Sunday, November 29, 2015

Me and God

Me and God
I tend not to see him as a person like you or me.  In fact, I tend to think of god more as the universe. 
For me the problem of too many religions is that they try to "belittle" god by making him our size. You know what I mean. The dude's the be all and end all of everything under, over and in the sun, and too many of us want to see him as the buddy we never had or the man and dad we never failed.
That's not the god that makes sense to me. That buddy/mom/dad sense of god that religions try to foist off on us.
All that religion stuff -- to my way of thinking -- is mumbo jumbo, whistling in the dark.
The bible? Folk stories, myths.
Can you have a personal relation with god? Sure, stand outside in the snow and watch it fall.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Breaking News: Milan Kundera, the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, returns to America

Milan Kundera took the bus from Prague. It was a long way, but he knew he wanted to come back.
There was something about the greyhound station in Chicago that called him back, reminded him of his childhood, his mother standing close to him as he waited for the light to change so that they could cross the street.
All those long days and nights on the bus from Prague, he stared out the window, dreamed about a greyhound running through the light, past the darkness.
There was one day when he almost asked the bus driver to stop the bus so that he could get off the bus and breathe in the light. He knew breathing was good for him and that he needed to do it, but he finally decided not to ask the driver to stop the bus.
It was better to keep going.
Maybe once he got to Chicago he would see his mother still standing on the corner there by the greyhound station, waiting for him to take her hand so they could cross when the light changed.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Writing Suitcase Charlie -- Writing is an Incremental Art

When you’re a writer, there are bad days and good days. Some days, you sit and write, and the words feel like they’re in someone else’s head; and some days, you write and the writing is fast and right, and you think that each word is a gift from some muse that really and completely loves and cares for you and what you have to say.

That’s the way it is for all of us, I think, but one of the things that I've come to feel about writing on bad days as well as good ones is that the progress, the movement forward, the work, is all important. It doesn't matter finally if the writing I’m doing is going bad or going good, just so long as I keep writing. Putting one word after another, the bad days will give way to good days because writing is an incremental art. One word after another, and another word after that.

This word-by-word idea came to me from listening to the painter Chuck Close do an interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air" a couple years ago. I was just starting to write my first novel Suitcase Charlie then; I had finished the first chapter, and I was looking at the tall hill of the second chapter, and the long row of hills and mountains beyond that. Finishing that novel seemed impossible. I had been writing poems for the last thirty-five years and was comfortable working with poems. Unlike novels, they live in little spaces, valleys and small plots of earth. I hadn't written fiction of any kind since I was in college 35 years ago, and I was sure I couldn't move beyond that first chapter.

Then I heard that Chuck Close interview.

I love his portraits, his giant canvases, 15 and 20 feet high and almost as wide. They're a human marvel. Terry asked him how he manages to create those mountains of paintings, and he said something that stopped me. He said that painting was an incremental art, one dot of paint and then another.

I had seen his paintings close up years ago at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and I knew just what he meant. If you look at those giant canvases what you see is that each one is made up of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of little dabs of paint, each dab almost a perfect moment of painting in itself. A little Jackson Pollock dab of painting -- one right next to another and another and another.

And I started thinking of my novel that way, each word, each line, each paragraph. One dab of words after another.

I knew I could write a word--it wasn't daunting to do that. And I knew I could write a line. And I figured I could keep going and going, one word after another after another.

And I did.

I finished my first novel and it came to 98,643 words, and all of them are on a literary agent’s desk right now, and then I finished the second novel.
And while I'm revising it, I'm starting work on my third . I’m on word 236 and climbing.

Like the poet Rilke says, “Patience is everything.”


Suitcase Charlie is available as a Kindle or a paperback from Amazon.  Just click HERE.

You can hear a podcast of Terry Gross’s interview with Chuck Close: podcast.

Here’s a link to Chuck Close’s website: click.

The copyrighted painting of Close is from a site about his various self-portraits.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Losing Books

I'm thinking about losing some books, cleaning out my bookshelves.
One time I moved, I had to package up 150 boxes of books that I had a massed.  That was 35 years ago.  I've been collecting books and picking up books and just getting books since then.  I don't know how many books that is altogether that I have now but I feel it's a bundle.
I'm looking at books I've been living with for decades. Some I've read, and some are books I've always planned to read later.
We're thinking of moving again, or at least entertaining that possibility, so I'd like to get rid of about half of the books, but I want them to go to good homes. 
Some of the books -- the mass market paperbacks that are easy to come by -- are going to Goodwill, but there are other books that are special. These are the unusual hardbound by authors no one has heard of in 30 or 40 or 50 years, but who meant a lot to me at one time, authors like Thomas Berger (Little Big Man), Harry Crews, and Rudolph Wurlitzer.  And then there are books by writers I loved but will never reread: Norman Mailer and Joyce Carol Oates, for instance.  I've got a lot of these books.
If I were still teaching, I would invite my best students in and ask them to take a book or two.
But I'm not teaching and I'm afraid these books won't go where they should.
Any suggestions?

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday 

I never watched football much when I was a kid.  My dad, a Polish farm kid who grew up without electricty or football, didn't follow the game and neither did most of my friends.  Their dads had also grown up without football.

So I never learned the game.  Can't tell the difference between a full back and a half back.  A snap or a spread.

I was invited to one Super Bowl game party about 35 years ago, and I asked so many questions I was never asked back to another.  I guess the news about how ignorant I was about football got around.

Anyway, I'm reaching out today just to tell everybody else in Ameica to enjoy the day, and I hope your team wins.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Deflated Poems

Deflating Poems
I have never deflated a poem.
I will never deflate one.
When I pass a poem on to you, you can bet your air pump that it is fully inflated.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I write poems about sparrows too often,  I've been doing it for years.  The first sparrow poem wasn't really about sparrows.  It was about St. Francis and how his hands taught sparrows to fly.  Since then sparrows are my go to bird.

If I need a bird, I throw in a sparrow.

Sparrows above cars, sparrows in black trees rising out of the rain, sparrows above the manger in Bethlehem, sparrows looking for a friend in a blizzard.

But really I don't know a thing about sparrows.

I don't even know what they look like.

Are they black?  Brown?  Gray?

Big or little?


Really they are a mystery to me.

From now on, I only write about pigeons.

I know pigeons!


Thanks to Wikipedia for providing me with a picture of a sparrow.