Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poem: In the Lord's Name + Woolworth's, notions, zippers, voyage

Isn't "In the Lord's Name" far too short to shoulder a backstory or the author's fond reminiscences -- where was Sarah Sarai when she wrote it? Perhaps she halted mid-hike (the Alps?) to jot in her alpine pad.

More likely Sarah Sarai was cozying up to Sirens on the Aegean, no, she's a domestic sort, it had to be in the states. She was kayaking about the islands of Hawaii? Nah.

Sarah Sarai was nowhere but her "sweat encrusted hellhole of an apartment" ("The Rebirth Live"). From which she now pastes a personal favorite because it speaks of Woolworth's. The closing of all Worthworth'ses and their many Notions Departments continues to drain her psyche (soul) (breath) and draws into question the existence of a Greater Intelligence.

In the Lord’s Name

The apple must fall up.
Earth’s the happening planet.
Someone’s got to take the hit.
The only fossil in this soldier’s world is
my mother-in-law, take her please please.
Add to my burial chamber every Woolworth’s clerk
to help me find a Teflon rose-colored 9-inch zipper.
We of the Americas are strong-personality serpents,
devouring squealing ocean liners for Sunday brunch.
Oh the textures!


_____________
by Sarah Sarai (surprise!). Published in The Future Is Happy (that's the Amazon link) (or visit the "The Future Is Happy" tab on this blog).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yet More on Perfectionism: meds & poems & fear

I remember my post here about Kristin Prevallet's [I, Afterlife].*  I was sleeping maybe two hours a night by Fall 2008, and searching the streets of Manhattan for one prescription for one antidepressant I knew would help. Of course I had no insurance.

The story had a happy ending with me getting the pills (outpatient), and accepting, finally, I had to stay on them, or similar. Between the meds and being laid off, more woolly baa-ing sheep have frolicked in my bedroom in the past two years than romped in my crib (of the variety harboring infants).

Enter perfectionism, Stage Right.  My past two or so postings, by me, showed me refusing to finish one novel and two novellas, my perfectionism being a manifestation of a fear (of not being perfect or "God's perfect child" as Barbara Wilson wrote in her memoir God's Perfect Child about her Christian Science childhood).

Back to the pills.  Now that I had them I where should I store them?   I've debated--since I my twenties--delivery systems to guarantee I took daily vitamins.  Why not buy a rectangular Monday-through-Sunday pill box available at my friendly pharmacy? I'd been studying them over the years but found one far too capacious for my puny intake; another just not cute enough or too plastic or the wrong color or colors.

The above debate ended a few months ago. On a Sunday morning I shook out seven antidepressants and slapped them on the dusty top of my cranky refrigerator, then ingested one. There were six left, each of which disappeared into my waiting mouth, one-at-a-time, Monday, Tuesday and so on through Saturday. The system is no fail and has helped to regularize my vitamin takeage.

When interviewed on Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg said:
I remember I was thinking, yesterday in fact, there was a time that I was absolutely astounded because Kerouac told me that in the future literature would consist of what people actually wrote rather than what they tried to deceive other people into thinking they wrote, when they revised it later on. [Ginsberg]
Of course Ginsberg is referring to our Utopian future in Shangri LaOn the Road was a ten-year edit.  Ginsberg's poetry wasn't "automatic."  I continue to write and print out, edit, input, print out, edit, rewrite, edit, print . . . my poems and stories. And of course there's me and my pills.

I know I'm not the shining light of the poetry world, fiction world, of pretty much any world. Maybe I'd have published more earlier if I were less fearful (because that is what perfectionism is, fear . . . of mistakes, scorn, dismissal...). 

Regardless of output which is no measure of quality, I'd have lived less fearfully if I was a bit more of a perfectionism conqueror. A less fearful life?

Who deserves anything less. 

*Click on the link to read Lovingarms's posting on Kristin Prevallet's [I, Afterlife]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Change the Game: Thomas Sayers Ellis tellin' it (new rules for poets, publishing, living)



The Vedic Trimurti
 So I got permission for this posting, this cut 'n paste of truth, of all that and the shining light of we don't have to buy into their rules. (My words, so far, my italics. If you know anything of Thomas Sayers Ellis, you understand I am staring in the face of stark relentless loving hipiocity, coooooooolnez, unplugged boppin' and I'm not up to the task but am taskin' anyway.) 

TSE posted these rules in the other order, you know, the countdown order. Hey, stand on your head and read and it'll all work out. Thing is, things gotta change.

