Time, Hackers, Projects & Watching

I’m late to the party. It’s been a busy few months.  Time is always my scarcest commodity. I sit down to write today and notice the calendar on my wall is still on January. Ooops!

I’m four months into the new year before starting the traditional New Year blog entry. Okay then, make the best of it. I’ll start a unique tradition of writing my New Year post in April, after having given myself a few months to see how the new year is working out!

Thoughts on a New Year

new yearI don’t do resolutions. I’ve never been very good at them – so it seems ridiculous to set myself up for failure in that way. The popular weight loss/diet objectives are lost on me. I know myself better than that!

The other cliché self-delusions drop to the side and disappear as well – no get-rich-quick schemes, no rearranging my personality, and I’m certainly not going to promise to be nicer to others or better at anything!

Marking time is a way for us to analyze and understand ourselves and our world. The New Year, like a birthday or wedding anniversary, can be a time to celebrate where we are, the gains we’ve made; or it can be a time of sadness, marking the loss of others from our lives or the promise of potential we failed to fulfill or attain. It’s a ritual we love. A way of considering who we’ve been and where we’re going.

So, here’s my takeaway:  I’m satisfied with last year and ready for the remainder of this year. Here’s to a new chapter in the book of me that is still being written. Happy Belated New Year!

A Plague of Hackers

Hackers, who I’m convinced are either the evil Jinn of legend or demons from the pits of Hell, have plagued me relentlessly this year. My Yahoo and WordPress accounts are inundated with Acacia Berry Ad emails or other such nonsense with links that friends, coworkers and readers inadvertently open. So, a note to all, I Will NEVER send you links in an email or post a post with ONLY a link. These high-jinks are the work of evil invaders! Beware and do not open or follow!

bijin-c-g-rhine

I’m fighting this horde of evil attackers as best I know how. My accounts have so many levels of protection that I need a notebook filled with directions to use them!

Several friends have mentioned the linking of various social media accounts as an entry point for the evil Jinn. Others say certain astrological signs predestines one to attack! There are tons of crazy theories out there too! Me? I’m simpler than that, I’m here to use the technology not to spend all my time chasing down the forces of evil.

So, I’m hopeful we’ll soon assign this problem to some of our greater minds for the solving. You know, the same guys who figured out how to kill the zombies. Maybe in the near future we’ll be able to buy a Demon-destroying Hacker Survival Kit. With luck, it might be on the market by the end of the year!

Projects Public and Private

A writer works on projects both public and private.

The Blog is a public project – ideally, a straight-from-the-gut type of endeavor that gains a readership due to style and quirkiness as much as content.

Professional Bloggers may disagree with me, along with those in the business and marketing communities, because they see the Blog as the newest, most powerful form of written media in the modern world. They are entitled to that belief. However, as an old fashioned journalistic writer, I see the Blog as a different entity – one as much about style and positioning as content and relevance. It is immediate, live in real-time, and Public by nature.

Literary or images (16)journalistic work – such as short stories, essays, memoirs, and novels – are by necessity private projects, requiring hours of alone-time staring out windows and writing three sentences a day for months on end.

A good window is well-known to be the number one requirement for a successful writer. Mental illness, alcoholism, and creativity are always fighting for their places in the kingdom hierarchy (and it’s anyone’s guess which of them wins on a given day), but the window is always the King.

I’ve spent the past eighteen months in front of my window working on those private projects. Writing, crafting, editing, re-writing pieces for publication. It is a consummation that continues and makes me realize the need to apologize to my blog readers – forgive me this time I must take away from public writing.

Thank you for continuing to read when I do post – I will try to write a few more pithy, remarkable pieces for your amusement as time permits!

warningWarning! Writer at work! Periods of delirium and a general withdrawal from human interaction may occur.

 

Watching: It’s What Writers Do

I have a new GSM at work who is delightful and funny. (He’s also intelligent and witty…ahem, in case you’re reading this Charles!)

He prides himself on accurately “reading” people and has mentioned this skill several times.  Of course, always a good sport, I felt it necessary to test his abilities.

I asked him last week to share his impressions of me. There were some interesting revelations, but the primary thing he said that struck a chord was that I enjoy 55“watching.”

