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Thursday
Mar142019

Cancel my subscription to The New Yorker

Am I the only one reads magazines now and who thinks it queer that the cover of March 2019 issue of Art in America is a detail from a painting named 'The Creation of Animals' by the 16th century Italian artist Jacopo Tintoretto?

Or that the poetry published in The New Yorker continues to be outstandingly wretched, so wretched that it exceeds its previous wretchedness when every poet I knew in America hoped to be published in The New Yorker.*

Such curious times in my life: 1) a time when, to paraphrase my guru Walter R, I am "offended by almost everything" 2) a time when I go to bed in a good mood and wake up in a less-than-good mood 3) a time when I am heartened by the news that should we be as presumptuous to blow up an asteroid coming our way, the asteroid might be able put itself back together.

This was the best news I'd heard in eons, the asteroid re-assembly that is, the possibility that perhaps there's not the only Hindu notion of creation and destruction at play in the universe, the notion that made such sense to me once I'd heard of it, but that there may be the possibility of creation and destruction and creation, the possibility of re-creation that is.

This asteroid of good news from outer and inner space has cheered me immeasurably; I've been living on it for the last week or so, since so much of the other news is now being decimated by that "short fingered vulgarian" (D Trump as described by the magazine publisher Graydon Carter) and his familial posse. I still wake up every morning wishing I'd wake up in some other country than the one I wake up in, but I wake now with the calmer notion that there is no other country, countries are only man-made fictions that plaster huge ceremonial flags made of plastic on the backdrops of presidential press conferences and campaign rallies to help alien leaders from inner space broadcast fictions to their fellow alien subjects while standing high above them, looking that much larger than life to their subjects for being alone on stage and theatrically well-lit, with the flags of the country they lead on the otherwise empty space behind them.

So the era of magazine subscription is coming to an end. I await the asteroid, the one that has my name on it, with open arms. The news that I once got from the poetry of magazines is now up to me to make: to be able to discern the meaningful from the meaningless, the real poetry from the prose that's made to look like poetry for the magazine reader.  I'll miss the cartoons in The New Yorker though, some of them made me laugh. 

 

*A poem in the March 18, 2019 issue of The New Yorker, "Bellringer" by a poet named Rita Dove contains the line, "Well, I was born, and that's a good thing," and the other poem in the same issue, "Along the East River and in the Bronx Young Men were Singing" by a poet named Ariel Francisco contains the line, "above the ice-cream trucks' warm jingle."

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/science/asteroids-nuclear-weapons.html

Saturday
Mar092019

We now turn to our panel of experts

It's the best of times and it's the worst of times, especially for journalists who must report the news as a matter of their own livelihoods.

It's possible that we'll all, journalists included, look back on this time and be able to see clearly the timidity and arrogance of our politics--the timidity of the sort of thinking that's so small, so narrow it's afraid of socialism, invoking once again old Karl Marx as one of the enemies for instance, and the arrogance of truly believing to have answers to questions that have no answers.

The assumption was, for the most part in times past, that we're led by good men and women, the best of the best, when we're now led by the worst of the worst posing as the best of the best. It must be as confusing to journalists as it is to us.

Take for example two of the recent worst best, best worst cases--Brett Kavanaugh the Judge and Mark Meadows the Legislator. As seen on TV and as reported in the daily newspapers, Kavanaugh and Meadows provided two of the most telling journalistic sequences in recent memory. Did no one else see these sad, minor men, one accepting the nomination for his Judgeship from a criminal and then diving far beneath the watertable of the decency and rectitude one would expect of a Judge, and the Legislator parading his racism on national TV, for who they really are? And if they did see the arrogance, why didn't they say something?

Only our Pundits, those semi-quasi journalists, seeking the ultimate truth of the times and able to intepret the nuances of that truth in such a variety of ways, providing us behind-the-scenes glimpses of our social, cultural and political lives, can make sense of either the arrogance of this power or the timidity of our response. All Power to the Pundits, our Panels and Panels of experts who tell us all we need to know. 

