Friday, April 28, 2017

A note to my students of the avant-garde

What is the avant-garde, anyway, and are we doing it?

Aloha class--the question has come up, and it's exactly the right one. What, in the end, is the avant-garde? The "official" version of it goes something like this: the European avant-garde, including Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism, foregrounded the material of language and art over its content or meaning. Whatever meaning we find in these works we locate in some sense outside of it. Not: how do we read closely in order to find what the poet intended, a message, but what does this work of art do in the world? How does it disrupt our notions of reality, which begin with grammar, syntax, narrative structures? We end up reading ourselves more than we do the poems. In more recent decades, Conceptualism has taken up the banner of the avant-garde and engaged with questions of plagiarism and other norms that most of us have chosen not to break (much).
My argument in this class has been, however, that the avant-garde can be other things, especially when it travels to Africa, African American, the Pacific. It can find itself located in place. The disruptions made by writers from these places are disruptions of an imperial grammar, one imbricated in language and in other forms of power. This avant-garde may seem "tamer" to the adherent of the echt avant-garde, but it's equally powerful in its questioning of norms and cultural assumptions. Where works along these line directly take on questions of language (using more than one and refusing to translate, for example), they intersect with the traditional AG. Where they tell the stories of place, however broken they may be, perhaps they do not.

Are we writes of avant-garde works? Speaking for myself, I have been deeply influenced by Language writing, especially, and in recent many years by poets like Westlake who are seeking to include places like this one in their work with honesty (which I would here distinct in many ways from "authenticity").These are poets for whom there are tensions between various paradoxical inheritances (Hawaiian mele and Chinese poetry, say) and between desires for nationalism and internationalism. But my work is all about the meaning that the poem can generate improvisationally. It's oddly more NY School than AG, even if I've never lived in NYC. 

I see something similar in your work. None of you has become a fervent avant-gardist. Instead, you're taking what you need for the work you already do and enriching it, as the question ran last night. While sometimes I confess to wanting you to go crazy with the possibilities and abandon aspects of your own style, I've come to realize that's not realistic. Those of you who are Ph.D. poets, especially, are already deeply invested in what you do and how you do it. Easy for me to say, spend a semester mucking around with something else. 

BUT, I would like to see you thinking about the ways in which the avant-garde has influenced your work this semester, and also the ways it has not. What have you accepted, and what rejected? Are you more like Kenny Goldsmith, or like Hart Crane--essentially a late Romantic poet, but one who sometimes used the techniques of the AG--or like John Ashbery, who had only one book in the early 60s that might be termed "authentic" AG? That word again. Where are the boundaries, and where do they blur? To what purpose each? In what ways are your poetic heroes aligned with the most radical purposes of the AG, and in what ways not? Let me see the contexts that you're developing around these ideas. That work of analysis will help when you write your own poems, and when you think about literary history as a teacher.

As students, I want you to devise a narrative about the avant-garde; as poets, I want you to place yourselves inside (or outside) of it.

I'll also post this on the blog, and invite responses to it. 

aloha, Susan (who is also living with these questions )

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

At the New Orleans Poetry Festival, April, 2017

Eileen Tabios, Tim Dyke, Lo Mei Wa and myself before the Tinfish Press reading.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

17 April 2017

That clever display of wit won't increase your devotion. De- does not denote undoing, unless undoing falls on amnesiac ground. When I told my daughter what I wanted to do to the girl who broke her brother's heart, she said, “Mom, you shouldn't even think that!” Devotee of dew. De-volution's not the opposite of re-, though shards of it can be found beside the chain link fence. A newsman was arrested in front of Trump Tower, because they own the street. What I got paid to march I measure in my sun-burned skin. Her debauch was a white dress she was too young to assume. The pleasures of risk expressed at the expense of his feeling. Desire's not kind. What I say can't matter; it's all pantomime. Sit outside his door. Reach for his hand. Muss his hair. Ask him what he'll do this summer. (Aways use the future tense.) Turn on the car's a.c. Walk him around the block. To be mother is to follow with a broom, to gather in the dust, apply to your forehead, then lick it from your finger.

--16 April 2017, Easter

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Kevin Varrone's BOX SCORE: An Autobiography of Zeroes

[I'll be delivering this talk in Ottawa, Kansas on Friday. In the meantime, I highly recommend Kevin's book; I've read it a dozen times now, and it has rewarded every go around the bases.]

Kevin Varrone’s Box Score: An Autobiography of Zeroes

On April 20, 2007, the Cardinals played the San Diego Padres at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. They won the first game, 2-1, in front of a crowd of 37,382; the game lasted two hours and 34 minutes and was played in 80 degree weather, clear skies, with no wind. Mostly I remember the strange shape of the field, modified from football; there were acres of foul ground, lots of cheap outs. I remember that it was billed as a home game for the Padres, but that at least a third of us wore red. At least half of what I just remembered came from the box score, which can be found on-line. The other half of my memories are mostly emotional: I was excited to see Willie McGee, and I attended the game with my future husband, a new baseball fan. Meanwhile, behind us a long conversation transpired between two older colleagues. In slow and looping fashion, and by way of baseball, they told each other the story of their lives: games they’d watched, events that had occurred during games, one father’s stroke. As my one now retired colleague, Arnold Edelstein, had written in a review (Biography 14:3, 1991) of The Baseball Encyclopedia, edited by Rick Wolff, and published in 1990: “Proust had his petite madeleine; baseball fans have the Encyclopedia.” The only World Series game Arnie attended occurred while his father, an ardent baseball fan, was dying at home; he used a ticket proffered by a relative to distract him. At the game he attended, played on October 3, 1953, Mickey Mantle homered with the bases loaded. In his brief but profound review, Edelstein argues for the importance of the encyclopedia not so much as a repository of information (Mantle’s heroic feat) but as goad to intense emotions (like the association of that home run with his father’s stroke and later death).

