Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Doug Anderson's Xin Loi

So tonight I leaned over to my wrought iron bookcase, the one I found abandoned on 14th and 7th and carted home by bus, the one holding favorites, and took The Moon Reflected Fire by Doug Anderson.

Anderson's Goya series, Les Desastres de la Guerra,  is exquisite as the drawings of reference. Every poem in the collection is furiously intelligent, observant, lovely, stuck in the heart's throat; poems of war, Homer, Vietnam; declarations of the universal.

"Xin Loi" is in Part I, a section needing no name. All is in the poem, as it should be.

Xin Loi

The man and woman, Vietnamese,
come up the hill,
carry something slung between them on a bamboo mat,
unroll it at my feet:
the child, iron gray, long dead,
the flies have made him home.
His wounds are from artillery shrapnel.
The man and the woman look as if they are cast
from the same iron as their dead son,
so rooted are they in the mud.
There is nothing to say,
nothing in my medical bag, nothing in my mind.
A monsoon cloud hangs above,
its belly torn open on a mountain.

Doug Anderson, The Moon Reflected Fire (Alice James Books)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lucille Clifton, the green girl in the poet

Lucille Clifton was mentioned at an event tonight so I think of her now. Yeah, "the damn wonder of it." And the sadness of the old bones.

First readings of Lucille Clifton poems often feel celebratory and then the poems vibrate in the way wisdom vibrates and beauty vibrates and I remember the poet sprang from her sorrows by way of vision. Sprang into vision by way of sorrow and celebration.

Clifton moved on to the next manifestation of energy, soul, love and life in February last year.

(The ink drawing is of thyme.)

There is a Girl Inside

There is a girl inside.
She is randy as a wolf.
She will not walk away and leave these bones
to an old woman.

She is a green tree in a forest of kindling.
She is a green girl in a used poet.

She has waited patient as a nun
for the second coming,
when she can break through gray hairs
into blossom

and her lovers will harvest
honey and thyme
and the woods will be wild
with the damn wonder of it.

Lucille Clifton

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Melville's Shark Poem: saw-pit of mouth . . . Gorgonian head

It's not that I am anti-big book by a long shot or haven't been moved and changed in the way other lives change us by long biographies, but short, incisive biographies are a canto of Paradise all their own.  Elizabeth Hardwick might wish to return to earth to write my biography. Her Herman Melville is so beautiful, especially considering obstacles inherent in so formidable a subject.

"The bibliographic material on Melville is intensive, extensive farming, ever piling up like threshed what to go off to the silo," Hardwick writes. Just read the book, okay? The Penguin Lives series excels in production of short interpretations of lives. Longer than Plutarch's Lives (individually) but not by too much.
And speaking of Melville, here is one of his poems.  I trust Hardwick in her contention (and everyone else's) that his fiction outshines his poetry but the following is a good poem so go figure.

The Maldive Shark

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril’s abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat—
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.

Herman Melville, poem courtesy of; illustration from

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fringe Magazine's Map Issue, 3 of my poems (backstory below)

Three poems of mine, "We're always in a room." "A Bullish Run into Chambers" and "A Territory of the Miracle" are in Fringe Magazine's Issue 26, on maps.

"We're always in a room." came about because I always was in a room, in my dreams, until I wasn't. And why not? I love rooms. They're nesting places and remind me of framed narratives (such as The Decameron or The Arabian Nights--stories within larger stories).

"A Bullish Run into Chambers" was a response to a comment I read and disagreed with--about the phenonenon of those public flower homages to honor the dead we may not know, schoolchildren or John Jr. The comment I disagreed with insisted such tributes are shallow. I say they are not shallow.

And finally, "A Territory of the Miracle" was born in Seattle, best as I can remember, making it a long-termer of a poem. I absolutely remember the image I had, of a figure rising from a bog, and my understanding it offered, or wanted, connection.

Also, I just remembered having returned from my mother's terrible operation in Los Angeles. I remember thinking about It All and wondering if there was reason to live through any more and then watching a dust mote, as I lay in bed, living in a ray of sun. I remember understanding that was enough.

Thanks to Fringe Poetry Editor, Anna Lena Phillips, for having a sharp eye and access to a front porch.

Friday, March 25, 2011

When Herman Melville & Emily Dickinson Made Whoopee (on a prairie on the high seas)

First of all, due to circumstances beyond my control, such as fulltime work and wifi-connection issues at home, I have had to stuff the 3000 Loving feature "Foodstuff Friday" in the freezer. My freezer, known as "back burner" to some, is commodius and durable, so no worry there. 

Secondly, if Emily and Herman were to trample gender-inclination expectations (she being thought to veer toward the ladies and he toward the men, though the Kinsey scale is merely a scale and many of us are all over it), they well could have produced me.  (And I would be, and am, a production.) 
I just read Elizabeth Hardwick's beautifully written short biography of Melville, entitled, I believe, Herman Melville. His inclination to ponder the immortal was reinforced (should Moby-Dick and friends not settle the issue) by the following quotation she offered from Hawthorne's diairy.  Please note that I found the quotation online at the blog Hawthorne in Salem.

Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had "pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated"; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists-and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before-in wandering to-and fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us (Eng NB, Vol II, 163).
Emily Dickinson ("Ma" to me) has reiterated her interest in Eternity and other malefactors not infrequently and so, when dashing off a bio statement for a book review of We Make Gardens by Jeanne Larsen, I wrote the following:
Sarah Sarai is the love child of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson, who both thought frequently about death and its accoutrement and were each their own person. Her BlazeVOX-published collection, The Future Is Happy, was released in 2009. Loose Gravel Press will publish her chapbook later this year. Her poems are in (or soon will be in) reviews including Threepenny, Mississippi, Minnesota, Eleven Eleven, Pank, Boston, Gargoyle, POOL and Parthenon West. She has taught and does in fact hold an MFA (in fiction) from Sarah Lawrence College, (stories in, South Dakota Review, Storyglossia, Stone’s Throw, Tampa Review, VerbSap, Weber Studies and more) but earns her living copyediting in ad agencies.

Well, you get the idea. I gotta copyedit (which is two words but I don't care). The picture is serendipity, pure serndipity.  I googled Mellville and Dickinson and not only found an image but it is attributed to Ron Silliman.  Providence is mine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ladies & Proud Possessors of a Penis: DaDA & Three Rooms Press

To your left, ladies and proud possessors of a penis, is the cover of MaiNtENaNt5. I got my copy Friday night at the annual DaDA festival, soiree, reading and publishing event at the Cornelia Street Cafe on (multiple choice) 1) Street Street; 2) Cafe Street; or Cornelia Street.

The cover (on your left) is designed by Kat Georges of Three Rooms Press. It is beautiful not unlike, or in fact, like the entire journal also Kat Georges' designed. Cover art -Shark- by Paolo Pelosini. Like a poem, it's found, but of metal.

If you glance at MaiNtENaNt5's table of contents which is not on your left but in the journal, you will find over 120 poets and artists, alas, not in the flesh as there is no copy machine large enough to duplicate so many internal organs and the like. Nonetheless, that's a hunka DaDA, which, as you may recall, was the child of the brains of antiartists, unartists, uberartists of various antibourgeois stripes, plaids, ribbons, bassoons, mimeographs, Plantagenets, corpuscles, pacifists and Zurich.

I was kindly allowed to be one of the readers last Friday night, as I am one of the over 120. The kindly was provided by aforementioned Kat Georges and co-editor Peter Carlaftes. Click on the first mention of Three Rooms Press for details.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spoiler Alert: Karl Marx Is Dead

Even with My 3,000 Loving Arms' superpowers it isn't easy to eavesdrop on history. I tried but had to do my laundry and while I was comforting my white anklet with pink accents, over the loss (in the dryer) of its twin, Karl Marx died.

You may think I'm uncaring for talking about white socks with pink accents more than Karl Marx but if you think I'm bad, look at legislators playing computer Solitaire and Hearts. All the while Karl Marx's love for humanity, for workers who are most often little more than legal and duped serfs, was agan scorned this week.

Unions were killed--for the moment, anyway--in Wisconsin; “terrorists” hunted in D.C.; programs which could help people like you and me, the ones who breath and don't receive orders from Greedo Limbaugh of Planet Hate, were ignored.

