Monday, October 4, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The argument could be made that Americans work way too much. The term workaholic is more often complimentary than pejorative. Countless people I know sleep with their blackberries on their nightstands, or on the pillow beside them in place of partners, and are trained to wake at the sound of the little machine vibrating. That is, if they sleep at all, if they are not already awake shooting off e-mails, preparing for the day that is just a few hours away. The average vacation for those lucky enough to enjoy the luxury of vacation time is two weeks. Much of that time is often spent on calls to the office to check in on how affairs are going. All of this could be used to illustrate that Americans are too busy chasing the almighty dollar to take the time to enjoy life, or to rest and recuperate the energy burned in the chase. I think that in some cases this is definitely the case. When I was working in a publicly traded company, I knew that the lifestyle of many in that company was not for me at all. The ones who were not nearing burnout, though, seemed to thrive off the fast pace of the business. They enjoyed fighting with their numbers, which they dutifully tracked in countless interlocked spreadsheets that got bumped up to the corporate office seemingly every second.
That’s one extreme. The other extreme is a culture that takes frequent holidays, with many if not most workers getting the day off to celebrate. The majority of businesses in any given town will close for the entire day. It’s difficult to keep up with if you’re not used to the rhythm. Every other month I get a surprise holiday. When I am busy trying to keep my classes on or ahead of schedule, the word holiday turns into a curse. “Another F—ing holiday, great, behind again…”
Now that the World Cup is on, employers all over the city are being challenged to cope with a dwindled workforce any time Brazil plays a game. Most of them just close shop for the day and take part in the festivities—if you can’t beat them, join them. It’s not as if they will see a surge in customers or clientele on a game day anyway, unless they own a bar or restaurant. Ask someone to keep an appointment on a game day, and you risk a look of scorn that will turn your blood cold. I never encountered this in Boston—it was understood that if you shirked work to watch the Sox play, you could take the next day off, and the day after, and the day after….
So, that’s the culture here in my city. Like everything, it has its pros and cons. I do enjoy the extra time off now and then. One of my main reasons for moving here was more time to read, write, and study. On the other hand, it’s frustrating when I need something from a store, but find it closed due to a soccer match. I guess it doesn’t help that I have never cared for sports (admitting that to anyone around here raises a cry—yes, an actual cry—of disbelief). It’s all about perspective.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
But enough about my "special" day. It is this day every year that we also celebrate the birth of Walt Whitman, a poet I discovered in high school and one I keep revisiting.
Also celebrating his birthday today is Clint Eastwood, another American treasure if you ask me.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
I am reminded of the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, a flick I flat-out hated. I had seen so much potential in the concept only to be disappointed by a more-or-less conventional rock and roll story, more of the same drugs and broken relationships. It was more or less the same movie that Walk the Line had been. I realized that everything I liked about Dylan and Cash was in the music, and the personae that came through the songs. I don't care to know much about their personal lives.
All of that to preface a few comments on the writing life.
I recently threw in my two cents in a discussion on Facebook concerning editors' requests for re-writes. I think that fiction writers get these a lot more often than poets, but I have had a couple in my day. They were minor requests to fix little bumps in the meter or to tone down an overly sentimental line here or there. In each case the poem was made stronger, and I was grateful for the careful editorial attention. Others in the discussion treated the issue as deplorable, as high and mighty editors believing they know more than the writer. I can see how this must be true in some cases. But I think it should be taken on a case-by-case basis. I'm not so great that I can't take a bit of advice or a suggestion from an editor devoted to putting out the best work, and patient enough to help me get my own work there.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
It is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas, to present the tragic and all the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky bacon. The hero sinks upon his straw bed, weighed down by fetters and misfortunes; in the next scene, his faithful but unconscious squire regales the audience with a comic song.
After more illustrations from the stage, Dickens give us this summation:
Such changes appear absurd; but they are not so unnatural as they would seem at first sight. The transitions in real life from well-spread boards to death-beds, and from mourning-weeds to holiday garments, are not a whit less startling; only, there we are busy actors, instead of passive lookers-on, which makes a vast difference.
The last two weeks for me have been one lean side of bacon, dominated more by the red of wrath than the softness of fat. I really am taken by Dickens' metaphor, probably because I am the son of a butcher. It also calls to mind greasy x-bacon sandwiches (pronounced sheez-baycone) I enjoyed in Arcoverde, filled with slabs of bacon thick as pork chops which I know have taken off five years of my life (oh, but it was worth it). There you have it--the salty, fatty, triglyceride-ridden savor of junk food and the quiet accumulation of platelets in the aorta. The red and the white.
But let's put away my frustrations as they really have no bearing on what I'd like to address on this blog.
I was thinking of writing a short note about Miller Williams, James Whitehead, and other poets of that generation that are either from the same area (the Arkansas MFA program) or who share generational and aesthetic ties (the late George Garrett, whose poetry and short fiction I became more acquainted with on vacation in December, comes immediately to mind). Alas, my prime example as critic is neither Eliot, nor Adorno, but Popeye the sailor man. That is to say, "I yam what I yam, I likes what I likes." In other words, I'm not much of a critic, or at least don't consider myself as such and have not exercised the muscles involved. I intend to change that one day, but that day is not today. I don't want that to stop me, however, from pointing interested readers in the direction of writers who deserve attention.
I was thrilled to see Leon Stokesbury featured on Brian Brodeur's How a Poem Happens. Mr. Stokesbury has edited a wonderful anthology of southern poets entitled The Made Thing. It is not to be missed. It's a comprehensive overview and a strong introduction to Southern American poetry of the last half of the twentieth century. Oops, that's me trying to play cricket. More important than the qualifiers "comprehensive," "definitive," "good introduction" is "damn good read," and that's this book.
So, getting back to Miller Williams. He's certainly had a good career, one of his many honors being one among the chosen few to read at an inaugural address for a U.S. president (Clinton). Few may remember that Billy Collins was in effect discovered by Miller Williams, and they seem to share an affinity for intellectual wit and a strict avoidence of obscurity. Williams avoids the pitfalls that have probably made Collins the more famous (if I were so inclined, I'd count how many times Collins refers to "the heart" in his work--it's his sugary signature). Williams excels at dramatic monologue -- I would say that his poem "Ruby Tells All" stands up with the best in the form in English poetry.
Williams came to mind as I was reading David Mason's review of the late Michael Donaghy's collected prose and poems in the latest Dark Horse (and happily available online). Mason laments the lack of word regarding Donaghy in the States, and I share his regret. And, again as Mason points out, Donaghy was a master of the dramatic voice, resulting in some fine dramatic monologues. And I thought about Williams, little spoken of outside of the Fayetville crowd these days (although his last book was reviewed in the New York Times, so he's not exactly wallowing in neglect), and his entertaining, moving, and stimulating dramatic poems. Some of the most-read and read-again volumes in my poetry collection are Williams' Selected Poems and Donaghy's collections.
Speaking of Williams, again, it was nice to read a review of his latest book as part of the editorial for the newest Unsplendid. Editor Douglas Basford pulls no punches, and I think the result is a good assessment of the poet's strengths and weaknesses. He gives the red and the white of it, so to speak.
As you're enjoying the rest of that issue of Unsplendid, don't miss my little offering, "Sparkles from the Wheel," which steals its title and dominant image from a poem by Whitman.