don't remember at all and am simply happy to have it called out. "Church" is just a word as is "mosque" as is "temple." The greater container for divinity and expression of gratitude, the latter being the only true prayer, is the beauty, is mystery. "Reversed thunder"? Back at ya, divinity.

What I don't believe in is my ability to indent. If "Prayer" doesn't have proper indentations, just click here==George Herbert's "Prayer"==to see a closer facsimile.


PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.

Source: Herbert, George. The Poetical Works of George Herbert. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1857. 61-62.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Italo Calvino: immeasureable goals; dare

*Invisible Cities* Stephen Nova, Melbourne
I'm thinking of discoveries I've made while standing on an old crate. I'm spying over a wooden fence into a private garden lush and inventive. It's impossible to remember each quiet invention hidden in every town or city I've strolled in, as it's impossible to remember every painting I've ever studied in museums or galleries.

To continue.  As much as I appreciate tidy rows of vibrant colors in the careful suburban garden, it is the small strange garden with sculpture and bloom in odd, compelling symbiosis which achieves an immortality of spirit. An originality.

I suspect that style of art is what Italo Calvino is calling out and calling for. He is challenging writers to originality by way of grand scheme.  In "Multiplicity," the last of his six Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard, he praises the overreach.

I am attentive to Calvino's challenge. The art, result, product may be eccentric rather than grand classic writing.  He doesn't say that, I do. "Grand" and "classic" signal brilliantly inventive writers, Dante, Rabelais, Joyce, writers signaling us to make it if not new, at least different. To try.  I have worried some of my poetry is eccentric but I suspect eccentricity is on the path to "overambitious."  I'm trying. At least I'm trying. Calvino died before he could deliver the six lectures.   

Overambitious projects may be objectionable in many fields, but not in literature. Literature remains alive only if we set ourselves immeasurable goals, far beyond all hope of achievement. Only if poets and writers set themselves tasks that no one else dares imagine will literature continue to have a function. Since science has begun to distrust general explanations and solutions that are not sectorial and specialized, the grand challenge for literature is to be capable of weaving together the various branches of knowledge, the various "codes," into a manifold and multifaceted vision of the world.

Italo Calvino, from "Multiplicity" in Six Memos for the Next Millennium (tr. Patrick Creagh; edited by Ester Calvino)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rae Armantrout: a Californian in the infidel east

"Trying to read a book by Rae Armantrout in a single sitting is like trying to drink a bowl of diamonds. What’s inside is all so shiny  & clear & even tiny that it appears perfectly do-able."  Silliman's blog, January 27, 2009

I saw Armantrout, 2010 Pulitzer-in-Poetry prizewinner, last night at KGB Bar in the East Village. In the flesh she's shiny and pert yet unpreposessing. Small, appropriately aged for a woman of sixty-three and--it does show, it does--Californian.

Californian? She is open. She can allow insurgencies from the infidel east to settle on her intellectual landmass because they serve as, ultimately, mulch, nutrient digested and made new and freer than their Puritanical origin could dream of if an origin could dream. Californian? Her poetry is loose and tight, smart, beautiful..

Okay, what do I know. Well, I know she's sexy. Introducing a poem, she showed us, finger in seductive curl, how she can summon the previously disinterested--now that she's a Pulitzer Prize winner. She has adapted new-found power to her interests. In this case a top physicist consented to lunch with her so she could harvest motion in space and time for a poem. Armantrout didn't master top-level physics in an hour, but she dug her game and the joy that comes from telling the story. 

Back to Silliman. "But the stones are so hard & their edges so chiseled that the instant you begin they’ll start to rip your insides apart." Making the reader feel is a power no prize bestow. It's innate, hard-earned and a power Rae Armantrout owns.


We love our cat
for her self
regard is assiduous
and bland,

for she sits in the small
patch of sun on our rug
and licks her claws
from all angles

and it is far
to "balanced reporting"

though, of course,
it is also
the very same thing.

