Three badassed stills from the Wizard of Oz. Holy shnipes! Don't even trip. This movie's the bizzomb. Basically, it's the story of the American feminine (embodied by Dorothy) in search of a connection to the Real. She finds it in Ireland (a.k.a. the Emerald City), after an ordeal-filled trek across time and space with her friends, who each represent the pastoral ideal (scarecrow), the promise and menace of the automaton (the oil-hungry tin man), and the vexed animalistic masculine principle (a neurotic lion). She meets actual forces of destruction (the witch of the west) along the way, but bests them with a baptism. Basically, the Wizard of Oz is a chromed-out, simplified version of Ulysses. It's also the basis for a few other movies I love (Star Wars, fer shure, but also Wild At Heart and pretty much David Lynch's whole aesthetic).
28 January 2010
On this day in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, killing all seven crew members. Many a horrified citizen - including yours truly - watched on live t.v. as the celebrated shuttle erupted into a fireball of debris and cataclysm that streaked across the sky.
25 January 2010
23 January 2010
The squirrel feeder is a cube-shaped wire cage that holds a brick of corn and various seeds that have been somehow - mechanically, I assume - compressed together. For reasons unknown, the effect of this compression is extremely satisfying to the touch. I can only call it metamorphic. It weighs heavy in the hands, possesses a harsh but miniaturized topography, and, in its porous, otherworldly density, suggests the ability to feed many small animals at once (advertisements for these "squirrel cakes" exclaim: "Each cake is equivalent to TEN ears of corn...plus other tasty ingredients!"). The feeder is equipped with a hinged door that allows for continual replenishment of the squirrel cake. We have 2 to 3 squirrels that feed from our feeder. They go through about a cake per week and in all honesty, I have yet to understand why I feed them (once upon a time, I would have said that it was so my kid could enjoy watching them eat, but my kid has yet to evidence giving a damn about watching them eat. Here's me: "Look, Eleanor! It's Mr. Squirrel!" And Ella: "Um, yeah...cool")...or I had, at least, until a few minutes ago.
It's my unconscious God complex! Eek! It's so clear to me now: Every seven days I ascend the tree in our backyard to replenish what's holiest to a rodent - the stuff of life - sweet, nutty sustenance. And that bit about the harsh, miniaturized topography in my hands! WE know what that's about don't we! Yikes! And then the whole, overarching "feed the hungry" thing...and I haven't even gotten to the really creepy part about all this, which is that, lately, the squirrels have become almost thoroughly repulsive in mine eyes: I mean, they have in fact grown greedier (raiding the compost bin, strewing grapefruit rinds and eggshells across the yard), filthier (squirrel excrement and urine is frozen for wintry posterity in the snowbank at the base of the tree - these animals shit where they eat! - and I don't even want to think about what happens when the temperatures rise and everything thaws), and more self-conscious (now their self-regard has become so ramped up that they no longer shy away from me or my family. They parlay, bristle, and chatter on the front porch as if it were a freakin squirrel social club) as a result of my direct involvement in their little world. And yet, somehow, I can't not support them in their endeavors! But why? It must be the simple unholy power of the squirrel.
22 January 2010
We go into a supermarket & we have artificial light, canned music, everything's deodorized - we can't touch or taste or smell anything, and we hear only what they want us to hear. No wonder everybody wanders around like zombies! Because our senses have been taken away from us for a while. A supermarket brings the whole thing into focus. The things that are there don't belong there, they didn't grow there. They have a shelf life, which is being rented, so that we can buy them. It's only about selling things. This is a very strange kind of situation, but it's typical of our lives.
Poetry, like all the arts, not only reconnects us to the world, it emanates from the connection with the world of the senses and the imagination that remains. When that connection is no longer there, there will be no arts, and we won't even know what we missed - we really will be zombies walking around, if we can walk around at all, in a sort of eternal supermarket.
19 January 2010
Zero to sixty in one fastfrenzy day: As well as my first day back teaching, today was also the first day of workshop, so Dey House was charged with electrical anticipation as workshoppers submitted preference sheets (lists with their top 3 preferred workshop leaders,) hoping to get their first picks. I got mine: James MacPherson. Not a bad way to round out my time here at Iowa. When the man speaks, he speaks to the soul...
