Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Lost the big herbivores but gained
all these trees. The fir tree is formed
like a flame and is thus the Universal
Root, the foundation of all things.
Enormous and immediate, the dynamic
expression. Alive in a molecular world.
A world estranged from the Mysteries,
reduced to fingering detective fiction.
Science is great when it confounds
fundamentalists, not when it modifies
corn. In the front room pounding
Beethoven with the door locked. Sleeping
with too many afghans. Staff around
to make life nicer. Knit me a corgi.
I was thinking about it and then I was there.
Not important what others call it, so long
as you have a name for it. As the
monarch follows the milkweed. The king
in the custard pie. Even his bookmarks
are interesting. The temptation to be smart.
To dwell inside a cave and glow green
from living off nettles. We are the mountain.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Running downstream on high water
you don’t have to muscle the paddle;
just knife it in the current to stay straight.
When a whirlpool roils to the surface
your body flexes and veers with the boat.
Watching the shore go by:
red granite, white birch bark,
the bronze-green thickets of trapper’s tea
your mind drifts.
Where the river widens into a lake
you start working again,
and step back into the world;
searching for the next portage
or a good camp site,
thinking about supper.
Look at that raven playing with the wind:
his mind isn’t penned in
by deadlines and maps,
his body’s not burdened with tools.
Setting his wings,
he swoops, and gives us the eye.
Flapping them twice,
he climbs, clears the timber
perches in a jackpine snag,
talks to us as we float past.
For him, the sky is water.
Clouds mark the currents
of the rivers he runs.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Here Lucy Ward sings Mike Waterson's delightful revenge ballad "A Stitch in Time".
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
To Be Read in the Interrogative
Have you seen
have you truly seen
the snow the stars the felt steps of the breeze
Have you touched
really have you touched
the plate the bread the face of that woman you love so much
Have you lived
like a blow to the head
the flash the gasp the fall the flight
Have you known
known in every pore of your skin
how your eyes your hands your sex your soft heart
must be thrown away
must be wept away
must be invented all over again
from Save Twilight
(City Lights 1997)
trans. Stephen Kessler
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
please read on. . .
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
from The Shrubberies
a homing of hummingbirds
to a singular blossom
kudos in stratosphere
over the arched bridge
so easily over an edge
pleader at gate
tempi all exempt
a place not on any map
snapping & crackling
Nature, a stickler for detail
each niche filled sheer overkill
a kind of anti-antimacassar
to draw out cellular matter
afar, the lilac
reach to the stars
in silence absolute
staircase of cataract
and galaxies mute
sun in the honeyhives
combing order from time,
light on light suffuse
like liquid copper
climbing in the dark
ore heights Byzantine
From here, across the Mts.
everything is quite different
customs, architecture, smell
but same appetite for Hell
of crayon canyon
cut by juniper smokes
turquoise sky above
leaping the bounds
quick — a startled faun
unstill as a flame
EDITED BY PETER O'LEARY
FLOOD EDITIONS 2001
book : flood editions
Monday, June 20, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Sam & Ann Charters
I can't write it any better of this full life than Wikipedia can provide with many of the proper contact points and cross reference dimensions — further below, take the Charters biography on a whirl.
Sam Charters is International and Americana in the best sense of both words. His quiet and enduring achievements in music, history, poetry and the multi-facets of the Beat Generation are legendary to anyone who has stayed abreast of each field, even if the subject himself often takes a back seat and allows the light to bask elsewhere.
In some ways nothing could be more perfect than having him write a portrait in his 80s with his wife, the Beat historian Ann Charters, on the unknown relationship to many, between John Clellon Holmes and Jack Kerouac. The true two dudes who wrote the first true Beat novels Go by Holmes and On the Road by Kerouac.
Brothers Souls by the Charters along with Gerald Nicosia's Memory Babe, coinciding with the actual Beat literature, may become in time, for the arm-chair traveler, the road to take.
University Press of Mississippi
Samuel Charters, born Samuel Barclay Charters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 1, 1929 (his name also appears as Sam Charters), is an American music historian, writer, record producer, musician, and poet. He is a noted and widely published author on the subjects of blues and jazz music, as well as a writer of fiction.
Charters was born and spent his childhood in Pittsburgh. He first became enamored of blues music in 1937, after hearing Bessie Smith's version of Jimmy Cox's song, "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" (Charters 2004). He moved with his family to Sacramento, California at the age of 15. He attended high schools in Pittsburgh and California and attended Sacramento City College, graduating in 1949. After being kicked out of Harvard for political activism, he received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1956.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Charters purchased numerous old recordings of American blues musicians, eventually amassing a huge and valuable collection. In 1951, at the age of 21, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he absorbed the history and culture he had previously only read about; he lived there for most of the 1950s. He served for two years in the United States Army (1951-53) and began to study jazz clarinet with George Lewis, but soon acquired an interest in rural blues. In 1954, he and his wife began conducting field recordings (initially for Folkways Records throughout the United States, and then in the Bahamas in 1958). Their 1959 recordings of the Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins proved instrumental to Hopkins' rediscovery.