Rae Armantrout, Next Life, Wesleyan University Press, 2007.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Pharmaceutical Sandbag Notwithstanding: I don't hate Norman Vincent Peale

The book that surprised me this morning in my search for a random quote was Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. I scorned it for years--as a book and a type of book. Given my knee-jerk classicism, affection for work of mouldering men mostly white and often colonial, and my inbred cynicism, my not hating Peale eight years ago shocked me. Sort of.

Sure, there is something innately cheery about me which might be a predicator for positivism, and yet I am a depressive. As I've written previously, I finally, late 2008, accepted the fact that I got me a case of lifetime blues, though what anyone means by depression varies, case to case. My troubles until end-of-my-days are mitigated by 100 mg of a pharmaceutical sandbag.

Peale was a Christian preacher and if you, reader, have a knee-jerk reaction against the New Testament or Bible in entirety, hey, I can't blame you. The good that's been done in the name of those books is quiet good. The bad that's been done is loud and known as "history." If you, reader, have, however an aversion to meditation or belief in any kind of power higher than yourself, a Creator, a goddess, I don't know what to say except, fine. I don't.

Yes, I wrote The Future Is Happy(my poetry collection, ahem). Read it and you'll (a) be transformed! and (b undertand my chipper-ness is hard won. I don't predict future happiness for the globe or the poor people on it. I merely use "happy" and "positive" as tools so I'm able to do what I can for the poor, hungry, abused, exploited, raped, used.

Also know I don't agree we can "positive think" our way out of illness. Sometimes you get lucky, sure. Mostly I want to run over with my imaginary, black, four-wheel SUV those who tell cancer patients and other among the physically distressed they can heal themselves. We can hurt ourselves and we can help ourselves. The degree to which we do either is not a function of will. Okay. Three quotes from Peale:

"By our speech we can also achieve quiet reactions. Talk peaceful to be peaceful."

"Fill your mind with all peaceful experiences possible then make planned and deliberate excursions to them in memory."

"Frequently I find that people who are lacking in inner peace are victims of a self-punishment mechanism."

That's enough. The stories he tells are not entirely useful but the spirit behind them isn't objectionable.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Praise for literary journals, craft, hard work, Fifth Wednesday, Alice George's 'Lysol'

Lysol advertising history is
bizarre with implications women
could use it as douche or
contraceptive. Ck. wikipedia. 
Literary journals are, individually, a surprise. An anthology of almost random work waiting discovery.

Since each "random work" is in truth selected, its seeming random quality is merely a perception of the reader, who most often well knows there is a God and that God is a poetry or fiction editor.

Moving without fanfare from third- to first-person, I, Sarah Sarai, take delight in roaming pages as if they were an easy or at least unfenced range, not knowing what I will find, feeling free to like, dislike, reconsider.

My peers, writers I'm published alongside in a journal whose God has blessed me by selecting my poem or story, can intimidate. Sometimes I'm nervous when I receive a contributor's copy in the mail (just talking print, here) and have to wait to investigate who has outshined me, revealed the meagerness of my craft.

When Vern Miller, publisher and editor of Fifth Wednesday, sent my contributor's copy over a year ago (Nina Corwin was God, a.k.a. Guest Poetry Editor) I didn't hesitate to read the issue. I can't tell you why I unselfconsciously dove in because I don't know.

I read for delight and also to be educated. To see how other writers resolve or work with issues that puzzle me. "Lysol" is a sweep of a poem, one long sentence, and that's what interests me in terms of craft--how does Alice George use conjunctions and prepositions (which in a one-sentence poem move things along), honestly. The ultimate answer is through rewrites and drafts. I don't know George, but I will stake my heart with a silver pen if that's not the case. The answer to most questions about writing is Work at it.

The poem makes the specific--a friend, conversation, emotion--universal. I feel I know the players. I feel. Words jump with tangential logic (. . .hers is deeply / unexpected [flood? basement? life? empty nest?] and out-of-control. . .).

