Knowledge posting: Saturday night at the Hot Spot soundbites.Citizen Poet"She is the dream that I would love to have everytime I shut my eyes...there's violence in the streets of Hollywood because of you and your words...I will inspire you to mend your broken heart and I will promise you that it will never be broken again...[sung>'I'm gonna be a talkshow host in New Orleans, I'm gonna be a talkshow host in New Orleans, I'm gonna talk about the President, no need for me to be hesitant, I'm gonna be a talkshow host in New Orleans]....I think you were an angel on my way to heaven and on the way you stopped to look at me...'I coerced Bridget into performing 'Dear Hiphop' after I performed 'I'm a rap whore' because I felt it would be a good segue.She said she only does it if more than 70% of the crowd haven't heard it and all these hands shot up to show her that they hadn't heard it'...E.I.....eternally imprinting extreme ignorance...set your mind free, back your thinking up...'Kacenpoint and Joshua beatboxed together. I guess that made me the first spot to have two beatboxers.Everybody dug them and some told me that they'd seen it on TV but never in real life.Inq rapped with them'Me and Bridget don't fidget, we come up shorter than a midget [I did another segue.I did 'The Hobbit and Lorena Bobbit' and asked him if he would follow up with 'Don Juan de Marco'.Everybody felt it was a good segue and as he rapped it he cracked up seeing how the two went together]...'allo senorita, take a seat-a, order a margarita, I want to climb ya, and get inside ya....I'm gonna die if I don't write tonight...stab me in the back, stab me in the front, stab me any way you want, just make sure the blade is blunt...I'm hang-gliding a tornado, paddling my canoe into a storm [He cracked me up when he said he was crip walking through some gang area on a Sunday]...Right now!A driver's asleep at the wheel.Right now!A kid's starving for a meal.Right now!Someone's on the floor swearing off of alcohol....Right now!Cops are racially profiling...'I asked him to take us out on that..Inq only wanted to put out one CD and I said to put them all out but he stopped at 3.he sold all 3.I know he would have sold more if he put out more because the crowd was really feeling him.So understand, when you come to the Hot Spot with your CD's and you rip it you will sell a grip.Knowledge signing off.
Knowledge posting:Reporting from the Lounge.Sekou'This individualism gonna be the death of we, unless we do this shit collectively...aspire to black empire...I am a poet,i choose the hot sand over the cool grass...when I spit my saliva corrodes your cancer...I was shot 41 times and all I was doing was reaching for my poem...I do this for the money, I don't do the starving artist routine.There'l be no dscounts, tonight I've got to pay rent so I'm collecting every cent...hardship is shared, you do not battle demons alone...I spit because when I sleep at night the words chase after me...this sacred burial ground of skeletons that escaped closets..bring your rancor, bring your rage, and most importantly if you're sitting at the front of the stage bring your raincoat because I will spit....'Sekou calibrated at this last slam of the year.Slim followed him with 'Woman''Woman, you are effervescent in the crescent of a half moon.Slim also calibrated.Rachel"Your family tree would never have branched to a fruit like me...play archaelogist to my landscape...constellations weep in appreciation of our creation..'Rachel was the first of the 12 minute slammers.Jahira'being brutally date raped is the only way I've been compensated...God, if you exist then show me who you've sent to move men...he learns to invent clouds to cover the light, she prays to God but he can't promise that he's coming tonight..yeah, I'm getting emotional and losing my composure, fuck your apology and fuck finding closure'Thea'touch down touching her down there..from birth he was encouraged to see queens as whores..nothing's gonna change unless the people ask for it'Azikwe'dark cloud on top of me, won't get off of me..I watch so much porn my imagination is Vivid...I'm dreaming of a Christmas without frosted flakes, I'm dreaming of a lifestyle without mistakes...closest thing to paradise is a naked woman...Kaiser Permanente seems to keep my sickness permanent...I drink so much liquor my blood is now a liqueur...the devil don't exist, just the one you allow to roam inside of you..'Inq was the last one and he was disqualified for having Kacenpoint beatbox, but he knew that going on.His beatbox