Thing is, being angry is static. Change comes from movement.  The change here is in the publishing, poetry, fictionizing scene which need to be dragged on the dance floor and showed new moves. As Thomas Sayers Ellis says, believe all of it and nothing.


Change the Games Rules
as dictated by merciful angels of the great beyond which is here and now 
to
Thomas Sayers Ellis

Change the Game Rule #1. Poetry is unique. A book of poetry is not a novel, so please resist the current trend of making books of poetry about one subject, Series writing. A book-length poem is different but most (not all) Series depend heavily on fiction with line breaks, as well as the enemy of the line, the sentence, so get thee beneath the wreckage, Story, and be thee drowned.



Change the Game Rule #2. No former student of a judge of a literary contest will be eligible for the prize. Judges must either remove themselves or the manuscript. Young poets should practice integrity when acquiring blurbs, requesting them from writers who are new to their work. Say, "I cannot accept this prize because the judge was my teacher." Interrupt the lit-inbreeding, the first step toward verse diversity!


Change the Game Rule #3. I am not telling writers what to write but I am telling them to write Now, about Today, to engage Society, all of the designs of Nature. We take too long, crafting our cries for permanence when nothing is meant to last. We've allowed the immediacy of ignorance to out advertise us and advertiser...s to out cinema us. Cinema owes poetry. Our lines don't have enough current mouths in them.


Change the Game Rule #4. Susan Sontag told me, "There are Only Two Places to Publish Poetry, the New Yorker and the Paris Review." O, the Traceable Hierarchy of Literary Publishing and the Predictable Schema of Most Rewarded Work: Witness, Experience, Simile, Fade-out with a Metaphor. How to Land at FSG, Get Noticed by... Knopf? Don't Start, Be Already Started, Pre-Page, in the Hand, in the Approach, in the Worry.


Change the Game Rule #5. Choose to Continue Language and Culture not to Leave it as You Have Inherited it. Every Time Writing Tries to Write You, Re-write It or Revise You. This Also Applies to Lines and Stanzas which are Governed by Breathing More so than Music or Meaning. I Take that Back. Music plus Meaning are Flowers in the pot of Dirt Known as Breathing!


Change the Game Rule #6. The Workshop Model Must Become Mobile. Time for the Literary Socratic Table to Spin. The (Living) Creative Process not the (Dead) Poem Must be Present. Time to Back to the Future to Iowa 1936 and add some moonwalking. The Workshop Model is Broke and Does Not Serve Wholeness.


Change the Game Rule #7. Share Your Resources. Journals and Anthologies Need Writers More than Writers Need Them. For Black Writers this Means Share Your White Folks. For White Folks this Means Syllabi More Black Writers. An Editor is not A Tastemaker––the Writing Is!


Change the Game Rule #8. Younger Writers With One, Two, Three Books (Flavors of the Month), Write Notes to the Editors Who Love You Suggesting That They Also Publish the Writers Who Have Made A Path for You. Too Often (As a Short-sighted Control Move), Older Editors Will Replace the Cultural Foundation with Young Writers Who are Simply Reinventing the 'Fro-Wheel. Beware, Inkslingers, of Such Advancement-Standstill.


Change the Game Rule #9: Don't Publish for Publication's Sake. Only Send to Journals You Really Like. A Table of Contents is a Community, A Conversation. If You Can't Find A Decent Place for Exchange or to Change the Exchange, Start Your Own. Don't Over Publish Or You Will End Up Like...


Change the Game Rule #10: Let the work Network.

I'm Writing Faster (Redux): Release perfectionism

Grow a pair [of patron saints or spirit guides or good flesh & blood critics or muses or . . .].
To follow up on my posting of Saturday (I'm Writing Faster: The Force That Won't Take No for an Answer), my epic outburst  --epic for Sarah Sarai-- of fiction began when I let go.

I had decided to add my two novellas to my short story line-up and so hadr to complete the two novellas, both of which had been hanging around for years because I was unconvinced they were ready to go into the world. Thank all creatures of Heaven I didn't have children! They'd be forty years-old and living on cots in my kitchen!

Who ever knows. Maybe the novellas are still unready, or never will be but each made a good case for its adulthood and maturity. I pushed myself to make decisions about characters and situations and folded the novellas into story collections; each  (A Vote for Ross Perot and From the One Side of Heaven) is the finale of its own (titular) story collection (which I submit when there is opportunity).

Please understand. My reason for writing today's posting is to encourage you: Let go of perfectionism. Grow a pair [of patron saints or spirit guides or good flesh & blood critics or muses or . . .]. Yes, I was working on a novel, those novellas and touching up this or that story, but fact is I generated only a few new stories in the past ten or so years. Yes, I wrote poetry, and as some of you will understand, Poetry Saves Lives. The Future Is Happy (see Tab on this blog). Still.

My hope is to step up the encouragement and advice here. To help. To be of service. My list of complaints about the poetry world, the literary world, academia, politics, institutions and Times Square at rush hour defines endless and eternal.  So what.

Please feel free to backchannel or post a question about writing.  I'm not able to fully change my cranky nature; even so I can help you.

Keep writing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm Writing Faster: The Force That Won't Take No for an Answer

If you are reading this, I will have found it.  An image of the speed of light, the illustration, however quirky, of my writing faster.

I may have mentioned this before, but it hasn't stopped. If my experience can get anyone out of writing doldrums I'm willing to repeat myself. Fiction, is what this pertains to, short stories.  In the past I had trouble ending fiction. I struggled to for the "perfect" solution so "the end" was earned. I was pretty insecure, too.

Sometime in a late-winter haze I read Maxine Chernoff's Some of Her Friends That Year: New & Selected Stories (Coffee House Press).  (Which is back on library shelves so I can't be more specific; it's not, however, the specificity of naming any one story but the aha that matters here.)

I remember being upset with her.  She ended that story too soon. (I said to myself).  And it works! (I added.)  And so I realized I could leave my stories "open" in the way a poem is left "open."  Leave them wanting more. Or maybe I was simply ready to realize.

This year I've written five (5) new short stories and started the sixth yesterday.  The first five are "go's." They work, although are not finished.  This year line-ups of authors' names have returned come to me from my vigorous and loving reading qua devouring books in my teens and twenties:  John Cheever, Isaac Singer, Flannery O'Connor, F. Scott Fitzgeral, Isaac Babel, Peter Taylor; many others but all from, say, twenty and thirty years ago.  I can't know their exact influence but I know they are my foundation. 

The End.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Poet in New York: more of my complaints

If a poet isn't famous is she simply shouting into the nameless void? I overheard similar, recently, and herein respond, with a little vegeance, I admit.

First of all, the void isn't nameless. Its name is Nameless Void. Its New Yorker and various catalog subscriptions are mailed to Nameless Void, Void, Nameless NL 00000.

Second, stop insulting me! My mission as a poet is to shout into the nameless void, into the howling light and darkness. Believe it or not (oh go ahead and believe), the void is my intended audience, my special reader. I'm a birthright outsider; I never had access to dreams of universal love and a presence on the best seller list. I would suggest that when two of my professors at my graduate school told me to my face, "I'm not paid to talk to you," I was officially recertified as outsider.

I love the void because it is populated by the individual, not the self-imagined hip groupee (which is different from groupie). Only individuals are allowed me.

By way of example, I attended a reading at a major poetry institution last year, introduced myself to the director, presented her with my book, and asked he/she consider me for one of their many readings. That was around 10 p.m.

The next morning she/he emailed me s/he'd passed my book onto the lesser coordinator who I then emailed. S/He never responded. When I (mildly I thought) complained, they was appalled and stayed appalled. I went to support the director at one of her readings (I was over the whole incident) she virtually took a step back. I tried to shake her hand and she gave me a limp fish.

She didn't read my book overnight. She simply passed it on. What kind of lives do people like her live, that one complaint makes them so upset?  Jeeze, I come from the land of alcoholic fights, over forty years of resultant poor health, a mother who choose a thirty-year love affair (by way of Christian Science) with cancer, undiagnosed depressions and more.  One freaking little insult. Come on, mama.

She also passed on her version of my untidy unwillingness to be overlooked to one of her friends, who, on hearing me read realized I was good. A week later I ran into the coordinator who looked at me in a whole new way.

I'm frustrated; I am not looking for friendship. I am looking for venues to read. I am looking for my people, in the void, willing to be in the presence of an outsider.

(The image: yes, I want to touch the void and you in it.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fiction: Aren't They Wonderful? Don't They Feel Good?

Aren't They Wonderful? was the first of my stories to be published (1987). I think it's beautiful but I got nothing but grief from friends (I didn't have writing pals at the time) who found it dark. I understood--I've never wrote a story quite like this since--but also wondered if their insight, vision and understanding weren't limited. Not to mention empathy. You tell me.



. . . a band of angels, their small quivering wings rustling a whole new sound, jubilant and sane, singing music as spherical as a chant, lifted Sophie . . .


Aren't They Wonderful? Don't They Feel Good?

*

Sophie has something to say about strength but she weakens each time she writes the word. She thinks of past love.

*
An entry in her journal:

A sniff of light
a shimmer heard
behold a bolt
next savored sheen
palpable irradiation: illumination

And she’s satisfied life is good: hasn’t she written a poem? Then she looks. For something. To break. Knows she can’t do it. Bangs drawers. Cabinets. Looks for something to kick. Her foot busts space. She sees herself. Stops. There is no end. Tomorrow is coming. Now she’ll sleep.

*

Once Sophie and her mother Jane had been shopping. They’d been at it for a while; tension was clawing at their nerves. They were in a basement downtown, in a huge store, old and dark with smells. Sophie, 17, was not happy. Jane, 43, was not happy.

‘Please buy this dress,’ Jane pleaded.

‘It’s ugly,’ Sophie said.

‘You look fine.’

‘I don’t want to look like this.’

‘Please.’ Jane suddenly dropped to her knees, looking as stylized as a madonna. ‘Please,’ pleading, ‘I’m begging you. I’m on my knees.’

Sophie became a frozen shrine.

They bought the dress or they didn’t. When Sophie thought back to the dressing room, she only remembered the dress was green. She only remembered her mother.

The bus ride home was an extension of the dressing room frieze and a relief for Sophie because she could answer Jane’s screams.

‘Get on the bus.’

‘Don’t shout at me.’

Sophie didn’t forget the people who looked at her and her mother, with interest contempt disbelief unconcern, and the dull skies and grime now part of the sidewalk and people, again, a blur all around, each person with eyes to see and ears to hear but robots only, not recording her feelings, sensing or reflecting them, mannequins, props of flesh for her family drama, and she remembered thinking,

‘I can handle anything after this.’

The yelling picked up with Jane: ‘Get on the bus.’

‘Don’t yell at me.’

‘You snot, get on the bus.’

‘No.’

‘Damn you.’

‘Leave me alone.’

‘All right,’ Jane told Sophie, ‘you’re alone.’

Damned, Sophie took the next bus and arrived home half an hour later than Jane. She remembers nothing more.

*

Sophie wakes in the night. Someone has said, ‘No!’ Sophie?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

While the soup heats: Ed Go, the G train, essay on my poems

Go's pocket. O Smêagol!
Soup? French lentils pink, and thin as orphan about to eat.  They cook down quickly. I saute garlic; spices; add vegetables.  Cauliflower disintegrates into a million microscopic "ettes" so the soup seems creamy.

Chard, kale, beet greens. Carrots and their tops or carrot tops and their bottoms. Sweet potatoes. Add a sliced apple to offset the pleasant bitterness of greens.  So that's what's reheating on the stove. 

As for Ed Go, co-editor of Other Rooms Press, well, he introduced me to the "G" train a few years ago so I could get to an Other Rooms reading.  His instructions on problems inherent in the "G" (many) included cell phone #s, escape routes, promises to catch up with me in the hereafter if I didn't make it. I made it.

Since then my ease with the G has stunned citizens of Queens and Brooklyn and saved me last night when an F train from Manhattan turned into an M. I made it.

Ed Go wrote an essay, "Heaven, Hell & Middle Earth," about three poems in The Future Is Happy: "Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina in Heaven" "The Rebirth Live" and "hAve You Been Married, the Sister asK" (the latter published in Other Rooms).

A poet himself, Go schools the reader on new ways into a poem along routes of transformation, transcendence, sufferings, company. For example:

'. . . for music is that perfect blend of form and substance, and in “The Rebirth Live” it comes in the form of a “compact miracle disk” (27) that reminds the I of the poem of birth, and rebirth, not an interpretation but an experience—a miraculous one that transcends interpretation.'


Take a look at Heaven, Hell & Middle Earth.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Poem: by Dennis Nurske; by me (re: reading)

Estonian flag
At 8 p.m. tonight (9/20) I'll be reading at Baboo's Books, 242 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, with Dennis Nurske, who has published at least eight poetry collections, all very much worth reading.  He's from Estonia and Brooklyn, both strange and mysterious places.

I grabbed his Voices Over Water from my bookshelf (I have more but there is no order to my shelving), written in the voice of an Estonian couple who emigrate to Canada.

Tonight's reading is free and followed by a Q&A.