Check out Alice George's poetry collection, This Must Be the Place. I don't know if she was aware of claims Lysol executives made early in the 1900s, but I read a woman's body in the poem before I knew of the history.


Exhausted as jerky my friend
leans her head into the bright

salad I've made and tells about
ER shifts back to back and then

demands to know what kind
of Lysol I use to clean my basement

after it floods because hers is deeply
unexpected and out-of-control

and before I tell her nothing
we use nothing it's rain simply

triumphant around our ankles
before I offer her crackers

and volunteer as case in point
our cracked cave down below

I study the marks on her the way
her youngest son's leaving

has left her streaked with mud
and tears and now she somehow

wrings her clever hands
of answer she is mourning

the departure of the water
she swam in and I will be

there in a few years and vow
to be just so completely wrecked.

Alice George, pub. in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Spring 2009, Issue 4.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: let's go to the Lowes or AMCs house for the holidays

This year Thanksgiving falls in November. Whatever. There is a rumor I will be sharing a meal with two relatives, though it was the younger relative who told me her mother was going to be on the east coast. Since I'm pretty darned sure no one I'm related to reads my blog I'm not poking or suggesting. Just telling you the news.

Sure I like a bird, stuffing, mashed potatoes--what's not to like; but what the Turkey Scrooge recommends this Foodstuff Friday is: Mr. Movie Snack. Theaters open early most places. Holiday movies are happy, glossy, tear-jerky.

Not to digress but have I told you about the Christmas Day my family saw Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers? I was eleven or twelve. "The pivotal scene in the film comes when Simone rapes Nadia in front of Rocco . . . " (copied and pasted from Answers.com).  Good times! If I knew available resources back then as youngsters do today, I would have reported my family to Children's Protective Services.  (Adult me recommends Visconti's The Damned, but not on Christmas, Thanksgiving or Mother's Day.)

Back to Mr. Movie Snack.  Such foodstuffs are easy to dress up with a buttery coating that shines like morning dew on Dow Chemical Corp. Who can pass up orange dye added to Elmer's glue glooped over nachos? I can, but apparently they're popular. 

Alice Waters followers might prefer a simple, unadorned box of Milk Duds.  Or combine the Thrill of the Sweet with the body's need for iron and roughage by choosing Raisenets.  We're hardwired to pass the box to members of our tribe, shake out a handful and offer a tribute to Mr. Movie Snack by messing up the already sticky floor.  

A suggestion for classicists is boxed--but now is available in a small tub!--bon bons.  Oh the feel of that exquisite crunch into a cold chocolate-like coating over vanilla-like ice cream-like substance.

I confess I no longer eat candy while at the movies though I could be tempted by famously unhealthy Mr. Movie Snack popcorn.  And keep this between me and you but I have no problem if you smuggle in candy. Times are hard and that stuff costs. A close "friend" has been known to smuggle in nuts, frozen yogurt and coffee.

Here's a list of poetry or lit-related movies to rent: http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/195 (in which case, all bets are off, snacking wise and on wise snacking). But nothing goes with Denzel Washington or Jennifer Lopez like a rise in blood sugar.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rita Dove: "Wiring Home" presents us with our beatification

Rita Dove beatifies us in "Wiring Home." Ambushed by canaries. We're in a breathless flurry. A thousand golden narcissi. We're Saul struck by heavenly light.
Every line calls to us. Wolf whistles, knees, the beggar (always with us). Our ordinariness is in its final turn made classic and beautiful.  Wordsworth's "crowd," "host" of golden daffodils is pastoral. Dove doesn't necessarily forego his remembered "bliss of solitude" but puts it upfront and shows us bliss, not as memory, but accessible and present.

Narcissus may be hung up on himself. Wordsworth (wonderful) may be hung up on reflection. Dove brings us to another level, not hung up, not reflecting. We're there.  Moving on from tabloid tales of "odyssey and heartbreak" offers street-level sanctification. We're sanctified.

