Birthing…

I forgot about this kick-ass picture Jennifer Firestone and I posed for some year or so ago (Well, mostly she’s kick ass and daring while I ride her coattails here!). That is, I forgot until I got word of her new book, HOLIDAY. Then, I thought that celebrating this book would also be a means to showcase the above.

But don’t let the photo override Firestone’s new bliss! Eileen Myles writes,

“Jennifer Firestone’s Holiday makes big sense to me. It make me think largely about why I like anyone’s writing – and sometimes it’s as simple as this: I like its physicality. I like its jumps. Holiday is extremely private, extremely active. It’s notebooky in the best sense of the word because I feel privileged to get these fractured views of how Jennifer Firestone moves around the world. Her style at times is telegraphic (and insatiable) like Ginsberg. Let me say Gail Scott and Ginsberg. Also why do we bother reading. Why do we want to trail around in anyone’s else’s mind at all. Jennifer asks:

‘Is it worth
going down these steps
are the bottom rooms worth it?’

I say yeah. Enthusiastically yes.”
—Eileen Myles

I’d say she’s right on the money, and here’s a poem to further tempt you to it:

OR

Away it is creeping to find out what to do

It tunnels to a home that burns at the tip

Art barely gave

Sand was vast

All vacations fused

Red flags disappeared

There was wheat and fog

–Jennifer Firestone, HOLIDAY

Pronouncing “Louis”

Louis Armstrong

My genius friend and jazz scholar, among other things, Michael Steinman, first taught me that “Louie” was a publicly-assigned nickname and that the legend actually went by LouiS.  I’m guessing scholars will catch up.

And now Mr. Steinman has a blog by which he will inform us all of the happenings in New York City’s jazz world, along with those of a few other locales when he travels.  Please visit Jazz Lives if you’ve ever cared for the world of jazz.

Where’s the Mommy?

A Few Things I Learned During My Stay in the Hospital

1. Though I was in a “good” hospital, the industry, in all forms, aggressively seeks ways to cut corners for profit. The worst manifestation of these “ethics” include under-staffing. This made for decent-but-frustrated nurses and not enough support staff for patients. I have an anecdote about my 92-year-old roommate that involves her sitting on a commode with her back bare for 45 minutes during the day last Saturday, which is only one miserable example of what I witness (and tried to call attention to). Don’t get me wrong – the staff is quite willing but simply overstretched.

2. Many doctors examined and tested me, including an endocrinologist, neurologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, as well as a doctor who “oversaw” the search for a diagnosis. The ultimate lesson I learned is an old adage, “One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.” I advocated for myself, made sure records and results were reported to each, scheduled tests, etc, but still, I seemed to be of no interest when my results proved nothing noteworthy to each single doc. One neurologist jokingly put it best, “Your MRI and neck scan are remarkably unremarkable. We would have liked you to provide us with something of interest.” And they vanished into the ether.

3. The ultimate lesson to be gleaned from number two is that getting old must be very scary with this health care industry “looking” after you. I met with much resistance when advocating for myself. The preferred patient involvement is none. Zilch. Passivity. Unquestioning. Gratitude wasn’t even expected.

I had four roommates throughout my stay (one at a time), all who were over the age of 70. Their doctors came in and spoke with each, on average, for about thirty seconds. The last one was a retired nurse. I imagined she would at least, out of respect as a fellow practitioner in the field, be treated more considerately by her primary physician. In fact, she received the worst attention I witnessed. Her doctor left after a fifteen second ramble spoken well below her hearing level, and she told me how scared and confused she was. She explained that in his office he tells more dirty jokes than dealing with her health. She explained that she would prefer to go home and die with her family than to die in the hospital after a visit like that. She was, not so incidentally, an intelligent woman who had immigrated from Denmark in her twenties and spent her life attending others. She just happens to be “old” and a little hard of hearing.

Many of the elderly were infantilized by the docs while the nurses and PCAs tried desperately to make up for those dismissals. For health care providers, it must get very depressing to be stretched thin by duties while trying to attend to the human and emotional needs of each patient — and ultimately to find that you simply don’t have time to do so.