was there so he wanted to use him.Inq'I'm hourglass ash, pour it on the digital...'I think Inq would have come second if he hadn't been disqualified.Azikwe came first.Libby calibrated for the open slam.George'he curses his mistress but he loves her just as much as he loves his wife..'Mel Bernstein took off his top and was ridiculed.Foot stomping indicated that they wanted him offf of the stage then he shut them up by saying'We've all seen the emperor naked.We laugh an uneasy laugh knowing we're next..'I lovehis stuff.he gave me his chapbook free that night.'Insects and Birds'.Omari'maybe if Sekou is the rapper, I'm just the rhythm that he's trying to catch, maybe if Jim Morrison is the Doors then I'm just the latch.Buddhahat'You are approaching me in a bar and you're going to preach to me the ills of drinking?!'Babu'I gotr drunk on drama 'cos you drunk my last 3 tears..I want you to know you still pulsate in my veins..'Omari and Babu were the finalists and had to do 2 poems each, alternating.Babu'they tackled me, shackled me and called me wild while constantly beating my ass....you took away all that I am and had the nerve to question why the fuckI'm angry!' Omari'sometimes when I can't get enough food to eat I start chewing my words.Babu came 2nd with 56.2 after being docked half a point.Omari scored 56.8.So there was a tenth of a point in it if Babu hadn't gone overtime.Omari and Azikwe went on to semi-finals.Knowledge signing off.
YEAR-END REVIEW AND RESOLUTIONS
It's the end of the year...a convenient opportunity to look back over the year and pick out some of the highlights. (You COULD do yearlong retrospectives from, say, June to June, but good luck getting anyone to pay attention.) For a few years, I have been sending a list of the top albums released in a given year to my friends, but since I have access to this snazzy website, I thought I'd post that list here instead. However, before you accuse me of abusing my access, I have also put together another list more appropriate to this site: some of my favorite poetry chapbooks and "books with spines" from 2002, meaning original copyright in 2002. (I think you could argue that the music is just as relevant, since I know a lot of people who write while listening to music, but that's a separate conversation.)
The poetry list is in order -- ALPHABETICAL order. #1 is no more or less "favorite" than #15, so stop writing that hate mail now. Also, if your book isn't on this list, don't forget to send in your cash donations to me care of LitRave for next year's list! (Just kidding, of course.) The truth is that I bought a LOT of poetry this year (I haven't seen the surface of my desk in months), and I cut the list at 15 since I like multiples of five. Some wonderful books aren't listed here for that reason only...or, because I didn't get a chance to buy it this year. (For some reason, I know poets who publish books and don't advertise that fact...hmm.) If I bought your book, it means that I liked your poetry -- and as someone much wiser than I observed once, people vote with their wallets. The music list IS in a rough order, but beyond the first five or six, the relative rankings aren't that important. Finally, realize that these are highly personal choices. There is plenty of art which doesn't reach me personally, and it's probably my loss...but my personal perspective is the only one I can offer.
Feel free to send in your own poetry lists to LitRave -- the contact information is available through the links to your left!
Before I get to the lists, I have one New Year's resolution I'd like to encourage EACH of you to add to your list (right after "lose X pounds" and "introduce more cute, single girls to lonely engineers"): CONTRIBUTE TO LITRAVE. If you are reading this site, chances are good that you're either a poet yourself, or at least a fan of poetry in Southern California. (Or, in a frightening possibility, you are Googling a LitRave member to find out incriminating background info...hmmm.) The next time you go to a poetry event, take a scrap of paper (again, NOT a big stretch to imagine a poet with [GASP] pen and paper) and jot down some notes about what happened: what you liked, what you didn't like, what you did. Heck, you can do it from memory if writing is a problem. Bought a new book of poetry which is really good? Found a great poetry website? SEND IT IN. This site is built out of your opinions and perspectives, and more voices means a better site. (TRUST me on that last one -- I wouldn't wish a full page of my colloquialisms on anyone.)