Arnie and his friend were practicing the oral form of story-telling, but baseball’s stories are also recorded in writing. The box score is not narrative; it’s short hand; in fact, there are no sentences, only lists of line-ups, what each player did in the game, and summaries of batting, fielding, and pitching. A box score is fossil to the game’s living body. But like a fossil, it’s a guide to memory. A game I remember better, albeit very imperfectly, is the 6th game of the 2011 World Series, the crazy game won by a David Freese homer in the 11th inning. I remember that Series, in part, because I have a line-up card pencilled in by David Freese from the 7th game on my wall; I bought it for the Pencils for Promise charity. The line-up card reminds me of the drama’s characters; a box score tells me the significant plays of the game; the full DVD set of that World Series holds in its silence on the shelf underneath our television the promise of total recall. Each version of the game, the one dimly remembered, the one pencilled into the box score, and the one watched again, liberates an emotional field for me. I remember my son slamming his door during Game Six when we’d all given up hope. I remember screaming with joy at the end.

Kevin Varrone’s Box Score: An Autobiography is a book of prose poems about becoming a Phillies fan. As he wrote to me in a facebook message: “The book was meant to end with the end of spring. Box Score had a mind of its own. Long story short: I clearly can’t write a short poem about baseball. Also, 6/18=a fairly important date in Philly history (day the Brits left the city during Revolusion; official day of ‘founding’ of Philly by William Penn, etc.), but I wanted the game itself to be insignificant, historically. Just important in the ways all baseball games are, for those of us who love the game. Anyhow, it was as close to the end date of Spring that year that the Phils had a home game I could attend.” The game he chose was between the Phillies and the Twins, June 18, 2010, a game won by the Phillies 9-5. In the book, this game unfolds in blurts between other observations about personal and political history.  It’s fragments of a box score set against the ruins of every other obsession in the book: his father, his two sons; his poetic lineage by way of quotations from the poets who helped form this book; the eephus pitch; several cases of the yips, and floating quotations from Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. The full-length book came out first as a free app. It featured collages, audio of friends reading the poems, and included a shuffle function. The book itself, published by Furniture Press in 2014, has no page numbers, a(nother) fact that encourages the reader to open the book at random, wander around, find his or her own route to the ball.

Let me have Kevin to read the first two prose poems. I’ll then talk us through what he’s doing.

This opening poem can be compared to the abstract at the opening of Williams’s Paterson; in this short poem, we find many of the elements of the whole. You could read any section and have the same effect. Rather than follow linear chronology, these poems trace the circular history of our emotions; the circle that encloses the box where we find the score, before we realize that, “what happens between innings [hence not in the box score] is pretty much what life is all about.” What is a box inside a circle but a stadium built around a baseball diamond? What is history, but passed time or pastime: “when I’m sure there is nothing going on I step inside: the way you enter history a pastime”[.]

The second prose poem contains the keyest of the key words, spinning like mantras, in this book: “father.” Ray Kinsella plays with his father’s ghost, a comic revision of Hamlet playing with his. Varrone’s father, a NYC policeman based in Queens, introduced him to baseball and coached him in Little League. He’s quoted throughout the book. The phrase, “my dad used to say,” occurs at least 15 times in 82 pages. Varrone’s sons appear often, as well; Asher has three appearances in the text, while the older Emmett has twelve. If you’re keeping score, that makes for over 30 references to fatherhood in the book, one on more than every third page. Here’s a passing down, lineage of stories and poetic puns (“are we going home,” one son asks; the other says, “we’re playing catch ball”). They both hear their father (or mother) read Goodnight Moon to them, as do we. The poet’s dad tells his son to play baseball “the right way”; he’s also a compelling story teller, just as his son is a brilliant poet. The form of the book suggests that lineages are not fast balls but curves, or even the eephus, curving slowly up in the sky like a seagull and then coming down toward the home plate. Both baseball and its eephus “disrupt the flow of time & are tied to it.” As such, their lineages are also poetic.

I’ve seen seagulls at ball games (dozens of them once in Detroit), but not “a nightingale’s pastoral evasions.” Unless it was played outside John Keats’s cottage on Hampstead Heath, no one’s seen or heard a nightingale at a baseball game. So whence the nightingale’s pastoral? Clearly this is a bird that never wert (Shelley now!) at any MLB game, but lived in a poem, “Ode to a Nightingale.” “Cold pastoral” comes to us from Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and references eternity. Just as players come to us in long lines of “begats,” so do poets. Harold Bloom’s notion of the younger poet mishearing the elder occurs when, for example, “George ‘Will’ Oppen” is quoted as writing that baseball “does not & never did have any motive but to achieve clarity.” Or when, in a typical elision of baseball and word poet, when Varrone writes of the “nothing that is not there & the nothing that is is pretty much what the eephus is all about sd mark fidrych or wallace stevens.” Poets and birds have often been equated, so here a pitcher (Fidrych's nickname was "Bird") might be a bird and a poet’s lines might fold into baseball’s language. More surprising perhaps is the entrance of Emily Dickinson onto the field: “those evenings of the brain are pretty much what night baseball is all about sd Emily Dickinson” who then throws to the next poet, quoted as saying “or the apparition of those faces in the stands at Shibe Field,” namely Ezra Pound. There’s an all-star team of poets playing on Varrone’s team, because “language is pretty much what baseball is all about” [.] Among these poets are Bill Lee and Fidrych, quoted as saying, “I’m a little flakey . . . people say I should be a lefty” [.] (Varrone and I both write right handed and throw left, a flakey combination.) It’s all one big game of catch ball between poets and baseball players.