Surviving Partner

Satan tempted me
to his paradise of despair,
explaining that no one
would ever fathom my grief.
I refuted him, pointing out
that his world is full of windows,
broken cups and cracked mirrors,
and that the body propped in the barn
had been a cheating husband,
a man like the rest, not saved
or damned.  I was so stubborn
Lucifer grew afraid and left,
then my enemy was God's mercy
poured out second after second.
_______
Dennis Nurske in Voices Over Water


Let Me Ask You This

Have you ever had sex,
you know, where your skin is
a window open on a night of
many weathers one and another
howling round your breasts like
the burning god of Moses? Moses,
who’ll break stone tablets so
you get this night right.
___________
Sarah Sarai, in The Future Is Happy

Sunday, September 19, 2010

All the treasures in Ali Baba's cave: Joe Milford's Poetry Show

You know the frustration of being "interpreted"? Like you say "Huh, the sky is blue" and you are suddenly "really observant" "have your head in the clouds" "depressed" "stating the obvious" "a lover of the now." 

As with Anne Fiero, who interviewed me at WKCR (see my Interviews tab), he shows me my poems are not mine. Not to overstate or sound as if I Uriah Heep-like see myself as a humble vessel or servant. I'm not humble in this regard and I don't have the confidence to believe I'm among those chosen by goddesses, muses, shining lights of God's beauty to get the point across.

The point?  That's the point here.  Interviewer Joe Milford sees all sorts of points to my work, all sorts of ideas, weaving, insights and, to simpliy, I am awed and impressed.  Joe is all the treasures in Ali Baba's cave and knows a universal Open Sesame for art.  (He mentioned he was teaching the Arabian Nights in a world lit class.)

As with the WKCR interview, last night's conversation is archived in my lovely "Interview" tab above which I hope will always be available on my My 3,000 Loving Arms and also here.

Search the Joe Milfore Poetry Show's archives. I am the least of these.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Poem: Slight Confusion: Why not 1 M&M, 2 M&Ms?

Louis, the Grand Dauphin
This is ends up a proofreader's poem. Wherever I was headed when I began writing, the annoying apostrophe in M&M's was an endstop. Why not 1 M&M, 2 M&Ms? I observed the "turtleneck /descending a three-year old who / yanks and stretches" on the west coast.

Much of this short poem, unfairly asked to bear up under the weight of my commentary, was intended as reaction to a book I'd read about Grimm's tales (which my ma burned, as I wrote in When My Mother Burned a Book). The analysis was written by a professor at Santa Cruz.

The brothers Grimm, folklorists, embellished many stories, perverted source material which they alleged true to the folk, volk, peasants they'd interviewed. And that's why, okay, conjecture, those stories are so violent a testament to the human imagination gone wild and mean. I didn't complete that poem. This poem emerged from its ashes.  And the M&M's?  In the seventies I spent an afternoon ferrying them back and forth, one-by-one, while my friend R. drew circles. Hallucinogenics were involved.

Slight Confusion

Wait’ll you hear this one pulled
over your head like a turtleneck
descending a three-year old who
yanks and stretches against her
world briefly dark as brown bears
in a skyless cotton firmament
claiming to be all she’ll ever
know of horizon. Wait’ll you
hear the wolf snicker and wait’ll
Sleeping Beauty over there lights
up while you escort M&M’s across
choppy waters of your bungalow.
A nobleman eyes that apostrophe
wrested from the grieving Dauphin.
___________
Sarah Sarai. From The Future Is Happy. Buy it at SPD or Amazon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fiction and Frustration: The writing process, unemployment, e-mails.

Roman Verostko "Genesis"
On the one hand, my friends, I am not getting enough freelance work and am scared about my future plans. Well, there is only one plan right now, to hold onto my rent-stabilized apartment. So I look for work but am seduced--or allow myself, or pretend nothing is going to work out so I might as well. . .--by writing.

Case in point:  Monday I worked in an ad agency from two to ten (afternoon to evening), copyediting and proofreading. The flow was steady. I earned my money and return tomorrow, Friday. In between?

Tuesday morning I did the usual coffee drinking, NPR listening, moments of thoughtfulness, and started to "feel," for me a dangerous activity AT TIMES. This kind of "feeling," depressive, was the enemy for years.  I thought it couldn't be battled.

A friend of mine once  joked with me that we could have written a novel or two (or a year's worth of stand-up routines in her case) in the time we spent having feelings.

Tuesday as feelings descended I thought of a different friend, T. A month ago I realized I'd fallen back on my lazy non-writing ways and asked T. if I could email every day, for a while, to report. Five minutes. Two hours. Edited. Wrote. Like that. T.'s a good, as in goooood, writer, with a day job and a nice flow of output.

