Saturday, February 29, 2020

Rub Out Erasure

Erasure (or blackout) poetry as a style bores me. Erasure poetry consists of taking a text and selectively erasing words; instead of writing a new text, what’s left of the original becomes the poem. (The image accompanying this post gives an example of erasure. More on the image later.) 

Advocates and practitioners say erasure is not, but it is: censorship, under a guise such as appropriation.

Others justify erasure for being used politically, but the authorities justify erasure, too; they call it redaction. Blacking out parts of the Mueller report and calling it art? I think not, Cisco. 

BigPo praises some poet for “creating striking ‘erasure poems’ out of the apologies of Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and others and posting them on her Instagram.” Striking? Actually, valorizing and glamorizing redaction is more like it, while claiming to be a voice for the voiceless or some crap like that (all on “her” Instagram!). 

Search for erasure poems on poets dot org. Consider the image used for this post is a snap of a magazine advert from 1998, erasure promoting a major capitalist corporation.

I'm not a fan of erasure.

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

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!