Friday, July 31, 2015

I'm not even finished with "Henry Clay:The Essential American", and I am impressed!

     It is rather cold comfort, but the current time in America is not the only time when political parties and personalities destroy each other's reputations and ignore facts. Of course I knew that already, but the vehemence of the three decades before the Civil War comes out in David and Jeanne Heidler's destined-to-be-an-epic=unless-the-forces-of-revisionism-get-to-it "Henry Clay: The Essential American.

    Abraham Lincoln admired Clay, and always valued the Kentuckian highly. Like all politicos, Clay had a large ego and made his share of errors. Upon his death in 1852, the train bearing his body from Washington, DC to Kentucky was routed through Philadelphia, New York, and Ohio so that crowds could pay tribute to him.

     There is one section from the book I want to quote now:

       "Rather than the often repeated adage that the victors write the history of an event,
    the story of anything is actually determined  by the unswerving adoption of one version
    of it, and the telling of that version by a determined cadre of writers. In time, the version
    with the most persistent adherents becomes the "truth/" Thus propaganda becomes history"
     Kindle locations 8059-62 in Chapter 11 "Three Campaigns"

      In a time when the media and Internet are filled with incessant repetitions of lies, calumnies, and half-truths, we have merely accelerated the process of political and civic stagnation and animosity.          Josef Goebbels' statement applies today as well, even in a democracy:

    That is a long URL, isn't it? To conclude, Henry Clay is more than someone who officially ran for President three times and lost, and tried to run three more times but lost the nomination. He is more than a Harold Stassen (whose 1968 Republican Convention demonstration of support consisted of two people carrying signs). To see who Clay was, I heartily recommend the Heidlers' biography.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Open Mic at Tell the Truth, Tell it Slant- Richland County Public Library

   Here is the poem from tonight. I wrote it in class and revised it with some guidance from Ed Madden. The goal was to use an abstraction with a personage, real or fictional.

When Insight Comes to You as Batman

When courage comes to you as Batman,
You must count yourself lucky.
After all, he has no superpowers
Only a whole bunch of Bat-this
And Bat-that because
Bruce Wayne can afford it
And stately Wayne Manor
Has lots of storage space.

I play some relaxing music for him
Vaughan Williams string pieces
Since Batman is so stressed out.

He tells me to get over
Some perceived insult because
Nothing can compare to seeing
Your parents slain by dastardly criminals
Or dealing with villains
Repeatedly escaping from allegedly-secure
Prisons with frightful regularity.

Actually he does have a point I think
Putting out some beer and pretzels
And vow to ignore the people
Acting out of ignorance and/or jealousy.
They are non-entities, not archfiends like
Green-haired Joker, question-mark festooned
Riddler or umbrella-wielding Penguin.
I raise my mug, and exclaim
Holy Insight, Batman!” as
The Caped Crusader wipes
Foam from his mask
And reaches for a pretzel
With gloved hand.

Arthur Turfa, copyright 2015

 I also read one from my book  entitled Late Afternoon: The Pilgrimage Church

A fantastic class series. Tonight Some of my poetic mentors and friends were there, along with new friends. Wow!

First Rilke Post

     First of all, here is the edition I am reading:

    Sadly, I saved nothing from the Rilke seminar I took at University of California-Irvine in 1977 from visiting professor Egon Schwarz of Washington University in St., Louis, Missouri. At the time I was not writing poetry and was preparing to attend seminary in St. Louis. I did reconnect with Dr. Schawarz, a very pleasant Viennese gentleman who left before the Holocaust.

     Recently I picked up the Mitchell book and became re-acquainted with Rilke's background. I do use some of his Orpheus sonnets in my high school Mythology class. He wrote all 55 in over a month, as he finished the Duino Elegies. That is simply amazing!

     I am going to make a comment or two about "Herbtstag" form the "Stundenbuch"/ ""Autumn Day" from "The Book of Hours".

Pinter;s English translation is the one I like here; it captures the original as much as any translation could. What I like is the rhyme scheme and the sense of transition. It is not melancholy, merely factual.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New Zappa Documentary Coming and Other ThoughtsToday I post several links about Franz Zappa

     Today I post several links about Frank Zappa. A few days ago a high school posted the news about a coming documentary authorized by the Zappa Family Trust. Sometime in 2017, this documentary will be available. A few of us kidded around using references to Zappa songs. What is interesting is that over 40 years since graduation, we have been all over the world, have mutually incompatible political views, but still agree on music.

     In the United States Zappa received no AM radio airplay, and had a fair amount of exposure on FM Underground stations, but generally was seen as "weird" and not a seriously musician or composure. Some of us disagreed.

     However, behind the Iron Curtain, smuggled-in copies of albums inspired people yearning for freedom. I would hope that the documentary will show this influence., Here are some links to Zappa's influence in the former Czechoslovakia and in Lithuania: The friendship with Vaclav Havel is particulary interesting.