Please read Isaiah Berlin's biography of Karl Marx (entitled Pete King Is a Big Fat Arsehole Though His Actual Arsehole Is Probably Teeny Tiny Accounting for, Hence, his Many Fears, and Further and Also I Wonder if The Billionaire Koch Brothers Back King as they Backed the Governor of Wisconsin Who Is Killing Unions Which Benefit People, All People, Black People, Women Because the Billionaire Koch Brothers Want More Money in Their Coffers (Why, I Don't Know). NO! It's entitled Karl Marx!

Question:  Are you sure Isaiah Berlin's biography of Karl Marx, published by Oxford University Press paperbacks, isn't called  Who Killed Elvis? NO! It's Karl Marx.

He was poor and difficult. A German in England. Jewish but not so happy with being Jewish though if his father converted to Christianity why was he considered Jewish? His vision of all workers joining and his convincement that history is a progression, each era new, not replicating, fills my heart with gratitude. He wanted each person to be able to actualize their greatest potential, to have the freedom to be creative and happy. I'm sorry you died, Karl Marx. Like other brilliant thinkers including Aristotle, Jesus, St. Francis, the Buddha, Hafiz, Tagore, Dorothy Day you are respected but not enough followed.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Karl Marx Is Lost (but Will Be Found)

Though the Germans, the French and then, I believe, the Belgians worried Karl Marx had too keen a perception of reality (wherein the rich do not get poor) and therefore should live in the next country over, I don't recall reading of midnight dashes across cobblestones smeared with proletariat sweat as he and his family moved on.

Neither was he hid by trusted fellow travelers (who wouldn't have been traveling) (or how could they offer hospitality?). However, Marx in New York is a whole different historical event.  The event includes one Sarah Sarai who has mentioned Marx quite a bit the past few days. Alas, she cannot find Isaiah Berlin's biography, so aptly titled, San Diego on $10 a Day (NO, Karl Marx) and so won't being saying any more about Marx today.  

Tune in tomorrow, however, when order is restored to the living quarters of this poet and fiction writer. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Karl Marx and The Perks of Writing a Musical

What would Karl Marx think of Kickstarter? See, I am reading a biography of Karl Marx entitled, Sal Mineo Is Alive & Hiding in South America, NO! entitled Karl Marx. It’s by Isaiah Berlin and not over 200 pages but I am stringing it along with other reading. My goal this week is to see the world as Karl Marx would (i.e., accurately).

And to do so even if the connection between my topic and exploitation is frayed. My topic is Kickstarter, an entrepreneurial online fundraiser, and playwright Tom Diggs. All big business was at some point the start-up of an entrepreneur, rich or poor. My friend the playwright Tom Diggs is not rich nor poor so he is soliciting funds thusly (even from me!).

Diggs, or “Tom” as I call him, has one more Pulitzer nomination to his belt than I have to my belt. (I have none and rarely wear belts, in case you are compiling your Christmas list.) I met him as artists meet in N.Y.C. (lap dancing at the Pussycat Dolls lounge) (NO! through friends).

A while back he emailed me the script of his Pulitzer-nominated play; I was wildly impressed. It was intelligent, had a distinct point-of-view and superb political insight. And good roles for women!

Tom is raising money for a musical, The Perks of Writing a Musical. (I suggested Karl Marx Is Alive & Hiding in South American, but oh nooooooo. Whatever.) Read about it here and donate if you want to add Supporter of the Arts to your belt. His musical from a few years back, based on Photographing Fairies, was also wonderful. I’d both read the book and seen the somewhat obscure movie, so I was an informed audience. I loved Diggs’ & composer’s vision of a Nineteenth Century encounter with fairies—in England, of course—and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

So Kickstart, my fellow Marxists. Capitalists allowed. To learn more about the process of raising money, writing a musical or any play, working with actors, getting insurance for the play, and more & more, go to Tom Diggs' The Perks of Writing a Musical.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Karl Marx at Sarah Lawrence, or if not him, me, I'll read there, Tues., 3/8, 7 pm

I've written about Karl Marx three days in a row. I'm reading Isaiah Berlin's biography, Annette Funicello: The Early Years, NO! Karl Marx (Oxford).

Contrast, please, the seething poverty Marx and his family endured in London with Bronxville, the upper-scale upscale town atop which Sarah Lawrence College sits. Can't be done. Marx and his brood lived in two crappy rooms that sound like a crack house with filth and broken furniture. Maybe Yonkers, a few blocks away, has a crackhouse or two (which the super rich slum in), but not CEO-aplenty Bronxville.

I will have to bring poverty (and maybe sloth and anarchy) to my co-reading at Sarah Lawrence College on Tuesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in Slonim  House. (It's such a small campus and Slonim's well-known; you'll find you're way.) Co-readers are Todd Dillard, Sam Starkweather, Sally Bliumis-Dunn.

I'm a wonderful reader out louder of poetry. Please do stop by if you are in Westchester County. It's free (ahem) and there'll be a Q&A and maybe cookies, wine or revolution.  More on Marx soon.

*poster for Howard Zinn's play Marx in Soho

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Old Marx, Debbie Does Capitalism, poet as revolutionary

I continue to read Isaiah Berlin's biography of Karl Marx (entitled Debbie Does Capitalism, NO! entitled Karl Marx). My last mention of this was yesterday. Marx is now in London, having lost the Jerry Lewis look-alike contest in France. 

England is very British, it turns out. The country allows ("allows") Marx and other revolutionaries to stay but cold-shoulders them in its upper crust, colonial way.  Meanwhile, the brilliant Capitalist Manifesto is out there to inspire. The proletariat (me, maybe not you, but me) is being urged to see through and beyond received images of the rightness of the ruling elite and its self-serving institutions.

I see the poet as revolutionary. It's not a vision original to me by any means, but nonetheless . . .  Poets must reveal the great hype of capitalism or any system of rule in which so much is owned by so few. It's the nature of any society, however small, to mold us. Native tribes teach the young as well as huge countries. Simply being in relationship (to government, to institutions including religious, to family) means we have to give up a little of our selves.

With a loved one or small family that's fine, although even that small robbing of what is perceived as our true self causes some to rebel.  There are always rebels. However when ChaseManhattan, Goldman Sachs, Big Insurance, any corporation is organized around the principle of giving vast sums, overwhelming percentages of profit, to one or two percent of its workers (the Board of Directors) we give up too much.

And unnecessarily. Yes, we want to get along with family (of origin or family of friends). We need each other and so the "sacrifice" of not singing "Hello Dolly" at 3 a.m. is a small one. The sacrifice of working 40 hours a week and receiving lackluster or no insurance or a pension which disappears is too much. Millions of deaths from famine; allowing the land to be ravaged in the interests of Big Business (think, Africa; think, decimation of native Americans . . . ) is evil.

I'm a bit all over the map.  Still reading about Marx. Here's a poem on him I am appropriating from The New Yorker online. It's by Polish poet, Adam Zagajewski.

Old Marx

I try to envision his last winter,
London, cold and damp, the snow’s curt kisses
on empty streets, the Thames’ black water.
Chilled prostitutes lit bonfires in the park.
Vast locomotives sobbed somewhere in the night.
The workers spoke so quickly in the pub
that he couldn’t catch a single word.
Perhaps Europe was richer and at peace,
but the Belgians still tormented the Congo.
And Russia? Its tyranny? Siberia?

He spent evenings staring at the shutters.
He couldn’t concentrate, rewrote old work,
reread young Marx for days on end,
and secretly admired that ambitious author.
He still had faith in his fantastic vision,
but in moments of doubt
he worried that he’d given the world only
a new version of despair;
then he’d close his eyes and see nothing
but the scarlet darkness of his lids.

(Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Karl Marx, Close Observer to the Max

a Monty Pythonization of Karl Marx
I've been reading a biography of Karl Marx (titled Bippy Goes to the Circus, NO! titled Karl Marx) by Isaiah Berlin and published by Oxford paperbacks.

It's brilliant. Berlin describes Marx' intellectual context, that being the what's what and who's who in Europe; the thinkers of Germany, France (and soon England--I'm waiting for the next chapter); much on Hegel; Marx' family--he had a warm relationship with his father, despite his father's desire to, as we say, fit in.

And Marx' character; he was a true rebel with a grand cause and no gun, and far more intellectual than Che Gueverra, who was no dullard himself.  Just as Marx (and Engels) demonstrated an eye for detail and facility with close description, as in the Communist Manifesto, he demonstrated an enormous capacity for reading and analysis.

He saw that in the industrialized era, production caused, in Isaiah Berlin's words, "intellectual, moral, religious beliefs, values and forms of life . . . which uphold the power of the class whose interest the capitalist system embraces."  A Catch 22 in the making.

Capitalism and production are not timeless in the way Truth, Love, Compassion are. They are simply "uphold the power of the class whose interests the capitalist system bodies." Capitalism is not a "timelessly valid institution" but it is seen as such.  It's as if the belief in a divine king and queen were simply auctioned off to the highest bidder and that bidder is the rich who control production and product and thus become falsely "valid."

I don't see how to break through but I am hoping that as we awaken to the corruptibility of capitalists, as in crashes of the past few years, we just might inch toward some improvement in the distribution of wealth (to coin a phrase).

Now back to Bippy Goes to the Circus. Can't wait until the movie comes out.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Foodstuff Friday: Kidneys & Michelangelo

from The Chiropractic Journal

Kidneys? Not fried, roasted, braised. beaded. Not with parsley, tomatoes, potatoes, rick-rack. Not even chocolate sauce can (IN THIS BLOGGER'S OPINION) make a kidney edible so why even mention the organ with a twin?

Apologies for cultural insensitivity to Britain & co.
Because work (work work) today is about hemodialysis (or editing a paper thereon), and so I googled poems about kidneys and voila who should appear but Michelangelo who should have sued the Vatican for workplace injury.

And demanded an ergonomically satisfying scaffold. If I may on-the-spot edit this posting, it's too cute up to this point.  And now, Michelangelo, c. 1509.

Poem 5

A goiter it seems I got from this backward craning
like the cats get there in Lombardy, or wherever
—bad water, they say, from lapping their fetid river.
My belly, tugged under my chin, 's all out of whack.
Beard points like a finger at heaven. Near the back
of my neck, skull scrapes where a hunchback's lump would be.
I'm pigeon-breasted, a harpy! Face dribbled—see?—
like a Byzantine floor, mosaic. From all this straining
my guts and my hambones tangle, pretty near.
Thank God I can swivel my butt about for ballast.
Feet are out of sight; they just scuffle around, erratic.
Up front my hide's tight elastic; in the rear
it's slack and droopy, except where crimps have callused.
I'm bent like a bow, half-round, type Asiatic.
Not odd that what's on my mind,
when expressed, comes out weird, jumbled. Don't berate;
no gun with its barrel screwy can shoot straight.
Giovanni, come agitate
for my pride, my poor dead art! I don't belong!
Who's a painter? Me? No way! They've got me wrong.

from The Complete Poems of Michelangelo, tr. by John Frederick Nims.

Nims on poem # 5. 1509-10. Sonetto caudato [sonnet with tail], the tail consisting of six additional lines at the end of the sonnet, as in 25. It was written while Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-12). In the margin of the manuscript the artist has drawn an image of a strained figure with a bent back painting a ghostly shape on the ceiling. The "Giovanni" of line 18 refers to Giovanni da Pistoia, a member of the Florentine Academy who sent several sonnets to Michelangelo, whose own letters confirm his extreme discomfort at the time.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Errant Blogger Returns

I like writing this blog. I like my imaginary readers. I have real readers, at least if I go by the statistics, pardon me, the metrics, Goggle provides, and real readers are 3000 Loving Arms-worthy, no question.

My imaginary readers, however, accept with intensity my oddness.  Could be that it's wracking of my nerves to envision readers of flesh and of blood tolerating this simulcrum of Sarah Sarai which makes it to the postings; plus I have trouble with intimacy (me and no one else has that problem).

Remember what it was like to be adolescent and ponder all the versions of yourself existing in different dimensions? Readers younger than me may find such imaginings routine in our post-Matrix society (though science fiction and quantum physics preceded my generation, so I could have been as jaded).

Why my parallel life musings?

I read a poem about such conjecture at my reading last Saturday at Small's.  What a good feeling to read new work. To know I can write something substantial. I'm not posting the poem just yet but know I was full of love when I wrote the first draft.  I was mother (or Aquarian) to the world.

Segue #2.  I was able to send off my National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship application (Fiction). I am so happy to show up for myself, to pull it together by deadline. The prize, a fellowship, money, recognition, would be nice but being part of the process is joy too.  I hope to return to you all beginning tomorrow. I've missed you, you who are real and you imagined. It'll be a return to the process of connection.