Charters began his writing career in 1959 with The Country Blues, regarded as the first-book length work on the subject, as well as compiling the companion album to accompany it. Since that time, his writings have been influential, bringing to light aspects of African American music and culture that had previously been largely unknown to the general public. His writings include numerous books on the subjects of blues, jazz, African music, and Bahamian music, as well as liner notes for numerous sound recordings.
From approximately 1966 to 1970 he worked as a producer for the anti-war band Country Joe and the Fish. He became thoroughly disenchanted with American politics during the Vietnam War and moved with his family to Sweden, establishing a new life there despite not being able to speak the language at first. He divides his time between Sweden (where he has a residence permit to live, though maintaining his U.S. citizenship) and Connecticut. He has translated into English the works of the Swedish writer Tomas Tranströmer and helped produce the music of various Swedish musical groups.
Charters is married to the writer, editor, Beat generation scholar, photographer, and pianist Ann Charters (b. 1936), whom he met at the University of California, Berkeley during the 1954-55 academic year in a music class; she is a professor of English and American literature at the University of Connecticut. The two have collaborated together on many projects, particularly their extensive field recording work.
Charters is a Grammy Award winner and his book The Country Blues was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1991 as one of the "Classics of Blues Literature." In 2000, Charters and his wife donated the 'Samuel & Ann Charters Archive of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture' to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. The archive contains materials collected during the couple's decades of work documenting and preserving African American music throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa. The archive's materials include more than 2,500 sound recordings, as well as video recordings, photographs, monographs, sheet music, field notes, correspondence, musicians' contracts, and correspondence.
Charters' most recent book, A Trumpet Around the Corner: The Story of New Orleans Jazz, was released in April 2008.
Books by Samuel Charters
- 1959 - The Country Blues. New York: Rinehart. Reprinted by Da Capo Press, with a new introduction by the author, in 1975.
- 1962 - Jazz: A History of the New York Scene. Garden City, New York: Doubleday (with Leonard Kunstadt).
- 1963 - The Poetry of the Blues. With photos by Ann Charters. New York: Oak Publications.
- 1963 - Jazz New Orleans (1885-1963): An Index to the Negro Musicians of New Orleans. New York: Oak Publications
- 1967 - The Bluesmen. New York: Oak Publications
- 1975 - The Legacy of the Blues: A Glimpse Into the Art and the Lives of Twelve Great Bluesmen: An Informal Study. London: Calder & Boyars.
- 1977 - Sweet As the Showers of Rain. New York: Oak Publications
- 1981 - The Roots of the Blues: An African Search. Boston: M. Boyars.
- 1984 - Jelly Roll Morton's Last Night at the Jungle Inn: An Imaginary Memoir. New York: M. Boyars.
- 1986 - Louisiana Black: A Novel. New York: M. Boyars.
- 1991 - The Blues Makers. (Incorporates The Bluesmen and Sweet As the Showers of Rain) Da Capo.
- 1999 - The Day is So Long and the Wages So Small: Music on a Summer Island. New York: Marion Boyars.
- 2004 - Walking a Blues Road: A Selection of Blues Writing, 1956-2004. New York: Marion Boyars.
- 2006 - New Orleans: Playing a Jazz Chorus. Marion Boyars.
- 2009 - A Trumpet Around the Corner: The Story of New Orleans Jazz. Jackson: The University Press of Mississippi.
Why the continuing interest in the Beats? The Beats constitute the single most important literary movement in America in the last fifty years. It isn't the drugs, the sex, the jazz, the tone of feverish apocalypse that accounts for this. It's the urgency with which they view the artist's aesthetic and social function. It's not their supposed irresponsibility which compels the critics to go on re-assessing their work (even in superficial terms); it's precisely the opposite. It's the fact that they were so responsible to the big questions, the big facts. Their almost maniacal efforts to find new modes, new forms, new styles to go with their material, their new vision, has kept their work not only relevant, but consequential. Oddly enough, the Beats are the direct heirs of the solidest tradition in American literature, what Matthiessen called "the American Renaissance" of the mid-19th Century. History will sort it out.Perspective is the last turn of the wheel.
— JOHN CLELLON HOLMES, Interior Geographies
photo: University of Connecticut at Storrs
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Well, everyone always told the boys not to feed bacon
rind to the ducks, but nobody told the boys why not.
So they took some raw bacon rind and threw it to
the ducks. A big duck swallowed it. The boys followed
that duck around, watching to see what would happen.
The duck looked all right.
But then the duck stopped, ruffled its wings, and
passed the piece of raw bacon onto the ground as
quickly as if it had laid an egg. Up waddled another
duck and swallowed the bacon rind. Soon this duck
passed it, and another duck quickly swallowed it.
This went on for a while, and the ducks learned to
follow the last duck that had swallowed the rind, waiting
for it to come out so they'd have their turn at it.