It was a profound observation because on my “day job” I perform in a vibrant, peacock stage personae. The Colleen of the sales floor a very different person from the Marissa of my writing career. Score a solid point for Charles! Most people are blinded by the false eyes on the feathers and miss the deeper truth of who I am as a complete person!

I cannot remember a time before watching was central to my character. I watch and listen and pay attention to everything. It’s what I did before I ever understood that it’s what writer’s do. It’s one of those “things” that makes a writer different. I believe it might be the most integral and important skill to develop as a writer.

Language, mannerisms, movement — all are necessary elements of story. And all writing is in some sense story. Consider the trend in recent years toward “Creative Nonfiction” in the journalistic realm. Even our news stories are STORIES! We want a little back story, some dramatization of events, and some quirky personal details with our news now, Thank You.

The man burglarized an apartment and stole a necklace, but was quickly arrested by police no longer satisfies our hunger for story.

Instead:

The young man with biker tattoos on his left arm, a sleeve of skulls and roses, stalked the Burrows house for three hours before finally making his move. He pulled the heavy rock from the bag, smashed the picture window in the living room to bits, then crawled inside, snagging his jeans on the ragged glass. The pearl necklace, Mrs. Burrows most prized relic from a long-dead grandmother, was on top of the cherry chest. The culprit snatched it up and ran down the hall and out the back door. He was apprehended a block away by police. A concerned neighbor wburg2ho heard the glass break dialed 911 and reported the incident just in time.

Now that, folks, is news the way we want to read it! We no longer want reporters who reports the facts. Rather, we want writers who make the facts interesting by way of story techniques. This requires the skill of watching, the ability to see the most minute of details, and then the further ability to transfer what was seen by the writers eyes and imprinted in his brain to the reader.

A Writer learns as a child does – by mimicry. A tone or dialect is heard, sounded out, memorized, and then recreated. The details of a scene – the type and location of a tattoo, the style of clothes someone wears, a particular twitch or movement – are noticed, memorized, recreated. The nuances of everyday life, people, and culture are captured and frozen on the page for others to share.

imagesCAW3R9U1

Isn’t it amazing how our eyes watching become the seeing eyes of another?

Isn’t it wonderful that we are able to capture the world inside and outside of ourselves through words. Then, share that with other people regardless of time and place. How very beautiful is the eternal.

Happy Writing, Happy Living… Marissa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Death As House Guest

If I met you on the road
Say, at Halloween or Christmas, I
like to think I would know you —
a bright “Ah-hA” moment inside my mind.

But, this is doubtful
and troublesome because
I’m not sure I’d recognize
your presence on that day any more
than I do your absence on this day.

I like to think there is
a quieter quiet; a more solemn
hush to the air when you arrive —


like some new guest who walks
into the house
with his suitcase
to spend the holidays and
he is distinctly there
roaring in his own noises, singular in smell,
his dress-shoes clopping – clikee-clop, clikee-
clop-clop down the hall,
up the steps to stand
on the landing, studiously
trying to decide
which bedroom to enter.

~January 2012

Father Time in Dementia

Who will save us from
this shifting dance within his mind?
This rapid movement, changing beat,
confusing tempo . . .

Tell the garden fairies
to cease their screaming
halt all gyrations until we find
the answer: What is this now happening,
this rollicking-flow-movement within his mind?

Run fast, young lad, and tell the praying ladies
at the universal parsonage . . . increase your praying
and someone call the doctor –
we may need medication this time.

The gypsy ladies must come
dancing to tambourines and golden chimes.
Sing a song of ever ending, hurry,
let’s slay the ghost of Father Time!

Quick! Young lady, bring a silver dagger
and a gold pocket watch five minutes fast
along with a bottle of Ambers whine.
Quick! Sing the song of fast correction
Hurry, we all know he’s lost his mind!

That was close – Yes!
That was close Sir, the clock
has stopped at quarter to nine.
At last we’ve ended the wild devastation
of raging, aging Father Time.

~November 2011

(Just for the fun of it!)

 

for Luck

We have walked these
paths a hundred
times – since my little legs
first stood, learned movement,
learned to walk beside you.