FAVORITE POETRY BOOKS OF 2002
1. Insects & Birds by Mel Bernstein. A lot of people laugh when they hear these poems out loud, and indeed they DO have a deadpan sensibility. But the more I read this book...the more I find laconic profundity. If you're looking for a copy, you can usually find Mel at the Tebot Bach readings in Huntington Beach.
2. Low Hum Crush by R.A.C. As happy as I am that RAC is now happily married...I am just as sad that she'll be leaving Southern California for the East Coast (if she hasn't already). This chapbook is even more proof that she is one of the finest writers and performers we have...err, HAD. "After School Special" knocks me dead every time I hear it.
3. The Real Moon of Poetry and Other Poems by Tina Brown Celona. I discovered Tina's poetry through the Poetry Daily website, and it's amazing. She is my age (28), and reading her dense, sometimes darkly comic work makes me feel like I've been wasting my time with poetry. I could take decades to try to catch up to where she's at now. This book won the 2002 Alberta Prize for best first book of poetry by a woman author.
4. A Prism From Coal by Michelle Daugherty. This self-published chapbook is full of lines I wish I'd written. Jealousy is bad, but it's also a sign that you have a fine book in your hands. If you run into Michelle at a Los Angeles-area reading, buy a copy from her.
5. Winter Sex by Katy Lederer. Another Poetry Daily find. I'm actually only halfway through this book (it was a Christmas present, and my reading time has been woefully missing lately), but so far, it's jaw-droppingly great work.
6. The Splinter Factory by Jeffrey McDaniel. Although there is no OFFICIAL ranking for these books, this would be somewhere in the top three. I've read this book for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. His performance at Beyond Baroque a few weeks ago was one of the poetry highlights of my life so far. Do you get the point, or can I stop being effusive and move on to #7 now?
7. The Shape Of Her Back by Daniel McGinn and Paul Suntup. This collaborative chapbook arose out of dialogues between these two brilliant Orange County poets, and if you can get past the truly disturbing cover art (rubber duckie and whip?), you will find a rich collection of poetry and prose. This is another hands-down top-three entry, and has been an incredible influence on my recent writings.
8. You Are Not Special by George McKibbens. I had the privilege of seeing George at the Big Damn Poetry Slam, and was blown away by his sharply edged, challenging performance poetry. In fact, the only thing I can say negatively about the guy is that HE is the one taking RAC away to the East Coast. (All kidding aside -- best of luck to both of you, and I hope you find much happiness and inspiration together!)
9. Tub Toys by June Melby. Like the toys mentioned in the title, this book found its way to me across an ocean when I was on a long trip out of the country. Like all over her other books and CDs, it's consistently funny and insightful, like a Zen master crossed with a Care Bear. I love June Melby, and you should too.
10. Divine Intervention by Mindy Nettifee. Since June and Mindy toured Europe together this summer, it's fitting that their chapbooks would be right next to each other in this list. If you're wondering about the other member of the unofficial "top three" club...this is it. Heck, this might be #1, depending on when you ask me. Mindy is a poetry genius whose work moves on the page the same way that her performances move an audience. I lost count of how many times I've read this book.
11. Bedroom Kitchen Beach by Charlotte O'Brien. In a way, I was stunned to find a "(c) 2002" on this book since these poems are the ones which knocked me over time and time again at readings when I was first starting to get into poetry. Charlotte is a top-level performer, a terrific writer, and an all-around wonderful person -- try to catch her performances when you can. Her poetry is infused with a strong sense of womanhood, and her love for her daughter shines through in many of these touching pieces.
12. American Hieroglyph by Michael Paul. Michael is one of my favorite poets and strongest influences. This collection, like his earlier The Turning Point , is full of literate and funny meditations on life, love, and religion. (Can I get an "Amen?")
