Perhaps it was the longstanding SouthCoast tradition of miscomprehending the role of the artist in society, but I have always understood writing as a solitary craft.
I was never the type to join writers' groups, so I was fortunate to high school on an autarchic little island of Jesuit erudition. In Fall River, the intellectual backwater where the academy was situated, creative writing is considered a profligate luxury and associated with the lavender silk pillow set.
Elsewhere -- let's say, oh, Newport -- one's pals were perpetually dipping their quills into the community-fostered inkpot and scratching invisible keepsakes into some packsack or other; it's hard to not wring the sighs and cries and forge them into some attempt at beautiful music. I was afforded plenty of opportunities to share my poetry publicly. Which panned out quite well, with a few local literary publications printing a few pieces at no cost to me.
And once, I was actually compensated for it.
In free copies of the magazine.
(The magazine, incidentally, was printed for free by some sucker and offered at artsy establishments without charge.)
But that was last century, when the idea of reading poetry aloud before an audience was an exercise for greybeards to practice before bluehairs.
I practiced my own penchant for performance on professional and amateur proscenia. I could see no reason to muddy the literary waters by conjoining poetry and drama (*coff*Shakespeare*coff), but seeing as how entropy was firmly mucking up every other definition that I had ever learned, "performance art" became the obscenely ubiquitous medium of expression for poetry.
Or what passed, in some quarters, for it.
You may remember the shorthand sitcom stereotype of "poetry reading." Black turtlenecked clove cigarette smokers snapping their fingers at self-impressed berks who think that "melancholy" coordinates metrically with "broken doll" if you frown hard enough. You know the bit.But at poetry slams, similar clichés assaulted.
Poetry slams brought movement and instruments and percussion and recordings into the coffeehouse. Young people (and, dude, twenty-five years ago, I was one) were treated to Schoolhouse Rock versions of Horatian odes -- well, without the Augustan principles and with more pauses and swear words.
At some point in the evolution of the form, merely reading a poem, without mixed media presentations and throbbing basslines, was considered boring. Stuffy. And, um, not really poetry at all.
Since I was playing the museum and library circuit -- where bookish unrhymed iambs of maritime irony played better -- I would not have minded even the evolution of reading events into hip-hop franchises.
If it weren't for some humorless, witless, and charmless participants.
"Irony," as it turns out, requires lots of those sneaky meaning-filled "words," and usually not ones that served in coarser contexts as substitutes for "genitalia."
There was the woman who screamed obscenities while ripping up family photographs. There was the couple who shouted inanities and then full-bodyslammed each other. There were the ones who gave heft to bland words like "stupid" by inserting painfully uncomfortable silences before, during, and after. The ones who would fall to the stage and say, "CRASH!" The ones who spoke in a soft whisper except for the times when they hollered.
I found some of them to be fierce, earnest, mean-spirited, frightened, impolite, unpolished, tattooed, angry, blathering prats who were unaware that the novelty had worn out decades before. I was not familiar with their vocabulary and my more-often technical observations were generally ignored because concerns like metaphor and comprehensibility were oldhat distractions. Because I was neither relentlessly self-absorbed nor sickeningly fawning.
I had a college "advisor" who found fly-fishing not only diverting but uncommon enough to appear hip, and extolled the virtues of freshwater angling while tying lures during our advisory sessions. Turns out that he did this so that when his wife called, he could say that he was tying nymphs in his office. Which he found exceedingly clever. He spent long hours attempting to parse the poetry of Bob Dylan's popular songs, claiming that Dylan was the only songwriter whose work stood up to classical literary analysis. While twisting waxed thread around the shank of a hook, he twisted himself in excogitating convolutions in order to prove Zimmerman's lyrical acumen. I handed him the lyricsheet from Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom.
That's around the time when a new faculty advisor showed up with a bottle of Dewar's and a syllabus filled with Eugene O'Neill.
A poem is not a song. When the words of a song can be effective without performance -- when appreciated first-hand from the page and not blared from a stage -- that is where poetry lives for me. I have been moved by some fine and new poets. Locally, I know of many. They are hard to find, unless you know where to pick up their chapbooks, which says less about the poets' public relations skills than it does about the public's relationship with poets.
But this intrigues me:
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Massachusetts (May 4, 2011) – Baker Books and WhalingCity Review are thrilled to welcome Janet E. Aalfs to the bookstore’s Bean & Leaf Café for a poetry reading on Saturday, May 21st at 7:00PM. Aalfs, who was the poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts(2003-2005), weaves poetry and martial arts dance in performing,teaching, and social justice activism locally, nationally and internationally."Intrigues me," much more than this:
Because I would rather extrapolate on the meanings of words and their order. Rather than concentrate on the personality or the performer.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Perhaps it was the longstanding SouthCoast tradition of miscomprehending the role of the artist in society, but I have always understood writing as a solitary craft.
