February 1st, 2017
Necromancy Never Pays has some fine words for Among the Lost.
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!
May 29th, 2014
I was going to title this post “Yahoo!” but that might have been misinterpreted. So much of our language has been commercially appropriated. Eat more kale, says I. Anyhow… I am pleased and proud and tickled and relieved to announce that the second volume of my poetic trilogy, which revisits Dante’s Il Purgatorio in much the same way that To Join the Lost revisited L’Inferno, has been accepted for publication by Fomite Press, a publishing house after my own heart. Visit their site and you’ll see what I mean. The “relieved” is because I took some risks with this one, and they seem to have paid off. Both of the editors who have read it so far have liked it enough to want to print it. Projected publication date is some time in the first half of 2015. So… if you haven’t bought a copy of To Join the Lost yet, now would be a good time to do so, so that you can be all read up and prepared when Goldfish Rising (or whatever we decide to call it) hits the streets! You can get your very own copy of TJTL here; if you ask, I’ll autograph it for you.
March 31st, 2014
So… a little less than a week ago I finished my revisions to Goldfish Rising and sent the mansucript off to the publisher of the first volume of the series, To Join the Lost. (Which, if you haven’t bought it, you should, in preparation for Goldfish Rising. Not from Amazon. From this site, or from this one.) I am old enough to remember when that would have meant packing a neat stack of pages into a special box, wrapping it with bubble wrap and butcher’s paper, addressing it in permanent marker, and taking it to the post office for the ceremony of buying stamps and handing it over to the clerk and watching it disappear into the mysterious rooms in the back of the building or (with some detriment to the sense of occasion) get tossed into a big bin. Now it was just a matter of clicking on a “send” button. I am no luddite, but that is definitely less satisfying. I clicked the button, stared at the screen, and let the inevitable feelings of emptiness and “what do I do now?” sink in.
What I do now, in the evenings at least, is not what I intend to be doing for much longer. Someday in the not too distant future, the publisher I like to think of as “my” publisher will respond to my manuscript, I hope and expect with acceptance and, if so, also with a list of possibly as many as several hundred comments, questions, and recommendations for change, which will keep my evenings happily occupied for weeks or even months. Right now, however, I’m at loose ends. Used to be, for the past several years, most evenings after work would consist of making dinner, eating dinner, washing up after dinner, an hour or so of brisk walking, and then working on the book. Take the book out of the equation, add in weather that is not very conducive to walking outdoors, and you get some long hours to fill between dinner and bedtime. So, being a good American, I watch TV.
I want to tell you about two shows I saw last night. Channel surfing, I happened across the series Nature, and enjoyed an hour-long episode about recent research into the social life and behavioral characteristics of plants. Anybody remember that movie Steve Wonder did the film score for back in 1979, The Secret Life of Plants? It was about plants’ responsiveness to stimuli and was generally regarded at the time as highly woo-woo and far out there. Well, apparently not so much. Plants engage in highly specific forms of communication among themselves and with other classes of being, engage in foraging and aggressive behavior, exhibit aspects of self awareness, create social networks for mutual defense and assistance, and even, it appears, nurture their young in some cases. What I particularly liked about the show was the careful description of the experimental and observational bases for the scientsts’ conclusions. We got images of scientists washing the dirt off seedlings’ roots and looking at pictures of rootlets in action and holding geiger counters to baby douglas firs. Not only did we get to hear what the scientists thought they were learning, but what led them to think so.
After that I watched Cosmos, the remake of an old Carl Sagan miniseries. Very flashy visuals, lots of special effects, and constant reminders to the audience of how “incredible!” it all is. It was very unsatisfying. I am sure that Neil deGrasse Tyson, the genial and soft-spoken physicist who hosts the extravaganza, did not intend it this way, but the only real compelling element of the series is his evocation of his own personal relationship with Sagan, who was something of a mentor to Tyson and started him on his scientific career. Oh, and Tyson’s occasional slaps at fundamentalist religious dogma, such as that the universe is 7000 years old, are amusing if disheartening when one realizes that in America in 2014 this is rather daring. Other than that, it is all “gee whiz! look at this!” and incoherence.
