Monthly Archives: April 2004


wealthy men decide
worldwide military dependency
whitehouse motives dubious
war means death
without meaningful direction
wholesale media duplicity
wanton mercenary demonstrations
willful misinformation dissemination
wrongful misuse doctrine
winner molded demographics
warped mission definition
wholly moronic defense
whitewashed mind denial
well manufactured destiny
whipped mainstream democrats
wanting more dialogue
well meaning dictatorship
without much decorum
will made dull
we miss democracy
winning means deception
wasting my dollars

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America, I know your secret

America, I know your secret:
there is no deep intellectual struggle
fermenting in your collective mind —
that’s for the coasts to sort out amongst themselves,
with their isolationist disdain for solidarity,
thinking that beyond the Holland Tunnel,
above the Causeway bridge,
east of the valley,
over the Golden Gate
is some fetid quagmire of yet to be united;
and that the nation consists
of only its urban centers.

America, your secret is this:
your corporations, bloated with white-haired men
and Ivy League connections,
are selling youth and sex and freedom.

As long as we keep buying into the myth,
as long as there is no concerted effort below the surface,
as long as there are toys to occupy our time,
as long as supermodels and actors and pop Musicians promote our causes,
as long as becoming famous is more important than being intelligent or informed or educated,

no one else will want to get old, rich and powerful enough
to take your place.

Wasn’t it enough that you dumbed down the textbooks after Vietnam
to prevent the possibility of organized resistance?
Wasn’t it enough that your McCarthyism emasculated the left wing,
leaving the eagle of democracy crippled, flopping in useless circles?
Wasn’t it enough that even after Watergate, and J. Edgar Hoover,
Kissinger and Oliver North,
we still trusted your power-brokers in Washington
and believed they were representing us?

America, I know your secret, and it is the omerta of the pirate code:
keep ’em in hookers, rum and shiny trinkets, and
they’ll never want to own the ship,
but they’ll keep saluting your flag until they die.

29 APR 2004

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Another Thought on Ginsberg

From Barry Miles’ biography of Ginsberg (link under current.reading), page 488:

Eorsi [Hungarian poet Istvan Eorsi] pointed out that, unlike Mayakovsky [Vladimir Mayakovsky, Georgian poet, see * below], who had to live with the revolution that he prophesied and helped to create, Allen [Ginsberg] had to live with the fact that the revolution he helped to create did not win, but lost. By this he meant the Beat, hippie, anarchic, flower-power, LSD-using, pot-smoking, sexual freedom movement of the 1960s, which was being swamped by the neo-conservativism of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

… and is still in full swing today, sadly.

* Brief biography of Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) from Russian Poetry Land – Mayakovsky: Born in Georgia in the village of Bagdadi, into the family of forester, in 1902 he went to secondary school in Kutaisi and later studied in Moscow where the whole family moved after his father’s death. Mayakovsky left school in 1908 to devote himself to underground revolutionary work. At the age of fifteen he joined the RSDLP(B) and carried out propoganda work. He was arrested three times and in 1909 he was kept in solitary confinement in the Butyrsky prison. It was there that he has began writing Poetry. He joined the revolution and made a lot of the perfect artworks as the comunist. But he was very unordinary man, the kind Bolshevics dislike. There was internal conflict between him and the ruling circles. He was found dead in his own room. The official version was suicide. The truth is still unknown.

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New Orleans: Imagine It Educated

Their America is seventy-percent against them,
but they do not know, these kids in New Orleans
their ebony faces eager or sullen or lost in some other world
lugging heavy booksacks on their narrow shoulders
facing teachers tired of trying to pretend
reading of themselves in textbooks they cannot translate
into their short-term teen idiom
between commercial breaks

It is their America because it is just like them
stubborn, proud and undereducated
looking in the rear view mirror, not to see what’s gaining
but to fix their hair and make sure their teeth are clean
one hand on the wheel, the other on the cell phone
loaded with ring tones by Mozart, who they’ve never met
talking smack about their teachers
planning what dress to wear this Saturday night

They think of America like the French Quarter, but clean
not knowing of the patina left on the great melting pot
from colors that tried to mix in and remained seared, on the edges
they shout out “Black Power” without benefit of Carmichael
in the Dirty South, greet Malcolm like a friend at the movies,
assigned Ellison’s Invisible Man every February without fail
their indignation rising with each chapter
hating themselves for needing MTV and Cosmopolitan

It is their America because they do not know
that seventy percent of the world is like them
different shades against which white pales
language not heard in the broadcasters’ flat Midwest
like the French Quarter, but dirtier
filled with cardboard shacks and rusted tin hovels
no yearly prom dresses, new cars or bling bling
and roaches more fierce than meek palmettos

Their America is seventy-percent black
because the world is like New Orleans, right?
And most will never see beyond the Huey P. across the river
where the white sheets hang damp on the clothelines
fresh-washed after a night of bonfires
marking the line across which Louis Armstrong
swore never to come back,
and they made him the city’s patron saint, anyway.

