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I think maybe painting can unlock you

"My mind is like a mosaic of rainbow-colored memories," says Angela Missoni, the Italian designer who is celebrating her 21st year as the creative director of the house her parents built in 1953." (From The New York Times Style Magazine, Sunday August 19, 2018, p. 116.)

I have begun sorting artists into two camps: those born before television and those born after: BT and AT. This kind of time-dependent divide might be as useful in determining artistic achievement and influence as the designations' BC and AD once were in separating the pagan from the spiritual.    

There's no industry that more blatantly blurs the distinction between art and commerce than high-fashion, though it's not as fun to look at as real art. What's interesting however is high-fashion's dependence on the magazine, a failing form of print media--one must turn 70 pages in the Times Style Magazine before reaching a table of contents, then another 20 or so pages to reach anything resembling editorial comment: one must thumb through ad after ad, often double-truck ad, and all in color. High-fashion of course is also dependent on another dying form of marketing communication--the Big Event, the runway shows, the debut of new seasonal lines, the models, the media courtside and being courted...

What's the point of it all? To celebrate clothes that won't be worn by real people, modeled by models whose names will be forgotten next season but whose tattoo's will remain (in a careful reading I counted 26 tattoos among the models featured in the print ads), a gesture, I suspect, of trying to curry a sense of normality regarding the featured fashion, as if to say 'these are real people' no matter that they're wearing unreal clothes.

What does fashion have to do with art? Next to nothing, but sometimes it's fun to look at it from a distance.

When I look at high-fashion in the Times Style Magazine I look at it from a distance. Soon, I want change my clothes, slip into a pair of old jeans torn to shreds on the knees, the black t-shirt I bought at an inn in Iceland, the $39 blue Uniqlo sweater, and get down on my hands and knees to start painting.

Painting, 2015, author's collection, on loan to private residence, Portland, Oregon.


Why do Republicans Hate Obamacare?

Proof that you can apply poetry to anything: for instance, if you make a long poem short does it necessarily ruin the poem? Or if you make a short poem long does it make it better?

The Thai restaurant last night on Florida St. near 18th! Who were those people eating blue rice? So noisy and young and rich. Where did they come from? How did they make their money? What potion was in those large bowls that they drank out of communally, sucking on long straws? And who were those people preparing the food in the kitchen, bringing it to the table, marching and banging drums and holding sparklers and bringing cake to parties in which a birthday was being celebrated.

Yesterday was Bad Poetry Day. I'd gone out to dinner to celebrate with friends at the aforementioned restaurant on the far side of town, leaving early so as not to be late. I arrived at the restaurant in plenty of time, overjoyed as there appeared to be lots of parking spaces. I soon realized however that there were signs prohibiting parking between the hours of ____ and ______ for a special event that was to take place in the nieghborhood. No wonder it looked as if there was plenty of parking! A  four block radius surrounding the restaurant was cordoned off. It was like living in The Presidio in the days of Obama when whole city blocks in Pacific Heights would be blocked off for hours every time Barack was in town for a fundraiser.

I finally found a parking place after a 20 minute search, by which time I was right on time for dinner.

Health care was not the subject at dinner, nor was poetry. I was the only known poet at the table, and my companions knew I was unknown, so we talked about other things. S___had a new Fitbit; his fiancee was reading Charles Eisenstein; they'd just returned from Paris where they'd gone to celebrate their engagement, which they both considered to be their honeymoon. I liked the sound of that, that they were doing things their own way. S____is a patent attorney, so the subject of intellectual property came to the table. Thomas Jefferson wrote some of the original US law involving patents, S____said. Someone else then said, I wonder what Jefferson would have made of Donald Trump?

Many things make no sense, and the more I think about many things the less sense they make. It seemed to me last night in San Francisco, driving home from the restaurant on Bad Poetry Day, that our recent national history is a big falling backwards to try to catch everything we think is owed us.

Letter from Wallace Stevens to Kenneth Patchen, 1941, responding to Patchen's request of Stevens that he underwrite the publication of a book of Patchen's poems, presaging Republican opposition to Obamacare, otherwise known as The Affordable Care Act. 


The torture of submission, the wreck of rejection: guest blog by Thomas Fuller

Yesterday: the sort of day I kept expecting to become darker and darker. The day in fact did not become darker and darker but lighter and lighter, so light in fact that I pushed myself away from the desk at 4 p.m.and went for a long walk around the neighborhood, gathering acrylics and water colors for my next painting.

This morning: the sort of day I weigh the words submission and rejection as they relate to the writer's situation in creating new work and getting it out into the world.