Soon after I email T. a responsive note appears with his output for the day. I hadn't planned on that part of the exchange, initially, and was, at first, only begrudgingly willing (or able) to read of T.'s work. I did the emails for a month last year with another writer who merely responded: Great work!

More and more, however, I knew T.'s output to be inspiration. On Tuesday when I was headed for that morass of depressive nihilistic thinking, I remembered T. Did I want to email "no work, I had to flagellate"? 

So I wrote a draft of a new story on Tuesday. I was at it (maniacally so) for five hours. I haven't yet taken a look at what I wrote--the steam of intensity is still too hot to allow approach--but whatever I wrote needed expression if only so it could be cleared and another story written. (Not saying it isn't good--I've written three new short stories this year and I'm happy with all three.) Just saying, well, who knows.

Time off, as in unemployed, makes my writing richer. Not being alone with my writing helps; definitely helps.  (I'm not a workshop person.) The balance between work and writing remains unsteady.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Anonymity Shrugged . . . at the Brooklyn Book Fair

At yesterday's Brooklyn Book Fair I was recognized (by three friends), slouched toward greater anonymity (next paragraph) and made a nice contact (the anti-anonymity) (finale).

Since my filters are few I know better than to think I can walk up to a publisher's or literary review's table and convince them to publish me, let alone ever again admit in the company of decent men and women they've met me. In fact I might antagonize them without ever understanding why.

So I stroll about such book fairs, the inner pep talk being: These are important events and I am happy they exist for newcomers enough unjaded to believe their symmetrical features and bouncy yet important demeanor will hook in an editor.

I did score a free New York Review of Books—I'm the man. And stopped for reasons I'm not sure of at a university press table. Well, the books were good and the press was functional so I talked to the woman in charge. She was the publicity arm of the publisher, strong, smart, directed. Verifying the publisher wasn't tanking, I asked about submissions and the publicicist said, Sure! in a voice that meant, Most likely not!

Thing is, when I told her I had a collection published with BlazeVOX [books] (I didn't speak the "[books]") her eyes glazed, as they say, as if an intellectual glassworker were on-call in her tear ducts. Telling her I wrote poetry and fiction, she responded, icky sweet, A little bit of everything.

A close relative of Fallen Satan is on-call for Sarah Sarai and Fallen Satan stoked fires in my eyes as I said, surly as I could, A LOT, I write A LOT of everything.

I was over it almost instantly, but not up for readings (late-ish Saturday night, which included watching a craps game on Stanton). On my way to the subway I stopped by one more table, a humble (more than the fancy publisher) affair, split between two ventures (a table is $300 for the day so splitting makes sense), both legitimate (which for me means literary-ish, including manga and graphics).

Without going into it, this is not a naming blog, the two at the table and I talked without attitude, exchanged info with the possibility of my reading them and them reading me.
Sarah Sarai is always willing to show up at a book fair, chat with (three) friends, be mildly insulted, and make a few new colleagues. So it is written.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We Need a Really New World Order: Today's the day

Roman Verotsko's "Cloud of Unknowing"
Willow and Squirrel are sad today.

Willow is on the second cushion of the cushion tree, staring at me.

Squirrel is in the bathroom doing water. I turn the faucet in the sink on a little and leave the room.

Willow has moved to the third tier. Regal Willow has lost interest in me.

I can tell you this. A tiny stream of water cascading from a faucet is crack to Squirrel. He will eventually saunter like a disaffected teen.

Oh, no. Willow repositioned. She's back to staring. All hail.

Everyone spends today in their own way. There is a list of the fallen so long reading it would consume civilization.  Odd, as civilization usually consumes us.

We need a really new world order.

If today is about anything it is about that really new world order. Where is it?  I'm tired of waiting for Heaven.

Peace.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Poetry Is Not a Big Puffy Man

Listen. I'm at work and should be working but there is a lack in the bins and so I have a moment to share my Friday thought.

Today's newly instituted "Friday thought" is brought to you, unbeknownst, by Christine in the next office  Which triggers a whole new thought. I have two thoughts now but time to wrote of only one which will be the latter because I've already forgotten Friday thought number one.

Oh! Now I just remembered that extended dream last night, you know, of the big puffy white man who was a killer, a monster killer who followed me and us from one house to another. Finally I dreamed in the suburbs and they were 3-D.  Color and frustration in depth--nice. {For years I dreamed mainly in rooms.}  No one believed me about the killer, at least initially, and as belief spread, ever gradually, there was no response from the authorities.  We had cell phones, for crissakes. We made the calls.