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Staggering Fact of the Day

It is estimated that when Allen Ginsberg died, besides the manuscripts (both his own and those he schlepped around for friends), miscellaneous papers and other drafts for publication, he had over 60,000 pieces of correspondence, representing every letter he had either sent or received for his whole life.

Besides the obvious pack-rat comment that could be laid to Ginsberg, that’s one hell of a lot of letters. I’m lucky if I can keep track of the bills due just this month, let alone have space for obviously boxes and boxes of pages.

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Outside the Morphology of Poetics

For about two years, I have immersed myself in the classic forms of Poetry, forcing myself when I write to use common stanza forms with their dictates of rhyme and meter. I felt this was a necessary exercise to “formalize” my training as a poet – after all, one can’t begin except at the beginning. The imposition of form, particularly with respect to the traditional Welsh meters, I felt was essential in determining whether or not I could in fact have qualified as a “bard” in the traditional, Celtic Druid sense.

And I feel that I have achieved a certain degree of success in this endeavor, not the least of which is the creation of roughly a poem a day for two years – some of which have been collected into a manuscript that is currently under consideration for the Walt Whitman award.

It may seem strange that a collection of sonnet forms is what I submitted for this competition, particularly since Walt Whitman himself was a champion of new forms, so to speak, and did not adhere to the sonnet, or any other form, on a regular basis. But the point was that Whitman, although one of my earliest poetic influences, was not the only luminary on my horizon. There have been others who used form that heavily influenced my development, although my real impetus to focus my writing was my discovery (really, at the age of 28) of Henry Miller, who I owe a great debt of consciousness regarding writing, and Allen Ginsberg, whose biography by Barry Miles I am currently reading, and jazz by virtue of attending Berklee College of Music.

My initial attempts were to create my own beat Poetry – and being under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, various hallocinogenics and other mind-altering substances and conversations only served to fuel that fire. It was later, in Memphis, where the drug of choice was coffee, that my real experimentation began – using form as a vehicle for modifying sentence structure, creating new words, stringing thoughts Joyce-like in endless streams of consciousness, playing with the sound of language as integral to its meaning, and so on. And so began the manic creation of reams of paper filled with words. At the time, too, I considered myself a songwriter; so to contrast the freeform, Ornette Coleman style of “free jazz” Poetry, there were structured songs that used, like Willie Nelson is wont to do, ten-dollar words. And the constant abstraction wrought by needing to write regularly, in order to have something to present on a weekly basis at readings, to discuss among fellow poets, and to keep my mind (racing on caffeine) occupied.

Now, I find myself weaned of the frantic pace of living that ultimately deteriorated my health to a degree, and while I still write manically at times, these episodes are more structured. I use smaller words, I discovered the other day; so today I deliberated introduced the word “sinew” into a poem. At times, Robert Frost is like a lighthouse – a clear signal in the storm, and at the same time, a marker at the end of a dangerous shoreline. And Blake. One of my earliest influences, I discover by reading Ginsberg’s biography another parallel to that mystic soul. It’s like my appreciation of David Crosby. Ginsberg, Crosby, Yeats, Dylan, Joyce – with each of them there are aspects of their childhoods, their philosophies, their paths, that are mirrored in my own, but not mirrored or traced, because I had no foreknowledge of their presence on them; more like we sought for Truth using the same instinctual guides.

But back to Poetry. The point of all that is that while my work has been shaped and honed and pointed by form and meter, and these things will always affect, influence and inform my work, that they are merely lines to choose to color within, or blur, or ignore altogether.

BTW, can anyone recommend a good overview of the theoretics of modern Poetry? Besides, say, TS Eliot’s commentaries, or Stevens’ A Necessary Angel?

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While Reading of Ginsberg’s Life

To wake
while reading William Blake
to taste of life in dreamlike doses
flexing the sinews of the mind
in the fight against some status quo
that lumbers, like a Clydesdale pair
to drag a dying culture’s broken-wheeled cart
along the muddy ruts
of road built to achieve a purpose
travel to the same crowded cities
filled with lives teeming with uncertainty
holding fast to corroded dreams
that emphasize our lack of clarity

the underlying pinions of capitalism
wasted on the ill-at-ease, the wayward pilgrims
seeking truth despite the cost
their families shamed and raked with muck
in vain attempts to build illusions
that all’s right with the world

there is a need for change, for growth.

26 APR 2004

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