Friday, September 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, T. S.

Happy Birthday, T. S. Eliot!

For those who complain about his seriousness, who read "The Waste Land," "Ash Wednesday," or "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and complain about the Latin allusions and the references to myths no one remembers, let me tell you Eliot had a sense of humor, and a love for practical jokes and buffoonery.

A couple of years ago I wrote a poem called "the love song of t. s. eliot" based on a real incident in his life.

The Love Song of T. S. Eliot 

His new false teeth made it hard
For him to speak the French
He wanted to whisper to her,
Those lines from Baudelaire,
That always touched him so,
Lines about the light love creates,

So Eliot took the teeth out
And gummed his Baudelaire
Until she begged him to stop,
Her tears rolling through
Her laughter but he wouldn’t.

He just kept spitting out vowels
Vibrating them with his slippery
Red gums and mulish laughter.
The poem originally appeared in Mayday Magazine.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dumb Advice From Great Writers I


William Faulkner wrote some of the greatest novels of the 20th century,Absalom, AbsalomSound and the FuryAs I Lay Dying, and created a fiction county across more than a dozen novels that is one of the greatest creations by any writer, any country, any language.

 But when it comes to giving advice about writing, he sometimes has me scratching my head and wondering what the heck was he thinking.

A good example is the statement “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

This is one of the most quoted pieces of writing advice.  There's even a movie called "Kill Your Darlings"--though I don't think it has much to do with Faulkner or writing.

 What's he mean?  Kill off your best characters?  The ones you like most?  Or -- as some have suggested -- scratch out the stuff in your book that you like the best?  

And where do you end up if you do that?

Writing something that is full of stuff you don't like?


Friday, September 20, 2013

Ambiguous Friday Poem


Short, Thin Poem

beneath the red wall 

the clay waits 
for sunshine, 
for rain. 

a chair
is no friend
to red.

Photo by Gra┼╝yna Niezgoda, Meksyk, 2000 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

9/11 -- 12 Years Later

One of the things that the past teaches us is that there is really no end to the past.
I saw this in my parents. For them World War II never ended -- even after liberation, even after forty, even after fifty years. The war and the camps my parents suffered in were always there. A snowy day in November would put my mom back in the frozen beet fields that the German guards forced her to work in that first winter in Germany. A TV show as harmless as Hogan's Heroes would leave my father shaking.

I've seen this in other survivors and veterans, and I'm sure you have too.

What the war taught them was that war has no beginning and no end.

It's the same for a lot of us with 9/11. We want it to have an end. We want what people call closure. We want to get beyond what happened.

We've been fighting the War on Terrorism for 12 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Islamic world is changing rapidly where ever we look, and we've killed Osama bin Laden. So why does 9/11 still feel like it happened yesterday? Why does a film clip of a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers stop us? Why does a voice recording of a stewardess on that plane talking to ground control about not being able to open the door to the cockpit bring us to tears?

We want an end, and we've wanted it for ten years, and it hasn't happened, and it never will. That's one of the things that 9/11 has taught us.

I've written a number of poems about 9/11 over the years. The first one was written a couple days of 9/11. That poem talked about how I wanted an end to 9/11. It didn't happen then, and it hasn't happened since.

Here it is:

Sept 13, 2001

I want to come home
and turn on the evening news
and not see bin Laden,
his terrible lightning
piercing the sky
and showering clouds
of metal down on the streets

I want to say to my wife,
Linda, do you think
it will rain tomorrow?
If it doesn’t, maybe we can
plant those mums in the garden
to replace the verbena
that have been struggling
all summer with the heat,
the sun drying them
to brown slivers, nothing
red or green about them

And I want her to say,
if it rains let’s go to the bookstore
and have a cup of Starbucks
and read some travel books
and talk about where we’ll go
when Lillian comes home
during Christmas break

She’ll need something
to take her mind off
her first year of law school 


I've posted four other times about 9/11.

The first post was a letter I wrote shortly after 9/11. It's called "The Short View and the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks."  It deals mostly with how my wife's New York relatives, including Uncle Buddy, experienced 9/11.  
The second was an update to that post -- talking about what 9/11 looked like in 2007.

The next was about an anthology of poems on how we look at God since 9/11.
The 2012 post was about Joe Calendrillo, Uncle Buddy's son, telling about his experiences on 9/11.   If you were moved by the "Short View" post, read this post.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Thoughts on the War in Syria

I'm tired of war.

I was born in a refugee camp just after World War II, and I've lived through the Korean War, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, the second Gulf War, the War on Terror and the Afghan War.

This list doesn't include all the little bitty wars I've lived through, like Panama, Grenada, Lebanon, and all those other little bitty wars I've forgotten about and that only the dead remember.

Having said that, I'm ready to back the US going into another war that will cost lives, money, effort, and will, and that will possible change very little, if anything.

I can't stand the thought of innocent people being killed by a guy who thinks he's a force of nature, a holy tsunami.