October 31, 2005

Of Blogs and Boards

Seth, whose birthday was yesterday, received wonderful news that he's had work accepted by Colorado Review.  In the past 4 weeks, he's had acceptances from Iowa Review, AGNI, Verse, Notre Dame Review and Sycamore Review — which is a hell of run for just about anyone.  A few short years ago, we were both on the staff of the Alsop Review, one of the top half-dozen poetry boards on the Internet, and commonly known as The Shark Tank.  Before that we'd been lowly board members, looking up to the board heavyweights like Tony Robinson and Claudia Grinnell.  Other blogmates I met at the AR or another board include Rebecca, Suzanne, Patricia, Steve, Paul, Teresa, Ann Marie, and Paula.  I first read G.C. Waldrep somewhere in the board-world too, I think, perhaps at Melic Review.  The poetry boards competed for regular contributors, and patrons tended to wander off for a while, landing at Eratosphere, Web Del Sol's Writer's Block, Didi's MiPo, or any one of a dozen or more critique sites.

Poetry workshop boards were not really the predecessor of poetry blogs.  The traditions are different — at least in the sense that the blogging community seems much more supportive of each other's work.  This is, perhaps, a good thing (to wax Marthaesque for a moment).  On the other hand, the blunt instrument which is the poetry board gets one attention (like a brick to the head), and makes you think about your preconceived notions of what is good poetry.  It is virtually impossible, for example, to post a poem on a quality poetry board and not receive some negative critique.  The rules of etiquette on boards requires that one respond with grace under fire, to agree that there are different value systems for this kind of work, to demur instead of defend.  In fact, becoming defensive is the first sign that the poet has lost control of the dialogue.  Poetry blogs feel much more like real-life (RL) workshops, where most of the comments are non-confrontative and the impulse is to view each work as an example of an individuality not yet understood. 

I first encountered the RL workshop at the Napa Valley Writers Conference, spending a week with Mary Jo Bang and a dozen poets in our group.  I'm sure that fact that MJB is a kind, sensitive, and highly experienced instructor (as well as an outstanding poet) contributed to the sense that we had entered into a Poetic Non-Aggression Pact.  I still found the experience extremely odd, chafing against the norm in my desire to deem a poem unfit to be even considered, rolling my eyes at blatant banalities, tapping my pencil on the table at the 43d stanza of an epic about the Oregon coastline. Whereupon MJB asked for initial impressions, and I said "too damned long", at which point she smiled and threatened banishment in the corner.  (Fair Disclosure:  I applied to NVWC again this year and was not asked back).

I do wonder, though, in a very approximate way, whether this is a difference in poetic dialogue akin to the pseudowar between capitalist and Marxist sensibilities.  On the poetry boards, the whole point was to post a poem that convinced the majority that you deserved to be treated with greater respect; to make a statement that was wholly contained within the poem posted; to offer no explanation, no motivation and certainly no theory of poetics that could not be deduced from the poem itself.  You had one shot:  the poem.  If you defended it, you lost.  If you explained it, you lost.  The overriding notion was:  this is the poem.  If I could paraphrase it, or explicate it, or rationalize it, then it would itself be deficient.

The boards also tended to focus on tactics, where blog reviews virtually ignore anything but strategy.  As evidence, read this by Dan Chiasson (referred to by a subsequent correspondent as mainstream) on Josh's blog:

To Helena Concerning Dan Chiasson

The water at the bottom of the river, way down, the coldest
darkest water: if that water were your only drinking water
what would you do: thirst forever? Or drink the freezing water?

If A, send me a postcard from la-la land, where
Mom bays like a donkey and Dad is an oil slick,
because that's where dehydration takes you, fast.

If B, I'd buy the biggest wool parka I could find
and put it where the sun don't shine—otherwise
you'll feel a subzero chill no mug of tea will thaw.

I chose B, and now it's winter, and I'm outside your door
like a baby seal on an ice island, waiting
to be clubbed or saved by a Green New Zealander.

Come out. When Dan beats off again, when
he drifts away the way he always does, come out:
zip up that pantsuit and rescue me from my Horatian

sense of humor! There's a great jazz bar nearby
that doesn't charge a cover. They will play
only the nine jazz songs we know, over and over.

And the world will narrow the way it always does
when we're together, only nine jazz songs
ever written, and we know every one by heart.

And if some kid from the local jazz college walks in
and starts playing the tenth song, that's when
we get our clubs and club him like a baby seal

Josh has some nice things to say about the piece.  My first impulse is to begin the microcritique:  Where is the refrain value in all those waters, Dan?  It's La-La Land, Dan, and I wouldn't invoke it this early.  Lose the ",fast".  No need for "wool", and lame break on "find".  "where the sun don't shine"??? You didn't REALLY use "where the sun don't shine", did you?  Lose the whole next stanza, which is not only derivative, but distracting, except to tie in the final stanza which is nearly useless.  We're introducing masturbation in S5 for ... what reason?  As it doesn't play into the succeeding text in the slightest and comes off (no pun intended) as a faux poetic mid-life rally?  Exclamation marks, Dan — remember, you only get 4 for a lifetime of poems.  No, Dan, "they will only play / the nine jazz songs we know ...".  The penultimate stanza is worst than throat-clearing, it's stalling for time.  If you have to write "local jazz college", a phrase with two modifiers and we still haven't placed the venue, why not just say "if some kid from Berklee".  OK, I have a serious question.  Is there ANY excuse for using two forms of "club" in the final line?  "we get our CLUBS and CLUB him like a baby fucking seal?".  Are you serious, Dan?  You actually thought about this poem and edited it for a while and considered the consequences before posting it to This Poetry Board?

See what I mean?  Take No Prisoners.  That's what I miss in this Blogworld.  And I like Dan Chiasson.  I respect his reviews in Poetry.  I have read poems of his that I thought were killerbee.  Makes no matter.  This one sucked.  And please don't get me started on the hundreds of poems that Ron has posted to exuberant acclaim.

Posted by jbahr at 07:31 PM | Comments (8)

Indictment Disconnect

Rush Limbaugh:  After Two Years, No Original CIA Leak Crime; It's the Left That's Hypocritical on Perjury

William Kristol:  And then, of course, on Friday, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's two-year investigation came to an underwhelming conclusion with the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby--not for any underlying crime but for impeding the investigation through perjury and false statements. . . .  The wrongdoing leads in no way beyond this one individual and what he allegedly said to FBI investigators and the grand jury. There was no conspiracy, high level or otherwise, at the White House, or involving the Defense Department or the State Department--all scenarios that enemies of the administration had been fantasizing about for months.

GOP Bloggers:  Just one problem... the corruption conspiracy of outing an undercover agent never existed. And the indictment that's expected today will show that... or rather the lack of any indictment for revealing an undercover agent's identity will show it. Sure, the Left is likely to cheer gleefully when an indictment comes down today against Scooter Libby, but the absence of an indictment for actually outing an undercover agent will reveal that this was never a story to begin with.  Let's remember Wilson's trip actually
bolstered the administration's claims about Iraq-Niger.  Let's remember Valerie Plame wasn't undercover anyway.  Let's remember this non-story was manufactured by the Left, then touted by the Left, and will ultimately be revised by the Left. Prepare yourself for the chant to change from "evil, corrupt administration outs undercover agents as payback" to "evil, corrupt administration lies to grand juries".

