Tag Archives: Brooks Roddan

Brooks Roddan, Poet and Painter

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

I mentioned recently (“One Blog Leads to Another”) how Brooks Roddan has recently been devoting himself to painting, rather than writing. In his blog, Roddan comments on the differences in his imaginative perceptions, and found that he articulated exactly why I, too, have been making the same transition. Here, for instance, is his entry from August 4, 2019:

“There’s something about painting I just can’t wait to get to, and something about writing I just can’t wait to get away from.
Painting, I don’t know what I’m doing, I have no master and so I’m no slave. Writing is a different story.
Finishing up two paintings today, free handing them both, not worrying whether or not I was staying between the lines, as there were no lines, I could feel myself lifting up out of myself and into the realm of a creative act. 
Toward the end of the making of each painting I started talking to myself, liking what I was hearing enough to begin to write it down, crawling back to the writing table in service to words.”
(“Two Paintings, Zero Writing”)

If there are other poets who wish to expand their artistic practice in a similar manner, I would urge them to fortify their motivations by reading some of Roddan’s other posts on painting:

Monday, September 17, 2018
http://ifsfpublishing.squarespace.com/pub-news/2018/9/17/brooks-roddan-painter.html

November 29, 2018 “Painting stained glass stairs”

In the entry for Saturday, December 22, 2018, Roddan shares some aphorisms from his jottings on the subject. Two of my favorites are:

“abstract expressionism is the garage band of contemporary art”

“weird how when i’m painting, as i’m doing now and doing more and more of, the solution is always to use more paint, as opposed to writing in which the solution is always, always to use fewer words”

Anyone who is attending the AWP conference in Portland at the end of March who would like a break from the incessant chatter about poetry and fiction should drop by table 10067, where Brooks and I will be glad to talk with you about painting, as well as some of the books that IF SF has recent published, including Thomas Fuller’s “The Classical World.”

One Blog Leads to Another

Sunday, February 17, 2019

In 2013, when I started this blog, several thousand people had been posting entries in this kind of format for well over a decade, and the audience for a new blog was hardly worth a moment’s fantasy. I viewed the project, however, as a variation on a diary, in which I could keep track of various ideas and concerns that have sustained some degree of attention. Outside of one literature professor, I don’t know anyone on the campus where I work with whom I talk about poetry in the same way that I used to talk with the poets who appeared in my first anthology, THE STREETS INSIDE. Those poets were my equivalent of a MFA workshop; in fact, they were almost infinitely better than any such workshop could have assembled at that time. As a way, therefore, of having an imaginary conversation, I thought that a blog might be akin to the title of Thomas McGrath’s epic poem.

While of course one can enable public commentary on a blog, and thereby generate an actual on-line conversation, I have heard of too many examples where one spends more time reminding people to be civil to each other than working on one’s own writing. At the very start, therefore, I turned off the commentary switch. As I have on more than one occasion pointed out, any reader can get in touch with me at William.BillMohr@gmail.com., should she or he wish to share their opinion or seek further information.

I noticed on the dashboard of “stats” on Friday, around noon, that my blog was passing the 2,000,000 mark for “hits.” I am abashed that it took me almost six years to attain this level of activity, but still am gratified that it must be reaching at least a handful of scattered readers. (“Hits,” of course, have nothing to do with the number of actual readers. Perhaps 2,000 people have read one of my entries at some point in the half-dozen years; one must not allow one statistic to exaggerate its implied impact.) As those readers have discovered, one can’t predict from day to day what I write about. I was perfectly aware, of course, that my decision to address a variety of topics instead of focusing on a single subject runs against the advice one gives to those who want success.

You want to “make it”? As a visual artist? As a writer? As a politician? Pick one thing that you want to become identified with, and pound away at it until it yields its desired effect. If you don’t gain attention, you made the wrong choice, but you didn’t choose the wrong strategy. Now one could argue that one’s inspiration is not calculated, even if it might seem to have been. I don’t think Deborah Butterfield assembled her first sculpture of a horse made out of sticks and mud and said to herself, “Someday people will walk around a corner in a major museum and see one of my sculptures made in this manner and instantly think of my name.” The fact remains, however, that if she had stopped after making that first sculpture of a horse, her art would be playing with a far different set of recognition stipples.

Those who offer suggestions about blogs inevitably mention the importance of “staying on topic.” One wants to become known for commentary on a specific subject, or so the experts say. When I was an undergraduate, professors complained that my papers often strayed off topic, or at least keep inserting little asides that distracted them from my main idea. Not much has changed in the past 50 years. My curiosity about the world and how all of its fermentation generates “millions of strange shadows” continues to distract me from one day to the next. One form of meditation that I have undertaken in recent months involves painting, which allows me to think while standing, and to be silent within the radiance of symbolic hues.

By coincidence, one of my oldest friends, who now lives in San Francisco, has also started painting, and his work is every bit as intriguing as his blog. In fact, if any of my readers are searching for a blog that is truly worth their attention, then take a look at Brooks Roddan’s blog at IF SF Publishing.

Both of us, it should be said, have carried quite a few different bags on the West Coast, including work as editors, publishers, and poets. Each bag seems to have its own peculiar creases, especially when sit down and have a quiet talk in a hallway about how each still has more than one unfulfilled dream.

Should you be attending the AWP gathering in Portland, Oregon during the last week of March, drop by table T10067, where Brooks and I will be working together to promote IF SF PUBLISHING. We look forward to talking with you. Bring a bag. You will want to have some of the books he has published.

KYSO Flash — Issue Number Eight (Clare MacQueen, editor and publisher)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Issue number 8 of KYSO Flash is now available:
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/ContentsIssue8.aspx

Clare MacQueen is one of the best editors now working in the United States. In many ways, she reminds me of the late Marvin Malone, editor of the Wormwood Review, in her ability to help writers find what most needs to be worked on in the next draft. She has an uncanny ability to see the alternative ways of configuring the material that the writer is focusing on, and I encourage anybody who is fortunate enough to get her detailed feedback to take advantage of her acute editorial imagination.

KYSO Flash is a prime example of how much publication on the internet has matured in the past 15 years. I remember glancing at a few on-line magazines back then, and laughing out loud at the drivel that was being self-published. One early exception that showed a shift in making use of the internet’s accessibility was Tarpaulin Sky, which demonstrated that editors working on the small press model of a literary magazine from the 20th century could reach an audience with stunning immediacy. By now, not only have many magazines such as Patty Seyburn’s Pool shifted from print to on-line, but we also see an older magazine that had a complete life span such as Larry Smith’s Caliban being vigorously resurrected on-line. MacQueen’s magazine achieves its particular distinction due to her commitment to short prose, which she divides into two sections in each issue, micro-fiction (up to 500 words) and flash fiction (from 500 to 1000 words). For those who might want to submit their writing to KYSO Flash, the word limit (1000 words) is a very strict rule, and it includes the title!

In addition to haibun and prose poetry, MacQueen also publishes lineated poetry, and in the past has given a “featured author” section to Alexis Rhone Fancher, whose new book, Enter Here, is also published by Clare MacQueen. Issue number eight’s featured author is John Olson, whose poetry I discovered a year and a half ago in Bird and Beckett Bookstore in San Francisco. Olson is one of the most overlooked poets in the United States, and I applaud MacQueen for giving his writing a substantial forum. In addition to several of Olson’s poems, issue eight includes an essay and an interview with him.

Along with Brooks Roddan’s blog at IF/SF Publications, Olson’s blog is one of the best around:
http://tillalala.blogspot.com

One feature of KYSO Flash that I am just now beginning to fully appreciate is the author index:
http://www.kysoflash.com/AuthorIndex.aspx
Kathleen McGookey’s pieces in issue number eight, for instance, are especially intriguing, and I wondered if I had somehow overlooked her work in earlier issues of KYSO, but when I went to the index I discovered that this is her first appearance in MacQueen’s magazine; I hope to see more of her work in future issues. In truth, this is the first time I have read McGookey’s writing, and she is now on my short list of writers whose books I need to catch up with. Other pieces that have caught my attention at the outset include Kim Hagerich’s “Bundle of Joy” and Nin Andrews’s “I Am a Depressed Orgasm.” It’s also a pleasure to see Gerard Sarnat’s writing included in this issue.

It should also be noted that Clare MacQueen contributes information to VIDA (http://www.vidaweb.org/about-vida/) and espouses its goals.
KF-8 contains works by a total of 65 contributors: 33 men (50.8%)and 32 women (49.2%).

Finally, here are the links to my writing in this issue:
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/MohrScorpio.aspx
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/MohrElixirs.aspx
http://www.kysoflash.com/Issue8/MohrReviewsFeasts.aspx

“Music for Airports”: Brian Eno and 512 Hill Street, Ocean Park, CA

Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” and Ocean Park, California

Back in the mid-1970s, I was living in an apartment in Ocean Park, California on Hill Street. I had originally moved into the neighborhood in early 1973, and ended up living in that same apartment for 20 years. With my 70th birthday only 15 months away, it’s doubtful I’ll ever have such a long stretch of residential stability. I still have dreams of walking around in that apartment, and the dream-time is as real as this keyboard feels to my fingertips, typing these words. Indeed, more palpable. My life as the editor and publisher of Momentum Press took place entirely within my occupancy of that space, and there isn’t a memory of all that publishing that is not intertwined with its pair of upstairs bedrooms. Over the years, I had a number of roommates, the most famous of which was Nick DeNucci.

I got more than a frequently anthologized poem out of my co-habitation with Nick, however. After HIDDEN PROOFS came out, I got a phone call from a stranger one afternoon. “Are you Bill Mohr?” “Yes.” “Did you really know a fellow named Nick DeNucci?” When I admitted, somewhat reluctantly, that he had indeed been a real life roommate, and not just a character in a poem, the person calling me shared his experience of knowing Nick DeNucci. Nick had been a musician, and he had swooped in and out of number of other lives rather briefly. In the case of Brooks Roddan, the person calling me, the brief encounter did not even involve meeting him face to face. According to Brooks, Nick knew Brooks’s roommate, and had occasionally borrowed his roommate’s car to get to a gig. Unfortunately, on one particular night, that car was not available, but Brooks happened to have an extra car parked in front of their place, and the roommate lent DeNucci Brooks’s vehicle, which didn’t surface again for a couple of weeks, when it was found wrapped around a telephone pole on Vermont Avenue.

Instant commiseration! Brooks and I felt bonded immediately, and I am grateful to the auspicious fate that has kept us loyal, dear friends. I would think of him as a profound friend, in fact, even if we were never to spend any time in the same physical space again. I doubt that will happen, but I believe there is an intimacy each of us finds in our artistic solitude that is similar to the intimacy of our friendship.

The intimacy of this imaginative friendship also involves experiences that have no originating attribution. I have no recollection, for instance, of who encouraged me to buy Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports.” All I I remember is standing at the kitchen sink, doing the breakfast dishes, and listening to that album one or twice a week for about a month. It was as close to some profound communion with the Eternal Pulse of Being as I will ever come. A winter month, overcast, and there were many slightly damp mornings, and rainy nights. As I ran hot water over each clean plate and bowl, I could feel the cool grey from the Pacific Ocean just eight blocks away from back door.

I had not yet begun reading the poets associated with the Language movement., but in the middle of the next decade I would write a piece that was absolutely grounded in the poetics of “Music for Airports.” Thanks to Rod Bradley and the sculptor Mineko Grimmer, you can see a performance of the poem I wrote out of my meditations on Eno’s music.

“BARELY HOLDING DISTANT THINGS APART”

“some coffee” and “some more coffee”

“some coffee” and “some more coffee”

TUESDAY, July 23, 2013

Note from the return journey: About seven miles from Pine Cove, on the way up from Banning, the pavement turned wet as if the heavy mist had dragged a soggy curtain right across the road and trailed it all the rest of the route into Idyllwild. The rain had stopped an hour and a half earlier, according to a young woman working at the counter of the grocery store in town. By the time I checked in at Idyllwild Arts, a very light rain had started up again. Ed Skoog told me that almost two inches fell yesterday, and every bit of it helped squelch the fire.  It’s difficult to believe not only that the evacuation order has been lifted, but that there is a town to return to.

There are several blogs I enjoy reading: Harry Northup, Amy King, Oriana Ivy, and Brooks Roddan are among my favorites. Brooks posted a short play yesterday; the ping-pong dialogue and his citation of the reader’s suggestion about a time-gap reminded me of Ted Berrigan’s poem, “In the Wheel.”

In Berrigan’s poem, the gravidity is not an ornamental detail, but suggests how the image (“an emotional or intellectual complex in an instant of time”) shifts with the passage of time in the narrator’s subjectivity. The question is not about the desire or need for more coffee, but whether he would genuinely “like” the arrival of more coffee, as if the drink were a friend who wanted to join the table. In affirming her request, Berrigan picks up his cup and hands it to her so that she doesn’t have to bend to pour the coffee. It’s seems like an infinitely minor kindness, but one that is not taken for granted by the waitress. Perhaps one of the most subtle differences between the play and poem, however, comes in the opening question:

“Would you like more coffee?” (Roddan)

“Would you like

Some more coffee?” (Berrigan)

The presence of the word “some” suggests a portion of amplitude. I must admit I never before noticed that word in this poem by Berrigan. I would like to write some more about that word, but I can’t quite break through to it yet. It does strike me, though, that WC Williams’s poem, “This Is Just to Say,” would be quite different if it had begun:

I have eaten

Some plums…..

 

Two People: a play in one act

Monday, July 22, 2013

Me: Would you like more coffee?

She: No thank you, I’m satisfied with what I have.

Me: Then I’ll be unsatisfied with what I don’t have.

It’s a short play, :09 seconds in a normal reading, though several actors who’ve performed it draw upon the nuances to give it a more leisurely pace. One reader suggested that the time-gap between the female’s answer to the male’s question and the male’s response be elongated to the degree that more dramatic tension might be wrung out of the exchange.

In The Wheel

The pregnant waitress asks
‘Would you like
some more coffee?’
Surprised out of the question
I wait seconds ‘Yes,
I think I would!’ I hand her
my empty cup, &
‘thank you!’ she says. My pleasure.

Ted Berrigan