Saturday, February 22, 2020

And This Little Piggy

During the Presidents’ Week staycay, this little piggy, it’s fair to say, and sans modesty, went to market: writing on a baily dasis, and patting myself on the back over this blogpost title: Half of One, Six Dozen of the Other, a political commentary of sorts.

This little piggy early voted, and when I received today a letter from candidate Mike Bloomberg I was concerned that the C-note enclosed would have to be returned because I didn't vote for him. But no worries, there wasn't even a fiver, nothing, cheap bastard, so no harm no foul.

So yes, I early voted in my state’s Super Tuesday election. Bernie. Bernie.  I also voted for the incumbent congressperson because he’s a Democrat, and the incumbent state assemblyperson—although he is a Republican—because his first name is Randy.

Things are getting better and continue to evolve at Write Up The Road. Being a part of the collective is assisting me in keeping my head in the writing game.

And this little piggy has two more poetry books to recommend. I didn’t research either poet so I have no notion of their biographies beyond what is in the books. But I see somebody that looks like me in these poems. I can relate, I’ve been there. Yet at the same time the writing is such that I feel like I’m also seeing and experiencing the situation for the first time. To me that’s the entertaining heart of literature. I love to read as though I’m at a production, a show, like a movie, or an opera, it’s an event, produced by the writer’s magic, talent, technique, call it what you will. And even though there were officially no classes this week, this little piggy got taken to school, twice, learning some of how it’s done, and even more being shown that it can be.

Empires, by John Balaban, 2019

Poems about various empires in various historical periods on various continents, and the residue of their dissolution, due often to war and its aftermath. An empire always striking back eventually implodes from exhaustion. That’s what’s being written about for the most part in this book. And written so well. At times Aeneid-like. It references many cultures, even mixes in some English translations of Romanian verse. Damn interesting.

And there are other themes, too. “A Visit from His Muse” about a quickie with a muse in a cheap motel. Another, “Showgirl,” a steely elegy for a person I had to Google.

And I so nodded in agreement at the conclusion of “El Mercado

“…know that few pass through here, that few
Stop in this high desert town by the border,
And that whatever you’ve come looking for
You probably won’t find.”

Unless its good poetry you be wanting.

The 44th of July, Jaswinder Bolina, 2019

This is a wild ride. Everything’s exaggerated. Like the title. Bombastic.

Couple of examples:

From “New Adventures in Sci-fi”

“No caps on our data plans, no gaps in our Medicaid
through the fevers of spring, through our seventeen

Months of summer, our seven throngs of fall
when the leaves change several times an hour

Until it snows those days we really need it to snow
so the sun can thaw the barrio dry, lay itself easy

As a leg draped across your legs on a porch swing.”

And then this one, a virtual job description/job interview for the position of poet titled  “What We Call a Mountain in the Valley, They Call a Hill on the Mountain.” The document starts by interrogating the basic premise of the poet’s (or any artist’s) motivation, why do this?

“Aren’t the rigors of traffic ample? Aren’t child-rearing
And the triumph of income over expenditure ambition

Later in the piece the prospective poet is being grilled about their precious conceit:

“And if we don’t comprehend it, do you believe someday we will?
That the poem will blossom before us some morning

Like a green light at Daytona?”

And I liked the advice from another poem: “In a story about Paris, you shouldn’t mention Paris.”

So yeah, every work of art that I get off my ass to pay attention to, changes me. The better the work, the bigger the change. A painting, a video, a concert, a poem, whatever dazzles me, I’m not the same artist afterward. It ups my game. It challenges me to be as fine in my art and style as that artist is in theirs.

These composers’ musics were on during the week, my own private nation under a groove: Lois Vierk, Unsuk Chin, John Adams, Grant Green, Alexander Scriabin.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Stinky Poo Rendezvous, et. al.

I’ve mentioned the Write Up The Road project, and the collective I’m a member of. While participating in the collective’s build out and going through my files, I came across a poem by Richard Anthony Spadaro. Although he was from Berkeley, California, I met him in Santa Barbara twenty years ago. He was selling his poems on State Street. The poem I bought, Stinky Poo Rendezvous, is dated September 29, 1998. It’s about getting a group of friends together to wash clothes at a “laundermat.” If you Google Richard Anthony Spadaro, you’ll find a few results, some pictures, and a couple of his poems (but not Stinky Poo Rendezvous).

Sure we honor the academy poets, the tenured, the chaired, the shortlisted, the statured. But what about the true poetry warriors, the Richard Anthony Spadaros of this world?

I remember sending Stinky Poo Rendezvous to my dad, who wasn’t much of a poetry reader, but he really liked it, and my story of meeting the author.

Earlier this week I went to the city library and checked out three poetry books. I enjoyed each immensely.

Dispatch from the Future, by Leigh Stein, 2012
Hip, hyper and self aware, these poems are observations from the center of a pop universe.

Last Train to the Missing Planet, by Kim Dower, 2016
These are more or less Los Angeles-centric, and can be very funny. “Day Whatever of Heat Wave” and “It’s Wednesday, Not Thursday” comically reflect some of what people in Southern California put up with, every day, whatever the day; she captures the exasperation. I laughed out loud often.

On Time, by Joanne Kyger, 2015 This book is the calmest of the three, less romcom obsessed, more Buddhist sensibilities. 

Last Rays in the Garden

They lasted a long time didn’t they
those rays

I’ve also been reading, from the internet, in ones and twos and threes, poems by:

Sara Borjas (She teaches at UC Riverside, which is right up the road from this Write Up The Road office).
Natalie Diaz (I noted “Museum of tribal dentistry” and laughed but wasn’t sure if appropriately so? She’s from Needles).

And then, Robert Louis Stevenson. I posted this on the Write Up The Road blog.
Thanks for reading. 
And if your state has a primary election coming up, please Vote!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The first day of the second month


It’s been more writing than reading or even listening to music the past week or so, and the cause is due to a specific event.

It’s not officially launched, but it is live, the reinvented Write Up The Road website. A more formal launch, and more detailed narrative of the project will follow, but for now you are welcome to watch work in progress.

Beginning late last year I’d experienced a surge of writing but didn’t know where to direct it, and then voila! out of the blue my steam punk gothic content colleague and her interplanetary sombrero wearing site runner IT husband graciously invited me to join their collective, which has caused me to amp up, ramp up, and start churning out the verbiage.
Today, a poem about Elena Delle Donne, who currently plays for the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, appears on my page

It is a pastiche of Frank O’Hara’s poem Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed] updating the subject idol.  


It was last year or the year before that I read The Aeneid by Virgil for the first time. I’m into my second reading now, appreciating things I missed the first time through. Robert Fitzgerald’s is the only translation I’ve read. “frightening the air with javelins” por ejemplo. Or that great scene in part three, Wandering, when Aeneas and crew head into the open sea per the divine prophecy and rounds the south eastern tip of Italy and makes his way towards Sicily. As gods are my witness, I was on that ship in utter amazement.

Notes and Asides

I’ve blogged elsewhere about writing away from home, and how “breakfast places” are some of my favorite satellite offices. Breakfast is as much a ritual as a meal for me, going back—well, going back a long time, and this morning was no exception. A favorite place of mine is J.R.’s Family Restaurant in Hemet. Today, true to the spirit of the establishment, there was a nice family in a booth near where I was sitting. Mom and young daughter on one side of the table, dad and older daughter on the other. The little one is getting Mickey Mouse pancakes. Dad was forceful and direct in his conversation. The older girl, preteen I’d guess, had that slow sweet syrupy voice that hasn’t matured yet, still dreamy and softly mewling. It was fun eavesdropping!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

“with a touch lighter than a lark’s breath” Alison Fell


There's still time to get to Joseph Keppler’s show at the Zeitgeist in Seattle. Here is what the artist writes about it:

“There will never be another show like the first shows, never be another chance to be one who experiences what it is to live in the time with the artists who are showing what that time is like for all who will follow in time.
Do not look for reviews or red dots to justify this 2020 exhibit, which is in part about justifying oneself in North America and globally; critics have not thought reflexively about this art yet and collectors have not loved it yet.
Look upon this art as if looking into daily phenomena, mirrors clouded with oil, language, images, desires, and minds, your own and those around you.
This is a final shout-out to those who have neither seen nor understood the exhibition, Archeology Anthropology Aesthetics Investigated & Delivered Daily. It runs through 5 February 2020, and then it will never be seen again in whole and as first arranged.
Be knowing. Crowds come later but it is different then. Be someone who sees now and not only lives now.”


Cultural anthropology was my major in college, so unless they could be used to meet anthro requirements, literature classes were an indulgence, more partaken as electives in my junior and senior years. I had some great teachers, beginning with freshman English 101 and Comparative Literature 101 classes, then moving on into the upper division classes: African American literature, Chicano literature, Russian literature in English translation, Japanese literature in translation, German literature same, a special class on Borges. I missed Seamus Heaney until now. I’d seen his name, maybe haphazardly skimmed something, but not until the past few weeks had I actual read his work. Here’s a transcription of my audible reaction while reading many of his poems: Wow. Wow. Fuuuuuck. I was in a period of angry doubt, the usual what the hell have I been wasting my life on literature for howling; not only did he astonish me with the writing, he inspired me writer, there is a comforting confidence in his craftsmanship, and that’s really what all this is about: the art. 

I had a minute so I reread Katherine Anne Porter’s story, “A Day’s Work,” from a 1944 collection titled The Leaning Tower. A violent, sleazy, nasty narrative, it stunned me even more the second time around. 

Friedrich Nietzsche could be a smart ass. Here are some cynical lines from Thus Spake Zarathustra that I enjoyed: 

“A little poison now and then: that maketh pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death.”

“Where solitude endeth, there beginneth the market-place; and where the market-place beginneth, there beginneth also the noise of the great actors, and the buzzing of the poison-flies.”

“Full of clattering buffoons is the market-place,—and the people glory in their great men! These are for them the masters of the hour…Such ancient babbling still passeth for “wisdom”; because it is old, however, and smelleth mustily, therefore is it the more honoured. Even mould ennobleth.”

Philip Schaefer:

“I watch a kid kick a telephone pole
with his brother’s face glued to his boot.”


Three of the iconographic buildings in the USA that I have seen are: the Woolworth Building in New York City, the Flamingo Tower in Las Vegas, and the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood. The Flamingo Tower was razed many years ago, but the other two remain in use.


I’m hearing and half-listening to a recording of “A Mind of Winter” by George Benjamin. How often I’m hearing and half listening to things, birds for example, and still becoming infused with sensation.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2020, the next go-round

Remember when there was an "anti-war movement?" 


I have new work in The Bangalore Review and Good Works Review. Thank you to the editorial team at Bangalore Review and to Robert S. King, editor at Good Works Review.

I dropped my subscription to the local daily newspaper, and then became a subscriber to Love notes from Siel, a weekly email on matters literary and otherwise by the Los Angeles-based writer Siel Ju. I look forward to reading her take on the world.

And a couple of things I’ve read recently:

A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen. This has lost its shock value as a woke piece for feminism, but I think it has acquired an unintended legitimacy as a critique of the effect of contemporary consumerism. (Perhaps a project that needs Greta Gerwig’s attention?)

From A Beginner's Guide to Free Fall, by Andy Abramowitz, here is a quick bit of the fresh mouth repartee that I like in the book, a back and forth between a dad (Davis) and his daughter (Rachel) who has just finished kindergarten and will be starting first grade in September:

“You think Old Lady Janacek is going to miss you?” Davis asked. This was how he referred to Rachel’s twenty-five-year-old kindergarten teacher, because the name somehow worked. “School’s over, and you’re officially a first grader. She’s lost you. You’re moving on, never looking back.”

“I’ll see her in the hall,” Rachel said, refusing to see sentimentality where it did not lie. “I’ll give her a hug if she needs one.” She tugged a small continent of cheese off her slice of pizza and dropped it into her upturned mouth. The open-jawed box in front of them on the table was now empty of everything except crumbs, grease stains, and smudges of sauce. Summer was on, school already a distant memory.


Bass players: 
the young and the iconic.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


“Anybody who’s breathing should have everything that they need and 93% of what they want – not by virtue of the fact that you work today, but by virtue of the fact that you are here.” -- Fred Moten

"Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble it, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness, don’t work against God’s intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to the animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you—alas, it is true of almost every one of us!"-- Fyodor Dostoevsky

LOL Contest

Winner: Zora Neale Hurston
Girls with mouths on them! And “challenging him to another appraisal of her person.” Plus jewels like: “midnight stood looking both ways for day.”

Honorable Mention: Gertrude Stein
“The cute way that a certain place is open on a Sunday and not on Tuesday.” "This is the season of rejoicing and the moment to have a denial of advice. If it is a pity it is not the same pity as more toast."


Nancy Wilson, But Beautiful:

Bill Evans Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Not 24 hours after reading in Keith Richard’s autobio that the first Rolling Stones show in the USA was in 1964, in San Bernardino, California, at the (now not there anymore) Swing Auditorium, I’m talking to a security guy in front of a jewelry store and out of the blue he tells me he was at the first Rolling Stones show in the USA at the (now not there anymore) Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, California.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday the 14th

Here’s an astute opening by David Rieff, writing from Buenos Aires in the NYRB: “There is an old Argentine wisecrack that says: a person who leaves Argentina for six months, and then returns, finds the country completely transformed, but someone who returns after an absence of ten years finds that things are more or less as he or she left them.”

Pliny the Elder:"Fortune favors the bold."

Babette Babich:“And when it comes to the profession, simple non-mention, utter exclusion turns out to be far more efficient than refutation.”

Homi K. Bahba:"...the American border as cultural signifier of a pioneering, male 'American' spirit always under threat from races and cultures beyond the border...”

Lisa Roberston: “…Gardens leave so little evidence…In what season, through what representation or renovation, from what point in its development, with what persistently spreading perennial, may we retrospectively construct an image of what a garden was? And in its reimagining of nature, history and heritage, the garden itself is a constructed dream.”

Regions I’ve called home:
The Midwest.
The Southwest.
The Land of Enchantment.
The South Bay.
The Pacific Northwest.
The Central Coast.
The Inland Empire.

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Michael Jang

Silvina Ocampo

A Kit

The Practice of Everyday Life, by Michel de Certeau
The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard
A Handmade Museum, by Brenda Coultas

More poets read and enjoyed:
Sam Hamill
David Baker
Kimiko Hahn

And I fortuitously and serendipitiously was guided to Natalie Diaz, Mickalene Thomas, Chantal Akerman and Laura Nyro. I reviewed Kayla Rodney’s book Swimming Home on Amazon,

The brothers Karamozov are twenty somethings, as are many of their friends and lovers
A young crowd, boorish, thuggish, or else saints.