Wednesday, October 26, 2011

White People Are on my Mind These Days {a poem}

From the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Mary, A Literary Quarterly {Publisher and Editor, William Johnson}. Thanks again to Wm. for inviting me participate, earlier this year, in a benefit reading at the Montauk House in Brooklyn. THAT was an evening.

{Note that when I read this poem to an audience, I preface it thusly: I know a mixed/interracial couple, both parties are named Robert.

Plus, the poem was conceived on a street corner in Soho, where my great-nephew and I discussed the demise of the Caucasian peoples.} I'm already exhausted. Poems shouldn't be introduced, right?

White People Are on my Mind These Days

We are going to disappear.
I say good riddance though
I'll miss myself.
Robert said Well what culture do they have.
The next day my answer.
Uh, the novels of Thomas Hardy,
farmers bent by winds off the Channel?

Do the dying move on with grace,
knowing there's new life and they're part of it
no matter?
Some hit the dirt oblivious to
lights strung up in the tunnel.
This is personal but what isn't.

Explorers were curious gold.
Conquistadors filed teeth for blood.
I can't figure out history.

I said we were on the way out and Robert's
Robert said Don't worry, we'll cause more damage
before we're gone.

My great-nephew promised to be kind,
as he looked into my eyes and
spotted the loving goddess, clawing to get out.

Sarah Sarai, Spring/Summer 2011 Mary, A Literary Quarterly {Publisher and Editor, William Johnson}

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Occupation of Poetry Occupies the Occupation

A poet's rendering of the atrium.
Sunday I was a co-facilitator (in the realm of poetry) of Occupy Wall Street, and volunteered to be secretary for the meeting. Some of my notes are sketchy but main points have been honored.  I want to slap this down now before I forget everything.
 I hope I captured the spirit of the first meeting, held in the spacious atrium at 55 Wall Street amidst the indoor palm trees of capitalism. If capitalism were only about palm trees, I wouldn't mind.

Before the formal meeting began there was general talk about dissemination—such as creating a “handout” with Occupation-related text to be distributed anywhere, a sort of hand-distributed graffiti (graffiti being a positive). In fact, dissemination became the most common theme of the evening. Also discussed was the Anthology, in its present state. As I understand it, there are 3-ring binders in the Occupation library. They are added to weekly, and contributions are sought on an ongoing basis.

Call for Work: We are encouraged to distribute a call for work, along the lines of: "Poems wanted for the Occupation at Zucatti Park poetry anthology. Send, as an attachment, to stephenjboyer   @" I'm not posting anything anywhere else until I'm sure I have the facts down, but anyone can post a notice for poems--on listservs, Facebook and elsewhere. I suggest that each submission be limited to three poems.

There was talk of an online anthology, expanding it and making use of it to draw people to the park.

Per Occupation procedure a "stack" was created, a sort of instant agenda, with a caretaker, who made the list by asking people (present) to briefly identify ideas or issues they wanted to share on. Then facilitator then worked through the list, as would a traditional Chair. (O. was co-facilitator)
  • R. suggested creating something to hand out publically (dissemination). An object, such as folded paper with text and using this to create a bigger space for poetry at the park
  • Silent readings (headphones) Inviting poets to give readings and talks.
  • Thought piece: How does poetry influence. Infiltrating Manhattan.
  • Poetry Assembly (discussions of this were scattered throughout our meeting. Friday nights. New facilitator each time. Hope to make it function like General Assembly.
  • Any day, there's a mic at the park. Anyone can use it, state, “mic check,” and read a poem (or whatever).
  • There was talk of changing the time at the Poetry Assembly for each poet, but general agreement was to keep it at 3 minutes (given that 3 is fungible at open mics, sufficient for each reader, given wiggle room.
  • A public clock would be useful  and/or audible signals – when the 3 minutes is up, the co-facilitator could hit wind chimes or something similarly gentle but specific
  • The topic continually revisited was dissemination, verbally or by objet. The MTA was discussed as a soft target, with problems of choreography being addressed. Where, what text, how to perform so the result was beneficial. Performers referenced included Sharon Hays & Mark F. who reenacted speeches of national and international Civil Rights Leaders.
  • Considerations of poetry/politics, intersections thereof.
  • Emulating or using as a springboard, sixties aphorisms.
  • (I suggest Free Money instead of Free Huey. Tune In, Wake Up, Stay Alert instead of Tune in, turn on, drop out. 
  • While there are obvious obstacles to reading on a subway (noise and riders' expectation of some level of public isolation), the advantages are many, including interaction with people beyond downtown, a more diverse group, or differently diverse and the serendipity of right place, right time, right person—finding riders who become intrigued with the message, and with poetry itself (poetry widely defined).
  • Public Poetics may include incantations, repetitions; sitting (alone or with a friend) near passengers and reading out loud so only a few hear but have a chance to become intrigued. Poetry as overheard. The message as whispered.
  • Binlingual readings or disseminations. Posting the poem (electronically or othrwise) in both languages.
  • Specific venues suggested were the Highline and the Staten Island Ferry. There was a brief philosophic interlude during which the poet as shaman was discussed, how these gestures (of poetry in public venues) could serve to eviscerate a static mindset. At the end of the first scheduled meeting, a subgroup met for further discussion of dissemination. The Verso Book of {{{political text}}} (donated generously by Verso Press) was suggested, and some copies handed out so we could cull them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2 EOAGH poems & a little Long Island serendipity

