Attitude adjustment

April 21st, 2017

It is amazing how many people tell me, without being prompted or asked, that they wish he would die.  I’m not going to say his name, but you know exactly whom I am talking about.  Admit it, you have felt this way, too.  Just this morning I was talking to a friend and she dropped it into the conversation with about the same degree and type of emphasis that she might have used in confessing that she doesn’t like cats.  I had to admit that practically every morning when I wake up I check the news right away hoping to read of a popcorn choking incident or myocardial infarction. This does not make us better people, I said.  She said, well, but so long as it’s just him we’re thinking about, it’s not so bad. I suppose that’s one approach. For a while I tried imagining myself inside his head, so that through the magic of empathy I might be able to see him as a human being, like me, deserving of compassion the same as I am. I thought of him as severely emotionally crippled, isolated, unable to connect effectively with other human beings, suffering the pain that goes with that. I’m not that kind of person, but at least that gave me something to work with.  I know something about loneliness.  I was aware that there was a certain amount of schadenfreude in trying to connect with him this way, but it seemed to make him more real and less of a malevolent fantasy.  But then a friend I respect, a psychologist highly experienced in working with criminals, told me that he is a psychopath and he doesn’t feel any pain, at least not the kind of pain I was imagining. I pretty much believe her.  So there goes any basis I can find for relating to him, bringing him within my world of experience, and now what do I do? Empathy doesn’t work if it’s fantasy.  I still don’t want to be the kind of person who wakes up every morning wishing that somebody were dead. Maybe the answer comes out of meditation. There’s no point in repressing a thought. That just attaches you to it and gives it power. Instead you allow the thought to happen, acknowledge that it is happening, and then say goodbye to it. I wish it were that easy to deal with him: allow him to happen, acknowledge that he is happening, and then say goodbye to him. I am impatient. I want to get to the goodbye part without going through the rest. I must remember that “going through the rest” constitutes most of what we call living, and that wishing to cut to the end, the goodbye part, is in that sense a wish for one’s own death to come closer. Am I large enough to live in a world that also contains incomprehensible evil? I hope so. Remember to breathe.

Wonderful review

February 1st, 2017

Necromancy Never Pays has some fine words for Among the Lost.

To impeach or not to impeach

January 19th, 2017

A friend of mine passionately asserted the other day that Trump should not be impeached because that would give us a Mike Pence presidency. In her view Pence would be far worse than Trump because Trump is unpredictable and might do some good things whereas Pence is a known quantity who can be relied upon to do evil every chance he gets. My friend maintained that this may be a gendered issue, and that I would understand and share her perspective more strongly if I were a woman. She may have a point. But I think that ultimately the balance weighs in favor of impeachment. Partly, this is because I do not think that Pence has that much of a personal following, and he would be unlikely to take the GOP much farther into its already strong inclination towards misogyny. More to the point, however, is that Pence is just an individual man and if he isn’t gone in a maximum of eight years then we have far greater problems than sexist ideology to contend with. Whereas if Trump is not impeached, in the face of his blatant violation of the Emoluments Clause from the first seconds of his presidency and his likely treasonous collusion with Vladimir Putin, then we have driven another nail into the coffin of constitutional government in this country. Our constitution is neither self-enforcing nor self-preserving. We may be more of an oligarchy than a democracy already; all the more reason to tend carefully the constitutional system that protects us, however tentatively and inadequately, from the depredations of the rich and powerful. Once the constitution is shredded, literally nothing stands between us and them. Damage to the constitution lasts long beyond any individual person’s term of office.  It is cumulative and extremely hard to reverse. So I have to conclude that impeachment, despite the horrible aftermath in the form of a Pence administration, is the necessary lesser of two evils.

Lyrical and almost spellbinding

January 10th, 2017

Here’s a review out today from The Bookworm.  “Lyrical… and almost spellbinding… I enjoyed it because it wasn’t what I expected.”  I’ll take that!  Thank you, Bookworm!

Declaration of Independence

December 24th, 2016

When I was small, I hid under schoolroom furniture at the direction of the so-called “responsible adults” in my life who wanted to pretend that this would somehow protect me from being vaporized, should other so-called “responsible adults” decide they had interests more important than the continued existence of our species. Since then, we have taken several steps back from that abyss. Now we have an evil, evil man who is about to enter the White House and says he wants to walk us back to the brink. I have hesitated to say “not my president” until now because it seemed to me to be just a form of words. But this mindless descent towards the suicidality of a revived nuclear arms race is utterly intolerable. At the very least, what I and millions of other children of my generation were subjected to, in the form of “duck and cover”, was no less than massive child abuse at the hands of our government. Now that I am an adult myself, I will not accept complicity in doing it to a new generation. Does it seem overly dramatic to say that from now on I completely reject the legitimacy of any government headed by this man? That my compliance with such a government will consist only of what is extorted from me by force? More to the point what difference does it make? It feels, deep down in the pit of my stomach, as if it makes a difference. I am not sure what form that difference will take, but I want to remember this feeling. I feel as if I have seen clearly at last, and what I have seen is a servant of death, and it is horrible, but seeing it clearly gives me strength.

