Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ars Poetica A La Yanqui

I GET A LOT OF READING done on this week-long winter vacation. Here's a poem from the shelves where Mark Halliday tackles the subject of ars poetica in a vast country like the US, in the "wacky, talky" Goldbarthian style of my former Wichita State teacher, but effective nonetheless. Also note his attitude towards time. What makes a good poem: sensibility, idea or texture? Or all of the above? You decide.

Pasco, Barbara

I find I am descending in a propeller plane upon Pasco
in the state of Washington. I accept this;
I have reasons for participating in the experiential sequence
that has brought me here. Down below the land is printed
with huge circles, doubtless an irrigation system,
doubtless it makes sense. There are people who understand it
living with dignity in square houses
and the result possibly is one billion radishes.
Now some so-called time has passed. This nation
is a huge nation in which the infinity of for example
Washington State
is just one segment of an even less thinkable hugeness
and yet zim zim zim zim United Airlines has me
here in my Eastern metropolis
with its ten thousand makers of third-rate pizza
uncannily far from the possible radishes of Washington State.
The taxi driver experiments with narrow streets
to shorten our detour caused by sports fans and he says
the Eagles will out-tough the Steelers.
I defer to his judgment, I am conserving my powers.
After “a while” I have this unsettlingly smooth tuna salad
with a pale pickle
in a drugstore designed by Dwight D. Eisenhower,
reading a few poems by David Rivard. I have thoughts.
I have my Uncle Ralph’s jacket soft and droopy giving me
a Sense of the Past. The rain out there
on the roofs of retail outlets is saying No Guarantee
and in a way I am nowhere, in another way maybe
definitely not. In a wide wet parking lot
I turn back toward the store to explain to the cashier
that she charged me for six cans of seltzer when in fact
I only had one from a six-pack
but the idea of justice seems so fatiguing
I would rather read a surprisingly serious detective novel
so I vibrate with indecision in the parking lot
till all the car windows rattle imperceptibly. Then
an alleged interval ostensibly intervenes, at the mall
a woman at a piano has played 1800 songs from memory
according to the radio personality who stands with a mike
explaining her bid for the Guinness Book of Records.
I am walking away at an unplanned angle singing “Tiny Montgomery”
which I bet she wouldn’t have been ready to play.
I have this inner life, I think of my father
lonely in Vermont, I think of myself lonely in Syracuse
and my old poem about a detective who can’t solve his biggest case
and as a result I have feelings—but my teacher said
the future of American poetry can’t be merely
the notation of sensibility. When he said that I felt
a chilly fear at the edge of consc-consc-consc-consciousness
like an ice cube in the corner of my stomach.
That’s how I felt. So then, so then consequently
I thought “I must gather up some serious ideas” but then
Ashberry phoned and left a message after the beep.
“Don’t be a sucker, ideas are where it isn’t.”
This made my throat get sort of dry so I drank a Classic Coke
and then another Classic Coke two hours later
as time so-to-say passed. What was always there?
Texture, that’s what, how it was/is, the how of how;
when I pick up my color prints at the camera shop
the disappointment I always feel is actually a blessing
is it not? I can say “I’ll go along with this charade
until I can think my way out” even though I’ll never
think my way out. I’ve come this far;
that day in 1971 I hitchhiked all the way to Montpelier
didn’t I? And here I am.
Suddenly I have a son
who focuses with tremendous insistence upon
dogs, balloons, air conditioners, hats, clocks, and noses.
To him I convey that the world is okay:
life is good: we accept it. Your dad is a little mixed up
but your shoes got tied, right?
As Barbara Cohen in high school said about politics
it’s interesting, giving the word four earnest syllables,

Monday, February 19, 2018

In Memory

NATIONAL ARTIST Napoleon Abueva was Dean of the UP College of Fine Arts when he created this magnificent treasure that now belongs to me, for winning Best Fiction in the 1982 UP Writers' Workshop. It sits on top of my computer desk, after enduring airport throws and countless balyas inside my wife's luggage on her trip back from the Philippines, to light up those still hours of the night in Maspeth. Humbled and thankful, I salute and bid you farewell, Dean!

Napoleon Abueva, Jan 1930-Feb 2018
Scroll inscription: In my craft or sullen art, Exercised in the still night--Dylan Thomas    N.V. Abueva '82

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Here Comes Trouble

ENCOUNTERED THIS poem by Dorianne Laux among Sara's English reading this winter break.

We put the puzzle together piece
by piece, loving how one curved
notch fits so sweetly with another.
A yellow smudge becomes
the brush of a broom, and two blue arms
fill in the last of the sky.
We patch together porch swings and autumn
trees, matching gold to gold. We hold
the eyes of deer in our palms, a pair
of brown shoes. We do this as the child
circles her room, impatient
with her blossoming, tired
of the neat house, the made bed,
the good food. We let her brood
as we shuffle through the pieces,
setting each one into place with a satisfied
tap, our backs turned for a few hours
to a world that is crumbling, a sky
that is falling, the pieces
we are required to return to.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Winter Reading

JUST DISCOVERED Alec Klein's book which I hope will help me better understand life in my kid's school.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Fall Term Grades (Sophomore Year)

KINDA LOW IN Algebra Honors and Chemistry, but still in the 90s. Great in European Lit and English Composition. Why am I not surprised? A final grade average of 91.67% in Stuyvesant is awesome enough, but let's see what happens in the spring term. Good job, babe!

The Other Manilas

TWO HISTORIC BATTLES OF MANILA were fought in the month of February. From Wiki: "The Battle of Manila (1899), the first and largest battle of the Philippine–American War, was fought on February 4–5, 1899, between 19,000 Americans and 15,000 Filipinos. Armed conflict broke out when American troops, under orders to turn away insurgents from their encampment, fired upon an encroaching group of Filipinos. Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo attempted to broker a ceasefire, but American General Elwell Stephen Otis rejected it and fighting escalated the next day. It ended in an American victory, although minor skirmishes continued for several days afterward. The Battle of Manila (1945), fought on February 3–March 3, 1945, was a major battle of the Philippine campaign of 1944-45, during the Second World War. It was fought by American and Filipino forces against Japanese troops in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. The month-long battle, which resulted in the death of over 100,000 civilians and the complete devastation of the city, was the scene of the worst urban fighting in the Pacific theater. Japanese forces committed mass murder against Filipino civilians during the battle. Along with massive loss of life, the battle also destroyed architectural and cultural heritage dating back to the city's foundation." To commemorate these events, and because it was too cold to do anything outside of the house on my day off, I scoured the internet for images of the seven towns in America also named "Manila". With the exception of the one in California, which was founded at the end of World War II, they all got their name from the American victory in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War--to celebrate the acquisition of a new territorial possession whose capital city they would raze to rubble decades later? My wish is to visit all seven towns and send mail to my New York address with their postmark.

1. Manila, Arizona--population unknown (Navajo County)
Abandoned Texaco gas station in Manila, Arizona
Abandoned trailer in Manila, Arizona

2. Manila, Arkansas--population 3,055 (Mississippi County)

Downtown Manila, Arkansas
Manila, Arkansas Middle School girls' basketball team

3. Manila, California--population 1000 (Humboldt County)

Manila Dunes Recreation Area, Manila, California

Manila, California road sign

4. Manila, Kentucky--population unknown (Johnson County)

Manila, Kentucky Skate Shop

5. Manila, Missouri--population unknown (Pettis County)

Manila, Missouri map T-shirt

6. Manila, Utah--population 310 
(Daggett County)

Manila, Utah road sign
Manila, Utah road sign

The town of Manila, Utah

7. Manila, West Virginia--population unknown (Boone County)

Willie Stollings Cemetery, Manila, West Virginia

Thursday, February 1, 2018

1 Kynor Avenue

MY RAMSHACKLE CABIN in Stanhope/Hopatcong, NJ in summertime. Google Maps will show you that it is the saddest house in the neighborhood if you click full screen to enlarge and the arrows to move/rotate the view. But for me it is King of the Hill, Top of the Heap, A Number 1--my paid-off, half-acre, one-hour drive refuge from the city. I hope by posting this I will be inspired to get out of Maspeth and do some work there when it gets warm.