Thursday, June 30, 2005

Follow the Wild Dolphins

From the diary: “June 2, 1985

“I just finished reading Follow the Wild Dolphins by Horace Dobbs. Was incredibly moved by the accounts both joyous and horrible of Donald the Dolphin & other dolphins friendly to humans.”

I remember this book. Author Dobbs wrote up dolphin-human friendships. There is the rare free-living dolphin, it seems, who becomes interested in people, hangs out where people enter the water, and will even build a friendship with individual humans. As I recall these are almost always young male dolphins that are not living in a pod – pods tend to be harems with one dominant adult male running the show so young males can be shut out. Being social animals they seek company and maybe they recognize in people a similar life and intelligence and a reciprocal interest. Sadly, humans do not always behave kindly toward their fellow creatures (let alone members of their own species); idiots with guns will take potshots at dolphins, but incidental dangers like boats and nets are more frequent killers.

I see Dobbs has an “Adopt a Dolphin” page on his website. Dobbs lists some of the wild-living human-friendly dolphins he wrote about in Follow the Wild Dolphins. Dolphins are long-lived creatures. Nobody knows for sure how long is typical, but 50 and 60 years is not uncommon. (Of dolphin longevity one site says they live “up to 40 years.”) There’s a website devoted to Fungie, a wild Irish dolphin who likes to play with visitors to his bay. All of a sudden I want to visit Ireland.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

the story so far

I write all the posts for Dare I Read in a Word file before I post them. The word count, as I write, has topped 30,000.

Does DIR have regular readers? I think so. Two.

This month Simon DeDeo shut down rhubarb is susan, the blog in which for each post he writes a critical essay about a poem published in an online journal. I wanted my “Viewing and Reviewing” links to be idiosyncratic takes on creative works, more personal than not. I included ris because I liked the idea so much (thoughtful responses to very contemporary poetry!) and because I liked Simon’s writing. I hope a reader or two found his site via DIR.

In his farewell post Simon says, “The main reason I'm leaving [the blog world] is that my efforts increasingly feel like shouting into a void.”

Sounds like a quote attributed to Don Marquis, “Writing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”

God watches the petal fall and hears the thunder when it strikes the earth, the boom of the echo off the canyon walls. What could be more important than talking to God?

Since February at DIR I’ve worked my way through my junior high and high school diaries. I’m now exploring what I read (or what I bothered to note about what I read) in 1985. I was Depressed, poor, living at home, lonesome, and working my brain. I was reading, writing, and trying to think. If I could go back and change things to make that Glenn’s life easier I would. But I was making something. And here I am taking up that material and making something new out of it. 30,000 words in five months? I’ve thought idly that I might be making a book. Would that matter?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Love & Rockets

The house next door to us caught on fire. On May 10, 1985 I wrote, “Mom woke me, calling out something about a fire and how she was going to look out one window rather than another. So, as I stay in dreamstate after I wake up, I got hung up on windows and didn’t understand the fire part. But Mom kept shouting and she kept shouting ‘Fire!’ so I jumped up and threw on a pair of pants. Looked through the kitchen window, smoke pouring out [of the roof next door], followed by flames – so very close, just at the end of our roof it seemed.” We later measured the distance between the fence that separated our patio from the neighbor’s house. Three feet. And by patio I don’t mean a big open space; the supports for the patio roof touched the property line fence in a couple places.

“Mom went running out. Policeman came to the door, said, ‘Anybody else in there?’ I said, ‘No. I’ll be out in a second.’

“I ran into the bathroom, started combing my hair, realized how totally ridiculous that was, so I rushed into the bedroom and shoved a pair of socks and shoes over my toes and dashed into the yard putting on my coat. Don’t know where Peanuts [the cat] is. Undoubtedly scared and hiding out. The fire trucks were arriving. Fire wasn’t spreading beyond the house. … [A] couple apple trees [next to the burning house] were crumpled from the heat & the fence was blackened & charred.

“The fire had stayed in the back room add-on mostly. Just heat [& smoke damaging] the front rooms.

“Windows breaking. I was shivering & shaking out there. Mom & I went [across the street] to Hopkins’ – they and Blakeys were watching from [the] yard. Got a glass of water and sat inside staring across the street as the firefolks killed the last of the fire. Nothing of ours was touched.”