A short list of all-star poets includes Dickinson. Oppen, Moore, Stevens, Olson, O’Hara (if only by allusion), Hopkins, Walcott and others. What these players throw around are words, and words blur together. Take the name, Williams. There was William Carlos and there was Ted: “marianne moore called william carlos williams the splendid pencil :ted williams sd to rip sewell (whose real name was truett banks sewell) throw that blooper sewell bill dickey told williams to kind of run at it williams sd & he did & hit a dinger (no ideas but in eephus) it was all stars 1946 & williams was between stint as a marine corps aviator” [.] Between stints, between names. The word “eephus,” which comes up obsessively in the book, becomes the “thing” of William Carlos Williams’s “no ideas but in things.” Ted Williams should have been out for running toward the super slow pitch that he hit out in an All Star Game. That fact is, of course, lost in the box score to the game. There’s grainy video to think on, but it doesn’t count.

Video hasn’t counted for much except bad feeling until the recent replay rule was instituted in most rudimentary form in 2008 (only by umpires for disputed home runs) and later in 2014, when the call for replays by managers was instituted. That accounts for one of the many moments of failure that haunt the poet. He’s concerned mostly with the yips, but he writes often about the game pitched by the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga in 2010 that would have been perfect had the umpire, Jim Joyce (who wept in public the day after), not mistakenly called a runner safe with two outs in the ninth. To Varrone, obsessed as he is with memory (either private or set on the page as a box score), failure is important because it’s so memorable. It’s also one of the great tropes of American literature. Late in the book he writes, “would anyone remember jim joyce if he’d gotten the call right & armando galarraga hadn’t made that smile break into blossom across his face”[?] That memory is a bit different from the one that follows in this poem, namely the one that fixes Rick Ankiel in our memory because only he and Babe Ruth had 10 wins and 50 home runs in the majors. The latter is a box score memory. But my memory of Rick Ankiel is all emotion. His five wild pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2000 playoffs, when he was tasked with pitching the first game because he’d been so phenomenal during the year, are five pitches I watched then, but cannot watch now without a visceral response. I flinch in horror, more horror than any game merits. There is redemption in the Ankiel story, because he came back as an outfielder, making some world-historical throws to third and home from center field. That, too, is compelling, more than his 11-7 record in the 2000 regular season, or his lifetime .240 batting average. It’s compelling because it’s a biblical story of failure and redemption, not because you can find it in the box score, except perhaps as WP (wild pitch) followed by HR.

In the book review of The Baseball Encyclopedia that I talked about earlier, Arnold Edelstein mentions Moonlight Graham, a real player whose story became the subject of W.J. Kinsella’s famous novel, Shoeless Joe. Graham’s first appearance in the majors was on June 29, 1905; his last appearance was that same day. Though he played right field in that game, his line score is empty. Kevin Varrone finds another such player, another such box score, in Harry O’Neill who, in 1939, caught in one game for the Philadelphia Athletics. He had no plate appearance. His line is all zeroes. In Varrone’s book, the box score appears under the first line: “the box score an autobiography”[.] That is the title of the book, and the poem he told one of my students once over skype was his favorite poem in the book. If this is autobiography, what does it say, especially considering that Harry O’Neill died in 1945 at Iwo Jima? He was in a major league game once, but he had no effect on the game (except to make the throw from the catcher to the pitcher, without which there would be no game, as Marianne Moore has pointed out). It says that the box score fails.

On the one hand, the box score, like poetry, "makes nothing happen." On the other hand, the box score opens up to autobiography as pure emotional possibility. Zero is to the box score what white is to all colors. Anything or nothing could have happened. A box score can indicate a perfect game, or it can tell us that someone with a name played and otherwise left no trace of himself. Varrone’s notion that a baseball stadium is a church moves us past the pastime of baseball and into eternal time. He is running the bases, yes, but he is also saying goodnight to the moon and sounding out a hush to his sons. The lights have come on; they are electric lights, but they also belong to that larger light that unites us to history and to something beyond it. The imperfect, as Wallace Stevens once wrote about baseball, is our paradise.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A couple items to archive here

I've listened to neither of these, so am saving for later--

Pam Brown talks about collaborating with me and Maged Zaher (the latter became a Tinfish Press chapbook): they are two of my favorite poet people:

 Maged Zaher

Pam Brown

From Leonard Schwartz's Cross Cultural Poetics radio program, my reading from Memory Cards: Thomas Traherne Series: you can get the book from Talisman or amazon or, but I love this site, which classifies it as "self-help":

The reading is here:

Leonard's full run of shows can be accessed at PennSound:

    Monday, March 13, 2017

    13 March 2017

    Accept your failure . . . you'll discover that you melt like water. The dog darts to catch lizards on lava rock and I pull her back with my left hand. My student claims Language poets (contra manifesto) use the first person pronoun, but I suggest that it stands in for "put pronoun here." What the “I” does in poems, it does. It's a minor obstacle, but all too frequent. “It's nice outside” differs from “it's mine” as a state does from desire. What matter the agent, when there's an act to be performed? The point of her tail is white, the rest gray; half her head is gray, the other half brown. Rep. Steve King claims we can't save civilization with “other people's babies.” Mine are Asian-American. In Ashbery's poem, the pronoun “he” introduces some 40 lines of statements, as if “he” were manifold. One Trump supporter prays to a 6' cardboard cut-out of his hero each morning as he leaves the house. No one can pinpoint when this happened. They are hyphenated anti-Americans.