4. My worst experience with a doctor during my stay was with the endocrinologist on my first night of admission. I greeted him with, “Yay, the man of the hour!” because my doctor and an ER doc suggested that my symptoms may very well be caused by a hormonal issue. He responded, “I really don’t know why I’ve been referred to you.” Though he was looking at my chart, I explained my recent six-week bout, included all symptoms, and told him of my doc’s imminent referral to his branch of medicine. Again, he countered, “Well, I don’t know what question I’m supposed to be answering.” I couldn’t believe the blatant resistance. I asked, “Why do you think my doctor would believe my symptoms to be hormonal in origin?” Instead of actually analyzing my symptoms and speculating how they could relate, the bastard argued, “I really can’t imagine why another doctor reaches the conclusions she does. I can’t get into her head.” “Doctor, it sounds like you’re really not interested in helping me.” At that, he mumbled something about running a blood test to check my cortisol levels as he walked away. Literally. No exaggeration. I never saw him again. His resident popped in on the last day as I was packing to leave, much to my amazement. He was nice but powerless. After hearing of my disdain for his supervisor, he assumed I would not want to see the man again as an outpatient. He laughed as words like “prick” and “worst bedside manner” and “needs another profession” bubbled up from the depths.

5. A person really figures out and finds out who their friends are while whiling away the hours in a bed for days on end. Many thanks to those of you who called, visited, sent love and concern, covered my classes, helped find people to cover my classes, and just everyone I heard from. You’ve left an imprint and made the hours go by much more positively than imagined.

6. The Michael Moore film, Sicko, uses a few extreme cases to illustrate some of the health care industry’s problems. There are many more less dramatic revelations to be exposed that I have not touched on but got a glimpse of during my first-ever patient tenure in a hospital. I can’t begin to imagine the toll the system takes on those who don’t have money and can’t get top-shelf care.

7. I have the best gynecologist in the world. My issues are not gyn-related at all, and yet, one day during my hospital stay I received a phone call, “This is Diane from Dr. Gomes’ office. Do you have a few minutes to speak with Dr. Gomes?” “Um, yes…” He got on the phone during his business hours, asked to hear and listened thoroughly to my six-week history. He then asked specific questions about what precipitated what, how that symptom manifested at this or that point, etc. In other words, he listened. He then advised me to aggressively advocate for certain tests, to be careful if something I was being told didn’t sound right, etc.

This is a man who, during office visits, sits in his office with you — beyond the scope of simply doing an exam — and talks with you about your well-being and uses other words like “holistic” and “systemic health”. He does not sell unnecessary procedures and, just incredibly, spends time with each patient. I’ve never waited to see him when I arrive on time for an appointment, he has tons of support staff, he invests in advanced equipment (I was one of the first to get a three-D sonogram of my uterus), and most importantly, he does not seem in a hurry to rush a soul out of his office. He answers questions and isn’t running a gynecological-mill to fund his third or fourth house or to get back to another round on the most exclusive golf course in Long Island. Perhaps he seems too good to be true, but to date, he keeps proving himself angelic-like, above and beyond the call of duty. Looking for a gyn? Go to Dr. John Gomes.

6. While staying on the cardiac ward, one can only sneak cell phone pics in the bathroom as cellular waves are banned due to cardiac machines and their frequencies. I was careful and only got the one below off. Enjoy!

By the way, my Baltimore pal, Aimee Darrow, has a much more “rewarding” post about her recent hospital stay over on Caffeine Diary, and Geof Huth has a much scarier or graphic account over at dpap: visualizing poetics.

Stellar Audio of Megan Volpert, Deborah Poe, & Laura Mullen

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For some excellent poetry readings, perk up your ears here:

Deborah Poe – http://odeo.com/audio/17981583/view

Megan A. Volpert – http://odeo.com/audio/17981433/view

Laura Mullen – http://odeo.com/audio/17981483/view

Enjoy!

Gertrude Stein’s Biographical Body: More Than Remains

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Gertrude Stein’s Biographical Body:  More Than Remains

by

Amy King

The test of a “politics of poetry” is in the entry of poetry in the world in a political way.