The neighbors who lived in the burned house were bad eggs. I remember the man had tried to convince Mom to allow him to repair cars in a corner of our yard (the corner had once been a graveled parking place) and I thought Mom was crazy for even considering it. He didn’t seem like a bad guy in the I-like-to-do-evil sense, rather he liked to drink and didn’t seem to able to get his act together. Things had progressed to the point Mom, according to my diary, had been one of a group of neighbors who were hoping to get the city to condemn the house.

The house was eventually gutted and redone.

Meanwhile, back in reading land, I “read all the unread Love & Rockets and EPIC.”

Love & Rockets was a comic series that showcased the work of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (and occasionally third brother Mario), Southern Cal chicano boys. Ever alert for a gay thread I was happy to find Jaime’s characters Maggie & Hopey more than just friends. Unfortunately their friendship moved to the platonic and their interests toward boys, though there were usually a few characters in Gilbert’s or Jaime’s stories that were pleasingly queer. Jaime’s stories are mostly set in a version of a SoCal barrio. Gilbert’s stories are set in a fictional Mexican/Central American town called Palomar.

An English rock band snagged the name Love & Rockets because they thought it sounded cool. The Hernandez brothers were miffed. The musicians hadn’t asked for permission. And the Hernandez brothers didn’t think much of their music. I own both L&R comics and L&R records.

EPIC was an anthology comics magazine published by Marvel, the publisher responsible for Spider-Man and The Avengers and so on. It was supposed to be for mature readers so allowed a bit more cleavage and blood and fewer superheroes.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


From the diary: “May 2, 1985

“Red sum comics. Cerebus’ latest is great.”

Cerebus is a success story. Published by the author/artist himself it survived 300 issues. Dave Sim decided at some point that 300 issues was it, and that Cerebus the Aardvark would die in the last issue. I read Cerebus for several years. Sim writes fun dialog. I liked the art. And he was creating an interesting separate semi-medieval world and watching him explore it kept my interest.

Gradually Dave Sim himself seemed to get weird then weirder, publishing insane diatribes against feminism in the back of the book. These rants dragged on for pages in small print prose. Sim’s ideas didn’t infect the Cerebus stories too much. There were bad women and there were good women, just like everywhere. Fact is, it often seemed to me Sim’s animosity to feminism was pitched to such a ludicrous wail I was sure it was intentional camp. (Did Sim have a schizophrenic break?) Anyway, I usually skipped Sim’s longer essays.

It was only when Dave Sim started including long prose passages in the comic stories that I seriously balked. These weren’t essays, for the most part, rather the comic became more an illustrated novel than a comic. Which would have been okay, I suppose, but Sim can’t write. He could write comics but his prose needed editing real bad. A third to half the words should have been cut from each page. By the time Sim was indulging himself thus I was in college in Berkeley (this was early 90s) and didn’t have the money to buy bad writing.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Case for Animal Rights

From the diary: “Monday April 22, 1985

“Am reading The Case for Animal Rights. Round and round in philosophical arguments that can get quite trying on the eyes (and mind) but sometimes are quite droll.”

Animals have rights. If people have rights then animals have rights. Do people have rights? We say they do. And it’s a very good story to tell ourselves, I think.

Do plants have rights? Sure. Why not? If they don’t then what?

Stones? The air? Does this planet, too, have rights?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Dolphin Dolphin

From the diary: “Friday April 19, 1985

“Bin redding a buck on dolphins called Dolphin Dolphin.”

The title is not evocative. Thinking, thinking. Nope, nothing. has a listing for a book by this title, author Wade Doak. The description sounds sorta kinda familiar, sounds at least like the sort of book I’d read. “Doak [writes about experiences he] and his family had with Bottlenose Dolphins. … [H]e sold his house … bought a boat - and devoted his life to … Dolphins, founding the still-existing Project Interlock.“

Whales and dolphins have long fascinated me. Photos of dolphin brains show extremely sophisticated-looking blobs of matter, much like human brains. Photos of most other animal brains look relatively smooth; the convolutions of the brain surface in humans and dolphins seem to suggest these brains have a lot going on in them. And the bodies of whales and dolphins seem so beautifully designed, no extraneous parts, perfectly shaped for zipping (or plowing) through the sea. They are not fish but they don’t walk; they are suspended in a medium that reaches deeper than any we on the surface can access.

Save the whales. What else?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The March of Folly

From the diary: “April 13, 1985

“I have now read all the newspapers of 1985. I still have 10 months worth in my bedroom to go thru – 1984. … I’ve been reading The March of Folly, but it’s slow going. I may quit. Too much like a school text. Too dull.”

I still pile up newspapers, only these days it’s mostly the free gay weeklies from San Francisco. If I subscribed to the daily paper you know I’d stack it up. If I’m paying for it, I’m going to read it, even if what I’m reading is months old. So I make sure I don’t subscribe to the paper. Plus I do manage to throw out the free papers that are getting yellow and cat-scratched, even unread. Often I’ll cursorily flip through them just to assure myself their existence hasn’t gone wholly unnoted, their contents no more a complete mystery. Even so I seldom see things I would’ve hated to have missed. You can’t read everything.

I am not going to read every page of my New Yorker subscription; issues will have to pass by in which I do little more than flip through them. But it stacks up anyway. I’ve read a few pieces, many go unscanned. The cartoons? Not even all the cartoons.

Books. We’re going to read books.

As though books were, by virtue of their bindings, of greatest value/importance/timelessness. I steer myself away from fluff. And tedious prose. But I’ve forced myself through lots of dull books, haven’t I? For the information, I tell myself. The duller they are, though, the easier it is to forget everything I read.

In The March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam historian Barbara Tuchman reviews bad policies governments cling to even as events show the policies were bad from the beginning. Especially when the policies were bad from the beginning? With Reagan’s misadventures in Central America in mind I thought this a good idea for a book. It wasn’t long before I got lost in the details of the crooked Popes, however. A problem with history for the storyteller is that history isn’t one story. It’s many intersecting stories and many of the incidents don’t really fit into something you could call “story”. In order to craft a narrative, particularly one from which she can draw conclusions, the historian has to prune the mass of data and clip it to a constructed plot. I didn’t feel drawn into any of Tuchman’s plots; they stayed a mess of names and dates, details that I had a hard time remembering as the pages crept by.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Heretics of Dune

From the diary: “April 4, 1985

“Am reading Heretics of Dune. It’s an adventure/coming of age story like Dune and Children of Dune. Much more readable than Dune Messiah (ugh) and God Emperor. So far. I’m only halfway. Soon Chapterhouse: Dune will be out. I don’t know why I’m addicted to this series.”

Addicted? I don’t know. I tend to read every book in a series (or every movie or episode if it’s a TV series or issue of the comic or whatever) so long as the stories are decent and available. Fact is, I push on until I’m disappointed repeatedly. But I do learn to quit if what I’m seeing isn’t rewarding. I also fall out with a series when there are long waits between episodes.

Of the Dune books I can say I really enjoyed the first. I’ve read it two, maybe three times. The last books, the ones Frank Herbert churned out not long before he died, were pretty lightweight, I understand. Heretics certainly was. I never got around to Chapterhouse. After the weighty concerns of the earlier books, Heretics was a surprise. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember the story galloped along full of incident instead of picking its way along through inscrutable monuments and court intrigues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Avengers

From the diary: “April 2, 1985

“Stopped in at [the typography shop]. Hasn’t wked there in a week and a half. Rebecca says they’ve been swamped with complicated stuff. She’ll call. Stopped and bought a scoop of Tin Roof Sundae at Candy Apple/Bud’s. Got the latest Avengers at Pease.”

The Avengers was the first comic I started to collect. My brother had already been buying Spider-Man for ages. I preferred supergroup comics because if you dig one colorful costume why wouldn’t you love a crowd of them duking it out among the ruins?

I remember when we discovered the TV show The Avengers. I was so excited! When it turned out not to be Thor, Captain America, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and so on, but Mr Steed and Mrs Peel I was pretty darn disappointed. Happy to say I got over my little misunderstanding and grew to love Emma Peel – a woman who could fuckin’ kiss ass. (When Diana Rigg’s Peel left the series she was, sadly, replaced by the much wussier Tara King.) Steed was no hottie, pity. (Maybe I would’ve liked him better if he’d been Ralph Fiennes from the beginning.)

Pease was a pharmacy that had a rack of comics “for the kids!” The Pease building currently houses a little theatre.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Consenting Adult

From the diary: “March 31, 1985

“Am reading Consenting Adult by Laura Z. Hobson who also wrote Gentleman’s Agreement."

The previous week I’d watched the movie adaptation of Gentleman’s Agreement. I wrote, “It wasn’t bad. Anti-anti-semitism. They did their propaganda better than Making Love. Movie was made in ’47. … I had a hard time [with aspects of the movie]. Even considering the era … the women were very subservient, no blacks, no other visible ethnic groups. Main character was waited on by women hand-and-foot. I’d rather they’d made a movie like Anne Frank with Jews running into anti-semitism in daily life. Instead they make people into an ‘issue.’ The message is the story. That’s propaganda.” The story is an argument, the characters merely props to illustrate points. I’d seen Making Love on TV not long before and was hoping I’d enjoy it. I remember wanting to see it in the theater but not having the nerve. At the time I had no idea how much they cut it for broadcast – the men making love did not make it to TV, just the talk about it, and all so earnest. I’m curious to see an unchopped-up version of Making Love. I was never hot for Harry Hamlin but what the heck.

Consenting Adult was also made into a movie. For TV. Starring Mary Tyler Moore as the mother. The story is about the mother. Her grown son comes out to her and she has to figure out how to cope with it. I think the story is based on author Hobson’s own experience. It’s a woman-coping story. Of course she has a hard time with it at first. Lots of what-did-I-do-wrong and you-can-change-can’t-you, followed by mother overcoming her shame & revulsion to see things from her child’s point of view, then understanding, compassion, and, ultimately, loving acceptance. This synopsis suggests I remember more about the book than I do. It’s just that it's an examplar of the coming out genre, parental subset.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Writer’s Digest

from the diary: “March 19, 1985

“Just a bit ago I typed some poems for Writer’s Digest. I’ve been ODing on Market Listings. I got the latest issue of The Writer in the mail today.”

I think the subscription to The Writer was a (requested) gift from my mother. I was also receiving Coda (now called Poets & Writers Magazine) at about this time. I did not have a subscription to Writer's Digest. I'd flip through it at the library. I often had the feeling Writer's Digest was just shy of being a scam. Make money writing in your spare time! Be a travel writer -- make that school trip pay! The advice in the articles wasn't bad, but then advice to writers is pretty standard issue.

I was writing nearly every day. Poetry.

You can make a career in poetry. Sort of. Usually it’s teaching poetry. My mother was an elementary school teacher. Although I think she had many good ideas and I think I’d do a decent job teaching, teaching as a career is not one that calls to me.

Still, whatever career I could cobble together, I knew the first step was to get known and to get known one had to get published and to get published one had to do a lot of research into what magazines and (ultimately) book publishers liked the sort of thing you did. I also tried my hand at producing the sort of thing it looked like some of these places wanted. I was quickly disappointed by the results of that experiment. If I was going to be rejected anyway it might as well be for the work I liked doing.

Writer’s Digest was having contests for poems about writing poetry and I threw a few poems at them, poems that, it seemed to me, fit the theme and were good. It helped that they didn't charge an entry fee for the contests. So I didn’t have to pay to lose.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Valley of Horses

From the diary: “March 17, 1985

“Finished Valley of Horses.”

I haven’t gotten any further with Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children (TM) series. I read Clan of the Cavebear because it was a bestseller -- remember I said I’m always up for trying what somebody else thinks is great? and isn’t bestsellerdom an indicator of greatness? or much-likedness anyway – and because someone recommended it to me saying Auel had done a good job of recreating prehistory. The Neanderthals were perfectly intelligent, as I recall, but because they didn’t have speech-friendly constructs in their mouths & throats they used a lot of sign language. That was a theory I knew about, that early humans perhaps signed before they switched over to spoken words. There’s not really a way to test the theory but it gained currency not long after the sign languages of the Deaf were recognized as “real” languages, not primitive versions of English (or whatever spoken language surrounded a particular Deaf community). Even if the Neanderthals really didn’t have the equipment for speech (and that’s an if all right) one can’t say with certainty that they didn’t have language. Sign languages also got some glory for being featured in ape language studies – chimps and gorillas do not have the vocal equipment for speech but they do have hands which can shape recognizable signs. And chimps and gorillas do use the signs they are taught or pick up on their own.

One thing I remember about Clan of the Cavebear was stumbling over Auel’s extensive research. I’ve since encountered this sort of thing elsewhere, usually in Mysteries, the undigested lump of research regurgitated into the reader’s path. This can be interesting, but usually isn’t because not integrated into the story in a way that makes you think thank-god-I-learned-that. You know it from the monster movie when the scientist stops the action dead to give a little lecture full of technobabble that supposedly explains everything. That over with we’re back to the monster munching on the premaritally sexual.

The heroine of Clan and Valley of Horses, Ayla, is an orphaned CroMagnon girl who is adopted by Neanderthals. In Valley she’s all grown up and ready for romance with one of her own kind. Before reading Valley a friend warned me that it wasn’t as good as Clan. It wasn’t.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Meeting Allen Ginsberg

From the diary: “March 15, 1985

“Went to the Luther Burbank Center … for Helen Luster’s memorial service. … Paul [Mariah] started out by read 3 of Helen’s poems … Then he introduced Allen Ginsberg who sang a song [accompanying himself on the harmonium, which instrument I was seeing for the first time] … [After several others reminisced] we all joined hands and Paul read a poem he’d written [for the occasion].

“I was introduced to Ginsberg twice. He called me ‘Sport’. [Both times] I was introduced I was called ‘great,’ ‘talented,’ ‘poet.’ groan Introduce me that way when I deserve it.”

“As Mom and I were leaving we noticed Ginsberg and his companions (Wendy somebody and a Japanese (?) man) had a flat tire which they were trying to change. I was a clod. I told Mom, ‘What can I do?’ and didn’t offer to help. Now I feel like a fool. Why didn’t I at least offer?”

For those curious about such things, I was 19.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Green Fuse

From the diary: “March 13, 1985

“Somebody called me from Green Fuse, told me they were taking ‘Sun Dance’. Hafta send a bio.”

Green Fuse was a new poetry zine published right there in Sebastopol. The editors were looking to publish poetry that celebrates the natural world and/or decries maltreatment of it. I got a few poems in the zine over its lifetime but I rarely write the sort of thing they were looking for – my oh sublime seascape bucolic meadow fantastic forest poems are few. And the closest I get to scolding is lacerating self-criticism, which doesn’t quite fit the finger wagging at enviro-crooks mold. I’ve tried to match poems to themes at other magazines, too, and have seldom had luck with it. Do my poems not have themes?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Laughing Space

From the diary: “March 9, 1985

“Read a couple stories from Isaac Asimov’s SF Humor Anthology Laughing Space; neither story was funny. The one he wrote about the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs was positively boring.”

It wasn’t only Isaac Asimov I was dissatisfied with. I began confiding in my diary again, using it as a way to think. “This day has been such a waste,” I continued. “I’m sick of lying in all morning. … I’m letting the newspapers pile up again. And I’ve got tons of library books to read. What am I doing to myself? It’s like I’m trying to deny being human. Every time (nearly) I build up my confidence for something I easily talk myself out of it. … I’m trying hard to hold onto my writing because that seems to be the only light in the tunnel. … I’m feeling lonely. The rain splattering the roof, the cat curled up on newspapers by the TV. He bores me. He’s like 1/4 of a person. Just enough to be there – not enough to be fulfilling.”

I was living with my mother. This day she was gone visiting friends. But she was after me to get a job – and I would have loved to have landed one. Often unable to get out of bed until midafternoon, awake until 2 a.m. or later (occasionally sleepless all night), getting headaches, eating only to shut down the hunger, isolated and feeling lost, man, I was Depressed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mrs Bridge

from the diary: “March 5, 1985

“Am reading Mrs Bridge by Evan Connell. Am really enjoying it.”

Mrs Bridge is a novel. Connell later wrote Mr Bridge, which, if I remember correctly, covers the same period as Mrs Bridge only from the husband’s point of view.

The books were made into a movie, Mr and Mrs Bridge, starring Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. I haven’t seen it.

I’ve said before that I tended to prefer fiction with a fantasy element because I was sick of the mundane world and didn’t want to spend my reading time there, too. I don’t think there’s any fantasy element in the Bridge books. Gradually I came to appreciate prose style over subject matter.

More or less.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Dead Poets

from the diary: “March 4, 1985

“Helen Luster died today of cancer of the liver. Boschka Layton and Jim Montrose both died of cancer in the last couple years. Poets dying just as soon as I’m coming up.”

I posted about Jim Montrose a few days ago.

Boschka Layton was the poet I supposedly disrespected by Writing during Creative Writing Class. It was her poem I was to say something about, or, if I had nothing to say, to sit quietly on my hands while no one else did either. I googled Boschka and found a poem of hers heading a profile of her ex-husband, the Canadian poet Irving Layton. First I’ve heard of Irving Layton and the most biographical information about Boschka I’ve yet seen. Boschka half scared me because she had some sort of nerve or muscle damage in her face that caused one side of her mouth to droop. This made her face limited in its expressions and not pretty. I would say she was nice enough but what do I know? I think we exchanged three words.

Helen Luster hosted (and co-led with Paul Mariah) the Poetry Workshop I’d been attending in Santa Rosa. I see in my notebook that I wrote a poem to Helen. I’m not going to reproduce the poem here. Since I don’t think it’s successful, but I like some of the details, I’m thinking about posting it on LuvSet for revision. It would be another of those challenges, impossible because, though I intended the poem as a tribute and as a portrait, I didn’t know Helen well at all, and knew almost nothing of her biography or even her poetry. What could I say?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Piedmont Literary Review

From the diary: “February 28, 1985

“Got a reply from latest haiku submission to Piedmont Literary Review. [The editor] says she’ll accept one if I change a couple words. I agree with her suggestions, so I’m gonna do it.”

I was sending work out, trying to get my poems in print. I’d never seen a copy of Piedmont Literary Review but if they were willing to publish me I was willing to have them publish me. The magazine had editors for different genres. The main poetry editor seemed uninterested in what I had to offer so I turned to the haiku editor. I assiduously counted syllables for the 5-7-5 syllable lines and tried to capture a nature moment in that wee net. (For a haiku purist there are rules upon rules for making haiku, from the necessary “season word” to the absence of metaphor to … I forget what all.)

Did they publish only one of my haiku? I think they took two or three.

When I got my contributor’s copy I was surprised by how much the editors crammed into the magazine. I was disappointed by the poetry for the most part – but that’s not a particular knock on Piedmont Literary Review as I seem to dislike much of what I see on the printed page. But my haiku seemed lost among those print-dark pages.

Would I have preferred rushing forth against a crowded and narrower gate, likely not getting published so quickly (or ever)? I told myself so. I don't know.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Poets of the Vineyard 1983

Poets of the Vineyard is a chapter of the Chaparral Poets of California. The Chaparral Poets are a society of poets. I don’t quite get what it is, but maybe that’s cuz I’m not much of a joiner. I remember reading tiny announcements in the newspaper about the awards the Poets of the Vineyard offered each year. There was always an entry fee and I was suspicious of entry fees (I’m still suspicious of contest fees). Nevertheless, I was curious about the Poets of the Vineyard and took one of their anthologies home from the library. In my notebook I copied out a couplet from a poem by Mary Bryant. I believe I chose the lines by way of a capsule review … not a flattering one:

My hands caress this faded page
And slowly, gently close the book.

-- Mary Bryant

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, 1984

From the diary: “February 27, 1985

“Finished 1984 Anthology of Magazine Verse and returned it to the library.”

The Berkeley Library has volumes from this series that were published back in the 20s and 30s. Was there a 50 year period in which Anthology of Magazine Verse was not published? I expect I’ll tackle one of those 80 year old anthologies one of these days. These would, I expect, epitomize what Ron Silliman calls (after Edgar Allan Poe, Silliman says), “The School of Quietude.” These are the poets who know what poetry is, dammit. It’s what they write. What those wacky beats or langpos or modernists are writing isn’t poetry. It’s page clutter. It’s yelping. It’s … whatever. Not Poetry.

I’m always curious to try out what somebody else thinks is hot stuff.

I remember, despite the fatness of the book, Anthology of Magazine Verse was a quick read. Yeah, I had deadline pressures, what with it being a library book and one not allowed to renew without limit (though I doubt anybody else was panting for the book), but I recall this anthology going almost as fast as prose. Poetry tends to be richer than prose and I often reread as I go, so I expect to spend a lot longer at a book of poetry than any other book.

This was before I started my copying-out project. I think this was the first time I put a placemark next to a poem so I could return to it later. I didn’t copy out any poems but I read a few several times and contemplated ways to hang onto them – memorize? copy out by hand? type up? photocopy?

The Berkeley Library also has the 1984 Anthology. Maybe I’ll read it again, see if I remember which poems impressed me twenty years ago.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Spring Breeze on Purple Iris

I’ve been quoting from my February 1985 diary. At the time I was intermingling diary and poetry. I title my poetry notebooks. This one was named after the watercolor on its cover, Spring Breeze on Purple Iris by the 19th Century Chinese artist Chi Chu-t’ung. I began writing in the journal January 12, 1985 and filled it February 15, 1985. While the prose certainly added a few pages most of the book is poetry. I filled an entire notebook in one month.

I haven’t written at that pace in a long time.

Anyway, I was trying all sorts of stuff, some of it serious, some of it just to keep my pen moving, viz:

be mean
make a scene
on the train
as it rumbles
as it tumbles
down the narrow lane
in pain.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The O. Henry Awards 1983

I went through a patch where I tried keeping up with the annual short story anthologies -- The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories. They were an education in taste. I learned that I wasn’t going to like everything in an anthology, no matter the supposed bestness of the contents. This lesson proved helpful when I moved on to poetry anthologies. In poetry one often wonders if the difficulty is the reader – am I too stupid to read poetry? With stories one has the idea the story ought to deliver. When it doesn’t the reader doesn’t usually feel at fault. The reader of poetry ought not feel at fault either.

I was hoping by reading a lot of short stories that I would get the knack for writing them, too. Poetry doesn’t sell (with the rare exception, right Seventeen?) but there are places that will buy fiction. If I could make a living as a writer that’d sure beat a regular job, I thought.

In a Feb 11, 1985 diary entry I noted, “renewed O. Henry Awards 83 … wrote poetry … got WRITERS OF THE FUTURE contest rules in mail.” The Writers of the Future was a contest designed to encourage new science fiction writers. The contest was the inspiration of L. Ron Hubbard; was it funded by the Church of Scientology? I entered the contest once or twice. I didn’t win or place.

Monday, June 06, 2005

My Oogaboo Review

Eric Gjovaag said he was going to stop doing his quarterly Oz newsletter, The Oogaboo Review. I’d been wanting to do something like it for some time. (I still like the title I'd come up with, The Yellow Journal, the western country of the land of Oz being yellow-themed and the slightly unsavory connotations of “yellow journalism” being appealing to me.) Figuring I might as well save a going concern if I was going to do it anyway, I offered to take over The Oogaboo Review. Eric sent me the OR archives and treasury and subscription list.

I used up just about all the money on the first issue which I typeset and laid-out myself at the typography shop where I’d recently gotten work. (Have computers killed off typography?)

In a Feb ’85 diary entry I was making plans: “I copied an item from a magazine for my new ‘Oz in Strange Places’ [column] I intend to make a regular part of The Oogaboo Review.” You see Oz used as a metaphor (primarily MGM’s Oz) everywhere -- in political cartoons, in sitcom jokes, whatever – once you start looking you see Oz references all the time. I thought it’d be fun to gather up the strangest of these references for a regular column. One of the OR subscribers – Earl C. Abbe – was very helpful in this regard, stuffing envelopes with interesting clippings.

Sadly I only ever did two issues of The Oogaboo Review.

Eric had started a serial in OR, Queen Ann of Oz, the further adventures of Queen Ann of Oogaboo (since her first appearance in Baum’s Tik-Tok of Oz). I wrote a chapter and introduced a new character, Jody Buttons. All the people in Oogaboo have a last name that reflects the crop they grow. The Buttons family grows buttons in their orchard. Jody’s a tough little girl who wants to go out into the world and make a name for herself. She’s not going to be a “Buttons” all her life. When the serial died with OR Eric and coauthor Karyl Carlson finished the story; they kept a chunk of my chapter. I’ve seen the book but I don’t own a copy. I wonder if Jody chose a new name.

Eric Gjovaag maintains an Oz website that’s visited thousands of times a day. He’s also recently started a blog about life as a school teacher.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

2010: Odyssey Two

from the diary: “February 5, 1985

“Went to Poetry Workshop in Santa Rosa at Rusty [Jorgensen] and Paula [Viale]’s new place. … Rusty and I got into a long critique of 2010.”

When I caught up with Arthur C. Clarke’s next two 2001 sequels, 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey, it seemed like I’d read the first two books fairly recently. So. Twenty years past seemed fairly recently? If I’d realized that much time had gone by it would have made more sense that I didn’t remember much from 2010. Rusty and I were talking about the movie, as well as the book.

I remember my brother David saying the book 2001 explained a lot that was mysterious about the movie 2001. Maybe it did. I remember expecting more than I got. I found 2001 the movie beautiful, magestic, convincing, frustrating, and often dull. The end is pretentious but mysterious and I’m up for mysterious. The solution to the mystery can be a letdown. Not in real life. In real life solutions usually offer up a bunch more interesting questions. In the movies solutions are usually too simple, end up seeming not worth the build up.

I recall liking 2010 the book. I think what got Rusty and me going was my disappointment with the movie. I didn’t hate it. It was an adequate sci-fi movie. But after the grandeur of Kubrick the sequel was pale. There were instances I loved – the original spaceship rotating, end over end, above the swirling clouds of Jupiter, hearing Hal’s voice again. But I don’t remember the movie as big. The book wasn’t huge either but it had a bit more dimension. I was convinced the movie could have included a little more mysteriousness, a little more of the unknown.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tracks in the Widest Orbit

from the diary: “February 4, 1985

“Highlight of the day: went to tonight’s RRWG (N)Erotic/Romantic Poetry. Fun. Read one of mine (which was applauded) and read a couple from J.H. Montrose’s Tracks in the Widest Orbit. Somebody came in and videotaped most of the evening.”

I believe Jim Montrose helped found the Russian River Writers’ Guild. I don’t remember having met him, but I probably did. The book, Tracks in the Widest Orbit, was published posthumously. It has a picture of Jim on the cover standing before a fighter jet in his military flight suit, smiling, helmet tucked under one arm. I liked the book. For a collection of a life’s work it seemed tiny … but I think he didn’t really get serious about poetry until late.

I probably read this one:

“Last Rites”

When a codger named Tim caught the flu,
his lady, Miss Sadie, did too.
They took to their bed
and stayed there till dead,
a very sad story it’s true.

Now, the quaint little couple were struck
in flagrante delicto, worse luck!
When the children came round,
they were finally found
saddled up for a last good-bye fuck.

Rigor mortis had seized them mid-lay
in a truly disgusting display;
she had such a lock
on his rusty old cock,
mortal hands couldn’t rip him away.

And their withered old corpses were dry
as the tear in the mortician’s eye;
their bones were so brittle
they broke in the middle
when he grabbed them and gave them a pry.

The solution he finally found
was bizarre, yet basically sound;
you don’t see too often
a double backed-coffin,
but it worked, and they’re safe underground.

-- J.H. Montrose

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ms. Tree

from the diary: “February 3, 1985

“Read six Ms Trees today.

“Slept way late. As usual. Visited the graveyard – on a predinner walk – only spent five minutes. Met two WWII casualties. One who might’ve died in WWI, tho [the marker] dint say so.”

The diary also mentions Mom giving me driving lessons. Those were unhappy affairs. We’d get really frustrated with each other. As I’ve said earlier she wouldn’t let me drive the car on my own until I could afford to pay the insurance, which, for a 19-year-old male, would have been hideously expensive even had I regular employment.

Ms Tree was a mystery (get it?) comic following the hard-boiled adventures of a female private investigator. One thing I remember about Ms Tree was the ongoing argument on the letters pages about homosexuality. (Tree was a tough bitch but totally straight.) Eventually writer Max Allan Collins had one of the minor characters come out and howls of protest were printed. I recall a few thank-yous as well. The comic was published by a small press so could get away with a little more “controversy” than the major publishers which still trembled before the innocence brigade and their threats against peddlers of supposed children’s lit like comics should they dare produce something somewhat adultish. Sadly the creeps seem to be in charge of the country right now. Ulysses is waiting to be banned again, right?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Leaves of Grass

From the diary: “January 25, 1985

“Been reading bits from Leaves of Grass. Really like it.”

I believe I was reading the deathbed edition. It’s unlikely my small town library had anything other than the most common edition. Besides, even if I had known Whitman produced earlier versions of Leaves of Grass, it would have seemed reasonable to me that the final one was the closest to perfected. While I enjoyed much of the book I also remember page after page of cataloging, where Whitman celebrated everything he could think of. These tended to drag.

On 2/12/85 I wrote, “Finished Leaves of Grass. Finally! I hardly ever really got into that book.”

I probably picked up Whitman both because he was supposed to be great and because he was supposed to be gay. By the deathbed edition, I understand, Whitman was feeling old and vulnerable so toned down the gayishness. Someday I’ll read Leaves again, but maybe for kicks I’ll start with the earliest edition.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Lust for Books

I’m not going to include my poems in DIR as a usual thing. And if this poem is ever published it will not be as is. I present it here merely for its sweet bookishness.

“Lust for Books”

I find when I am bound in by books
wealth surmounts the walls,
much money surrounds me as if I kneel in the vault of a national bank.
Just the sight of short paperbacks sets me shivering
and the thickest volume rests quietly in my lap like a snoozing cat.
I flip pages – a miser counting bills – eyes alight.
A greedy satisfaction comes from information.
I lust for paragraphs in periodicals, words in verse,
and I run my fingertips along the walls of books,
lick my lips and ponder which I’ll pick,
in which opened tome I’ll discover
the whispered words of another unseen lover.

-- GI 1/24/85