Monday, March 31, 2014

Acceptance: Blast Furnace Press



VISIT THE BLAST FURNACE


It is a tremendous thrill to have two of my poems (“Birch” and “Behavioral Drift”) accepted by Blast Furnace Press, run by its more-than-competent Editor, Rebecca Clever. This journal is, in itself, such a happy story. In 2010, I was lucky to find it setting up shop on the web. I knew right away BFP was going to be special (see my old blog entry!). Now, in 2014, Blast Furnace is a new member of CLMP, has almost 150,000 hits, and was recently put on a top ten list of internet poetry venues:

http://michaelalexanderchaney.com/2013/11/27/top-ten-literary-magazines-to-send-your-poetry-and-maybe-get-accepted/

More important than all that, Ms. Clever emanates a scintillant positive energy. She is excited by and intensely involved in the sheer beauty of poetry as an art form; and she is charismatic in sharing her enthusiasm with contributors and interviewees.

Speaking of which, her latest interview, with Susanna Childress, is an absorbing, emotional read. Childress effervesces with appreciation for the craft. She speaks with a noble virtuosity, spending a great deal of time on Barbara Hamby, who helped her organize the poems for her book, Jagged with Love. This book won two major prizes (one selected by Billy Collins, US poet laureate). But I want to go back to Childress’ praise of Ms. Hamby, which is so well-written and so full of candid appreciation that it touched me. There was something salubrious in this lack-of-egoism, something I don’t see much in the world today. And, indeed, Ms. Hamby seems another person who selflessly gives, completing a wonderful circle of mutual care.

The truth is, no poet is great alone. Great poets have opened up to feedback, suggestion and alteration. This takes an open heart, and a two-way empathy in a critical yet sensitive dynamic. An astute observer can sometimes see a soul-level ‘voice’ trying to break free, even before the author. We are subconscious creatures, after all, largely controlled by forces below our surface appraisal.

There are important lessons in this for humanity. Humble interactions, enriched by deeply listening, can lead to exquisite expressions of release and truth.

Indeed, we tend to deny the truth in ourselves daily, as part of the requirements of quotidian life.

Having gone on about this, I understand now what I most want to say. All editors are, by their position, giving people, who spend a great deal of time with others’ poems; but there are some who immerse in working with others, striving to bring about mutually beneficial relationships. The goal is not self-aggrandizement, nor is the behavior affected or artificial. As someone like Ms. Clever helps others, listens to others, promotes others, her own trajectory tends to rise on its own. This is the kind of magical chemistry that bolsters the success of Blast Furnace Press. I’m not a person who is naturally inclined to giddiness, but when I think of BFP’s journey, I can’t help but feel a little elevation in my pulse.

You’ll find this editor open to reading your submissions no matter your standing or status, beginner through veteran. It’s a very special venue, a true standout, in the poetosphere.

Many hoots of approval to Ms. Clever!

Owl


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Poem: The Real

Kenny Cole, in his Parabellum project for UMMA (see previous blog post), used several of my poems, two of which have never before been published. One of those poems is below. The theme is in the spirit of Cole's anti-war, anti-conformity message, heartily expressed through provocative art.

To see all the poems in Parabellum, go here:

http://kennycole.com/p-/the-poetry-of-parabellum


Fly Well In the Dark,

Owl

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The Real

it hurt it hurt it hurt
the lack of heaven
in the slow dance of the sky.

the blurbs fairytales peddled and
politicians proclaimed,
and an entire culture lapped up and thought,

never

even entered the outer
perimeter of Truth,
or bore witness to the manufactured evil
in the pits between its spires.

if there was a god
who didn’t on the chains of souls fascinate,
she was chastised, marginal,

a swift flimsy icon
saddled with an impossible task:

to make the Good strong
and nurture trust
by sharing her breasts of bread.

real gods had knives--in their mean tongues,
in the cut precision
of the fat on their diamonds.

they slashed without law,
gutting the quests of the young,
swilling the scarlet of war.

the coinage and smear
of beauty and city spoke to the truth:
violence was the real Jesus.


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Sunday, March 23, 2014

'Parabellum' Gets Another Rave Review

Latest Review of Parabellum

Another review has come out of Kenny Cole’s Parabellum exhibit at the University of Maine Museum of Art, which includes several of my poems. All the reviews are tremendously positive, focusing on Kenny’s brilliance, the multi-layered, many-dimensioned nature of the artwork.

A wonderful aspect of this work of genius is its thoroughly anti-war, anti-jingoism theme.

My participation in this project is entirely due to Cole's generosity. He could have used any poet, or even his own phrases. Indeed, I consider him as much a poet as an artist, as I have stated in this blog (various links are below).

I do get mentioned in the reviews, which has been most heartening. For instance, from the latest review, by Daniel Kany:

The texts inside the paintings are from the poems of [Owl Who Laughs]. While I was trying to understand the poetic fragments, I read them out loud. It was only then that their tenderly plaintive lusciousness (imagine the tears of a beloved child) was fully – and movingly – revealed.

“Dense and Masterful ‘Parabellum’ at University of Maine Museum of Art”
http://www.pressherald.com/life/audience/Dense_and_masterful__Parabellum__at_the_University_of_Maine_Museum_of_Art.html

A link to another review is below, plus directions to Kenny’s website, where you can find samples from the exhibit. Over two-hundred surfaces were painted and organized into a layered format, including gouaches and authentic 19th century newspaper. Viewers were allowed to open/close the canvases, as you would a book, to reach various depths of presentation. My poetry occurs beneath all else, at the hidden-most point of thought and sensation.

To read the poems included in Parabellum, you can go to Kenny’s website. I’m greatly honored that he posted them:

http://kennycole.com/p-/the-poetry-of-parabellum

It is wonderful to get recognition, and yet much of my journey as a poet is quite painful. I steadily confront the saddest topics, and the greatest dangers to our future. Sometimes I question the importance of what I am doing. I simmer in doubt within my solitude. In the end, this is part of the gamut of psychic challenges I decided to accept. The poet, or artist, dares to ride a pendulum of feelings, and even tries to become more sensitive, attuned to laughter, rage or wailing, as these bubble up from the mind’s living caverns.

It is a complex pursuit. Perhaps I am somewhat like a monk flagellating himself. We all have many voices in us, and they are not always consonant. To balance their energies is to juggle pluses and minuses. I think poetry wears me down in some ways, and lifts me up in others. Am I ultimately selfish or sacrificial? I hope the truth lies somewhere between, beyond the false dichotomy.

Be good to yourself and seek the good,

Owl


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Link to Kenny Cole’s site, re: Parabellum:

http://kennycole.com/p-


Review links:

www.pressherald.com/life/Maine_artist_Kenny_Cole_opens_new_exhibition_.html

http://artnewengland.com/ed_review/kenny-cole-parabellum-prepare-for-war/



Some of my thought on Kenny Cole and/or Parabellum:

http://owlwholaughs.blogspot.com/2009/11/incredible-artistpoet-kenny-cole.html

http://owlwholaughs.blogspot.com/2013/02/im-working-with-artist-kenny-cole.html

http://owlwholaughs.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-poetry-with-kenny-cole-in-umaines.html



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Monday, March 17, 2014

Poem: Howl

This is a slightly altered version of a poem that originally appeared in Negative Suck.

Carry Forth (or should I say forthright?),

Owl

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Howl

a shock of straw
pokes a parchment maze.

out of cold boney muscles
a random scarecrow climbs,
its feet the aftermath of coyote
on rabbit.

free us say the curves
of a tarnished aluminum bay.
dreadnoughts of cumulus
hold the world against their fat.

under greenblack
bleachers of spruce,
conic skulls vie
with shit-out pips of raspberry.

sluggish deer
rue a bevy of ticks,
which nudge like little bishops
on a board of juicy squares.

tibias of birch, once the legs of a wolf,
which tribes, now dead, skinned
to clad the stomachs of sleek canoes,
long rotted,

howl.


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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Acceptance: Hidden Animals

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Visit Hidden Animals


Hidden Animals attracted my attention with its title. It made me think of the shamanism hidden in our everyday mental processes. Barbara Kingsolver writes, “We live our whole lives around disguised animal thoughts.”

