Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Neil Young Album We Only Had to Wait 40 Years For

Exclusive First Listen: Neil Young

Listen to The Entire Album

NPR.org, November 24, 2008 - Neil Young was just a few days shy of his 23rd birthday when he took the stage at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Mich., for what would become a legendary performance. It was 1968, and Young was about to release his self-titled debut solo album. His old band, Buffalo Springfield, had split up six months earlier, and few people even knew who Young was. But to his own surprise, and to the surprise of the Canterbury House, Young drew a sold-out audience.

"You really blew our minds," an astonished emcee said while introducing the performance. "We only expected a lot less people than showed up. I think you are a lot wiser than we were."

Despite the packed house, it was an intimate performance, as Young treated his audience to a cozy set of material most had never heard before, though some were Buffalo Springfield tracks. Studio versions of some of the songs, like "Birds" and "The Old Laughing Lady," would appear later on various Neil Young solo albums.

Few people outside of those in attendance that night would have known about the Ann Arbor performance if it weren't for a 1970 single Young released called "The Loner." The B-side of that 45 was "Sugar Mountain" — which, according to a note printed on the disc, was recorded live at the Canterbury House. Neil Young fans speculated that a recording of the entire concert must exist somewhere, and eagerly awaited its release.

The live recording of "Sugar Mountain" reappeared as a B-side to the "Cinnamon Girl" single in 1970, and again in 1977 on the double disc Decade, a compilation of Neil Young hits. But the rest of the concert recorded in Ann Arbor remained a mystery.

Now, 40 years later, Neil Young and Reprise Records are finally releasing the long-awaited Canterbury House performance as part of the Archives Performance Series, Young's effort to release box-set editions of past live concerts. Live at the Fillmore East was released in 2006, with Live at Massey Hall 1971 following a year later.

Sugar Mountain — Live At Canterbury House 1968 will be released Dec. 2, but you can hear the entire album here on NPR Music as an exclusive first listen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Advertisement Monday!!!

Here’s an advertisement I just came across this morning. It reminds me of other advertisements, mostly in front of grocery stores. But a festival can advertise itself any way it wants to, right? And who wouldn’t want to have a choice in workshops? Maybe if one could find a way to go to all four workshops listed here (below), one might come away with poems that rant against injustice with word-play and fragmentation and form leading to revelation and surprise!

I especially like the second workshop in the list. I imagine a prospective workshop attendant sitting at the breakfast table, perhaps over coffee, seeing the advertisement and thinking, why yes, I do want to rail and rant against injustice!

Surely this is a sign we’re in the end-times?

5th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival
January 19-24, 2009, Delray Beach, FL

Want more word-play in your poems? Apply for Denise Duhamel.
Want to rail and rant against injustice? Apply for Martin Espada.
Want to explore fragmentation and form? Apply for Kimiko Hahn.
Want revelation & surprise in your poems? Apply for Gerald Stern & Ann Marie Macari
A few openings. Apply online ...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Keith Olbermann on Human Rights

Keith Olbermann

I know this clip has been pretty much everywhere, but I thought I’d post it anyway.

Here’s the script, in case you want to read along:

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What C.K. Williams thinks about you

From the December issue of The Writer’s Chronicle
Christian Teresi interviewing C.K. Williams

This struck me as an interesting exchange, for what it’s assuming about what’s going on in the arts these days.

Teresi: The poet Dana Levin, in the March/April 2006 issue of the American Poetry Review, contended that “many of the books published by younger since the late ’90s [offer] much to delight the eye and tease the palate,” but ultimately, “such books promise sensational tastes that in the end amount to light confections.” Levin goes on to say what she can and often does “admire about such poems—lingual beauty—doesn’t linger long after turning the page.” She blames the problem on a number of things, chief among them being the desire of “poets of her generation” to get away from confessionalism and the “cultural preoccupation” with modernism and the avant-garde. Levin then discusses how young poets have lost a sense of what Pound really meant when he said, “Make it new,” because, among other reasons, “the label ‘experimental’ can also offer young poets a forgiving brand for weaker work.” I was wondering what you thought of Levin’s assertion? How do you perceive the current efforts of younger poets?

[Before Williams answers, I’d like to add a couple things. In quoting Levin, Teresi is both making a very large claim about all young writers (which is an unwieldy concept) while at the same time distancing himself from it. It’s an interesting idea, but as I chase it, it falls apart. Who are these young poets? Who are they really? Name them. Are you one of them? Am I? If I try to name them, I find myself disagreeing with the specific assertion. Or, on the other hand, I find myself agreeing with it in the way that I would agree with it applied to any other generation as well. It could just as well be a blanket description of the vast majority of what’s ever been published. But, that said, here’s where Williams takes it.]

Williams: There are certainly a number of younger poets I admire, poets trying to find new directions for themselves, new sounds, new ways of assembling experience, often in wonderfully jagged ways. If I have noticed a tendency in some of the work by younger poets I don’t find as satisfying, it’s that often they seem to rely on a kind of existential irony, a mistrust of the possibility of creating meaning in the world, and a consequent resort to a wry juxtaposition of apparently irreconcilable elements of experience. It ends up embodying a world that seems to have a variant of surrealism as its epistemological first principle. Part of this surely has to do with the fact that so much of our world seems to be at risk these days, from our environment to our economic stability, and that kind of forced insouciance very well may be an appropriate response, but I do have trouble taking to heart the poems that come out of it. But who can really say? I’ve become very conscious lately of the fact that what I think and value is almost irrevocably determined by my own historical experience. You can’t stay open to everything, any single mind can only contain so much, and it may well be that I’m just not competent to judge objectively what people thirty or forty years younger than I am are doing.


What an interesting exchange. First, I’m interested in how correct might be the assumptions regarding the period style of “younger poets.” What is the percentage of poetry being produced that might be described in this way? This, for me at least, is a real question. I certainly know who they’re talking about, I think. They’re thinking about anyone associated with Wave books, right? Anyone who gets called elliptical or post-Avant? I guess? And if so, I think they’re shooting a little wildly. But even if they’re not, even if it’s just a matter of generation and taste as Williams says, I doubt that this is anywhere near 50% of the poetry published every years. I mean, there are plenty of poets who don’t write like that, and their names come just as readily.

So are they talking about you? Are they talking about me? And if so, what do you think about this assessment of your/my/our historical stance:

“. . . they seem to rely on a kind of existential irony, a mistrust of the possibility of creating meaning in the world, and a consequent resort to a wry juxtaposition of apparently irreconcilable elements of experience. It ends up embodying a world that seems to have a variant of surrealism as its epistemological first principle. Part of this surely has to do with the fact that so much of our world seems to be at risk these days, from our environment to our economic stability, and that kind of forced insouciance very well may be an appropriate response, but I do have trouble taking to heart the poems that come out of it.”

The part I have the most difficulty with is this idea of the “forced insouciance” these poets are said to rely upon. That’s not a word combination I would have thought of. Is it an accurate assessment of a tendency in American poetry? I’m sure it could be leveled at a few poets . . . but then similar things could be said about poets writing in the style of C.K. Williams, right? That elegiac lifting of the self into a kind of forced insouciance . . . ?

I don’t necessarily believe that, but it’s such an interesting finger being pointed at a whole slew of poets. I feel like painting a flower on it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Excerpts from “Literary Fame in the Time of Flame Wars:
Is the Internet really going to change how literary reputations get made?”
by Adam Kirsch
Full article can be found at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/feature.html?id=182410


The author had claimed recognition, the critics wanted to deny it—it was as simple and passionate as that. Inadvertently, they had exposed literature for what at bottom it really is—a power struggle.

* * *

According to Hegel, “Self-consciousness exists . . . in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness; that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or ‘recognized.’” The infant wants only this, the king and the millionaire take roundabout paths to achieve it; but the writer alone seems able to obtain it immediately. Writers write in order to be recognized. To be recognized as good writers, yes—but that is not enough of a goal to explain the frenzy of literary competition. If writing were simply a skill, demonstrating that one possessed the skill, even in supreme measure, would be as technical and trivial an achievement as something in athletics. It is because writing is a communication of one’s mind and experience—one’s being—that it promises to gratify the original desire of spirit: to have one’s being confirmed by having it acknowledged by others. Writing makes others the mirror of the self.