Wiring Home
Lest the wolves loose their whistles
and shopkeepers inquire,
keep moving, though your knees flush
red as two chapped apples,
keep moving, head up,
past the beggar's cold cup,
past the kiosk's
trumpet tales of
odyssey and heartbreak-
until, turning a corner, you stand,
staring: ambushed
by a window of canaries
bright as a thousand
golden narcissi.

Rita Dove, first published in Mississippi Review.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poem: Like Wings ... topographical gestures

I got this off the web,
not from the film.
Summer before last I watched a series of experimental shorts in the community garden at Avenue B and 6th. The night was warm, the garden green and living; we sprawled comfortably.

Mindy Levokove, dancer, poet, experimental filmmaker, by way of computer, threaded images of her back. With help she spread sand on her body and slithered. Downloaded the film, messed with it, slowed motion.

Sitting in the dark grotto of a northeast jungle-garden, I saw desert, vertebrae; thought of topographical maps with their shadings; drew on the images for my poem "Like Wings" {just published in Redheaded Stepchild, edited by Malaika King Albrecht, Deborah Blakely, Deborah Blakely and Eric Helms}. 

Again, "Like Wings." Click.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Navel Gazing: mine, Brahms', the seventies'

I won't hold it against you if my navel disinterests. I work to avoid it here, though what is a blog but a navel gaze? The gazed-at is my twenty-something navel. The seventies.

I'm remembering myself, claiming myself. It's an awful word in this context, as if I were acreage or a mine. We claimed our power in the seventies. I wasn't thrilled with the nomenclature then, either. Trust me.

Don't know why my list below (and elsewhere) reflects only classical interests. Primacy of the colonial canon was something it took me a while to get past  (I've written about this). I loved and love rock, soul and r&b, a statement, which, however true (very), is intended, even after all these years, to let you know I'm not too smart or refined. Sad sad sad. Do we all have to frug to Lady Gaga, so beautiful and brainy; her music so unmemorable?

Well. Ta da & Co. Here are the first two pages of my tiny, warm green, leathery journal, 1975. Oh, young Sarah, bloom bloom!

Josef Albers - Interaction of Color
[next page]
Judee Sill [phone # and address]
Brahms Trio in E Flat for Horn, Violin & Piano, Op. 40
Schubert - Impromptus
Brahms Quintet in B Minor for Clarinet & String Quartet, Op. 115, the one I liked so much at SJC
Beethoven - Sonata(s) for Piano & Violin, especially, so far, #9
Brahms - Serenade in D, Op. 11

Friends of the family: Ethel, Gloria, Marilyn H.
That's it! Wasn't too painful, was it? Anti-climaxed?

By the way, I have no idea who Ethel, Gloria or Marilyn are. Judee Sill is Judee Sill (Lady-O; Jesus Was a Crossmaker; The Kiss); signed with Geffen Records; a friend of my next sister up; knew her since I was nine. After her auto accident I'd visit her in Hollywood and the hospital.

It's a good thing, to resurrect the old self, assert various of my passions. Thank you for your indulgence.

Monday, November 8, 2010

James Baldwin: identifying with their Savior

Not to make James Baldwin about me, but, well, I copied this James Baldwin quotation into my journal in 1975. I haven't held onto all of my journals. So many were filled with emotional tedium, important at the time to get out, but not worth saving.  

Never lost is my love of James Baldwin. By love I don't mean to trivialize. Baldwin's grace and skill--he's such a good writer--are bright and shining and have helped to make me human. I copied this into my journal, no doubt because my friends weren't in the temple.

Hypocrisies among the Big Three religions of the West are gruesomely obvious. Fear is base and rampant and as Baldwin says, "in the temple." The lies are institutional and fought well every day.

As a final note, however, "the temple" isn't always the institutions, which can do good. And hanging out only with publicans and sinners has its own limitations. I don't hold Baldwin, me or you to these two paragraphs, but focus on their portion of truth this morning.

But what Christians seem not to do is identify themselves with the man they call their Savior, who, after all, was a very disreputable person when he was alive and who was put to death by Rome, helped along by the Jews in power under Rome. And everybody forgets that.