The real difference between Cosmos and the Nature program, I decided, is that Nature told us as much about the process of arriving at a new perception, as it did about the new perception itself. Cosmos presents us with a jumbled bunch of Revealed Truths. At the end, I found myself thinking about what I had seen on Nature, and finding my worldview subverted and transformed by it. Plants and the forest are not what I had thought they were, but they are much more like what I had dreamed and suspected. I have not thought much about what Cosmos presented to me, at least not substantively, because Cosmos did not give me much substance to work with. Again, I am sure Tyson did not intend it this way, but it is the difference between science reporting and scientism; between new perceptions of the world, on the one hand, and something that can take the place formerly occupied by Holy Writ, on the other.
Unsurpisingly, Nature is brought to you by PBS, and Cosmos by Fox and the Koch brothers. The one show teaches us something about science, how it works and what it’s like to do it and what kind of humble but startling understandings it leads us to. The other teaches us a new wowie zowie mythology suitable for use by workers and consumers in a technologically sophisticated oligarchy.
December 23rd, 2013
This might have been a dream, or perhaps a nightmare, except that it was a waking vision and it felt oh so tranquil. It seems appropriate to the season when we are saying good-bye to an old year and all the years that preceded it, and are on the cusp of the new. I am not entirely happy with the way that my blogging program has inserted a little extra space between each line, but I’m not unhappy with it, either. The extra space stretches things out and makes the poem have even more of a lazy, detached, languorous feeling.
I remain moored in the same place, but
every year the shore recedes further and
the big water deeper and wider all
around me. Used to be, I’d watch
the little pale fish: first their shadows
dotting and running the rippled sand,
darker green on the golden green, then
themselves halting and in unison
bolting like something sprayed from a
bottle, sometimes so fast disappearing
until my eye caught their shadows again.
That was when it was inches deep.
After awhile it was not fish but people
occupied my view, at first a shifting
few on their dry yellow slope: a couple
families, older ones mostly sprawling on
towels colorful as macaws, ones older
than that dazed on folding chairs, kids
helter skelter, half a dozen or so, digging
with plastic implements they’d leave behind
as if to mark where what they’d made
had been. I got to know a few. A fat
boy with a blue bucket. A college girl
lying on her stomach, looking both ways
like a kid crossing a street before she
reached behind and bared her breasts
to the sand while her boyfriend slept.
An old man and an old woman passing
a book back and forth, pointing at pages.
Of what they all said, as fewer and fewer
words could reach me, I understood
less and less, until it was only children’s
ejaculations and their parents’ (?)
cautionary howls, dimming gradually.
By that time they were numerous dots
on the beach, unevenly clotted as the
little fish had been; as not with the fish,
I could see what might have made
their patterns form. Shade trees. A tent
emitting loud music attractive to some.
Metal boxes in which to light fires.
Proximity of others like or unlike.
the time of day – the changing angle
at which the sun’s spears strike beneath
the mildly heaving surface into a blue
in which, at last, striations of light
converge but are lost before they meet –
is all I see.
October 27th, 2013
I am thrilled to announce that To Join the Lost now is available at Shakespeare and Company, the wonderful English-language bookstore in Paris. Yes, that Paris. They accepted a few copies on consignment when I was there last week. It was a rainy afternoon. I sat outside under the awning for about forty-five minutes afterwards, waiting for the drizzle to subside and basking in the thrill of having my book on those bookshelves. There also was a pretty good view of a chunk of Notre Dame.
Shakespeare and Company is a place steeped in literary history. Well, sort of. A bookstore by that name opened in 1919 on the Left Bank. Through the 1920s, expatriate American and British literati hung out there: Ernest Hemingway, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein. Its owner, Sylvia Beach, published Joyce’s Ulysses. The original store closed in 1940, during the German occupation. It never reopened, but a second store was opened in 1951 (the year before I was born) by George Whitman and it bears the same name; its current owner, Sylvia Beach Whitman, was named for the original store’s founder, and she has worked hard to maintain the same spirit and commitment to writing and writers that made the first store legendary.
I didn’t really expect my book to find a place there, and I am thrilled that it did. But now I find myself in a bit of a quandary. It is there on consignment. That means, if it doesn’t sell out in the next six months (unlikely as that may seem) I need to retrieve the copies. I don’t think I will be able to go back there so soon, although I dearly would love to do so. There are items on the menu of Au Bascou that I haven’t tried yet. I need a contact in Paris who can handle that for me (the book, not the restaurant) next April, if necessary. Volunteers?