The path,
actually two – defined
in a way that speaks
of distance and history. We
will walk the path well-worn
or
if you indulge me
the one slightly overgrown,
briars lining the edges,
large towering stalks
blackberries in season,
if the day is right.

This path – the second one,
less used, steeper,
with jagged rocks
buried in the dirt
of what is now more gully
than walking path. But
this is where
Grandpa and I checked
rabbit gums for a catch,
he letting me
slide the little door,
up and open,
to peer inside.

This ground grew
my love of rabbits —
I never understood,
never equated the
bait-caught prey
with an animal dying.

The rabbits foot,
for luck,
a joke, because
death
had no meaning to me then.

~~November 2011

nom de Plume

I’ve been thinking about my “name issue” for a few months,wondering how to deal with it, and if I should write a post about it. I’m home from work today, sick, and feeling terrible. So, of course, it seems like the perfect time to address the issue. Who am I – why do I have so many names – and which name should be on my Facebook Profile?

I’ve been a published writer in some form or fashion for the past 18 years. I started writing during my young “hate the world and everyone in it” period that I think most writer’s go through. My writing was good, but often filled with a violent aspect or harsh edge that sometimes involved living family members (the dead ones didn’t worry me so much). I decided to write under a nom de Plume (pseudonym, or Pen Name) during this time to avoid accidentally hurting or embarrassing family, friends, etc. that might read the work and recognize it’s source.

I wrote under the pseudonym, Orianna Tierney, for the first year or two. It was a good experience that allowed me to write in a free, unrestricted manner without self-censorship. I believe a pseudonym was necessary for me to actually step outside self-censorship and write honestly during this time. And, I remain an advocate of using a pseudonym as a means of reaching into your deepest, darkest self to find the honesty for the page. I still believe my writing and growth as a writer are better because I initially chose to write under an un-recognizable name.  My first intense, multilayered works were written and published during my “Orianna” period.

I was writing daily after the Orianna years and my writing quickly grew along with me as a person. The works, primarily poetry and essays at this time, started to grow and change. I understood the development of technique and the expanding substance of my work. The work became more serious and important to me as did the name under which I wrote. I adopted Marissa as my pseudonym in 1995. It was a creative re-visioning of my true first name, Margaret, and my true last name of Owen. So, Marissa Owen evolved as a nom de Plume that felt more real than my real name sometimes. (As an aside, I often contemplated legally changing my first name to Marissa, as I much prefer it, but decided to keep it due to family connections and memories.)

Writing as Marissa felt totally natural, and I came to see the writer side of me as Marissa. Most of my first, truly important publications were under this name. It was the name my writer and poet friends knew, and the one I went by with my editors. And, it was the name used for all my literary efforts. So, in an age before technology, living as a divorced mother and a writer, life was going pretty good and I was content as Marissa.

Then, three years later, in 1998, I met and decided to marry my current husband. It was my first real  “problem” with the name, but this time is was about my last name rather than my first. It took a lot of soul-searching to take my new husbands last name. I went through several months of arguing with myself on whether, and if so, how, to integrate last names. I debated on the, then popular, dash-hyphenating the two last names. After all, my children both had the last name Owen, and all my writing was published under the name Owen. In short, it was a pain-in-the-ass decision.

Eventually I made the decision -love and my desire to always be moving forward won the day. I became Colleen Mullins in real life and Marissa Mullins in my writing circles and and on paper. I had reached the place of perfection, no need to change pseudonyms ever again … and then, ten years later, along came Facebook.

I was introduced to Facebook in 2008. Suddenly, I was pulling my maiden name of Steadman out of the closet and dusting it off. How else would childhood schoolmates be able to find me? It was amazingly strange when I set up an account with my maiden name in the middle – I gave that name up at the age of 14 and never expected to use it again. Again, a very surreal experience.

Many people from school, family members, and old friends have found me on Facebook. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m very happy to be “reunited” with so many people. BUT, in the last 4 years there have been some changes that lead me to question my use of Name on Facebook. My writings (those submitted for publication in hard-copy and those on the web) are under Marissa. I’ve become addicted to Twitter and am part of a large literary group there under the name Marissa. So, what name is it to be?

Since I would answer to the call of Marissa as quickly as I would answer to the call of Colleen, and since the greater part of me at present identifies with Marissa over Margaret and would never use my maiden name anywhere other than Facebook…

I’ve decided to combine the two, while combining my world of old friends and my current world of writing and life in the automotive realm, it just seems logical for me to go by Marissa Colleen Mullins on Facebook and link all my accounts! There, it’s done! My Facebook is name updated and now you know why! Blessings to everyone – regardless of by which name you know me!~


~What about you? Do you write under a pseudonym? Have you ever thought about it?

~Are your Facebook and Twitter linked? What do you think of Social Media?

~Any amazing stories of Facebook or Twitter out there? Something amazing or uncommon?

~Keep Writing! 

 

One American Soldier (I)


I am writing this a few minutes after midnight on September 11, 2011. The tenth anniversary of an event so tragic and destructive that it is known worldwide simply as  “9-11.”

Almost everyone has a 9-11 story to tell – a pivotal moment when their personal life came to an abrupt halt and suddenly collided  with universal differences, political-religious ideologies, and intentional terrorism.A simple fall day, colored by the blood of family and friends, now defines a generation and its place in American history.

The events of September 11, 2001 – the meaningless destruction, overwhelming loss, intense sorrow, amazing courage, riveting compassion, and dark anger – play through our minds like a Technicolor movie. That day remains frozen in the slow motion replay of my memories just like all other Americans. But, this is not about 9-11 and my memories of that day. This is about one American soldier.

1986: Laser Light Show at Stone Mountain, Georgia

I was listening to the radio a few days ago when the Lee Greenwood song, “Proud to Be An American,” started playing.  My eyes misted in tears as a vivid memory from twenty-five years ago played through my mind. In the Summer of 1986 I was sitting on the grass lawn at Stone Mountain, GA with my then-husband, my two-year-old daughter and my 9-month-old son waiting for the Laser Light Show to begin.

It was our first trip to Stone Mountain Park, following a move to Atlanta the previous year because of a job transfer, and we had a wonderful day visiting the park features and nature trails with the children. We settled down on a blanket on the lawn in front of the mountain and watched a beautiful laser light show (which was a big deal back then!) accompanied by a soundtrack of various songs.

The song, “Proud to Be An American,” began playing, the American Flag appeared on the side of the mountain, and fireworks exploded over our heads. It was a beautiful and inspiring end to the show.

My eyes filled with tears as I looked at my daughter, asleep beside me on the blanket, and then looked into my son’s eyes as he was nursing. I expected the fireworks to scare him, but they didn’t. He kept nursing and staring into my eyes as I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the joy in my life and the patriotic pride I felt as an American. I would never have imagined that, eighteen years later, my son would join the Army and go overseas to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan as a soldier.

 

On August 31, over seven years after the war in Iraq began, President Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom with a withdrawal of combat troops. Obama emphasized that U.S. domestic problems, mainly the flailing economy and widespread unemployment, are more pressing matters to his country. The U.S. will continue to be a presence in Iraq, mainly with civilian contractors but also with a smaller military contingent of approximately 50,000 troops. The remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Read more: Iraq War Timeline, 2010 — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/spot/iraq-timeline-2010.html#ixzz1XfYUxRyw

 

 

 

Artist: Lee Greenwood
Song: Proud To Be An American

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

Fact Sheet: Iraqi War

  • Length of official combat operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom: March 20–May 1, 2003.
  • Deployment: More than 300,000 coalition troops deployed to the Gulf region: about 255,000 U.S., 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian, and 200 Polish troops.
  • Post-conflict peace-keeping forces: About 130,000 U.S. and 11,000 British troops were stationed in Iraq following official end of hostilities, May 1, 2003.About 49 countries have participated in some form in what was called the “coalition of the willing.” At its strongest, the coalition provided a total of 25% of the troops in Iraq. About 13 countries have withdrawn their personnel as of March 2006. Coalition forces remaining in Iraq in March 2006: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom
  • U.S. casualties: Deaths March 20–May 1 (official end of hostilities): combat, 115; noncombat, 23; total, 138. Deaths March 20, 2003–Nov.9, 2006: combat, 2,275; noncombat, 562; total, 2,837. 134 civilian contractors were killed as of June 2006.
  • U.S. soldiers wounded in action: 21,572 (Nov. 7, 2006).
  • American POWs: 8 (6 captured on March 23, 2003, in Nasiriya; 2 pilots shot down on March 24 near Karbala). All were rescued.
  • Coalition casualties: Britain, 119; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, 6; Slovakia, 3; El Salvador, 3; ; Thailand, 2; Estonia, 2; The Netherlands, 2; Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Latvia, 1 each (Oct. 24, 2006)
  • U.S. cost of stationing troops in Iraq: in the first years, it was estimated at $4 billion per month, by 2006 it was $6 billion per month1
  • Iraqi civilian deaths: over 55,000 (according to Iraq Body Count in Mar. 2006)

1. U.S. government figures

Sources: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), CNN, BBC, U.S. Dept. of Defense.

Read more: Fact Sheet: Iraqi War — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908900.html#ixzz1XfpJ0xL8

 

 

Today we remember the victims of the 9-11 assault on our shores. Let us also be mindful that the number of deaths resulting from 9-11 continue to grow with each passing day.

It’s been ten years – it’s time to bring our children home!

The Note

What can you  know at thirteen
of letters of love, soft words
of declaration – pouring forth
gushing admiration for
a high-school Adonis?

I was vulnerable, feminine,
soft – everything you’d expect
from a girl-child in love.

Too sappy, sincere, honest,
she told me —
He’ll show it to everyone – No,
not this note. But…

sad-broken humor
the only way to avoid ridicule –
You MUST
play the jokester,
not the lover,
she said.  

(I acquiesced.)

Later, in dark rooms,
I re-read
the first note
that would have told you
I was enamored, in heart-felt awe,
of the boy-man you were becoming.

I thought of old stories –
how we laughed together
as children. Side-by-side,
uncommon neighbors,
toddler playmates – until
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

Apology was the first step
those few years later – us
technically grown, adulthood –
failed marriages, our own children,
lessons learned and learning —

Living in dark places beneath
burning turmoil, we were Us
for a millisecond, a moment.
— Then, the dark night shifted
fell from place —

The Muses laughed,
threw complication
into the mix, Fate
danced through the shadows
bumping into Us
jostling Me and You — then
the time-memory slipped away
and We were gone.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

We speak without voices —
typed-letters on a screen,
new notes
written twenty years later
in real time.

Now we are friends
as we were playmates – some
strange connective-bond built
in a sandbox —

before we could know
the game we live in,
the jokes Life plays
and the roads we would choose
to follow.

And, I am still thinking
about the note
I should have given you —

 

September 2011

 

Artwork: Chiaro di luna by Escha Van den bogerd. You may find more about the artist and other works here.

 

 

The Art of Seeing

 

 

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. ~Jonathan Swift

If I were going to select one thing that makes the difference in a poet and their poetry, or in the daily life of an average man, it would be the vision with which that person looks at himself and the world around him.

Jonathan Swift, a prolific writer, (best known for the prose masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels, and considered the foremost prose satirist in the English language*) gives a near perfect definition of (artistic-spiritual) vision when he says it is “the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

The poet’s true gift is his ability to see these invisible elements and then translate them. An excellent poet will see deeper than the average person. He will use this deeper vision, take in the essence of truth before him, and then use the medium of language to translate what he sees with intense emotion and minute detail. All great and poignant poetry is about vision, translation, and audience.

Poetic Eyes

Imagine yourself as a child opening a birthday gift – you tear the paper off the box and find a large magnifying glass inside.  The very first thing you do is go look at all the things you’re interested in with your new glass. You will see everything as before – but then, in a new way as the tiny elements of these things grow larger and clearer under magnification.

Now, imagine the poet, looking at everything in his world through a magnifying glass. He is already looking at the world around him, but he learns to tune his vision in such a way as to see deeper – as if he were holding a magnifying glass up in front of everything that catches his attention. This is how the poet “sees the invisible.”

Here is an example of detail from the poem, Death in Leamington, by John Betjeman:

She died in the upstairs bedroom
By the light of the evening star
That shone through the plate glass window
From over Leamington Spa.

