Saturday, February 28, 2015

     As we approach 1 March, observed by some as the festival of St. David, patron saint of Wales, I think of the awesome musical and literary tradition of that part of the world. Why I never took my Britrail pass there in the summer of 1979 remains a mystery in my life. Only a handful of Welsh bards and lover of words: Dylan Thomas (whose name Robert Zimmerman assumed), Richard Burton, Tom Jones, and Ray Davies (yes, a Muswell Hillbilly, but the roots are on the other side of Offa's Dyke).

     Several days ago a friend and fellow poet lamented feeling out of place in this century. Many of us relate to that, and maybe felt that way before 2000. Ray summarized those feelings in this great rock song, "20th Century Man". If you do not know this song, click the following link! click on it even if you know it!

Friday, February 27, 2015

     My time at Drew, my last alma mater, ( in Madison, New Jersey)  was not spent with poetry, but with more of a background in literature, history, and religion. This "holy grail" was the interdisciplinary doctorate in Humanities that has eluded me for years. University of California-Irvine advertised one, but when I asked about it after my arrival, was bluntly told that  "We don't have  it anymore."

    Akicia Ostriker has some distinguished predecessors in her new role, but certainly she can carry on their work! Congratulations!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Another Neat Thing I Get to Do

     Last Saturday I was chatting with two fellow poets and a seminary classmate on social media at the same time. One was in India, another in Spain, and the third in Indiana. Afterwards I had jet lag!

     Probably the best part of the writing side of me is being in contact with people, and in a few special circumstances, connecting with people beyond the "Nice write!"-hit-the-1-button sort of thing.

     Usually I remember when I first met the people special to me. I can remember seeing my wife on our first date long ago in Virginia. My longest-friendship began in an 8th grade Reading class in Pennsylvania. Poetically speaking, about three years ago S.L. Weisend and I met while commenting on a posting about T.S. Eliot.

     Something one of us said (and here I uncharacteristically cannot remember the details) caused the other to comment. In the back-and-forth we discovered that we both lived in New Mexico and miss it very much and that we were in Orange County, CA at the same time but were not at all in the same circles. Maybe it was a poem about New Mexico that piqued my interest in the person and the poetry.

    For a while we co-moderated The Writerly Digest on Facebook, but now Writerly Digest carries on just fine without me.  I always learn so much from it. S.L. and I share a lot of literary and cultural tastes, a love of some of the same places, but also have backgrounds that complement the other's.

    Tonight S.L. posted a poem that literally blew me away. It is a new style and one of the best I have read from my friend and fellow poet. A Really Neat Thing is that I have permission to share it with you right here!  Thanks, S. L.!

Reflections of an Antihero

Am I insane
because history makes me cry,

Or, that I am incessantly thinking 
about those women & men 
who fought for love instead of long life?

Those who are gone now,
 like the innocence of infants once birthed,
Or the great booming laugh of a Goddess stifled 
beneath three billion pounds of dead Earth.

The freedom-reapers, the misanthropes, 
The ones who loved the human race,
despite its addiction to misleading hope —  All of them gone.
The ones who loved the dog, 
despite the dog’s love for its master’s rope
— Gone gone gone..

I know that life appears rosier in rear-view mirrors 
where heroes are mere reflections.
But, then, there is the case of my own reflection, 
which I keep inside my purse like a concealed weapon
allowing its ascendance only to witness 
the made-up visage of my rosy namesake,

as its attached body is chaperoned through the century 
in the comfort of a well-maintained hearse.

S.L. Weisend ~ ©  2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

In memoriam Philip Levine, Us Poet Laureate

Thanks to fellow poet and friend RC de Winter, this is from the NY Times:

When life calms down a bit, I want to read more of Levine and also WS Merwin.\

Friday, February 20, 2015

Neat things writers get to do

     First one is getting some reviewers for the book. Having several friends, most of whom have themselves been published, and all of whom have encouraged me, it is difficult selecting only a few. One of the few things I remember from high school science classes is Isaac Newton's comment about being able to accomplished what he did because he stood on the shoulders of giants. Of course, that was not ever on the test! My family is scientific it seems, except for me!

     Secondly, I am planning the book launch. Since I am in the initial stages, there is not much to sat and so much still up in the air.

     Finally, a writer friend asked me to be a beta reader for a coming work. I like her writing, and the timing is perfect. Maybe I will myself turn to some prose later in the year. But more on that later.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

T.S. Eliot's Conversion poem

"Ash Wednesday" from 1930 speaks for itself. To those who journey through the Lenten wilderness, blessings. To those who deepen spirituality in any way, blessings.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How do poems happen? Part two

     Some people may think that we poets sit around in bistros or sidewalk caf├ęs all day and night producing a poem. Another misconception is that poetry flashes into our minds and we wake up in the middle of the night or stop what we are doing and write it down in a trance of inspiration.

     While I have hung out in places, and have dreamed a poem or two, the reality is not as exciting. A few weeks ago there were two themes I wanted to write a poem about. One theme was a variation of other themes, and evolved out of a few other poems. The second represents a new category entirely for me.

     I wrote down some rough drafts, went about the week's work and other activities, and then went to the desktop. One was pretty much typed as I wrote it by hand, the other changed its form.

     What next, you wonder? I might send the first off to a small group of more serious poets, whose anonymity I wish to preserve, for some critique. As for the second, I will keep where it is, and likely as it is. There are a few more in that style swimming around in my head.