And we were put on hold; told to wait until morning. So we hid and ran though a hedged walkway on the right of the house {looking at it from the backyard, is that stage left?}. Though Kafka-y and frustrating the dream didn't force my heart to beat fast.

Meanwhile, back in reality, I have to make a decision by Monday.  I would prefer not to mention specifics here. Is that what the dream was about?

My Friday thought? Christine, I don't like telling people I'm a writer. Even now that I have a book out I tend to hide, not a good thing; characterologic and uninteresting. Why hide, Sarah Sarai?  I hid from the monster in the dream but there came a time my pushy insistence surfaced and I told everyone the big puffy man was hiding and dangerous.

Is poetry a big puffy man?  I'm guessing NO.  Does any of this make sense?  I thinking WHY NOT. Should I check the rack for work?  NAH.  John in my office just did.  Would it be neighborly to tell Christine I write poetry and fiction?

YES, it would be.  I'll wait until next week.  She's out of here in half an hour.  I'm here at work until ten but out of here, this posting, now.

p.s. Puffy Sean Combs isn't the only puffy man on Google Images.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When My Mother Burned a Book

Enough attention has been paid to the Florida preacher planning to burn a Koran. I refuse to name the man, to de facto glorify him as the media has by publicizing his idiocy.

Instead I question liberal churches. Where are they in this? I question Episcopalians. I was baptized one several years ago. Even if I don't attend church when other people are there I spend as much time meditating in churches as a congregant. Much attention, rightly, to ordination of women. Much attention, rightly, to same-sex marriage as a sacrament.

Nothing on the proposed burning of a Koran.

So let little me here and now say: It's a sacrilegious act to burn any book. My mother did it once. My oldest sister (by twelve years) had nightmares about Grimm's fables so Mom thew the book onto a pile of burning leaves; mid-1940s, before I was born.

As an immediate comfort to my sister it might have worked, but as a long-range aid to battling fears, nah. In effect, my Christian Science mother, a tiger in protecting her girls, wanted to eradicate the Grimm brothers, deny they ever existed, as she tried, pretty damn tragically, with her own body.

I once destroyed a book, not by burning but by tearing it in half. It was a mystery novel so dark I felt I needed it off the planet. I threw the halves into a garbage pail, and knew I was accomplishing little. The symbolic gesture, yes. But how much braver and more useful it would have been for me to make peace with my fear.

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote, "the divine Child flooded the darkness of my soul with radiant light." The "divine Child" takes many forms. I believe in an elegant radiance, without race and with all races, one that's universal and accessible to the seeker. Which means we can find something divine within ourselves to counter fear.

My oldest sister, for whom Mom burned the Brothers Grimm, continues to be a complicated and fearful human. Me? My darkness is part of me. My impulse is to deny what bothers me and I know to struggle with it.

If the church won't protest, I will. Sarah Sarai protests the burning of a Koran. I hope you do too. It won't move us closer to truth, divinity or absence of terror.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Poem: As Xantippe Whispered Into Idle Socrates' Ear

Some day I'll have to watch the Ken Burns documentary on the Brooklyn Bridge. I hear P.T. Barnum marched elephants over the bridge--in showmanship and to prove it structurally sound.

Some day I'll have to recreate the moment I connected "distraction" with "Ophelia." Not a chronicler of my process in real time, I vaguely remember reading something that intrigued.

Of course Claudius poured poison in Hamlet Sr.'s ear, though since watching Mel Gibson's surprisingly good version (what can I say), I imagine Glenn Close doing the job for him.

An open mic poet kept reading poems which repeated words such as information. I decided to try a similar repetition though mine is the elephant of a different color.

Odd is that I've never forgotten life is a preparation for death which is party-line Socrates. Maybe that's what his wife Xantippe whispered though such wasn't chronicled.

As Xantippe Whispered Into Idle Socrates’ Ear

Engineering.
This has to do with mathematical
divination of earth and metal
bearing us through the daily
occupation of life which
is preparing
for death
which is the true occupation of life.

Engineering.
This has to do with compression
and strength so elegant
tresses are unfazed
by heavy progress
across spans
calculated
to hold march of elephants and time.

Engineering.
This has to do with sweet Ophelia’s
schematically heartbreaking
death by distraction
or alienation
or a branch
snapping
and a river sucking her in with lust.