Powerline:  If Ms. Plame didn't want her identity out, she shouldn't have gotten her husband a secret mission and then allowed him to wage a public campaign against the president's foreign policy. The leading prevaricator in this case is Mr. Wilson himself. He has accused Mr. Bush of falsely leading America to war.

Patrick Fitzgerald, announcing the indictment:

And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. Cooper? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?

Or did they intend to do something else and where are the shades of gray? And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view.

As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it. So what you were saying is the harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.

I also want to take away from the notion that somehow we should take an obstruction charge less seriously than a leak charge. This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter. But the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness is extremely important. We need to know the truth. And anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.

Posted by jbahr at 09:49 AM | Comments (1)

October 30, 2005

Fiction and Fan Bases

Thanks to Kevin (new to my blogroll) for pointing out Time's 100 best novels from 1923 to present.  Any list like this is probably silly for a number of reasons, but if you have to have one, would you really include P.K. Dick's Ubik and not Frank Herbert's Dune (they got Neuromancer right, at least)?  They've got Pynchon on there twice, but Crying of Lot 49 instead of V?  And as much as I like Zadie Smith, I would have given White Teeth another decade before including it, ditto Infinite Jest, ditto Blind Assassin (and I love Atwood). 

Matthew reminds me that there's poetry all around us.  For years, I "collected" the names for salons, the most widely punned institution on the planet.   You know:  Hairport, Tressed To Kill, Curl Up and Dye.  My other great pop-cultural love was bad Japanese translations.  At the time I was a Vice President for one of the three great Seiko companies, running a company called CET for them in Garden Grove, CA., to provide software for their 4-user small business microcomputer system.  I was, in fact, the only Vice President in the conglomerate because everybody else was Japanese and fit somewhere into the Kaicho, Shacho, Torishimariyaku, Bucho, Kacho, Kakaricho hierarchy.  They didn't know where to fit me in, nor exactly how low to bow, so they took the easy way out.  At that time, Japan was dominating world trade, and Tokyo was the most expensive city in the world (the value of the Imperial Palace grounds exceeded that of all NYC commercial real estate).  Walking down the Ginza, you'd see shop windows with stylish manikins wearing $3,000 suits and a sign that said "The Excellent Collection:  Humanly Adult".  The outstanding restaurant in The Hotel Okura had what appeared to be diarrhea on the menu, which was their best shot at spelling paella.  I loved their names (Hashimoto, Tanaka, Furusho), many of which meant things like mulberry mountain or bright warrior.  After ordering the stuffed Shitake that night, I told my boss Furusho-san that we had these in the states, and what was the proper translation.  He said "mushroom".

I read an article somewhere (Poets & Writers?) where fictioneers were opining on their fan base, a perfectly reasonable discussion, I suppose, but not something you hear a lot about in poetry.  I'm not talking about the ongoing poetry sniping, where preferences seem to be a mixture of loyalty oath, tribal warfare and group hug.  I mean the hundreds of thousands of people who buy and read poetry books (formal, pastoral, confessional, ...), but aren't in grad school studying the influence of Laura Riding Jackson on Zukofsky's bathroom habits.  How would you describe your fan base?

Speaking of formalism, here's the only sonnet I ever had published:

Pinocchio in New Mexico

He leans his back against the wheeled workshop
regarding figures rendered white and stiff
on morning rock. He's old, a sideshow prop
beneath balloons above the petroglyph.

Within the wagon now, the carver sings.
The puppet boy declined the gift three times
to keep his rectitude, long life, the rings
of fine Genoan ash providing rhymes

to make a girl in Santa Fe ask why
he wouldn’t drink with her, his lipless mouth
half-cocked, his splintered arms, his legs awry,
his stumble to the door, the long walk south

to this gitano camp, this cactus sea,
the hovering hearts, the blue uncertainty.

Posted by jbahr at 07:10 AM | Comments (2)

October 28, 2005

Science Friday

I was just reading where Exxon broke the world's record for one-quarter of net profit.  $10 billion.  That's one quarter.  After tax.  It reminded me how big the auto and oil companies were when I was a kid, so I looked up who the big boys are now and, surprise!  Of the top 12 largest companies in the world in terms of revenue, 6 are oil companies and 4 are auto companies.  Walmart just squeaks by Chevron for total revenue, but it's nowhere near as profitable.  The 12th Big Boy is General Electric.  Maybe things haven't changed that much.

A couple of bloggers were trying out the verb "Miered", as in "getting Borked", but it won't stick.  Too many people on both sides of the aisle were uncomfortable Miersamazinghair.jpgwith Harriet's apparently amazing incompetence at anything resembling Constitutional law.  One funny line from The Wonkette: "What I'll regret most now that Harriet Miers has withdrawn ... Is that no Senator will be able to publicly ask her what I feel is the most important question that's arisen since this whole matter began.  How does she get her hair to do that?? Seriously. Is there some tiny system of levees and inclined planes stapled to her head that we just can't see?"

Jim is lining up Jordan Davis doppelgangers.  He's also has been ragging on Sweet Billy in the always-funny What The Hell Is Up With Your Author's Photo:  "He's funny and his poems don't hurt your eyes.  They make you feel smart and warm all over, like drinking a decent scotch.  And that's all America wants."  Speaking of brand names:  AT&T used to be so big that James Coburn made a movie that featured The Phone Company as the vast evil empire that was actually running everything.  Then, it looked like the local calling business was a drag, so AT&T spun half a dozen companies and hundreds of thousands of employees, known as the Baby Bells (SBC, Bell South, etc.).  Fast forward 15 years and the long-distance biz is the pits and AT&T, once one of the largest companies in the world and "the stock for widows and orphans", gets purchased by its former Baby, SBC, who then, recognizing the value of a great name, announces today that they're changing their name to . . . you guessed it, AT&T.

Which got me to thinking about the Poetry Foundation's $100 million.  Well, actually more like $75 million, I think, because of the bank trustee's incompetence.  Still, that's enough dough that the interest would easily fund the budgets of the top 200 literary magazines in America.  What the hell does a literary outfit do with all that money?  Well, one thing is give out a bunch of literary awards.  And they did kick in $10K for the Emily Dickinson competition I placed in.  But, wouldn't you at least buy out the rights to poetry.org, for example? 

Joshua was riffing on a model of poetry/poetics/poets that postulates a 3-dimensional space in which the axes are characteristics such as "tradition/innovation", a thought I've had (and even mentioned here) a number of times.  Apparently, the inspiration for the post was Robert Archambeau (who I've just added to the blogroll), who was commenting on Jonathan's SOQ-PA dichotomy, as I was last week.  As I've mentioned before, there is a statistical procedure for teasing out underlying axes of discrimination (multidimensional scaling), but it would take getting lots of input from poets in the form of poet-pair ranks (e.g., "Is Billy Collins closer to Charles Simic than Sharon Olds is to Jorie Graham?).  Henry objects to the objectification.

