Saturday, October 31, 2009

Epistemology: A Poem

(image: Rene Descartes)
Epistemology: A Poem

I never needed to prove whether an exterior
world existed. It proved itself to me, casually.
I get hungry, e.g., and the exterior world has
food, for which you work in the world. When
you work all day for minimum wage, or more,
the world exists. Could it all be an illusion?

Actually, no. And even if philosophers can't
disprove the illusion, that's their problem,
and they'll react to a fire-alarm and otherwise
live in the world, which contains their
arguments in exteriorish books and computers,
so as they say, let's get real. But could we

simply be brains in vats? I'm guessing no
because that's too many vats and too much
vat-maintenance, and besides, even if all this
were a vat-trick, we'd live as if it weren't,
digging in dirt and pondering vat-riddles,
so as they say, let's get real. This It

we experience mixes the real, our illusions,
and realillusion. If you don't think the
exterior world exists, good for you! I hope
your non-existent exterior world includes
farmers, fire-fighters, dentists, door-hangers,
masons, and . . . magicians, of course.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

William Shatner Reads A Found Poem By Sarah Palin

This may sound like a Zen koan (at best), but perhaps the best way to understand the confluence of American politics, entertainment, art, and absurdity is not to try to understand it all, grasshopper. More specifically, let me suggest that you meditate on William Shatner's rendering of Sarah Palin's resignation-speech as a poem--on the Tonight Show, with backup from a stand-up base and bongo-drums. Oh, yeah. Unfortunately, you will have to try to ignore the brief annoying advertisement (only seconds long) that precedes the video.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chimamanda Adichie On Writing

Here is a link to a "TED" video (via Youtube) in which Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adiche discusses her development as a writer and explores the topic of "The Danger of a Single Story":

Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Gallery of Writing

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) opened its online National Gallery of Writing on October 20, 2009. The gallery features writing in a wide variety of genres. Writers who are 13 years old and above may submit their work, and they may also open a “local” gallery on the site. Teachers at middle schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and other settings may also encourage their students to submit some writing. For more information, please follow the link:

Ballad: Love Needed, Not In Demand

Ballad: Love Needed, Not In Demand

I talked with Love the other day.
She's been unemployed.
When she offers expertise,
People get annoyed.

"It's nothing new," Love said to me.
"The times, they come and go.
It is a Hater's Market now.
Meanness runs the show."

In reply, I just observed
Love seemed necessary.
"I'm not in demand," Love said.
"But needed? Oh, yes--very."

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Reading of a cummings Poem

Here is a link to a video of an unpretentious reading of "next to of course god america" by e.e. cummings, a poem that's a fine parody of mind-numbing, fatuous political speech:

The poem is read by Dr. Ron Holzschuh.

Monday, October 26, 2009



To a duck, a waddle
is a way to go. To
a pig, thick slop
is a medium to know.
To a snake, the ground
is the highest kind of low.
To a frog, the moonlight
might just seem a Godly glow.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monty Python's Youtube Channel

Monty Python has a Youtube Channel, something a correspondent from San Diego will enjoy on this momentous October 22nd. When you arrive at the channel, you encounter video of Eric Idle and some droll responses to comments left on the Channel's site:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Words and Definitions From the Mensa Challenge

A correspondent from California pointed me to some of the results from the Washington Post's annual Mensa word-challenge, and many of these results will appeal to lovers of word-play in general and poets in particular:

"The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus : A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high
8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon : It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido : All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg at Kerouac's Gravesite

I just watched an intriguing short video featuring Allen Ginsberg talking to Bob Dylan at Jack Kerouac's gravesite. "Talking to Bob Dylan" is a fair description, as Mr. Dylan doesn't have much to say, although he does suggest that he prefers to be buried in an unmarked grave-after he dies, of course. The link:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Some Off-Beat Movies

I'm hard-pressed to define what "off-beat" means in figurative terms, so I'll just roll along and say that here are ten of my favorite off-beat movies, in no particular order:

1. Two-Lane Blacktop (w/ James Taylor and Warren Oates)
2.Vanishing Point (w Barry Newman and Cleavon Little)
3. The Las Vegas Story (Victor Mature, with a song and an appearance by Hoagy Carmichael)
4. Slackers
5. The Brother From Another Planet (Joe Morton stars, if memory serves)
6. Harold and Maude
7. Fitzcarraldo (directed by Werner Herzog, starring Klaus Kinski, although Mick Jagger starred originally, but the production lasted too long.
8.Harry and Tonto (Art Carney, with cat; Carney won an Oscar)
9. My Life As A Dog (Swedish)
10. Sullivan's Travels (written by Preston

I will add only that I saw Cleavon Little play opposite Jackie Gleason in a stage-version of Sly Fox in San Francisco, in the late 1970s. It was great to watch two fine professional actors, with perfect timing.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Phantom Pantoum

The poet and blogger Minerva often tosses out poetic challenges on her blog:

No long ago she challenged writers to try a pantoum, so I took the challenge.