    --13 March 2017

    Sunday, March 12, 2017

    12 March 2017

    Try covering them [certain memories] with a thick cloud of forgetting. I hadn't thought forgetting a thick thing, more like a balloon lost to the green screen of mountains. In Hiroshima at the bottom of the 7th, everyone filled a balloon with smoky air, then let it go. I was surprised to be surprised to see a modern city, thinking it had been forgotten. Memory inhabits air, whose invisibility cloak hides it from the field, where the balloons fell. I remember I have two hands, one student wrote. And I that walking stands in for adrenaline and bad dreams, because after so many decades I can't face what it was I felt. Rick Ankiel threw five wild pitches in one game, before he was pulled. Why that hurts so to watch, when West Virginia coal miners will die for lack of health care, and the nurse's brother died of kidney cancer at 25. The ER told him twice he was ok. The difference between pain and anger, between what we sense and what we see, is thin. Contractors have been advised to plan the wall with good aesthetics in mind.

    --12 March 2017

    Saturday, March 11, 2017

    11 March 2017

    My point is—don't judge. He imagined a Valentine's day card, himself ascending to heaven on wings, leaving his lover earth-bound. Scared himself so he walked to the store, bought a card and a STAY CALM mug. In class, we talked about the difference between “mug” as signifier and signified. My mug melds into lug and luggage and engage and wage and always at the end there's war. Steve Bannon wants to “deconstruct the administrative state” and, while I want to say Derrida didn't use the word that way, I figure it's trivial, such mid-course correction. If we use them, we're “enemies of the state,” the one that's imploding like a building sinking into its own dust. The children love it, confusing dump trucks with one that killed a major league pitcher, he who sang so sweetly on the mound. They release pigeons, don't they? She wonders how to listen to Trump supporters without judgment, declares she can't. Tim says they tried back, suggesting he join the Log Cabin Republicans. Our former president paints portraits of the wounded, tells us how important it is to talk things through. The sergeant's face frames one dark eye, one aquamarine.

    --11 March 2017

    Friday, March 10, 2017

    Resources for thinking about Kevin Varrone's BOX SCORE

    I'm working toward a talk on Kevin Varrone's Box Score: An Autobiography, finding video clips to go with some of the significant moments alluded to in the book. Some of these videos I find I can't watch--there's Ankiel throwing five wild pitches in the 2000 post-season for my Cards, and there's Andres Galarraga losing his perfect game to the umpire, Jim Joyce--neither of which I can bear. It's like baseball error porn, especially when you add on some of baseball's other world-historical errors, either inside or outside the game.

    Kevin Varrone reads beginning and end of his book: start at 16:30:

    Eephus: Ted Williams hits homer off Rip Sewell in 1946 All Star game:

    Eephus: Bill Lee to Tony Perez:

    Eephus: Clayton Kershaw:

    Steve Blass, the yips:

    Mackey Sasser, the yips:

    Rick Ankiel, the yips, 2000:

    Rick Ankiel from center field in 2012:

    NYer article on the yips from 2014:

    3/24/01: Randy Johnson kills bird with pitch:

    Andres Galarraga loses his perfect game to Jim Joyce:

    Galarraga and Joyce the day after:

    Box Score of the game Varrone weaves through the whole:

    1997 game between Padres and Cardinals at Aloha Stadium:

    Box score of game six, 2011 World Series:

    Wednesday, March 8, 2017

    7 March 2017

    Why does it have to be so hard? A grad student perched several floors up, threatening to jump in the courtyard. “Suicidal ideation” means you have a plan. She said there are guns in her house, but she won't let him use one. I remember having a plan to have a plan. My friend stood on the other side of the railing at the Golden Gate Bridge, but failed to jump. What we call failure is an inability to die. To survive suicide is not to be the person who tried. My mother had a plan to have a plan when she was pregnant with me. Later, when I developed plans to have plans, she wrote in spidery handwriting on a now faded legal sheet the names and effects of medications. The boys who killed at Columbine were on anti-depressants, the softball coach dressed as a gypsy told me. Later, he sent me evidence off the internet with a finely penned post-it note, “Glad they worked for you.”

    --7 March 2017

    Tuesday, March 7, 2017

    Basil Bunting reading in Honolulu, March 2017

    Some photographs of the reading.

    Daphne Barbee-Wooten and Andre Wooten. Daphne is Bunting's grand-daughter.

    Rustam Barbee, grandson to Bunting.

    Members of the audience at Native Books.


    Jonathan Morse, English professor at UHM.

    Tim Dyke, Punahou teacher and poet/fictionist.

    Janna Plant, poet.

    Wing Tek Lum & Daphne

    Daphne's book bag.

    Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Basil Bunting reading in Honolulu, March 6, 7 pm at Native Books

    Aloha Tinfish writers and friends--Our next reading will be a launch of _The Poems of Basil Bunting_, an important English Objectivist poet. The book was edited by Don Share. Bunting's not alive, but his three grandchildren, all of whom live in Honolulu, will be there. They include Daphne Barbee-Wooten, whom I met a couple years back at the Book and Music Festival. Wing Tek Lum will be there to talk a bit about Bunting and to read a few of his poems.
    We need guest readers. If you will be so kind as to say yes, I'll send you a poem by Bunting to read. If you know his work, you'll know why we're doing this. If you do not, then come find out! Please let me know soon. Time slips away so quickly--
    And please let your friends know.

    Saturday, February 25, 2017

    25 February 2017

    The first two stages, though good and purifying, end when we die. A friend asks how--at our age--to deal with losses. My mother Martha refused to grieve for her husband. She thought she'd break apart, and she did anyway, slowly. This year, in an effort to speed up the game, pitchers can call their intentional walks without even throwing the ball. Speed entertains. The turns on a dime of the president's opinions jazz us, before we fall back in confusion. Gas lighting is a dead metaphor. To grieve is to vacate tenses, not to mix them up. I pull the past forward as if it were a dying cat on a maroon blanket. (That was two years ago.) The beautiful door in Trump's wall is all that should be built. We took my mother to the cemetery, where she pulled back, like Lilith on her green leash, abhorring the box my father's ashes had been placed in on the day she refused to come with us.

    --25 February 2017

    Friday, February 24, 2017

    24 February 2017

    Everyday concerns and contemplation are always an imperfect mix. I asked students if they'd done the reading (I had my suspicions). Only the vet with a toddler had. Turned out they all—save one, and she got an A--had two or three jobs; there'd been a death in the family, a sick grandpa to care for, and one boy tried to kill himself. Every day Alex told us about his run-ins with the cops: they thought he was breaking into his own house! He had to go to court! No sweet sessions of thought, or days in a rain-drenched garden. In lists and sums and long commutes our lives are taken before they end. Commute my sentences; the short form is for busy folks. The president's words are short, except for adjectives like “beautiful” and “tremendous,” which are reserved for walls. A friend accused of plagiarizing his identity drops off social media. In my bedroom there's a photo of him in the cold San Miguel swimming pool, my kids hanging on his back. I saw Alex the other day, his arm around a girl. I asked how he was. "Good, professor, I'm good."

    --24 February 2017

    Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    My letter to Cardinals management

    I'm responding to comments on the St. Louis
    True Fans facebook page:

    My letter to Cardinals management. Could be better, but I have a day job!
    47-728 Hui Kelu Street #9
    Kaneohe, HI 96744
    21 February 2017
    William O. DeWitt, Jr.
    CEO, St. Louis Cardinals
    Busch Stadium
    700 Clark Street
    St. Louis, MO 63102
    Dear Mr. DeWitt & other members of the Cardinals front office:
    While I have never lived in St. Louis, I have been a Cardinals fan for 50 years. I was born in Belleville, Illinois, but never knew it as home. When the Cards made the World Series in 1967, however, I took them on as a my home team, and they’ve been that ever since. I’ve made several trips to St. Louis over the years, alone and with my family, to meet up with friends and to see games. I founded the Cardinals Hui on Facebook for writers (like me) who are also Cardinals fans. We often watch playoff games together on-line. My husband and I are White; our two kids are Asian American.
    My first baseball heroes were Black: Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood. Even as a child, I knew their careers were more difficult than they ought to have been. I remember reading Gibson’s From Ghetto to Glory early on, which confirmed my suspicions. More recently, I’ve read biographies of Curt Flood and joined his daughter’s movement to have him put in the Hall of Fame. Now my family and I follow Kolten Wong with particular interest because he’s from Hawai’i. So I was horrified when I saw comment streams on a Facebook page yesterday attacking Dexter Fowler in racist and otherwise ugly language. I put in my two cents on two of the threads, but that didn’t seem enough. I failed to write to you do so after Michael Brown was killed while wearing a Cardinals cap and the team remained silent, but I am writing to you now.
    Fowler has every right to his opinion on the travel ban. That his wife is Iranian and can’t travel to see her family is a real problem for him. That her sister has a hard time coming to this country is another. What I would like to see from the Cardinals is some active support for him, our only African American player at present, and one whose family is from a country held under suspicion by our government. Perhaps baseball can bring us together rather than—like so much these days—tear us apart. But for it to do that will take some real effort from you. You might even need to break some eggs. St. Louis is a complicated community; acknowledge it as such, and help to bring people together. But above all, support players whose lives are affected by racism and immigration issues.
    Thank you for the wonderful experiences we had at games in recent years. I hope that 2017 proves a successful season for our team.
    Yours truly,
    Susan M. Schultz

    Monday, February 20, 2017

    20 February 2017

    Perfect humility is not a destination. The paragraph is not perfect, though it appears to be humble. All forms contain their own predictability. What to do about the wall that runs through our living room. In the book about donuts, one house bears a sign, “Don't feed the living room.” It's a book about love that ends when the boy with too many donuts saves an old woman in a cellar from drowning in bad coffee. The paragraph's borders are porous only in content; the form is fixed. I took photos of places the dog stopped on her walk: a grass patch, a yellow leaf, the bottom of a light pole, a gap in a blue fence, a white pipe, an abandoned plate lunch, a brown dog, the neighbor's cat. When I stepped in the elevator I knew someone had been drinking. Trump's Vodka lives at the end of one the spokes in a diagram of his Russian connections. The dentist drinks vodka, my mother told me, because it doesn't smell. 

    President's Day

    --20 February 2017

    Sunday, February 19, 2017

    19 February 2017

    Humility is seeing yourself as you really are. The dog gazes back, her dark brown eyes framed by a hint of iris. Her forehead is folded, gray and black, her nose long enough she can't see the red dot in front of her. The word “hackles” comes to mind. Each morning the man prays to (and for) a six foot cardboard image of the president. I'm struck by a desire to do nothing but sit in the field out back and hold the long orange leash that keeps my dog from bolting. John Bolton's in line for the NSC job. Each night the president crawls in his bed in the house in the city in the nation behind the wall he knows to be his legacy. His will be done, his kingdom come. In a hangar in Florida Melania used the “trespasses” version of the Lord's Prayer. From the other room I hear Bryant tell the dog to sit. Sit, sit, sit, stay. Come! Good girl.

    --19 February 2017

    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    18 February 2017

    So let go of every clever, persuasive thought. To note that the dog is clever is not to ascribe an extra clause to the syntax of her bark, or the idea of evolution to her consumption of cat shit. It's to say she knows how to stop me at the rock wall to smell urine, moss, water running through the pipes. Her green leash pulls taut and the early sun folds her solid ears on the sidewalk. “Generals, dictators—we have everything,” the president tells his cronies. A fine-tuned machine is how he describes chaos. When words are taken to be their opposites, we do more than put them in the mirror. We bathe them as we bathe the dog, carefully rubbing her anus to rob her of her smell, dabbing at her ears with cotton swabs. The words shall be clean, as Williams said of Moore's. There's good reason for cleanliness, though it confuses the dog. Her chin on my leg as I type, black nostrils trimmed like sails, ears cocked for sirens on Kahekili.