And so in my case, in order to become a moral human being, whatever that may be, I have to hang out with publicans and sinners, whores and junkies, and stay out of the temple where they told us nothing but lies anyway.

James Baldwin, Rap on Race, 1971.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Exhortation from Ezra: describe describe

Photo has no particular connection to
Pound's ABC but I love it. Pound could be
the woman and the apparition Literature Past.

Ezra Pound's ABC of Reading is one of the first books on reading and writing (and teaching) I read. I am not fascinated by books about writing, probably to my loss. ABC might be more in line with my early eager consumption of opinionated essays--Nabokov's Lectures, for example--about literature. I'm not the person I was but who is and thank God for that, no explanation offered or necessary.

I read ABC in '73 knowing this or that about Pound's complex history. I cared, care, didn't, do.

Don't know that I remember much of De Maupassant. As for Flaubert, every word is chosen. I read Steegmuller's translation of his journals from Egypt first. {My disappointment with Bovary's sex scenes, when I was 13, is statistically invalid.} 
from ABC of Reading,
excerpt from Chapter 8


It is said that Flaubert taught De Maupassant to write. When De Maupassant returned from a walk Flaubert would ask him to describe someone, say a concierge whom they would both pass in their next walk, and to describe the person so that Flaubert would recognize, say, the concierge and not mistake her for some other concierge and not the one De Maupassant had described.

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading, New Directions, 1934. Paperback from 1960. My copy from 1973.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Marge Piercy Poem: the lowest will endure

Here's a poem from another book I bought back in the days (in this case of 1968). "Another" is a reference to previous postings. I've been visiting my bookcases, revisiting contemporary poets I read long before I wrote poetry.

The title poem, "Breaking Camp," offers a culmination of observation. "I belong to nothing but my work carried like a prayer rug on my back."

"Kneeling at the pipes" is apology and ode. You don't need my summation. Read.

Kneeling at the pipes

Princely cockroach, inheritor,
I used to stain the kitchen wall with your brothers,
flood you right down the basin.
I squashed you underfoot, making faces.
I repent.
I am relieved to hear somebody
will survive our noises.
Thoughtlessly I judged you dirty
while dropping poisons and freeways and bombs
on the melted landscape.
I want to bribe you
to memorize certain poems.
My generation too craves posterity.
Accept this dish of well aged meat.
In the warrens of our rotting cities
where those small eggs
round as Earth wait,
spread the Word.

Marge Piercy, Breaking Camp, Weselyan University Press

Friday, November 5, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: Seltzer — bubbly and mortal

Foodstuff Friday grabbed a last-minute opportunity to work today. Of necessity she will be brief and but mildly comprehensible.

The object of Foodstuff Friday’s affection this Foodstuff Friday is seltzer. For instance, not two minutes ago, Foodstuff Friday heard the satisfying click-whish as she opened a can of it. That seltzer water comes in cans is neither here nor there. It is seltzer, fun, an event, a tickle to the nose.

The afternoon of 9/11, as waves of office workers rolled northward from the Towers and Wall Street, we were reminded to pack in supplies. While I’ve yet to be stranded—by blackout or storm—without access to bodegas, beverages, grapefruit, snacks—considering what we saw on television we weren't taking a chance.

I was in shock as I roamed the grocery store aisles. What I ended up with—by choice and instinct—was apples, knäckebröd and seltzer.

Apples? Yum yum, sweet, cheap, filling, roughagey and famously anti-doctor.

Knäckebröd. Swedish crisp bread, aka hard-tack. I bought a classic round, like we had in my childhood. Sea captains stocked it to keep the crew fed during voyages to the British Isles where strength was needed to pillage and worse.

Seltzer? It’s water. It has bubbles, it’s fun. There’s an old New York association. Swedish is Ma. Old New York is Pa. One there was a seltzer industry with seltzer delivery. Its appeal was cross-ethnic, seltzer being an aid to digestion and safe drinking water in more iffy times.

