Homo Erectus: exit, stage left; Homo sapiens: exit, stage right

The following article is the best summary I have recently encountered about the evolution from Australopithecines to Homo sapiens:

Twenty years of discoveries changing story of human evolution

Reading Brooks Roddan’s post, “The Last Writer In San Francisco,” (Monday, January 6, 2020) led me to think this morning about what it might be like to be the last writer, not just in San Francisco, but on the entire planet. I don’t mean creative writer. I mean a writer of any language.

Consider what the above article reports: about 130,000 years ago, the island of Java experienced climate change, and homo erectus faltered in adjusting to the new environment. Exit, stage left.

What if current planetary climate change leads to Homo sapiens exiting stage right, and artificial intelligence becomes the sole perpetrator and adjudicator of conscious logic? Robots totter forth as the only direct survivors of the Anthropocene’s protagonist. Would artificial intelligence invent its own alphabet to record its imaginative conjectures, and thereby begin engaging in altering ecosystems? Or would ambient computer codes become simply a tepid replication that functioned within the planet’s environment with about the same level of self-willed direction as amoeba?

John Baldessari (1931-2020): The Salvage Yard of Absurdity

January 5-6, 2020

John Baldessari (June 17, 1931 – January 2, 2020)

“Remember the old days when you had snow on TV, and people would try to see something in it? I miss that.” — John Baldessari

In the Fall of 1966, I was a sophomore at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, and the financial situation was grim. One of my classmates was the son of the mayor of San Francisco, or so I had heard. I don’t remember ever meeting him. My father was a stock clerk in a pharmacy; and I was hardly a straight A student, so a scholarship was out of the question. I was already $1500 in student loan debt. I had arrived there with the intention of majoring in English, but I began reading contemporary playwrights on my own initiative, and decided that I would switch to theater.

In the spring, 1967, still 19 years old, I attended Southwestern Community College for a semester and took several courses in writing and theater. I remember on one occasion dropping by the art gallery on campus for a student art show. It didn’t impress me. Nevertheless, I still wonder how my ideas about poetry might have been affected if I had signed up for an art class with John Baldessari, who was teaching there at the time. Baldessari had been born in National City, and I had grown up in Imperial Beach. If any two cities in southwestern San Diego represented the bottom of the social hierarchy, NC and IB were fierce competitors for the basement bunkbed. His origins would only have given him more credibility, from my point of view as an impoverished ephebe.

I never met him, though I encountered his work more frequently than anyone would ever have anticipated back when he was working at a community college that truly was little better than that classic put-down of junior colleges: “high schools with ash trays.” In all fairness, the library was better than Imperial Beach’s library or my high school’s library. I first encountered John Berryman’s poetry as I perused its shelves one afternoon, though I found the work too slippery for my still feeble imaginative logic.

There may have been a point of contact (a “degree of separation”) between Baldessari as a young artist and my earliest days as an aspiring writer. I first posted this entry on Sunday, January 5th. The next morning, I woke up thinking about my father, whose first job in the South Bay Area, after he finished serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy, was working in a salvage yard. I remember how hard it was for him to have to work for minimum wage, with a family of six children to feed, and suddenly I wondered if my father worked with (or even for) Baldessari’s father.



(This third link, from ARTFORUM’s October, 1973 print issue, was sent to me, mid-day, Jan. 6th, by Brooks Roddan, and added to this post.)

(This fourth link was sent to me by one of my favorite painters, Marie Thibeault.)

“They keep telling me I have genius, as if that made up for all their incomparable advantages,” D.H. Lawrence is supposed to have once commented. Nobody, as far as I know, was telling John Baldessari that he was a genius when he was in his mid-30s, and teaching at Southwestern Community College. Somehow, he had enough gumption to refuse to quit, which was hardly a refusal on his part, since he didn’t really see any other option.

That he was able to develop as an artist and to inspire so many younger artists to take risks beyond their initial expectations marks him as one of the most indissoluble cultural instigators of post-World War II American art. The growth of Los Angeles into a transmission city of contemporary art is underscored with Baldessari’s influence. His quintessentially subversive impetus, still generating new work in his late 80s, assures that his influence will continue to distract young artists from the trends that yearn to make them conform to notions of a “career” in art.

