Category Archives: Books

Books

Jax NTP — An interview at CRAB CREEK REVIEW / Wanted: Seven Choreographers

As a poet in my mid-70s, it is very gratifying to see that some of my students at CSULB have continued to get their work published and recognized. In particular, I am proud of Jax NTP, who has just been featured in the Crab Creek Review:

https://www.crabcreekreview.org/crabcreekrevblog/poetry-month-feature-jax-ntp

************

I just received the following announcement from the Heide Duckler Dance:

We are bringing our beloved Ebb & Flow festival back to the Los Angeles State Historic Park in Chinatown on June 25th and 26th. Ebb & Flow is a free, site-specific community festival of local artists integrating dance, visual arts, music, and technology to explore climate change and its impact on the environment and consequently our health.
We are looking for 7 dance makers to create 8-10 minutes of multidisciplinary performance works in the park that explore the relationship between nature, humanity, climate change, and health! Artists will receive a stipend for their work and participation.
APPLICATION DUE DATE: April 25th

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScI6NztHdImZYib7-JqM3lzvBJVx3ClceIfTO3sp10VVc00zw/viewform

Books

An All-Star Line-Up Reads Poems about Marilyn Monroe

Monday, April 4th, 2022

Yesterday, an ensemble of poets whose work might not usually be associated with each other’s poetics got together to read poems about Marilyn Monroe that were recently published in an anthology edited by Susana H. Case and Margo Taft Stever, I WANNA BE LOVED BY YOU: Poems about Marilyn Monroe.

Here is a link to the reading, which features the editors and following contributors:
Sebastian Matthews
Barbara Goldberg
Tina Cane
Sally Bliumis-Dunn
Hoyt Rogers
Suzanne Sigafoos
Denise Duhamel
Lynn McGee
Liz Marlow
Marion Brown
Valerie Frost
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Julie Danho
Bill Mohr
Indran Amirthanayagam
Meredith Trede
Sandy Yannone

And here is a link for anyone who wants to purchase the anthology:

I Wanna Be Loved By You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe

Books

Crippled Inside: The Social Joke of Public Honors

Will Smith has resigned from the Academy of Motion Pictures. He did the right thing, and I am certain he will return the Oscar trophy that the Academy will strip him of. Next to the official records for this year’s Best Performance by an Actor will be the word “Retracted.”

Unfortunately, there’s no way that Kid Rock can permanently retract his words. They sneer in the stage of memory, in a tape loop that mocks another person for being “disfigured.”

Oh, I forgot: it was a “benign joke.” I guess with the Academy’s full approval it’s back to the schoolyard again, with its merciless taunts of anyone different. I suggest that the Academy make sure that its rectitude is on full display next year. The president of the Academy should stand on stage on awards night and lead the entire audience in a prolonged chant of “G.I. Jane! G.I. Jane! G.I, Jane!” At least thirty seconds long. Such a show of organized unity will thereby obviate any doubt that it was anything other than a “benign joke.” If the Academy is fully convinced that it is in the right, then I see no reason for it to hesitate in reiterating the legitimate appropriateness of its humor. As part of the punishment for Smith’s offense, why should the Academy not drive home its point by piling on?

One notices, too, that the person who wrote the joke has not come forward to claim credit for it. Why not? What’s the hesitation? If you had written one of the most provocative jokes in the history of modern entertainment, wouldn’t you want credit for it? Or is there something you’re ashamed of? Something you can’t retract?

Come to think of it, it’s not the president of the Academy who should lead the chant next year. That person should be joined on stage by the joke writer who came up with it, just so that person gets his or her moment of glory. And just for the record, of course, it would be interesting to learn the race of the person who wrote the joke.

It was around this point in typing out this post that I thought of the title. The first part, of course, comes from a song by John Lennon on “The Plastic Ono Band” album. I suddenly realized, however, that it’s not just one joke writer or comedian or actor who’s crippled inside. It’s the entire society’s insatiable desire for public honor. It’s a feeding frenzy of aquatic predators that want to devour everything — even the ocean in which they swim — in hopes of greater acclaim.

Somehow I miss the joke that humanity is playing on itself, and even if I got the punch line, it probably would be too pathetic in its suicidal self-deprecation to laugh.

I guess it’s time to reread “Day of the Locust.”

******

https://variety.com/2022/film/news/will-smith-resigns-academy-oscars-slap-chris-rock-1235221041/

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/will-smith-resigns-from-academy-membership-1235123801/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60963054

Books

The “Benign” Domestic Violence of Kid Rock’s “Joke”

Tuesday, March 29th

“And the Academy Award for Best Live Action Performance goes to Will Smith.” The supporting actor award goes to Kid Rock, who actually deserved a punch and not just a slap. On behalf of everyone who has ever endured being skewered under the guise of humor, I applaud Will Smith, and only wish that the entire audience had chanted: “Encore! Encore! Encore!” in order to drown out Will Smith’s “script suggestions” for Kid Rock’s next set of jokes: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fuckin’ mouth.” I do wish I could have seen this altercation take place in “actual time,” instead of learning about it after Linda and I finished driving home from Laurel Ann Bogen’s apartment in West Los Angeles, where we had watched the first hour and a half of the Oscar presentations with a half-dozen of the friends she had invited over to celebrate her birthday. Since we had wanted to avoid driving at night, we left before the most coveted awards were handed out, and it was 40 minutes before I could find out if I had predicted any of the remainder of the winners.

My first thought after viewing the footage online that evening is that it was too bad that no one in the camera control booth did not have the presence of mind to shift a camera toward Troy Kotsur; it would have only been fair to give the hearing challenged community a chance to have access to the uncensored words of Will Smith by giving them close-ups of the ASL translation of what Will Smith said, and then have had Kotsur’s reaction in ASL. Given Kid Rock’s willingness to mock a woman struggling with a disease that alters her physical appearance, it’s possible that the next joke he was going to tell was going to be aimed at Kotsur. Why not? Anyone and everyone is fair game when it comes to being a court jester. For all we know, Smith’s slap was a fortuitous intervention that altered Kid Rock’s planned set of jokes and thereby saved him from making a faux pas about the “deaf” community that would have drawn a laser beam of fury from the disability rights community.

In any case, I am struck by how everyone in the next 24 hours piled on Smith for his “toxic masculinity,” decrying his act of violence with a salivating righteousness. Excuse me, but let’s shift the joke to another scene. Let’s imagine that Smith’s marriage wasn’t doing so well, and just before leaving for the Oscars in a limousine, the driver overhears Smith saying the same exact line to his spouse. Are you telling me that that “joke” wouldn’t be categorized as “emotional violence” when testimony is given at the divorce trial? Do you not think that journalists would be all over Smith in the aftermath of that trial, and that the late-night comedians would not be making jokes about his plight in which the barb he directed at his spouse was then turned against him?

So let’s call it for what it is: Kid Rock’s “joke” is the equivalent of misogynistic domestic violence that wanted to get away with any responsibility for the pain it inflicted by imposing it from a public stage, with an audience in the tens of millions.

Does Will Smith need “anger management”? Yes. Do Kid Rock and all his acolytes need to reexamine their complicity in fostering a toxic environment of comic entitlement? An equally emphatic yes. Kid Rock is just another bully on an adult playground, in another corner of which stands Donald Trump. If only Hillary Clinton had turned around during her debates with him and slapped him just as hard when he was stalking her.

And then slapped him a second time just to show that it wasn’t sloppy impulse, but long overdue retribution for all his transgressions.

*******

In terms of expanding the discussion of this incident, here is an alternative commentary by Monica Hesse, “The misguided chivalry of Will Smith.”
https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/misguided-chivalry-smith-181208236.html
“The memorable image from Sunday’s Oscars will be Will Smith hitting Chris Rock. The memorable image should be Jada Pinkett Smith in her emerald-colored gown, keeping her fingers crossed and her hands to herself.”

AND

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/kareem-abdul-jabbar-will-smith-perpetuated-stereotypes-black-community-slapping-chris-rock-oscars-145518033.html

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says Will Smith ‘perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community’ by slapping Chris Rock at Oscars

David Artavia (Tuesday, March 29, 2022, 7:55 AM)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s commentary is hard to disagree with, except that he says it was “a benign joke.” It was NOT a benign joke, and anyone who thinks it was does not comprehend what it means to be targeted by a bully. Why don’t we take a poll — and guess what? Only people so scarred by bullying that they never had children out of fear that they would have to endure the same experience get to vote on whether it was a benign joke. If that poll reports that the substantial majority of such people say that it was a benign joke, then I’ll retract my words. But not until then.

AND (highly recommended)

‘There Are No Heroes in This Story’: A Conversation between Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Roxane Gay, Charles Blow, and Esau McCaulley
(This is the best article I have read so far.)

*****

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/marc-maron-oscars-slap-will-smith-chris-rock-161325021.html

MARC MARON: “I guarantee you Chris didn’t know she had alopecia. I guarantee you that Chris was handed a paper with a bunch of jokes by the writers… He had a writer, probably, for the awards show. He said: ‘I want to take some shots when I go out. What do you got?’ He saw a bunch of jokes and these were the ones he was carrying into his head when he went on stage.”

Apparently, Marc Maron believes that Kid Rock has no responsibility whatsoever to “vet” his jokes. It’s called “prep time,” Mr. Maron, and if a comedian doesn’t want to risk repercussions, then that comedian had better put in the time to vet the jokes. The sad part of Kid Rock’s failure to do a careful review of his prime time jokes is that he no doubt believes that a brief verbal apology the next day would have sufficed to cancel his lapse. Only if Kid Rock was willing to accept a punishment for his carelessness equal to that which is going to be imposed on Will Smith would I say that Kid Rock comprehends the gravity of his offense. It’s not just the the domestic violence of the joke that I find abominable. It’s the sloppiness with which Kid Rock toys with other people’s lives.

Books

“Make Love, Not War”: A Poet’s Response

March 24, 2022

THE ORIGINS OF A PROTEST IMPERATIVE

If the overwhelming majority of countries belonging to the United Nations are appalled at the war crimes being committed by Russian troops in Ukraine, then let us remember that things were not much different in the 1960s. Does anyone really think that other countries weren’t equally disgusted at the appalling tactics used by the U.S. government?

Out of the protests that happened in this country, an imperative gained popular circulation:

“Make Love, Not War.”

This morning I began to wonder if there was any evidence of the authorship of that phrase:

04: Make Love Not War (1965)

I myself am inclined to believe that Diane Newell Meyer deserves credit for having first publicly gotten the phrase into the public sphere, whereas Penelope Rosemont deserves our gratitude for commodifying it. It’s possible that the activists in Chicago came up with this proclamation all on their own, but they cannot prove that they had not already absorbed it from news accounts at the time.One could say that it was “in the air,” and it’s certainly not surprising that this binary found such compressed urgency.

As a contrast to the recent post on the war in Ukraine, I post therefore a link to a poem by Alexis Rhone Fancher, “Ode to My Husband’s Perfect French.”

http://www.macqueensquinterly.com/MacQ12/Rhone-Fancher-Ode-French.aspx?fbclid=IwAR1KD9s7hK4Iq8xXOh8nMaMzBqnvoT9cwtW9tH6-Z0Nzh1ydEDfO94fU1xA

The humor at the end of her poem should not distract from one of the aspects that makes this poem so successful: the plasticity of the scene. I know my students tire of me emphasizing how imagery is at its best when it conjures a three-dimensional space. In this instance, it is the implied motion of each finger in turn. The reader who speeds through the numbers in rote recitation will lose over 99 percent of the erotic charge. Each number is a sentence unto itself, wiggling with the specificity of its desire.

For those who would like a “side-dish” of a short film, I recommend “I Only Know What I Know Now.”

Books

Cecilia Woloch reports on the Ukraine from Poland

March 23, 2022

“Cecilia Woloch reports on the Ukraine from Poland”
AND a postscript on the impact of the Invasion of Ukraine on the James Bond Franchise

I’ve been utterly swamped at school the past ten days, but wanted this evening to pass on word about Agni magazines’s publication of reports on the conditions in Ukraine and on the experiences of refugees in neighboring countries.

Agni was founded a half-century ago by a group of writers at Antioch College, including a Ukrainian-American named Askold Melnyczuk. Before you read anything else, though, please attend closely to his statement, which can be found here:
https://agnionline.bu.edu/blog/with-madonna-in-kyiv/

In addition, I would call particular attention to the “dispatch” from Cecilia Woloch, who is currently a Fulbright Scholar based in Poland. Though primarily active in Los Angeles, Cecilia has also spent several decades roaming both the United States and Europe as a poet intent on bringing personal history into dialogue with the ominous aftermath of previous historical devastations. It does not surprise me at all that she is the one poet I personally know at this particular moment who has voluntarily inserted herself into accelerating alignment with the precipice that human foolishness has currently lured us toward. Such proximity is not what I would dare to undertake right now, and I hope that Cecilia manages to return to us safely so that she can bear witness about these events to those of us in Los Angeles who wish for the war to halt and for Putin to acknowledge that he has caused incalculable suffering for which which there is no remediation possible in his lifetime. That the American government and its European allies are complicit in the reprehensible conduct of the war by Russia should not be overlooked. Anyone who thinks that the CIA and the Pentagon are not absolutely tickled at a chance to see how the Russian war machine can perform is totally naive. “Generals and Majors”: It’s time to cue up the classic XTC song.

You can find Cecilia’s report at the following link:

https://agnionline.bu.edu/blog/dispatches-from-ukraine/?fbclid=IwAR0A09dho1x-ExWXzQ9PSeS3uLskGcHoZUaLhnqtOO8oNHqploSJCwQAsDY

Here is a list of the other writers and poets who have contributed to these “dispatches” from the regions most affected by Putin’s invasion:
Olga Bragina
Olha Poliukhovych
Liliya Malyarchuk
Marina Stepanska
Sándor Jászberényi
Ostap Slyvynsky
Halyna Kruk, translated by Lola Caracas
Taras Tsymbal
Yuliya Musakovska
Tara Skurtu
Anton Shapkovsky
Anastasia Levkova
Oleksiy Panych
Kseniya Kvitka
Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Virlana Tkacz
Tamara Hunderova, translated by Virlana Tkacz
Volodymyr Dibrova

***********

As a kind of gallows humor post-script, I append the following:

“The Silver Lining in the War in the Ukraine”

I suppose there are situations in which no one benefits, but the horror in the Ukraine is not one of them. One would think by now that the James Bond film franchise would have reached its limits of enduring popularity, but Bond appears to be on a roll that will exceed even the longevity of The Rolling Stones.

Come to think of it, that might not be potential future script joke. Imagine this: whoever the next Bond is finds himself pursuing a villain who has purchased choice seats to enjoy the 2,765th live performance of “Sympathy for the Devil,” and Bond finds himself working the way through the crowd, which includes glimpses of all the living actors who have played Bond.

In any case, both the novels of John LeCarre and the James Bond franchise will benefit from Vladimir Putin’s nefarious endeavors in the Ukraine. In the case of the Bond franchise, those who sit down to enjoy the spectacle should first watch a six-hour documentary film that annotates the true production costs of the next Bond installment.

Books

The 50th Anniversary of the Social Imaginary of “THE GODFATHER”

March 13, 2022

Fifty years ago, Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel, “The Godfather,” premiered to admiring reviews and audiences eager to embrace an anti-hero. The audiences included gangsters themselves, very few of whom had read Puzo’s novel, but who couldn’t resist a chance to see their subculture portrayed in popular culture while knowing that the people sitting all around them were clueless about their presence. The film’s cumulative impact on the quotidian behavior of members of organized appears to have been substantial. One recent news article focused on how gangsters looked to the film as the contemporary equivalent of “conduct books” in the 18th century, which seems a perfectly believable explanation of a simulacrum having real world effects on a social imaginary.

It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that it wasn’t just Italian-Americans immigrants and their offspring who saw the United States as a land of criminal opportunity. The Irish-Americans had their base for unreported income in Boston, and the Killeen-Mullen war was taking place even before “The Godfather” was released. In fact, it was less than two months after the film premiered that Donald Killeen was murdered outside his home. Whether Whitey Bulger was the hit man is not the relevant point of interest here. What I would love to know is whether Bulger saw the film during its first release and what his reaction to it was. My curiosity about Bulger largely derives from his long residence in Santa Monica less than three miles north of where I lived for 20 years. Even in closer proximity than that for a short time, in fact! The Getty Research Institute had its headquarters at the intersection of Fourth and Wilshire for many years, and it feels odd in retrospect to know that Mr. Bulger was a very short distance away from the seminar room at which scholars from across the United States focused on Los Angeles itself as a cultural trope during the fall of 1996 and the spring of 1997.

By now, most of the people who saw “The Godfather” in 1972 are either dead or collecting social security, but the appeal of gangster narratives has far from abated. “The Sopranos,” for instance, was a massive success. As with “The Godfather,” I ended up watching it long after its debut, but I found each instance more than worth my attention. What did surprise me, twenty years ago, was how young people did not know of “The Godfather” at all. I remember working as a teaching assistant in Revelle College at UCSD around 2003 and I made a reference to the scene with a horse’s head in a bed. Not a single student in the classroom knew what I was talking about. Mind you, these were mostly pre-med students whose social background were hardly that of deprivation and limited access to high or low culture. It’s in this context that I point to a very fine interview with Al Pacino and a comment that he makes about those whose cultural curiosity seems to have been stifled well before they entered high school. “”Have You Seen the Horse’s Head / Leaking All over the Bed?” Apparently not.

NY TIMES: Do you get self-conscious about watching your own films?
AL PACINO: No. I enjoy watching films I’ve been in. …. “The Godfather” plays no matter what. But you’re surprised when you realize how many people never saw it.

NY TIMES: You’re encountering people who are aware of “The Godfather” as a cultural phenomenon but haven’t actually watched it?
AL PACINO: They’ve heard about it. You get that. “Oh, I heard — were you in that? That was a film, wasn’t it?” Yes. So was “Citizen Kane,” by the way — I was in that, too. Why not? They don’t know.

Thank you, Mr. Pacino, for a good laugh.

************


With ‘The Godfather,’ Art Imitated Mafia Life. And Vice Versa.

Books

Tim Reynolds, Poet and Translator (1936 – 2022)

Thursday, March 10, 2022

TIM REYNOLDS (July 18, 1936 – March 10, 2022)

About two hours ago, I received a short note from Jessica Renshow, the sister of the poet and translator Tim Reynolds. She informed me that Tim, at age 85, knew full well that he was “winding down” (his words), and that his doctor recommended yesterday that he enter hospice at his assisted care residence, Retma Manor Nursing Center in Harlingen, Texas. This morning, at 1 a.m., he passed. In addition to his sister, he is survived by a brother, Ted, as well as a son, Tony, and his family, as well as a daughter. I believe Tim’s daughter is a college professor in Texas, where his son also lives. Tim lived in Los Angeles County for most of the second half of his life, moving to Texas about a half-dozen years ago. The last time I saw him was at his apartment in Long Beach about a mile and a half from where I live. Even then, he was growing rather frail.

He was educated at University of Wisconsin, B.A., 1961 and Tufts University, M.A., 1962. His books of poems included Ryoanji (NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1964), Halflife (Cambridge: Pym-Randall Press, 1964), Catfish Goodbye (San Francisco: Anubis, 1967), Slocum (Santa Barbara: Unicorn Press, 1967), Que (Cambridge: Halty-Ferguson, 1971), The Women Poem (NY: Phoenix Book Shop, 1973), Dawn Chorus (NY: Ithaca House, 1980), and What Ever Happened, (nee IBM:IRT, Los Angeles: if publishing, 2000), ), as well as two plays: — “The Tightwad” (translation of ‘La”Avare’ by Moliere, produced in YSO, 1978) –“Peace” (published in The Tenth Muse: Classical Drama in Translation, edited by Charles Doria, Swallow Press, 1980)… and poems in 54 magazines, among them The Antioch Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The Nation, Poetry and Saturday Review. Almost all of his books are in several dozen libraries.

About four years ago, I posted a blog entry on Tim. I reprint it for easy access:

Tim Reynolds, Paul Blackburn and the Archive for New Poetry
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tim Reynolds, Paul Blackburn and the Archive for New Poetry: Now Online
I met the poet Tim Reynolds back in the early 1980s. He was working as a word processor for ARCO in DTLA and living in a SRO hotel not far from the Japanese-American Museum and the Temporary Contemporary. I don’t remember how I met him, though I do remember the first poem of his that I ever read, in the September, 1967 issue of Poetry magazine.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=30713
I was 19 years old, and it still makes me flinch to think of what a hapless ephebe I was. Not that I wasn’t trying. With floundering attention, I had stood in the aisle of the library at Southwest Community College the previous spring and read John Berryman’s 77 Dreams Songs, all to no avail; I had not been able in any way whatsoever to figure out what he was saying about a character named Henry. This particular issue of Poetry, whic contained work by Jean Garrigue, Galway Kinnell, Josephine Miles, Aram Saroyan, Richard Tillinghast, and Richard Eberhart, was not much more penetrable. It should come as no surprise that the only poem in that issue that really interested me was entitled “Going Home” and was dedicated to Mick Jagger.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=30713
When I finally did meet Tim in person, I mentioned this poem and he said to me that he had not known which of the people on the cover of the Out of Our Headsalbum was Mick Jagger. He had thought that Brian Jones, who was in the lower right hand corner, was Jagger. “Going’ Home,” of course, was the last song on Aftermath, an album that appeared a year later.
In the years after reading “Going Home,” I had become a slightly more astute reader, and managed to acquire a couple of Tim’s books of poetry. It was a privilege to include his poetry as part of Poetry Loves Poetry, in addition to asking him to read in the Gasoline Alley Poetry Series. He now lives in Long Beach, California.
In 1965, Tim read on Paul Blackburn’s radio program. Blackburn was known for being the host of a poetry program as well as for tape-recording readings at St. Mark’s Poetry Project. It is my understanding that Blackburn assiduously got down on tape a considerable number of readings, many of have been digitized by the Special Collections Department at UCSD, and are now available on-line.
According to Nina Mamikunian, “The collection is available at lib.ucsd.edu/blackburn. Additional information about the collection and its release is available athttp://libraries.ucsd.edu/blogs/blog/paul-blackburn-audio-collection-now-online/.”
But if these links don’t work, try this one:
https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb1436376x

********

Additional links:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=29343

Kenneth Rexroth reviews Reynolds (along with Bukowski and Roethke) in the NY Times in 1964:
https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/12/26/specials/bukowski-catches.html?_r=1

Books

ART AND CAKE MAGAZINE: “The Art of Poetry”

Kristine Schomaker, the editor of ART AND CAKE magazine, which focuses on artists working in the Los Angeles area, recently put out a call for artists who write poems. The issue has just been published; and while several of the contributors are better known for their poetry than their art, I would say that their art holds it own in juxtaposition with those whose primary materials are paint and canvas rather than language.

In particular, it was heartening to appear in this collaboration with poets such as Kevin Opstedal, Doren Robbins, and Jonathan Yungkans, as well as friends such as Lisa Segal.

Art of Poetry

Books

The Great Regurgitation: MAD and the 21st Century’s “Cuban Missile Crisis”

History is regurgitating the Cuban missile crisis, except this time Russia is playing the role of the United States, and the nation of Ukraine has found itself cast as “Cuba.” Just as the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s believed that communist satellite states were endangering the heartland of capitalism, Russia has felt the encroachment of European political power ever since it lost the buffer zone of the subjugated nations of Eastern Europe thirty years ago. In declaring war on the legitimately elected government of Ukraine, Russia probably hopes to drive a wedge into Europe in the same way that its backing of Syria’s dictatorship has given it leverage in the Middle East.

The driving force in all of Russia’s paranoia is the same one that has been at work in all global confrontations since World War II: MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). Putin obviously believes that the “mutual” part of nuclear warfare is no longer a matter of a zero sum game. That he is already willing to hint at the nuclear option he has at his disposal indicates how desperate he is to reestablish Russia as a belligerent superpower on par with any other country’s imperial dominance.

My students at CSULB have no memories whatsoever of the Hungarian Revolution or the “socialist spring” of Czechoslovakia in 1968 or of the attempt in China of students to bring democracy to that nation, but I have memories of these repressions, and I do not expect Putin to show any mercy whatsoever. He is a war criminal, but can not the same be said of George W, Bush and his facilitators (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.), not to mention the newspapers who collaborated with Bush’s disinformation campaign and thereby reinforced the votes needed in Congress to launch an invasion of Iraq? Who are we to accuse Putin of war crimes after the horror we unleashed in Iraq? I know the readers of this blog opposed that war, even as they oppose the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I confess that it feels hopeless.

I turn, therefore, to my only enduring solace all these years: poetry.

In this instance, the poetry of William Pillin, who was born in the Ukraine in 1910 and who died in Los Angeles in 1985. His birthplace had a different name back then, but the city is now known as Zaporozhe. (You can find the entry for the city in Wikipedia, which will give you an idea of just how ferociously this part of the world was fought over during World War II. The entry is worth reading to give one a sense of historical perspective to the current war.) Now you might think I am about to honor Pillin as a poet from the Ukraine that is now being invaded by Russia, but that’s not where I’m headed, in large part because Pillin’s family was Russian; but it was also Jewish, and the persecution of Jewish people by Russia grew so intense that Pillin’s family uprooted itself in 1917, and eventually ended up in the United States.

Pillin learned English and began to write poems that were published in many magazines, including Poetry. His books of poems were published by some of the leading independent poetry publishers in the nation, including Swallow Books (which also published Thomas McGrath) and kayak books, the legendary press operated by George Hitchcock in Santa Cruz, California. Papa Bach Bookstore published TO THE END OF TIME: New and Selected Poems in 1984. On page 65, there is a poem entitled “The Survivors.” It ends with an affirmation of a remnant of resistance.

Late at night they sit drinking coffee.
The city is asleep. The streets are empty.
They laugh. They whisper. The drummer
multiples intricate sums in the air.
The nimble guitarist
gleans a harvest of blue events
from his golden meadow of metal.

Such a gathering is impossible to imagine in the Ukraine right now, but the impingements that forestall such gatherings in Los Angeles right now are more linked to the ideologies that launched the invasion of the Ukraine than one might suspect. Neither side wants to give up MAD, and we who are old can only mourn the futility of our protests.

************************************

ADDITIONAL READING:

Ilya Kaminsky on Ukrainian, Russian, and the Language of War

Ilya Kaminsky on Ukrainian, Russian, and the Language of War