Engineering.
This has to do with shattered parts
revealed in a blueprint
of the draftsman’s
conception of
wretched
sorrow
as a workable means to create us whole.

_____________
Sarah Sarai, Published in Ghoti and included in The Future Is Happy, available at Amazon and Small Press Distribution.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Depression is wicked ugly; blame is wicked beside the point.

This is about Kevin Morissey, former managing editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, who took his life last month. Ted Genoways, the Quarterly's bullying editor was blamed. You can read about it in Steve Almond's "meditation" in The Rumpus.

Except for Almond's essay, everyone blames both/either Genoways who bullied and/or the University's human resources department which didn't respond to Morissey's complaints. I don't doubt Genoways was a difficult boss and h.r. failed to act (gasp, a human resources department that is anything but pawn to its employer!); I don't understand why either is being blamed.

Morissey suffered from depression. Yes "suffered from depression"--cliched and to the point.

It's coming up to two years for me--when I finally believed a psychiatrist who advised I would be best served by not stopping medication again (which I'd only agreed to take in my fifties).

I have depression and have had it most of my life. I was depressed when I was four years old. There's a photo of pudgy cute me angry and bitter. (I had my reasons.) I was wildly depressed as a teen and in my twenties. I can be peppy and am very funny so even I or especially I missed diagnosing the disease. Not to mention I was trained to ignore the body by my Christian Science mother and my Jewish father with his Russian father's old-world macho.

I attempted suicide once in my early twenties, though angels interceded. It's a fact. I will post the short story describing the winged event later.

My point is that while no one expected me to make it this far, I have. Not because I am fabulous (though I am), but because I did. I was lucky. Maybe the same parents who hindered also helped. They liked art and nature (as long as there was no interaction with the latter). Maybe that's enough but my life continues to mystifies people (I'm one of them) who assess my intelligence against my financial, romantic, career status.

Yet despite depression and bullying bosses I'm here. Bullying bosses? I've been harassed (it doesn't sometimes hurt to be a woman, it often does), yelled at, screamed at, sneered at, mocked, and--far worse--had really good ideas overlooked either because I suggested them or the idiots didn't have my sophistication and insight.

It's been about seven years since a warm acquaintance, Dan, jumped off the George Washington Bridge. I observed his continued frustration with his mother and childhood. (He was in his late forties or early fifties.) I was shocked, stricken, but after a little thought, not too surprised.

Dan could never move beyond anger. And that's me talking, me of great anger; but I am remarkably fortunate to have niece and nephew, great-niece and great-nephews in my life and back in my life. That alone could be the difference.

I never met or heard of Morissey until his death and of course comparisons are odious and miss specific truths. Morissey, like my friend Dan, couldn't find his way around whatever wanted to destroy him. Depression is wicked ugly. I'd say I'm wicked lucky. Blame is wicked beside the point.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Podcast: WKCR, Sarah Sarai interviewed

In July (or so) this year, on a rainy Sunday I took the 1 train up to the offices of WKCR at Columbia University.

The day alternated downpour and sprinkle. Occasional radiance. I didn't think of it at the time, but this was the neighborhood, looking over to the blue-shining Hudson between brick buildings and mossy strips of Riverside Park, that had me creating ways to describe a cloud a few years ago. I'd been freelancing in the university Trustees office.

This Sunday I left enough time to stop off and arm myself with iced coffee; the afternoon was muggy and compliantly hot (cold and muggy?) and I rattled ice cubes as I climbed stairs to the studio. Anne and I chatted. She surprised me by naming poems she'd like to hear from The Future Is Happy. She'd clearly prepared. Nervous and new to interviews I asked for a few retakes of poems I stuttered through. Indulgent and then businesslike, Anne got me talking.

"The deal of it is" (as I write in "A Clairvoyant Cartography," one of the poems Fiero requested), she's smart and funny and a dream interviewer.

From her Web site: Anne Cammon Fiero "curates a literary edition of the weekend radio show Studio A on WKCR FM New York, featuring contemporary works of poetry, fiction and new music in a choreographed, experimental format that transforms the written and spoken word into engaging cultural programming."

This will get you to Sarah Sarai as podcast. The undisguised link is http://www.annecammon.com/audio/Sarah_Sarai.mp3

Happy listening, friends.

Sarah

from "A Clairvoyant Cartography":

The deal of it is
Aristotle wrote it was heart
and not brain cranking think power,
a clairvoyant cartography of mind and body.

from The Future Is Happy (BlazeVOX)