That triad of apples, knäckebröd and seltzer represents my childhood. I am too young to have attended old burlesque halls or vaudeville theaters, but those audiences thrived on comics squirting seltzer into pants. The tradition carried into movies and t.v. Think of the Three Stooges, the Marx brothers, Lucille Ball.

There are Facts About Seltzer a person could learn but that person isn't Foodstuff Friday who knows only that there is a natural source, being springs at Niederselters, Germany, but the seltzer herein referenced is not a fancy European (of old) drink.  It synthetically produced with free carbon dioxide.

Sadly, tellingly, seltzer is, like me, like you, mortal. Like us it dies, its bubbly joy fading into the great flats of Lethe or Nepenthe.  I've read no reports of a carbonated Styx. Oh my dying seltzer, let me burp  you whilst you live!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Poem: To nonvoters: you are a push-up bra without underwire

I'm weirded out. There were 40 million less voters on Tuesday than in 2008. That's a lot of nonvoters. A lot of laziness. A lot of short-sighted thinking. A lot of disenfranchisement, which, when it comes to voting, I translate as entitlement. Oh, things haven't work according to my plan; I'm not voting. Obama did keep the war going and I find that unforgivable. But I still support him. And I vote.

I don't know how to speak to people who didn't vote because they were mad (the war, the economy)--that's like not eating because you're hungry. Less Blacks voted this time around than '08, while Hispanic voters tipped the balance to get a few Democratic candidates in or help them stay in office. Seniors, which I take as meaning anyone over 35 ha ha, came out in droves. Droves can transport as many as humvees.

I shall now write a poem not related to anything, which means it relates to the logic of the obstinate nonvoter. Here I go:

Poem Dedicated to the 40 Million Nonvoters

You are a push-up bra without underwire.
Like a shoplifter in an independent bookstore you steal my heart.
You are tax break for AIG. 
A golden parachute.

I've seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by PowerPoint.
You are slide 34.
You couldn't get a G.E.D. from the Electoral College.
The future will neither remember nor forget but when shiny aluminum is held to the sun
squint at your ignorance if you don't vote.

{. . . at your ignorance if you don't vote . . .}

Sarah Sarai. The above poem is available nowhere. For that I expect your thanks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Rethink Heaven: Roethke's "Heard in a Violent Ward"

In his essay "Heaven, Hell & Middle Earth" (on three of my poems),  Ed Go questions my choices in "Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary in Heaven." I have, essentially, created a Mad Hatter's Tea Party in the next realm.

Go makes a good point.  Do I really want to spend an awfully long time with these malcontents: Humbert Humbert, Nora (from A Doll's House), Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina, Medea, Jane Eyre. Even Holden Caufield. Holden Caufield?

With the exception of Jane Eyre, sensible and passionate and having, I assume, a keen interest in social issues, what was I thinking? Even my father, a prince among malcontents, was uncomfortable with Holden. (I made him read Catcher in the Rye.)

"He's always squeezing his pimples," my father said. We are a squeamish family.

Ed Go wants to hang out with Mina Harker, whose husband Jonathan introduced her to Count Dracula. That went well. Also Deety Carter from a Heinlein novel, Precious Jones, Lois Lane and Janey Smith, who I don't know. Go has a point. These characters are more in the Jane Eyre-vein, accomplished women who've overcome enough to offer sharp perspective and some laughs.

I wrote the poem over fifteen years ago when I imagined each character would now have (now, in the afterlife) a new vision. Or maybe I was starved for conversation. There were a lot of people in my life back then, but . . .

My Heaven was an endstop in amber and I anticipated entertainment? I'm not renegging, and, yes, it's parlor game-ish to decide who'll I want around me. Reading Theodore Roethke's "Heard in a Violent Ward" got me thinking about all this. Eternity with the poets. Hmmmm.

Heard in a Violent Ward

In heaven, too,
You'd be institutionalized.
But that's all right,—
If they let you eat and swear
With the likes of Blake,
And Christopher Smart,
And that sweet man, John Clare.

