Sunday, July 25, 2010

Elfreth's Alley Midsummer's Night Magic

An evening of midsummer heat and magic. Listening to Tessa Micaela, a Philly poet I've not heard before, I had to catch my breath at her hushed, powerfully evocative meditations of the Idea of the The City.

Earthspeak Magazine mentions a chapbook, CUSP, but I've not been able to find it.

Here's a link to the poem on Earthspeak:
What We Used to Call Silence

All around the house
        are the kinds of noises
             we are not used to;

birds at no real distance
        spread wings and extend
              to the winds. Limbs

of hemlocks are pronounced
        unhurriedly, are shadows
               in an exhaling sky.

... the rest HERE

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Body Politic, The Body Poetic, The Body Real

The deep formative connection between Dread Scott v Sanford (1857) and Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific (1886) is increasing more evident. Dread Scott, who sued for his freedom after accompanying his master to the free state of Illinois, was declared by the Supreme Court to be 'property,' and not a person. Santa Clara County v SP declared corporations to be persons. The latter decision has, over time, reconfigured everyone as "property." It's no mere linguistic quirk that Personnel Departments are now called Human Resources for the only legal persons that matter. Battlestar Galactica as a modern parable... but the robotic inventions that rule us are not technological devices, but institutions--and the matrix of laws that make us all wage slaves--if we're 'lucky' enough to hold a job.

This is the inexorable logic of the idea of property, of ownership. As the claim of ownership--whether of persons,things, land or the forces of nature, depersonalizes the owner into a complimentary thing, possessor and possessed being different manifestations of the same--a difference of custom and law but not of being, the very assertion of personhood, in as much as it is successful, deprives the person of the power of possession. Who--or what then is left to claim ownership, but the pseudo-person of the corporation, which in claiming ownership of labor, refashions as possessed things all in its employ--and, unlike human laborers, at no loss to its claim of personhood--as that claim is only a legal fiction. To insist on one's personhood, it is necessary to surrender the power to own to this fictive Person--which eventually to own everything. To be a person becomes increasingly difficult, and ultimately impossible, as survival demands surrender, acceptance of translation into a 'resource' -- the property of the Corporation.

From David Wolach Preliminary Reflections on "Commoning and the Body"
"Commoning and the Body".

David Wolach has sent the following notes, questions, and links to orient an approach to the Nonsite discussion he will facilitate on Sunday Juy 25, 2010:

This is the beginning of how, as poets, we need to think through our received ideas of property and the language of ownership--even to the level of possessive pronouns relating to the body. What do we really mean when we say something like, 'my arm,' 'my body' ... or rather, what else is meant that we overlook in our unmindful usage?
In a capitalist “service economy,” the body is ever more occulted, relegated, or in the way. An aesthetic rediscovery of the body as having proprioceptive, sensory, and kinesthetic potential to inform us uniquely and importantly, and to provide care by opening covered possibles, seems to be a kind of positive articulation of an overall renewed interest in and fear of the "occult body." Market magic, as many have noted in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, has been the raison d’etre and the excuse for the stripping away of public land rights and the erosion of habeas corpus, all while corporations have gained increasingly robust legal protections as bodies, as “persons,” a definition which not only runs counter to the rights of individuals in a “free” society, but does so by means of defining “person”—hence “corporation”—as pseudo-unified enclosure, workers becoming operational cells of an organ, barely in need of consciousness. I am interested in what the effective (cunning) manager is interested in suppressing: the fact and the knowledge of the value of the working body’s (growing) surpluses, the body's hidden marks and tracks, its sensory and affective capacities and contiguities with other bodies, hence relational (necessarily social) potentials. There is something passive in our current fragmentary realization that our affective capacities are considered by our managers as every bit as “defective” as our various and variable “disabilities.” That the two are on a spectrum, of a category, for the “competent” manager.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Three Philly Poetry Events: Saturday July 24, July 31

July 24
6:00 PM Elfreth's Alley New Now and Future Philadelphia on the oldest continuously occupied street in the United States.

July 31
2:00, 6th & Market, Readings by

also July 31: Chapter & Verse
Hugh Behm-Steinberg and Kim Gek Lin Short, Chapterhouse Cafe, 620 S.9th

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Philly Poetry...