Could there be two crueller, misanthropic words? Two words more antithetical to the spirit of art than submission and rejection?  

I don't submit, do you? As to rejection, I prefer the personal form of self-rejection or rejection from my inner circle of advisors, those who love me enough to tell me the truth.

I make a practice of rejecting rejection slips whenever and wherever I find them. As to submissions, I submit that they're unnecessary to the strong writer whose work, once it's done, is always enough on its own.

I'm spending the rest of this day straightening accounts--my credit card's expired and everything I owe to the corporate giants, to whom I've submitted on automatic pay, has been cancelled overnight (Apple, Kaiser, Amazon The third, fourth and fifth worst words in the language are Password and User Name.

Then I'll look at some art that makes me happy, partially because I don't understand it and partially because I do.

 "Gloves", Meret Oppenheim, (1942-45).



Joni Mitchell Wasn't at Woodstock

Writing: the urge to keep building, making, meeting the urge to take away, diminish, tear down what's been built, what's been made, the most interesting juncture, the point where stamina comes into actual existence, when the substance of the real physical person--the writer him or herself--comes into contact with the concepts of what's right in front and what't far beyond.

If this is the case, and I propose that it is, Gertrude Stein was the very last interesting writer and remains the most interesting writer to this day, though she's not read as much these days as she is studied. Other writers are read today, a slew of them, supra-intelligent, well educated and well read themselves, who present capable, literarily responsible stories with the beginnings, middles and ends their readers seem to clamor for.

The stamina necessary to read Stein: not knowing what you're reading, knowing it's all there right in front of you and beyond you, and to keep reading anyway, to be a participant in the writing without having to be there attending to it so that the experience happens as language. Yes, perhaps it's better for the writer not to have been there at all in order to do the writing necessary for the reader to feel he or she is there instead.

Neighboring house directly to the north of the author's study, midnight, August 13, 2018.


Bon Iver & Florence and The Machine

Last night I could hear Bon Iver and then Florence and The Machine from my house.

Were I in Reno I would have shot myself in Reno just to watch myself die.

But I wasn't in Reno, I was at home in San Francisco.

My wife, reading while laying on the couch, complained about the music coming from Golden Gate Park, two blocks away. She found it tiresome and asked if I still had my Bose 'noise cancelling' headphones, the headphones I'd bought when we lived in the duplex in The Presidio and had the noisy, pestilent German neighbors. I knew the noise cancellers were somewhere in the house: Bose Headphones are not something you just throw away or take to Goodwill.

I was sitting in my favorite chair, opposite her in the living room, reading too when she asked.

Hmm, I thought, I wonder where those headphones are? I knew I'd kept them when he moved from The Presidio to our home in The Richmond. I presumed they were upstairs, but I didn't want to go upstairs.

Loving her I got up from my chair and walked upstairs, not finding the Bose headphones in the first place I looked but finding them in the second, hiding on a bookshelf behind closed doors.

I'd been reading a biography of the poet James Wright when my wife asked for the headphones. I hadn't realized how hard Wright worked on his poems, or that he actually believed in The Muse. The concept of The Muse seems archaic these days, but why should it? I once believed in The Muse whole-heartedly, and was happier when I did.

After going upstairs for my wife I came downstairs and handed the Bose headphones to her. She smiled at me. She was reading a new book by a famous author about the benefits of micro-dosing LSD. Earlier she'd gone to the public library on 37th Ave to borrow the book, but the librarian said there were over 300 'holds' on it already. So we drove to Green Apple on Clement and she bought the thing and I bought the Wright bio.

Returning to my chair and my book I thought, of all the poets in 20th c America James Wright is the only one who was picked out to be a poet. This goes hand-in-hand with my theory--unique to me--that a century can really only tolerate one poet per continent, and that James Wright is that American poet for the 20th century*

When I said things like this my oldest son would call me "a barroom philosopher." When he called me a barroom philosopher it hadn't sounded too good to me. I hadn't asked him what he meant, not really wanting to know, and besides he said it years ago and probably has forgotten he said it. But that I still remember what he said means it still has some meaning for me. 

After I resumed reading about James Wright, I took a break. Florence and The Machine were both wailing and droning in the near distance, somewhere in GG Park. As I listened I wrote in my notebook, The truth is mean-spirited, and bad music sounds worse when it's far away.


*In assigning Wright's lofty poetic status I exempt WC Williams, Wallace Stevens, Robinson Jeffers, and Robert Frost from consideration, assigning all of them to previous centuries of poetic time.

 New Yorker cartoon, July 30, 2015.