     Additionally, I participate in the 15 Words a Day on Google+. Some of them might become something else. Actually, I strung together a few of them for a Savannah, Georgia,  poem. Last October's National Poetry Writing Month (napowrimo) was useful; a friend encouraged me to participate.

     The image is of an oracle. There is no poetic oracle, but I do talk form time to time about the Castlaian springs on Mt. Parnassus in Arcadia.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Not your typical Valentine's poem or song

     But what would one expect form Bob Dylan? Influenced by William Blake's "The Sick Rose", Dylan writes about how his wife-to-be, Sara Lowndes, brought calm to his life. In typical Dylan fashion, the song is replete with literary allusions.

     This version is from Dylan's 1965 British tour, and that is Donovan Leitch in the room full of people and cigarette smoke. The song has been covered by many, from Joan Baez and Judy Collins (no surprise here), to Ricky Nelson and the Turtles (that is surprising).

     I post this for all the ones to soothe our lives! Blake's poem follows the link.

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

- William Blake

Thursday, February 12, 2015

   Sylvia Plath died on 11 February 1963. I post her recording of her poem "Daddy". The caveat that I give to those not familiar with her is that her father was indeed a German immigrant, but not anything like he is depicted here. He died when she was young, and the poem contains some of that anguish.
   Her early death (a suicide) robbed the world of more poems and other writings. It also marked and haunted her surviving family.

Monday, February 9, 2015

In Altpoetics for the fourth time!

     I have said it before, and will likely say it again! Kenyatta Jean-Paul Garcia produces an excellent e-publication named Altpoetics If you click on the link, you can navigate to read outstanding poetry in all genres, subscribe to receive e-mail notifications, and enjoy the experience! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

On 3  Feburary 1959, Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to the  J.P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper, and so did not perish with him, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and pilot Roger Peterson. This week is a good time to post the following poem. 

In The Best of All Possible Worlds

In a backwater town
Far from the Interstate
But close to the siren call
Of rumbling freight trains,
I sit with Waylon Jennings,
Bottle and two glasses between us
In the glow of neon beer signs
Behind an empty bar.

Long-haired and bearded,
Freak and Outlaw we find
Common ground as we express
Who we are, as we chase
Our Holy Grails
Unconcerned with people telling us
We are wrong and foolish.

Each drink, each story, each joke
Fuses our spirits together.
We say the same thing
In different dialects.
Consensus does not imply
Betrayal of one’s roots
But the appreciation of another’s.

As rosy-fingered dawn spreads
From the east over the fields
Waylon and I revel in the
Best of all possible worlds
My lyrics melting into
His flawless music and
His gritty baritone voice.

Arthur Turfa, © 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Now It Can be Revealed

A sense of impending calm
over the horizon
awaiting me after
several lingering events lapse.

     My post from 15 Words a Day recently caused a few friends to wonder if anything major was about to happen. Actually,my term as president of the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers Association drew to an end at our annual conference. Now I am past president (which sounds like a tense). Now there are fewer responsibilities, and more time to write, edit, and promote my coming book.

     Several gratifying things converged today. We had a dynamite keynote speakers and presenter, who has become a good friend. A few younger members asked me how to become more involved in the organization. I had time to mentor them, as well as some fellow German teachers. 

     For myself, I rejoiced in seeing some friends of several years time, seeing some newer friends, and making more. 

     Concerning the book, I am working on some ideas for cover art; the publisher asked me for some ideas. Looking ahead, I am thankful and blessed to have these opportunities and to also be thinking ahead! This is indeed the impending calm, and I intend to enjoy it fully!

     the first picture is our logo. The second shows two Chinese teachers (now long back home) congratulating me on my election two years ago. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

    Today was Signing Day in the USA for high school athletes to formally commit to colleges and universities. For a great many it is the only way they can afford post-secondary education. For everyone it is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication, with more to come. For about 1% of the signers, it is a step on the way to professional sports.

     But what about the vast majority who will one day have to stop playing for whatever reason? John Updike's "Ex-Basketball Player" explores that dismal post-glory existence. Poor Flick Webb has nothing on which he can fall back; as a result he is doomed to have his best years behind him.

     In high school I read Updike's "Couples", which was a magnet for teenagers interested in adult antics. When on my seminary internship in Reading, Pennsylvania, I started reading the "Rabbit" novels. Updike was born in nearby Shillington and captures the time and places perfectly. I regret that he never won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

     Enjoy the poem!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Early Spring or More Winter?

     Punxsutawney Phil knows, and will reveal all tomorrow. Northern Europeans grew tired of long winters, and wanted to know if there was a break. February 2 evolved into Candlemas, a day of light. When I attended Christ-Seminary/Seminex in St. Louis, the semesters were Michaelmas and Candlemas, aka Fall and Spring. We had a January fast-paced semester as well.
     German immigrants brought the traditions of Lichtermesse with them, and the prognosticating groundhog also. Actually, the idea of one; I doubt if they actually brought a Murmeltier with them
Phil is the only one to whom I lend credence; I will not deign to mention his rivals. Here is a link to the events:

Another interesting thing from Western Pennsylvania! I thought yinz might like to know!

Reviews Are So Very Important to Writers, and So Hard to Get

      When my first poetry book was published seven years ago, I dutifully asked readers/friends to review it. That book, Places and Times, ...