While there are a couple of thousand Bahrs in the US, there are apparently only hundreds of Behrles.

An interesting article in Wired discusses the use of wasps as high-performance detectors to sniff out explosives, buried bodies, crop disease and other odors for which we now use dogs — at the price of a few pennies per wasp and a 20-minute training session.  The wasps are given a whiff of what you want detected and then treated to sugar water.  Within as little as 10 minutes the wasps are trained and able to smell a few parts per billion of a particular target odor.

I'm off to Wisconsin to see Junie.  Hope you all have a nice weekend.

Posted by jbahr at 07:07 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2005

Harry and Harper's

Richard Siken, Yale Younger Series award-winning author of Crush, is now blogging.  Welcome to this strange world, Richard.

Only 22 days until the next Harry Potter movie (including an IMAX release), with the quite excellent Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort.   I can't figure out how they will continue to reconcile Hermione's average looks and wildass hair with the increasingly lovely Emma Watson, who's playing her. 

I've been listening to American Patriot Radio this week, during the NPR pledge breaks.  This station plays a wild mix of shows including serious gun guys, gold bugs, herbal health proponents, biblically-inspired Yeshua worship groups, and far-right commentators.  Just like you learned in history class, the far right has a lot in common with the far left.  The majority of the broadcasters are livid over the Patriot Act, the erosion of Constitutional protections, the hegemony of Corporate Fascism, and other aspects of the New World Order.  Bush is trashed on a regular basis, and even the War in Iraq is considered by most to have been a bad idea.

Harper's is a little duller than usual this month.  Article excerpts include:  an interview with a Chinese professional mourner (originally printed in Paris Review);  stories told by Chinese, Romanian and Indonesian Ultima Online players who work for a firm that collects their game gold and sell it at auction for cash; the "pitch script" of University Degree Program, a degree mill that has sold more than 200,000 bachelor, masters and PhD degrees and was recently shut down by the FTC; the heavily edited version of the U.N Summit Agreement that John Bolton's team submitted, gutting references to multilateralism, nuclear disarmament, debt relief, and long-term funding for research.  There's an excellent review of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking by Jennifer Szalai, and a retrospective on Pulitzer-prize winning author James Agee.   In Valkyries Over Iraq, Lawrence Weschler discusses war movies, "... gnawing at this problem of whether it's even possible to imagine creating an anti-war movie, or whether any depiction of war in film necessarily lends itself to military-pornographic exploitation".  William Pfaff pens What We've Lost:  George W. Bush and the price of torture.  Harper's Index includes the following tidbits:  The percentage of Americans living in poverty has increased every year for the last four; an erotic Harry Potter fan-fiction site gets almost 200,000 hits a day;  the FBI has gone from number 128 to number 10 in the rank of "ideal employers" in the last year;  63 journalists were killed in 20 years of Vietnam warfare and 71 have been killed in Iraq since March, 2003.

 

Posted by jbahr at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2005

Humpity-Hump


My blog is worth
 $47,421.36.

How much is your blog worth?

Everybody is finding out what their blog is worth, but nobody knows what it means.  I need more sex and violence in my blog if I'm every going to break $50,000.

 
~~~

Everyone from Seth to Horatio the Unicorn is waiting breathlessly for the indictment of ... well, somebody, damn it.

I was just over at CDY's place, reading about his lack of enthusiasm for Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly.  I had this great high-school biology teacher, Mr. Ailstock, who took me on as a sophomore in high school as a lab assistant.  We raised fruit flies like crazy in a big aquarium.  We didn't try to do any kind of Mendelian genetics, just slapped one of them between a couple of slides and looked at the differences among them.  Sometime during the year, I found a black widow spider egg, and Mr. Ailstock insisted that we turn our attention to Lactrodectus mactans.  We waited patiently for the little critters to hatch, and one day they did, a zillion little colorful striped spiderettes.  We tweezered two or three of them each into test tubes and, after the siblings got tired of eating
each other, started supplementing their diet with fruit flies.  When they were big enough, Mr. Ailstock pulled out this honeycombed packing material and placed dozens of the vialed black widows into the web of packing material.  We sent them all of via parcel post to a friend of his who milked them for their incredibly strong webbing, which he sold to rifle sight makers who used it for crosshairs.  I'm sure things are much different now.


News from the Blog-o-sphere:  Zachary Chartoff has an excellent summary of upcoming poetry competitions, though rumor has it that the Zoo Press contests (e.g., Paris Review Prize) may be in some doubt.  By the by, Many Mountains Moving is extending its poetry book contest, which I can give you my personal guarantee is on the up and up.  Nice to see that Deborah's back, we were beginning to worry.  Also, haven't heard from Pack Bringley since late August, and I enjoy his posts.  Ditto, David, though he's only two weeks late.   Tricia hasn't been hilarious since July.  Lots of people have noted the excellent post by Josh about careerism and professionalism.  Shanna is on MiPo radio.  How and where does Jordan take all those great pix?  Paul was a bad person.  Ginger discusses inside-outism.  Rebecca has gone all Kandinski-ish.  Tony is reading with Lisa.  Nick is bored with facts.  Sabrina celebrates panda-mates.

The funniest ad on Wonkette this week is:  "Rick Santorum, one of the finest minds of the 13th century."

Posted by jbahr at 07:37 PM | Comments (2)

October 24, 2005

Monday Love

You gotta love it.  Kay Hutchison (who was herself indicted in 1993) says Rove, Libby, et al. shouldn't have to resign if their indictments are "only" as a result of perjury or obstruction of justice, and not anything serious.  The Weekly Standard says accusations leveled against DeLay, Libby, Rove and Frist are a result of "a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives."  A Wall Street Journal editorial expresses the same indignation.  Are these the same people who impeached a president for lying about a blowjob?

~~~

I just ordered a 3-pack of poetry books by Aase Berg, Lara Glenum, and Arielle Greenberg from Action Books, and you can too

I should also add that Lara's PhD, specializing in Modernism and the Historical Avant-Garde, post-modern aesthetics, and theories of the sublime and the grotesque, is going to be way cooler than mine.

I also received Kirsten Kaschock's Unfathoms from Slope Editions, but haven't got any further than reading the back-cover blurbs and noting that the lovely Ms. Kaschock has cut her hair (I'll report back soon, though).  While driving down to Colorado Springs to have lunch with Ally and John, I listened to Bill Collins Live, which was recorded during a Public Radio benefit.  Bill Murray is the MC.  I know some of you have an inexplicable hatred for Sweet Billy (as Murray calls him), but if you take the whole CD as standup comedy, it was pretty good. 

~~~

John Updike is on the cover of Poets & Writers, looking eerily like the evil Cigarette-Smoking Man on X Files.  This is actually a dual-booby issue (hmm, make that a quad-booby issue), as Fence has a big ad with their now-famous Suicide Girl cover, and it appears again in the Literary MagNet section.  The article also has nice things to say about Poetry Northwest, Alaska Quarterly Review, Black Clock, Ninth Letter, and Eleven Eleven.  (The latter three aren't in my litmag database, so I'd better get hopping).   The Contester reports on Bin Ramke's decision to step down as editor of the Contemporary Poetry Series, partly because of his disgust over allegations of connections between Series judges and contestants.  That Glittering Possibility "Eighteen poets who made their mark in 2005", and highlights Andrea Baker, Christian Barter, Geoff Bouvier, Leslie Bumstead, Victoria Chang, Geri Doran, K.E. Duffin, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Dana Goodyear, Sarah Gridley, Tyehimba Jess, Corinne Lee, Sheryl Luna, Rusty Morrison, Matthew Shenoda, Laura Sims, Mark Sullivan, and Catherine Wing.   Most of the poets have recently won first-book competitions.   I never read the fiction-oriented articles, so sue me. 

~~~

I was definitely going to AWP Austin, and then I wasn't, but now I think I am.  Anybody need a witty know-it-all for a panel?

~~~

The ever-confident, usually-smirking Steve Jobs is on the cover of Time.  After you read the interview/article, you know why this bright S.O.B has been successful (and also why 3 of my buddies who worked for him couldn't stand his ass).  A wonderful sidebar remembrance for Simon Wiesenthal, whose quiet persistence put 1,000 ex-Nazis in jail.  Amazing:  a full-page ad for Rush Limbaugh, "America's Anchorman", heavily Photoshopped, no doubt.  Conservative conspiracy theorists speculate that Commander in Chief's Geena Davis doubles as a campaign ad for a Hillary Clinton presidency.  New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin gets mixed reviews in Can New Orleans Do Better?  Nightmare in the Mountains provides excellent coverage (including topographical maps) of the South Asia Earthquake, which has now claimed almost 55,000 lives.  In Professor of Death, An insurgent Iraqi terrorist leader supplies details and a video training tape on tactics and recruitment.  Major food companies are rushing to eliminate trans-fat in their products (Kraft tried 200 recipes until it got the New Oreo right).  Depending upon how you qualify them, we might have dozens of extra planets to name, Kuiper Belt objects that orbit the sun like Pluto (and at least one, Xena, that is bigger).  New trading exchanges to mitigate risks are expanding to the point where, one day, you may be able to use markets to hedge anything (presidential elections, terrorists attacks, the next American Idol). NEC's PaPeRo "personal partner" doubles as a baby sitter, and can talk, read, sing, take orders and remember names and faces. 

~~~

I just noticed that The Wonkette made the same connection. She also quotes Kay Bailey Hutchison: "Look at Martha Stewart, for instance, " she said on Meet the Press, "where they couldn't find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn't a crime."

Umm. Didn't Martha go to prison?

Posted by jbahr at 09:28 AM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2005

Secrets of a Slush-Piler

Until recently, I've spent the last seven years critiquing poetry on online boards, commenting in some detail on thousands of poems.  I've also read through initial submissions for a number of print and online magazines.  If you want really good advice from the editor of a top literary journal, read some of CDY's suggestions.  I'm here to tell you what the first reader wants.

First off, don't send your submission in one of those giant 9x11 envelopes.  Not only does it scream "Bush League", the manuscript is often mistaken for a fiction submission.  Next suggestion:  write "Reply Only" on your return SASE, so we can feel OK about not sending back the 12 pages of poems you sent.  This doesn't bother the big boys, since they invariably just send you back a small mimeographed rejection notice without comment, but the rest of us can't figure out how to put your monster sub into that business envelope.  Third:  please, please don't make your return SASE those little 3x6 envelopes that you send condolences in.  Fourth:  If you're going to tell me your life story on the cover letter, it had better be damned interesting, like the guy who was born on the Equator and moved with his parents to a small Micronesian island who captured, raised and exported squid until they were run out of town by the locals who thought they worshipped the local version of Satan and ended up in Queens running a French restaurant.  Fifth:  It's never a bad ploy to mention casually that you are a poetry reviewer for a major litmag.  We won't know the difference, and it's a good chance you'll make it on to Second Read.  Seventh:  If you place a cardstock replica of the promo they used at The Ruminator Bookstore for your last poetry book to get our attention, it's probably going to confuse us more than anything.  Eighth:  Unless you are very skilled, your titles are going to suck.  Consider using Frank's Title Service, I do. 

OK, on to actual poetry.  Here's some things that come to mind immediately:

1.  Just as with exclamation points, every poet has a lifetime limit on the number of times cunt is used in a poem.

2.  Don't ever, ever, start a poem with "I remember".

3.  You don't have to list all your credit.  All 67 of them, including the local horticultural newsletter and your high school awards.

4.  You can mention that the last time we wrote back that we thought your work needed "more magic", and that you've tried to put "more magic" into your work, but the chances are that that reader is no longer with us.

5.  If you have to explain what a poem is about, one of three things has happened, and none of them is a good thing.

6.  We have a strict limit of 10 similes per poem.

7.  If you don't know what in media res means, you should.

8.  Onomatopoeia is to poetry like sunbathing is to skin cancer.

9.  A mediocre poem is no less mediocre because each word is a single line.

10. Avoid sending a packet of poems, each of which has a sandpiper playing a major role.

11. Nobody wants to read about old people making love.  Even old people.

12.  It is generally not a wise strategy to use phrases that were, coincidentally, the principal refrain of a Superbowl commercial.

None of this advice applies to my friends and blogmates, of course, all of whom are wonderful poets and savvy competitors.

Posted by jbahr at 08:30 PM | Comments (10)

October 20, 2005

Pretty Good News

Posted by jbahr at 04:19 PM | Comments (21)

October 17, 2005

Two Gabes

I was watching the World Series of Poker last night, which was the perfect counterpoint to the hours of submission-reading I had just finished.  Three or four relatively famous actors were on the floor playing (including Toby Maquire), and Gabe Kaplan was at the final table.  Kaplan played the lead role in "Welcome Back, Kotter", the sitcom that launched the career of John Travolta.  Gabe is now an old guy with a beard and gray hair, but he came within a couple of hands of winning the tournament (he placed second).

Speaking of which, Jilly has signed up for the online Poker Blogger Championship.

~~~

CDY is right.  There isn't much that's funnier in the blogworld than Jim's "What the Hell Is Up With Your Author Photo?" series.   But, what I really admire is Jim's editing of (sometimes quite famous) poems.  Partly because it takes balls, and usually because I agree with the edits. 

~~~

Kelli rightly points out that it's a little weird that the National Book Award finalists are all old guys.  She also points us to a good list of recently published poetry books. ¤  Excellent post by Joshua on the relative avalanche of poetry-related articles (but no poetry) in the NYT (""Poetry" has become a category revered only in proportion to its absence.") ¤ Another reason I love Rebecca:  a professional violinist who listens to the Doors, Pixies, Circle Jerks, and Sex Pistols before concerts. ¤ Tony Robinson is up at No Tell Motel  ¤  I love the Avenging Unicorn at Katey's place.  ¤ As I was getting ready to understand the objects and methods involved in MS Outlook VBA-based models,  I was reading Die Cloud's much more interesting post on objectification:  "Theory and poetics are great tools to fool someone into thinking that poetry can be objectified. The German word "Gegenstand" tells us what an object really is: something that stands against us; something that is apart from us. But a poem, both written and read, happens internally. It can be talked about, clumsily. That does not mean that a poem is ineffable, or difficult, or transcendent, or closer to any sort of truth than, say, a toilet brush. But being composed of language, and thus being ultimately self-referential in a way that a toilet brush isn't, a poem tries to eff the ineffable."   ¤ Our local Gabe on Roosevelt and the Dixie Chicks.

~~~

Good Atlantic issue this month, with a lead article on A.Q. Khan, the egocentric scientist who spied, stole, and connived to bring The Bomb to Pakistan, and then went on to spread nuclear technology to the world's worst rogues.  Richard Clarke notes that, just before the 2004 election, the Bush Administration made sure that preparations were more than adequate in Florida for Hurricane Frances.  Nobel Laureate and econ prof Joseph Stiglitz reminds us once again why Bush's desire to privatize Social Security is stupid, and convincingly argues why it provides better returns than every free-market alternative that has been tried in other countries.  Chevron reminds us that "The world consumes two barrels of oil for every barrel discovered", though we would probably disagree what the policy implications are.  What Would Zimbabwe Do? notes the rising use of international comparativism on the Supreme Court.  The London bookies give odds on Nobel Peace Prize candidates:  11:4 for Viktor Yushchenko, 7:1 for Bono, 14:1 for Colin Powell, 16:1 for Bob Geldof, and at the rear, 250:1 for Blair and Bush.  Declare War advises that Congress grow some cojones and stop letting the Executive Branch wage war without Congressional declaration (where are all those strict Constitutionalist Republicans on this?)  Frenchman Bernard-Henri Levy continues with the fifth in the series In The Footsteps of Tocqueville, asserting that the Democratic Party is a black hole and pillorying David Brock (however contrite) as the sleazy opportunist he is.  Eye-opening series of articles on college admissions, which goes a long way to explaining why tuition has risen much faster than inflation for decades.  P. J. O'Rourke in a funny article about his time on the maiden flight of the gigantic Airbus A380, a plane that weighs 1.235 million pounds at take-off, and could comfortably seat the entire U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, the Cabinet, and still have room for a couple of football teams. 

Posted by jbahr at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2005

South Asian Earthquake Relief

The death toll from the recent South Asian earthquake now exceeds 40,000 and is growing.  Hundreds of thousands are injured and millions are homeless.  Relief in the form of shelter, clothing and food is an immediate need, as many of the affected areas are approaching winter conditions.  Please consider donating anything you can to The International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the Disaster's Emergency Committee, and other NGOs. 

Posted by jbahr at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2005

The New Ignorance

Suppose you were asked to place all the people of our great nation in two camps:  Sophisticated or Redneck,  Hardworking or Indigent, Spiritual or Soulless, Loving or Sociopathic.  How would your respond?  Knowing the general sensibilities of my fellow bloggers, I would guess that you would say:  Hey, it’s not that simple.

And of course it’s not.  Unless we’re talking about poetry.  Then, a sentient subset of our blogging community draws the battle lines as if the End Were Near and the Rapture were about to sort everyone into two neat piles.  Witness a recent post by the otherwise intelligent Jonathan:
 
As for whether you're quietude or post-avant, Laurel Snyder, a simple test is whether you prefer

Norman Dubie, C.K. Williams, Donald Hall, Mary Oliver, Sandra Gilbert, James Dickey, Howard Moss, Robert Pinsky, Norman Finklestein, Charles Wright, Charles Simic...

or

Clark Coolidge, Susan Howe, Tony Towle, Bernadette Mayer, Ronald Johnson, Jess Mynes, Nada Gordon, Lisa Jarnot...

Most people, if they've read contemporary poetry at all, will have a strong inclination toward one or the other side. If you like poets on both lists equally, then you are a true eclectic. There is no cure, unfortunately. The symptoms can be managed to maintain a good quality of life.

  
This is turning Occam’s Razor into a blunt instrument.  My grad school mentor, Wally Ryder, once told me that we can’t help it if we’re stupid, but being ignorant is a matter of choice.  Let’s take a little test.  Here’s a short, random list of accomplished poets:
 
Oni Buchanan
Mark McMorris
G.C. Waldrep
Olena K. Davis
Dean Young
Gabe Gudding
Lara Glenum
Bob Hicok
Claudia Grinnell
Mary Jo Bang
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Sabrina Orah Mark
Albert Goldbarth
Heidi Lynn Staples

I defy anyone to find a single dimension of comparison that would split these poets into two neat groups.  And yet, it happens once a week on the sites on my blogroll, starting with Ron, and progressing down to the Disciples Fighting Quietude.  I sometimes get the feeling that only novelists know what’s up.  As you work your way down through short fiction to poetry, the whole evaluative system devolves into tribalism, willing time and time again to throw out what we have learned to pimp for our buds. 

Let me say this as simply as possible.  We all know what bad poetry looks like.  It’s 98% of what you would read if you visited personal websites, perused the supermarket greeting card aisle, or taught creative writing in high school.  We also know what passable poetry looks like, the kind that is mainly published in moments of weakness by lesser literary lights and even occasionally by our better litmags when their solicited poet comes back with the results of a night’s effort.  All the rest has to pass the test of good poetry.  It has a great storyline.  It appeals to the ethnic/sexual/political/spiritual/ecological appetites of a given editor.  It has musicality, rhythm, spatial coherence.  It startles by means of simile or line break.  It harbors multiple meanings.  It gathers itself into a force that, at the same time, advances one idea, while acknowledging the opposite.  Each line is a quiet argument, but the whole is a tumult of import.  It is plainspoken in a way to leads to authenticity.  It laughs at itself, and so permits us to laugh our ourselves.  It transports us to a time or place, and lays out a despair that we can either ignore or embrace. 

I am beginning to wonder if poetics tends to corrupt poetry.  I used to be able to say that the only thing I know about poetry is, occasionally, how to write it.  I can remember thinking that poetry was the last meritocracy.  I’m not so sure now.

Posted by jbahr at 09:36 PM | Comments (13)

October 13, 2005

Thoizday (Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck)

There's some funny stuff over at Bill Maher's site, where he calls for some New Rules:

New Rule: You can only kill the number-two man in Al Qaeda once. According to the White House, we've killed the number-two man in Al Qaeda about nine times now. He's not a terrorist. It turns out he's a zombie. We're fighting them over in Transylvania so we don't have to fight them here.

New Rule: Just because we have an obligation to rebuild New Orleans doesn't mean we have to put it back in the same place. For $200 billion, we could put the French Quarter on the moon. Why don't we put it someplace it can stay out of harm and do some good? After all, New Orleans is the Big Easy, and a lot of America is uptight. Which is why I say we put New Orleans in Kansas.

New Rule: Michael Brown must un-resign so he can be publicly fired. We are not letting you off that easy, Brownie. You can't just slink off midway through your service. This is FEMA, not the Texas Air National Guard.

Stuff like that.

~~~

Steve and Jessie have posted a baby registry, and links to where you can have a little gift sent to their soon-to-arrive.  I wish Deborah, Suzanne, Laurel, and Reb would follow suit (did I miss someone?).  I'd like to get something for the young'uns but it feels a little creepy to write for a mailing address from bloggers I like and admire, but don't know that well.  This baby registry thing solves the problem. 

~~~

Joshua mentions an article by Fred Kaplan that discusses Nobel Laureate Thomas C. Schelling's work in game theory, and the practical limitations to it that arose when Schelling consulted to McNamara and things didn't work out so well in the Vietnam War.  I took a lot of Game Theory in grad school, mainly because Melvin Dresher, one of its major theorists, was teaching the courses.  Dresher was not only a very nice old man, he had also known John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, who wrote the ground-breaking Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.   Anyone who had actually spoken to the genius polymath von Neumann was an object of adoration those days, and I was impressionable.  Dresher took a liking to me, and passed on a bit of sound publishing advice:  when you can't figure out any other way to support your research hypotheses, make up some citation in an obscure Asian journal of your own devise.  Some simple aspects of game theory are sound (and, perhaps, obvious), such as the idea of the zero-sum game, and the Prisoner's Dilemma.  Like a lot of economic theory and social science, human beings' behavior tends to be perversely resistant to complete characterization.  A good example is the well-known result that almost all higher life forms (including mammals, including us), tend to get motivated to adopt a specific behavior if reward and punishment is somewhat random.

~~~

Is it my imagination or are there a lot of poets living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region?  I mean, out of proportion to the population.  Also, why so many literary journals in the St. Louis area?  Ditto, the proportion thing.  I mean, Columbus, Detroit, San Diego, Jacksonville, ... all of them have larger populations.

I read something somewhere that reminded me of an old joke:  "How do you make a small fortune in the literary press biz?   Start with a large fortune."

Craig Teicher mentions that he's seen a pre-publication copy of Louise Glück's next book and thinks it's better than anything since The Wild Iris.

There is a killer lineup at miPOradio, including poetry reading, interviews and a lot more.

New addition to the blogroll:  Zachary Jean Chartkoff, hailing from Lansing, Michigan.

Posted by jbahr at 07:57 AM | Comments (3)

October 11, 2005

Mapping My Peeps


SiteMeter has a "world map" button that you can click to find out where visitors come from.  The geographical distribution of folks who end up here tends to look about the same every day — a few Coloradans, a few Bay Area people, a smattering of visitors from the central states, and a crawl of folks down the Eastern seaboard.  I don't ever seem to find people from Alaska or Hawaii, or the interior northwest states (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, the Dakotas).  Considering that there's 20 million people in Southern California, I don't see many visitors from there, either.  I must have Midwest Appeal (insert smiley-face emoticon).  As I don't know who any of these people are, I will just imagine it's AG checking in from Kansas, Ramke from Denver, Jorie from Boston, and Lehman from NY.

~~~

Worth has a lead article detailing how "a growing number of heirs are successfully wresting their fortunes from incompetent trustees".  All you trust-fund babies out there should pick it up.  An interesting article on the world-wide shortage of fresh water.  Coffee (amazingly enough) is among the crops causing the problem (it takes 160 liters of water to produce the beans for an average sized latté).  A survey of the "wealthy in America" shows that 55% are Republican (duh), 23% are Democrats and the rest are independent. 40% of the study's participants are under 40, 81% are male, and less than 10% inherited their money.  Why buy a used Gulfstream for $30 million, when you can upgrade a low-mileage Boeing 727 into a flying condo for less than $25 million?  This month's "Passion Investments" includes daguerreotypes, a market which has "moved to the forefront of the photography market" from flea-market sensibility to six-figure prices.  Prime examples from the 1840's can now reach almost a million dollars at auction.  Also hot are Western-style cutting horses, if you're of an equine bent.  Advertisers include:  Vegas888 with luxury condominiums from $600K to $10 million ¤ Fractional ownership of an 82' yacht ¤ Silver Oak cabernet sauvignon ¤ Bray's Island, SC, "where your home is a plantation" ¤ Hästens, "the world's finest beds and mattresses", the latter from $2,000 to $15,000.

~~~

Time's lead article is "The Battle Over Gay Teens" (conservatives want to straighten them out, liberals want to turn them into activists).  Time asks "Is Delay Done?" (we can only hope so) in an article that details the Republican leadership in disarray and a long conservative to-do list that is now in jeopardy.  Alberto Gonzales ducks the answers in Ten Questions, even refusing to name his favorite Supreme Court justice of all time.  A quote from Bill Maher:  "David Hasselhoff has released a rap album.  My God, haven't black people suffered enough?"  In case you hadn't heard, FEMA agreed to pay Carnival Cruise Lines $236 million to shelter Katrina victims, which works out to $2,550 a week (a week's cruise is normally $599).  I bet nobody's drinking Hurricanes.  Afghanistan, once thought to have "turned the corner on terror" is getting deadlier each month for the U.S. military, as decentralized power among the warlords helps the Taliban's efforts.  Five careers that will survive outsourcing?  geologist, physical fitness trainer, trucker, nursing, financial planner.  Want to carry a Cole Haan, Coach or Versace purse to a party, but don't want to part with all that dough?  You can rent one for the night from Bag, Borrow or Steal.  Bass fishing is a commercial success, and bass fishing tournaments now pay as much as $1 million to the winning angler.  Remember Smell-O-Vision from Looney Tunes?  Samsung is packing Intimate Blue scent in with some electronics products to create a "sensory identity".  Time loves Wallace & Gromit


~~~

There was a meme going around a while back.  I wanted to change it to "7 Things I Want To UnDo Before I Die", but it occurred to me that I would be too embarrassed to actually list them.

Posted by jbahr at 08:15 AM | Comments (8)

October 10, 2005

Rambling, Gambling

I spent a couple of hours watching the World Poker Tournament (WPT), which is (curiously) on the Travel Channel.  There are hundreds of good-sized poker tournaments now-a-days, many more than the original Binion's World Series of Poker — a franchise that was purchased by Harrah's in 2004.  The WPT takes place on a cruise ship, and hosts what appeared to be hundreds of players.  The final table of six players were guaranteed at least $200,000 in prizes, with the top two players winning over $1 million each.  In the old days, professional poker players were older guys with names like Amarillo Slim, and the big games ran the gamut from stud to Omaha-8 Hi/Lo.   In the WPT I watched, 3 of the 6 finalists were still in college, and Texas Hold'em seems to be the only poker game on earth now.   All of the televised tournaments on the Travel Channel and ESPN have "pocket card" cameras (so you can see hole cards), and instant calculations of winning probabilities for each player at each stage of the hand.  What is so addicting about these tournaments is the behavior of the players.  Nothing beats getting good cards, but betting strategies have a profound affect on the chances of winning.  In the course of an hour, you can build a decent psychological model of each player.  The atmosphere is one of civilized warfare (particularly in no-limit), and the size and timing of bets and calls are used to bully, cajole and feign submission. 

I played a lot of poker in college.  And I was in college a long time, switching schools, changing majors, and obtaining one degree after another, so that amounted to a lot of cardplay.  My friend Bruce and I played a lot of poker in the USC Student Activity Center, which was the refuge for minorities and undesirables who couldn't or didn't want to join fraternities (there weren't many girls there).  We played so much poker that we eventually invented dozens of variations just to keep from getting bored.  "Norton" was named after my dorm at Pomona College and involved receiving 7 cards, as in draw, arranging them face down on the table and exposing one with every betting round until there were only two left unexposed.  "Morgan" was named after an Arab kid who visited the bathroom periodically to urinate on his hand for luck.  Morgan was a 5-card draw, Hi/Lo, roll'em, with three community cards.  Occasionally, Bruce and I would venture down to Gardena, which was the only site of casinos in Southern California.  California law had established that draw poker was a game of skill, which made it possible for the Gardena casinos to offer a variety of 5-card draw games (hi and low), and some Asian draw-type games.  After Bruce received his MBA with honors, he went to work for an HMO for a year, and then decided to play poker for a living (which he does to this day). 

~~~

I have joined the editorial staff of Many Mountains Moving, a Colorado literary journal that has published Yusef Komunyakaa, W.S. Merwin, James Tipton, and many other fine poets in the last decade.  In the last couple of years, the operations have been in some degree of disarray, due to health problems of the founder.  Jeffery Lee and Erik Nilsen are at the helm now, and we're determined to get production back on schedule, read through the backlog of submissions in the next couple of weeks, and complete the publication of MMM poetry manuscript winner Patrick Lawler (Feeding the Fear of the Earth).  We are currently accepting manuscripts for the MMM Poetry Book Contest ($25 fee)and the MMM Poetry and Flash Fiction Contest ($10 fee).  The fees aren't inexpensive, but we are sending each submitter the last two issues of MMM to soften the blow.  Next week, I'll be playing the Mountain States role of CDY (sans the baccarat and bath products), reading through a zillion submissions and helping organize the production schedule of work that we have accepted in the past 18 months, so we can get back to authors.

~~~

There's a corollary to Groucho's Law (I wouldn't want to be in any club that would accept me) that applies to literary submission.  When I get to know someone pretty well in the literary world (say, Tony Robinson or CDY), I feel, well, weird, submitting to a publication with which they're associated (The Canary and New England Review).  I certainly don't mean to imply that my friends can't be completely objective — in fact, I know they must be, as the poetry world is too small not to get material from friends and acquaintances.  It's probably just stubbornness on my part.  If I don't stop making friends, though, I'm going to run out of places to submit.

~~~

I received a nice, fat copy of Alaska Quarterly Review.  The lead-off section, Chechnya:  A Decade of War is a fascinating (if grim) collection of photos and accompanying text.  Nonfiction and a novella are followed by short fiction and a dramatic piece.  There's a sizeable section of poetry including work by Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, Peter Cooley, Grace Paley and Ellen Bass. 

BusinessWeek reports on more shenanigans in the Current Administration:  the Commerce Department produced a study of offshoring that detailed advantages and disadvantages to business and the American public.  Top political appointees in the department scrubbed the report of most of the disadvantages.  Business leaders expressed concern that Congress's latest bill to extend daylight savings time has the unintended consequence that hundreds of millions of PCs will switch to DST at the wrong moment — which affects security camera installations, financial market systems, and other time-sensitive automation.  Cash-strapped municipalities are converting sections of highways to toll roads, and even selling existing toll roads to foreign buyers.  Rising inventories of unsold new houses is another sign that the house market boom may be coming to an end.  The population of rural counties continues to explode with exurbs, (generally two-income families) who live in large houses on large lots at a considerable distance from urban centers (for example, NPR announced that Greeley, Colorado was among the fastest growing cities in America.  Greeley!).  Exurbs are getting killed with price hikes in heating and transportation costs, and some experts predict that the exodus from the cities may reverse itself in the next decade.  Small cars are hot, 18% of the U.S. market, up from 13% a year ago.  In a move that surely makes Microsoft nervous, Sun and Google have announced plans to market each other's products and services.  ESPN CEO George Bodenheimer has created an empire in sports that seems unchallenged.  Once mighty Kodak continues to close plants and lay off workers as the conversion from film to digital takes its toll.  .

~~~

CDY's blog has a back-reference from the Emerging Writers Network, which in turn has some discussion about "mid-list authors", which is roughly defined as

¤ At least three books published
¤ Great critical reception – be it awards, non-stop good reviews, etc.
¤ Sales numbers not lending towards inclusion on the NYT Best Seller lists

The focus is on fiction writers, of course, but I wonder which poets would be considered "mid-list", and which "best sellers".  It's very unusual for a poetry book to sell more than a couple of thousand copies, which is what a fiction mid-lister might sell in a month or less.  Robert Gray states there is no such thing as a mid-list author, just readers and writers (dammit).  I think that summarizes the feelings of most of the poets' community.  Maybe it's not so bad that almost nobody can make money in this thing.

~~~

Joyce Carol Oates is apparently on the short list for the (delayed) Nobel Prize for Literature.  Am I the only one who thinks her an odd choice?

~~~

Thanks to Die Cloud for pointing out The Rude Pundit, who is indeed rude, but funny, and obviously smart and well-read.  His latest entry is:  Conservative Takedown Friday - Three For One  Why Rush Limbaugh Ought To Be Force-Fed His Own Liposuctioned Fat, Part 714"

Posted by jbahr at 08:57 AM | Comments (7)

October 06, 2005

Hump Plus One



Another photo of the Wisconsin roadside.

~~~

I made a conscious effort today to visit blogs that I have missed in the past month.  Kristy, poet and publisher of Wicked Alice, has some additional comments on the wide range of aesthetics found in online journals.   ¤ Ana relates her recent reading of the obituary of Franzi Groszmann, believed to be the last of surviving mothers who put their children on the Kindertransport to escape Nazi persecution.   ¤ A. D.'s got a new 'stache and is looking pretty buff.   ¤ Clayton weighs in on Jonathan's question "Is 'total absorption in poetry' benign?" ¤ Phil's got these cool slider bars that lets you play what's in his shuffle lineup.  ¤ Catherine's parrot ate her shift key. ¤ From Nada:  "Trying to trivialize a cat is like trying to trivialize a woman" ¤ Jude, who lives in the Canadian rain forest, records her submission experiences. ¤ Chris writes 20 poems in 48 hours. ¤ Amy is going to be the poetry editor for KSU's Touchstones. ¤  


~~~

What looks like a fall great recipe for ham from the folks at Cook's Illustrated.  You start with a fresh ham and brine it in Coca-Cola.

~~~

The Wonkette continues to crack me up.  I imagine her as a potty-mouthed, tongue-studded Will Rogers (though she actually looks quite respectable in photos), the liberal's answer to Ann Coulter.  Typical of her hijinks is the Wonkette's recent write-in contest to determine who Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers looks most like (it's a tie between Strangers with Candy star Jerri Blank, and Emperor Palpatine).  Here's a few marvelous random cheap shots from this week:  "Let's review what we know what we know about Harriet Miers so far: She's a 60-year-old single born again Christian man-eater and a dithering, detail- (and birthday-)obsessed crony who could probably dress herself better in the dark. None of that, of course, answers the question foremost on the, uhm, minds of Wonkette readers: Where does she stand on ass-fucking?" ¤ "... the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the McCain-Graham amendment to the military spending bill prohibiting "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of military detainees. The wracking sobs of Alberto Gonzales were audible from down the street."  ¤  "Whoa. First rock-ribbed Tory George Will denounces Harriet Miers as an unqualified hack, and now impeachment cheerleader Ann Coulter decries her as a blot on the noble tradition of conservative legal philosophy. Hear the loudmouthed stick-figure roar"  ¤ "We're still reeling from Judy Miller's Houdini routine, simultaneously the least surprising and most galling prison break since Ford pardoned Nixon.  Her source -- Scooter Libby -- signed a waiver allowing her to testify in Plame investigation a year ago, and the proof that Miller sought that waiver was "real" came with Libby saying, uhm, yes, it's real. Good stuff, we thought, but what's a book about being a journalist martyr without sleeping on cement and not being able to watch CNN?"

Posted by jbahr at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2005

I Be Back



I've spent a wonderful couple of days in Wisconsin with Junie — driving to Bayfield, wandering through the National Forests, and generally getting re-astounded at the fall colors and wildlife.  Having lived almost 20 years in L.A. and 15 years in Colorado, I forget how beautiful large parts of the country are where those fly-over people live. 

~~~

Not that I didn't miss reading the blogs.  A discussion seems to have evolved regarding Dylan, including comments by JonathanJoshua cracked me up with this:  "oh come off it. Eveyone hates Boomers. The thing is, they weren't the conspiratorial force driving Bob Dylan '63, and to confuse Dylan-worship with the aesthetic object of, say, "Masters of War" is drivel. I'm all for blaming Boomers, and what they should be blamed for is clinging to the particular story of "enduring genius" when what they mean is "enduring demographic omnipotence"; or, even more absurd, dreaming the tale of "genius recovered"; one can see why this would be a salutary delusion for a nation of sixty-year olds nervously watching their own world-historical relevance fade in the rear-view, leaving nothing but masturbatory fantasies starring a cherry Mustang and Norah Jones. No, really, after being lost since "the Sixties," you can just get it back and show those whippersnappers how it's done!"

I fear for my world-historical relevance!  But, seriously, you have to wonder about the precision of a term that applies to me, Lyn Hejinian and George Bush.  Not to mention I've always felt that Boomers born close to the 1945 birth boundary turned out differently than those closer to 1955 birthdates.  My older sister listened to Bo Diddley, drove a Vespa, and got kicked off the high-school bus for chewing gum.  I sat through one tense night of the Vietnam War draft lottery listening to the White Album.  My younger sister wanted Elton John to play at her wedding.  Ya know?

~~~

Things that surprised me upon returning to BlogLand: 

Θ  Seth hasn't commented on the nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers, selected largely, it appears, for her loyalty over dozens (hundreds?) of better-qualified candidates.

Θ  CDY hasn't played baccarat since I left.

Θ  How much I liked the short poems that Tony linked me to.

Θ  That Zach is already in Nebraska.

Θ  Eduardo doesn't have a new dreamy poet to supplant Ronald Palmer.

Θ  That Caterina still blogs when I thought she was a zillionaire now.

Θ  The title to Hannah's new poem (Take Heede The Bees That Be Nearly In Swarme, and it's a good kinda surprise).

Θ  That Henry agrees with Ange (and I with both of them). 

 ~~~

Speaking of Henry, he's written the smartest thing I've read all morning (which is to say, the thing with which I most agree):

I don't deny the pervasive & insidious presence of injustice & evil. Nor the forces of conformity & exploitation which structure & process the social reality we inhabit. But I question whether the appropriate interpretation of this reality is a purely econo-political one. That is I think of injustice and inequality - & the seemingly entrenched patterns of oppression which they assume - as symptoms, rather than causes.

Taken as
causes, the logic leads to the denunciation of bourgeois property rights, capitalism, the rule of law, democratic institutions, private enterprise, and so on; it leads to the moral disenfranchisement of independent cultural activity (academia, art, literature) - its chastisement for complicity in the "system" (cf. Ohmann's analysis).

If taken as
symptoms, the entrenched injustices and inequalities of various nations & societies may have very different systemic shapes & developments; there may be no simple "answer" (Marxist, socialist, nationalist, ethnic, religious, etc.) which provides utopian solutions to the underlying causes : ie. the greed, selfishness, bigotry, aggression, malice, hatred, cowardice, fraudulence, intellectual/moral blindness of human beings, persons, individuals.

 

Posted by jbahr at 08:35 AM | Comments (3)

October 01, 2005

That Town Up There By The Lake There

The weather has been obscenely beautiful this week, mostly in the 70's, no rain and blue skies until the evening, when clouds start to roll in from the mountains. 

~~~

I am so jealous that Rebecca (and Tony, Adam, and Daniel) had an acceptance from Forklift, Ohio, which is one great publication.  They've never taken so much as a recipe from me, and Rebecca got a poem and a culinary plug for figs. 

Some posts from our academic bloggers (usually those in the grips of a PhD program) make my head hurt, as if I had entered the throbbing, humming engine room of a huge vessel.  I rather took to Tony's "sloppy post", however, which seemed honest, spontaneous, and thoughtful.  There's a section that goes: 
And it seems clear the online poetry world swings very heavily towards the post-avant. You know, Mark Strand, Louise Gluck, Robert Hass, Tony Hoagland: these people don't have blogs, don't edit online magazines, don't really publish online. Ron Silliman, Nick Piombino, Barrett Watten, Juliana Spahr, Lisa Jarnot: these people do. //  The fact that a majority of the online journals, blogs and sites lean 'post avant' might seem just like a possibly curious fact to some of us, but I think this fact will actually enact a fundamental shift when those who are now just coming to poetry (at least those doing it partly or mostly online) become more established and start throwing their weight around in terms who they read, publish, teach, etc.

That got me thinking about BlogLand and the illusion of self-selection.  Is the online world really that much more progressive?  The dozens of poetry boards I've participated in don't seem to be.  Nor do many of the older eZines (Blue Moon Review, Perihelion, Big Bridge), although they do seem to have larger percentage of what Steve would call elliptical verse.  The top 100 journals seem to carry a bit more post avant work, but for the most part (as Tony points out), PA verse lives in its own little ghetto of literary publication, much of it web-based.  There are so many cross-referential posts and intra-blogger cheerleading (which, by the way, is a good thing) that we may be generalizing our anthill to real life (which to most poets is Ploughshares, AWP, and the Bollingen). 

~~~

I'm off to see my sweetie in Wisconsin.  We're going to drive up and spend a day or two in Bayfield, a small and beautiful town on Lake Superior, which calls itself the Gateway to the Apostle Islands.  The last time we were there, we took the last ferry of the year across the 4-mile passage to the major island.  Halfway across, it occurred to me to ask how the residents of the island get back to Bayfield during the rest of the year.  Ferryman:  "They drive".  Me:  "Four miles across the freaking lake?!"  Ferryman:  "Well, of course, they wait for the snowplow to clear it first".  Me: "The SNOWPLOW?!". 

Apparently it gets pretty cold up there.

Posted by jbahr at 08:39 AM | Comments (3)