The boys watched the bacon rind being passed
around from one duck to another in this way until one
of them got an idea.
Let's tie a string to the bacon, he said.
The other boys looked surprised when they saw in
their minds what would happen.
The boys chuckled and ran to get some strong
string. After they tied this to the rind, they went back
to the ducks. The first duck swallowed it, then the second,
and so on, until the boys had all the ducks on the
string. They held it tight, pulling the bacon ring tight
against the bottom of the last duck.
Later the boys told this story to the men.
That would make a good story to tell some city
slickers, said one of the men. They're the only ones
who'd believe it.
THE BLIND PONY
The pony was blind in one eye when it was born. At
first it was easy to catch if you remembered which side
to come up on. But after a while the ear on the blind
side got strong from listening so hard for someone
sneaking up on it. That ear got so good it would hear
someone coming on the blind side farther than the
good eye could see on the other.
So the boys had to think of new ways to catch the
blind pony. First they tried trapping it in the corner of
the pasture, but the blind pony always ran with its
good eye towards the fence and its good ear towards
the boys. This way it never ran into the fence and
could still whip its head when it heard the lasso com-
ing through the air. The blind pony was a good kicker
too, and the boys learned not to try grabbing at it from
Next the boys tried hiding in trees where the pony
walked, thinking that they could drop a rope over the
head as it passed under them. But it was as if the pony
could hear that part of the tree where the leaves
weren't rustling and wouldn't walk under a tree where
one of the boys was hiding.
Finally, the boys tried coaxing the blind pony with
Why didn't we think of this before! said one of the
boys when this worked. Pretty soon the blind pony
came at the sound of the boys climbing the apple
trees. Its nose got strong too, and it could tell which
boy had an apple in his pocket.
But the boys never did saddle or bridle it. They
knew how dangerous it would be to ride a blind pony.
THE ROBIN'S NEST
Their grandfather was going to show them where a
robin had built a new nest in the grove. They walked
along, staring up into the leafy branches, when one of
the boys tripped on something. His Ouch! made
everyone's eyes look down instead of up.
Until now it had been such a quit and easy day,
with the sun and breeze mixing together like whipped
cream and sugar and spreading a sweetness over
everything and everybody. Seeing the robin's nest with
its pale blue eggs would have been what this day was
all about. And now this.
The boy who tripped sat down and grabbed his foot.
Something sharp stuck out of the ground, a rusty
This is where we used to bury old equipment we
didn't need any more, said heir grandfather. That's
the tooth of an old dump rake trying to sneak back
into the world.
The boy who had tripped saw that the others were
finding the metal tooth more interesting than his mis-
ery. He got up and helped them pull on the tooth,
which was curved like a sliver of moon — and when
they pulled, it was as if they were unzipping the earth,
which split open, and plant roots frayed out from the
wound like tiny threads.
Look at that, said their grandfather. He kicked at
the dirt they had loosened. He knelt down and started
into the dirt. Look, he said, and held up what looked
like a bent horseshoe. This is called a twisted clevis, he
He went back to digging. This is part of the knotter
for the binder back in the days of threshing machines.
And here's a piece of a corn shucker glove. See that little
hook that would pull the husk back? And here's the
sediment bulb off an old tractor.
The grandfather was acting like a dog going after a
hidden bone, scratching away with his strong old
hands as if digging up and naming this useless junk
was good for something.
This here is from an old harrow, he said. Those
there from a cream separator. Here's part of a stan-
chion lock. That's from a double-tree. See this? It's a
gear from a derrick for lifting the fronts of wagons off
The boys watched and listened. What their grand-
father was doing didn't make much sense. If you're
going to throw things away and bury them, why not
forget about them and do what you were going to
so — which was find that robin's nest? But they waited,
and after a while they could see that their grandfather
must have gotten what he needed. He shoved dirt
back over what he had dug up, brushed off his dirty
hands, and looked up into the tree branches with
It sure is a nice day, he said. Perfect for finding a
robin's nest. Now be quiet. We don't want to scare her
from The Boys' House
new & selected stories
(Minnesota Historical Society Press)
Born on a farm in northwest Iowa, Jim Heynen attended one of Iowa's last one-room schoolhouses before going on to high school at Western Christian in Hull, Iowa.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Maybe the greatest white American liberator and champion for freedom since John Brown, Frank Vincent Zappa was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1940. He would pass away from prostate cancer at age 52 in 1993 after an early life of much sickness and malady, perhaps associated with a chemical warfare facility in the neighborhood where his chemist and mathematician father worked for the US Defense industry. Nothing more was the polar opposite of the father's son, who would compose and produce all 60 albums by The Mothers of Invention or his own solo albums over a career spanning 30 years...the majority of the material for the songs dealing with social injustice, germ warfare, authority and awful Big Brother. The tune chosen below is hauled off the Mothers debut LP Freak Out (1966). Of the four children Frank and Gail Zappa circled as their family, maybe the youngest, Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen has the most Motherist of names.