Looting Versailles

Looting Versailles
My first book of poems, just released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Brain and Soul, Art and Nature

What I have learned about optimal outcomes regarding what environment a child is reared in, I’ve seen what’s best is richness, complexity. A child read a lot of books at night, a child whose parents use diverse vocabularies, provide varied toys of multiple functions – a world a child can maneuver through and manipulate, with differing roads, where they can fail and succeed: these are ideal. And by what method? I believe what complexity and richness offers is neurological / psychological (cognitive, mental…) stimulation; the brain and soul require stimulation. Stimulation to the brain is growth; richness, complexity – these qualities are the right proper mix of nourishment; water and sun; protein, carbohydrate and fat.

I highlight the metaphysical soul along with the physical brain because I want to extend this fact into an argument for what I believe is morally necessary: the preservation of our natural world, of animal and plant species (as many as possible), of topographies and climes, of languages and cultures. These make up the sustenance for our souls which become malnourished in their absence. To see a malnourished soul, imagine the neglected child with his blank affect and benumbed heart, the poor ones who have difficulty performing the simplest of socially connecting acts, such as smiling and maintaining eye contact. To conceive of a life lived lacking the dynamic structures and arrangements of Adam and Eve’s habitat (or something akin) think only of what our prisons offer as penultimate punishment (what is qualified as harshest next to the capital kind; what, less than death, is most stern?): ISOLATION. Put another way: Sensory deprivation.

The case for environmental conservation and the case for supporting the arts are made by pleading for nothing less than the continued growth and thriving of humankind. We can survive without these things, but reminded of the prisoner kept alone in a dark, dank and quiet cell, begs the question: Would it be worth it?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Art: Maturity's Pretend Play

I watch my daughter pretend a toothbrush is a phone, pretend that she is a "wiggle worm," - when she was 18 mos she was pretending EVERYTHING was a hat or guitar. Now she likes to pretend feed me invisible food, pretend her dolls are having conversations. She's only 2.5 yo. I know, from experience with children and my own memories of childhood, how much more complex and elaborate and stylized her pretend play is going to become in the coming years.

So what is writing? For me, CREATIVE writing is essentially make-believe; pretend play. Metaphor can be a pretend play device. I'm struggling to find the way I can argue this connection - art as mature pretend play - with evidence or reason. For me, it's a truth I can intuit. I can imagine myself in the process of writing, having "serious fun," and I can think of the playful spirit I'm in at the theatre, or in bed with a novel, or viewing a Van Gogh or Pollack or Leonardo.

I know I'm not the first to recognize the connection between play and the process of making art, but for me I see the truth of that connection being crystallized in my mind when held up for inspection with my experiences in writing creatively. It only further frustrates my already angry, opinionated mind about the notion that art or poetry conveys some "message," "meaning," or "truth" there to be interpreted. Perhaps the act of interpreting is play for some who require an intellectual prize from all experiences... Maybe they're not wrong, there is wisdom there, transferred indirectly to the participants though (IMO).

Essentially, the point I want to make is this: I see my daughter engaging in make-believe, pretend play, and as a pediatrician I understand the value in this activity. I've recognized in the art I hold dear a sense of fun, play, wildness that is, in spirit, a grown up version of what children do.

In the art I don't love, those qualities - fun, play, wildness - are missing. Art that doesn't pretend isn't art I like; that art is sincere, it's communication, it's "about" something rather than "being" something. If you're art is about life, why view the art when life is all around me - they are part and parcel. National Geographic and Scientific American - about life, no pretending - do not pretend to be art.

And I want to clarify: fun, play, wildness - these things can be deadly serious, though they connote laughter, gaiety, lightheardedness. An elegiac poem, a tragedy - these can be fun, playful, wild - to the MATURE sensibility. Maybe only a mature sensibility will understand my meaning.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Beauty breaks the rules

This quote strikes me as poignant:

“I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires....” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The reason it has so much meaning to me is how deeply I can relate to the protagonist's insight. For a very long time, I've not acted on spontaneous emotion, on impulse, caprice, for fear of disrupting some balance in society, or my present chunk of it, by breaking some "interior" rule. I've called it Introversion, Social Anxiety, Shyness, Conscientiousness, Obsessive-Compulsive...I've spent many thoughtful moments considering rules. I'm not sure whose rules - society's, my own? 

I'd like to step back a minute. Consider this quote by the famous American General Douglas MacArthur:

"You are remembered for the rules you break."

The past two years of writing poetry for publication, and discerning what precisely spins the head off my neck, quickens my pulse, in art (music, movies, novels, visual, etc; my own, others') the chief discovery I made was I most fee pleasure in the act of rule-breaking, or while participating in it with another (reading, viewing, listening; 'another' being the maker). 

Beauty breaks the rules. 

Today, at every opportunity, every hint of reticence, every mental stopper, push-back, I broke the rule, flicked the angel off my right shoulder and gave heed to the devil on my left (sinister!) - recalcitrant instead of acquiescent, I failed at my usual capitulating and said "To hell with this prison of morality!" In short, I rebelled against myself. The slave revolted against the selfsame slavemaster; an internal servile war. 

I've made a profound synthesis: art is about revolt, breaking new ground by forsaking unnecessary rules; living artfully, ignore the limits and unbound your soul, choose the rules (a few) to keep, and live as freely as possible (art is freedom). By rules to keep, of course the Ten Commandments offer some (thou shalt not murder). I like the Hippocratic Oath (maybe I'm biased). 

Maybe this only applies to me, but for any of you out there who can relate to Fitzgerald's words (from Nick's mouth) in Gatsby, then maybe you should try what I tried today: break those interior rules. Empower yourself. If not in life - then to my artist friends - in creating!

PS: I apologize this post looks like shit. I don't know why it keeps turning out in these stupid colors. Probably has to do with pasting in the quotes. Mea culpa. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Poem Up at Poetic Diversity! (Happy Nat'l Poetry Month)

Thank you, Poetic Diversity, for taking a chance on one of my oddball prose poems. The site looks great, hope you all enjoy :)


*By the by, check in for their next issue where another prose poem of mine will be featured. "This is a dream. I'm busting, Jerry, I'm busting!" - Jason Alexander, Seinfeld

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Man and Things We Make

I'd just like to offer an idea: We mistake the extraordinariness of man's creations for the extraordinariness of man.

How often are we astounded by the creation (Annie Hall, The Cantos) and disappointed by the creator (Woody Allen, Ezra Pound)? It's because great creations, we assume, are made by great men / women. And since we're surrounded by great creations on a day to day basis (cars, computers, electricity, controlled fire, airplanes, cement roads, wooden houses, hospitals, etc) MAN must be great...nay, "in God's image."

I think man's creativity is more our specialty - like Darwin's finches, their specialized beaks based on their diet; or like the peacock's tail, or shark's rows of teeth - or rather, it's our TRICK to surviving, but it isn't proof we're highest on the hierarchy of creation. The cat probably sees how graceless most of us are and thinks CATS are god-like; dogs probably see our pathetic sense of smell and...well, you know.

Our creativity - we have such a complex language! (our creation) - is like a highly specialized organ, like a dog's sense of smell. Our creations are incredible, most individual human specimens, on the other hand, are quite canny, ESPECIALLY when stripped of their man-made objects (clothes, shoes, glasses, etc).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Animal Intelligence

I think it's human nature to look at another species - our cats, our dogs, the robins, the squirrels, the giraffe at the zoo - and wonder: What are you thinking? What do you know?

First of all, my dogs and cats are relatively lazy. A lot of their time is spent lounging on the sofa or by a vent, or on the bed. But think about a human doing that: The human is not sitting their with an empty mind; we daydream, fantasize, ponder.

I spend a lot of time wondering about my life and about God, or my (our) creator. I'd be willing to bet a hefty sum cats and dogs and giraffes, in their own ways, wonder about their (our) creator, as well. As evolution-minded scientists know, much of human behavior has precedents; it did NOT just pop up suddenly when modern Homo sapien came on the scene. That goes for tools, art, language, etc, etc. Though I still think the fact that we wear clothes is fairly nifty.

Some sort of wondering about God, and attempting to make sense of life, must go on in each individual animal with a mind, to some degree, probably in some way humans are incapable of imagining. Since no animal (we know of) can do something like a book - share his or her or its ideas - those ideas of God are probably limited to that individual, hence there are probably no animal religions. That seems absurd, but deliciously so.

I was thinking about the way we test animal intelligence - silly problem-solving and maze-memorizing games. Here's my question: If an animal is able to survive, and THRIVE, in the wild for a long enough time to mate, isn't that proof of its intelligence? It survives in the wild - think of the humans you know who couldn't! Not just people with special needs (all children, special needs children, elderly) but some low-functioning adults. Yet we presume the human mind to be superior, when we know the human eye is rather pathetic compared to some other species.

I think the human mind is a supremely creative one, and that mankind relies heavily on its creations, unlike any other beast in the world. I question our superiority in other realms of intellect though. Elephants have tremendous memories, create beautiful paintings; Gorillas with training in sign language demonstrate previously unimagined depths of feeling.

It's difficult being a human, a born omnivore who at once adores animals and survives by eating them. I think that recycling of matter and spirit, eating, growing, dying, pushing up daisies - it's at once beautiful and tragic. The necessity of death for life. I've decided to be on the side of conservationists, to be a conscientious omnivore, and avoid at all costs harming animals unnecessarily, and to consider it morally reprehensible - evil - to drive one of God's creations to extinction. It makes me queasy thinking about it; all the megafauna gone because of us - though of course if we crossed paths with some (i.e. saber-toothed tigers) we'd probably kill or be killed, as well, and part of my desire to see them alive might include some kind of zoo facility (i.e. Jurassic Park), or just being able to sleep at night (in my bed, sheltered) and KNOW...they're out there!

Anyway, my daughter loves animals, music and animals, and I think those are loves we never outgrow; I haven't! So I just wanted to put forward the idea that animals are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. Think of what they accomplish! Surviving - every day - without a refrigerator or winter coat, without a gun or car; pretty impressive.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Gift of Mindfulness

The heading really sums up all I have to say well: The enduring gift of art (for the viewer / reader) is Mindfulness - it renews your senses, emotions, lights up your inner world like a sun, makes the sun and moon of the outer world brighter, the colors and shapes sharper.

Mindfulness: Art knocks you back to your senses, you pay attention to your surroundings again. As I said in an earlier post, Attention on the Object is the act of loving the object - you re-fall in love with the world again, like a child.

Who does not wish to fully inhabit themselves and their world, to completely enjoy every aspect of a day, a sandwich, a kiss, a sunset, a bird's song? You never want to feel you're missing out on something.

This is one function of art, a tool on a par (in man's kit) with the spear and the wheel; another form of Prometheus's bestowal, the flame of our inner fires!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Quick Thought on Man and Animals

In medicine, a lot of animal products (hormones, surfactant) are viable treatments for people deficient in those products. This has been known for some time.

If God / Nature endowed man and animals (as if those two things are different) with similar pituitaries, adrenals, pancreas, livers, why do we think the brains are so radically different? If their adrenals make epinephrine like ours, why do we assume their brains don't produce thoughts and feelings like ours?

I think it's guilt. We're a moral animal, so we have to lie to ourselves to excuse our bad behavior: see victim-blaming ("She was asking for it"), or calling victims of injustice sub-human (Nazis called Jews "rats," America considered its slaves 3/5 of a person).

I hope some day we can transcend some of the uglier aspects of our nature. Namely, I'd like to see all the mass delusions gone. Isn't it better to know the truth? Sometimes I think the only obstruction between the truth and mankind is all of the biases we're programmed to deploy for self-preservation, the art of self-deception.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Changing Attitudes About Healthy Living

I'm a physician, so I hope I'm deemed qualified to comment on a few things in this post about health, specifically overall well-being. Currently, I plan on specializing in pediatric endocrinology in the near future, but this doesn't mean I don't keep track of trends in adult health, considering my own health is of course very important to me, and I'm able, thanks to college and medical school, to understand the studies regarding adult issues (heart health, cancer prevention, mental health, etc).

I just wanted to share a few attitude adjustments I've made recently, been forced to make as a resident, that I think could help the general population as well.

Two are regarding nutrition, specifically obesity. The first adjustment I made was in my attitude toward food. I was born with a sweet tooth, and was rewarded frequently as a child with a treat, like ice cream. As a young adult I've often rewarded myself for a good performance at work, or a full day of studying, with a treat. I also have found myself often at work thinking "I deserve something special" and grabbing a bite. What happened was, the combination of increased work hours (which the resident physician schedule is notorious for) and decreased time to dedicate to fitness, lead to my getting slightly out of shape. So the first adjustment I had to make was 1) No longer seeing food as something to have for fun, like when I'm bored, or as a reward.

Generally "fun" food is high in sugar or fat, high in calories. There are better things to do for fun, even at work. You can read something entertaining, take a walk, or find someone else who isn't busy to have a conversation with. This will take your mind off food, and it won't add inches to your waist.

The second adjustment I made was regarding exercise. In college and medical school my work outs were 1-2 hour sculpting sessions that consisted of reps, sets, and documented gains in weight lifted each day. It was highly routine, and resulted in bulk, shaping - a lot of good. This type of routine, however, isn't possible with a resident physician work schedule. My way of seeing exercise in the early part of my residency was very black-and-white: If I can't get in a two hour work out, there's no point in working out at all. Residency, marriage, fatherhood - I don't think I'll have the time for two hour work outs again. That didn't help my "figure."

Before I go on, there's a common expression I think is useful to remember: Use it, or lose it. Obesity is largely a result of not using our musculoskeletal system. The fibers and sinews that move our bones were given to us for activity, mobility. Using them burns calories, improves insulin sensitivity (preventing diabetes). This led to my second attitude adjustment: 2) make it a priority to move as much as possible, dailiy - God / Nature endowed us with a body to move; we eat for energy to move. The movement can be walks around the building or outside, even while at work (like on a lunch break), it can be some push ups and sit ups if you're interested in sculpting some of the sexier muscles, or you can do what I did and get a heart rate monitor, run around your neighborhood every other night, and track your heart rate to insure you're making the most of your brief foray outdoors for some exercise.

So, in summary, my hope is we could all be healthier and feel better mentally (since self-esteem is largely tied to body image) if we 1) stop seeing food as something for "fun" or to alleviate boredom (think of our ancestors not long ago - food was something to work for, it wasn't something as readily available as it is now), and 2) exercise doesn't have to be highly regimented, or at a gym, just move, use your body, your muscles and bones; do body weight exercises, calisthenics, get creative. I'd also like to emphasize the growing body of literature demonstrating the addictive and harmful affects of sugar consumption; my hope is future generations will see it as a drug, or something to use sparingly like cigars or alcohol. It leads to heart disease and strokes (and impotence, abdominal pain, leg claudication) secondary to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes - this is common knowledge by now.

My resident schedule has forced me to change my attitude in similar fashions about other things. My writing I do in short spurts - I can no longer have marathon sessions alone to myself at a coffeeshop. Same goes for studying - read an article, or part of an article - here or there, finish it later. Adulthood is defined by Responsibility, and to continue caring for myself, I had to change my attitude about what is proper care: Food, exercise, writing, studying.

A final note I'd like to make, regarding an adjustment that I learned as a physician but I think applies to all of life: the things of this world, our resources, are not infinite; there is a finite number of everything - oil, trees, antibiotics, money, manpower, etc. The image of the tribal, primitive hunter who hunts in one valley in May, and doesn't return until next May so that the land may replenish itself with game and berries - that is a good way to live. Turn off lights in vacated rooms, drive as little as possible, prescribe the shortest effective course of antibiotics, recycle, eat only what you need - I think one can not recognize the finite nature of Nature and not feel their living morally if they don't do their part to conserve and help things grow.

I'm the father of a two year old, and I do a lot of teaching what's right and wrong. I don't think we ever stop learning what's right and wrong, and I think it's wrongheaded to believe as an adult you already know the difference. If you always do what you think is right, it'd be difficult to fault you for any mistakes you make, and the hope would be you learned from said misstep. I don't want to sound preachy, I just think what's made the biggest difference in my life recently is doing what feels most right when it comes to decision-making and taking action (what feels most right - not sure we can ever say with certainty the "right" thing to do; we do our best). As a writer, I write what I like, what wows me; as someone who frequently feels awkward and tells jokes to fix it, I recognize the jokes I tell are what I consider funny (whether others do is debatable). I think as a person, you have to do what you think is right, whether you came to that conclusion on your own, or somebody told you it is so.

This post is a far cry, in terms of subject matter, from my previous, poetry-related posts. I'm currently sending my second manuscript around to contests right now, and focusing on other things as I wait on responses: I'm taking pictures, writing stories, reading fiction and all the medical articles I can get my hands on; writing songs, exercising more, etc. Of course I'm spending time with family.

I hope this article helps someone, either to make a change, or at least think about making a change. As an University of Wisconsin alum and current Ohio resident, I'll end (appropriately for March) with these words: Go Dayton Flyers! F*ck 'em, Bucky!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Critic's Guilt: Get Over It

The truth about art is: Good art is loved, it surprises and makes you happy, sad, or that perfect blending of both; bad art, on the other hand, is repulsive as dog shit or rotten eggs. The fact of the matter is, these outcomes (feelings) are all in the heart of the beholder, but the law is universal: If it repulses you, it's bad art - so don't feel bad for hating it.

That's right. For all of you in "workshops" who feel hard-pressed for something nice to say about a pile of turds dropped in front of you by an eager-for-praise puppy as if it's the newspaper or your slippers (their writing), don't feel bad for wanting to say, "This is horrible," or "This is tripe," or, "You have no talent," or "Why do you write," or, "You clearly are inspired ONLY by what your high school language teacher told you a poem / novel is." Does bad art make someone a bad artist? No, of course not; even Shakespeare struck out once in awhile. The feeling isn't rational - feelings seldom are. That doesn't mean they don't tell you something that's true, in this case, that the art before you isn't beautiful, edifying, strange or mysterious...rather, that it's a thorn in your private areas.

Of course, we want to encourage fellow writers, not discourage, so nobody wants to say, This poem is less interesting than my eczema. But wait, do we not want to say it, or do we know the other does not want to hear it; do we know the other members will chastise the messenger for the message? To be honest, that honesty bubbles and boils up inside me every time I read about a babbling brook or the moon in June. You know what that makes me? (A jerk, an asshole, a heartless know-it-all?) It makes me HUMAN. I am repulsed by something unattractive, something noxious; evolution has given me instincts that drive me away from the source of disgust, and told me to avoid it, at all costs, in the future; this, it is logically assumed, is to my benefit, this instinct. So why do I keep going back?

The friendship. The camaraderie. The shared love of literature, words, the common goal of creating beautiful word-objects, images, sounds, experiences to transcend the daily world. That's why you don't say those nasty phrases burning their holes in the back of your throat or your temporal lobe, to preserve the social support of a writer's workshop.

The moral of the blog post is: If you hate bad art, find yourself retching in its presence and wanting to punch the cliches in their pregnant bellies, fret not, dispel your shame. My friend and fellow sufferer, you are human, pricked and bleeding; smile at that wonderful fact, the fact of your vivacity, and tell your brother-in-rhymes: I really like that you made the roses red and describe the birds as feathery.

I felt, to prevent counterargument to the fact, that it's important to consider taste. In order to trust one's feelings of repulsion versus love (or its components) one must first refine his or her palate, must first view multiple and variable individual pieces and acquire a sense of what's right or wrong in the art form, prior to gauging Good versus Bad; a degree of intelligence is probably required as well (unless I'm wrong and Duck Dynasty is truly Great Art).

Saturday, February 1, 2014

American Buddhist Poets (and a thought on "favorites")

Every time I read her, I appreciate more and more the art of Jane Hirshfield. I own "Given Sugar, Given Salt," and I've read her countless times in the past when she's appeared in Poetry. She is very much a transcendental writer - she writes about mysterious things, shares a mysterious knowledge that I think can only be created. It's hard to pin down, but it feels like matters of the soul, the animas of religion.

This morning I revisited W.S. Merwin, who in the past has been a bit too gentle, or genteel, for my taste. I like things to explode a bit off the page, and I especially did a year ago - think the fireworks of those NY writers: O'Hara, Ashbery, Koch; think of the Beats, especially Ginsberg. My taste, my aesthetic sensibility, has refined a bit, and has actually become MORE inclusive, and today I really appreciated nearly every line I read in my rediscovery of Merwin. I own "Migrations: New and Selected Poems," a National Book Award winner.

The American Buddhists - Merwin, Hirshfield - transcend our five (actually six) sense experience (the sixth is proprioception) and create new knowledge, mine the mystery they create, providing a beauteous wonder. Last night I lay in bed reading about God, people's thoughts about God throughout history. I can accept God as existing in the mysteries of life, residing in the unknowable, residing in art. I observed recently in my life, art is what occupies my mind in between study and survival, in between my time with others and my time at work (as a physician), which includes study time, reading up on contemporary scientific discovery and innovation. There are those moments of solitude - after waking, before bedtime, a lunch break - that are filled, decisively, by art; experiencing art or pondering art, or both.

Paying attention to my own attention - meta-attention - I notice my "favorite" pieces are those I relate to. So often their subject matter are young, sensitive men: Keats' Ode on Melancholy, Stevens' The Snow Man, Hamlet, and most recently, Willa Cather's "Paul's Case." (Apparently, according to this link, "A Study in Temperament.") http://www.shsu.edu/~eng_wpf/authors/Cather/Pauls-Case.htm. I read it during a lull in my nursery call. What this means to me, as a writer and reader, is that "favorite" should evolve as you evolve, and really doesn't speak to the quality of the art work. I'm not sure of the other repercussions; I haven't ruminated much yet on it. But I think it is important to note. And I don't think it's faulty to have favorites, not at all. Perhaps I'll write more on this in the future.

Recommendations: Hirshfield, Merwin, "Paul's Case"

Friday, January 17, 2014

Really System Issue One published a poem of mine!

New poem published at Really System: http://reallysystem.org/issues/one/stasis_in_ragtime/

The journal has a great, friendly editor who asked that I encourage all my writer friends to submit their work for issue 2, so get to it guys!

This is an interesting piece for me: it’s the first I wrote after finishing my first book and taking several months off. It’s a rondeau, an underutilized form, in my opinion. Paul Laurence Dunbar (Dayton’s native son) has a famous one, We Wear the Mask: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173467

Another famous one, probably more well-known, is In Flanders Field by John McCrae: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19464

I’m happy with this poem, and after it was written I read it at Bess Embers’ poetry circle (at that time at Kettering’s Library on Far Hills). That June Saturday afternoon another poet there asked what inspired it, saying she was especially moved by the image of the horse in the air. I said I had been watching the news around the time of the Moore, OK tornado this past spring, and I felt, as a poet, one of my tasks was to “bear witness to my time,” and “testify” to present and future readers. It was going to be a theme behind my burgeoning, inchoate second book, bearing witness to current events, etc. Well, that poet really liked the idea, and came back with a sonnet of her own based on that image and idea the next month. (I remember a friend’s reaction, having been present for mine and hers: “Whoa.”) She’s an award-winning poetess, so I recommend checking out this month’s Mock Turtle Zine (http://mockturtlezine.com/online-issue/) if you want to see a fine example of sonneteering. The title may clue you in.

And on a sort of random note, while we’re talking poetry, there’s an interesting article on the Poetry Foundation website by Ruth Graham this month, about a certain trend that emerged in 2013: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/247130

(I feel compelled to mention the other poet's piece so that when mine is read it isn't presumed I heard the image from her, as mine was the second to be published. The feelings are only mildly hard, as intimated by the timely Poetry essay.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quick addition to the "falling in love" post

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

This is a great Elie Wiesel quote (first heard by me in a Lumineers song). I think if one is viewing art in a form they aren't accustomed to - i.e. almost everybody's experience reading poetry, even some people who write it - then the best way to gauge whether it's "good" or not is 1) how much it "grabs" you (catches your attention and holds it), or, the other end of the spectrum, 2) how much it leaves you indifferent to it, that is, how little your mind returns to it, or how quickly it discards the sensory data (information, art object) and moves on to something different. 

So my advice to novice audience-members of any art form is - just go with the flow; experience the art. If you can't escape it afterward, if it resides in your mind after you're no longer viewing it, it's 'subjectively' (you being the subject) "good"; if you forget about it, it was "bad." 

What irks me is hearing other poetry writers / readers laud every poem they see...not EVERY poem they see, not the poems people they know have written, but the poems on websites or in books or journals, because they assume some authority has deemed it a "good poem" and that they, the readers, aren't good enough yet to tell what is good on their own. It took me a couple years to learn there is no such thing as an objectively good poem; the poems that live on are considered "good" by a vocal and powerful few, and then are accepted as good by the unwitting or naive majority (namely college students or retirees). Fortunately, if you stay with poetry, you'll see some of these vocal and powerful few were actually right, or their tastes agree with yours (I often find myself agreeing with Bloom on matters of aesthetics; if I were a critic I'd champion Crane, Stevens, Ashbery and Dickinson, too), but first you have to stop thinking everything is great. Poetry is like TV, Hollywood movies, pop music - 99.9% of it is CRAP. (See Sturgeon's Law.) 

For me, what's attention grabbing is still what's new, so I think the only critic who's ever remained valuable to me is Pound; fascist, anti-semitic Pound. If you want to know how to read, read http://www.amazon.com/ABC-Reading-New-Directions-Paperbook/dp/0811218937

Monday, January 6, 2014

Three New Poems Published...

Great journal. Includes my play on the abecedarian (look where the letters are :) ), a sonnet for one of my best friends (just engaged) in a sonnet form I invented, and some Sapphics I wrote for my nuclear family (pets included!):


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Two new publications

A poem I wrote almost exactly two years ago when I was still finding my footing:


Three poems I wrote this past year:


(Shared 21 times on Facebook! Exciting :) )