18 January 2010
When I really start thinking re: what I can truly call my own, all I can come up with is "the experience of being me." Everything else can be taken away or is the product of external conditioning - not that the experience of being me has remained free from external conditioning (far from it) - but I get to make certain choices about that now. And in the end, there's not much evidence evidence to suggest that even that won't dissolve right into the Void. I don't mind, though. Not tonight...Maybe that's just how we're supposed to flower into death. And why am I thinking about this at 8:15 on a Monday night? Well, these are winter thoughts. And outside, sheets of ice abound.
17 January 2010
Hanuman sat on Saturn's rings, wrung his hands, rang your phone.
Hanuman handed you a sandwich, shrimp and ham. You shrugged your bones. Aces land.
Handled: Han' had scammed his man Han Shan, scuttled his palms across pins and pans.
Lands! You & Hanuman squint on Saturn's rungs. "Your wings are woolen," starlight sings...
16 January 2010
Miracle's truck comes down the little avenue,
Scott Joplin ragtime strewn behind it like pearls,
and, yes, you can feel happy
with one piece of your heart.
Take what's still given: in a room's rich shadow
a woman's breasts swinging lightly as she bends.
Early now the pearl of dusk dissolves.
Late, you sit weighing the evening news,
fast-food miracles, ghostly revolutions,
the rest of your heart.
- "Miracle Ice Cream," by Adrienne Rich
14 January 2010
The Hy-Vee is the most common supermarket here in Iowa. It's pretty swank too...In fact, it's one-stop living! The average Hy-Vee has a full-on butcher, organic foods section, a floral boutique, a bank, post office, dry cleaner, pharmacy, an extensive liquor, wine & cheeses selection, and even a cafeteria with an eternal all-you-care-to-eat Chinese food buffet. At night, the sign out front lights up red & fiery like the mouth of hell...
13 January 2010
Unlike plants or other animals in the animal kingdom, human beings have the capacity to produce something called art. From my way of seeing it, this means that if a person can’t produce or at least appreciate art, s/he may as well be a radish or squirrel. So hopefully, via the exploration of writing-as-art, this class will help us all become better human beings and move us further from the “radish” or “squirrel” category.
Creative writing, like all art, is completely inessential to survival. So we won’t be doing anything in this room on Thursday mornings that will help you if you’re ever stranded on a desert island (unless your island happens to have papyrus and reeds for making pens) or caught in an avalanche. However, bear in mind that that which is inessential to survival tends to be essential to culture. And culture can mean a lot of different things, but for the purposes of this class, it means a way out of the collective isolation, passivity, boredom, and duplicity that we call modern life…
As I said to begin with, this class is nonsensical: Here we are in the halls of intellectual knowledge, where, when I’m at my worst, I will be pretending to teach you how to be creative. And when I’m at my very best, I’ll be in remembrance of the fact that creative writing begins with seeing and feeling – basic human skills that we all possess. The mind of a writer is developed over time, with experience and a willingness to be in direct contact with the world. No facades or pretenses, in other words. I will do my best to keep any pretenses of my own to a minimum - and I respectfully ask that you do the same – and who knows? We just might write some decent poems and prose together…
10 January 2010
"Divine music is one of the highest mercies extended to us by God. It is as powerful as prayer itself...it is a gift from God that brings healing and comfort to the soul. This music can uplift one's spirit up to a higher dimension of being that is filled with peace and joy. Divine music is the sound of true life, wisdom, and bliss. This music transcends geographical boundaries, language barriers, age factors; and whether educated or uneducated, it reaches deep into the heart and soul, sacred and holy, like an Infinite sound of glory entering the Lord's sanctuary."-Alice Coltrane
07 January 2010
Ganesh grew up in Deptford, too, but, as he spent his entire childhood taking care of his old man, never knew a "Patricia Lee Smith." So it wasn't until years later that he fell in love with her, about the same time as everybody else. The year was 1975, the same year Horses debuted, and Ganesh was high on Romilar, in his bedroom, blanketed windows, the streets below dimmed and filled with bent spoons. Jimmy The Fag had just loaned him a handful of 45's, which he stacked onto his little RCA automatic changer, and soon his pachyderm brain's squirming with dex, a fire-mad mudcat on fry, scorched thoughts being ejaculated at a rate of a thousand or more per second and these insane zounds threading out and throttling him against the wall, but when the final record dropped it was something called "Piss Factory," a female vocalist, sounding starved, deliberate - this on continuous loop and something gives way. Maybe it's a mental implosion, and maybe G. knows there is no going back. But this thing unfurling from his Anahata, rotating love wheel all gory in his chest - what is it? What the fuck does it require of him except to keep listening to this erupting crystalline and truer-than-you daikini dipped in the pentecost of Right On and proceed with a new vision, his head blown back down Paterson Ave. and his id Rorshached into a kind of submission that don't need rescuing no more, nah, for the first time ever.