You are entitled to the struggle, not the fruits

November 12th, 2016

Okay, maybe this is too soon for some, but I am feeling ready to move beyond rage frustration incomprehension and despair. I don’t really give a fuck what Trump’s character flaws are. I don’t really care except in an abstract kind of way what the people who voted for him were thinking, or the people who voted for Hillary (me included), or whether Batman or Wonder Woman would be more likely to beat the Incredible Hulk. All that is interesting, but beside the point. I don’t care what brave statements of rage or defiance anyone may make. I especially don’t care about pseudo- historical comparisons to 1933 or who is to blame. I don’t care about the media – who will burn in hell – or the “soul” of any political party. That’s some crazy shit, attributing souls to power-grabbing machines. I reject the mean-spirited petulance that reviles Melania and the Trump children. I curse them and their patriarch with someday knowing the harm he has done and will do and the evils he has unleashed and that they embrace. I accept the need of many to demonstrate on the streets to vent their feelings, and I applaud them even though I know that what they are doing is in another sense futile and ineffective. That doesn’t make it unimportant. I pledge to use my strength, which is language and the word, to oppose every evil thing Mr.Trump may try to do, understanding that the word, while mightier than the sword by a fucking million times, is not nearly so quick. Most of all, Gandhi. I will study Gandhi. I will ask, what would Mahatma do? And if I am true to that, if I am the last person in this poor crazed pain-wracked deluded scammed spiritually starved emotionally crippled fat poisoned country to do so, I never will be defeated. And maybe, just maybe, although I can imagine no possibility of reaching through to Mr Trump’s soul, which I fear may be shriveled almost to nonexistence, I will reach through to the souls of enough of those who follow him, as the Standing Rock Sioux have reached the souls of some of those who oppose them on the field, so that I will win. The angry and despairing are neither my allies nor my friends. But those who can imagine that we all are just scared lost humans – those are my allies. And under that sign, we will win.

Among the Lost gets its first review!

November 11th, 2016

Forget that other thing.  Wednesday also brought this news: the first review of Among the Lost.

Where to buy Among the Lost

November 3rd, 2016

I’ve received a couple of queries – stop fiddling with your cell phone and listen up, Jon Lonoff! I’m talking to you! – about where you can get a copy of Among the Lost for your very own. It’s distributed online at Amazon, Ingram, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes and Smashwords. I don’t even know what some of those are. Once my web site is updated, you can get it from me, but that may take a little while. At this web site,you also can order copies right now of the previous volume in the series, To Join the Lost. My publisher, Fomite Press, is reissuing To Join the Lost, so you will be able to get it at all the venues I’ve mentioned, but that may take another month before it’s ready.

Two weeks to my book launch!

October 26th, 2016

You’re invited to help me celebrate the launching of my second book, Among the Lost!  Yay!  It’s on November 10, 2016, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Bridgeside Books, 29 Stowe Street, Waterbury.  I’ll read from it, answer questions, sign copies.  There will be refreshments at the reading and next door at Stowe Street Café.  Please feel free to pass this invitation along to others!  Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book:

 

Among the Lost: In Dante’s Wake Book 2

Among the Lost, set in the modern American rust belt, is a meditation drawn from Dante’s Purgatorio.  To Dante, Purgatory was the mountain where souls not damned went after death to cleanse themselves of sin in preparation for entering Paradise.  What, Steinzor asks, are we preparing ourselves for, having lost the fear of hell and the hope of heaven, in the course of our daily urban existence?  And whatever that is, how do we go about preparing for it?.

 

 

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Praise for Among the Lost

What a magnificent ascension Seth Steinzor is achieving. Having embarked on a latter-day retelling of the Divine Comedy, he has already descended into the Inferno and has now risen to the peak of Mount Purgatory, regaling us along the way with apt parallels to Dante’s infernal and purgatorial people, places, and purposes. We are indeed fortunate to have Steinzor following Dante’s footsteps.

—Rennie McQuilkin, Connecticut Poet Laureate

 

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

May 1st, 2016

I’m reading Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, a recent book of poetry by Joy Harjo. I think it may be a great book. It certainly inspires thought and feeling. One of the things I find myself thinking about is the dilemma confronting anyone who wants to write criticism of lyric poetry. If a volume of lyric poetry is working the way poetry can work, it is extremely difficult and maybe impossible to articulate an “argument” or even a “point of view” that the volume expresses, from which criticism can proceed. That is because what poetry points at is a preverbal or nonverbal set of truths. In this it shares something with the visual arts. Who was it who said, “If I could write about it I wouldn’t need to paint it?” Poets, and especially lyric poets, could make a similar statement, except of course they are writing about “it.” So that doesn’t leave the literary critic much to work with. The critic can do the Helen Vendler thing and focus on the technical means whereby the critic thinks the poet has achieved the poem’s effects. Or, as more often seems to happen, the critic can do the Dan Chiasson thing of throwing out a lot of fuzzy impressionistic verbiage in a hopeless attempt to communicate the poem’s effects – hopeless of course because that could be done only by reproducing the poem itself. As you may be able to tell, I don’t much care for either of these approaches. The Vendler approach leads to the response, “So what? Who cares?” If I’m a good poet, she’s not telling me anything I don’t already know, and if I’m not a good poet, knowing what she’s telling me will be useless. The Chiasson approach lands us square in the middle of “I don’t get it, and I don’t see why I should.” So I will content myself, for the present, by saying that Joy Harjo, line after line and page after page, evokes fundamental human realities. Her subject matter appears to be the product of a modern day Native American woman’s meditation on the past six hundred years of European and North American history.  If you’re interested in that, check out this book.