Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Thing Is Certain


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One Thing Is Certain


One thing is certain--or is it two? Here
comes a snow-plow pushing letters into words
into phrases into sentences and snow on
and ice forth. Soon a large drift
of meaning looms beside the road.

Minds drive by on their way to
the ski-resort. One thing is certain--
or is it zero? At least something
exists--substance, not the greatest
name to attach to a thing that seems
to have preceded perception and
naming, but as Old Spinoza knows,

a semi-infinite number of pieces fly
off Substance and just beg to be numbered
and named--stars and socks, allergies
and anthems. Certain things are one.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Irving Layton Reads


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Here is a link to an interesting video, the voice-over of which features Irving Layton reading some poems, and the images and "story" of which concern bringing wine to Irving Layton:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpDVs29OX3Q

Layton, of course, was a renowned, enormously successful Canadian poet who possessed a robust personality. He was a friend of Leonard Cohen's. Layton died in 2006 at the age of 93.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michael Ondaatje Interviewed

Here is a link to part of an interview with the affable Michael Ondaatje--on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF717oAYvWo

Natasha Tretheway Reads from NATIVE GUARD

Here is a link to a nice Youtube video of Natasha Tretheway reading from her prize-winning collection of poetry, Native Guard:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB6d-FSewwg

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Weary Blues

One of the most enduring poems from the Harlem Renaissance is Langston Hughes's "The Weary Blues," which is not in blues form (as some of Hughes's poems are), but is rather a meditation on the blues--especially in a Harlem context, and more specifically Lenox Avenue.

I found a most appealing visual and aural "rendition" of the poem on Youtube. It is from Four Seasons Productions. I looked for but did not find the name of the reader, who does a terrific job. Many thanks to him.

I hope you enjoy it. It includes images of music's and culture's dear friend, Cab Calloway.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyqwvC5s4n8

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Radio Station K-E-G-O

Broadcasting From K-E-G-O


It’s just her, broadcasting
to herself with one watt
of power, pretending
to interview an Other,
playing requests
she called in to herself,
breaking for news about her life,
weather she enjoys, sports
that delight her, honors
due to her. This
is solipsism radio,
from a studio of Self,
on the narcissistic network.
For your own sake, tune out.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ideas for Poems--In Threes

The poetry-class generated some great ideas for poems today, so I thought I'd pass them along. The basic framework was to think of three topics about which you haven't written that are in a broad category, such as "nature". So the first question to answer is, therefore, "What are three 'things' [topics, places, creatures, phenomena] 'in' nature about which you haven't yet written a poem but would like to write a poem about?"

(My answers were potato-bugs, gooseberries, and mold).

Next: Three people (you haven't written a poem about but might like to). Answers ranged from "my brother" to "my step-grandmother" to a celebrity, etc.

Next: Three things you take advantage of. This idea from a student turned out to be especially good because some people interpreted it in a somewhat negative way ("I take advantage of audiences"--this from an actor) while others took it as more neutral or positive ("I take advantage of how close I live to X, Y, and Z.")

Next: Three tasks, chores, or activities you especially did NOT like as a child/adolescent. (One of my answers was "killing chickens.")

Next: Three mysterious things that have happened to you (and about which you haven't yet written a poem).

Next: If you were to write an homage-poem about a well known dead actor, artist, musician, writer, athlete, et al., who would be three of the candidates, so to speak?
Answers ranged from Greta Garbo and Cary Grant to Heath Ledger and Beethoven--and Siegfried Sassoon.

So: 6 X 3 = 18, if memory serves. Eighteen starting-places for potential poems. Nice.

And thanks to the students.

Small Door-Poem


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Here is a small door-poem, as opposed to a small-door poem.


Door Poem

Some doors are made of wood,
and some of fear.
Inside, you hear
the knocking, wonder: Should

I open up to what I cannot see?
Outside, you knock,
don't try the lock,
think: What, who, might greet me?


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Robert W. Service and the Oakland Raiders

Canadian vagabond and poet Robert W. Service wrote popular narrative verse, the most famous of which may be "The Cremation of Sam McGhee." His work is not terribly welcome in academic circles, but I don't imagine the spirit of Service, wherever it is, cares much. His collected poems from G.P. Putnam still sell well; in fact, I just bought a copy. Service's is a special talent, involving a genius for rousing rhythm, song-like rhyme, and narrative drive. Service was an entertainer and a teller of tales: nothing to sneeze at.

If you happen to be an Oakland Raider [American football]fan, you will likely be suffering from depression (the team has been on the skids), but you will likely also be aware of a Service-like poem written by Steve Sabol, a producer of films and video concerning football, and narrated by the deep-voiced announcer John Facenda.

I'm a life-long Raiders fan--but by accident. Because I grew up in a canyon of the High Sierra in pre-cable-TV days, our household's TV received the signal of only one channel well. The channel happened to be an NBC affiliate, and NBC broadcast games of the fledgling American Football League, of which the Raiders were a member. So I started watching the Raiders and getting intrigued by how quirky they were, and how obsessively single-minded their owner, Al Davis, was.

At any rate, the style of Robert W. Service meets the substance, such as it is, of Steve Sabol's poem in this video from Youtube (oh, and incidentally, the Raiders somehow found a way to win today)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKbYjyKOoR4

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Black Mountain School


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the photo is of Robert Duncan
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Poets.org has a nice concise overview of the Black Mountain School, a phrase in which "school" functions literally (there was a school on the premises) and figuratively (a school or loosely related type of poetry arose from some who taught and/or studied there). Here is a brief excerpt from the brief overview:

"Black Mountain College, located in a collection of church buildings in Black Mountain, North Carolina, was an educational experiment that lasted from 1933 to 1956. It was one of the first schools to stress the importance of teaching creative arts and that, in combination with technical and analytical skills, the arts are essential to human understanding. The group of influential poets who studied, taught, or were associated with the school included Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, and Charles Olson. Though these poets' work was remarkably different, they shared creative philosophies that came to be known as "projective verse."

And here is a link to the rest of the description:


http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5648



I think the only poet from the Black Mountain School whom I saw/heard read in person was Robert Duncan, at U.C. Davis. But like e alot of poeo;e I've read and taught poems by Levertov, Olson, and Creeley often. My favorite of Olson's is "That Thing Was Moving," was is, in part, about a town dump. I rather like Creeley's often almost-imageless poems that seem like compact thought-maps, almost always crisply phrased.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Elsewhere


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Elsewhere

Do you wonder what people are doing Elsewhere?
If you do, then so do I. I'm here, which is
Elsewhere to you, who are Elsewhere, too, to me.

I know what people are doing here. Sometimes
it makes me cry. I hold out hope, therefore,
for Elsewhere. I don't know why. I imagine

other, better, things; breathe easily; sigh.
Elsewhere;s where we need to meet, I think,
to ask us why we cannot ever get along

right here, where good will seems to die.
Maybe Elsewhere is the place in which our
better selves might resettle to repair

the damage done by tawdry instincts
by and by. I think of Elsewhere, I see,
as a place amenable to possibility.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why Poets Do Well In Any Economy

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Poets do well in any economy because no economy has ever been especially good for poets. "The economy is bad?" poets ask. "Well, I'll be darned."

Pick any allegedly extra-active poetic period--the Beat period in the U.S., for example. The economy was riding high after World War II, the Beats were changing poetry, and President Eisenhower was on the golf course. Good times, except for the examples cited in Ginsberg's Howl. Okay, so there were a lot of examples.

By the way, this was back when Republicans behaved as adults; can you imagine the general in charge of D-Day wasting energy and being rude by yelling at someone, a la Rep. Joe Wilson, who is a guest in his professional house? Republicans need to ask themselves, "What would Eisenhower do?" Answer: Pass pragmatic, effective health-care reform, stop going to the well of hate-speech, and not behave like a "jackass," President Obama's term for Kanye West's behavior at one of those awards shows so central to the betterment of humanity. West should have asked what No-Drama Obama would have done (not been at the awards show in the first place).

But back to those Beats. Did they do anything to harm the good economy? No. Did they help? Of course! They filled coffee houses and bars, and they started at least one venerable small business, City Lights Books. When the economy turned sour soon thereafter, you didn't hear poets complaining, partly because they were complaining about other things, such as racism.

At any rate, here is a list of reasons why poets do well in any economy:

1. Poets are used to not getting paid much, if anything, for their poetry. In an odd way, then, they are recession-proof, and they've always had to have a day-job, or a night-job, or two jobs.

2. Poets, unlike many novelists and all pundits, are frugal with words. Poets Know Frugal.

3. Poets tend to be generous with money. If you meet one at a cafe or a bar and buy a copy of his/her chapbook or ask him/her to sign a copy, the poet will be so ecstatic that he or she will buy you several rounds of libations.

4. Poets can smell rotten metaphors right away. So when Reagan's team used "trickle-down economics," all poets knew right away that this wasn't good, especially for those being trickled upon. "The Patriot Act." Poets know the Patriot Act was mis-named and has created not a single patriot. Poets can tip you off to mischievous political speech, regardless of party-affiliation.

5. Almost all poets know enough about what they don't know to stay away from economics, and in a bad economy, the last thing we need is more economists, and in a good economy, we don't need any economists to tell us it's good.

An exception to this rule is Ezra Pound, who, like Ron Paul, got obsessed with the gold-standard and got immersed in especially awful anti-Semitism. He also made radio broadcasts on behalf of Mussolini because he thought fascism had good economic solutions. Because the U.S. was at war with Italy, Pound got arrested and eventually ended up in a mental hospital in Baltimore. After a while, he was allowed to leave and to live out his days in Italy.

A lesson is: Italy is great, but stay away from economics, poets! It is a dismal "science", not a legendary art.

6. Poets often read and write so carefully that they pay attention to syllables, not just words. Note E-CON-o-my. Bernie Madoff and bankers who operated as loan-sharks put the CON in economy, and the regulators did nothing more than say "O, my." Result: Disaster. Poets saw this coming. It was a syllable-thing.

7. You can trust poets at least to do no harm to the economy. True, Wallace Stevens worked in insurance, and James Dickey worked in New York advertising, but neither absconded with funds, ran Ponzi schemes, or cheated shareholders (as far as I know). James Merrill, of the Merrill in Merrill Lynch (by relation), did not get involved in the business and spent a lot of time writing long poems.

8. Poets are highly employable because they're usually socially flexible. Not in every case, but in most cases. There may be times, however, when a manager will notice that a poet is writing a poem on the job (in both senses of that phrase).

9. As Percy Shelley noted, "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Most people focus on the "legislators" part of that quotation. Poets focus on the "unacknowledged" part. Unacknowledged is good. I wish Re. Joe Wilson and Senators Baucus and Grassley would go unacknowledged for a while.

10. Almost all poets have consumed their share of coffee, tea, and/or wine--the kind of basic stuff upon which economies have relied for thousands of years. We do our part.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rhode Island's Poet Laureate

Here is a link to a nice article by Annie-Laurie Hogan about Rhode Island's Poet Laureate, Lisa Silverberg Starr:

http://media.www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2008/03/07/News/R.i-Poet.Laureate.Shares.Poetry.Advice.At.Readwrite.Series-3258082.shtml

Being from the geographically massive state of California, I would have been tempted--in high school, let's say--to wonder if poets from Rhode Island had to write small poems like haiku. Luckily, I graduated from high school, and many, many moons ago, I moved to a geographically modest state (in spite of features like Puget Sound and volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier), Washington.

Congratulations and good luck to Lisa Starr, and here's a tip of the cursor to Rhode Island and that fascinating figure, Roger Williams.

The Services of Poetry Are Always Needed

On a local-government site for Pennsylvania (in this case "local" seems to mean "state"), I found the following interesting item:

"Position History:
Position established 1993. The first and only state poet laureate, Sam Hazon, was appointed May 24, 1993 by Gov. Bob Casey. On May 1, 2003, Hazon was notified by an aide to Gov. Ed Rendell that his "services were no longer needed." Rendell's decision to remove Hazon from office effectively terminated the position of Pennsylvania poet laureate. For more information, see the October 10, 2004 article 'It's Official: Every Poet is a State Poet' in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette."


It turns out Mr Hazo was more than well-deserving of the post; see part of his bibliography below. To Governor Rendell, I would simply say, "Sir, the services of poets and poetry are always needed; look around you, sir!"

I haven't tracked down the Post Gazette article yet, but I wonder if it was Rendell's idea to make every poet the state poet--and therefore give none of them special responsibilities, funds for broadening interest in poetry, or a wee office in which to work. Consider all the well paid hacks that are on any state-governors staff, and consider what small percentage of one hack's salary would be needed to maintain the poet-laureate post, and, if you're a friend of poetry, you might manage a chortle--and then immediately start wondering about that word, "chortle."

So lift a glass or a pen to Samuel Hazo. May the road rise to meet Mr. Rendell, but may he also experience a Damascus-like vision on that road in which he realizes the services poetry may provide.

Mr. Hazo's bibliography below is courtesy of . . .


http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Hazo__Samuel.html



Novels
• Stills. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1998.
• The Wanton Summer Air. New York: North Point Press, 1982.
• Inscripts. Athens: Ohio UP, 1975.
• The Color of Reluctance. Story, WY: Dooryard Press, 1986.
Plays
• Solos. First produced at the Carnegie Lecture Hall, Pittsburgh, 1994.
• Until I’m Not Here Anymore. First produced at the Fulton Theatre, Pittsburgh, 1992.

Poems
• Just Once. Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2002.
• Listen with the Eye. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1964.
• Blood Rights. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1968.
• The Past Won’t Stay Behind You. Fayetteville: U of Arkansas P, 1993.
• As They Sail. Fayetteville: U of Arkansas P, 1999.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Poet Laureate of the Netherlands

Here is some slightly belated news from the world of poetry in the Netherlands; the item is quoted from the site, Poetry International:

"On 28 January, on the eve of the National Day of Poetry of the Netherlands and Flanders, it was announced that 35-year-old Ramsey Nasr had won the public vote to become Dichter des Vaderlands – the title bestowed to the Dutch equivalent of Poet Laureate. Ramsey Nasr is a poet, author, actor and director. His first collection of poems 27 Poems and No Song was published in 2000. In 2005, he was city poet for Antwerp in Belgium."

Congratulations to Mr. Nasr. Now I must track down some of his poems.

Until I read this item, I hadn't realized the word for "poet" is exactly the same in Dutch and German.

http://international.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_id=13772

The Curse of Wealth?


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The Curse of Wealth?

Hear the penniless man howl
when you tell him wealth's a curse.
"Then curse me," he'll say, and
there's no argument good enough
to silence his derision. Still,

there was that rich man--he
just died--who seemed to drag
an invisible bag behind him,
full of capital, a father's
ambitions for his sons, blunt
and sharp weapons of politics,
all of it weighing so much, too much.

There was a family compound, also
a family-machinery that melted laws.
Amidst it all, the man was cursed
with living long, knowing secrets
and sin, and staying married to
noblesse oblige. He's elsewhere

now. Maybe God will have treated
him as just another soul relieved
of life, as someone blessedly
obscure. The penniless man scoffs
at such notions of tragedy and
theology, as well he might. Still,

the rich and public man knew misery,
a special kind, a gilded curse.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Philip Larkin's "Toads" For Monday

In the unlikely event you're feeling just a wee bit glum about going to work on Monday, please enjoy this reading of a poem by Philip Larkin, "Toads," which is not so much about toads as it is about being both a soul and a body and, more specifically, about being a person who works. The reading is accompanied by images of the text. If you like the dour humor of Larkin in this poem, you might (if you have not already done so) look at a famous poem by him, "This Be The Verse."

But for now, "Toads":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9xso6A_51w

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Few Paragraphs About Swedish Poetry


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(photo: Uppsala, Sweden, castle in foreground, cathedral further back)





A few words about Swedish poetry, then:


"The poetry of Karl Vennberg (1910-1995), with echoes from T.S. Eliot, was critical of his age in much the same way as that of Lindegren. Vennberg was an analytical skeptic who sought to re-evaluate poetic and political truths. He made his debut in 1937 with Hymn och hunger (Hymn and Hunger) and continued to write poetry until his death.

One of Vennberg's disciples was the modernist poet Werner Aspenström (1918-1997), who was a successful playwright as well. Although his breakthrough came in 1946 with the collection Skriket och tystnaden (The Scream and the Silence), he is mostly associated with the fifties. One of the most widely read Swedish poets, he remained active as a writer until the end.

A number of women authors appeared during the forties, as well. The poet and prose writer Elsa Grave (b. 1918) wrote colorfully grotesque and angry poems about everything from motherhood to the threat of nuclear war. Taking her heroines from ancient mythology, Rut Hillarp (b. 1914) created an erotic surrealism and became an example for many female writers.

Stina Aronson (1892-1956) received her literary and public breakthrough with the modernist novel Hitom himlen (This Side of Heaven), 1946, in which she portrayed the taciturn women in the hardscrabble farming areas of northern Sweden."

I might add that my grandfather, Isaak Åström, came from Boden, "in the hardscrabble farming areas of northern Sweden." Here's to you, "Ike."

To read more, please follow the link:


http://www.samenland.nl/auteurs/inleiding_si_20eeuw.html

Canada's Poet Laureate

Who is Canada's Poet Laureate? I'm glad you asked, and, actually, you asked a trick question. Canada doesn't have a Poet Laureate, per se; it has a Parliamentary Poet Laureate--an important distinction, or so I infer, because the parliament decides who fills the post, as opposed to the prime minister, or in the case of the U.S., the president, or at least the Executive Branch.

Answer: Pierre DesRuisseaux

Here's a bit of information about DesRuisseaux:

Regarding Pierre DesRuisseaux

"Born in Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships, in 1945, Pierre DesRuisseaux graduated from the Université de Montréal in philosophy. He was successively an editorial writer for regional and national weeklies, including Le petit journal, a proofreader and a foreign correspondent (Middle East) for the magazine Sept-Jours.

Mr DesRuisseaux has published 14 collections of his poetry. His first book of poems, Lettres, published by Hexagone in 1979, was greeted as a revelation in Quebec’s literary world. In 1989, Monème earned Canada’s highest literary honour, the Governor General’s Award.

Another of his books, Le Noyau, was described by Louise Proulx in Livres et auteurs québécois as an extraordinary mingling of philosophy, semantics, literature, politics and poetry."

The information comes from the following site:

http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Sites/LOP/Poet/index.asp?lang=e¶m=2

Queen Victoria's Favorite Poet

Adelaide Anne Procter is widely considered to have been one of Queen Victoria's favorite poets, if not the Queen's very favorite. The poet was the sister of Bryan Waller Procter, a writer who knew both Romantic (early 19th century) and Victorian (the subsequent era) writers.

Here is a link to several sites that include information on Adelaide Anne Procter:



http://gerald-massey.org.uk/procter/index.htm


Arguably her best known poem is "The Lost Chord."

The Lost Chord


by Adelaide Anne Procter


SEATED one day at the Organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.

I do not know what I was playing,
Or what I was dreaming then;
But I struck one chord of music,
Like the sound of a great Amen.

It flooded the crimson twilight
Like the close of an Angel's Psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.

It quieted pain and sorrow,
Like love overcoming strife;
It seemed the harmonious echo
From our discordant life.

It linked all perplexed meanings
Into one perfect peace,
And trembled away into silence
As if it were loth to cease.

I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the
Organ, and entered into mine.

It may be that Death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,—
It may be that only in Heaven
I shall hear that grand Amen.



http://gerald-massey.org.uk/procter/index.htm

Friday, September 11, 2009

Franklin Roosevelt's Favorite Poem

According, at least, to one Web site I perused, one of Franklin Roosevelt's favorite poems was the well known "If," by Rudyard Kipling. Its rhetorical framework is that of a father speaking to a son. I need to say a word on behalf of my colleagues in the field of philosophy, however, who sometimes quite rightly think AND make thoughts their aim. First, the site; then the poem.


http://www.classbrain.com/artbiographies/publish/FDR.shtml


If

by Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Keats's "To Autumn" Read Aloud

Well, here comes fall, often known as autumn in poetic circles, perhaps most famously in Keats's ode "To Autumn," which is read in a traditional (and deep) British voice in the following recording:

http://classicpoetryaloud.podomatic.com/entry/2007-05-28T23_15_03-07_00

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If I Were A Werewolf


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(photo: Lon Chaney, Jr., as The Werewolf, in a hirsute werewolf-suit; photo courtesy Corbis)
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That "werewolf" includes the word/verb "were" has interested me for some time, and then I decided to write a poem called "If I Were A Werewolf," but one two-part hurdle I had to get over first is that I kept hearing "If I Were A Werewolf" sung either to the tune of "If I Were A Carpenter" or "If I Were A Rich Man." I shall leave the lyrics to those potential parody-songs to someone else. At any rate, I knew I had to go with free verse instead of anything resembling a ballad.


If I Were A Werewolf

If I were a werewolf, I'd know
where werewolves reside. Most
must hail and howl from
imagination, I imagine, but some
might come from outside Loreville.

Were I a werewolf, how would I behave?
Hirsutely, rudely, carnivoraciously?
I guess so, but maybe less so
than cinema would have it. Perhaps
I'd chiefly want to be alone,

denned up on some steppes, serenading
the loony moon, napping and scratching
like any other mammal. Or maybe
werewolves run in packs like lawyers,
politicians, and beer, in which case

I might have to have a role, a niche,
a boss, a pledge of loyalty, a werewolf
oath or anthem--the usual frightening
stuff that makes the atavistic hair
on the back of the neck stand up.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Gary Snyder Reading at Noon

Here is a link to a video of Gary Snyder reading at the noon-time series, U.C. Berkeley, not that long ago--and after Snyder had retired from teaching at U.C. Davis:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxVZxJIYj6o&feature=related

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Diane Di Prima Reads

Here is a link to a good video of Diaen Di Prima's reading of a poem about her grandfather. Like many other of her poems, this one contains references to things Italian and things political:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVN9lamJyoQ

Monday, September 7, 2009

Big Mama Thornton and Buddy Guy

Big Mama Thornton doing "Hound Dog" (she recorded it before Elvis did) with Buddy Guy on guitar: what's not to like?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XUAg1_A7IE

Johnny Cash On Labor Day

No one can touch Tennessee Ernie Ford's recording of "Sixteen Tons." One does wonder, by the way, how many people nowadays even know what "a company store" is. Johnny Cash did all right in covering Ford's song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boXa8c6OuRQ&feature=related

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Brief of History of the Working Class


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Labor Day seems like a good occasion to mention the following book:

A Short History of the U.S. Working Class: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century (Revolutionary Studies), by Paul Le Blanc (Humanity Books, 1999).

Poets Born In September

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Who are/were some poets born in September? I'm glad you asked.

Theodore Storm, German poet. What a great last name for a poet. "Hi. Storm's the name, and poetry's the game."

T.S. Eliot, American and British poet, also known as Tse Tse [fly]--one of Ezra Pound's nicknames for him; and as Old Possum.

Robert Burns, poetic king of Scottish poetry and song. Allesandro Tassoni--Italian, as you might have guessed.

Siegfried Sassoon, British poet and "trench poet" from the Great War. Reed Whittemore--also a translator, if memory serves.

William Carlos Williams, American (of course), and one of those poets from whom other poets may learn a lot (in my opinion).

Michael Ondaatje, Canadian poet and novelist. He published a book of poems with "rat jelly" in the title. How great is that?

Jaroslav Seifert, Czech poet. I wonder if George Siefert, former coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is related to him.

Elinor Wylie--American poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer.

And Edith Sitwell, officially Dame Edith Sitwell, British poet. My favorite poem by her may be "Still Falls The Rain," and I have a recording of her reading it.

So much depends upon the red wheel barrow and on September poetic birthdays. I also have a brother who was born in September. The gift is in the mail, bro.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ronald Reagan and Poetry


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(the image is of a statue of St. Patrick, who was a native of France)




I ran across an interesting site about President Ronald Reagan and poetry, and the site even includes some poetry Reagan wrote early in live, as well as an excerpt from a eulogy for him by Ron Reagan, one that is written in free verse. Here is a link to the site:

http://www.thehypertexts.com/Ronald_Reagan_Poet_and_Poetry_a_Tribute_Retrospective_and_Memorial.htm




The site also includes this information:

In his travels through Ireland, Ronald Reagan once took note of a graveside epitaph at Castlereagh, the place where St. Patrick erected the first cross in Ireland:

Remember me as you pass by,
For as you are so once was I,
and as I am you soon will be,
So be content to follow me.


The site was established by Michael R. Burch.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Captions Without Drawings

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Here are some captions that are missing their drawings (cartoons), perhaps for good reason:

1. "No, sir, I'm afraid you may not enter our convent."

2. "God spoke to me and said, 'Glenn, you are God.'"

3. "And this just in to our news desk . . . I'm embarrassed to work for this network."

4. "So how does it look? I had the tailor add some Far-Left fringe."

5. "Dude, I thought you said we were going to a dude ranch?"

6. "Senator, it's the crazy constituent calling again with those facts we don't like."

7. "I believe the American people believe no one should use the phrase, 'The American people.'"

8. "Now I know why they call it the Big Apple."

9. "Welcome to the Big Apple, sir. I'm the Big Worm."

10. "After you turn 40, never weigh yourself unless you're in outer space."

11. "My boyfriend said he wanted to start seeing other people, and I said, 'That's cool with me,' and I removed his blindfold--but not the handcuffs."

12. "I couldn't believe it. I was walking down the street minding my own business when suddenly the onus fell on me."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Woman In A Waiting-Room

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Woman In A Waiting-Room

I guess her age to be 80. She's kept
herself looking the best she can: lean
like a late aunt of mine. The gray
hair's tinted blond but cut
with no-nonsensical reserve--the style's
what they used to call "page-boy."

Trousers, a sweater, sensible beige shoes.
Her back hardly lets her bow to examine
magazine-covers on a table. She squints
and scowls so hawkishly, I think for a
moment she's spotted a spider. She
selects none of the magazines: wise.

She sits now and looks out western windows,
lifts her face to muted afternoon light,
takes out a compact, and applies lipstick.
Blue eyes above lightly rouged cheeks look
coolly into the mirror's report. She's not
looking for approval, only information. She

forms her lips as she has done for more
than six decades. Compact and lipstick
disappear. She settles into the chair,
into defiant patience, and waits, newly
painted lips pursed, for her doctor's
nurse to open a door and call her name.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom