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Archive for January, 2008


Thursday, January 31st, 2008

“I used to paint dots. Very neat ones. Not anymore. Wild woman now.”
Mary McLean, celebrated Aboriginal painter of Western Australia

What you see isn’t all you get: night moves the sky
of mind aside enough to let imagination gush in.

Remember the last time you got quiet, then got high
on Mayan, Nubian, African stuff? Grecian? Russian?

Remember how the child-you stepped through scenes
without leaving a trace, your eyeprints all that mattered,

your cave-art heart the clearing ground? Soul cleans
away debris so we can see and feel the heart shattered

under a blanket of daylight come back to hunt us
where we live. If you can touch Hatshepsut with an eye,

then jump to John Brown just before he confronts us
with his death, then you can lose the your, the my

you see as us alone. Most seeing is a mausoleum
laid out with memory-traces, fictions with no breath.

Can death be ore than yet another mask? The Dogon
of Mali, they’ve mastered the mysteries of Sirius B, a star

astronomers stumbled on just recently. To log on
in real-time, turn up at the Art of Africa exhibit (not far

from the pre- and post-amnesiac Americas, or New
Guinea, Indonesia, Polynesia, Central Asia, dream-time

Australia). Wrap your spirit around sculpture the big you
knows already by feel and by heart. Why nickel and dime

your love-leaning, meaning-hungry, beauty-starved self?
Bury the thought-smart you just long enough to stun and wow

the being-you: a living stream of light. Wade in the wealth
of unfathomable years whose moments you can only know as now.

Al Young
Copyright © 2006

(from Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems 2001-2006)

Commissioned by San Francisco’s deYoung Museum of Fine Arts to celebrate its spectacular re-opening of 15 October 2005.


Thursday, January 31st, 2008

You make me cry. You do all this for love.
You do it all because you dare to care,
you dare to dream. Someone has to act.
You get sick of hearing about how somewhere
over the rainbow. You know too well why

the caged bird sings, but what about the blues
she sings? What about half-notes,
whole-notes, notes in-between? What about
the slot between got-and got-not? Someone’s
got to fill that out, indeed, sweet queen of need.

I can stand here all day and tell you how much
I honor, admire, how brave you are. I can
call you courageous, make you a media star.
The truth is this: your kiss to us who survive
in sweatshops, sieves or suburbs, lingers. Amazing,

your courage feels big and tight and warm enough
for me to ask: What will it take to make
more of us feel the thrilling seal of giving?”
To give gets what we need and share. To get
and give back nothing? How incredible, how sad

this wanting world, where women, our deliverers,
get wasted or waste away. Honored, humbled,
I know why you do it, know why I cry and get it
finally that you stun and give more than desert or river.
Recover, discover, deliver – for love you do all this.

Al Young
Copyright © 2006 and 2008

from Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Poetry

Commissioned by California First Lady Maria Shriver for presentation of the Minerva Awards at the Governor and First Lady’s Conference on Women and Families, 27 October 2005, Long Beach, California.


Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Kenneth Patchen


Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) was a major American experimental poet and novelist influenced by Dadaism and Surrealism.

Kenneth Patchen’s father was a steel worker in Youngstown and, later, in Warren, Ohio. As a young man Patchen followed his father’s example and worked briefly in the mills, but, having decided to be a writer, he attended college, then travelled around the country, and, while supporting himself with odd jobs, spent what time he could developing his abilities with language. In 1934 he married Miriam Oikemus, to whom he would dedicate all of his nearly four dozen books, and two years later he published his first volume of poetry, Before the Brave.

Before the Brave showed Patchen’s strong leftist political sensibility, formed in part by his youth in the steel towns and in part by his travels around the country during the Depression. Critics initially labelled him one of the leftist writers of the decade, but if he was a political poet (and in fact his intense political convictions remained with him throughout his life), he was a writer more strongly affected by the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. His response to these movements, however, was restrained. Patchen was no one’s disciple, but the Dadaist and Surrealist influence can be felt in the free, whimsical associations characteristic of his work and in his determined lack of concern for traditional forms of literature.


SOMETHING ABOUT THE BLUES | BlogCritics Review (28 January 2008)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Something About the Blues

Book Review: Something About the Blues – an unlikely collection of poetry by Al Young

Written by Abram Bergen
Published January 28, 2008 in BlogCritic


There is something about the blues that grabs hold of you and moves you, physically and emotionally, that transports you to places past, present and imagined, something that taps into the deepest elemental parts of you to soothe and sometimes heal. It’s easy to lose yourself in the blues. Its history runs deep and its influence on other forms has been enormous. The blues, Al Young writes in the introduction to Something About the Blues: an unlikely collection of poetry, is “beaded and threaded throughout America’s musical mosaic.” But the blues, like poetry, is difficult to describe, define, confine. “The blues,” he writes, “will always be dramatically unpredictable, sometimes torturous and sometimes pleasurable,” and “ever resistant to classroom analysis,” for the blues dwells largely “in a feral state; blues truth is wild and menacing.”

Something About the Blues
is blues poetry. Though I’ve often listened to and lost myself in the blues, and have immersed myself in various kinds of poetry, I must confess that I was largely ignorant of the blues in poetic form until I had the good fortune to read this collection. The first to popularize blues poetry was Langston Hughes, born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902, and best “known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties” (learn more about Hughes at It is fitting, then, that Young opens his collection of blues poetry with Hughes’ beautiful and haunting poem, “The Weary Blues.” This poem, read by Hughes himself, also opens the accompanying CD. It serves as a wonderful introduction to the spirit of blues poetry and sets the mood perfectly.



Tuesday, January 29th, 2008


Go to the original

Robinson Jeffers:

Peace Poet

by Justin Raimondo


Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

A celebrated American bard, hailed by the critics as the bright shining star of the “California poets,” delivers the manuscript of his long awaited book, and his publisher—a major source of much of the nation’s literary cachet—sends a note chirping merrily that “the whole staff is buzzing with anticipation.” That buzz, however, soon turns to a growl as the author’s antiwar views come under their disapproving scrutiny.

Even as editor reassures author “how meaningful and important every word you wrote has been to me,” he is nonetheless “disturbed and terribly worried” about those “frequent damning references” to the president. The book, the editor sadly concludes, “will feed the prejudices of the wrong people, especially those who have tried so hard and so vindictively to discredit him.”

The poet’s work is subjected to severe editing. Entire poems—10 in all—are excised. When the volume is finally published, it bears an extraordinary editorial note averring, “in all fairness to that constantly interdependent relationship, and in all candor,” the publisher “feels compelled to go on record with its disagreement over some of the political views pronounced by the poet in this volume.” The editor’s note concludes with the smug self-assurance of one who knows his reiteration of the conventional wisdom renders him practically unassailable: “Time alone,” he intones, “is the court of last resort in the case of ideas on trial.”

It’s a tale for our times. The persecution of a liberal artist by conservative philistines and ideologues, the author a victim of the Bush cult, right? No? Well, then, it must be the story of some fellow-traveling Dalton Trumbo-like figure out of the McCarthy era, whose poetry of a slightly pinkish hue got him called on the carpet. Wrong again.