Phantom Pantoum

From the reeds of memory's marsh,
The phantom pantoum speaks itself.
It isn't owned by anyone.
It is composed of gathered sounds.

The phantom pantoum speaks, itself
An act of filling up a page or pause.
It is composed of gathered sounds.
It is a thing that's said and made.

An act of filling up a page or pause
May satisfy the phantom pantoum.
It is a thing that's said and made
But not one, maybe, that's heard or seen.

"May satisfy the phantom pantoum":
That is not a bold assertion,
Nor one, maybe, that's heard and seen.
The phantom pantoum's like a dream.

Hans Ostrom, Copyright 2009

Poets From Nevada

Poet Donald Revell, who has published several books with Wesleyan University Press, as well as books with other presses, lives in Las Vegas, although he was born in the Bronx. He also edits the Colorado Review.

Kirk Robertson
is a native of Los Angeles but has lived in Nevada since 1976. He writes and publishes poetry and is involved with a small press.

Poet Adrian Louis is a native of Nevada but now teaches in the University of Minnesota system.

For more information about Nevada and poetry, please use the link:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Retired Oracle

Retired Oracle

Even oracles retire, weary of working
for the future, fed up with telling the truth,
a nasty business. The job-titles embarrass:
soothsayer, psychic, fortune-teller, card-reader,
prophet, futurist, wizard.
Leaving the cave,

cubicle, or sound-stage for the last time,
the oracle welcomes a future of telling lies,
claiming ignorance, and getting things wrong.
"Things wrong": what a laugh, thinks the oracle--
things are either wrong or going there. That's

the truth. Some people need an oracle to tell them
so. Home at last, the oracle dreams of reading history,
for who can predict the past? Books on shelves
promise to tell the truth. The oracle looks
at the volumes and needs to believe them.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sonnet In A Bar

Sonnet In A Bar

I sat beside a sonnet in a bar.
The sonnet looked done in. I bought a round.
The sonnet sipped its rye and said, "Too far.
"I've come too far and lived too long. The sound
Of iambs thumping drives me mad.
And yet if someone called me up on stage,
I'd sing the syllables, and I'd look glad."
"What must a sonnet be?" I asked. "A page,"
The sonnet said, "a one-page hunk of verse.
If you're a poet, then I'm going to scream."
I bought another round. "It is a curse
To be a lyric-form that people deem
Enduring but others try to kill for good.
And--oh: the rhyme I think you'll want is "hood."

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Critic: A Poem


She prefers poetry that arrives already branded
with authority, stamped with approval. Literature
is her business, and business abhors an accident,
such as a wilderness crying in a voice, or
a great poem left anonymously on someone's doorstep.
Anthologies aren't orphanages, she thinks; they're
consolidations, portable museums. In

photographs of her, bookshelves rise behind her
like battalions, she will not smile, and she looks
ready to retaliate with one swift blow
of erudition should you express an opinion. Her
criticism is like cold storage. It isn't poetry.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eberhart's "The Groundhog" Read

Here is a link to a nice reading, by one Tom O'Bedlam of Youtube's Spoken Verses Channel, of Richard Eberhart's "The Groundhog":

I got lucky and was able to see/hear Eberhart read at U.C. Davis in the late 1970s. The venue was a large science-classroom in which the theater-like rows of seats rose steeply. I sat toward the back, so I was looking down on Eberhart even as I looked up to him as a poet. He was an exceedingly cheerful gentleman that day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Poets Born in Mississippi

In grammar school, in California, we used to spell "Mississippi" out loud and very quickly, so that it became a song. I gather the ideas was to make the quasi-song a mnemonic device. Em-eye-ESS-ess-EYE-ess-ess-EYE-p-p-EYE.

What poets were born in Mississippi? I'm glad you asked.

Among them are . . .