...stands counter in many ways to some of the more influential (or publicized) contemporary patterns. CA Conrad, Debrah Morcun, Patric very different modes and styles, embody a new (and urban) surrealism, and for Conrad--a bold assertion of an unapologetic personal voice, that in that personal quality, embraces a different Philly mode: the urban grit of Ryan Eckes, Brandon Holmquest, a spin on the New York School but with Philly neighborhood roots.. with Ish Klein morphing both. More. So much more. A bold independence here... eclectic and personal and very hard to define. I love being here. I don't know whether I fit in... I'm not a part of NPP, or Philly Sound... but even in not fitting in... I feel an intimate kinship. A part of this undefinable movement.

Philly Sound

New Philadelphia Poets

CA Conrad ... and many other Philly poets on Elective Affinites

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where's an Old Dog Go Next?

Weather is local (both in time and place); climate is global, revealing itself over years, decades, centuries, millennia. No reason to assign the recent unbroken heat wave to global warming, but when week after week, temperature and humidity in Philadelphia resembles what is more typical of New Orleans, Houston, one can’t help but wonder. I have no AC. Would not turn it on if I did. After a while, one becomes acclimated—to a certain degree—to the heat. I can even enjoy it at times in a way I can never enjoy feeling cold. But it alters one’s bodily rhythms and thought patterns. No use to fight it. I’m not English—and they got it wrong about the dogs. I move more slowly, my thoughts are more languid and for the most part, I stay out of the noon day sun.

July and August are dog days for blogs. I’m so much a reactive thinker, that with others on vacation and my own heat induced disinclination to hunt for stimulating fare, the Barking Dog reverts to the usual repostings and citings of links. The first summer this worried me. Going on four years, and no sense that I’m approaching a dead end, I take it in stride. But I do notice changes in the Dog, and in my ideas of where I want to go with it.

Some superficial stuff first. I gave up on reviewing New Yorker Stories a while back. Mostly, they bored me. When they didn’t bore me to read them, they offered me little to think about and bored me after the fact. Not that I reviewed that many—but when I did, there were a steady stream of visitors who sought out those reviews. Without them, I’ve lost maybe 100 visitors a week. Maybe another 100 posgts became more openly political, and more yet as my interest shifted from fiction to poetry—though that connection would be hard to demonstrate.

My first attempt at poetry was in the second grade. The assignment was to write (2? 3?) sentences. I became absorbed in the effort to translate into words an image in my mind I saw as clearly as the rows of desks and blackboards and ticking clock in that room. I still have the scrap of paper I wrote it on. The teacher (her name was Webber) sent it home to my mother as demonstration of my lack of staying power. I failed to complete the first sentence… having been hung up by the inability to spell “silhouette.” My interest in writing poetry isn’t new, but it's been sporadic, having episodic eruptions in very early adolescence, late adolescence, my mid-20’s, and now and then here and there through my life. But when I had my little kitchen epiphany in 1987—at the age of 46--that from that time on, writing would be my primary objective and reason for living—what I had in mind (though that too, began with a poem) … was fiction. I continued to write poems.. but on the side.

I turned my efforts to finishing a series of short stories—testing various voices, styles—building my confidence. This was while I was working through various temp agencies: word processor, radiographic transcriptionist--writing on the el to and from jobs, at lunch hour. I started my first novel—nine years in the making.

Early confirmation came first with poetry. Then short stories. But long, long waits and many rejection between. I’ve racked up more than 1600 rejections in the last 24 years. Pieces sent again and again cause I continued to believe in them.

Something began to change in 2008, partly because of this blog. But more important--discovering the incredible poetry scene here in Philly. Going to readings. Hearing CA Conrad—whose influence and power can’t be understated, and the New Philadelphia Poets and… and … and…

I began to write again like I’d never done before. Poetry. Like returning to a first love. Closing in on 100 new poems in 2010. I post some here, usually as Works-in-Progress, then take them off when I send them to publishers. I’m developing my own ideas of poetics, feeling out the direction I want to go. (also re-writing my second novel… as though in verse)

… and that’s where The Dog is going… politics included. If you’re curious, interested—stick around! If not…

This has been the best year of my life--in terms of creative effort, and personal... if not sexual … satisfaction.
Like the song says… You can’t always get what you want, but maybe sometimes, you just might find …

Monday, July 19, 2010

No respite from politics...

"If one adds the 200,000 farmer suicides in India to the 25,000 killed in Bhopal, we are witnessing a massive corporate genocide - the killing of people for super profits. "

A poetry that pretends such things don't exist--or don't matter... to poetry, aesthetics... is a poetry of evil.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Poetics: 5 Reviews and More

Joshua Ware has some informative reviews that read like expanded abstracts. Five most recent titles reviewed:

Torres, Edwin. The PoPedology of an Ambient Language. Berkeley, CA: Atelos Press, 2007.

Perloff, Marjorie. 21st-Century Modernism: The “New” Poetics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc., 2002.

Göransson, Johannes. A New Quarantine Will Take My Place. Apostrophe Books, 2007.

Cha, Theresa Hak Kyung. Dictee. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001.

Sikelianos, Eleni. Body Clock. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2008.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

BlazeVox Reading: Photos

Greg Bem's PHOTOS
from the BlazeVox reading at BookSpace in Philly,
July 10 2KX

Battered Suitcase Blog

Vagabondage Press posts useful features on publishing and promotion. Worth linking to.
Battered Suitcase Blog

G20 assault on human rights

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: the Global Corporate Police State
Police invade neighborhood, terrorize neighbors


Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Case for Non-Violent Resistence

Given the extraordinary power of the corporate elite and the devastation they continue to wreck on countless populations for their profit, given the threat they pose for the very survival of our species,  while I am convinced beyond doubt that violent resistance does not and will not work, I am deeply troubled that my convictions have been reduced of late to almost entirely utilitarian arguments.

"They" have a near monopoly on violence. "We" don't. That violent acts--say, assassinating the most egregious corporate murderers, would unleash a reactionary repression that might establish the aims of the Corporate Global Police State for the duration.

While these considerations are persuasive, they do not address the deeper ethical questions they ignore.

I'm reminded of a debate I witnessed in a jail cell in Canton Mississippi in 1966 between those who defended Martin Luther King's non-violent action and those who wanted to claim that there was an end to what could be accomplished by non-violence: that even it violence failed, it would create a threat of destabilization unacceptable to established power, driving them to offer compromises they otherwise would not be willing to offer.

Utilitarian arguments are the ultimate slippery slope, inevitably implying justification of might makes right.

Please, offer me a better argument than "it doesn't work.'

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Toronto: Preparation of G20 'Austerity' and the Beginning of the Global Police State


I worry about the restrictions on coverage in the Gulf. There are a lot of very angry people down there and it's only a matter of time before an incident of violence. I would lay odds that when that happens--an individual going over the edge--that authorities will smother it and impose something like an undeclared state of martial law in the region in an attempt to prevent escalation. Birth pangs of the apocalypse

103 in the shade... cool for chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, roofers, field workers...

102, 103 F today in Philly. Think of the thousands of kitchens, grills blazing, ovens baking, kettles boiling away... no air conditioning cause no air conditioning yet devised can deal with such heat... serving you your cool lobster bisque, sipping your chilled chardonnay in the cool restaurant air. For a brief moment you can pretend you are one the ELITE... and forget that those laboring in the kitchens... are YOU.

Not out of Simone-Weil-in-the-Factory reasons, but because I can't deal with the going in and coming out. I do better if I can acclimate myself to the heat over time: drinking water, taking showers, sponging off in front of a fan. Still... it's HOT in this apartment. Notice it more after sunset, when it feels like walking into an oven after being outside.

But in thinking about restaurant kitchens. Roofers. Field workers. I don't feel "for" them... I don't have to. I experience the heat.

Makes me wonder. How much of the comforts we seek are really about that... and not even more about distancing ourselves from THEM.

THEY sweat. WE don't. THEY smell. WE don't. THEY'RE dirty. WE wash.

GrammarMarms do the same thing. THEY mistake objective for subjective case, WE don't.

Not like there's any possibility of misunderstanding. Like wearing jeans to a formal wedding. Fashion become the standard of VIRTUE... for those who have no virtue but that dictated by fashion.

Not such a bad idea, to forgo some of our privileged comforts. Of course... if you have a choice... it doesn't work. Like thinking that sleeping out on the street for a night will give you an idea of what it's like to be homeless, when being on the street is incidental to what it means to be homeless compared to the real difference... that the homeless have no place to go back to.

Still...the indulgences of the privileged reinforce distorted perceptions of difference.

Turn off your goddamned A.C. ... until you can power it solar. Meanwhile... keep in mind, those oiled pelicans in the gulf are what's keeping you cool.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

Some had it in mind 234 years ago when they signed that document that some of them should no longer be subjects. They would think of themselves as Citizens from that day on. Some of them, at least. The men. The one's with property. The one's who were not held to be the property of others.

As is likely to happen at such junctures of history, they overstated their intentions; "all men" being understood by them, but not sufficiently defined that others might not hear in those words more than they had meant, as is the way with words. With a long war to keep their minds on, and then the awkward mechanics of governance, when they got around to writing the Constitution, they made pretty much the same mistakes, leaving it full of contradictions that suggested to those not quite as well off that these were planted there to be worked out over time, leading to change after change, and each change fought by those who took those words as inerrant scripture. Making freemen of slaves. Accepting that women as well as men had the right to vote--and after a 150 years or so, conceding that even former slaves had that same right... had it all along in fact.

And they never stopped fighting those changes, insisting the whole was intended (and likely with more than a little justification), that the only rights those documents were meant to uphold were whatever rights the privileged happened to already have in hand.

Sad to say, their persistence wasn't met, but sporadically, with equal force from those who were supposed to have become Citizens, and we never fully realized that we were no longer subjects, and the powerful elite who ran the great corporations, used the constantly renewed threat of poverty and unemployment, and the dangling carrots of stuff, and more stuff, and more stuff yet, to cajole the greater part of the population that we were still subjects--but now of the Great Global Corporate State--and State itself and those who it employed, its servants too, not for our benefit but theirs, top to bottom bought and payed for.

The brutal institution of legal slavery abolished, we all became instead--wage slaves--surrendering our lives for a meal, a place to live... and stuff. So much stuff...

But of course we're not subjects. Not of the Corporations. Or the Queen. Or the Great State that serves its Corporate masters. Though they want us to believe that. So they can use us for their own ends and not our own. The trouble is, we're not even our own subjects... and needing that, feeling our lack--we bow our heads and give away our lives for a wage, a meal, a place to live ... and stuff. More and more stuff.. stuff, stuff... stuff they promise but mostly we will never see, or our children either.

Even though there are no gods... or rather, no gods but of our making, the one great sin for those with religion and those who've grown out of religion alike ... is idol worship. The worship of stuff. Of power perceived to be greater than our own... when there is no power greater than own unless we freely give it away.

BOOM BOOM BOOM we'll hear tonight. Reminder of the wars they'll send us to. The job of killing and being killed for the profit of the few, the wars that never end because they never cease to make a few rich at the expense of many.

I walk up one street and down another and I think... we've spoiled it. We've spoiled everything. Everything. And soon there'll be nothing left for us to spoil.

Happy 4th of July

From Silliman's Blog: Wendell Berry.!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Poetry of Food

Even if processed food were healthy and tasty I wouldn't eat it because it would deprive me of the profound pleasure of preparing my own meals. Cooking for one is self-love.

This morning I walked to the Italian Market, picked out the eggplant, zucchini, onion peppers and mushrooms for a ratatouille. This evening I spent a wonderful hour cutting and peeling and slicing and tasting raw vegetables. This time I made it in layers rather than as a chunky stew. Sautéed each ingredient in olive oil one at a time, then set them aside in separate dishes. Reduced some red wine in the skillet used for the veggies. Put the veggies in a larger pan: eggplant slices, then garlic and onions (cut in rings), then peppers and squash (nice thick sections), then tomatoes and lots of basil cilantro and parsley from my yard, repeating this layer by layer. Poured the reduced wine over it all when done, covered and let it simmer until the thick piece of eggplant I'd left at the top as a test was tender--but not soggy.

I filled a bowl (using a slotted spoon)... and eating it as I type-- with a glass of red table wine and hunks of crispy crust baguette from Artisan’s Boulangerie down the block.

Would I give this up for 'convenience?' For "saving time?" (what an insane idea--'saving time' What? You put time in Mason Jars? Store it in the freezer? (Just collect the CRAZY nonsensical cliches people use without thought to see how totally INSANE this so-called civilization/EMPIRE we live in is! As though we could 'save' or 'waste' TIME!)

I'll drain the pot in a colander before putting the rest in the fridge, saving the liquid and putting that in another container. When it's cold, I'll skim off the congealed oil at the top, put it aside for bread and toast. So much olive oil, you need to separate it before storing

Oh.. the mushrooms! Clean and dry, cut stem tips, cut in half if large. When dish is almost ready, skim out some of the juice and oil from top into the skillet you used to sauté everything, turn up heat, add mushrooms. After about a minute, add to the pot.

For me a 'recipe' (I don't actually use recipes--it's what you DO that matters, the prep work) is like one of Conrad's Soma(tic) Exercises... and the food is the poem!