Monday, April 25, 2011
I have only ever heard two people in Rhode Island utter the name of the last Hawaiian queen, and they both pronounced that name dramatically differently.
The first -- a Fifth Grade teacher who had our class memorize the locations of Union and Confederate losses as well as the names of the hapless generals whose incompetence he held as cause -- intoned the designation as some variation of "Lily O'Killarney."
The only other person who ever said the name was the breathtaking Sophronia (mentioned here and here) who, while recently visiting her alma mater Brown University and avoiding Emma Watson, exhaled the name of "Leeliwokeelahnay" incidentally, carelessly, and as though she were referring to her mother's great-aunt.
Which she probably was.
And that's what I got for mentioning Sarah Vowell's newest book and that it's about Hawaii.
As I steamed through Unfamiliar Fishes -- Sarah Vowell's gift to us dockbound vicarious history vacationers -- it was the latter's voice that I heard wrestling control from the unmistakably characteristic Sarah Vowell. Whenever I read a rumination of historical events ruminated upon by Sarah Vowell, I invariably hear the veritable voice of Sarah Vowell reading it. And this without the audiobook version.
You know, like humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a. Or kahlua. Or uhaul.
Although, a weekend running around the former Sandwiches with Sarah Vowell would be a pleasant diversion. She apparently knows everybody and certainly recognizes the best spots for plate lunch. And the bonus is that for every hike to Kealakekua Bay with her precious nephew, we get to hang out in a moldy house museum or library stacks with some ardent and single-minded archivist caricatures.Although I am sure that we'd argue about whether sugar laborers or American whalers are the root of Hawaiian Portuguese cuisine.
I guess we'd just have to sample lots of it.
Unfamiliar Fishes is a fine sampler of another variety of fare.
One might button down Unfamiliar Fishes as a sequel to The Wordy Shipmates in that once again, Protestant busybodies in their missionary zeal spoil everything. The Wordy Shipmates features spot-on discussions of John "Ronald Reagan Will Misquote Me Often" Winthrop and our local celebrities Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. These folks and their progeny -- divergent though their intentions were -- sank the hooks pretty deep into New England soil. Deep enough so that a new generation of clumsy genocidists feels compelled to exercise itself even further west and further demonstrate what a bunch of greedy clever prissy selfish hypocrites they were.
Unfamiliar Fishes testifies to a historian's vocation: to introduce us to people who can no longer edit themselves or tweak their own reputations. Sarah Vowell lets the participants tell their stories, usually in their own words, and sometimes repetitively. The still-wordy missionaries ("mikaneles"), Bible-literate haoles, ill-prepared maoli -- and their historical and contemporary mouthpieces. At one point, I found myself immersed in an engaging reminiscence of the Nation of Hawaii before it became clear that I had neglected to return to Sarah Vowell's book after briefly consulting Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen on my Kindle. I don't know if Sarah Vowell was channeling Queen Liliuokalani. Recently, I've found that technology sometimes troubles me.
Pre-ordering a new Sarah Vowell book and awaiting the Kindle upload date, I was put in mind of haunting the college pub, anticipating the presence of some sweet object of schoolboy fascination from History of Literature class.
You spend a lot of the night getting up the nerve, but when you do introduce yourself, you immediately fall in with a welcoming and agreeable companion.
You giggle about Andrew Marvell's time-consuming slampiece, sing along with the Neil Young on the jukebox (who THEHELL played that ?), quote The Brady Bunch and that funny NPR show, try the drink that the bartender has "been working on," and nobody exchanges numbers because you'll be in class Wednesday and Friday.
I was mailed a copy of The Wordy Shipmates, and even though I am a self-impressed gasbag recognized widely for "bombastic pomposity" (I can't let go), I never wrote a review. I understand that when someone sends you a book for free before it is even dropped, you probably should do. No such demands were made on me, but I said nice things anyway. In a brief statement about something else.
And then Sarah Vowell comes to New Bedford, sneaks around the Whaling Historical National Scenic Shopping District, and doesn't even have her people send a note to advise me that I have been officially snubbed.
Sarah Vowell has made some impression on the local Visitor's Center volunteer coterie. Just after the publication of her exchange with a decidedly emblematic New Bedfidgian ("Oh No Not Another Moby-Dickhead"), the Cetacean Holocaust National Paving Blocks Aren't Cobblestones Dammit Park people are actively seeking new volunteers who will gush about Melville's big ole book.