Al Young
Brooks Haxton
Etheridge Knight
G.E. Patterson
Natasha Trethewey

Follow the link to more information about Mississippi and poetry:

Poet Kofi Anyidoho Reading

Here is a link to a Youtube video of poet Kofi Anyidoho:

Anyidoho is a Ghanaian poet and also a professor of literature at the University of Ghana. His books include Ancestral Logic and Caribbean Blues (1992).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blacking Out In Florida

Blacking Out In Florida

"Utility to Pay $25 Million For Blackout in Florida"
--New York Times, October 9, 2009, p. A-15

I read of "a record penalty
for violating the rules of the electricity
grid" and think of the vast distance
between me and my society because
I don't know what the rules
of the electricity grid are,
what they stand for, who made them,
who the Grid-Enforcers are, and what
the phrase "substantial, wide-ranging
and specific reliability enhancement
measures" means, for the phrase is
insubstantial, diffuse, general,
un-enhanced, unreliable, and
unmeasurable. Also, I think $25
million dollars are too much to pay
just to black out in Florida, and what
is the utility, I must ask, of blacking
out in that particular state?

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Poets Born In Ohio

There certainly are a lot of poets who were born in Ohio, among them . . .

Rita Dove
Hart Crane
Richard Howard (his book of criticism, Alone With America, is a favorite of mine)
Kenneth Koch (inventive, funny poet; his send-up of W.C. Williams' "This Is Just To Say" is hilarious)
Mary Oliver (American Primitive is my favorite book of hers)
David Wagoner (prolific poet, former editor of Poetry Northwest)
Jill Bialosky

For a longer list, please follow the link:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Labor Breaks You

Labor Breaks

Labor breaks you. When you're young,
you roll through it, your muscles
and bones handling any kind of shit
labor throws your way. Labor stays
young forever while you age, though.

It laughs with you when you're young,
sure. It hits the bars and runs around
town watching you go after what you think
you want. It gets you up in the morning after
nearly no sleep--no problem, you're young.

Then one day you're not young and labor
hasn't aged a day, and it grins and shrugs
as if to say, "Nothing personal," and it
starts to hit you with the tools of your trade,
and you know then the work you do will break you.

Copyright 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ten Recommended Canadian Poets

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), on which I watch news from Vancouver and CFL football, bravely and/or blithely provided its list of top ten (living) Canadian poets a while ago. One can only imagine the cacophony of questions and exclamations such a list engendered. Actually, one cannot only imagine because there are 27 comments on the story, to be found at . . .

What are the criteria? Whose list? How can you leave off [ ]? And so forth.

With the cacophony and caveats in mind, then, here's the list (one point being . . . read some poems by these writers if you haven't already):

Don McKay
Ken Babstock
Mary Dalton
Dionne Brand
Don Domanski
David McGimsey
Skydancer Louise Bernice Halfe
Jeremy Dodds
Erin Moure [accent on the last e]
Sheri-D Wilson

Thanks for the list, CBC.

Poets Born in Pennsylvania

What poets were born in Pennsylvania? I'm glad you asked. My answer will be most incomplete, but it's a start. In no particular order . . . :

Gerald Stern
Robin Becker
J.D. McClatchy
Karen J. Weyant, also known
in the blogo-sphere as The Scrapper Poet
(see link at right)

W.D. Snodgrass
H.D. [Hilda Doolittle]
W.S. Di Piero
Wallace Stevens
Julia Kasdorf
Ron Silliman

Here is a link to more information about Pennsylvania, poetry, and poets:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Nelson Mandela's Favorite Folktales

We are entering a variety of annual gift-bestowing days ahead, and I ran across a book written for children ages 9-12 (and thus for adults of any age) that might serve well as a literary gift. It is . . .

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007), illustrated.

Unamused By Autumn

Unamused by Autumn

I don't like Fall, which poets
call "Autumn," anymore. Enough
with the leaves already. Fall's
a short road from Summer to Winter.

In the U.S., the autumnal holidays
have seen better ways: Children
trick-or-treating need body-guards
to protect them from real monsters,
and at Thanksgiving, highways
and airports congeal like cold gravy.

People called hunters shoot
lots of animals in Fall. I'm not
sure how sporting it is anymore,
what with the laser-sights, the
scopes more refined than Galileo's.
Concussions occur in football games

while spectators text-message
people on other continents. Like
a leaf, the letter n would fall
off autumn if it weren't for
the florid adjective, autumnal,
which never made me laugh.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, October 1, 2009

James Brown, Luciano Pavarotti, and Globalization

"Globalization" sounds nice, but I'm not confident about defining it, except to allude to the fact that everything human is even more connected than it used to be, but that's pretty weak.

I did, however, find a blessed, campy, surreal, and wonderful product of globalization: James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti singing together on stage. Of course, there is the customary problem of any "popular" performer singing with Pavarotti. The latter's voice hits the former's like a tsunami hitting a pond. Nonetheless, Brown hangs in there with a great deal of funk, soul, and charm, and the violinists even get down with their bad selves. Here is a link to a Youtube video of the event: