Archive for October, 2014

The Short Version / Reviews

October 31, 2014

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Tony Hoagland / Poet

 

 

Every time I come across an article or poem by Tony Hoagland, I either turn to it immediately, or savor the thought as I thumb my way through.   He is smart, witty, enjoyable… and in his bio photo looks as I would imagine a leprechaun would as it had just cast a spell and/or achieved a little mischief with words.  The truth, for Mr. Hoagland, is mischievous.  I have no higher praise.

The fun begins, right off the bat, with his titles:  “What Narcissism Means to Me” and “Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty”, among  others.  His criticism has the bite and crunch appeal of granola and milk sprinkled with fresh raspberries.  As he says himself:  “This collection of essays about poetry, (from the book “Real Sofistikashun”), neither academic nor exactly for the reader off the street, is in fact a mostly homemade set of geographies, jerry-rigged descriptions, and taxonomies. They are intended for the reader who loves poems and likes to think about them.”

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Well, so are the poems.  I opened my most recent issue of “The Sun”, to happen upon three of them.  In “Ship”, he complains:

 

At dawn I get up from my bed and draw the blinds;

            the light through the bedroom window is too strong.

            I don’t want the sun entering my house so early,

            when the dreams inside my head are still wet paint.

 

In “Upward” he laments the loss of a friendship:

 

With the help of Zen,

            my old friend Jack

            dissolved his disagreements

            with the world,

            purified his quarrels,

 

            sushed his ego,

            stopped biting back

            when bitten,

            and gradually had

            no opinions

            other than wise ones.

 

            …

 

            Goodbye, my friend, goodbye, I say

            quietly to myself

            like a character

            in some science-fiction novel

            as I watch the

 

            smooth spaceships of Zen

            slip the heavy harness

            of the earth

            and rise into the weightlessness

            of space,

 

            …

 

Reads almost like some monologue in a movie full of warmth and oddities – doesn’t it.   Tony makes me wonder if they haven’t a stable of poets somewhere on the movie backlot, who drift from light comedy to light comedy sprinkling bits of fairy enchantment.

His stuff just feels like it’s been around; never borrowed, but wise.

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Photos from Google Images / quotations by Tony Hoagland

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The Short Version / Reviews

October 15, 2014

The Fifty Minute Hour

A Pearl of a Story

All of the good books aren’t necessarily the new books.  Grubbing through the Olde Book Store, an enterprising reader can discover many treasures.   The Fifty Minute Hour by Robert Lindner is such a book.

I must have first purchased it used.  (Okay, partly perhaps because of the lurid cover.)  Then, I uncovered it again while unpacking from a recent move.  It looked interesting all over again, so I began reading.

When you read a book of a past era you find things that are spoken of and wisdoms imparted which you will not find in books of the present era.  Different environments hatch different people.  If it is a good book, you will find yourself missing the entire period as if you’d lived then.

The book is a collection of five case histories from a psychoanalytic perspective.  And as the cover suggests, they are not dry.  The best, however, is the last: the “Jet-Propelled Couch”.  This pearl of a story, I discovered myself after doing a bit of research, was initially published as a two part series in Harpers.  Steven Sondheim spent some time trying to produce it as a musical, before abandoning the project.  It “1957 it was finally dramatized as an episode of TV’s Playhouse 90”.  – wikipedia

The story is of a brilliant scientist who – while otherwise quite normal and engaging – is sent to the psychiatrist because of the mad belief that he visits other planets (where he rules, of course).  The psychoanalyst, after failing and abandoning all other strategies, decides that what is needed is for him to immerse himself likewise in the delusion.  The rationale is that two psychoses cannot inhabit the same space.  One will inevitably ‘call out’ the other.  In psychoanalysis this is called the principle (and strategy) of “participation therapy”.

Perhaps you can imagine what happens?

Our contemporary culture is quite adept at sniffing out what we would like and supplying it.  You participate long enough and you will find that our culture has located an area in you vulnerable to addiction – as you begin to feel the uncontrollable pull.

What our psychoanalyst finds is that if you filter your way through enough psychosis, it is likely you will find one which can harbor itself – finding a personal vulnerability – in you.

None of us is that far from going mad, is what this tale has to say.

Illustration from Amazon

Poesy

October 7, 2014

Shopping Cart1

Sunday Edition

I read in the Sunday paper this morning

that a man had been arrested transporting a body

in a shopping cart nearby where I used to live.

He had been trying to get him to a dumpster.

It’s nice that the people there, since I’ve left,

have been trying to pick up after themselves.

 

It can be the little things that breed crime:

broken windows, graffiti,

speaking to your neighbors.

Apparently the fellow and the corpse

had known each other.

 

So it didn’t start right out in violence.

Heck, it might have taken years

of conversation over the back fence.

He may have borrowed a rake or a hoe,

or been a little late to return

an axe or a bullet.

 

Definitely it had become something more

than a hot casserole could handle.

The tighter you become, the more at stake, that’s for sure.

Until one thing leads to another, and it all goes downhill…

and out of hand so fast,

it’s as if things begin to occur of their own volition!

 

While you were… detached, floating above it all,

as if from another world,

as if watching yourself in a movie.

In a word, it seemed fated.

 

Which is why I moved to an uphill neighborhood.

 

Photo from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch

October 3, 2014
I Promise to Keep All Speculation Under 25 MPH

I Promise to Keep All Speculation Under 25 MPH

Rampant Speculations

 

Perhaps Poets describe this best, because they seem to rock the mental boat more often than most.  But it seems we live upon a raft of assumptions floating upon a reality that is often quite fluid.

 

At one time we assumed the earth was flat and that the sun passed overhead of us and that the Gods and Angels would from time to time visit.   Now we assume the earth is round, that we orbit around the sun, and have our suspicions that those odd creatures which visit us from time to time might be aliens, or government agents or most likely the hobgoblin of susceptible minds.  Our assumptions about the Creation have changed.  Assumptions about our place in the Universe has changed.  Enter quantum mechanics and our assumptions about physical laws have changed.  But as to these odd manifestations who visit us; largely only the names have changed.

 

In John A Keel’s book, The Mothman Prophecies, which is largely an examination of paranormal experiences in and around West Virginia in the early 60s, he points out the various assumptions concerning reported paranormal experiences.  He details the parallels in descriptions of meetings with Angels, Demons, Gods, Aliens and Men in Black, down through the ages and across cultures.  And he speculates that it makes more sense to think that these representatives of another world might have happened through what he imagines as portals to another dimension than as aliens who have travelled light years through space.  He speculates that this might explain their presence in tales of the obscure down through history.  That it might explain their purported foreknowledge of events coupled with a rather bumbling understanding of our ways.

 

In effect he is speculating that it makes more sense to attribute events to imperfections in the fabric delimiting one dimension from another, than to aliens with such supernatural intelligence as to travel light years from their homes and then to appear clumsy, inept, incommunicative and without a discernible purpose when they finally arrive.  They appear more to want to study us, than to harm us.  Which is what one might expect of some creature who has found themselves suddenly adrift in a strange world.

 

After all, there is hardly anything more common to our lives’ experience than imperfections.  Imperfections and deterioration seem to be the natural nature and course of events.  What Keel seems to be suggesting is that there might also be imperfections in the natural laws confining one Universe from Another.

 

And if we have imperfections in natural laws, might this most likely be due to deterioration.  After all, life’s battle is largely one against the forces of deterioration.  So why should Platonic Ideals not be victims of wear and tear like everything else in the Universe?  For example, has the force of gravity always been thus – or is it a remnant of a much more coherent and enveloping (shiny and newer!) physical law?

 

We look back and theorize what must have been and what must have occurred to create what we have now.  But isn’t that assuming the same natural laws?  What if the past were created under physical laws which may have functioned quite differently prior to their deterioration.  If we understood what those laws might have been, might the historical record make more sense, or arrange itself quite differently?  Is there a physical law we might hypothesize to explain concordances which currently appear random?  What might be the next physical law to deteriorate?  Can we find evidence of the deterioration of physical laws currently, either nearby or in deep space?   What would happen to a traveler who has passed into a region where a further deterioration of a physical law has occurred?  Would their ship be rendered useless?  Would they die?  Would they have strange powers?  Would it create a hell of a problem, or just a tiny one – say, if they kept their speed down below 25 mph?

 

We make a lot of assumptions when we peer into the past.  And then we extend those same assumptions into the future.  Is anything else in Nature so confined by the present as our mental capabilities?  It doesn’t seem so.

Photo by Tin Tin Nelson


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