Theodore Roethke, The Far Field, 1964

"Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina in Heaven" is in The Future Is Happy. Click to get to Amazon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fiction: My story "Napoleon on the 'N' Page" is published in "ragazine" + N.Y.C. voting scandal

couch courtesy of ragazine.cc;
for all I know it belongs to editor and entrepreneur,
mike foldes (no flaneur he)
 The good news:  My story Napoleon on the 'N' Page

It's a good news/bad news posting.  The good news is that "Napoleon on the 'N' Page," a short story of mine, was just published by ragazine.cc

It's set in L.A.  I remember going to Taix on occasions and ordering "poulet in a wine sauce and a basket of sourdough rolls served with sweet butter squares so cold, they alone could have defeated Napoleon’s army on its famous retreat from a numbing Russian winter."

Vina is trying for the impossible--to create of list of her friends' flaws that will make it possible for her to understand romance.  The first paragraph:

Sprawled on a Salvation Army Thrift Store couch dusty enough to hide advancing troops, Vina turned to the ‘A’ page of her address book, Anne Adams, a late-in-life dyke with a cleavage like heavy gears rolling, four children and conservative relatives frowning down both aisles of forsaken vows. Her ex-husband avoided his children who reminded him he’d been left for a woman — although every so often he complained about his children being raised by a lesbian.

Click here to get to the story in ragazine.cc.
The bad news:  New York City Board of Elections Voting Debacle

The bad news is excruciating. New York's Board of Elections has managed to confuse and degrade the voting process.  It really could take a while to recover. This is New York City. Hello? Kind of wealthy and powerful and supposedly full of talent?  I don't mean to make this about my feelings, but I just voted and feel defeated.

I could barely read the ballot--and I haven't yet had to use large-size print books.  It's now a paper ballot we carry into a silly fake booth, then squint over. Yes, magnifying glasses were provided.

If there hadn't been so much hubbub about the problem I'd have missed the two ballot issues on the reverse side of the ballot. Not only hard-to-read, the ballot is unclear.

I almost didn't vote for governor (Cuomo) because I missed that box first-time out. Fortunately I double-checked my work. 

I then hand-carried my ballot to the next stage.  As people have been complaining was the case, my vote was exposed to crafty eyes. My destination was an expensive set of giant printer-like machines into which I fed the paper ballot. Anyone work in an office? Anyone known a printer to jam?

The process used to be one-step, at least for the fully abled.  The ballots were large, readable, and voting was completely private.  No more.  It's no easier now for voters who aren't fully abled, either.

As I cast my vote I chatted with another voter.  That didn't use to be possible and shouldn't be. We spoke of what people of color and women have had to go through, still go through, to vote--and now this.  Tomorrow I'm contacting the League of Women Voters. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Fools Day, All Saints Day, the Tarot

I didn't become a Tarot reader, though that was a plan. The plumb line between a fixed star and intention is often bisected by will or choice. Or by the fact I couldn't memorize the cards to my satisfaction.

And by the way, today is All Saints Day. That means there are over one thousand designated helpers today. For me, that's enough meaning.

All Saints? Good topic. I immediately wrote All Fools, thought: It's quite a compliment.  In the Tarot deck, the Fool is the first card.  She's numbered "0." Definitely an air sign, without much plan, she leads the conga line of Tarot's major arcana and also of the eccentric, intuitive, original.

Some decks reveal the twelve astrological signs are in or hovering near her knapsack. She packs light but has everything needed, all aspects of personality, emotions, possibility, probability, strength, pitfall. Or so I say. Many others, too.

I'm asking the Fool to help me find a way beyond my concerns about process of the emotions and how people react to life--in writing and in life, though, really, mostly in writing. I need something different as I continue writing fiction, or else I'll feel I'm recycling myself.

I hope I return to the Tarot.  This posting feels light, incomplete, inconclusive, like the fool starting out for who knows where.

The artwork is from http://www.artfulalf.com/ and is by Alicia Lee Farnsworth.