Why, after all, should writing well—an aesthetic achievement—be the price of being recognized, a universal human need? Why shouldn’t a writer who simply expresses that need as clearly and urgently as possible be rewarded with the recognition he demands—regardless of whether he has created a beautiful linguistic object? Isn’t there something trivial, even monstrous, about a system that makes artistic gifts—which are randomly, amorally distributed—the only means by which recognition can be purchased?

The economic metaphor is not accidental. As far back as we can see, the economics of literary fame have been based on scarcity: there is not enough recognition to go around, so every human being’s just claim cannot be met. Beauty is the currency, as arbitrary as gold or paper, in which recognition is bought and sold. We grant great writers the dignity of having really been, the posthumous recognition that we call immortality, because they please us with their arrangements of words. Because of how well they wrote, we remember not just their works but their letters, travels, illnesses, aspirations—we feel with and for them. But we do this as irrationally as the peahen rewards the peacock with the biggest tail feathers, which have nothing intrinsically to do with reproductive fitness.

If the scarcity of recognition is a symptom of the world’s fallenness, then literary ambition is a form of complicity with fallenness. In other words, it is a sin. Because there is not enough money in the world, people steal; because there is not enough power, people do violence; because there is not enough recognition, they make art.


Now I chime in. I found the above through C. Dale Young's blog, and I thought I was going to find it absurd, but when I went to the Poetry site, I found it to be more than that. I found it to be deeply depressing.

OK, so there we are. Yippie. The above that I quoted was from the opening of the essay. It goes on to take some shots at the Internet, and make various points, but what I’m mostly interested in is this opening, where I find myself wanting to argue with his foundations.

Is literature at its bottom really a power struggle? A struggle to be recognized? Is this why you write (if you’re a writer)? Is this why I write? Is it all just an exercise in ego? Does writing really make others a “mirror” of oneself? I don’t like that. I don’t write to make anyone a mirror of me, with undertones of morality and economics...

I believe in the arts as a gift economy, apart from, and quite a distance from, “buying” and “morality.”

And, by the way, are skills exhibited in athletics trivial? And then, isn’t all of life trivial in the long run?

Is our appreciation of poetry (of art) irrational? And if so, is it as irrational as (and in the same way as) the sex drives of peahens?

And does this mean a fallen world? Fallen from what? As a metaphor I find that one pretty far off the mark.

Aargh. I sound like a crazy person ranting in the streets to myself right now. I don’t mean to sound that way. I mean to recognize that art calls us to our best selves. The part of ourselves that imagines past our futility. Past the limitations of reputation and position.

I find that when I’m talking to my friends about what they love in poetry and in art, that is how they approach, with wonder and agreement. It’s not all a game of ego gratification and minor professional recognition. I’ve been writing poetry and believing poetry this way for a very long time. If I were reading it and writing it for such stupid, minor rewards, and in the economy that Kirsch described above, then I believe I would be a fool. We would all be petty, small, fools. Please agree with me.

Rant over. Apologies extended.

PS. My hero of the day is Wanda Sykes. Some things are larger than we are. And call us to be better.

Blast from the past: The eternal dilemma according to Donald Rumsfeld

There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

Donald Rumsfeld, 2002

Friday, November 14, 2008

David Deutsch Is My Hero

David Deutsch on, well, everything:

Physicist David Deutsch also maintains a fascinating website:


Isn’t he marvelous? I’m completely captivated. I hope you are too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Inaugural Fun from BAP!

This looks like fun!


THE CHALLENGE: Write an Inaugural Ode

Write an inaugural ode, suitable for reading aloud on January 20, 2009. It must consist of sixteen lines broken into four quatrains, rhyme scheme optional. The ode must include one line lifted from a poem in The Best American Poetry 2008 or from the book's foreword or introduction, and it must also include at least three of the following words: honor, integrity, faith, hope, change, power. Deadline is midnight, December 5, 2008.

