Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Stephen Jay Gould introduced me to the idea of “neoteny,” in regards human beings, that is, we retain features of juvenile apes even as we become sexually mature adults. Our faces are relatively small (like chimp infants). Our brains stay large (chimp infant brains are relatively larger than adult chimp brains). We’re gentler and more playful into adulthood. Stuff like that. 

When I read Gould it just seemed that having a super big brain maybe required bringing along other baby-like features. 

I have read that domesticated animals are relatively neotenous compared to their undomesticated brethren. But note that domesticates have smaller brains. 

Carl Safina makes a connection I hadn’t. Our relatives the Neanderthals had bigger brains than we do. I knew that. And I wondered at it. After all, Neanderthals long had a reputation for being brutish and stupid because they left behind little material culture, whereas one can trace the progress of anatomically modern humans by the material culture they left behind — tools, art. Perhaps, even before the discovery of a reliable agriculture, humans had begun to, in Safina’s words, “domesticate themselves.” 

Compared to Neanderthals, the first modern human, at 130,000 years ago, ‘had a much smaller face,’ according to American anthropologist Osbjorn Pearson. At the end of the Pleistocene, certain human groups and their associated animals begin progressively to show parallel reductions in size and stature, shortening of the face and jaws, tooth crowding, and reduced tooth size. … Experts debate whether human brain size relative to body weight has declined. But regardless, we have smaller brains than did Neanderthals. … Our modern brains, with a volume of about 1,350 cubic centimeters are 10 percent smaller than the 1,500-cubic-centimeter brain formerly possessed by Neanderthals.
As people provided safer, more sedentary conditions for their livestock, they did the same for themselves. … [W]e became in a real sense just another farm animal. … [H]umans domesticated themselves. We now depend on others to provide food and shelter. … Domestic creatures don’t need to live by their wits. It behooves them to be accepting of their lot, not uppity. Cows and goats don’t seem very alert to their surroundings; they don’t have to be. And neither do the people who keep them. … [S]ecurity has cost us a certain dulling of senses [blunting] our awareness of the natural world. [all italics Safina’s]

In the last bit Safina highlights human obliviousness relative to the wild. That’s probably less true of people who live in and rely on the wild; there remain small populations of hunter-gatherers who do. But it kind of goes without saying how ignorant, how unobservant civilized humans are of the non-human world. We should look at that. 

source: Beyond Words: what animals think and feel by Carl Safina
2015. Henry Holt & Co., New York

Monday, January 14, 2019

“We are special”

Naturalist Carl Safina addresses a stubborn notion among scientists:
[P]rojecting feelings onto other animals can lead to us misunderstanding their motivations. But denying that they have any motivation guarantees that we will misunderstand it. [Safina’s italics]
Humans are hardly unique in having legs. All the bones of our legs have homologues in the legs of many other animals. It would be silly to presume that feelings, as essential as they are to human functioning (even more than legs!), would be absent in non-human animals. And yet that feared bugaboo for a scientist — anthropomorphism — must be assaulted, bashed at so furiously that the violence becomes its own spectacle.
Professional animal behaviorists inserted a hard divider between the nervous system of the entire animal kingdom and one of its species: humans. Denying the possibility that any other animals have any thoughts or feelings reinforced what we all most want to hear: We are special. We are utterly different. Better. Best.
I don’t know why we all most want to hear this. I don’t think this is a universal. As I’ve noted before, though, this human superiority fetish is close kin to other superiority fetishes — sex, age, race, class, etc. Not everyone is invested in these hierarchies, but those who are are deeply invested, and fiercely defend their investment. I’m not sure what return they expect on this investment. A feeling of superiority? An absence of the shame of being associated with what is considered inferior? If there is no superior or inferior the investment of resources in maintaining the belief in them is a misallocation of resources.

source: Beyond Words: what animals think and feel by Carl Safina
2015. Henry Holt & Co., New York

Friday, January 04, 2019

Best Poems of 2018

Brad Bennett …… haiku “rain clouds”

Natalie Diaz …… Other Small Thundering

Peter Duppenthaler …… haiku “falling leaves”

Paul Eluard …… The Evil

Bruce H. Feingold …… haiku “better than”

Tess Gallagher …… Crepes Flambeau

David Gershator …… haiku “after the break-in”

Angel Gonzalez …… I Look at My Hand

Jonathan Hayes …… Backyard

Jonathan Hayes …… “Watching the white cat watch …”

Christopher Herold …… haiku “trail dust”

Owen Hill …… from The Selected Poems of George Saunders: “every now and then …”

Sy Hoahwah …… Before We Are Eaten

Marc Elihu Hofstadter …… Rain

Joann Klontz …… haiku “dim light”

Rutger Kopland …… Bay

Rutger Kopland …… Time

Jessica Malone Latham …… haiku “loneliness”

Hart L’Ecuyer …… In the Absence of a Boyfriend

Layli Long Soldier …… Obligations 1

paul m. …… haiku “below the falls”

Pierre Martory …… Prose de Buttes-Chaumont

Cole Mitchell …… haiku “our parrot shrieks”

Henrik Nordbrandt …… Evening Sun

James Schuyler …… Thursday

Anis Shivani …… from Soraya: 30. “Akhenaton, uninvited wedding guest”

Norma Smith …… How the Light Changes

Norma Smith …… Lunch Date

Peter Tchoulhov …… haiku “drought”

James G. Tipton …… Jettisoned

Julia Vinograd …… Anniversary Party at People’s Park

Julia Vinograd …… Justice at the Courthouse

Julia Vinograd …… Old Blues

Paul O. Williams …… haiku “gone from the woods”

Paul O. Williams ……. haiku “whatever comes down”

Maw Shein Win …… Ruins of a Glittering Palace

** There are poems I don’t want to leave behind after I read them. All the poems in the list were poems I read and reread until I decided I had to have them available to read again. I hand copy each poem and add it to a loose leaf binder. 

The poems were found in anthologies, collections by individual poets, magazines and online. I know a few of the poets personally, and that always makes me happy. 

I read many poems that I like and admire that I do not copy out. These “best poems” are personal choices, poems that work on me. Every person doing a list like this would have a different list, even using the same sources. 

Early in a new year I read aloud, usually to myself, all the poems I have copied out in the previous year. Some years it takes a while. My voice this year was rough with a cold. But it feels good to put the words into the air. I love these poems! 

Thanks, poets!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Titles Read in 2018

Live from Golgotha by Gore Vidal

Equipment for Living: on poetry and pop music by Michael Robbins

Invincible Ultimate Collection, vol. 11 by Kirkman, Ottley, Walker

Not My Bag by Sina Grace

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Collected French Translations: John Ashbery edited by R. Wasserman & E. Richie

Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson

Salt and Silver poetry chapbook by Larry Felson

Island Dreams photos & text by Margaretta K. Mitchell; Sim Warkov, poems

The Can Opener’s Daughter by Rob Davis

Madness by Sam Sax

Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, vol. 33 no. 1, 2016

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

A Truce with Fantasy by Bill Mayer

The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon, 1961-63 by Marcellino Truong

German Poetry in Transition, 1945-1990 edited by Charlotte Melin


Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Prose Poems by Pierre Reverdy, translated by Ron Padgett

Look Out by Julia Vinograd

Fifty Freakin’ Years with the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers by Gilbert Shelton

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: true tales of a Botswana safari guide by Peter Allison

Unpacking My Library: writers and their books edited by Leah Price

Walrus 2016, Mills College literary magazine [contains two of my poems]

Handle with Care by Julia Vinograd

Driving Through Cuba: rare encounters in the land of sugar cane and revolution by Carlo Gebler

Hello: poems by Richard Loranger

Last Girl Standing by Trina Robbins

Detours by Julia Vinograd

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Skull & Crosswords by Julia Vinograd

Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson

Slugfest: inside the epic 50-year battle between Marvel and DC by Reed Tucker

The Poems of A. O. Barnabooth by Valery Larbaud, translated by Ron Padgett and Bill Zavatsky

Reft and Light by Ernst Jandl

A New Moon haiku by Bruce H. Feingold

Sunrise on the Lodge haiku by Bruce H. Feingold

Dispatch from the Future by Leigh Stern


Old Enough by Bruce Feingold

Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson

The Year We Studied Women by Bruce Snider

Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata

Walking Home by Lynn Schooler

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson

The Dumbbell Nebula by Steve Kowitt

Swinging on a Star by David Trinidad

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner, tr. by W. Martin

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian

Diario de Oaxaca: a sketchbook journal of two years in Mexico by Peter Kuper

Haiku: a concise anthology edited by Santosh Kumar

Soraya: sonnets by Anis Shivani

Letters to a Stranger by Thomas James


Against the Workshop by Anis Shivani

The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield

The Stuff of Thought: language as a window into human nature by Steven Pinker

This Art: poems about poetry edited by Michael Wiegers

Notes on a Past Life by David Trinidad

The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw by Bruce Barcott

Russian Roulette: the inside story of Putin’s war on America and the election of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

Hell Strung and Crooked editors: Ice, Jane Omerod

X-Men: Grand Design, vol. 1 by Ed Piskor

The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks

On to the Next Dream by Paul Madonna


Snow Day Pierre Wazem, writer; Antoine Aubin, artist

The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

The Wish Express by Ruth Plumly Thompson

Selected Poems (2011) by Jaan Kaplinksi

Blue Unicorn, bound collection of five issues: v. 39 no. 1 Oct 2015; v. 39 no. 2 & 3 Feb/June 2016; v. 40 no. 1 Oct 2016; v. 40 no. 2 Feb 2017; v. 40 no. 3 June 2017

A Mind of Its Own: how your brain distorts and deceives by Cordelia Fine

Are We There Yet? by David Levithan

Your Golden Sun Still Shines Denise Sullivan, editor

More Adventures of the Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 years of LGBT music by Darryl W. Bullock

Dear Prudence: new & selected poems by David Trinidad

Annabel [Hungry Tiger Press edition] by L. Frank Baum


Me and My Little Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

A $500 House in Detroit: rebuilding an abandoned home and an American city by Drew Philp

The Hangman’s Lament by Henrik Nordbrandt, tr. Thom Satterlee

Wings of Sunset by Ina Coolbrith

Memories of the Unknown by Rutger Kopland, tr. James Brockway

Antiworlds by Andrei Voznesensky, edited by Patricia Blake and Max Hayward; various translators

The red horse — and the blue by Katy Lederer

Wolf Centos by Simone Muench

Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers! writers on comics edited by Steve Howe

The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs

The Heaven-Sent Leaf by Katy Lederer

The Great Brain at the Academy by John D. Fitzgerald

A World Beyond Myself by Rutger Kopland, tr. James Brockway

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: a new history of a lost world by Steve Brusatte

My Life, My Dream by Henrik Nordbrandt, tr. Robin Fulton


Winter Sex by Katy Lederer

When We Leave Each Other by Henrik Nordbrandt, tr. Patrick Phillips

The Great Brain Reforms by John D. Fitzgerald

Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke

The Hunter Thinks the Monkey Is Not Wise … The Monkey Is Wise, But He Has His Own Logic essays by Ulli Beier, edited by Wole Ogundele

Like Eating a Stone: surviving the past in Bosnia by Wojciech Tochman

A Journey Around My Room and A Nocturnal Expedition Around My Room (in one volune) by Xavier de Maistre, tr. Andrew Brown

Astro City: Victory by Kurt Busiek, B. Anderson, A. Ross

The Return of the Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

Distant Center by Ha Jin

Yoruba Poetry: an anthology of traditional poems edited by Ulli Beier

Running with the Kenyas by Adharanand Finn


The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manitcore, World of Wonders by Robinson Davies

The Great Brain Does It Again by John D. Fitzgerald

Astro City: Private Lives by Busiek, Anderson, Ross

Where the Animals Go: tracking wildlife with technology by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti

Captive Hearts of Oz vol. 1, 2, 3 [vol. 4 not yet available] story: Ryo Maruya; art: Mamenosuke Fujimara; tr. Angela Lin

The Great Brain Is Back by John D. Fitzgerald

The Story of Doctor Dolittle [Books of Wonder version] by Hugh Lofting

Who’s Yer Daddy?: gay writers celebrate their mentors & forerunners eds. Jim Elledge & David Groff

Joy Exhaustible: Assaracus Presents: The Publishers edited by Seth Pennington and Bryan Borland

Astro City, vol. 12: Lovers Quarrel by Busiek and Anderson


Almost All the Music & other poems by Angel Gonzalez, tr. E. A. Mares

The Language of Birds by Kim Sugioka

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Collected Poems by James Schuyler

Nomandland: surviving America in the twenty-first century by Jessica Bruder

Blackberries; Things That Encouraged Me … ; and Snakes three mini comics by Maia Kobabe

Hair a chapbook essay by Anand Vedawala

Fanboy issue #1, comikake collective 

Sanskrit of the Body by W. B. Keckler

A Full Moon in Santa Cruz by Jonathan Hayes

The Sky Is a Page by Adam David Miller

Confetti-Ash: selected poems of Salvador Novo, tr. Anthony Seidman & David Shook

My Naked Brain by Leopoldo Maria Panero, tr. Arturo Mantecon

The Source by William Wantling

A Walk Among the Bogus by Owen Hill

My Brother’s Husband, vol. 2 by Gengoroh Tagame, tr. Anne Ishii

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Astro-City, vol. 13: Honor Guard by Kurt Busiek


Pantheon: the true story of the Egyptian deities by Hamish Steele

Corpses of Angels by Henry J. Morro

Good Gay Poems, 1967-2007 by James Mitchell

Bullets & Butterflies: queer spoken word poetry edited by Emanuel Xavier

Collage: an assemblage of divergent poetry juxtaposed by Jair, the Literary Masturbator

Memories I’ve Forgotten by Marc Elihu Hofstadter

Captive Hearts of Oz, vol. 4 by Ryo Maruya, story; Mamenosuke Fujimaru, art

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

The Best American Poetry 2006 guest editor: Billy Collins; series ed: David Lehman

Emperor of the Air: stories by Ethan Canin

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris with David Javerbaum


A World Between Waves edited by Frank Stewart

Scattered at Sea by Amy Gerstler

We Have Lost Our Fathers by Nicholas Rinaldi

Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, 1981 edited by Alan F. Pater

Where I Live by Donna M. Lane

Misery Islands by January Gill O’Neil

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, intro by J. Griswold, afterword by G. D. Schmidt


Dead Lions by A. D. Winans

New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich

Underlife by January Gill O’Neil

Frogpond v. 40 : 2, Sp/Su 2017

Butterflight haiku anthology chapbook edited by Patricia J. Machmiller

Home Remedy by Norma Smith

Mariposa #6 Sp/Su 2002 Gallagher & Hall, editors

The World Until Yesterday: what can we learn from traditional societies? by Jard Diamond

Mariposa #10 Sp/Su 2004 Gallaher & Hall, eds

Beyond Words: what animals think and feel by Carl Safina

Mariposa #13 Aut/Win 2005 Ebba Story, editor

Velroy and the Madischie Mafia by Sy Hoahway

Mariposa #31 Aut/Win 2014 Cherie Hunter Day, editor

Mariposa #32 Sp/Su 2015 C. H. Day, ed

Invisible Gifts by Maw Shein Win

The Best American Poetry 2007 Heather McHugh, editor; David Lehman, series ed

Lighting a Candle a 4-poet haiku anthology chapbook edited by Michael Dylan Welch

Dear Animal by MK Chavez

Variously, not then by Travis Ortiz

Sparkle & Blink #90 Nov 6, 2017 Folk & Karp, eds

The Half-Finished Bridge a 4-poet haiku chapbook David Grayson, editor