Friday, March 30, 2012

"Pronouns," by Dunya Mikhail

Red: A Book: 82. Lois And The Greatness of American Poetry

Red: A Book: 82. Lois And The Greatness of American Poetry: Lois read where some noted assessor of poetry had opined that American poetry was in danger of losing its "greatness.' She was relieved to ...

Red: A Book: 188. Meatloaf Writers Conference

Red: A Book: 188. Meatloaf Writers Conference: At the Meatloaf Writers Conference, famous authors call each other by nicknames and speak in complacent ironies. A homeless man sneaks int...

Red: A Book: 139. She Was Just Out of the Bath

Red: A Book: 139. She Was Just Out of the Bath: Not long out of the bath, she wore a robe. She sat back in their favorite chair, expansive and plush, and he sat on the floor, painting her ...

Red: A Book: 136. Hiram Muses Priapically

Red: A Book: 136. Hiram Muses Priapically: Hiram found himself moved to muse on his phallus. He, too, thought the subject tedious, and yet there he was, musing on it. Hiram's cock h...

On the Death of Icons

 for C.M

The ones who helped to stitch together
the fabric of your world--
maybe they sang and strummed,
played games professionally,
acted, stood in the hell of politics
speaking of heaven, wrote a poem
or book you fell into, or by some other
means told you who you were and
weren't.  When another one of these goes

over the falls that drop into no pool forever,
you find yourself in a narrow canyon, all
alone, as bewildered as a child, increasingly
indifferent to the path that leads
you out of there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Wind's Bride," by Heinz Piontek

Emily Dickinson on Twitter

I'll leave it to
my forest friends
to tweet --
mellifluent --
and brief --
and often sweet.

Their message
stays the same --
"We are! We are!"
They travel here --
each spring --
from very far.

Of PC -- of Mac --
of Twitter account --
they have no need.
Just throat --
and beak -- and tiny
tongue for reed.

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

To the Makery

Got to get me down
to the makery
to make something,

something to serve
as an antidote
and a spirit-tote,
to act as a counter-to
to all this fakery.

Got to stay hey
miles away from
that damned hatery,
where crowds go now
to get their menace on.
That's one muther of a
bad drug, hate.
It will kill you but sometimes
only after you
kill somebody else.

If you want, we can go
to the lakery. We can
visit with wise catfish,
cool down our bodies
and our souls, get away from
the most of the everybody.
And after we're cool,
we can get down
to the makery.

Copyright 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"A Couple," by May Swenson

Men Suffering A Drop-Off

By Hans Ostrom

 “Something is happening to men—their penises are falling off.”   That’s the first line from a synopsis of my new novel, Without One, which is available inexpensively on Kindle, free to Kindle Prime members:

Link: Without One on Kindle 

The premise of the novel is that a strange new microbial plague strikes in the near future.  Although the microbe is a flesh-eater, it has a modest appetite.  It devours men’s penises but is self-limiting and stops there, leaving those affected healthy again but obviously not whole.   At any rate, the plague soon gets its own acronym: RAPIDS: RAPID PENILE DEGENERATION SYNDROME, and RAPIDS, as they say in Twitter-Land, is trending. 

When I started writing the novel, I didn’t think the premise was all that outlandish, given the history of satire.  Gulliver’s Travels does some wild things with the body, for example, and more particularly, the protagonist and narrator of Tristram Shandy has his own phallic issues.  I thought the comic, satiric, and farcical implications of such a premise would allow people to move quickly beyond certain gruesome images that might spring to mind, and as I constructed the plot, I kept the gory details to a minimum.

But I had a heck of a time getting agents and editors interested in the book.  One well-known agent who prides himself on being open to the most fantastical plots and premises wrote back and said, “Sorry—too much, even for me.”  A less well-known agent—another male—wrote that he couldn’t possibly represent the book because he had a morbid fear of castration.  My response, which I didn’t share with him, was, well, doesn’t that mean the book is marketable?  I didn’t see the novel as horror fiction, but horror fiction exploits people’s fears in a fictionally safe way, right?  

Now, however, I think I have more reason to indulge in the fantasy that Without One is a book whose time has arrived, and I have the GOP to thank.   They’re determined to politicize genitalia and sexuality. True, they focus exclusively on women’s private parts, not to mention their private rights.  Apparently nothing to do with female sexuality is sacred to them.  In a roundabout way, via the issue of gay marriage, they get around to male sexuality, but they are positively obsessed with controlling women’s bodies, in my opinion.

But if you’ll notice, they don’t touch the penis, so to speak.   If males want to buy contraception, they’re free to do so, without being forced to watch videos, have their penises undergo a sonogram, or tell their bosses why they’re buying condoms. (“Uh, we’re going to make water-balloons out of them.”) 
According to the GOP view, men are also free to impregnate a woman and then have her suffer all the consequences, have her choices about how to handle the pregnancy limited, and so on.  The GOP’s  logic concerning contraception—you’d think that, if they’re against abortion, they’d be for contraception—makes an Escher print look realistic. 

So it’s high time, I argue, imitating the self-serving logic of the GOP, that we had a novel that shifts the focus from women and puts it on the masculine member.
Without One follows an ensemble cast of sufferers, journalists, doctors, epidemiologists, evangelical preachers, activists, conspiracy-theorists as society struggles to come to grips, as it were, with RAPIDS, which has almost everyone reconsidering what it means to be a man if the man suffers a drop-off.   The tale goes all the way to Washington D.C., where it takes a detour around the wounded Washington Monument  and amble to the White House, where the president—one Luther De Long—has reason to suspect he’s been exposed to RAPIDS.  

Is he a Republican or a Democrat?  The novel doesn’t say—because RAPIDS doesn’t respect such boundaries.  Respect boundaries: what a concept.

Published by Congruent Angle Press, Without One is available for download to Kindle on

Hans Ostrom is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter.  With Michael Kerr, he co-wrote the script for the soon-to-be-filmed romantic thriller, “NAPA,” starring Rose McGowan, Sean Astin, and Kevin Pollack.  He teaches at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Wash.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Literary Agents Speak to the Novelists

* Although the writing is good, the characters strong, and the story compelling, I just didn't fall in love with the book.  Also, I'm dating another book right now.

* Given the market for fiction right now, I don't feel I can successfully represent this book.  Your book's like a little piggy that's not going to market!

* I found your characters to be one-dimensional like the paper they were written on.  I simply wasn't drawn into the story in a two-dimensional way. I used to study art. My favorite color is red. I went to Vassar. I live in Brooklyn.

* Thank you for the opportunity to read your novel. I don't feel I'm the best agent to represent it. I wish you much success. Being a writer, you must find some perverse appeal to this robotic kind of rejection.

* Thank you for your query.  Due to the overwhelming number of queries we receive, we are overwhelmed. Unfortunately, we represent a small number of established clients, as opposed to an established number of small clients. Wait--I mean "fortunately."  Therefore we must pass on the opportunity to represent you.  We are passing.

* I used to like reading novels. Now I hate it. I have lunch with famous writers. I hate that, too. My favorite novel was published in 1951. I still masturbate to it. Editors are insufferable.  New York is expensive, loud, crowded, and dirty. Help!

* You think Ingvold is an interesting character.  We don't. In fact, we had a good laugh when I read the sentences describing him out loud.  How can you stand to live on the West Coast? Isn't that almost China? Who names characters "Ingvold"? Ew.

* I'm afraid I lost interest in the book halfway through. I also lost the pages from the second half. Sorry.  Good luck!  I start drinking gin at noon every day.

* Your novel contains references to several different kinds of blades. I couldn't possibly represent it because I have a terrible fear of castration.

* I wasn't offended at all by your premise, unusual though it is. I just don't want to represent the book. I love being so picky! Ha, ha, ha!

* I've never heard of you. No one I know has heard of you. Where did you get your MFA?  Did you get an MFA? Who do you know? The novel may be good, but I don't have time to read it, and no one's ever heard of you. Are you in Witness Protection?  We represent celebrity novelists with multi-platform appeal that we can leverage. Am I getting through to you?

The Situation

even if you believe in a
divine ordering, you have to feel
the absurdity of our wee
ball-bearing, which spins
in a corner of infinity.
there's no way

to make sense of the situation,
so you just live in the situation
as you find it. i will not say God

isn't. how could i know that?
us and our "minds": ha!

this is one unfathomable
situation, this situation of
ours, for sure.

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

E.B.B.'s birthday

I hear it's Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday today.  Here's a link to a recording of her poem called "Love" (not the ultra-famous sonnet, by the way):


Monday, March 5, 2012

Literary Spat

A noted literary critic writing
a scathing review of a poetry anthology
edited by a noted poet does have
the sheen of a fresh gleaming
hound's turd--this much is true.

Also true is that review, critic,
poet, anthology, and opinions
about opinions will dessicate
as rapidly as the hound's deposit,

turn chalky white,
then go to fine dust,
which is then worked
into soil by water
from a noted rainstorm.

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Relatiionship Weather Report

Take a look at our radar map,
and you'll see that by tomorrow morning,
a low-pressure area will move in
over our relationship.

This could create some moisture
by mid-day, in the form of tears
and perspiration.  As we get further
into the week, the temperature

between us will drop, and by week's
end, we could be seeing an extreme-
relationship-warning. There is a 50%
chance of a break-up by Saturday,

so you'll want to dress 
appropriately. Please visit our
me-and-you-ologist's site for 
up-to-the-minute information. 

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

A Casino

A casino's like Heaven.
Everyone's from somewhere else
and they focus on metaphysics:
chance, fate, grace, fortune,
and suspension of time.

It is like Hell.
It accelerates desire,
distracts from rest.
Crowds circulate
zombically, and sounds
of jangling mocks music.
Theft jeers kindness.

A casino's like us,
who pretend to be callous,
corrupt, and daring,
but who lack sufficient 
guile (and funds), tire
easily, and need to go
to the bathroom.

It banishes subtlety.
We love it for that.
It is humorless,
puritanically crass.
We don't forgive it that.
It is life. I always wins
because it never gambles.

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom