Thursday, February 25, 2016

Randy Stark Discovers America

While I’m trying to get my thoughts together regarding certain questions (Why are new poetry books so often elitist-ly priced? I know what time it is, do you?) to be answered in future posts, I realize it’s been a minute since I did some shout outs, short and sweet, to things that have been keeping my head in the game in recent weeks, so before I get any more of the side eye let me scoop you up and take you where I been.

Seeking to augment the stimulation every reader demands (your gramma bumps this shit), and to source the boost that every artist needs—sing or play, gallery or screen, a page is a stage—I often go on a walkabout, nondirectional uninhibited researching and “discovering” uncharted artists and remote places, which I frequently find out later have been widely known by everybody else for like ever. (Where I used to work, we called that naive earnestness “discovering America.”) Add to that, some me revisiting old favorites, and you’ve got this post, honest weights and measures.

Random AM Radio

Wea Yo Ass Was At by DY. Seems to have been inspired by Drake, I’m not a hundred on that, but this video is authenticity to the max, in place of overcooked production a riveting flow of words and images. Astonishing stuff, basic to the marrow.

The Dennis Bono Show brings back lounge-era Las Vegas (“He sings a la Bobby Darrin”) in a radio show recorded in performance at Michael Gaughan's South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas and then broadcast on the weekend.  All the fabulous Vegas tropes and clich├ęs are in force here, including swinging musicianship and hip repartee. Old style Vegas, old style radio, life itself, the way it used to be.  It looks marvelous.

Random Reading

Poetry by Darin Ciccotelli (“like a ribboned/aroma that carries you to breakfast.”) And here is some earlier work from a different magazine. The artistry is refreshing, in clean and clear language that delighted me. 

W.H. Auden, tumdiddyum. This ain’t no pretender’s lab, this is the whole launch complex. You can go to page 2302 of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Fifth Edition, Volume Two, and break your wrists trying to hold the book or you can click In Praise of Limestone and be astonished and amazed by it on your screen. A tour de force, and here are three brief examples:

“…Mark these rounded slopes
With their surface fragrance of thyme and, beneath,
A secret system of caves and conduits; hear the springs
That spurt out everywhere with a chuckle,
Each filling a private pool for its fish and carving
Its own little ravine whose cliffs entertain
The butterfly and the lizard; examine this region
Of short distances and definite places…”


“to become a pimp
Or deal in fake jewellery or ruin a fine tenor voice
For effects that bring down the house, could happen to all
But the best and the worst of us...
That is why, I suppose,
The best and worst never stayed here long but sought
Immoderate soils where the beauty was not so external…”


“The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from,
Having nothing to hide. Dear, I know nothing of
Either, but when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.”

Random Reacquainting

Hannah Arendt

From sixty years ago, she’s writing about the self-presentation, the primacy of appearances, the complications of the simple fact of appearing:  “Not what something is, but how it ‘appears’ is the research problem.” Authentic vs. Inauthentic. “The urge to self-display.”

And she’s writing (The Human Condition, The Life of the Mind) about the speed of technology (a la another great lounge act, Paul Virilio)  and how “speed has conquered has made distance meaningless.” She locks in that idea with this metaphor:  “No significant part of a human life—years, months or even weeks—is any longer necessary to reach any point on earth.”

Jules Verne 

I finished The Mysterious Island, the fourth of his novels I’ve read in recent months, preceded by Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in 80 Days. As the titles imply, each book has been wildly entertaining, exciting, and often enlightening. “Voyages extraordinaires,” his series of novels written in the 19th century are called, and their popularity must be credited not only to the raw thrill of adventure, but also to a positive attitude within his best characters, typified by this quote from The Mysterious Island:

“They looked their situation in the face, they analyzed the chances, they prepared themselves for any event, they stood firm and straight before the future, and if adversity was at last to strike them, it would find in them men prepared to struggle against it.”

Christian Mystics

Part of my official academic transcript includes one quarter at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) which included a class in Christian mysticism. Probably because I’ve been transitioning from a high density, high energy metropolitan environment to a lower density, lower energy desert location, Christian mystics have been in my mind of late, though not the wanderers, but rather a hard core anchorite and a cloistered nun, who in their pious seclusion (i.e. off the grid and before Facebook and texting) and extreme faith regarded prayer as the mystical union with God.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) Being an anchorite, confined to a small cell adjacent to the main part of a church, gazing upon a crucifix, the dying English mystic experienced 16 visions, many of them a plenteously bleeding Christ on the cross, and lived to write about it.  Sometimes the visions “I saw with bodily sight...” and sometimes “I mine understanding...” and some came via spiritual sight. But in the descriptions of internal prayer and infused contemplation, there is no little detail about the blood flowing from an apparently animated crucifix---color, the size and shape of the drops, etc. Julian's book, Revelations of Divine Love, is considered the first to be written by a woman in English.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) A Spanish mystic, she too experiencing physical challenges and seeking prayerful union with God. Her book The Interior Castle, uses the castle (or mansion) as a metaphor:   one’s soul is in residency, the entrance to each of the many rooms  within bringing the seeker progressively closer to God, utter devotion, or as she puts it, being “oned” with God. She has a nice line about what it would be like to have displeased God:  “no night can be so dark.” Some reports have her levitating. Like Julian’s, her visions were not without their bloody wounds:

“I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it...”

Eric Hoffer

A tough son of a bitch, he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco and in the 1950’s began publishing works of philosophy. The docks have historically been a frenzy of new anarchic ideas from exotic lands, and Hoffer has some astute observations about “true believers”: extremists, terrorists, fanatics. A philosopher in the working world—do they make them like this anymore?

Random Facebook Hits:

Stephen Beveridge is an artist and performer, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting him, seeing his paintings, and listening to his open mic performances. His visual art is one thing, his observations via the written page or lyric are something else again.

Jerome Rothenberg teaches me a lot in this tight website.

Now, it’s time to return to my own work, “my very entrails,” adhering to Solzhenitsyn’s advice to “keep quiet and get on with the job.”