The contest will be judged by a former Best American Poetry guest editor whose name will be revealed when the winner is announced.

Read the complete announcement with information about prizes and how to enter here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Kim Addonizio's Po Biz

Will someone please explain this essay to me? I read it awhile back in New Letters, and wondered what they saw in it then, and now I see it’s been reprinted on Poetry Daily. So someone must like it. Probably many someones. And I really just plain don’t get it. It’s too angsty to be funny and too silly to be satire. But does it want to be satire? Against whom, then? Herself? Why bother? As making fun of a way of “making it” it doesn’t. That’s not the joke of how to make it. Sorry. And then to have this sort of author's note at the end? Mostly I just find it lamentable that she sat there with these kinds of thoughts going through her head. Is it some kind of pretend expose? It doesn’t reflect anything I’ve ever thought or heard about “Po Biz,” in fantasy or probability. Does anyone talk about writing poetry in this way, for this to be a cutting, edgy critique? Am I really that far out of some loop? Or is it just an exercise in Bad Girl chic? (Or an exercise in self-loathing?) What am I missing?

How to Succeed in Po Biz
by Kim Addonizio

from New Letters, Volume 74 Number 4

Many writers harbor the desire to become successful poets and rise to the top of their profession. To see one's name on the cover of a slender paperback, to have tens and perhaps even hundreds of readers, to ascend to a lecture podium in a modest-sized auditorium after being introduced by the less successful poet who has been introduced in turn by an earnest graduate student unsure of the pronunciation of your name—these are heady rewards. Beyond these lie the true grail: generous grants, an endowed chair at a university, the big money that will allow you to write and remodel your kitchen, while freeing you from reading the incoherent ramblings of inferior wannabes. How can you realize your dreams? Follow this step-by-step advice.

First, receive some measure of recognition as a writer. Publish in a few literary journals of small circulation, then publish a book or two with a struggling non-profit press and receive a pittance of an advance on royalties. This is step one. Step one is not as simple as it sounds. Think of a little baby, of how long it takes to raise its head without a hand cradling it, then how long to flail its arms about, until the happy day it manages to roll over of its own accord. Think of the months of crawling; multiply them times one-hundred-to-the-tenth power, and you will have some idea of the difficulty of step one.

Yet babies do stand, and eventually walk, and soon no one thinks anything of it. Of course, some babies will never learn to walk, and if you are one of these unfortunates, it is true that you may never reach step one. If so, be grateful that you don't face the challenges of those who must make their way on two legs. Cats and dogs, opossums and peccaries, rabbits and armadillos and scarab beetles—these are all more content than humans, and all are equally valuable—are, in fact, beneficial to the earth rather than a blight upon it. Humans who are writers are a devastation. Writers plunder, excavate, and strip mine without regard for the consequences to others. They suck their loved ones dry of vital fluids, revealing their beloveds' deepest fears and yearnings. They expose the most precious secrets of their friends and families, and then take the credit and get the applause.

But if you can manage to stand, and are willing to be such a vampire, a succubus from the realms of depredation and darkness, read on. Step two is to win some small, local awards, and then, after half a lifetime of literary labor, finally to be nominated for a major award. For the ceremony at which the winners will be announced, fly to New York City with the miles it has taken you seven years to accrue. Bring your boyfriend with you, even though the two of you are breaking up, because you are afraid to go alone. Spend an afternoon having your makeup professionally done for the taping of a Barnes & Noble interview in which you say things like, "If you want to be a writer, you must simply persist." Say this while looking directly at the camera, like an actor in a movie who has dropped all pretense of being a believable character, like a politician feigning sincerity while laying the groundwork to rip away every freedom you hold dear. This interview will never air. Try to get through the next twenty-four hours without washing or even touching your face, so your makeup will be intact for the ceremony.

At the ceremony, stand beneath a four-by-six-foot black-and-white photo of your face that makes your actual self look ugly, overweight, and slovenly. Smile. Later, you will weep in the empty ballroom—everyone else will be at the cocktail party—while your almost ex-boyfriend (all wrong for you, not to mention fourteen years younger, but what an amazing body, you will never feel those muscled arms holding you again, sob, weep, weep) goes around to each table loading up on the leftover stacks of free books. Later still, you will watch a revered male writer, honored earlier with a Lifetime Achievement Award, relieve his compromised old bladder in a potted plant in a corner of the lobby. When asked by a concerned publisher if he needs help, he will respond, What, do you want to hold it for me? and you will weep again. Not because of the frailty of human beings, no matter what the scope of their accomplishments, but because, when the winner of the major award was announced, it was not your name that was spoken by the celebrity MC, not your folded-up speech thanking your mother that was heard by the hundreds of people pushing the berries-and-chocolate dessert around their plates.

It is crucial not to win the major award, because then you might feel too great a sense of achievement. Be a finalist, but not a winner. This will keep you forever unsure of the scope of your talent, and you will be able to continue the habits of excruciating self-doubt and misery that stood you in such good stead during the many years you received no recognition at all. Notice that all around you, people of little imagination and even less heart are being honored with prizes, with obscene sums of money, with publications of their execrable twaddle in prestigious magazines like The New Yorker. Hold fast to the simultaneous sense of moral superiority and abject failure this observation inspires.

At this juncture, pay attention to your e-mail. Your account name should be chosen from among these: poetrybabe, writelikecrazy, hatemyjob, writergrrl, rimbaudsister54. Check your inbox compulsively to see if anyone wants to offer you money to give a reading or workshop. These offers will be few, so you will find yourself reading spam to justify running to the computer every three minutes. You will begin to seriously consider adjusting the size of your nonexistent penis, or giving your bank account number to the stranger in Nigeria offering to split his inheritance with you. You will become fascinated by strange strings of words such as bullyboy bangorcumberland jehovahmonetarist antares driftdeadline embeddable ephesusmyrtle, and wonder if you can use them somehow in a piece of writing. Ordering a large, unaffordable prescription of anxiety-relieving drugs will be a constant temptation. Resist that temptation, and steal your new boyfriend's Xanax instead.

Once or twice a week, drink a little vodka mixed with lemonade in the middle of the day, while your new boyfriend is at his real job, making four times as much money as you. You are a poet, after all; a little something to take the edge off is allowed. You work part-time in order to write, and lately you aren't writing much of anything. What you do write, you realize, is crap, garbage, shit. That major award nomination, which once seemed to promise such a heady future, was in fact the apex of your career. Since the nomination, you have received numerous form rejections, no grants or fellowships, and several fan e-mails from people who clearly meet the legal definition for insanity. These are the people who want to date you. They have pored over your poems and concluded that you will not only share your naked body with them, but also read their demented poetry and thrust it into the hands of editors they are sure you must see socially, or how else would you have become a recognized writer in the first place?

Occasionally, the subject heading of the e-mails will say "Offer of Reading" or "We Would Be Honored .... " Open these e-mails and respond immediately. Don't wait the few days you give the insane fans so that they will assume you are a busy, wildly successful writer with no time to correspond. Accept with alacrity all offers that contain the magic word "honorarium." Reject the others, no matter how nice and gushing the offer, because you are likely to end up sitting through a three-hour open mike during which someone will sing, someone else will break into cathartic sobs, a third person will drum, and the technician recording the evening will step out from behind the camera to read his first-ever poem that he just now wrote, he was so moved and inspired. When formulating your rejection, it is acceptable to lie. If the reading is nearby, respond, "I'm so sorry but I have a previous commitment." If the reading is farther away, say, ''I'm so sorry, but I was recently injured and my doctor has not cleared me for travel."

Once a bona fide, i.e., paying, invitation has been extended, try to obtain as high a fee as possible. Tell yourself you are worth every penny, but secretly feel the way you did when you were on food stamps—other people need and deserve this more than you. Feel anxious about the upcoming trip because you hate to travel. Feel anxious because you are basically a private person and can't live up to the persona that is floating out there in the world acting tougher and braver than you. You are a writer, after all, and prefer to be alone in your own house with your cat. You don't really like your fellow humans, except for your lover, whose stories and mannerisms can be usefully stolen and put into your writing. When he traveled with a carnival as a young man, he learned to eat fire and to put a nail up his nose. Sensibly, he left the carnival to work in sales, while you suspect that you have become a sideshow act, a fake mermaid shriveling in her tank, uselessly flipping her plastic scales.

As the event approaches, ramp up your level of anxiety and focus on these specific possibilities: the presenters will not have obtained a single copy of your books to offer for sale. There will be an audience of three in a six-hundred seat auditorium. You will miss your ride from the airport and end up lost in a strange city late at night, in the rain, trying to climb in the window of a private citizen's apartment you have mistaken for the university guest residence. Two teenage girls will come to the window and ask you for cigarettes, and then their redneck father, who thinks you are a prostitute, will show up and tell you to get the fuck away from his daughters and drive you back out into the freezing elements. These things have all happened to you, so your anxiety will be well-founded. Go ahead and have a little more vodka with lemonade, and get slightly drunk by dusk. Try to write a few good lines and then give up in despair. Tell yourself you are foolish, feeling terrible when you have actually been asked to share your work with other people. It is the work that you love, and sometimes you even get paid for it. Tell yourself you are lucky, that people envy you. Tell yourself this is what you toiled and sweated your whole life to be able to do, and now you are doing it, and above all, don't be such a goddamned little baby.

About the Author

Kim Addonizio's awards include two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, a Commonwealth Club Poetry Medal, and the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award. Her recent books include Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within and Lucifer at the Starlite (W.W. Norton, 2009), a collection of poems. She is the author of four more books of poetry, as well as two novels, and teaches workshops online and in Oakland, Calif.

New Letters
University of Missouri—Kansas City

Editor: Robert Stewart
Administrative Director: Betsy Beasley
Editorial Assistant: Amy Lucas

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The State of Critical Thinking in America 2.0 (and a new song by Neil Young)

Things are really bad out there. Here’s a brief recap:

My father, who shall remain nameless, said to me on the telephone that things were going to get bad in America soon, and I agreed. I mentioned the recession. He said, no, and then asked me if I really understood what was happening in Germany in the late 20s and early 30s, to bring Hitler to power. What? He’s really thinking our current crisis and the election of Barack Obama mirror Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. And he’s completely serious. And he’s not alone.

I decided to go to fox news dot com to see what kind of play this sort of thing is getting, and I found all sorts of things on their comment streams. Oh my. Let me just say: oh my.

Apparently Barack Obama has already been renamed Barack Obummer. That’s the least of it. There are people out there actually binge buying weapons because they think there will, very soon, be severe new gun laws. There are those who think he’s coming as the new messiah, the antichrist. There is talk about the end times.

I won’t post any of it here, but if you’re interested you can google it. I hope you're surprised by what you find.

All I can say is that, apparently, the Barbara West interview with Joe Biden I posted October 27th where she accuses Barack Obama of being a Marxist has some conspiracy theory competition.

And don’t get me started on the whole New World Order thing. When you google “Barack Obama” & “New World Order” you get 857,000 hits. I'm very creeped out.

So here’s a new song from Neil Young to cheer you up: Just Singing a Song Won’t Change the World

Monday, November 03, 2008

Amy Casey - Rigging

Amy Casey, an artist I like quite a bit, has a new, inexpensive (by art standards!) print!

The print is 14 x 20 and $125..it's a limited edition of 25 prints. (Above)

Please check it out here:


If any of you are tempted to buy it for me, alas, you’re too late! A little bird has whispered to me that one is coming my way for Christmas (or for my birthday, I couldn’t make it out. The whisperings of birds are often had to follow.).

A show of her work will open November 15 at POV Evolving Gallery at 939 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

She writes:

“I am going to try to make it to the opening. I’d be glad to see any friendly faces there as I can count the people I know in LA on one hand.”

There is a preview of the show here: