Weekend Reading – Lost Arts

The value of memorizing (and sometimes even reciting) poetry.

Cool! He designed one of my favorite spots in Tampa!

Poetry publishers, poetry MFA programs, poetry reviewers (do they still exist? is that a real job? can I have it?), and poetry award givers all appear to be significantly less sexist as the rest of the (male dominated) publishing world.

Ancient mystery solved. Everyone go home now.

I don’t actually remember seeing all that much street art in Thailand. But LA? Yeah. Tons of it. Great stuff. Sometimes. You know.

Chicago Modernism.


Monday Morning Staff Meeting – Yes, But Was He Any Good?

This article goes into the big question when it comes to J.R.R. Tolkien: was he any good as a writer? The article says… maybe. It’s all a bit wishy washy. And I object strenuously to the negative criticism of his poetry, which I loved when my mother sang to me while reading The Hobbit out loud to a seven year old me. I think that there is also an argument to be made for a little pomo gamesmanship in his writing, if you look at it as having been written in an imaginary language (based on Anglo-Saxon and pre-English languages from the British Isles) and then translated into English. Rather as if someone wrote an epic novel in Klingon and then translated it into English. And, in case you hadn’t figured it out yet – I’m a fan of Tolkien.

Neo-liberalism and negative solidarity.

UC Davis has sold out to Amazon.

Emile Zola: novelist, polemicist, pamphleteer… influential art critic?

There are Crystals in Stone and Pressure in Snow So Are Snow and Stone the Same

Allen Ginsberg was many different from the others.

I’m glad that some newspapers are still covering poetry. Even if it is on the other side of the country (Dear WaPo, would it kill you to write more about literature and poetry ’round here? ‘Cause there’s a lot of it, most of it having nothing to do with poorly researched, pseudo-timely musings on the politics of six months ago).


Midweek Staff Meeting – Why Ask Why

Why study English? Because it’s awesome.

The Great Oakland Hipster Flight of 2013.

Bach’s great love letter to Christ.

Kickstart for indie bookstores.

Mobile Political Ads

Just a little note: I was listening to Pandora the other day and was played an audio ad from Eric Garcetti’s LA mayoral campaign and also saw a pop-up ad on Pandora attacking his opponent, Wendy Gruel.

I started using Pandora in LA, so it still has that for my zip code.

This is an interesting expansion of political targeting into mobile.

I was listening to jazz, but I suspect they targeted me more for my zip code and didn’t drill down too deeply beyond that, not even bothering to geo-locate users, but rather trusting to just my initial, unverified, location. Pretty poor targeting, actually when you get right down to it.

Bookstores Past

The fine blogger of The Bookshop Blog wrote ‘Remembrances of Bookstores Past.’

Like her, I remember a mystery bookstore – though mine was in Santa Monica. I was never a big reader of mysteries, but the store stuck out because I my mother loves mysteries and when she came to visit, I made a special effort to take her there.

While trapped in New York City, near Columbus Circle, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Rizzoli’s while far afield and have great respect and affection for the selection I found there. Nothing better than a well curated bookstore.

Another Brick In The Wall

Or, if you prefer, another sad stake in the dying corpse of print journalism. And don’t tell me some story about the rise of the internet. Still hasn’t replaced print journalism for the kind of discourse democracy requires.

Anyway… the death knell of San Diego’s largest paper


I have never been a fan of the LA Galaxy (while living in Los Angeles, I preferred to attend Chivas USA games; I also attended Clippers rather than Lakers games, so there is a touch of perversity in my choices), but I was still interested enough in the capture of Beckham to be angry when his actions those first three seasons in Los Angeles showed him to be of a dismissive attitude towards my city (at the time), my country, and my soccer league.

I don’t know what happened, but these last three seasons, he pulled it together and started playing with heart and god bless him for that.

He announced he’s leaving at the end of the season, which is probably good and right. The Galaxy are in the MLS Cup and, on paper and with a healthy team, look like favorites. End on a high note.

The rumor has him doing one last stint in Australia, which has a shortened league schedule and will already be half over after the cup game, which means he’d have a chance to play six to ten games, strut his stuff, and finish his career with his body intact (hopefully).

So, basically. Beckham, I’ve forgiven you and you’re making the right decision to leave now.

Columbia University Press & Indie Bookstores

Columbia University Press recognizes the role of independent bookstores in the the food chain, particularly that part of the food chain that feeds university presses…

They also give some shout outs to some fine bookstores, including local favorite, Bridge Street Books, and my old haunt, Skylight Books.

I’d once visited University Press Books in Berkeley (though I can’t remember what I bought there) and of course I’ve been to City Lights.

Embarrassingly, I’ve never been to Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa, despite having lived in the Hawkeye state for a political cycle. On my way out of there, I stopped in Iowa City to visit former (then current) Iowa House Minority Leader, Dick Myers (great man; a little crazy, but great). It would have been a perfect opportunity to stop by Prairie Lights and pick up a literary memento, but I never did.

At The Folger Shakespeare Library – Red, White, and Blue: Poets on Politics Nikky Finney and Brian Turner

Before the reading, I picked up a copy of Phantom Noise by Brian Turner. It wasn’t that I necessarily had a preference, merely that I was in a bookstore and they had a copy of one of his books and not one by Nikki Finney.

I am always unsure about poetry and politics. I think we desperately need political poetry, for the sake of both our inter/national political discourse and for the sake of poetry (which must be engaged to be vibrant; though that is not to say that all poetry needs to be engaged, merely that if there is no engaged poetry or very little, poetry becomes too disconnected from the life of the people and risks becoming little more than a pretty art for the wealthy and comfortable).

This one was originally scheduled for October 30, but that pesky hurricane postponed that, of course. I can only imagine they worked hard to get this rescheduled so as to at least take place before the election, but nothing could help the comparatively sparse crowd that we can surely blame on the new date.

Nikki Finney was relatively quiet. Whether she is naturally restrained, or felt constrained by the garrulous Brian Turner and the too intrusive host/moderator, Alice Quinn.

Alice Quinn is executive director of the Poetry Society of America, she a wonderful and erudite speaker on poetry, but I frankly did not attend to hear to her speak. I just didn’t. But she really seemed to want to speak.

I rarely ask questions during this things, but this time I did. My question was about success – that if there is a purpose to political poetry beyond aesthetics, how is success judged. And Quinn asked who I wanted to answer this, seemingly thinking maybe she was the intended recipient.

Oh, hell no. I came to hear Nikke Finney and Brian Turner read poetry and speak about their work and the night’s theme, politics and political poetry. I would happily attend a future lecture by Alice Quinn, but that’s not what this was.

Turner was a very open and talkative man. He knew my old boss, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, on account of her work with veterans and on PTSD and mental health issues. He gave me his email address and told me to send him my address and he would send me copies of his first book, Here, Bullet – one for me and one for her. Well, I couldn’t have that happen, so I bought two copies, in addition to Phantom Noise, and asked him to sign one for her. He asked me to offer her his assistance, any time, any place. Once he found out I worked for union, he made the same offer to me.

I enjoyed Phantom Noise more than I expected. It’s very much about the experience of coming home from Iraq and the ongoing trauma of PTSD, which I don’t always feel makes for very good poetry. Phantom Noise is a bit of an exception (or perhaps, I just haven’t read enough in the genre to understand how good things have gotten, poetry-wise, even if its mere existence is a reminder of how bad things still are and can be for veterans). It does tend to be a bit much. Too many poems about bloody memories interrupting ordinary, man-woman relations.

He did ask me how I read books of poetry, whether I skipped around or read them front to back like a novel. I told him, like a novel. Perhaps his work is better read in a different fashion and he realized that. In bunches, too much. His own reading style was very conversational and dialogical in between the poems, as if he knew the importance of the spaces between poems (and not just within a poem).

Anyway… super excited about Kay Ryan coming up. Saw her read as Poet Laureate and saw her once when I was still living in California.

Your Monthly Dose Of Seth Abramson’s Quiveringly Praiseful & Profoundly, Verbosely, & Gushingly Erudited Reviews Of Recent Books Of Poetry Published By Various Doughty Vanguards Of Our Stupendous Poetical Culture

Yes, he’s irritating. But not many reviews of poetry are being published these days in, you know, places people can see them.

So here you are – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/september-2012-contempora_b_1923827.html

For something a little more fun to read (though still a bit overdone), check out these reviews (also in the HuffPo) of books by San Francisco poets.