If Baldessari was “arguably America’s most influential Conceptual artist,” as Christopher Knight claims, then it is Peter Schjeldahl who cites the distinctive ingredient that Baldessari brought to his projects: “a poet of the wrongness that aesthetic devotion visits upon flawed, shaggy, mere individuality. He repeatedly evokes the experience … of feeling devalued by what one loves: just not good enough, unworthy, even fraudulent. This is an embittering experience for many. Baldessari absorbs it with consummate humor.”

But from Baldessari’s point of view, it is not an amorphous sense of humor, a social skill that is primarily useful in deflecting with droll banter the unintended as well as intentional sleights and routine humiliations of daily life. Instead, he seems to have regarded his stoicism as a logical response to the willy-nilly algorithms of contingency.

In an interview early in the past decade, Baldessari rebutted the familiar characterization of his work as humorous. The interviewer prefaced Baldessari’s comment by noting that “since much of his work has a clever, even mischievous quality to it, he’s become known for his humor. That makes him uncomfortable.”

BALDESSARI: “You know it always makes me shudder for some reason because I don’t regard myself as an artist who does humorous work. I have a great sense of the absurd. It’s one of the ways that helps me get through life and understand the world. I’m very serious about that, but for other people they see that as being humorous.”

Perhaps, though, the reaction of “humor” on the part of the audience is simply the classic defense mechanism to that which makes people uncomfortable. If art has the punch lines, Baldessari’s willingness to play the “straight man” with unmitigated sincerity made him stand out fifty years ago as an artist intent on avoiding the slightest compromise with the art market.

As a young artist, Baldessari’s “sense of the absurd” would have developed within a context in which that term has a literary context stretching from Kafka to Beckett, both of whom were extremely popular within artistic circles between 1950 and 1970, the year in which Baldessari burned all of his early paintings and salvaged his artistic isolation in National City. This extreme gesture lingers in a chiasm that is all too familiar to those who experience role reversals in their lives: “I still read about myself and say, who is this person? You can take the boy out of National City, but you can’t take National City out of the boy.”

One aporia that interviewers seem to have overlooked is the social context of National City. At the time that Baldessari was growing up there and working as a young artist, it is not a particularly safe environment. Now it may be the case that Baldessari, at 6 feet, 7 inches, may not have noticed how he was spared the predator intimidations that smaller and less physically agile people experience. In which case, his absurdity has a blind spot. On the other hand, his art is not “safe.” It does not provide a “safe” place for the viewer to find refuge from the degradations of basic needs unrequited. And in that danger zone, his art goes to work to salvage the damages of absurdity.

As a post-script, it is not just coincidence that many poets in Los Angeles employ humor in their work to a far greater degree uthan other poets in this country. If Ed Smith’s poetry, for instance, has re-emerged from neglect, it is largely because readers are beginning to appreciate the Smith’s sense of absurdist humor. For those of you who admire Baldessari’s art, I would recommend “PUNK ROCK IS COOL FOR THE END OF THE WORLD” as the best possible way to experience the marginality that Baldessari would have felt in 1965 National City.




“Bell Lap” Decade

January 4, 2020

Even though it’s not likely that a runner would lose count of the number of laps she or he or they have completed in a middle-distance race (e.g., two-mile), the final lap is traditionally signaled by the reminder of a sustained, unmistakably loud ringing of a bell: “the bell lap.”

While I can’t be certain how much of this decade I will be active in, the odds are that this is my personal “bell lap.” The uncertainty of any prediction seems magnified, however, beyond the merely personal. Given, for instance, how California is far overdue for a catastrophic earthquake, this may well be the “bell lap” for the state as we have known it. The state will eventually recover, regardless of how severe the earthquake is. I can only hope that I am not at work in the MHB building at CSULB, when that earthquake strikes.

I have several major projects that I would like to complete in the next ten years, but to accomplish them all would probably necessitate a span of 12 to 20 years. Such a gift of time is beyond the realm of presumption, and so each day in this decade is one not to be wasted in trivial employment. Each moment is an implicit precipice. A free solo on the canyon wall of eternity. No doubt there will be prolonged treks of tasks that are counter-productive, imposed on me by those who believe that others should be exempt from that labor. For that inequity, there is little remedy but to remember that the reversals of Surprise, that supreme virtue of the imagination, have compensated me in unexpected ways in the past decade.

As noted in this blog a few days ago, the tenth anniversary of my extremely close call with mortality will fall on the day of this year’s general election. I don’t expect wickedness to go unrewarded, and so I have already braced myself for the inevitable disaster of Trump’s reelection. Perhaps, though, the reaction to his extended ineptitude will result in the final half-dozen years of this coming decade providing the planet with a chance for a last-minute redemption. We must not despair.

For at least a year after I nearly died, I was fairly pessimistic about my chances for any longevity whatsoever, but somehow the return to the classroom and full-time teaching a mere four days after I was released from the hospital did not inflict immediate damage to my health, though the impact of that decision by my employer is still playing out. Somehow, I not only found the strength to keep going, but I was eventually able to take on the burden of being the one who accompanied my mother to the final foothold of the past decade. Before that task intervened, and during its execution, a number of things happened that I would have had no way of foretelling:

1) a collaboration with the sculptor Mineko Grimmer, which took place in early September, 2011. You can view a video of “BARELY HOLDING DISTANT THINGS APART” on-line. It’s not like anything that anyone who attends AWP conventions on a regular basis would have a way of appreciating. For those of you with affiliations outside of AWP’s predictability, this video is worth your consideration.

2.) It had always been a dream of mine to have a hardcover book, but it was not to be. Even though the original contract promised a hardcover book, the University of Iowa Press reneged on that commitment and published HOLDOUTS in a paperback version. However, despite poor proofreading by the press, the book received over a half-dozen very favorable reviews, and I remain especially grateful for the commentary of Frank Kearful and Joe Safdie.

3.) Stephen Axelrod invited me to present papers at several sessions of the American Literature Association, and these efforts have enabled me to savor the kinship of scholars in a way that I do not experience as a poet. For his kindness, I count myself more fortunate than I deserve.

4.) Paul Vangelisti’s support of my work is the one constant in my literary life. He was among the very first editors of any literary magazine to publish my work in the early 1970s, and he published several of my poems and reviews in OR magazine, and in 2018 recorded “THE COMEDIAN AS LETTER N,” which you can also access on the internet. We will be recording a new version of this comic monologue in a few weeks, which I am looking forward to.

5.) A few months after my collaboration with Mineko Grimmer, I received an e-mail from José Rico, a poet and translator, who wanted to include my work in a portfolio of American poets in CIRCULO DE POESIAS. He went on to translate, along with Robin Myers, a full-length volume of my poetry, PRUEBAS OCULTAS, in a bilingual edition published by BONOBOS EDITORES at the decade’s mid-point. To my astonishment, a group of three critics in Mexico selected it as one of the two dozen best books of poetry published in Mexico in that year.

In addition to a reading in Mexico City that led to a connection with Bonobos Editors, I was a featured poet at poetry festivals in San Luis Potosi and Xalapa, Veracruz. The readings at San Luis Potosi are among the most revered of my memories, especially the graceful renderings of my poems by my translator as well as Rocio Arrellano.

6. Translations of my poems into Croatian and Italian followed in the next few years.

7. Beyond Baroque bestowed the George Drury Smith Award on me at one of the annual awards dinners. I was subsequently asked to serve on the Board of Trustees, the only GDS award winner to take on such renewed responsibility.

8. I was invited to give a plenary talk at a conference in Dijon, France during the Thanksgiving week of 2016.

9. Nancy Grace and Ronna Johnson invited me to write an article on Venice West, which was published in the JOURNAL OF BEAT STUDIES, and I subsequently wrote an article for a volume on TEACHING THE BEAT, which we all hope will soon be accepted for publication by Clemson University Press.

10. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art asked me to give a talk on Venice West, and also staged the first production of Stuart Perkoff’s verse play, ROUND BOUT MIDNIGHT, since its original production well over a half-century earlier. S.A. Griffin’s assistance in this venture was absolutely essential to its success, though I regret that it was not recorded.

11. UCLA, my alma mater, asked me to give a talk at the special collections, and the talk was subsequently published in 5 Trope.

12. WHAT BOOKS agreed to publish an expanded version of the bilingual edition published in Mexico, and THE HEADWATERS OF NIRVANA appeared in October, 2018. Although the book has remained almost completely invisible on an institutional level, the lack of presence in SPD’s catalogue has not completely restricted the distribution of copies of LOS MANANTIALES DEL NIRVANA, which has found its way into the hands of many people who have attended my readings in the past year at venues across several counties in Southern California.

13. The success of Beyond Baroque’s programming during its celebration of its 50th anniversary remains one of the most empowering memories of the past decade on the “local” level. That I was able to nominate the poetry of Carol Ellis for publication in Beyond Baroque’s Pacific Coast Series of books this year only makes this institution’s ability to endure all the sweeter. I hope to review LOST AND LOCAL in this blog in the next month.

14. On January 1st, 2010, at age 62, I was still only an assistant professor. I was promoted to associate professor later that year, and then promoted to full professor six years later.

15. In 2014, I retired from teaching a fiction workshop at the Idyllwild Arts summer camp. When I took over the class twenty years earlier, it was only a single two-week session. I built up enrollment in the class so that three two-week sessions were scheduled, and are still underway. Eventually, I will have to stop teaching at CSU Long Beach, and I hope my contributions to teaching 20th century American literature linger there, too.

16. In addition to Paul Vangelisti, I am grateful to the editors of the magazines and anthologies that published or reprinted my writing in the past decade:
Al Markowitz and Mary Franke, Blue Collar Review
Clare MacQueen, KYSO FLash (Knock Your Socks Off)
Larry Smith, Caliban On-Line
Christopher Buckley, Miramar magazine
Marie Lecrevain, Poetic Diversity
Dennis Phillips, Nausikka’s Isle: A Tribute to Paul Vangelisti
Alexis Rhone Fancher, Cultural Weekly
Joseph O’Brien, San Diego Weekly
Nancy Eldredge, The Same
Elena Karina Byrne, The Enchanted Verses
Suzanne Lummis, editor, WIDE AWAKE: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond
Doren Robbins, 5 Trope (magazine)
Christopher Merrill, The Rat Anthology
Eric Morago, Dark Ink: An Anthology of Horror Poems
Tommy Thomas, Redshift magazine
CX Dillhunt, Hummingbird Magazine
Tony Barnstone, guest editor, special issue of Pratik magazine
Shannon Phillips, Carnival
Abel DelBritto, Milk
Danny Baker and Apryl Skies, Edgar Allan Poet magazine
Bambi Here, FDE&D magazine
Bill Harding, San Diego Poetry Annual
Zach Mann, Los Angeles Review of Books
Andrew Nette, Sticking It to the Man

17. Linda and I are especially grateful to Nicole M. Street and Erik Horsley for their generous hospitality this past summer and for the invitation to read at Kauai Community College.

18. I want to thank Brooks and Lea Ann Roddan for their kindness in opening their home so that we could visit them in San Francisco and commence production work on Eileen Aronson Ireland’s first book of poetry, to be published this spring.

19. I want to thank Jane Collins for driving down to Long Beach from UCLA to record an oral history with me for UCLA’s Oral History Project.

20. I want to thank Lynell George for nominating me to be poet laureate of Los Angeles.

21. I want to thank Lynn McGee for a reciprocal interview that was published in Owl Light News, “Methods and Materials: The Sojourns of Affinities.”

Methods and Materials: The Sojourns of Affinities

22. I want thank Terry Braunstein for recommending Linda and me as tenants for studio space at the Loft in San Pedro, and to Meeson Pae Yang for welcoming us to a community that includes such fine artists and curators as Michael Stearns. I want to thank the Artist’s Coop in Long Beach for giving Linda and me space to show our paintings in open studio tours.

23. I am especially grateful to my brother Jim, for being there to lead the way in getting our mother’s home sold so that she could receive care in her final years.

24. Part of the challenge of taking care of my mother involved retrieving her from Lansing, Michigan, where her older sister hand lived and died. For reasons too complex for anything but a novella, my mother decided to move from San Diego, where she had lived for a half-century, to Michigan. As she became too weak to care for herself, she had to get moved back. On a trip there to arrange that transition, I had the extremely good fortune to be invited to visit with Laurence and Nancy Goldstein, and my stay at their home redeemed an arduous task. This visit came about because the LeAnn Fields at the University of Michigan asked me in late 2012 to serve as the “blind reviewer” of POETRY Los Angeles: Reading the Essential Poems of the City, which was published in 2014. My friendship with Larry and Nancy has been one of the constant pleasures of the past decade.

25. Finally, I am grateful to the readers of this blog. Sometime in the next three months, KOAN KINSHIP will have accumulated three million hits since its inception. The blog has averaged 900,000 hits a year since 2017. I don’t know exactly how many people have read one of my posts, but there have been enough of you to make it worth the effort.

It is, of course, difficult for me to believe that the coming decade will reveal an equal number of unexpected confirmations of my dedication to a literary life. It is far more likely that the past decade will be what I savor as the culminating “bell lap,” and that the years remaining will have more the aura of a tired runner, sitting in a sweat shirt, and taking off his running shoes. But maybe the above is merely the prelude to the best decade of all.

I am not running for all I’m worth. The running is what has made it worth it.

“For all practical purposes, a declaration of war” (aka “American Justice”)

January 3, 2020

The context for Suzanne Lummis’s presentation of “TWEETS FROM HELL” at Beyond Baroque tonight has radically shifted. Without any consultation with Congress whatsoever, President Trump ordered at some very recent point in time the execution of Major General Qassim Suleimani; a missile attack by an American MQ-9 Reaper drone is reported to have taken place yesterday at the Baghdad International Airport that utterly obliterated a pair of cars leaving the airport with Suleimani and his entourage.

All commentary on the political stature, in Iraq, of Suleimani would indicate that he was regarded in Iran as a combination of figures that would require an action-hero conflation for the American public to grasp the gravity of this presidential decision. Imagine someone who is a combination of Henry Kissinger, William J. Casey, and Oliver North, and you can begin to comprehend that this is not just another day’s work at the Drone Strike Radar Center, which is no doubt located somewhere in the 100 acre American embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq. The comparison of the trio of K-C-N to Suleimani is not meant, of course, to indicate that I have any admiration for them. I equally disdain all of them and their belief in war as a justifiable hunting license on behalf of patriarchal pathologies.

“The question is this — as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?” — Senator Christopher S. Murphy (D-Connecticut)

Note: “100 acre American embassy” — that is not a typo. 100 acres is five times the size of my high school campus, which included a baseball field and a football field, in addition to a gymnasium and enough classrooms for several hundred students. I wonder what the total budget was for the construction of this embassy, not to mention its continued operation. If you wondering why climate change continues unimpeded under Trump’s reign, remember that the paramount concern of foreign AND domestic policy is “our interests wherever they are around the world,” according to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. Translation: “our CORPORATIONS’ interests wherever they are around the world.”

« L’Amérique – et le monde – ne peuvent pas se permettre une escalade des tensions qui atteigne un point de non-retour. » — Nancy Pelosi, quoted in LE MONDE

Look in your rear-view mirror, folks. You can still see the faint glow of a billboard-sized message: “un point de non-retour.”

Welcome to Hell…. aka “our interests around the world….” Front and center.

P.S. No doubt JARED KUSHNER knew about the strike before anyone in Congress did.

Eliot Katz’s Unofficial Study Guide for “Tweets from Hell”

January 2, 2020

As a way of prepping for Suzanne Lummis’s world debut presentation of “Tweets from Hell” at Beyond Baroque tomorrow evening (Friday, January 3; 8 p.m.), I would recommend as an unofficial study guide the long excerpt from Eliot Katz’s manuscript in progress, which has just been published in Dispatches from the Poetry Wars:

Excerpts from President Predator: Poems for the Trump Years 

For those in the NYC area, Katz will reading with NY State Poet Laureate Alicia Ostriker and Colorado-based poet Jim Cohn (www.poetspath.com) at the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery, near Houston, NYC) on Monday evening, January 27, from 6-7:30 p.m. More information about this reading is posted on the Calendar section of www.bowerypoetry.com.

Sneak Preview: Suzanne Lummis’s “Tweets from Hell”

January 1, 2020

Suzanne Lummis wrote me on the last day of the decade that “Tweets from Hell” is “composed of 71 stanzas, most of them 280 characters, about, none over, some shorter. It’s in eleven sections, in several voices–that is, different ways of talking–with two postscripts and one addendum.”

She has given me permission to share with you a very brief excerpt, in the form of the first two tweets of the seven that make up Part Three:

Things I never told anyone. Usually. Those Republicans, those ones in Congress, I never liked them, most of them. I never liked them paddling along behind me like flocks of geese, making their goose sounds, or dancing behind me like talented rats trained for a back…

yard circus, clean white rats from a pet store. Geese, rats, all of them wanting to peck, nip at my power and get away with a bloody mouthful. I didn’t like them, but when they opposed me, I hated them. My cabinet bored me—though I liked how they had to sit there and listen.

WORLD PREMIERE: “Tweets from Hell”
Written, directed, and performed by SUZANNE LUMMIS
at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
(301) 822-3006

FRIDAY, January 3, 2020
Time: 8:00 p.m.

Get in line early to buy your tickets.

Happy New Year!

“Tweets from Hell”: Suzanne Lummis as CASSANDRA REDUX

12/31/19: the final day of a decade that proved to be a major disappointment. Having failed during his first two years in office to provide, immediately, jobs for those who became unemployed in the Great Recession, Barack Obama presided over the resurgence of the banking industry, which now has a free hand to devastate the world’s ecosystems under the loutish guidance of a man not fit for any public office, let alone being Commander-in-Chief.

The national election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. Upcoming in the new decade is the tenth anniversary of the day I nearly died: Wednesday, November 3, 2010, Linda drove me to the ER of the local hospital. Ever since July, I had been feeling the classic pains of a serious heart conditions. Tests were doled out by the insurance company at a parsimonious rate: it took a month just to have the first of three tests, and then another month to have the other two. No doubt they had their fingers crossed that I would simply die, and spare them the expense of treating them. At the ER I insisted that the diagnosis of the week before that there was nothing amiss with my heart was wrong. I had been told that it was a stomach problem. One final test was done, and it revealed that one of my arteries was 90 percent blocked. A stent was inserted, and I lived. I can empathize with Bernie Sanders, although I am afraid that his proposed medical plan would only create a health care system in which it would have been more likely that I would have died.

As conservative as Sanders is (and see my blog posts from four years ago to review the ways in which he dodges any confrontation with the central issue of the proliferation of weapons based on fission, not to mention systematic surveillance), I most certainly would vote for him, and would vote for Senator Warren with the same enthusiasm. Neither can win. It will be just like 1972’s debacle, with another electoral landslide for D.T. “The Republic” for which the flag stands will have its fatal heart attack ten years to the day I nearly died.

In playing the role of Cassandra, at Beyond Baroque on January 3, 2020, Suzanne Lummis will be reading “TWEETS FROM HELL” at 8 p.m. Lummis won a COLA grant from the City of Los Angeles that enabled her to devote time to this project, but I have enormous doubts that she would win a NEA grant based on what she will read. That extreme unlikelihood is exactly why I plan to be in attendance to applaud her latest work.

A Holiday Poem by Ian Krieger

December 26, 2019

Next year will mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of POETRY LOVES POETRY, an anthology of poets based in Los Angeles. Probably close to half of its contributors are either dead or live elsewhere, but it remains one of the two anthologies to appear that year that still conveys the excitement of its assembling. One of PLP’s contributors, who now lives in Florida, was Ian Krieger, and he enclosed the following poem with a holiday card that he sent me about two weeks ago. In the course of the final week of classes, I managed to get a card off to him in return, and asked for his permission to reprint his poem in my blog. Permission arrived, appropriately, on Christmas Day.

*. *. *

(Christmas 2019)

The dawn wind carols; though music is not light.
Sunrise separates longing from its aubade,
While sentiment shivers, notches goosebumps under an absent eternity.
The pallid clouds quicken, clatter above strands of introverted trees.
Winter’s nostalgia occludes, veils what fall’s earthiness grips,
How the astral eyes of Magi canopy the manger with stars.
Destination, not destiny, strips elicits elation, catalyzes mystification.
Past to now, nostalgic prior to where; there was never a god to know
Or show how passion deified prior to love’s ever chilling syncopation.
Sensual promptings heighten playtime’s pantomime, a tangible ascent,
A solstice in a box, wrapping and excelsior in lieu of up as fire.
Despite what neurotransmitters proclaim as goodbying from on high.
The Hosannas of well fed, clever, or home-baked, humble as hay, soar,
As to define this brazenly cold night as the fete of playmates lost of late.
Though their music goes on forever-give or take.

— Ian Krieger

The Poets Gather for LOST AND LOCAL

December 22, 2019

A thirty-hour stretch of rain in Long Beach will commence in about two hours, but my grades for the semester got turned in earlier today, and the leftover kale salad from last night’s dinner with Laurel Ann Bogen in Brentwood proved to be the perfect complement for the rest of our dinner. Did you say, “dinner in Brentwood, Bill?” Well, that is more than a little bit out of my usual price range for eating out, but a single $15 raffle ticket I purchased at the Beyond Baroque awards gala several weeks ago proved to be just the ticket: I won a $100 gift card at a restaurant called Bottlefish, on San Vicente Blvd. Linda and I decided to treat Laurel Ann to a holiday dinner out, and the food was absolutely superb. If anyone wants to splurge for a special occasion, I would urge you to consider this restaurant. We ate early, so the restaurant was still at a slow enough pace that we had a chance to talk with the chef, who is from Israel. Apparently, this is the start of a chain of restaurants with a low-key approach to top-notch dining.

The best news of the evening was that Laurel’s cat, Chumley, is on the rebound. Someone mentioned to her that very old cats, especially as arthritis makes it difficult to bend their joints, lose weight not because of a decrease in appetite, but because it is simply too painful to bend down to the bowl and eat. “Put your cat’s bowl on a little stand. That way the way is almost eating at mouth-level.” Laurel tried it, and Chumley has put on two pounds in a couple of weeks, and is a much happier cat. Age 23 and still going strong with Laurel’s love!

Beyond Baroque’s 51st year concluded with a celebration of the publication of Carol Ellis’s LOST AND LOCAL in the Pacific Poetry Series. Before Carol read from her book, poets, editors, and impresarios gather for a group photograph.


(copyright, Linda Fry, 2019)

(Left to right, front row: Richard Modiano; Carol Ellis; Suzanne Lummis; (Second row) Bill Mohr; Gloria Vando; top row: Quentin Ring; Liz Camfiord).

Merry Christmas, Mr. President

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Merry Christmas, Mr. President.

You are hereby impeached.

The voters in the 2018 election know it is a bit early to put this present under the White House Christmas tree, but we have a lot to get done before we celebrate the holidays with our families, so we’re giving you this today, a week before Christmas, and hope that you don’t feel slighted by its early presentation.

I know it must seem like Santa Claus is punishing you, but you need to think of it as something you’re very familiar with: filing for bankruptcy protection. Like Chapter 13, this will give you a chance to reorganize things and get reestablished with your creditors in the Electoral College.

Above all, chill.

You need to read my blog entry on November 8, 2019: “The Trump Chess Game: Impeachment as a Speed Bump.” Honestly, Donald, I am very disappointed that you have not sent me a personal note thanking me for my counsel.

Why waste your time writing Nancy Pelosi when you could be sending me a six-page letter, annotating your gratitude?

OK, OK. I get it. Party affiliation makes me your sworn enemy, from your point of view, and it would never do to be seen appreciating any advice given by someone who hopes to vote for either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 general election.

Not that either has a chance to win. Really, Donald. Get a hold of yourself. Remember 1972? I was so young, naive, and foolish. I totally succumbed to the fantasy that the population of the United States would say, “End this war now!” and vote for George McGovern. Instead, 49 out of 50 states voted for Richard Nixon.

It won’t be any different in 2020.

The same deplorables — yes, deplorables — who voted for Nixon in 1972 are ready to vote for you, again. And don’t forget that those voters in 1972 had children — and yes, there are even grandchildren of those voters who will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2020.

Truly, I know that being impeached must make you wince. It turns out that there are term limits for being an obnoxious human being who holds a major public office. One term, in this case.

But let your indignation show some class: “Honi soit qui mal y pense.”

As a little note on this holiday present, the loose translation should read: “Enjoy it while you can.”