I am sure, however, that the New Bedford Office of Who's In Charge of Tourism This Week appreciates Sarah Vowell's strict observance of the "You can't say 'New Bedford' without saying 'Whaling Museum'" Law (although she missed the opportunity to comment on the "burgeoning arts scene" like everybody else does). I would like to sincerely thank her for not mentioning the name of the sham house museum/banquet facility that she claims to have visited while here, and then admitting that New Beige had some passing something to do with "sailors" in Hawaii. I beg her to not do a book about whaling even though her wit, scholarship, and charm would completely blow Nat Philbrick -- and Rory Nugent for that matter -- off the shelves. And I appreciate that a woman who doesn't drive begins her book at the Rainbow Drive-In in Honolulu.
It should also be noted that, given the opportunity to take on the very same subject matter -- the effects of mikanele on Hawaii -- I would have turned out a novelty pamphlet explaining how Mele Kalikimaka ever happened.
Mahalo to you Sarah Vowell.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Recent distracting local scuttlebutt -- referencing the comic computer casino capers of an immodest, slovenly, malaprop-wielding, aliterate bumpkin who is generally hailed by some voters of Fall River as their heroic representative -- has put me in mind of my own short-lived dependence on "internet cafés" in the past. Actual Internet Cafés, like the ones that real businesspeople use to check their e-mail, communicate with clients and remain au courant with office hijinks; not dingy storefronts filled with unashamed seniors indulging their tawdry gaming proclivities. I patronized the former and repudiate the latter. As does the state Attorney General. For fifteen or so years, I have done my home computing at my home exclusively. Except for various smartphones in various settings. But this was not always my way. At a time low in the mid-Nineteen-Nineties, I delighted in hours at the helm of somebody else's Dad's weekend carousing barge, particularly if the old man wouldn't sail it himself all the way to the holiday nest at Cape Pickatrailer. (This was the below-the-radar work that offered itself whenever I swaggered my braggadocio-laden accounts of TallShips™ adventures: "Boat Delivery.") I grabbed my Army-Navy surplus store Swiss gas mask bag (which held my Sony DiscMan and not much else), heaved myself and the Port-A-Potty 37's bowline onto the dock, and made my way into town, hoping that the walk would ameliorate my three-day sealegs and I would not disconcert others by appearing the proverbial drunken sailor. On the other hand, although it was mid-morning, my shipmates hoved themselves to the nearest bar in order to become just that. They were a nice married couple who spoke their own language. Not an utterly foreign language -- he was from White Plains and she was from Newport -- but another language which consisted of a few common English words which seemed to represent significant terms, but not the ones that we're used to. Cooing and giggling furnished the rest of their vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation.
SHE: Yep. And Wednesday. Mmmmmm. Ha ha.
Experienced individually, either was a pleasant and sometimes downright clever conversationalist. Together, even my penchant for linguistic vagaries was stretched. I welcomed chatting with them each singularly; I enjoyed their tales of Caribbean ports and deliveries, and I often considered joining their much- and only just-contemplated boat charter company. All that I required was a 100-ton Near Coastal Master's ticket. (And that hadn't been secured during any of the years that I had been sailing, so, well, er...) But dinner theater and office job and steadier friendships on sturdier decks would happen and those waters would just have to wait. And wait. Years before, as over-extended costumed interpreter and crew on a just-as-harebrained wooden ship, I had become unduly -- but discreetly, which is to say, unrequitedly -- enamored of a pierced-tongued Phish Phan who insisted that I procure something called a "HotMail account" so that we could "stay in touch." I failed to see the necessity of using a computer mail gadget for this, since she waited tables near the masts that I labored under and I could
stalk ogle SEE her every day. I offered that justification to her, but on the quiet recalled that these internetwork on-line cyber things were rife with rumors of potential for abuse. Plus: "HotMail." Doesn't that sound kind of sordid? As longtime readers of this Journal know, I was living in the Eighteenth Century at the time. As that stupid TallShip™ prepared to cast off docklines and embark on yet another pointless meander up the coast, that enthralling hippie handed me a slip of paper that reeked of patchouli; it displayed her name with random numbers addended plus that @hotmail suffix. That was two years before I found myself wandering, through this particular North Carolina seaport college town, seeking caffeine and a newspaper, I spied a quaint storefront clean but festooned with the usual sort of college town concert, roommate, poetryreading fliers and ... something else. This coffee shop had computers. Four of them. That one could use to access the Internetwork. This was one of those things -- an Internet Café. A thirtysomething in a light linen suit sat clacking away at the keyboard, looking up every so often at the screen of the boxy television before him. A college kid was navigating AOL. And soon, I was sitting between them, searching for a slip of paper that I had hidden in the cover of a Liz Phair CD, fumbling my way through an awful e-mail to that enthralling hippie chick whose address was on that slip of paper, and revealed that I would be pulling into Cape Pickatrailer and since that's, um, well, I was just, you know, letting her know, because, well, you know, I might, um, you know, and uh...
(This presentation includes photographs of Maureen O'Sullivan, Annette Funicello with some guy, Romy Schneider, and Jan Sterling.)
Friday, April 1, 2011
- Fortune magazine recently published another incrimination of suckers who still pay their employees. Awkwardly encumbered with an unnecessary question mark, it's entitled Unpaid jobs: The new normal? and will surely excite profiteers. The upshot is something that non-profits have known all along -- that the work of full-time benefitted workers is a drain on office resources and there are always eager volunteers to do the work required. With or without formal training or actual experience.
- This is not to say that eager volunteers are unnecessary burdens to non-profits. Many of them are also entitled busy-bodies with an undeserved, over-developed sense of ownership.
- They are not, however, unaware that the reason that they don't get paid to do their "jobs" is that the hole-in-the-ring leadership doesn't bother to do theirs. Which is to effectively raise revenue for the organization.
- In my youth last century, the morning jitney ride to school provided a remarkable glimpse into what my first job in broadcasting would be like. That is to say: both were overseen by a cantankerous judgmental old coot who chomped on a cheap cigar during his shift and played mid- to lo-tempo Top Ten Hits on cheap equipment.
- If I wasn't rolling my eyes at whatever noises issued forth out of a self-impressed maw, I was trying to drown out the sound by conjugating Latin verbs or rereading some funnybook or other.
- I still thank both of these creepy geezers for the opportunities that they gave me to succeed in something other than what I was intending to do at the time. I chose to walk the mile to school on nicer days and eventually swore off toiling in the bitter desolate sham that is local AM Radio.
- Local AM radio is still a bitter desolate sham, and still allowing its on-air types the opportunity to misquote and twist even simple pop culture references. Here, we hear one of those buffoons attribute a very famous line from "Cool Hand Luke" to the wrong actor. (Don't listen to the whole rambling "editorial;" the first ten seconds will suffice.) Here's the actual scene, with what the tiresome former newspaper man calls Paul Newman's "iconic wisecrack":
- The former "Star Station" is now providing the opportunity to log on to their website and play tacky "sweepstakes" games. As soon as you give them a bunch of personal information. All you need is an ashtray and a styrofoam cup of Cremora, and you're ready to play scratch-off games online!
- Just like the ones you could play if the authorities hadn't just shut down the "internet cafes" owned by a pathologically mischief-making city councillor.
- Remember when I said that I'd forgive Fall River anything because I believe in the city where I was born? APRIL FOOLS!
- Jane Powell was never referred to as "J-Poww."
(This presentation celebrates Jane Powell.)
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Bitterandrew at Armagideon Time, has devoted this -- granted, modest -- month to celebrating the funny paper perturbations of Debbi Anderson. Since the Date With Debbi corner has been taken (it's actually the intersection of Archieclone Lane and Womenslib Groove), I've rooted around the barn and found some old postcards that the workers have tacked up, some of which feature people yclept some-Deb-or-other.Since this Journal is late to the table, I'll have to pile on a bit of Reynolds here. Out of deference (or debference, possibly) to our friend, I share the spirit of Debruary, if not the actuality.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Tommy's personal tender admits that the meteorologically-inclined mammal "doesn't hibernate so much as indulge in a felicitous lifestyle that involves lengthy napping periods. That lifestyle also includes eating, staring intently at absolutely nothing on that wall casing, observing the insides of his eyelids, and eating."
Saturday, January 29, 2011
... and "Fields Day" just seems so appropriate a sobriquet for the observance of the birthday of acclaimed vaudeville juggler W.C. Fields.
The one thing that my dear Pére and I shared was an appreciation for the work of William Claude Dukenfield.
We each also could emit, when prevailed upon, a passable "Go away kid, ye bother me."
I suspect, though, that my father's reading of the line was a tad more determined.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
"What signifies the life o' man an' 'twere na for the lasses, O?"
Will ye go to the Hielands, Leezie Lindsay,
Will ye go to the Hielands wi' me?
Will ye go to the Hielands, Leezie Lindsay,
My pride and my darling to be.
How, Liberty! girl, can it be by thee nam'd?
Equality too! hussey, art not asham'd?
Free and Equal indeed,
While mankind thou enchainest,
And over their hearts a proud Despot so reignest.
Beware O' Bonie Ann (1789)
Ye gallants bright, I rede you right,
Beware o' bonie Ann;
Her comely face sae fu' o' grace,
Your heart she will trepan:
Her een sae bright, like stars by night,
Her skin sae like the swan;
Sae jimply lac'd her genty waist,
That sweetly ye might span.
Youth, Grace, and Love attendant move,
And pleasure leads the van:
In a' their charms, and conquering arms
They wait on bonie Ann.
The captive bands may chain the hands,
But love enslaves the man:
Ye gallants braw, I rede you a',
Beware o' bonie Ann(e)!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Haiti is still a mess.
At sea, you only hear echoes...
At the helm
I can feel each remark of the rudder:
Tremors and shudders of currents just
as I feel the familiar details of the wheel.
Varnished brightwork trim for cruising
past those very first landfalls of Europeans lost
with their wide-eyed supplications,
the corporate beaches and actors' retreats.
You cannot see my hand upon the wheel.
Yet I am the one that you indict
Of cruising idly by,
engaged in some other pursuit,
just not ever there at all.
I do not know, nor can I,
how your home and land has just this minute
been shaken and torn away like the rent mainsail
I had often furled and thanked --
I cannot hear you call out like a child
As a child's teeth crush child's flesh crushed
In hours of horrible darkness.
I am barefoot.
And you have no shoes.
and I feel that all is well
as my relief appears
Driver ex machina.
I breathe in a cigarette, and I exhale
the last four hours.
The weather deck and the one below
and must not ever sink or tear.
Because then I would be lost too:
The helm gone with the helm
Pintle and gudgeon
Saturday, January 8, 2011
“We’ll aim for these races and many others. This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington. Please go to sarahpac.com and join me in the fight."
Friday, January 7, 2011
- I would have invited folk to stately Goon Manor for a convivial festival commemorating another one of my birthdays, but the valiant hovel remuddlers have given me an early present: SCAFFOLDING! And it's RIGHT IN THE WAY!
- Try to celebrate appropriately, however is customary in your burg.
- In some markets, this means, of course, wishing Katie Couric a "Happy Birthday." I avoid this eventuality with every ounce of my being.
- Here's a picture of Lea Thompson, though. Because it's my birthday.
- As I have learned, one cannot constantly grind away at relentless resistance and recuse. Nor should one feel confident about one's legitimacy in broadcasting when leaving uncomfortable dead air, not using the intro to do time/temp/innuendo, and speaking over the vocals.
- I do not intend to read Moby-Dick this weekend. For fourteen years, the Old Dartmouth Historical Society has hosted a reading ("Twenty-Five Hours of 'Dick") by a confederacy of Herman Melville fans and scholars and appreciative readers, including your ThirdMate -- for at least five of those years.
- All right, once, I got bumped by a heavy hitter museum donator or something and once had to read an entire page in costume, but I was there. Even directed staged readings of Chapter 40 ("Midnight, Forecastle") which they are also doing tomorrow for what some guy said is the first time.
- Besides the coffee that tasted like hot dogs that first time I attended, refreshments included "grog" that was some manner of bug juice and pastries that were meant to be evocative of hard tack. It was all very proper since the docents who ran the affair were all very conscientious but were neglectful of the need for huge doses of caffeine by people who breathe anywhere near them. This year's lubberly marketing (despite surely authorizing the spoiler-filled "when to read" article in the S-T that doesn't even mention my favorite chapter while sharing quotes from staffers who seem a little tipsy) features various posters that present conflicting imagery (as if the publicity staff just couldn't decide). But they get the times right for all of the appurtenant fol-de-rol, and it appears to be a swell time for the kids around whom all things must be devised.
- The most fun -- for folks watching at home via live streaming technology and Tweeting on Twitter, the most useless of all social media -- will be the erstwhile readers who mispronounce industry jargon like "bowline" and "boatswain" and "forecastle" and "top-gallant sail."
- I also already read Moby-Dick this year. On Tuesday January 3, the 170th anniversary of Herman Mellville's leaving of New Bedford on the whaler Acushnet. When you were supposed to.
Monday, January 3, 2011
That it is a winter morning
means nothing to the outgoing swell.
It is assumed that Envy disembarks
When the last line
Is sopped aboard and
That covetous Regret
Stands on the oil-stained wharf
Inhaling the acrid sourness
Of a barrel gone to waste.
We light the world.
Machinations of the fishery mock
Such chimera --
Audacious pyrates --
Vain fictions unsuited to the counting
Will not be entered into the ledgers.
We light the world.
170 years ago today, Herman Melville left New Bedford on the Acushnet, to harvest whales.