Beside her the lonely crochet
Lay patiently and unstirred,
But the fingers that would have worked it
Were dead as the spoken word.

And Nurse came in with the tea-things
Breast high’ mid the stands and chairs —
But Nurse was alone with her own little soul,
And the things were alone with theirs./ …..

Betjeman uses a variety of poetic techniques in this excerpt, but pay special attention to his translation into imagery with meaning.

The death in Betjeman’s poem is recorded in slow-motion, each detail carefully carved in the readers mind, each small thing translated to perfection. We see the scene as the poet sees it – with the shared depth of sadness the poet experiences. He brings the moment to life in a vibrant, deep way which changes us, the reader, as we move through this episode with him. We see through his eyes.

Poetic Translation

The following poem is an example of a poet’s ability to use the smallest details, along with connotation, to create a vivid picture and joined experience with the reader. Robert Hayden is a master of experience translation in Those Winter Sundays:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Hayden sees the past with his father in the new light of his own maturity. The poem explores the coldness (ingratitude) felt as a child and creates a mirroring effect with the coldness of the house.

The reader sees and feels the sadness, the understanding and regret, as the poet drills-down to the simple weekly experience. The poet is, at once, both child and adult speaking to us, telling us his story in a way that brings us inside of it with him. The words are translated into an experience for the reader.

Poetic Audience

A poet writes for himself to large degree. However, he writes in a fixed time and place – each decade belongs to the lingering poetic voices which have named it. This means that a poet must always be conscious of Audience.

The poem cannot exist away and aside from audience. It speaks from a place and time where others live, where history occurs, and the future becomes the past. In thinking of audience, we must bring time and place to the table, and also class, status, country, and world-view.

Audience, in the larger sense, is demonstrated perfectly by Allen Ginsberg in this excerpt from the poem, America:

America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.

Ginsberg is speaking in and from a particular time in American history. His poems resonate strongly with people of that generation sharing similar experiences. They resonate now in a more general sense or as an example of defiance and rebellion to the status quo for people of a different culture or time.

Culture is a part of poem and audience alike. The following excerpts, by Gwendolyn Brooks and Sterling A. Brown speak with a strong voice that is both living in and speaking from a particular culture:

We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

We Real Cool
The Pool Players
Seven at the Golden Shovel

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk Late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Excerpt from Riverbank Blues by Sterling A. Brown

A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin’, no need for doin’,
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.

Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary’s, Big Mary’s, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man’s roots,
Keep him soaked and stranded and git him weak./…../

Brown’s poem about the Mississippi River speaks of a local, rural culture that lives with the good and the bad of the river. His poem tolls a warning while speaking generally of danger and oppression, yet deals specifically with the danger and oppression locally in relation to the River.

A “good” poem is hard to define. There are variances, personal preferences, and socio-political elements that make definition impossible. However, we can see that the hallmark of good poetry – poetry that lasts and brings a voice to it’s people, culture, and generation – is a combination of poetic vision, translation, and audience. The poet writing with strong abilities in these areas will be heard. ~

 “A culture is made – or destroyed – by its articulate voices.”   ~Ayn Rand

 

Art Prints

ARTWORK: Red Rose by Karen M. Scovill, courtesy of www.fineartamerica.com. You can find out more about the artist and view other works here.

*from Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

That One Peach

 
 

There is
that
one peach
over-ripe
battered and bruised
on one side
that I must have —
craving modest
imperfection
as the bite sinks deep
and the juice
rolls gently
down my chin.
The
imperfect things
often hold
the greatest pleasure,
a lingering sweetness
that outlasts time.
I am
a devourer
of imperfection —
leaving
all the perfect things
for someone else.

~July 2011

 

 

 Art Prints

Find out more about the artist at this website.

The 99% and The Battle for America

“Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask? Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked?“      ~Soren Kierkegaard

venice_masque

We are the author of our own personal truth. We make daily decisions, as the creator, designing and constructing the platform-frame as a foundation to which we attach our personality, build a narrative history, and create a legacy that becomes the unique remembrance of us in the world. We do this as individuals and as the United States of America.

Nationally, as Americans, we love to believe in the American Dream – that anyone can become anything, rising above circumstances and limitations, to become an American success story.  Our history is one of dreamers and dreams being born and flourishing. Our soil grows an independent fighting Spirit that makes us seek more and better; each new generation shoving past its predecessor to become smarter, brighter, stronger, richer, and happier. This is the promise we have cherished since becoming a nation; a promise believed to be our great Destiny. We are a nation built on hope, individuality, and dreams.

But, times are changing, and as New Americans we live in a time of masks. Our politicians are primarily a collective of hidden faces behind picturesque disguises, the national economy still tragically caught within a depression that is masked by the title recession, and numerous negative sociological and cultural changes ignored and denied as non-existent boogey-monsters imagined by an uneducated and panicky lower-class public. The American Dream still applies to 1% of the population, but what about the 99% who have trouble sleeping and haven’t dreamed in years?

Class Levels and the Battle for Education

America has always been a land of class division as much as she would deny it. However, not since the years of open slavery has the schism between the rich and poor been so great. The classes continue to grow in distance from one another, with the realities of one class being almost incomprehensible to the other class. At the heart of these different realities lies education.

The poorer classes traditionally are less educated and less literate than the more prosperous classes. The recent cuts in public school budgets for arts and sciences, the teacher downsizing and layoffs in the public schools, and the current trend toward staff reductions and closing of public libraries is obviously more detrimental to the poor. Likewise, when the fear of government shut-downs were discussed, it was the military and public parks that faced pay cuts and closures – both of which are utilized by and filled with people of poor to modest incomes. The rich seldom need to use these services or join our military forces.

The money and privilege of the higher classes provides advantages beyond what the “average” American can afford. High crime rates, violent acts during a crime, and major drug use are often directly traceable to lack of education and trauma in the home. Deprivation of basic resources and a sense of stability and security, along with unhealthy self-esteem, creates an unbalanced psyche that leans toward mental illness, drug use, and violent crime. While the answer may not be to throw money at the problems once they’ve reached that stage; certainly, no one would deny that our society benefits from educating our children, teaching them to be productive, ensuring that all children have their basic needs met, and are provided a good, basic education.

Education is like medical care: those with higher incomes and more disposable money will always be able to purchase both commodities. Those without the funds to do so lose the foundation of opportunity. We create a society in which violence thrives because higher education, critical thinking, logic and problem solving have not been taught. Instead, people take what they want by forces believing that to be the only way they’ll ever have it. Lack of opportunity, inequality, and jealousy creates violent men and women.

door-lock_small 

In recent years, our public education system has fallen terribly short of its objectives – we do need review and changes. However, cutting teacher pay, laying-off teachers, and increasing class size are not forward-moving steps. Rather, these are antiquated methods that lock doors to keep certain people (classes) “in their place.” An uninformed and uneducated public is also a less powerful public. But, we must beware, because history shows that mob rule becomes the norm when people cannot find voice or power any other way.

 

 Who is the 99% ?

 

There’s a wonderful article by Joseph E. Stiglitz, in this month’s Vanity Fair, titled, “Of The 1%, By The 1%, For The 1%,” that explores the inequality in wealth and class in America. According to Stiglitz:

The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent….While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.

  

This is a staggering truth – the numbers don’t lie. The rich run the country through wealth and power, and the middle class IS shrinking. Stiglitz goes on to examine this situation in depth, looking at the ruling class and politicians, at current reinforcing rules, and at what this means for America as time passes. In closing he explains a basic truth often forgotten by those in power: As a nation, the fate of the 1 percent and the fate of the 99 percent is intricately knotted together.

The 99 percent could be called the “average Americans.” The men and women who work a job in construction, food service, plants or warehouses, service industries, and myriad other “blue and white collar” jobs. The 1 percent are the politicians, the IT millionaires, the privileged dynasty families, and the other top power brokers in our nation. The 1 percent, like the mythical comments of the French queen, may very well say “let them eat cake,” as the lower classes starve. Again, history teaches us valuable lessons about the abject distance between the two classes and the violence that is possible when the rich and powerful men forget that the poor man has a destiny entwined with his own.