                        –Barret Watten, “The Conduit of Communication in Everyday Life”

 

As I say all novels are soothing because they make anything happen as they can happen that is by remembering anything.  But and I kept wondering as I talked and listened all at once, I wondered is there any way of making what I know come out as I know it, come out as not remembering.  I found this very exciting.  And I began to make portraits. 

                        –Gertrude Stein, “Portraits and Repetition”

 

            “She has always made her chief study people” (TAAT, 45), and ultimately, transgressed the genre formalization that depicts people within standard biographical terms.  Gertrude Stein divined her own methods for presenting her impressions of others.  Within an increasingly industrialized culture, she considered the attempted representation of people to be a production of personas that risked a formulaic confinement.  Stein’s acute awareness of assembly line manufacturing spurred her to work against the commodification of language – and make language her own, more than ever.  That commodification continues to limit the activity of how we identify and label individuals, so that our pre-packaged culture dispenses rigid versions of people or “types,” thus belying the possibilities language can inspire.  Beyond the obvious cardboard cut-outs of “right” versus “left”, another result of such characterization practices can be seen through the popular trend in memoirs and biographical works.  These books perpetuate the mythos of America:  pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps, overcoming odds, etc. as if there were no other noteworthy ways of living to admire. 

           These “rememberances” at base evidence a historicizing condition.  Someone is remembered within the context of certain circumstances, achieving particular goals, etc.  Additionally, such recollection assumes the rubric of proper grammar and syntax as a prerequisite for comprehension.  The static popular use of words served as “soothing rememberances” for eased consumption.  For Stein and others now, it is the equivalent of being spoon-fed prescriptive paths for life.  Her own biographical notes illustrate her resistance toward the “easy road.”  Stein’s various portraits and biographical pieces ignored grammatical laws and brought language into focus, while bearing no regard for soothing or instructing audiences by example, and thus, her work confounds the commodifying impulse and elevates the “text-as-object” condition.  Industrialized production would lay down for writers the dictates that disguise the materialism of language and obliterate the need for people to actively handle words via their imaginations, and thus, their own emotional predilections.  Readers seek to know the meaning of the story, rather than working with the text-at-hand, infusing, constructing, and enacting meaning  as a collaborative effort, as an action.  Consider the old metaphor of selling a house:  the realtor finds it easier to sell a house under the mythology of “how many good, familial times will be had” through the obtainment of the product, rather than on the actual design or by speculating on the unglossed potentialities of what may happen once you’ve moved in.  Likewise, words were just vehicles, a product meant to deliver an end result, until Stein’s concern with their presence caused unrest among the critics. 

            Comprehension, as based on common grammar and artifice, Stein felt, makes “all novels soothing” because it simply familiarizes the way language is used.  This familiarization produces the desired, prescriptive result.  For the conditioned reader, the stories delivered may resemble the meat of life; they can be the tales that reveal life’s lessons, titillate or make us cry.  However, that conventional writing style does not identify some essential truth ready for us to learn and live by.  Rather, it anticipates a common readerly response and attempts, through rule abeyance and manipulation, to deliver the anticipated story-lesson.  Stein undertook the development of a different science, one that did not divide the intellect from the emotion of the individual.  Wisdom was not to be limited to the reader’s “correct” understanding of the lesson therein.  The molecular structure of the sentence did not belong to a literary science of naturalization but came under the determinations of the individual scientist, philosopher, and person to test their own hypotheses, according to instinct, whim, and whatever other personal calculations might come into play.  In Stein’s work, words were not stand-ins for other realities.  The lines and phonemes became tangible realities themselves.

[To be continued]

 

Never a More Generous Man

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Never a more generous man have I met than poet and friend, Matthew Rotando. I take great pleasure in singing the praises of his first book of poems, THE COMEBACK’S EXOSKELETON. I wish you could all know him too, as you will find that once you fall in love with this collection, you will long to meet the person who has such zest for life as well as an eye not afraid to behold our evils. It’s really a lovely collection — and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been waiting for years for it to appear. You should throw caution to the wind and take up this EXOSKELETON! Discover how well dresses up your own worldview!

What others are saying:

Incorporating the density of Spanish surrealism and a sprawling Whitmanesque line, this amazing first book finds Rotando engaged in a poetic biathlon which draws equally from maximal and minimal traditions. There are tight, economical poems, free verse forms derived from the sonnet, poems leaping about the page, but my favorites are the wonderful prose poems tumbling over and under themselves toward gnomish statements that feel both didactic and self-parodying. –Tim Peterson, from the Foreword

The rich, exultant writing in Matthew Rotando’s first collection is both comic and cosmic. Lyrics steeped in the Latin American literary tradition disclose what might be called the surreality of reality in contemporary American culture, while cadences of Stein and Barthelme make the prose poems in The Comeback’s Exoskeleton ring with laughter of great philosophical depth. This is a writer unafraid to love and to err, and to do so with irrepressible grace and humour. To read such unapologetically joyous work is a tonic for melancholy and a prescription for wonder. –Srikanth Reddy, Facts for Visitors
And a few short poems from the collection, though there are many longer ones to gleefully sink into:

THE OCTOPUS MAN, TO HIS SON

 

Son, watch the way the eaves bend when you breathe.

They move the way a star would

If you could corral water into spheres.

 

Shadows play in the paint under the floor:

Tentacular spirits!

They will hold your cages and laboratory equipment.

 

Your time as a human is near at hand;

I am repealing all the old regulations

Regarding prostrations and guttural pronouncements.

 

There will be things called Souvenir Shops;

Bring back an “I ♥ Mt. Rushmore” keychain for your mother.

 

~~

 

TOM DEVANEY, LON CHANEY

 

I snave this heaking suspicion

That the poung yoet, Tom Devaney,

Is really the mold oviestar, Lon Chaney.

If lou yisten to the way they laugh,

Or notice their hartling, storror movie eyes,

You’ll sefinitely dee

That they’re both obvious dasters of misguise.

 

 

AMY, I’M GOING TO CALL YOU THE TROUBLE GIRL

 

I like trouble. I like to shoot watermelon seeds at passing barges. I wanna

put Elmer’s Glue in your hair and make it stick straight up. I wanna go

down to the docks and kick some ass! Your shoes small like skunk. And

so do mine. If we were lizards, I bet we would both be geckoes with

sticky round fingers. A friend is someone who decides to find you out.

Let’s have a broken bottle party! A Chinese dude, Shih-Wu, said, “Pine

trees and strange rocks remain unknown to those who look for mind

with mind.” So let’s not bother. Let’s just walk arm in arm through a

crumbling metropolis, clacking castanets.

 

–From THE COMEBACK’S EXOSKELETON by Matthew Rotando

 

 

In the mood for one more? Try this one, complete with a nearly naked pic!

☻☺☻☺☻☺

Daisy Fried’s Poetry Exercises

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Daisy Fried on Poetry:

* I’ve never found an explanation for why poetry, apparently alone among the art forms, is asked to do more than be itself.

* But poetry’s the High Art which is also democratic: inexpensive, portable, reproducible, quickly consumed (except for epic and very difficult poetry), requiring only literacy to participate. So maybe it’s good that poetry carries this extra burden, even if it means that the idea of poetry is more necessary to people than individual poems, and that people tend not to pay attention to what’s happening on the page. But this doesn’t explain why the superfluous demands are often made by educated poetry experts. I doubt most poets, good and bad, political or not, put these demands on their own work. Why should we make them of poetry in general?

* Words matter. Use is not function. War and Peace makes an excellent paperweight; I’ve used it that way myself, after reading it. The function of War and Peace is greater than its many uses. So too poetry. Bad poems are often more useful for healing, persuasion, and celebration than good ones. They lack that rich ambiguity which Keats called negative capability, and so fail as poems. Take, for example, bad 9/11 poems, at which I do “sniff the air.” There are good 9/11 poems. The degraded Romanticism of the mass of bad ones often amounts to decorative displays of the poet’s own sensibility. Such displays may be emotionally or politically useful, but who needs them? They seem to claim authenticity for individual experiences derived from watching TV—and fail to ask the question, why do these people want to kill us? Good 9/11 poems sustain the possibility that America was both victim and guilty. I believe 9/11 solace poetry has given support, however indirectly and unintentionally, to the Bush administration. Solace poetry is to serious poetry as pornography is to serious art. Sex pornography has its uses, even positive ones, but nobody confuses it with serious art about love. The difference between solace porn and sex porn is that solace pornographers seldom seem aware that they’re making pornography. Shame on them.* Poetry matters. Great poems don’t always fit categories of usage: Martial’s hilariously filthy invectives, Dickinson’s apolitical lyrics, and, despite their stupid fascism, Pound’s Cantos, all function as great poetry. Meanwhile, the four of us write poems. We might begin by intending to be merely useful (I never have). But at some point the poem takes over, makes requirements of us instead of vice versa. That’s the moment of poetry; poems exist to let readers share in that moment. So our focus on mere use strikes me as odd: is this really all we know about our poems? Why exclude ourselves from our own readership?

* Enjoyment matters. Poetry is fun! I mean this seriously. In “Lapis Lazuli,” Yeats insists on the gaiety of human existence alongside its tragedy. Yes, there is terrible suffering; we are all going to die. And when, on the carved lapis lazuli, a man “asks for mournful melodies;/Accomplished fingers begin to play;/…their eyes,/Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.” The gaiety of great poetry reinforces and deepens our humanity. That’s personal—and therefore social. Forget that, and we forget poetry’s true function.

–from “Does Poetry Have a Social Function” @ The Poetry Foundation

Listen in on a conversation I had with Daisy Fried HERE: powered by ODEO

A POEM A DAY BY DAISY FRIED

1. Write a ten-line poem in which each line is a lie.

2. Write a poem that tells a story in 18 lines or less, and includes at least four proper nouns.

3. Write a poem that uses any of the senses EXCEPT SIGHT as its predominant imagery.

4. Write a poem inspired by a newspaper article you read this week.

5. Write a poem without adjectives.

6. Ask your roommate/neighbor/lover/friend/mother/anyone for a subject (as wild as they want to make it) for a ten-minute poem. Now write a poem about that subject in ten minutes; make it have a beginning, a middle and an end.

7. Write the worst poem you possibly can. Now edit it and make it even worse.

8. Poem subject: A wind blows something down. Or else it doesn’t. Write it in ten minutes.

9. Write a poem with each line, or at least many of the lines, filling in the blanks of “I used to________, but now I_________.”

11. Write a poem consisting entirely of things you’d like to say, but never would, to a parent, lover, sibling, child, teacher, roommate, best

friend, mayor, president, corporate CEO, etc.

12. Write a poem that uses as a starting point a conversation you overheard.

13. First line of today’s poem: “This is not a poem, but…”

14. Write a poem in the form of either a letter or a speech which uses at least six of the following words: horses, “no, duh,” adolescent, autumn

leaves, necklace, lamb chop, Tikrit, country rock, mother, scamper, zap, bankrupt. Take no more than 13 minutes to write it.

15. Write a poem which includes a list or lists-shopping list, things to do, lists of flowers or rocks, lists of colors, inventory lists,

lists of events, lists of names…

16. Poem subject: A person runs where no running is allowed. Write it in ten minutes.

17. Write a poem in the form of a personal ad.

18. Write a poem made up entirely of questions. Or write a poem made up entirely of directions.

19. Write a poem about the first time you did something.

20. Write a poem about falling out of love.

21. Make up a secret. Then write a poem about it. Or ask someone to give you a made-up or real secret, and write a poem about it.

22. Write a poem about a bird you don’t know the name of.

23. Write a hate poem.

24. Free-write for, say, 15 minutes, but start with the phrase “In the kitchen” and every time you get stuck, repeat the phrase “In the

kitchen.” Alternatively, use any part of a house you have lots of associations with-“In the garage,” “In the basement,” “In the bathroom,” “In the yard.”

25. Write down 5-10 words that sound ugly to you. Use them in a poem.

26. Write a poem in which a motorcycle and a ballerina appear.

27. Write a poem out of the worst part of your character.

28. Write a poem that involves modern technology-voice mail, or instant messaging, or video games, or… 29. Write a seduction poem in which somebody seduces you.

30. Radically revise a poem you wrote earlier this month.