13. We Arrive By Accumulation by Lynne Thompson. I stumbled across Lynne's work by accident, hearing her for the first time at Alice Pero's Moondays reading, and it was a happy accident indeed. Her work has been published in a variety of journals -- no surprise, given the obvious craft that went into the making of these poems.
14. Dropped As A Baby by Leigh White. The lovely Ms. White is not only a poet, but a designer and illustrator as well. That might explain these intensely creative poems with the vivid imagery...although I'd like to know where the zany sense of humor comes from as well. Her chapbook, like many others on this page, is published by FarStarFire Press, who do amazing work getting some of Southern California's best poets into print. (They are responsible for no less than THIRTEEN pieces of poetry-related clutter on my desk, in fact.)
15. Invisible Plane: A Collection Of Poems To And About Saints, Angels, And Deities by members of Cecilia Woloch's writing workshop. A stellar collection of poems about...well, read the title again. The quality and consistency of these pieces is amazing, and the vastly different takes on these traditional subjects is fascinating.
Bonus selections from periodicals: Favorite issue of American Poetry Review : November/December 2002, featuring thirteen (!!!) new poems from the brilliant Thomas Lux. Favorite issue of Poetry : the 90th anniversary double issue (October/November 2002) -- although usually excellent, it seemed over 90% of the poetry in that issue connected with me.
FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2002
1. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco. Stark, intelligent, transcendent rock album which will still be just as good a decade from now. "Ashes Of American Flags" is poetry. "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" is heart-rending.
2. Sea Change by Beck. Dark, almost shockingly open album from a brilliant artist trying to get through a difficult breakup.
3. A Rush Of Blood To The Head by Coldplay. A HUGE step forward for this young band. Beautiful, delicate, jagged songs...and then there is Chris Martin's voice.
4. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips. Infectious psychedelic pop from the slightly askew mind of Wayne Coyne. The title song alone is guaranteed to stick in your head for weeks.
5. Beautiful Tomorrow by Blue Six. The most-listened-to album on this list. Blue Six is the signature sound of San Francisco's Naked Music: lush, deep house music. (2002 was a good year for the label in general, as evidenced by Aquanote and Miguel Migs' debut albums.)
6. Deadringer by Rjd2. Mostly instrumental hip-hop from one of the many mad geniuses on Definitive Jux. (This album was good enough to kick DJ Shadow's newest release off this list...that should tell you something.)
7. Journeys By DJ: 70 Minutes Of Madness by Coldcut. Technically, this is a reissue, but the original (1997) has been out of print forever. This isn't just an eclectic mix of drum-and-bass, hip-hop, breakbeat, and odd vocal samples -- it really IS a journey. Amazing vision and technical skills.
8. Hard Candy by Counting Crows. I know it's uncool to STILL like Counting Crows, but I love them anyway. This album is only a notch below August And Everything After , and has by far the most radio-friendly songs in their catalog. (Of course, it got totally ignored.)
9. ( ) by Sigur Ros. Mind-bending, atmospheric music from Iceland. Every bit as good as Agaetis Byrjun ...which won the Shortlist Prize last year.
10. Geogaddi by Boards Of Canada. Mind-bending, atmospheric music from Canada. (Go figure.) Ambient synthesizers and downtempo beats...kind of like a cuddly Aphex Twin.
11. Night Works by Layo & Bushwacka!. Terrific debut from a hot pair of producers. Alternates between party-starting anthems and more reflective tracks.
12. Fantastic Damage by El-P. This is hip-hop so raw that you practically need Band-Aids to listen to it. Genius-level rhymes. "Stepfather Factory" might be the song of the year.
13. Turn On The Bright Lights by Interpol. Jangly, tense rock music that sounds like the second coming of Joy Division. It's possible to get burned out of this album if you overplay it...but those guitar lines will eventually bring you back.
