Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
"Janine Vega has the capacity to channel the intuition of children down to death, Hell and the devil. If my child attends her classes, we'll sue.
-- Excerpt from a parent's letter to a local school."
from Janine Pommy Vega, Mad Dogs of Trieste
A TREE FULL OF BIRDS
--------------------for Janine Pommy Vega
That's what I heard one morning
In a no-nothing town between
Phoenix and Tucson, where it
Appeared desolate and desperate
With a mall and a motel and a big
Highway running through it all
And even the motel desk didn't
Know the name of the route number
Of the highway when I asked the
Next morning with a desire to go
To the mountains north — as if no
One went to the mountains from here —
But I did, and before I left, hours
Before I asked any questions, birds
By the hundreds came to the trees and
Bushes of this motel square, dipping
Even into the swimming pool, and whether
It was sunrise that lit each bird yellow
Or if in fact they were yellow and each
Singing magnificently in the coolness of
Daybreak when I was awakened gladly
And stepped out my door and onto a long
Balcony to see and hear and feel the most
Beautiful day in the world begin
from Once In Vermont
SOME GREATEST HITS WITH JANINE
She wrote to me from Lake Titicaca, the heart of the Inca Civilization,
my first 'fan letter' (we laugh), for my first book of poems, both of
us young authors with the same publisher (Cherry Valley Editions).
When we finally met, after a few years first of correspondence, I introduced
Susan and myself after Janine's reading at Jack Powers' Stone Soup in
Boston. Janine gasped, lit up, told the first person right next to her
"These guys raise ducks & geese!" Yes we did. Two hours away and far from home.
Janine nodding and smiling and sizing us both up for years to come.
She would love Susan with the same lovely quiet that is Susan.
That night, none of us slept. We hiked over the Longfellow Bridge
twice, slow with talk and the dark Charles River below. A phantom fellow
joined us, unknown to us, probably until that night unknown
to Janine. As a boy I learned quickly things aren't always as they appear.
Susan and Janine agreed: driving the Mass Pike west to east is the pits.
Better east to west. Something about Berkshire, Catskill, Niagara...
A few years later Janine visited us in our cabin, slept in my library of bark,
books and twigs; rose hours and hours after we did. Made sure to do yoga,
meditation, had special drinks and brought her own blender. A pot of rice.
Soon after we all drove through New Hampshire, higher into the White
Mountains. When we stopped to show her the Old Man in the Mountain
the Jersey girl got out and gazed publicly, "Aw, man, look at that." This was
after years of living on the streets with the pros, then as a hermit in Bolivia ~
Peru, writing two or three singular books of poems, losing a husband to an
early death who she never stopped loving, and paying attention always to the
down-trodden, phantoms. She climbed the peaks of the Catskills / Himalayas.
Worked the toughest prisons in North and South America. Adored the children
of the world. She worked with me twice at the same girls school and was so good
some of the teachers were afraid to have her back. The students begged to have her back.
Who wins that fight in the real world? We had a dog named Bo who Janine called
"Mister Bo". Cats took precedence. She, Susan and I once hiked her woods all
day for a bear she insisted we would find. It didn't matter. Hunting with Janine
is a poetry class with your eyes wide open. 35 years later we are talking on the phone
and maybe she knows she is dying but she will never tell me this. This is the second
time an elder poet friend has called me a week before they die. I'm starting to pick up
the signals of how ordinary and simply beautiful the conversation is. In this conversation
I reminded Janine how the battery on my phone would soon die. We always had a good
laugh over that one — machines ran out of gas; we didn't. I also tried to caution the one
I love, as she railed on with a myriad of health problems, that she must remember that
not everyone was as tough as she was. Without losing a beat she dazzled,"You-think?"
with the best giggle of any 68 year old girl I've ever known. Today I was in her library for
12 straight hours sifting and saving, sifting and saving, I couldn't stop, neither could Susan.
You would burst into tears if I told you and showed you how many piles and stacks and boxes
of children and prisoner and migrant worker and hopeful student poets work she has saved
for decades. Without any ability to throw them out. In the same care and position as her own
bundles, files, books on her library shelves. I won't tell you. I don't want you to cry.
On Raglan Road of an Autumn day
I saw her first and knew,
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might someday rue.
I saw the danger and I passed
Along the enchanted way.