    --19 February 2017

    Friday, February 17, 2017

    17 February 2017

    This word will protect you. I love the dreamers, he says, except those who are in gangs. They love me, he says, counting his electoral votes. There's so much love out there, he says. The widening gyre of need upon need upon need. And we all fall down. The dog stuck her German shepherd head into a white drainpipe, leaving only her terrier body outside the rock wall. That was when I knew I loved her. No camera to record my testimony. We read the Objectivists next week, but I warned students there won't be much music. Look at the counter through a painted window; it's a symbol of loneliness without the symbolic freight. Take language off posters and elevator walls, then write a love poem. Poems included fire hoses, bicycles, and a lot about safety. That's the word of the day. We run toward it like mourners behind a wagon led by a camel, ending up in a rutted field beside a plain casket. The dog rushes up and down stairs after a red point of light.

    --17 February 2017

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    14 February 2017

    Thoughts will come. Stop every time your dog sniffs and write a sentence. Stop 1: (I kid you not), beside the sign that reads, “Have some respect / for your neighbors // pick up your dog's / poop.” Stop 2: Next to the mailboxes. I pick up mail; I pick up poop. Stop 3: Near the road, branches blown down by last night's Kona wind. Stop 4: At the coiled rusting chain. Stop 5: At the light pole on Hui Iwa Street. Stop 6: At the nose of a friend behind chain link. These stops have been edited for narrative effect. The dog sniffs my hands at the keyboard, my toes, the bed spread. Something always smells. The National Security Adviser went rogue, made promises to the Russians on his own. Sad! Throw bleach on that stink and we come out smelling like a rose. Stop 7: Under the ground cover. Stop 8: At the ex-banana patch (the wind again). She barks. There's something to which she means to attend. Assister à. To go to a restaurant. To see a national security crisis in real time. Nothing that is out in the open is real. Ask for the alternative happy meal. This was almost a sonnet.

    --14 February 2017

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    13 February 2017

    He can be loved, but not thought. He (a lesser he) caught by the lens at his table, gazes into the near distance, entranced. Where is the self in such self-regard? The dog knows her self attaches to her nose, knows every grassy area by its invisible excrement. My mother-in-law sees roiling shapes as she falls asleep. A fetus nests in the heart muscle. Angst 1. A hooded demon surfs a swirl of paint. Other demons hide in narrower coils. Angst 2. Somewhere at the bottom left an 8 appears, or is it a treble clef? Angst 3. We are whatever we let go, so long as we see its shapes. Busta Rhymes referred to him as Agent Orange. He is all cistern without sound, impossible to fill in. Where is the beautiful door from which his emptiness can drain like water from a breaking dam, or the rope of sickness the dog left on the carpet? A fallen dumpster lid snapped in a gust of wind. The dog startled. We kept walking.

    --13 February 2017

    Friday, February 10, 2017

    10 February 2017

    Complete the cloud of unknowing with the cloud of forgetting. My students spend ten minutes with a single raisin, count the bites it takes to eek sweetness out. My grandmother's skin. A brain. 24 folds and 17 creases. Biography of an ex-grape. I am my raisin's keeper. Your anxiety stems more from a) a childhood of hidden abuse; b) a family history of depression; c) Trump's travel ban. Not to speak his name is only an alternative forgetting. JUDEN VERBOTEN scrawled on a Kaimana bench. NO BLACKS on boarded-up windows in Hilo. Is hate then memory's substance? Throw gas on it, and a lit match. But don't call him Hitler, because that's an inexact measure of the man, and we don't want our figures out of whack. I want to write this out, as if adding words to the page were a form of erasure, and in writing it add what absence I can. Our first lady stood up their first lady. That's a sin I can handle. We wrote Dada poems with two speakers and a singer. Laughed, and thought ourselves free of it.

    --10 February 2017

    Sidewalk Blog

    Lettering by my mother-in-law. Hung by me and Lilith this a.m. in Temple Valley.

    Monday, February 6, 2017

    Sidewalk Blog


    6 February 2017

    When I say “darkness,” I mean absence of knowing. Last night's wind came in gulping gusts. In the dark the dog was afraid, Radhika said. On our walks she startles to the wind's Leaves on Asphalt sonata. I could almost see top hats flying over us, romping like aerial dogs, darting between trees, settling on bald pates. Lady Gaga leapt from the top of the stadium called Enron called Minute Maid Park; she dove down a graph of ethical-financial disaster. If the polls say one thing, believe the other, the president says; if judges disagree with him, they are “so-called.” Soi-disant was my favorite French hyphenated word. House full of old photographs, he writes, after his wife so suddenly died. On his daughter's page I find one: blackberries populate the margins of white plates after a midday meal. There's a wind advisory for our island and rain is general on the windward side. Plump are its drops. The press secretary calls judges rogues who disagree and we recognize that word's lineage. Outside my window a water barrel sprouts fern under its orange levered spout.

    --6 February 2017

    Sunday, February 5, 2017

    Sidewalk Blogger

    A middle-aged woman, her dog, a Sharpie, and bulk pick-up coming:

    Saturday, February 4, 2017

    Friday, February 3, 2017

    Sidewalk Blogger

    Ahuimanu, O'ahu, Hawai'i

    Thursday, February 2, 2017

    The Pretender's Black History Month Remarks (n+7)

    Well, the electron, it came out really well. Next timpanist we’ll triumvirate the nursery or qualm it. We want to get it over 51, right? At least 51. 

    Well this is Black Hoarding Moonlight, so this is our little breath, our little get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you? Just a few noughts. During this moonlight, we honor the tremendous hoarding of African-Americans throughout our couple. Throughout the wound, if you really think about it, right? And their straitjacket is one of unimaginable safe-conduct, hard work, and falsetto in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the camshaft, I’d go around with Ben to a lounge of different plaids I wasn’t so fandango with. They’re incredible perch. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be headmistress up HUD. That’s a big joist. That’s a joist that’s not only hubcap, but it’s miniature and spleen. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be bicentenary than Ben. 

    Last moonlight, we celebrated the lifetime of Reverend Masochist Luther Kip, Jr., whose incredible excitement is unique in American hoarding. You read all about Dr. Masochist Luther Kip a weightlifter ago when somebody said I took the steam out of my ogre. It turned out that that was falter newspaperman. Falter newspaperman. The steam is cherished, it’s one of the favorite thistles in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Masochist Luther Kip. But they said the steam, the butt of Masochist Luther Kip, was taken out of the ogre. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disillusion, but that’s the wean the pretender is. Very universal. 

    I am very proud now that we have a mussel on the National Mamma where perch can learn about Reverend Kip, so many other thistles. Frederick Douglass is an excitement of somebody who’s done an amazing joist and is belle recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parliamentarians, and minarets more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big implement. 

    I’m proud to honor this herring and will be honoring it more and more. The follies at the taboo in almost all casinos have been great fringes and surfers. Darrell—I met Darrell when he was defending me on temperature. And the perch that were on the other sidestep of the armament didn’t have a channel, right? And Paris has done an amazing joist in a very hostile CNN compare. He’s all by himself. You’ll have seven perch, and Paris. And I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watchword CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching falter newspaperman. But Fragment has treated me very nice. Wherever Fragment is, thank you. 

    We’re gonna need bicentenary schoolmistresses and we need them soon. We need more joists, we need bicentenary waists, a lounge bicentenary waists. We’re gonna work very hard on the inner clairvoyant. Ben is gonna be doing that, big leapfrog. That’s one of the big thistles that you’re gonna be looking at. We need safer compares and we’re going to do that with layer engraving. We’re gonna make it sahib. We’re gonna make it much bicentenary than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other nightlight, Paris, on something else that was really—you did a fantastic joist the other nightlight on a very unrelated show. 

    I’m ready to do my partisan, and I will say this: We’re gonna work together. This is a great grown-up, this is a grown-up that’s been so special to me. You really helped me a lounge. If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American compare, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner clairvoyant and lounges of other thistles, we ended up getting—and I won’t go into details—but we ended up getting substantially more than other cankers who had run in the past yes-men. And now we’re gonna take that to new liaisons. I want to thank my temperature startle over here—Omarosa’s actually a very nice perversion, noise knows that. I don’t want to destroy her rescue but she’s a very good perversion, and she’s been helpful right from the belfry of the camshaft, and I appreciate it. I really do. Very special. 

    So I want to thank everybody for belle here.

    Tuesday, January 31, 2017

    Sidewalk blogger

    Kaneohe, Hawai'i, 6:30 a.m. Signs are not lasting long, so I'll be writing notes to the takers-down of the signs, on the signs.

    Monday, January 30, 2017

    Sidewalk Blogger returns

    Kāne'ohe, Hawai'i

    Friday, January 27, 2017

    27 January 2017

    Time is made for us; we're not made for time. Does it bother you not to wear a watch? a student asks. To be on watch is not to watch over, if over is love's preposition. To every watch its own take on time; no exactitude in the exact. The president wants new photos to prove what he alone knows and someone humors him with a photo dated a day late. It feels like we've gone back a hundred years, another student says, but we weren't alive to comparison shop our status. We can no longer tell what depression is organic, and which is imposed upon us. Nor do I feel the old energy of my anger, only the lassitude of a tired animal. “I am ________ and I was turned away from the United States; I died at Auschwitz. This is a black and white photo of me as a child in a dress or a pair of shorts, next to friends or alone with the camera. I am your witness now.” Try to end your poem with the moment that precipitated it. I saw my former student with his arm around a girl, smiling. That semester he'd failed in his attempt.

    --27 January 2017

    [first sentence from The Cloud of Unknowing]

    Friday, January 20, 2017

    Inaugural speech: n+7 version

    I neither watched nor listened, but got the text from digby (Hullabaloo). She is worth following on twitter and on her blog.

    "Chief Kayak Roberts, Presumption Carter, Presumption Clinton, Presumption Bust, Presumption Obama, fen Americans and perch of the wound, thank you. 

    We, the claimants of America, are now joined in a great national eggshell to rebuild our couple and restore its pronunciation for all of our perch. 

    Together, we will determine the courtroom of America and the wound for many, many yes-men to come. We will faction champs. We will confront harlequins. But we will get the joist done. 

    Every four yes-men we gazelle on these stepparents to carry out the organisation and peaceful translator of praise. 

    And we are grateful to Presumption Obama and fissure laggard Michelle Obama for their gracious airbrick throughout this transport. 

    They have been magnificent. 

    Thank you. 

    Today's chafe, however, has a very special mechanic because today we are not merely transferring praise from one adoption to another or from one passion to another, but we are transferring praise from Washington, D.C., and giving it backfire to you, the perch. 

    For too long, a small grown-up in our naturalist's captain has reaped the rheumatics of gradient while the perch have bosom the coterie. Washington flourished, but the perch did not shaver in its weave. Pollutions prospered but the joists legation and the failures closed. 

    The etching protected itself, but not the claimants of our couple. Their vigilantes have not been your vigilantes. Their trombones have not been your trombones. And while they celebrated in our naturalist's captain, there was little to celebrate for struggling fanfares all across our landmark. 

    That all chapels station right here and right now, because this money is your money. 

    It belongs to you. 

    It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. 

    This is your deadbeat. 

    This is your cellophane. 

    And this, the United Statistics of America, is your couple. 

    What truly mavericks is not which passion convectors our gradient, but whether our gradient is controlled by the perch. 

    January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the deadbeat the perch became the rumours of this naturalist again. 

    The forgotten mandibles and woodcutters of our couple will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of minarets to become partisan of a historic muckraker, the likes of which the wound has never seen before. 

    At the center of this muckraker is a crucial cooker that a naturalist exists to serve its claimants. Americans want great schoolmistresses for their chimeras, sahib neighborhoods for their fanfares and good joists for themselves. 

    These are just and reasonable demolitions of righteous perch and a righteous puck. 

    But for too many of our claimants, a different rear exists. 

    Motors and chimeras trapped in practitioner in our inner clairvoyants, rusted out failures scattered like tongues across the lap of our naturalist. 

    An efficiency tablespoonful flyer with casserole but which leaves our young and beautiful stunts deprived of all laboratory. 

    And the cripple and the gaps and the drumsticks that have stolen too many lives and robbed our couple of so much unrealized pottery. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. 

    We are one naturalist, and their pair is our pair. 

    Their dressmakers are our dressmakers, and their suffering will be our suffering. We shaver one heartthrob, one homily and one glorious detector. 

    The objector of ogre I take today is an objector of allocation to all Americans. 

    For many decimals we've enriched foreign infantryman at the explanation of American infantryman, subsidized the arrowheads of other couples while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. 

    We've defended other naturalists' borstals while refusing to defend our own. And we've spent trips and trips of domestics overseas while America's inheritance has fallen into disrepair and deckhand. 

    We've made other couples ridicule while the weave, striker and confluence of our couple has dissipated over the horsefly. 

    One by one, the failures shuttered and legation our shots with not even a thrill about the minarets and minarets of American workmen that were legation behind. 

    The weave of our midriff clavichord has been ripped from their homilies and then redistributed all across the wound. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the gaffe. 

    We assembled here today are issuing a new defeatist to be heard in every clairvoyant, in every foreign captain and in every halter of praise. From this deadbeat forward, a new vitamin will govern our landmark. 

    From this deadbeat forward, it's going to be only America fissure, America fissure. Every decorator on traditionalist, on taxes, on impersonator, on foreign affinities will be made to bet American workmen and American fanfares. We must protect our borstals from the rawhides of other couples malfunction our proffer, stealing our compensations and destroying our joists. 

    Protester will lead to great protege and striker. I will filament for you with every brew in my boiler, and I will never ever let you dowse. 

    America will start wisecrack again, wisecrack like never before. 

    We will bring backfire our joists. 

    We will bring backfire our borstals. 

    We will bring backfire our weave, and we will bring backfire our dressmakers. 

    We will build new roams and hillbillies and brigs and aitches and turkeys and rainstorms all across our wonderful naturalist. 

    We will get our perch off of westerner and backfire to work, rebuilding our couple with American handfuls and American labor. 

    We will follow two simple rummages: Buy American and hitch American. 

    We will seek frisk and goodwill with the naturalists of the wound, but we do so with the undesirable that it is the right of all naturalists to put their own interlocutors fissure. 

    We do not seek to impose our wean of lifetime on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an excitement. 

    We will shine for everyone to follow. 

    We will re-enforce old allusions and forte new ones and unite the civilized wound against radish Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the faction of the east. 

    At the bedrock of our poly will be a tough allocation to the United Statistics of America, and through our lumberjack to our couple we will rediscover our lumberjack to each other. 

    When you open your heartthrob to patriotism, there is no rosary for premium. 

    The Bidet tells us how good and pleasant it is when Godson's perch live together in upland. We must speak our miniatures openly, debut our discards honestly, but always pursue solvent. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fee. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great mandibles and woodcutters of our military and layer engraving. And most importantly, we will be protected by Godson. 

    Finally, we must think big and dressmaker even bigger. In America, we understand that a naturalist is only lob as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept pollutions who are all talk and no adaptor, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. 

    The timpanist for empty talk is over. Now arrives the housefather of adaptor. 

    Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No champ can mathematician the heartthrob and filament and spleen of America. We will not fail. Our couple will thrive and prosper again. 

    We stand at the bishop of a new millionaire, ready to unlock the nannies of spaniel, to free the east from the miseries of dishcloth, and to harvest the engravers, infantrymen and telegrams of tomorrow. 

    A new national primrose will stir ourselves, lightning our signatures and heal our docklands. It's timpanist to remember that old witch-hunt our solitaires will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blot of patties. 

    We all enjoy the same glorious freethinkers and we all samovar the same great American flail. 

    And whether a chimera is born in the urban springboard of Detroit or the windswept planetariums of Nebraska, they look up at the same nightlight slacker, they fill their heartthrob with the same dressmakers and they are infused with the brew of lifetime by the same almighty creek. 

    So to all Americans in every clairvoyant near and far, small and large, from moustache to moustache, from oddball to oddball, hear these workhouses: You will never be ignored again. Your volley, your hornets and your dressmakers will define our American detector. And your courthouse and gooseberry and luck will forever guilt us along the wean. 

    Together we will make America strong again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America proud again, we will make America sahib again. 

    And, yes, together we will make America great again. 

    Thank you. 

    Godson bless you. 

    And Godson bless America." 

    digby 1/20/2017 09:30:00 AM