Saturday, September 02, 2017

Lee Rossi On Money In Poetry/Exclamation Abuse/Poets in Journals/David Madgalene's Hoodoo Girl/Writers in Journals/Petaluma Poetry Walk/

Money In Poetry? 

Essay by Lee Rossi

 
Recently on Twitter I came across a statement by a well-known poet that sounded like a truism but that on further reflection seemed more and more problematic. What the poet said was that he was divided when it came to giving free poetry readings. On the one hand, he wanted to do it, but on the other hand considerations of self-care and financial security suggested he do otherwise. I’m sure my thoughts on the matter are colored by the fact that in 30 years of writing poetry I have earned something less than ten thousand dollars. Poems, reviews, readings, books—less than ten grand. Not that I’m complaining—that almost ten grand is, to borrow Ray Carver’s deathless term, gravy. 

Also, I never expected to make my way in the world by writing poetry. There was always a day job for that. I sympathize with those without a day job and those whose day job pays so miserably that they don’t have the time, energy or peace of mind to write. I was lucky enough to be able to pay myself to be a poet. 

It used to be thought that a performer, a singer or an actor, would enhance their value by refusing gigs that were beneath them. Once he was an A-lister, no B-movies for Clark Gable, no coffee-house sets or open mics for Madonna after “Borderline.” 

I wonder though if such a rule obtains with regard to poetry. People who wish otherwise complain about the fact that poetry is a gift economy. Why don’t poets get paid, they say, for all their contributions to the culture? It’s a good question, the answer to which involves an examination of our society’s “skewed,” “perverse,” “inhuman” priorities. I leave that to folks who are angrier than me at the current state of affairs. (Not that I’m not angry, just not angry enough.)

The fact is, if a poet wants to make a contribution to the culture, i.e. to all those other human beings who are living, working, and worrying alongside her, she could do a lot worse than participate in free poetry readings. At its leaves-of-grass roots, a poetry community is just a bunch of people who like it and try to write it. Some of them are good, some not so good. Some are getting better, some will stall out, trapped on some plateau hospitable to rants or limericks or self-exposure.

I think the best poets among us have an obligation to get back to their grass roots, the local poetry community which nourished them when they were baby poets. If you’re a transplant, I think you still owe something to the locals, encouragement certainly and the daring of your own example. Why put up barriers to what is potentially your best audience?

Of course, there are circumstances where I would agree with the Twitter poet. If someone in a foreign land wants to hear you read, somewhere farther say than a half-hour’s drive, then yes, that someone should at least pay for gas. Cross country, they should pay airfare, hotel, and something to eat. The fact is, people will not pay 75 or a 100 dollars per seat—what they’ll pay for a Grateful Dead tribute band—to hear even our best poets. Someone has to subsidize the reading—the NEA, P&W, the local university, the local arts council. Yet that money exists because at least some of our fellow citizens recognize that poets do indeed provide value to the culture, which like sunshine and rain are necessary but hard to price. So, my recommendation is: if there’s cash, grab it, otherwise remember where you got your start and do what you can to make sure it’s still a healthy place to grow.
  --Lee Rossi
 
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Performing Hoodoo Girl

from David Madgalene's Call Down The Angel.  At Occidental Center for the Arts a couple of months ago.  My grandson Justin Coletti is on guitar.  Watch the You Tube video here

 

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 Exclamation Points and Then Some

The Alarming rise of exclamation point abuse

I’m waging a lonely war against a rampant punctuation mark.
A year ago, the New York Times wrote forebodingly about the decline of the period, which now signifies a weighty intent if used while texting. But I am far more disturbed by the rise of the exclamation point. Everywhere I look, I’m bombarded by this tall, pointed signifier of overwhelming emotion.

Has this punctuation mark become ubiquitous because our discourse has risen to a fevered pitch? Or because we’ve co-opted a mark of astonishment or severity to instead convey solidarity, friendship or friendliness?

I took my concerns to two language scholars who both tried to persuade me to give up the fight.
Exclamation mark avoidance is just as much a fetish as its abuse, said Geoff Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at University of California-Berkeley. Overuse is particularly vexing to writers and journalists who have been trained to use them with restraint, he said. Perhaps that’s true, but I argued that those of us who use it sparingly are on the right side of language.
Relax, Nunberg practically exclaimed at me. It’s not that there’s a proliferation of exclamation points. It’s just that we see a lot more casual conversation in the form of texts and tweets. And people attempt to reproduce the rhythms and contours of natural speech in their conversational writing, he said.

That’s true, I agreed. But I suspect there’s more to it than that.

The president himself is a lover of the exclamation point, more likely to use multiple marks in a single tweet than anyone I know personally. Philip Cowell, of the BBC, writes that in 2016 alone the @realDonaldTrump posted 2,251 tweets using exclamation marks. He’s far more likely to end a tweet with a shriek than not.

“Overuse of any punctuation mark tells us something about ourselves, in the same way overuse of any object does. How you punctuate your sentences might have something to do with how you punctuate your life,” Cowell writes. Drawing attention to itself, the exclamation point is the selfie of grammar, he noted.

To Read More, Go Here Now


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Sonoma County Poets and Writers in Journals

On a monthly basis I publish the names of poets and writers who have had work published in literary journals during the previous month.  The posting is at Sonoma County Literary Update
Just go there and follow the directions for this category.  It will place you in touch with me, and I'll be pleased to include your information.  Essentially, I'll need your name, title of the publication, its URL, and the names of your poems or pieces.  I look forward to hearing from you.

2017 Petaluma Poetry Walk

And while we are looking at the SF Bay Area, I strongly recommend that you attend the 20-year old Petaluma Poetry Walk on Sunday September 17th from 11AM until 8PM at venues all over town.  The slate of poets and musicians is particularly strong this year.  Here's a brochure

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ed Coletti and Katherine Hastings On Poets & Political Activity/Ed Coletti&Katherine Hastings Poems/Trump's Dog?/Resistance Anthology/On Lindsay's Book by Michael Rothenberg with James Spitzer/

                     (James Spitzer Woodblock Feb 2017 https://jimspitzerart.wordpress.com)

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For the longest time, I referred to myself as a non-joiner.  I after all am a poet, a painter, one who speaks out through art.  However, in this age of Trump and the growth of fascism in America, I’ve had to reassess this stance and have begun joining organizations including the Sonoma County Democratic Club, Indivisible, and also others such as Swing Left and Sister Districts for efforts beyond my own geographical area.  Additionally, I have been making trips to Congressman Mike Thompson’s office and have attended his recent town hall on the ACA and healthcare in California.  I have learned quite a bit.  I even attended the Democratic Club’s recent fundraising Crab Feed along with 13 of my close friends.  Another group of 13 responded to our invitation and joined in a brain-storming "Huddle" at our house.

For those of  you poets who may feel that such involvement is not for you, I suggest that you, as have I, look into yourselves and ask “Is what I am doing by writing anti-Trump poems (but see below for a bit of humor) and speaking out among kindred poetic spirits doing enough?  Is it effective in reaching an extensive audience?  The title of this ten-plus year old blog may contain a clue.  While most readers may agree that there is very little money in poetry, we should realize that, beyond the purity and value of art for art’s sake, we may be having little impact upon the broader population which must be reached to effect social change.

I commend Bay Area poet Katherine Hastings (see below) for her material involvement in political organizations working to influence congress.  I use her as example here.  I am certain that many other poets are working through grass roots organizations and the Democratic Party to effect change.  We now realize that merely writing and grousing is not going to get the job done.

Overhauling the words of Milton, “They really do not serve who only stand and wait.”

- Ed Coletti 3-9-17 


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And now for a humorous interlude...


Does Donald Trump Have a Dog

Sam on my lap I scratch his ear
            gaze into his sadly happy eyes
wonder just what I’ve done
                                                to deserve
him he who can also be
                    the loud barking nuisance
startling the hell out of me
                                      who in Vietnam
daily heard both loud
                       and more muffled blasts
constantly reminding me
                     mortality expends its time
as explosion or terrier barking.


So to the question of whether or not
          our self-centered president-elect
ever even pondered the company of
     a pup he would need to kibble-feed
I only can attempt to imagine
            the starved and wanting puppy
explosively reminding The Donald
                about food that one necessity
required and craved, sustenance and
                              attention withheld by
President-elect in Scotland playing
          golf texting Kelly Anne Conway,
"Is that greedy little mutt still around?
        Feed its ass and name it anything
except Ted or Jeb Ben Mike or Marco
                                                   all losers
And give my dog whatever
                                              you name it
the blue ribbon for terrificness
                                         such a winner!
Huge!”