And I said,"Let grief be a fallen leaf
At the dawning of the day."
On Grafton Street in November, we
Tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
The worth of passion play.
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts
And I not making hay;
Oh, I loved too much and by such and such
Is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind,
I gave her the secret signs,
That's known to the artists who have known
The true gods of sound and stone.
And her words and tint without stint
I gave her poems to say
With her own name there and her own dark hair
Like clouds over fields of May.
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet
I see her walking now,
And away from me so hurriedly
My reason must allow.
That I had loved, not as I should
A creature made of clay,
When the angel woos the clay, he'll lose
His wings at the dawn of day.
First published in 1946 as Dark Haired Myriam Ran Away
One of Janine's favorite — poem & song
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
All good wishes to family, friends, neighbors
customers & readers of our press ~ bookshop
fellow workers, animals, birds, strangers, unknown
weather, rivers, woodland, starry ceilings
we walk the earth together
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Born in Philadelphia in 1915 and passing away 88 years later, Lyle Bettger is barely recalled in today's Hollywood, but to film noir and western fans he's never been forgotten.
His father played infield for the St. Louis Cardinals, while Bettger became one of the villains of American cinema.
Watch him stand up against Barbara Stanwyck in his first film No Man of Her Own (1950), an adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's I Married A Dead Man. He'll go up against William Holden in Union Station as the killer "Joe Beacom".
And, what stops me in my tracks each time I've seen these films, is how much Lyle Bettger, with my eyes open or closed, sounds like the writer Charles Bukowski.
The same soft voice with tumbling sharp blades.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Born 87 years ago (July 2, 1923) in Poland
and publishing, with care, about 250 poems
everyone knows poet, essayist, translator
Nobel Prize for Literature, 1996.
When they first started looking through microscopes
a cold fear blew and it is still blowing.
Life hitherto had been frantic enough
in all its shapes and dimensions.
Which is why it created small-scale creatures,
assorted tiny worms and flies,
but at least the naked human eye
could see them.
But then suddenly beneath the glass,
foreign to a fault
and so petite,
that what they occupy in space
can only charitably be called a spot.
The glass doesn't even touch them,
they double and triple unobstructed,
with room to spare, willy-nilly.
To say they're many isn't saying much.
The stronger the microscope
the more exactly, avidly they're multiplied.
They don't even have decent innards.
They don't know gender, childhood, age.
They may not even know they are — or aren't.
Still they decide our life and death.
Some freeze in momentary stasis,
although we don't know what their moment is.
Since they're so minuscule themselves,
their duration may be pulverized accordingly.
A windborne speck of dust is a meteor
from deepest space,
a fingerprint is a far-flung labyrinth,
where they may gather
for their mute parades,
their blind iliads and upanishads.
I've wanted to write about them for a long-while,
but it's a tricky subject,
always put off for later
and perhaps worthy of a better poet,
even more stunned by the world than I.
But time is short. I write.
They think for days on end,
how to kill so as to kill,
and how many killed will be many.
Apart from this they eat their meals with gusto,
pray, wash their feet, feed the birds,
make phone calls while scratching their armpits,
stanch blood when they cut a finger,
if they're women they buy sanitary napkins,
eye-shadow, flowers for vases,
they make jokes on their good days,
drink citrus juice from the fridge,
watch the moon and stars at night,
place headphones with soft music on their ears
and sleep sweetly till the crack of dawn
— unless what they're thinking needs doing at night.
So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum
in painted quiet and concentration
keeps pouring milk day after day
from the pitcher to the bowl
the World hasn't earned
the world's end.
translated from the Polish by
Clare Cavanagh & Stanislaw Baranczak
Here (Houghton Mifflin)
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Our ever thanks to all who have!
In less than two weeks Longhouse will be 40 years old !
A day hasn't gone by where we haven't worked at it.
To help celebrate the 40th anniversary
(and to get to the 50th)
we are offering a treasure chest to draw from
Send $50 and we will send to you 8 publications
of our choosing from the Longhouse treasure chest...
Booklets, cards, broadsides for framing, books !
And on top of that we'll pay for shipping, too!
International orders the only exception so please inquire.
With this, you can gift yourself, or better:
have the bundle shipped to someone else.
Just tell us where to send the gift and we will.
Don't even ask what publications will be sent, that's half the fun.
We're capable of fitting in some real surprises and sizes.
You may pay by credit card, personal check, money order,
or use the easy Paypal account below.
Got a great friend you want to make even greater —
here's your chance.
Mom, Dad, brother, sister, kids, neighbor : "hate poetry"
— try this gift on them.
While supplies last!
Send info, pay us, we'll take care of the rest.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Don Van Vliet, Check Bif, 1986
The artist Don Van Vliet has passed away today in a hospital in northern California.
As well known to the music world as Captain Beefheart, who with his Magic Band, merrily terrorized the world from 1965-1982. There were twelve studio albums released, the last being Ice Cream for Crow.
Trout Mask Replica (1969) should be listened to to be believed. All the albums are required listening for entrance to either heaven or hell.
If you saw the group, you probably haven't forgotten, no matter the drugs or time delay.
Susan still smiles and shakes her head "no thanks" when asked what it was like seeing the master and his band in concert in its heyday (early). She has a little bit of say here being second cousin to Don Van Vliet's wife Janet. Janet "Jan" Van Vliet was older sister to Jim Jenkins, skilled mountaineer, who wrote two detailed guide books mapping out much of the southern Sierra, including the Pacific Crest Trail. Jim died young, in 1979, on a California highway stopping to assist a motorist in need. His mother Ruby would continue the good work revising the guide books until her own passing in 2007.
This deep deep California history.
One day the town of Lancaster, California will be remembered as the town that survived having both Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet in the same high school (Antelope Valley High School), already teaming up with their combined hothead interest in rhythm & blues.
The Captain would retire from music in 1982 and devote the rest of his life, far from the maddening crowd, to his expressionist paintings. Here and there he was known to show up as a contributor to a few recordings. Years enduring multiple sclerosis would eventually take him.
beefheart & zappa: last.fm
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Antonio Polito: This has been the century of the common people. Who now represents these "common people"?
Eric Hobsbawm: At the beginning of the 20th century, the peasant was a typical human being who lived off the land. But at the end of the 20th century, this is no longer the case. We could have chosen a worker, a member of the working class that grew enormously during the century, and probably reached its peak in the third quarter of the century. But today, its size and influence are shrinking fast. What about an office worker, someone who works at a desk in front of a computer? He or she wouldn't do either. An office worker would be fine for western Europe or the United States, but there are still vast areas of the world where this image would not mean very much.
If you insist on looking for a symbol for the 20th century, I would suggest a mother with her children. The people who have most in common are mothers, wherever they live on the face of the earth, and in spite of their different cultures, civilizations, and languages. In some ways, a mother's experience reflects what has happened to a large part of humanity in the 20th century. What is no longer typical in our era is the traditional family structure that develops around the mother. Of course, there wasn't only one type, but almost everywhere there was some family structure. This is no longer true today.
But in spite of the fact that humanity's variety and the rapidity with which it has changed during the 20th century make it very difficult to choose a symbol for the "common people", if there has to be one, I would choose a mother with her children.
from ~ On the Edge of a New Century, Conversations with Eric Hobsbawm by Antonio Polito; New Press, 2000.
Eric Hobsbawm is a fellow of The British Academy and The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His many books include Industry and Empire; Uncommon People; and On History.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
"The day after his mother's death in October 1977, Roland Barthes began a diary of mourning."
(October 26, 1977-September 15, 1979)
Who knows? Maybe something valuable in these notes?
Sad afternoon. Shopping. Purchase (frivolity) of a tea cake at the bakery. Taking care of the customer ahead of me, the girl behind the counter says Voilà. The expression I used when I brought maman something, when I was taking care of her. Once, toward the end, half-conscious, she repeated, faintly, Voilà (I'm here, a word we used with each other all our lives).
Not directly in solitude, empirically, etc.; I seem to have a kind of ease, of control that makes people think I'm suffering less than they would have imagined. But it comes over me when our love for each other is torn apart once again. The most painful point at the most abstract moment...
Not to manifest mourning (or at least to be indifferent to it) but to impose the public right to the loving relation it implies.
A trip from Paris to Tunis. A series of airplane breakdowns. Endless sojourns in airports among crowds of Tunisians coming come for Aid Kebir. Why does the ominous effect of this day of breakdowns suit mourning so well?
What I find utterly terrifying is mourning's discontinuous character.
To whom could I put this question (with any hope of an answer)?
Does being able to live without someone you loved mean you loved her less than you thought. . .?
February 16, 1978
This morning, more snow, and lieder broadcast on the radio. How sad! — I think of the mornings when I was sick and didn't go to school, and when I had the joy of staying with her.
April 18, 1978 Marrakesh
Now that maman is no more, I no longer have that impression of freedom I had on my trips (when I would leave her for short periods of time).
May 18, 1978
Maman's death: perhaps it is the one thing in my life that I have not responded to neurotically. My grief has not been hysterical, scarcely visible to others (perhaps because the notion of "theatralizing" my mother's death would have been intolerable); and doubtless, more hysterically parading my depression, driving everyone away, ceasing to live socially, I would have been less unhappy. And I see that the non-neurotic is not good, not the right thing at all.
June 13, 1978
Not to suppress mourning (suffering) (the stupid notion that time will do away with such a thing) but to change it, transform it, to shift it from a static stage (statis, obstruction, recurrences of the same thing) to a fluid state.
June 24, 1978
Virtually no sign of an internalized mourning.
This is the fulfillment of absolute internalization. All judicious societies, however, have prescribed and codified the externalization of mourning.
Uneasiness of ours insofar as it denies mourning.
July 18, 1978
Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering.
July 29, 1978
(Saw a Hitchcock film, Under Capricorn)
Ingrid Bergman (around 1946): I don't know why, nor how to express it: this actress, this actress's body moves me, touches something in me which reminds me of maman: her complexion, her lovely, simple hands, an impression of freshness, a non-narcissistic femininity...
Paris, July 31, 1978
I live in my suffering and that makes me happy.
Anything that keeps me from living in my suffering is unbearable to me.
August 18, 1978
The locality of the room where she was sick, where she died, and where I now live, the wall against which the head of her bed rested where I have placed an icon — not out of faith — and still put flowers on a table next to it. I have reached the point of no longer wanting to travel in order to be here, so that the flowers here will always be fresh.
January 20, 1979
Maman's photo as a little girl, in the distance — in front of me on my desk. It was enough for me to look at it, to apprehend the suchness of her being (which I struggle to describe) in order to be reinvented by, immersed in, invaded, inundated by her goodness.
January 30, 1979
We don't forget,
but something vacant settles in us.
March 18, 1979
Each time I dream about her (and I dream only of her), it is in order to see her, believe her to be alive, but other, separate.
May 1, 1979
I was not like her, since I did not die with (at the same time as) her.
Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes
translated and with an afterword by Richard Howard
(Hill and Wang)
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
John Clare had his doubts about John Keats, a poet he had never met.
"In spite of all this his descriptions of scenery are often very fine but as it is the case with other inhabitants of great cities he often described nature as she appeared to his fancies & not as he would have described her had he witnessed the things he described."
An age old tale between the bumpkin and the flatlander.
john keats (1795-1821)
I live in the eye
Here is Keats at Ambleside water fall (England's Lake District); the first water fall he had ever seen:
"We afterwards moved away a space, and saw nearly the whole more mild, streaming silverly through the trees. What astonishes me more than any thing is the tone, the coloring, the slate, the stone, the moss, the rock-weed; or, if I may so say, the intellect, the countenance of such places.The space, the magnitude of mountains and waterfalls are well imagined before one sees them; but this countenance or intellectual tone must surpass every imagination and defy any remembrance. I shall learn poetry here."
You want to hug him with that last line.
robert frost & wallace stevens, key west 1940
Yet I am the necessary angel of earth
"I have seen cowboys; I have seen prairie dogs; hundreds of wild ducks, Indians in camp with smoke coming through their discolored tent-tops; I have seen mountains swimming in clouds and basking in snow; and cascades, and gulches."
...says Wallace Stevens the future executive from Hartford, Connecticut, freshly peeled off from a Harvard graduation and New York Law School and piercing through Canada's wild landscape aboard the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1903, exhorting to the "character of mountains above timber-line."
It was part of a six-week hunting trip, and the images and bounty of it stayed with the poet through all of his poetry and to his deathbed.
"Downward to darkness, on extended wings."
photo: frost/stevens c/o alfred knopf