Monthly Archives: November 2014

Poet Laureate Mark Strand dead: reflecting on something he said

Former US Poet Laureate Mark Strand is dead at 80.

In a 1998 interview with the Paris Review, poet Strand said something I find fascinating:

Well, I think what happens at certain points in my poems is that language takes over, and I follow it. It just sounds right. And I trust the implication of what I’m saying, even though I’m not absolutely sure what it is that I’m saying. I’m just willing to let it be. Because if I were absolutely sure of whatever it was that I said in my poems, if I were sure, and could verify it and check it out and feel, yes, I’ve said what I intended, I don’t think the poem would be smarter than I am. I think the poem would be, finally, a reducible item. It’s this “beyondness,” that depth that you reach in a poem, that keeps you returning to it. And you wonder, The poem seemed so natural at the beginning, how did you get where you ended up? What happened? I mean, I like that, I like it in other people’s poems when it happens. I like to be mystified. Because it’s really that place which is unreachable, or mysterious, at which the poem becomes ours, finally, becomes the possession of the reader. I mean, in the act of figuring it out, of pursuing meaning, the reader is absorbing the poem, even though there’s an absence in the poem. But he just has to live with that. And eventually, it becomes essential that it exists in the poem, so that something beyond his understanding, or beyond his experience, or something that doesn’t quite match up with his experience, becomes more and more his. He comes into possession of a mystery, you know—which is something that we don’t allow ourselves in our lives.

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Ferguson, Missouri: eight thoughts on a smoldering dumpster fire

Ferguson, MO is currently a dumpster full of flaming grease and it’s a long way from being extinguished.

As I have been watching the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson case unfold, a few things have occurred to me.

1: Let’s just get this out of the way first: there were two distinct groups in the streets the other night. Group A comprised people with legitimate grievances about this case and its place in a much longer running history of injustice for minorities in the US. Group B was made up of punks and hooligans looking for any excuse to cause trouble. There’s no defending this element’s behavior in the wake of the announcement that no indictment for officer Darren Wilson was forthcoming. I mean, you done me wrong, so to show you how pissed off I am I’m going to burn down my own house? Not a lot of rocket surgeons in that crowd, huh? I never ate at Red’s Barbecue, but I bet it was good and I hate to think what the owners are going through right now sifting through the ashes and trying to figure out what to do next.  Read more

Barack Obama: talk loudly and carry a little stick (or, Mr. Obama sells a horse)

obama-circumstancesI’ve been thinking on Obama’s recent outbreak of backbone. Standing up to his FCC appointee on Net Neutrality was a fun start, and a lot of folks are welcoming the fact that finally, after six long years, he’s beginning to act with a little courage.

Maybe. Maybe he realizes that he has two years left and no more elections to deal with, and this is his chance to go out swinging.

Or maybe not. How many times since 2008 – go ahead and count them up, I’ll wait – have you heard somebody say that X was the best he could have hoped for with all that GOP opposition? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this with respect to health care alone I could buy us all a nice steak dinner somewhere.

There are times when that has almost felt like his brand: Obama – the best that could have been done under the circumstances. See if we can get that on a bumper sticker. Read more

Dear Woody Paige: thank you for saving my life

Woody-PaigeHi Woody.

I’ve been posting the poems from my latest book to Ello lately – one per day – and this morning’s entry was “Old Ethan’s Quantum Diary.” It’s an especially difficult and painful piece of a larger work that is, in many ways, the most tortured effort of my 35-year creative writing journey.

As I explained in the preface to the post, there was a time a few years ago when I thought I had very little time left. Since I do not believe in any kind of afterlife, I found myself thinking a lot about what science has to say on the subject. It tormented me that it would all just be over. Fade to black. The void, and not even an awareness of the void. As hard, as painful, as frustrating and unfulfilling as the low spots have been, I love life and the thought of losing it terrified me. Read more

Dear progressives: #KillTheHostage

Democrats - Lesser of Two EvilsA political list I’m on has been having some interesting discussions running in parallel of late surrounding a variety of issues (Obamacare being the big one), and at the core of it all is a basic question: how do progressives aggregate and assert the power needed to effect the policies they support. (Which is ultimately the core question of all politics, I guess.)

So, if you’re a progressive, and you’re sick to death of being ignored, marginalized, gamed, played, punk’d, and told to eat your shit sandwich and like it because it’s prime rib, bitch, what can you do? How can you get from point A (shit sandwich) to point B (prime rib for all Americans, not just Art Pope, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch crime family)? Read more

“Evil Eye” from Snake Rattle Rattle Snake: Saturday Video Roundup

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake had the release show for their new CD, Totem, last night at the Gothic in Denver. Jeez, I wish I could have been there. I think the disc officially drops this week, and thanks to a free preview the other day, I can say without reservation that this is one of the top releases of the year – and it’s been a hellacious good year.

Here’s the first video.

Happy Saturday, yo.

Why Sam Smith is unelectable

Dr-Sammy-for-MericaS&R co-founder Mike Sheehan had a really funny comment on my “Dems need their own Tea Party” post. As in, I laughed until my sides hurt. Checkit:

Well, what’s stopping you from running for office?

If I’d had soda in my mouth I’d have spewed it all over your computer. He continues:

Er wait, never mind… intelligence is a liability in US politics… makes you look godless and America-hating.

He gets it. But seriously, I’ve been bitching for decades. Why don’t I run? I think I have solutions for everything, right? Read more

What the Democrats need is their own Tea Party. And fuck Mark Udall.

Democrats - Lesser of Two EvilsI’ve been sifting through the various analyses and post-mortems, and I don’t know that I have anything insightful to say that others haven’t said better. Also, I just don’t have the energy. I think it’s clear from what I have had to say in recent years – and I have said it in various forms more times than I can recall – that I am incredibly disenchanted with the Democratic Party in its current incarnation. Anytime the best thing I can muster to say about you is that you’re not quite as bad as the Republicans, you know the bar can’t be set a lot lower without bringing in a backhoe.

In Colorado, for instance, am I happy about Cory Gardner? Hardly. Do I understand how people like me might have been underwhelmed by Vichy Democrat Mark Udall? Read more