Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Friday, May 31, 2013

Poetry Isn't War

Plath advised, "Write with blood." That's not
necessary unless you're imprisoned. Poetry's
not war. Writers like to give melodramatic
advice and even take it sometimes. That's
their problem. Write the best way you know
how. Ink--real and virtual--works just fine.
Don't kill yourself--because then you can't
write anything. Unless you're really oppressed,
don't force yourself to act as if you are.

They like to keep Plath's morbid celebrity
alive. They have their reasons, I guess.
I recoil from those. Read Plath's poems.
Many of them are very good. That is enough.
More of them would have been even better.
Life, life, life: poetry is life.


hans ostrom 2013

Qualifications

I have a Ph.D. in Foolish,
with specializations in
Impulsive and Awkward.

I earned a certificate in
Befuddled--and pursued
additional training in Perplexed.

"You're kind of a fuck-up,
aren't you?" I asked myself.
"Yes, yes I am," I replied,

"but you're no goddamned bargain."



hans ostrom 2013

In Pursuit of Happiness

Headquarters, be advised,
we are in pursuit of happiness.
Officer is down
on his knees, praying
for redemption. Alleged
miscreant has been advised
of his lights,
and is rising in a red sky.
Moses and Christ,
also Buddha and Allah,
we ask:
what has happened
to our species,
which achieves, achieves,
but that is all?
Headquarters, please
copy our call.
We are over. We are out.



hans ostrom 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Re-Posting One for Memorial Day: "For Charles Epps"

For Charles Epps

(1953-1971)

What's left these 38 years after Charlie
died? The same as what was left a minute
after he died: an avalanche of absence.
I've visited the grave. I always go alone. I
let morbidity, a pettiness, arise, think
of what's under ground, including
the baseball uniform in which they put
his body. It's easy to move past small,
awful thoughts. What's left to resolve?

Everything. He ought to be alive. God
knows that as well as I. My knowledge
stops there. I don't know why he died,
only how, when, where, and with whom--
Sonny Ellis. Their death numbed,
scandalized, and scarred me, but so what?
I got to live at least 38 years more
than they. When I die, so will my grief,

and so it goes. Like an instinctive,
migratory mourner, I think of Charlie
at least four times a year and every May
and try to think of something more to say.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Monday, May 20, 2013

"The Sky Is Low, The Clouds Are Mean," by Emily Dickinson

"Blue Monday," by Langston Hughes

We Are In the Waiting Room

The waiting room waits for us
to move through it. Magazines
collect like silt. We try to collect
each other's thoughts; fail;
return to our own. The waiting room

is quieter than most places
of worship. A door opens rudely.
The caller of names holds
a file, speaks two words brusquely.
One of us gets up. No one
says goodbye or good luck.

Those remaining settle too quickly
back into waiting. We've become
like birds on a roost at dusk.

The world cannot end as long as
there are waiting rooms
because that would be too dramatic.



Hans Ostrom 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Choking It Back"

Today I happened to be
watching a cat choke back
the urge to vomit
a hair-ball just
as I was thinking of
the sheer number of Americans
who, first, consider themselves
White and, second, simply
cannot abide even the thought
of a Black man as President.
I want to say to them,
Vomit up that hatred, first,
and, second, read a
goddamned history book.




hans ostrom 2013

"The Man He Killed," by Thomas Hardy

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gary Snyder's Birthday Today

It is Gary Snyder's birthday today. My favorite books of poems by him is The Back Country. He was born in San Francisco in 1930.

Here is a brief selection from his nonfiction book, The Practice of the Wild:

Monday, May 6, 2013

They Don't Want to Hear From You

Lou, they don’t want
to hear from you. They
don’t want to see
anything you do.

You don’t belong, Lou.
So how long you going
to keep asking to be
considered? Lou,

you were born behind
and never caught up.
Stubborn’s not a talent
they’re looking for.

If they had wanted you,
they would have sent
for you by now, Lou. They
would have sent for you.


Hans Ostrom

"Consumocracy Blues" recorded

Friday, May 3, 2013

Consumocracy Blues

They're spending what they don't have
on stuff that they don't need.
Yeah, they're spending what they don't have
on things they do not need.
Maybe they need to think about
living by a simpler creed.



hans ostrom 2013