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Ed Coletti and Katherine Hastings On
Poets and Political Activity



  Since the election of a reality television host to the “highest office in the land,” surrounded by white supremacists and misogynists, a cacophony of conversations have been taking place almost everywhere I turn.  These conversations range from “How could this have happened?” to “What can we do?”  From “This is what I’m doing” to “This is what I’m not doing.”  Some people feel all we can do is wait; others feel this is an excellent time to show, through meaningful action, just how important combatting this administration is.  Marchers have marched, ghost lights have been lit, and poetry readings have been arranged around the theme of resistance.  It felt wonderful to participate in all of these actions and more with like-minded people.

            What am I doing personally?  I could say I’m staying focused on the issues at hand and doing at least one action every single day.  A handful of examples include (1) signing on to swingleft.org to try to influence the outcome of the 2018 elections, rendering the current administration powerless in two years, (2) joining other truly active organizations like Indivisible and the NAACP, (3) sending financial support to organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, among others and (4) calling a meeting in my home with immigrants to go over in detail what their rights are if they are stopped by ICE or police, or if they show up at their front doors. Where I can, I educate.  “Yes,” I answered someone recently who asked if it’s a bad thing that the government wants federal protections to revert to state’s rights when it comes to LGBTQ people, “that’s a very bad thing.”  For instance, no one should have to worry about job transfers from one state to another because of who they love; we should all have the same rights.  “Civil rights are human rights.”

            This forum could be an excellent place to tout what I’m doing.  That is not my intention; I like to share ideas for action in case any of them appeal to others. The truth of the matter is, I’m finding activism a bit like grief itself.  One day I wake up accepting the reality of the mess and saying This is what I can do! and do it.  On another day I wake up so depressed (anger turned inwards) about the latest situation — yet another hard-working father ripped from his family, or another Jewish cemetery desecrated, or another environmental protection flushed down the coal toilet  — that I wonder if there is anything to be done that can possibly bring enough change fast enough.  Woe is me.

And then I remember it’s not about me, and do whatever the best action of the day seems to be, measured by its potential. 

I ask myself time and time again “What is the solution?”

I’ve learned to leave Facebook off for the most part. “Liking” someone’s outrage is an inaction.  I try not to judge people by what they’re doing or not doing.  (“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” — Eleanor Roosevelt)  I often fail.

I give myself a break now and then.  This is going to be a long, difficult fight that has been going on for some people in the country since the first Europeans landed, since the first slave ship arrived.  I don’t want to burn out before my work is done. 

                                                                                    Katherine Hastings
                                                                                    February 27, 2017

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Dear Ashraf Fayadh,

Outside my window men speak
in a tongue I do not completely
understand.  These are the men
who work the soil, the vineyards,
who pray to another god and the
god’s mother, who sing you are
never alone.  We are all orphans
searching for light, harmony lost
to the stark meaning of man-made
laws.  In our hearts, the poem of
Love is perfected, is the most holy
relic of Time.  Dear Ashraf Fayadh,
may you live happily among the
living, neither lashed nor beheaded,
on little islands of wonder, feeling
for all the gods what they are
incapable of feeling, each word,
each brush stroke, a golden bee
bathed in the breath of heaven.


    Katherine Hastings from her collection

from Spuyten Duyvil NYC, 2016


Note:  Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinian poet and artist living in Saudi Arabia who as sentenced to death by beheading on a charge of apostasy, or renouncing Islam.  After the sentencing, his father died of a heart attack.  Due to public pressure (after this poem was written), the courts reduced his sentence from death to 8 years in prison and 800 lashes.  Efforts are ongoing to free him. 

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This is a huge anthology featuring many of America's greatest poets.  Press the link to see all of their names. 

http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/resist-much-obey-little.html

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__________________________________________________________________
 


 Lindsay's Book
Poem by Michael Rothenberg
Art by James Spitzer


International poet-force Michael Rothenberg (publisher of  Big Bridge www.bigbridge.org ) writes poignantly of his first great love and the searing loss of his lover to death in her young twenties.
The poem is set in Florida.  California painter Jim Spitzer, collaborates with Rothenberg and provides startlingly spare images which must be seen.  This beautiful little book packs a tender punch and must be read.  You can purchase Lindsay's Book by sending a check made out to Michael Rothenberg at PO Box 2724, Tallahassee, FL 42304. 

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