Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Html: Poem

and so you stand or sit
and drop these packets
of words into the electronic
river. off they float--

and yet they stay,
retrievable, for the river
flows and freezes both at once,
visible to all, theoretically.

in practice the electronic river
is a vast obscuring mass,
an orderly crash
of infodataimage.

these word-packets
are lost and found,
gone and here,
disappeared and
recovered like the legendary
vowels missing from the ancient,
mysterious word, Html,

the pronunciation of which
the imaginary scholars
at Borges University
bicker about over
glasses of claret
in the Minotaur Library.

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Advertising: The Literary Genre of the Age

After, oh, 1920, let's say,
advertising became
the dominant literary genre.
It's stories, images, and ethos
hold culture's imagination.

Advertising's the myth,
the epic poem, the novel,
the drama of our age.

Other genres pretend
at the edges, play at their
old importance. It is assumed
that publishers advertise novels,
especially best-sellers, that studios
advertise films, especially
block-busters, and that other
studios advertise music, but
novels and films and music
and the rest
publicize advertising,
the master genre

that sells space, real
and virtual, and that turns
a profit, which is the god
of our creation myth.


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Love Song for Lucinda," by Langston Hughes

Difference-Maker

The universe is big.
It doesn't care. It
goes on forever.
We don't. Still,

today I saw
and heard a woman
laughing. So by
definition, the universe

produces humor and
joy, not to mention
women. That kind of
fact can be a real

difference-maker.

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jury Duty


We passed through voi dir,
my dear, were made peers
of a rococo realm, with its
perched presider and purchased
persuaders.  We nodded at passing
evidence, became a dozen guilty
buzzards asked to shadow
a creature offered on an altar
called The People.  We heard
arguments open and close
like shutters banging in the wind.

In a room, our opinions
accumulated like snow.  In that
drift was buried our decision,
which we seized.  The facts had
whispered to us, “He is guilty.”
We listened to them and repeated
what they said.  The defendant
bowed his head.  Shadows
of our doubt followed us outside,
where, greasy-winged, we joined
The People leading perfectly
legal lives.

--Hans Ostrom, copyright 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Experimental Aircraft

[one from Red Tales, another blog I keep]


Once there was a woman who wished she didn't know so many things for sure. She'd learned not to try to convince people of what she knew, for they believed they knew things for sure, too. Arguing fatigued her. Besides, eventualities would demonstrate what was true better than she could: this she knew, too.

For instance, her husband took up the hobby of flying small experimental aircraft. When he'd told her of this new pursuit, she'd said, "I love you, and consider the word 'experimental,' please. When a cook experiments with a spice and fails, the result is merely an unappealing dish. When an experiment in aviation fails, gravity wrecks." Her husband had scoffed. He was jolly.

Later, when he showed her a red aircraft of startling design, she knew the plane would fail--before takeoff, she hoped. The experimental aircraft simply looked too much like art and not enough like engineering to be competent in the sky.

News of the fatal crash shocked her though she wasn't surprised. She grieved deeply. There's knowing, and then there's experiencing. Several weeks later, an attorney informed her that although her husband had intended to purchase more life insurance, he hadn't gotten around to doing so. There was some insurance, some money, but not a lot, the lawyer said. Her husband hadn't secured her economic future.

"I know," the woman said. "It's the way he was, and it's the way things are." She didn't mention how she knew that, as the plane approached the water, her husband had said "I'm sorry" to her, as if she were in the cockpit.

The little red plane didn't have a little black box, so there was no recording of her husband's last words. This absence pleased the woman, for she'd always preferred the knowing over the proof, wisdom over argument, and information over events, which could be brutal.

--Hans Ostrom, copyright 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Zen Acorn," by Harryette Mullen

Two Aphorisms About Poetry

There's kind of a good news/bad news thing about aphorisms.  The fact that someone would write an aphorism, and call it that, and make it public suggests a level of arrogance: "Hey, I'm about to impart some wisdom--uh, pithily."  "Is that so? Well,  I can't wait."

Good news: the pithy part.  It's all over very quickly.

2.. Poetry concerns what most people--for many reasons, some of them excellent--prefer not to think about. Sometimes one of these people reads a poem and afterwards is glad he or she read it and thought about whatever it was the poem concerned.

2.  In one respect, poetry is like petrified wood, for it intrigues not because of what it is but because of what it seems to be.

--Hans Ostrom 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Used to Be a Place

There used to be a place.
Remember? It was a shop
next to that other place we
used to go. That was back
when we knew were to go,

knew who'd be there when
we went, what would be said
and bought and sold. We
knew where sunlight would fall,
but even those angles have
changed since then. So many

places have replaced those places
and so on. That's retail for you:
a series of disappearances adding
up to bewilderment, plus tax.

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom