Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Very pleased to be the most recent in a long line of distinguished guest bloggers on Michael Steinberg's Blog: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction.

Mike's blog is a polyvocal treasury of good advice on craft and strategy for essayists and memoirists. As the editor of the literary journal Fourth Genre, and co-editor, with Robert Root, of the canonical textbook The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction, Mike Steinberg has been, in addition to his own work, midwife to many of the finest essays, memoirs, and works of literary journalism of our day.

Friday, February 21, 2014



From the Black Earth Institute, this remarkable treasury of writings and art assessing Civil Rights in America, edited by writer, activist, and independent scholar Richard Cambridge.


From the assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham Church bombing that killed four children in 1963 to the re-election of the first Black president, this issue contains challenging, provocative, compelling, and prophetic contributions in essays, poetry, lyrics, song, short fiction, photography, art, and video that reflect on a particular or general aspect of the ongoing struggle for civil rights. How far have we come as a country, and how have we regressed?





Monday, February 17, 2014


I am posting a link here to the book trailer for Kathleen Aguero's latest, After That

Here is the title poem from that fine collection, her fifth:

AFTER THAT

she wouldn’t leave the house, or she’d be gone for weeks and return smelling of cigarettes and bleach.
She’d say what anyone would, but, like thunder in winter, it didn’t sound quite right.
When she thought we weren’t looking, she tied knots in her hair.
She wouldn’t eat anything white, hid money in the refrigerator, wore five pairs of underpants at once, cringed at butterflies. She covered her ears when she talked and was afraid of the telephone.
She threw away her plants, collected fruit pits. She stopped biting her fingernails after that, but she wouldn’t let anyone cut them either.  She wore a hat, but never a jacket.
Her dog wouldn’t go near her.
She wouldn’t answer the doorbell, but she never closed the door.
She refused to go near the windows.
After that, she never drank tea.  She hissed at her dead mother, standing in the doorway.
She ripped her good dress into pieces and cut her father’s photograph in half.
We didn’t know how to think about her after that.



After That is available from Amazon, Small Press Distribution, or the publisher, Tiger Bark Press.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I have taken a good, long while off from this blog while I poured my time and energy into the new memoir, Love & Fury. Yesterday, Valentine's Day, I found myself tinkering with this poem:

AGAINST COOL

When you pretend you’re not but know you are,
you suffer worse than if you just confess you are in love.

The rain falls right through your umbrella and the sun
and moon deny the whole cold day and night they are in love.

All winter blinding white flakes rise up into the sky.
You start to think the shutters and the windows are in love.

The wheel and the road, the wrench and the bolt,
made for each other, hurt, but they are not in love.

That sometimes she frightens you with her clarity
or angers you with her reserve are proof you are in love.

It’s one thing to dissemble in the fiercest heat of ardor
but better to play dead than pretend you are not in love.

Underground, earth and ice, igneous rock and lava
long ago accepted that the past and future are in love.

Play spout to the water, act a chimney to the smoke
and admit once and for all to everyone you are in love.

Come on, Richard, what’s so hard for you to understand?
That yours is the kind of misery men feel when they're in love?

Sunday, December 30, 2012



The year winds down.... This poem is from EMBLEM:

DECEMBER 31st

All my undone actions wander
naked across the calendar,

a band of skinny hunter-gatherers,
blown snow scattered here and there,

stumbling toward a future
folded in the New Year I secure

with a pushpin: January’s picture
a painting from the 17th century,

a still-life: skull and mirror,
spilled coinpurse and a flower.

Monday, October 08, 2012

A poem from EMBLEM for Columbus Day:


EVERYONE

Columbus thought he had discovered the Indies so he called the people he encountered Indians, but he was wrong; he had discovered the working class.

He took their sage,
not their advice;
it smoldered like rage
but smelled nice.

One of the Santa Maria's crew, avaricious and schooled in flattery, suggested to Columbus that he try calling them "the middle class." They seemed to like that just fine. They smiled. Why not? Sure. Sounds good.

Columbus ordered them given naugahyde and vinyl. Then he watched to see what they would make of it. It stuck to sweaty skin in summer and in winter it was cold as metal. It cracked, and several cut their buttocks on it.

Eventually they came around, though, when the buffalo were shot to hell, the beaver damned, and the deer and the antelope played out.

Like the real Indians, the real middle class was a world away.

Soon after his return, Columbus was imprisoned for his errors. The King and Queen concurred that these new subjects must forget their names, and never know their purpose to the empire. Thus, an edict went forth that there were no classes in the New World because

in the New World, everyone is Middle Class. Everyone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy 78th Birthday, Leonard Cohen!

If I remember correctly, we were talking about his friend and mentor, the poet Irving Layton, whose work I encountered as a young man at a time when I really needed it. His poems of grief and anger showed me a way forward in a dark time. And of course Cohen's poems, which represented an alternative to the canonical modernists on the one hand and the Beats on the other, whom I found overbearing and loud. We talked a good while about poets and poetry and later about being grandfathers.

This photo was taken by Rick Friedman and belongs to the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

I've recently reread Cohen's The Book of Mercy to see if it would still move me as it once did. It does.

(Layton's work, admittedly older, often feels dated to me, as if arising from a cultural context, especially with regard to masculinity, that has passed.)

Look at Cohen's hands in the photo: time and again, in The Book of Mercy, head and heart come together in just that way. I close that book not with an urge to paraphrase or otherwise talk about it, but with gratitude.