"I boiled the eggs until they confessed their sins."
poem: Inquisition
So I was at a party Friday night, sitting with a small group of poets clustered around a giant bowl of potato chips. It was so sixties, with the onion dip and all.

Anyway, I was pleased to meet one of the quietly iconic poets, and his wife who really truly was charming, and knew from hard experience to follow the conversation and not butt in, much, anyway.

Out of the blue the one person I didn't know started talking to me. What's up with that? So family history outs, mine including a move from Long Island to Los Angeles when I was eight. And he asks, Where on Long Island, and I tell him, and it turns out he lives in my hometown. His daughter attends the high school (at which) my oldest sister was valedictorian.

So what? Well, I'll tell you so what. I sent him the link to the two just published poem. Ground zero for the first poem is that little town on Long Island's north shore.

I was born at home.

Thanks now and always to the twins, Tim and Trace Peterson, who everything EOAGH. The poemses is "One Day a Year You Can Take Something Home from the Met" and "Inquisition."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No Harem Pants for Me! Unmarriage Defended.

In truth, I would do pretty much anything
for this outfit. Really. It's beautiful.
Talk about the Lonely Crowd of lonely Americans. Apparently it's now a crowd of golden and single women, golden and single and, according to Kate Bolick's too easily named, “All the Single Ladies,” really very lonely in lonely rooms in lonely beds in which self-actualization has its many meanings. (Thanks to poet Elisa Gabbert and her blog to alerting me to this Atlantic article, link below.)

Because no matter how Bolick phrased the lament, no matter how many sociologists and culture analysts she visited (note the consistent style of the article—short bio of the sociologist type, then Kate's visit), the choice to be alone, or the circumstances of aloneness—for a woman—suck, according to her. Only women are unhappy, I gather. All men are trippin' with their, er, female friends.

It is Bolick's mother's fault. You know the saying, If it's not one thing it's your mother. Mom was feminist. Influenced daughter. That arc is one I've read over and over though I never knew of a writer so influenced by the slogan, “A Woman Without a Man Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.” I don't mean to go ninja intellectual on Bollick, but I was more influenced by Ai. Or George Eliot. Or Audre Lourde. Or the Brontes. Or Rita Dove. Or Virginia Woolf. Or Mary Shelley (or her mom). Or Loorie Moore. Or Elizabeth Bishop. Or Zora Neale Hurston. Or Adrienne Rich.

Women have been struggling with being women forever. And men have had their correlative struggles. As with perfectly straight, long blonde hair, marriage (hetero or homosexual) does not have to be top of the social chain. It is because we agree it is ("we" being loosely and inexactly defined). But no one should second guess their choices, as Bolick does her choice to go solo. What's that Zen koan, maybe in an Alan Watts' book, where the farmer says his son broke his leg, which is bad, but then he doesn't have to join the army, so that's good, but then the crows ate the corn, which is bad, but then they don't have the bother of harvesting, which is good (huge paraphrase).

Who the heck knows what the right choice is or should have been. We are defined more by our reactions and reshapings of events than the initial impulse. I have a friend who was caught passing a joint in a high school classroom and from that one stupid incident, which spiraled, was no longer invited to attend Julliard. Pretty awful. But she is such an amazing person and used her talents and energies to help many (I can't get too specific). Maybe at Julliard she would have been run over by a bus her first time off campus. You just don't know.

If Bolick's mom could have given her a Stand by Your Man t-shirt, Bolic might have heeded the sage advice and ended in a shelter with her kids hiding from a brutal, incesting husband. I've seen that one happen, too. I've seen more happen than I lived, and that's fine with me. There is something perversely conservative about the article, subtly reactionary, as if someone from the old moral majority wrote it and gave it to Bolick, as if the Koch Brothers arranged for it to be published. Satisfaction generates from how we navigate circumstances. Not the circumstances. And marriage is neither bad nor good, though I am not neutral on community, which is good, warm, complicated, how we get through. The Atlantic article.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Quiet Softness (of a penis sighing). New poem in Gargoyle

See below for credit.
The Aeneid has been one of my occasional purse books over the past few years. That means I toss the Allen Mandelbaum-translated paperback in my purse and read on the bus or subway; when I'm in a waiting room or waiting for room. Easy breezy. I've read it before so if I skip around or stop reading altogether (temporarily--there is always tomorrow's or next year's purse book), no problem.

Truthfully, no problem even if I hadn't previously read the book. Beginning to middle to end is not one of the Ten Commandments.  Anyway, this latest run got me about a third of the way through, and also a new poem, "The Quiet Softness."

Richard Peabody graciously selected the poem for inclusion in the just released Gargoyle 57. There are many many other writers in there, wonderful and more wonderful, and I'm not going to name one of them. 

I include these lines as a teaser (not spoiler).  Excerpted from "The Quiet Softness" (oh, by the way, "she" is Queen Dido, who built Carthage, a plus, but made some bad life choices).

                         Forgetting rapture in
the arms of an accomplished heart  
or the quiet softness of a penis  
sighing, Aeneas sailed his cock  
to Rome, leaving her in Carthage,  
the city of her breasts stomach  
hips, configurations of the universe.

The photo is from and is titled, Dido, Don't Think of Me.

( poem from, again, "The Quiet Softness," my contribution to Gargoyle 57)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tribal Warfare at the Dinner Table...When Scholars Debate

A few years ago I read a book review in the New York Times about the invention of Hinduism***. The spiritual practice/religion was millennia old, yes, but didn't exist as Westerners know it, until it was existed.

In other words, it took the British Empire, the colonialists, to codify, encyclopedia-ize and, most of all, explain Hinduism so the west could get it. We are a simple peoples, we westerners, simple. But cruel.

A review ("The Most Versatile of Mystics") in the esteemable Los Angeles Review of Books brings this home, er, reinforces the fact that on the one hand, in temples, churches, mosques, mountaintops, people worship and get our comfort, we do; on the other hand, in research libraries and Ivy League archives, scholars dissect. The Library of Alexandria had its archives. Disassociated and disembodied research--not all of it bad, of course, but all of it worthy of challenge--is eons old.

That the Los Angeles Review of Books reviews the book which critiques a psycho-sexual critique of a religious hero (I'm okay with hero) is all for the good. Since the debate is ongoing the debaters, especially those who have both have heart and brain in the arena, must be heard. So more thanks-- for Swami Tyagananda and Pravrajika Vrajaprana's Interpreting Ramakrishna, and again to Los Angeles Review of Books for the review.

***If anyone can locate that NYT review... I remember discussing it with a friend, we were Tompkins Square, he doubted me, I sent on the review, he no longer doubted. Four or five years ago. I can't locate it now. However, here is an essay on the same topic, written earlier than the review in question ... NS Essay: How the British Invented Hinduism.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Story Published!%***%! in THE WRITING DISORDER

With no fanfare but much personal satisfaction I would like to announce publication of my short story, "An Archive of Paranormal Inquiry Into Coping" in The Writing Disorder, a new(er) and very hip online journal.

The Writing Disorder's editor, publisher, designer, Christian Lukather, is also designer for POOL, which published a few of my poems last month.  He didn't realize the crossover, however, until he'd accepted my story (so I got no favors).  When you visit his journal you'll realize his humungo talent.

As for this story, it is a sort of answer to the rejection letter I posted not long ago  (see, I Am Rejected: Because I Write Stories Like This).  Some years ago I wrote "An Archive of Paranormal Inquiry Into Coping" in hopes of being less weird. My records (submissions/rejections) are home so I can't be exact but I can be inexact. It took a mere six or so years to get this non-weird story published, if indeed it's non-weird. I like it lots. That's what counts, for me. I like this story lots.

Weird. Not weird. Husband/wife (American loves husbands and wives, right?). It is pure fiction in my life.  Here's the opener (you're in New York City, the apartment of a traditional boy-girl married, middle-class couple).

      “I’m just the psychic." Ms. Marie shrugged as she peered at her cigarette ashes as if they were professional equipage.
      Ludlow brushed them off the table and into her palm. Her mother would have been appalled by the medium’s wanton disregard for waxed furniture.
      “Take it for what it’s worth, but they say you’re everything and everyone in your dreams. It’s a theory, although I’m sure you’ve—”
      “—Heard it.”
      A month ago, Ludlow woke with a mountain—thundering skies, moss turning into ice at the peak, a Sisyphean lug up, a nameless female saint dressed by Hindu devotees—wall-to-wall in her brain. The mountain was old although Ludlow doubted there were young mountains. Younger-er, maybe,than other mountains, she conceded, but young?
      “So maybe you could be the mountain.”
      “Why not, I was the walrus.”
      “Weren’t we all.”
 Read the rest here:  The rest of the story . . .