   The image I post is from the Marzahn section of Berlin, which is in the eastern part of the city. In 2011 I had hoped to take a picture myself, but I ran out of time. After visiting the massive Museum with some friends from my Goethe Institut seminar group, we ended up at the venerable Josty's Restaurant. As one of our group was Russian, I think Frank would have appreciated it.

    Usually I do not promote what I will post later, but perhaps the time is coming to share a poem about Zappa I have had in my Drafts section for some time.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It is Not Difficult to Get Some Facts Right

     Of course I have erred in this way, and in others! For instance, I do not like to proofread, but I have friends who do. But when one writes an interesting and stimulating biography of one of World War II's lesser-known figures, containing hundreds of names, it helps to get some things right.

     Richard Bassett's "Hitler's Spy Chief- the Story of Wilhelm Canaris" gives an excellent account of the many plots and counter plots in the intelligence services in both world wars. Some readers might be shocked at the duration and depth of Allied contacts with the Third Reich- such is Realpolitik. Which of us knows what is going on today on various international levels, I ask rhetorically.

     As much as I like the book, I have to shake my head at the error of listing Karl Bonhoeffer as someone executed with Canaris at the Flossenb├╝rg concentration camp in April 1945. Of course it was Dietrich ; whose fame rightfully extends beyond Lutheran circles. Bassett also is rather imprecise about the location of that camp; it is not in the Palatinate, rather in the Upper Palantinate. By far better-known is the Rhine Palatinate (home of the Pennsylvania Dutch), far to the west. Had he said Northern Bavaria, I would not have been perturbed, or more perturbed, the omission of Dietrich's name having done so already.

     In June I watched a "documentary" on Netflix from Argentine  or Chile whose title translated as something like "Hitler's Escape." This alleged work of history had Canaris with Hitler on the U-Boat heading to Argentina.

     But read the book! I have it on my Kindle.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Another Great Workshop

     Tonight at Tell it Slant, Ed Madden had us work on three exercises. The overarching theme was how abstractions become concrete. i will tell you about the first exercise, and then share a neat poem I learned about.

     Make a list of abstractions, and then a list of characters, fictional or real.

      Love   Beauty  Truth Passion Envy

      Winston Churchill  Batman   Wonder Woman  Homer Simpson  Romeo

      and then start a poem in the form of.... When Passion came as Homer Simpson....

      Here is a link to the exquisite "The Weight of Sweetness" by Yi -Young Lee. My wife and I saw only yesterday some peaches very ripe for picking in some of the many orchards in our part of South Carolina.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Back to live action

     Getting ready for another poetry class from Ed Madden tomorrow night at the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, SC. And I will also make a dent in some of that reading.

     But here are some more pictures from the trip.   1. Emily Dickinson poem  2. Dionysus 3. Phryne

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Where to start?

     My wife and I returned from a vacation along South Carolina's Grand Strand, in our case from Myrtle Beach to Mount Pleasant, across the water from Charleston. Not that we spent a lot of time either on the beach or in the water; I get skin cancer without doing those things so I do not take any greater a risk than necessary.

     We saw marvelous sculptures at Brookgreen Gardens, visited Hopswee Plantation and Mepkin Abbey. Another highlight was finding a Barnes and Noble; they were forced out of our area. Now I have to decide between Rilke and Harper Lee after I finish my Kindle edition of a book about Wilhelm Canaris.

    And of course they will be poetry to write! Ekphrasis  ( comes to mind with so many works of arts and photos to inspire me. Let me show you a few.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bought a Rilke Collection Today

   At a Barnes and Noble I bought a bilingual collection of Rilke. I won't need the English on the right side except for comparison, but it is cheaper than buying a German edition in the States.

   In this way I am living up to my summer reading intention. Now I need to find some Bobrowski for the rest of my list!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Video from mind Gravy Reading thanks to a friend

    My hat's off to Leslie C. Gilroy for video from two of the poems from "Places and Times" I read last Wednesday at Mind Gravy, at the Drip in Columbia, South Carolina! She was taping the music, and also performed as a vocalist with someone.

     The picture is what inspired the second poem, "Espanola Valley Morning".

     I really appreciate her not only doing this, but sharing it with me, so I can put this out to the world.  Thanks, Leslie!

Friday, July 10, 2015

What a Connection! On Steve Young and Proto- Country Rock

     Sometimes I am simply amazed at how various strands of an artistic movement, a plot of a novel, an historical era, or my own life weave together in a way that no one could have predicted. Artistically at least, I have enjoyed the results.

     This week I listened to a double CD "Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats- A New Music City" , which is an excellent compilation of artists and music. Steve Young's version of "Seven Bridges Road" caught my attention immediately.
     Originally I had heard the Eagles' cover, which is faster-paced. Young's rendition of his song is superb, especially the way he stretches out certain words. I began to find out more information about Young. Songwriters are to music that character actors are to acting. They do not usually occupy center stage, but many of them are simply brilliant. A singer-songwriter like Young might be a notch higher, but people usually go for the more commercially-successful cover, just as they watch a movie for the star, not the supporting cast.

    Young was a pioneer of country rock, being a member of the extremely short-lived psychedelic country band "Stone Country", who released only one album. Afterwards, Young had a solo career and helped establish Outlaw Country, writing "Lonesome, On'ry, and Mean:, immortalized by Waylon Jennings. I actually remember seeing the 1969 "Rock Salt and Nails" album that contained "Seven Bridges Road", but passed it by for something else. Philadelphia FM stations were not playing it, as I recall, and without satellite radio. there was not much exposure. A few years later I became aware of Southern Rock as personified by the Allmans and Marshall Tucker, but much later saw, or heard, the connections.

    Maybe it has something to do with living in the South , first for three years in Virginia, and now for ten years and counting in South Carolina.

Here is a song from the 1968 album (that's when the Byrds released "Sweetheart of the Rodeo"):

And "Seven Bridges Road":

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Fantastic Reading at Mind Gravy, Columbia South Carolina

     Taken by fellow poet and friend John Starino at last night's Mind Gravy reading. The organizer of this poetry and music event is another fellow poet and friend, Al Black. the event is on Wednesday's 8-10 PM at the Drip, 721 Saluda Street in the Five Points section of Columbia, SC. Thanks to all who came! Everyone was very supportive and I look forward to returning in the future.

    What a wonderful evening this was! Everything ran smoothly, as it has for the five years of Mind Gravy's existence. I varied my list slightly from last week in Charleston, and read two new poems in public for the first time. Both were well-received. 

    If you are in this part of the world on a Wednesday night, come down to Mind Gravy. There are plenty of option of places to go before or afterward if you want. This is where lots of University of South Carolina students relax, and also hip folks who are older. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tell the Truth, Tell it Slant

     The title for this series of workshops comes from Emily Dickinson's poem. The Richland County Public Library allows those who sign up to sit with Ed Madden, Poet Laureate of Columbia, SC, for up to four week (to include and Open Mike) and learn together.

     Ed is also a professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Carolina's excellent English Department. He and i have been trying to get in touch with one another, and finally did. I also connected with two other poets there and expect great things from the friendship and artistic sharing.

     No matter where one is as a writer, he or she can always benefit from these associations and sessions. I am glad to be part of it!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Repeat of a Summer Poem!

     Now that the temperatures have dropped back to the seasonal 90-degree range ( 30 for the Celsius world ), we can enjoy Summer in the Midlands.

     Today I repost something from Places and Times, that was inspired by a trip my wife and I took to a local historical site. James Bonham' birthplace has been restored. He was a boyhood friend of another Saluda County (then actually Edgefield County) native, William Travis. Years later they reconnected in Texas. Travis relied on Bonham as one of his couriers at the Alamo. Bonham actually returned with Sam Houston's final message that no assistance was coming. Speculation is that Bonham returned personally to bring the bad news to his friend even if it meant sharing his fate.

    This was a poem I read in Charleston last week, and will most likely read it in Columbia later this week. I will include some another picture from scenic Saluda County, and also links to the historical site.

     The Languor of a Summer Afternoon- Bonham Homestead

The languor of a summer afternoon,
a glimpse into hazy eternity:
sun striking even into shaded roads
extending slowly away from the lake,
ending either at shore or in the woods;
a sense of completion or finality,
depending on your perspective or mood
framed by white clouds and deeply-blue sky.
Time enough to seek a dogtrot homestead
restored to rustic grace along old road,
or meander a spider’s web of lanes
half-hidden behind scenery flashing
by as we accelerate though our lives,
yearning to slow the pace as we hurry.

Arthur Turfa, © 2015

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fare thee well!

     I've been listening a lot to SirusXM's Grateful Dead channel lately, and I remembered seeing them on UHF ages ago on Hugh Hefner's "Playboy After Dark". Hef asks Jerry if they can "do a number", and they oblige with two of the most lyrical pieces they ever produced. Jerry in his serape, Hef in tux and pipe, but it was good exposure and where else did you see the Dead on TV in 1969? Was that Barbi Benton with Hef? He tried to promote her as a country singer a few years later.

     Except for the very first album, I bought them through "American Beauty". I was not a Deadhead who hit the pause button on life to follow a tour, and I was not enamored of 45-minute jams in the middle of songs. Their longevity was amazing considering all that they did to themselves over the years. 

     Recently I read an opinion that said their 1980's resurgence served as a counterpoint to the Reagan Years. That may well be so; interesting since the band came out of the time when Reagan was governor of California. 

     It will indeed be an end of an era when the surviving band members bring the curtain down with dignity this weekend. The Stones roll on, even with personnel changes, half of the Who is gone, but there are tours. But it is all about the music, anyway.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Columbia, South Carolina reading next week!

If you are near Columbia, South Carolina, come to the Five Points section and hear me at Mind Gravy, created by my friend Al Black!

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, ...