[photo a re-photograph of a still life by The Last American Year(s)]
06 January 2010
Iowa City in January. Snow. Writing. Houses for rent. Season IV of The Sopranos... Classes start back at the university in t-minus thirteen days (and counting). I'm teaching 2 classes this coming semester, taking workshop, and hammering out my master's thesis. Things promise to be busy for this family man. And then May arrives and - boom! - the MFA phase of this adventure will be over, ephemeral as lightning in a thundersnow nimbus.
05 January 2010
I heard myself say it and instantly knew that it was one of those moments of unexpected and total transparency. Without being involved in a struggle of some kind, I have no way of knowing where I am or what time it is. Somehow I can't trust any of the markers that other people use. The words bit the morning ethers and evaporated, all misty. I started to regret every drama I had ever enacted. "Don't worry about it," she said, "Drama is the air we breathe, the dominant narrative needed for the What Is Real about humans to take shape and move. It's a shared language. The question is 'What are you trying to say?'" She was laying it down in a serious way. And that's when the event horizon started to quiver.
04 January 2010
This old school Fisher Price telephone toy - a gift from Eleanor's godfather - came in the mail for Eleanor a couple days ago. Do you remember this toy? I do. You pull it with a string and it rolls along behind you, wagging its eyes up and down. When she opened it, Eleanor immediately deemed this toy "funny." What's funny versus what is not funny is a set of binaries she has enjoyed exploring lately. Sometimes she'll look up at me or her Ma and say, "Is (insert phenomenon here) funny?" It's an important question that seems to belie some heavy ontological sorting.
Freud suggested early on that humor can be a defense mechanism against unpleasant things rambling around the psyche. He also said that it can be a pure expression of the human will to enjoy delight and discharge anxiety. Theories along these lines abound, but what I like the most about humor is that it can be thoroughly subjective and infectious, as when Eleanor points to a fork on the kitchen floor and says "Fork! What are you doing?! Fork is funny!" And soon Janelle and I are laughing along with her, momentarily drawn into the kid world of magical and goofing flatware.
03 January 2010
Behold pleopeltis polypodioides, the resurrection fern. When so much in the wintry South is barren and brittle, this resurrection fern in my parents' backyard is supple and manifold. Looking at it makes me wonder...What does it mean to return to the same thing year after year? Minute after minute? Authorities on the mind take a pretty bland stance on the idea of obsessions. But where do our obsessions come from, really?
02 January 2010
TODAY'S HIGH: 6
CURRENT TEMP: -8
WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON CST TODAY:
* DANGEROUS WIND CHILLS OF 20 TO 30 BELOW ZERO WILL CONTINUE THROUGH MID DAY. ISOLATED LOCATIONS MAY EXCEED 30 BELOW ZERO EARLY THIS MORNING.
* FROSTBITE CAN OCCUR IN LESS THAN 30 MINUTES IN THESE CONDITIONS.
A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS, RESULTING IN FROST BITE AND HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS, DRESS IN LAYERS COVERING EXPOSED SKIN.
01 January 2010
So this is what 2010 feels like. Huh. When I was twelve, I figured by now we'd all be using hoverboards for transportation and eating every meal in pill form. Not so much, though - still using these tired ol' feet n' grinders...but whatevski, I made it, and have procreated to boot. (Little One's currently fast asleep, with "Rose Connely" lyrics in her head.) And so, what's this decade all about? Famine? Boredom? Increased simplicity? Relative ease? I've no idea. All I know is that the playgrounds have turned to plastic and Jack White is on a creative rampage. (He is, in all likelihood, our generation's Lou Reed, ya dig? Sho-nuff...maybe even our Dylan, which is an idea that's sad to pound out, since this decade will probably see the end of Dylan and Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison alike ...Jesus. Here we are...and what hath God wrought? The "meat wheel" spins us all...) Anyway, today I am filled with gratitude, which, according to Anne Carson, flows through me like a sieve, along its way to wherever, same as time and alcohol and what you will. Gratitude, because it's all so fleeting. Yesterday, I was 18 and full of Thrasher. Today I'm thinking about acreage and the poetry of kinetics. Nothing changes, really, except for the corn, all proud in its sheath to die & rebirth.