July 12th, 2013
Years ago I had a friendly acquaintance named Jane who gave massages in her home, and one day I took her up on it, and had one of Those Experiences. No, cynical Burlingtonites, so recently sated on news stories of happy ending massage parlors, not one of those experiences. Jane has long ago passed out of my life, but recently I made a new friend who worked for some time as a massage therapist, so the subject has been on my mind. I have no idea what it is like to be pulled into the white light of orgasm by some oriental sex slave, an experience to be had at certain “health spas” around here up until a few weeks ago for around eighty dollars, according to the news. I don’t remember what I paid Jane for giving me something other than an orgasm, but it wasn’t quite that much. It was worth writing a poem about.
The last thing I felt was warmth in the middle
of my chest and a spot of it on the crown
of my head, your touch, as if your arms
ran a conduit plugging those places together;
then that was gone; my eyes were closed;
I floated in a black place. Somewhere a bone
flute knitted high and low seamless as a mitten.
I floated in my body bag, waiting for something
to return. Nothing returned. Then, as I floated,
a click from the other room, a little boy’s
blocks clacked, and here a puff of breeze
on my bare chest seconded this call. So my
eyelids lightened, filled with the possibility
of motion as slowly as canal locks fill with water;
opened; and there was this glaring white blank
I recognized after a while as your ceiling and not
the eye of god because if it had been god’s eye
the thoughts that kept tugging at my attention –
of the flute, of you and your husband and child,
of my wife and children, of the streets between –
would have pulled me away; but there remained
your ceiling in awesome steadfast finality.
Then you peeked in the door, quietly asking
if I was alright, and I knew it had become time,
the muscles in my limbs were mine again,
to move, pull on my shirt, and button it.
April 28th, 2013
I solemnly lowered the zipper from her neck
to just below her breasts. She lay there quietly,
her eyes intent on my face, her lower lip
(with that upturned crescent of scar, a pale
moon, just beneath it, I found so endearing)
gently sucked between her teeth, so I
ventured to lower it to her navel, slowly,
receiving neither protest nor approval.
She could have shrugged her arms out of
the jumpsuit’s sleeves just then, but she did not:
she lay there quietly, her eyes intent on my face,
her lower lip (with that upturned crescent
of scar, a pale moon, just beneath it,
I found so endearing) gently sucked
between her teeth, so I slipped my right hand
under the blue fabric that felt thick and warm,
under her breast, which one didn’t matter,
she lay quietly, intent, her lower lip
released, neither protesting nor welcoming.
I slid my hand up the flaccid mound to its
hard tip that I knew from other times I’d
peeled the fabric back was chocolate brown,
and rested there, it in my palm, her lower
lip once more between her teeth, her eyes
intent but inward as if having taken in
my face now she took it all the way in.
My hand rode the velvet of her steadily
breathing up and down, then down and
down the ribs rising and falling, past
flatness and rested over the well of her
navel that thrilled my palm as her nipple had.
Still she lay still. A wildness had entered
her face, not resisting nor urging, so I
followed the slope of her belly down
to where the down thickened to a
scratchy thicket and the band of her
underpants held and pressed my fingers
the way her hand had held and pressed them
on her cheek just eternities ago, and under
that was skin folded and wrinkled as I
could not imagine, moist and warm as her
tongue. Just then her mother rattled pots
downstairs in the kitchen and I withdrew
my fingers slick with lovely musk, and ever
after, her zipper carefully, soundlessly drawn,
emptiness had new dimensions and layers.
April 4th, 2013
I forgot to keep my eyes from closing
when I slid inside you. How the rose sings
all around, around me, many-petaled.
Where are you? In darkness whom I’m losing.
March 30th, 2013
If you’re going to be in the Greater Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, Metropolitan Area the evening of April 26, 2013, and if you are not otherwise unbreakably committed by reason of social or business engagements to spend the evening elsewhere than the Lewiston Public Library, and if as a visitor to this site you have more than a passing interest in the wit and wisdom of me, you might find it well nigh irresistible to check this out.