Unfortunately for us, or fortunately perhaps, reality being far too much to deal with in either in print journalism form or on TV, journalists themselves make a living in the time that's the best of times and the worst of times, and so their stories, such as they are, are made for mass consumption whether they tell us as little as possible or only as much as we can stand.

Somewhere Jean Genet, a journalist himself, speaks of the dramatic movement of his plays as having action that must be rather evasive--but not vague--in order to leave the spectator confronted with himself alone.

 Pundit-of-the-Year after announcing the renunciation of his own consumption of mass media in a sparsely attended press conference held somewhere in the closed-captioned wilds of northwest Wyoming, spring, 2018.

Wednesday
Mar062019

My friend the minor poet

I'm revealing the name of the poet I walk with, the poet I refer to in the previous post, the poet with whom I walk and talk about death, often hilariously, until we come to the end of our walk and say goodbye to one another as if to say, "see you soon", or "can't wait to see you next."

His name is Rainier B. I reveal only his first name and the first initial of his last so that he will remain anonymous and his status as a minor poet not be disturbed, for a minor poet he is and a minor poet is all he wants to be.

He likes to drink beer and take long walks. I neither like or dislike drinking beer, it's just that beer doesn't do much for me, I much prefer martinis and dry white wine, but Rainier likes beer and I've seen him drink more than one beer at the end of one of our walks should we wind up near the beer garden on The Great Highway, which we so often do. 

So Rainier drinks beer and I drink mineral water with a slice of lemon, it being too early in the day for me to drink a martini, and our conversation turns from death to poetry. The turn is unconscious, though I'm convinced it has something to so with the fact that we are seated, we're not walking and therefore, at rest we're able to reach a lower rung of contemplation; or perhaps we've wrung all the humor out of death while walking. In any event the subject's changed.

Rainier, I should mention, knows nothing of sports, so we can't talk about sports, something I can talk about with real authority. I know a great deal about sports--especially basketball, baseball, golf, and tennis--and am happy to talk about sports. Rainier claims never to have watched a sporting event in his life. I found this hard to believe until he told me the story of his Little League career, a career that didn't continue beyond his first official game. Placed by the coach in right field--the most unlikely spot for a ball to be hit--Rainier became quickly disinterested in the game at hand, never liking the sport in the first place, and walked from right field straight home with one out the third innning, his home being near the Little League field.

Minor poetry is Rainier's forte, he's as good a minor poet as there is. His poems are both challenging and comforting, and how many poets can that be said of? If you were to look at him the last thing you'd think he is is a poet, much less a minor poet. Rainier dresses a little oddly, wears shorts even in cold weather, and you can tell he gets the most out of his clothes, that is, he wears them until they're almost worn out. Rainier looks like a housepainter or a gardener, both of which he's been at certain times in his life, a man who's earned his living as a laborer, which he did and still does occasionally. 

He helped pull a big stump out of my garden the other day. I'd chopped down a camilla tree, I could see it was dying and the failing colors of the leaves were visually distressing to me, so I got the axe, sharpened the saw and cut the thing to the ground. The stump however remained rooted, with just enough of its severed head sticking up aboveground to be an eyesore and cause potential problems for anyone walking in the garden not knowing they might be attacked by a stump.

Rainer took note of the situation, then asked if I had a shovel and a pick. He dug a hole around the stump with the shovel, then grabbed the stump with his left hand and drove the pick into the hole with his right hand until it reached the bottom of the root, creating a perfect wedge. After wiggling the pick around in the dirt for a few seconds Rainer brought the whole stump, root and all, to the surface. It's beautiful, the root. I'm keeping it, letting it dry out so that I can make an artwork out of it sometime in the future.

I've read Rainier's poems. He gave me two of his little books when we first met, but only after I'd said how much I admire minor poets, that the strength of any county could be measured by the quality not of its major poets but of its minor poets. I read Rainer's poems every so often, picking up one of his books and opening it, as I like to do with books of poems, at random: I always find something worthwhile when reading Rainer's poems, something that confirms the reality of the world I'm living in but is also amused enough by its reality to to also offer small, unexpected alternatives. I don't know that Rainier possesses a great deal of technical skill--his poems are more or less elemental, simple, natural: his skill seems to me to come from the innocence of his heart, its direct earnestness, and the actual pleasure he takes in the world as he finds it. To be able to write this way is a great achievement, though I don't tell him this, I only tell him that I read his poems once in a great while the same way he tell me he reads mine.

Minor poets are bedrock, and for me Rainer is an essential minor poet.

Monday
Mar042019

Walking with the poet

I'm grateful to Mike Hi, who wrote the mini-essay in this space "Trump and Pompeo offer free civics lesson"(Feb. 28, 2019), for discovering at least a trace amount of a rainbow that once in awhile appears in otherwise inglorious skies.

To his discovery I add my own: I'm grateful to Trump et. al. for giving me the gift of time that never seems to end.

So I'm finally reading Jean Genet, a writer I told myself I'd read when I had the time. Genet's the kind of writer that once you start reading him everyone you see on the street looks like someone Genet's just written about, even the old ladies. Reading Genet, I want to go out and rob someone or something just to see if I can get away with it; at the same time I keep touching the right front pocket of my jeans to make sure my 'billfold' is still there. Reading Genet is very much like going to an exhibition of paintings by Paul Klee: when you leave the exhibition everything you see looks like a painting by Paul Klee, at least for a couple of blocks or however long it takes to walk a couple of blocks, whichever comes first.

Whichever comes first depends on who you're walking with. When I walk with the poet we walk slowly and laugh a lot. Death is the big subject, and the most laughable. We love to talk about death, almost everything we talk about either begins or ends with death. No death is too sad to laugh about, though some deaths are sad, the death of ones once close to us; but even those deaths have the possibility of some future mirth in them. I think that the poet and I think that our own deaths will be talked about and then laughed over once we have died, that our secret hope may be that we are supplying future poets with something to laugh about, that our laughter, however silent it might be by that time, will somehow inspire the mirth of future poets to laugh about death as much as we have laughed.

I've noticed through the years and during countless walks with the poet that no one wants to walk with us when we talk like this, that whoever may have started walking with us walks ahead of us, and just out of earshot. It must be that we walk too slowly for them.

Saturday
Mar022019

Giacometti and the electric car

Looking at Giacometti's stuff again after not looking at it for some time I see that Giacometti's portraits flatter their subjects while his sculpture deflates them.

I can't look at Giacomett's sculptures without thinking of the story of his leaving Paris in the early 1940s when the Germans were invading and how he carried off all his possessions in a small knapsack. The knapsack holds everything I admire about Paris: the first time I was there I could feel the pain of Paris the moment I started walking the streets, but I could also feel that it was a civilized pain that includes everyone on earth. 

There was a time in my life when I had two goals: one was to outlive my father, to live longer than he lived in terms of years (56); and one was to outlive Giacometti (65) in the same way I wished to outlive my father. I've achieved both goals.

Now what? 

I don't know, all I know is that there will be no goals involved.

Perhaps a trip across the US in my electric car, with a range of 70 miles before it needs to be re-charged. I don't think it's ever been done. I could be Charles Lindbergh, and my wife Amelia Earhart. There are more charging stations today than there were last year, and there will be more in the near future than there are now, though there's not one within a 10-mile radius of Ely, Nevada which does not bode well for the idea. 

For I've wanted for many years to visit Michael Heizer's City, a monumental art earthwork somewhere in the Nevada desert, but I don't think it would be possible with the electric car. I'd also like to see the James Turrell earthwork, Roden Crater, just outside Flagstaff, Arizona which I believe is possible as there are three electric car charging stations in Flagstaff.

The challenge is getting to Flagstaff in the first place, and without a goal. And from Flagstaff southwest to New Mexico, and then down into Texas to inspect the southern border.