14. Blazing Arrow by Blackalicious. The complete flip side of El-P. Blackalicious crafted a warm, thoughtful, celebratory hip-hop album which showcased Gift of Gab's clever rhymes and the catchiest beats of Chief Xcel's career. (Now, if Quannum would only convince Latryx to release something new...)
15. The Eminem Show by Eminem. Love him or hate him, Eminem is an insanely talented lyricist. Some tracks are filler, but the highlights ("Cleaning Out My Closet," "Squaredance," "Superman") are amazing.
16. Out From Out Where by Amon Tobin. This was a Christmas present, and thus a latecomer to this list. This album defies genre to create a masterpiece of dense beats and synth that you can get lost in. Leave breadcrumbs.
17. The Last Broadcast by Doves. Epic rock songs by another young, up-and-coming band.
18. Verve Remixed by various artists. Classic Verve jazz artists (Nina Simone, Willie Bobo, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.) remixed by some of the finest downtempo talent (Richard Dorfmeister, Thievery Corporation, Rae & Christian, Tricky, etc.) into an amazing album. (Verve also made the original songs available on an ultra-cheap CD, so pick that up at the same time.)
19. We Love Life by Pulp. A more acoustic flavor this time, but still with the same Pulp recipe of did-you-just-hear-that? lyrics, sweeping soundscapes, and cheeky British humor.
20. Playgroup by Playgroup. Retro may be doomed as a fad, but Playgroup does retro right by using live instruments to get that rock/disco energy which is missing from so many of the other 70s/80s revivalists. Deeply funky stuff...and check out Playgroup's brilliant DJ Kicks mix album as well.
Things to look forward to in 2003? New albums from Radiohead, Steely Dan, and Charles Webster. A new chapbook from Larry Colker. The Tebot Bach Anthology of California Poetry (perhaps differently titled). And on a personal note...a vacation.
Friday night, the Rapp Saloon featured...umm...me. As much as this is probably a good marketing opportunity to invent some new superlatives to hype the performance ("rainbow-flavored?" "tsunami-esque?"), I think that any reasonable standard of journalistic ethics steers me away from exaggerating the event. Despite being sick all week, my voice held up for twenty minutes at the podium...which was good, since I forgot to bring my bullhorn. It was a nice chance to read some new pieces which have been in work (for a few months, in some cases), as well as some older pieces that I normally don't perform (for a variety of reasons). The set list: "Beauty" (by Tony Hoagland, from his BRILLIANT book which you should already own, Donkey Gospel ), "Barbie And Ken In The Garden Of Eden," "Anekanta," "Kandinsky," "Evolution," and "A Theory Of You." (What's that? You were there on Friday, and you seem to remember a love poem written about a certain someone which was read between those final two pieces in the list? I think you're remembering wrong...there is NO such poem.)
Special thank-yous to Pete and Mani at the Rapp for the invitation...to those people who made time to support me by attending and sharing their work as part of the evening...to Mia O'Brien, who patiently sat through my set even though she was very thirsty...and to some VERY patient and supportive friends who took time out of their busy schedules to help me prepare for my first feature. Hopefully your time was rewarded.
And if you want to know more about it...you'll just have to hope that someone else contributes a review.
The open reading had some wonderful moments. Pete Justus read an affecting piece titled "Was It Not Real?" which was clearly very personal for him -- thanks for sharing it with everyone. Jim Doane (next week's featured reader at the Rapp) read two strong and darkly humorous pieces, "The Day I Made Myself God" and "Before I Begin This Next Poem, Let Me Start With A Footnote." (Yes, that IS the title of the latter piece.) Craig Anderson, a poet visiting from San Francisco and Jim's co-feature next week, did two pieces, including "American History." Manuel did a funny piece which eventually ended up on a bread-and-Lakers theme. (If the Lakers are an opiate for the masses...then how do you explain the Clippers?) Patrick Mooney, new to the Rapp but a longtime poet, performed several pieces, including "It's Midnight In America" and the hilarious "Lingua Franca." (Having struggled through the limited vocabulary in high school French classes, I can totally relate.)
One bit of strangeness: Another newcomer, J.D. Wiley, did some Whitman-and-Beat-inspired pieces but seemed QUITE angered by people snapping their fingers for emphasis during his performance. (In fact, at one point, I thought I was going to have to cap off my first feature by participating in my first poetry brawl, as I was sitting next to one of his targets.) After the reading, a few of us explained that snapping your fingers was a sign of appreciation that dated back to the Beats, which seemed to mollify him a bit, since he liked the Beats. He didn't quite grok the jazz connection, but at least no punches were thrown. At this point, he offered some of the substance which was "mellowing him out" (with side effects of extreme irritability, apparently), which we happily declined. So, lessons learned: If you see J.D. perform somewhere, don't snap. In fact, it's probably a good idea in general not to snap -- it's a new millennium, after all. Finally, if you aren't able to drive a motor vehicle or operate heavy machinery...don't do poetry. Thanks.
Readers: Dana Snow, Ray Lanthier, Brenda, Pete Justus, Terry McCarty, Jim Doane, Manuel, Craig Anderson, John Casey, Ivan Smason, Marie Lecrivain, Patrick Mooney, Mia O'Brien, Melissa Fischer, Michelle Daugherty, Michael Slobotski, Ian, J.D Wiley, Mani Suri.
Upcoming features: Jim Doane/Craig Anderson (1/3), Alex M. Frankel (1/10), Frankie Drayus (1/17).
Knowledge posting:Harmony Gallery soundbites - Mike the Poet 'The technology train is moving so fast it's outrunning the participants' Bronwyn 'You coming into my life is like a much needed emotional Armageddon..like, fuck, yu are the end of me...let's play like you're sweet and I'm Alabama' Dufflyn 'If love is the answer like Lily Tomlin said 'Maybe you have to rephrase the question'Buddhahat'I guess I've got 6 more years, 7 if I chooose to be a rapper...The Buddha Hat is the manifestation of my magnetic murmurs....my sadness has been pushed down to the bowels of my being for so long it's living off of it's own faeces.The feature was Derrick Brown who clocked in at exactly 30 minutes. I loved the title of his book 'If loving you is wrong I don't wanna be wrong' '....walk around like you blew the devil and he didn't warn you when he came hot tamales...send more coconuts and wild boar repellant...wow,I'm actually on an island...you are an electric chair disguised as a Lazy Boy'He tickled me when he said 'Thanks for listening' then he whispered 'and purchasing all 4 of my books' like he was dropping a subliminal'82nd Airborne..if we could go 82 days without anyone getting killed or dying in a training accident we'd get a day off.We hadn't had a day off in 10 years...Private Farquas would mute the television and invent the words'Babu'Everything that was alright suddenly went fucking left...the half of my heart that was your heart no longer beats in me.'Barbara "Jazz...makes my body pray...I don't want celestial songs.They've got to have heavy metal beats...I don't want God without the Devil...I don't want half, I want it all'Sekou did 'Ask me now''Not the choreographer but the dancers, not the poet but the stanzas...the illumination of shadows...'Moth did his Tulsa piece.George'Close enough to touch you, close enough to infect you with the truth and hopefully it's contagious.Michael X was a poet that had been in the Department of Defense.He said somebody had put him in a room and made him write with a glow in the dark marker.Blake'The most beautiful visuals that only we can see as you lean into me'April read 'John Doe' 'whether you bleed blue or red, I want the nightmares, the daydreams, the things that don't leave your head..'Knowledge signing off.
A nice crowd took some time out of their Christmas shopping to see Reverend Dave Wheeler feature at the Rapp Saloon last night. Dave, the beloved host of the on-temporary-hiatus Midnight Special reading, entertained the crowd with some genuinely heartfelt poetry and an enthusiastic performance. Highlights included the five-part "Concerto," "Pendulum," and "Overdose," which worked particularly well against the backdrop of current political events.
Many of the Midnight Special regulars performed in the open reading: Rick Weinberger read what he claimed was a villanelle (!!!) about the Three Little Pigs. (I'll have to take his word on it -- I heard repeated phrases, and the last two lines sounded familiar, but it's hard to hear line breaks in the crowd.) Marie Lecrivain read some poetry inspired by her recent trip to Ireland. (Sadly, she did not bring Guinness for the crowd.) Melissa Fischer did a cool piece called "Ode To Barnabas" dedicated to Barnabas Briefchatter, aka Sam Skow, aka Buddha Hat (STILL don't know if it's one word or two). She also had the funniest uh-oh-I-memorized-this-piece-but-I-forgot-what-comes-next stall technique ever -- she paused, looked at the whole room, and wiggled her eyebrows up and down. (Memo to self: Steal that someday.) Manuel did a funny piece about dating single mothers, sleeping under cats, and ugly babies. (Sorry, that's all the info I can provide. I swear it made sense at the time.) Mani Suri read three new senryu.
At the risk of sounding like I got five bucks under the table from the Rapp Saloon hosting cartel, I HAVE to plug their January lineup. (Trust me -- I'm more expensive than that. It would take at LEAST six bucks to buy me off.) Jim Doane, co-host of the long-running Redondo Poets series, leads off the month with a rare feature appearance -- don't miss him! I've heard Alex M. Frankel read at Redondo Poets and Beyond Baroque, and his poetry is EXTREMELY well-crafted. There is a small shrine to Frankie Drayus in my poetry room, complete with incense and a miniature bronze statue of Frankie -- you will have to try hard to find a better poet and person. Jaimes Palacio is a veteran Orange County poet and a terrific performer. The only feature I haven't heard yet is Heather Long, but thanks to the magic of Google, I just read some of her work (she has a website), and was impressed. Cancel your Friday night dates for the next month (or bring them along), and plan to attend the Rapp Saloon!
Now, dear reader, if you will indulge your faithful columnist, I have a small rant about current politics and poetry. Poets obviously react to zeitgeist, and it's important to do so, because otherwise poetry could run the risk of being irrelevant to a culture which is constantly moving forward. Lately, there is a mini-trend lately for poets to write "anti-war" pieces about Iraq and Afghanistan -- and in a lot of ways, it isn't restricted to just the poetry scene, but this IS a poetry website, so I'll try to keep this rant focused. My first gripe is that it's hard be "anti-war with Iraq" since a) we aren't in a conflict with Iraq yet, though saber-rattling has reached a frightening level and b) there won't be a "war," even if we do take action -- the United States has not declared war since 1941, and this won't be an exception. Semantic nitpicking aside, writing something ostensibly "anti-war" belies a deeper problem: putting sweeping generalizations and oversimplifications into poetry. Personally, I don't think ANYTHING about the current political situation is simple -- when is ANYTHING political simple? -- but you are obviously free to see the world in your own way. If you agree that the subject is complex, then my challenge is to address that in your writing -- I don't think it's honest to express blanket "war is bad" sentiments when there are richer issues to consider. If you disagree, and think that the situation IS simple, then find a new way to address those issues in your writing, or simply find other subjects. Simple things do NOT need elucidation -- poetry is about the unusual insight, the revealing connection, the new way of looking at the ordinary. Simple things are merely obvious -- they need no champion.
Readers: Dave Nordling, Ian Grant, Avery, Steve Baratta, Lee Sloca, Rick Weinberger, Marie Lecrivain, Ray Lanthier, Brenda, Melissa Fischer, Dave Wheeler, Michael Zeltser, Dana Snow, Gary Justice, Manuel, Michael Slobowski (sp?), Mani Suri, Pete Justus.
Upcoming features: John Casey (12/27), Jim Doane (1/3), Alex M. Frankel (1/10), Frankie Drayus (1/17), Heather Long (1/24), Jaimes Palacio (1/31).