Once I visited the site, I liked the feel. The anonymous and humble editor(s) had done something right. This is a new zine, but cautious and perceptive. They are not trying to take the poetry world by churning out a number of issues quickly. The work is carefully chosen, and represents some well-known names, as well as soaring pieces by lesser known bards.

My guess is that Hidden Animals is a labor of love by those who are not doing this for social reward in any significant measure; but instead through a deep-seated draw to the elemental beauty at the nexus of semantics and symbols: the pure raison d'ĂȘtre of the craft. They find reward and magic in uncovering, via rarest word songs, the “disgused animal thoughts” we orbit in our routinized ways.

On the humble nature of the staff, the best I could do as far as identifying them was to find the name “Eric K” as the signature on the preface to the first issue. Noble, indeed.

I’m deeply honored to be part of this discerning journal’s journey, so glad that “Python,” “Colder Inside,” and “Perimeter View” will be appearing in a future issue.

This truly helps my heart as I wander the wending and sometimes forlorn road of the muses.


Owl


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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Naked Ape Blues


The movie An Act of Killing recently won a British Academy Award for best documentary. It covers the mass murder in Indonesia of a million people in 1965, as part of a government coup. Astonishingly, the killers themselves are the stars of the movie, retelling how they did the killing, generally unfazed and proud of their act. They have never been punished. Their culture, that of the victor, sees them as heros. This demonstrates that humans can perform the most awful deeds and be fine, if their cultural programming says its fine, even heroic. It is reminiscent of the Nazi’s “banality of evil,” as Hannah Arendt called it.

Note that, when we do something awful, we often construct a big lie to make it sound like what we did was fine, even wonderful. Then we forget that we constructed this big lie, to hide from the pain of our wrongdoing, in the first place.

Pure psychology.

Adding another layer to the Indonesian genocide is the CIA’s role in staging the coup. The United States directly involved itself in bringing about this overthrow and the resultant mass murder. The US citizen however is pretty much immune to this information. Share it with the general public, rationally presenting facts, and you get a collective shrug.

From the wikipedia entry on the documentary:


The Act of Killing won best documentary at the 2014 BAFTA awards. In accepting the award, Oppenheimer asserted that the United States and the United Kingdom have "collective responsibility" for "participating in and ignoring" the crimes,[6] which was omitted from the video BAFTA posted online.[7] After a screening for US Congress members, Oppenheimer demanded that the US acknowledge its role in the killings.[8]


Again, on this theme, the recent book, Kill Anything That Moves demonstrates convincingly that the US military’s behavior in the Vietnam War was tantamount to genocidal mass murder. Nixon and Kissinger, if this book is accurate, are as bad as Hitler. They will be remembered by future historians as purveyors of paramount evil. However, there is no chance of the US citizenry, in large part, looking at this rationally, or even admitting it happened.

There are many other examples of US Foreign Policy instigating take-overs that emplaced vicious dictators. Subversion of democracy, death squads, murderous coups--all par for the course. Will the US citizenry ever fully face this, admit the extreme wrongdoing, even when presented with incontrovertible evidence?

No. We humans go into denial. We also project our own feelings of inadequacy onto others, without knowing. The former condition, denial, allows us to ignore even the worst atrocities. The latter condition, projection, allows us to commit them.

Bring up the genocide of the Native Americans, on which the United States is founded, and you will get the awesomely stubborn and irrational, "It's all in the past, nothing to do with now." End of conversation.

Another big problem: the devious folks who know how to play the rest of us for their own selfish ends. These are the charmers with tin hearts: charismatic narcissists and beautiful sociopaths. Using rhetoric like a dark alchemy, they work masses of denial and projection, transumting hate into gold. Unlike the medieval alchemists, their quest is often successful.

“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one," says Hitler.

Hitler, understanding psychology, also says, in Mein Kampf, “What luck for rulers that men do not think.”

Furthermore, knowing the power of psychology, he says, “It is not truth that matters, but victory.”

As Hitler grasped, giving people rational arguments as a means to convince them is ridiculously weak. For example, here is a simple argument, given in steps:

1. Humans can be acculturated in diverse ways, as evidenced by our malleability over time and across cultures (recent studies of brain plasticity verify this).

2. It follows that we can be acculturated to live in better or worse ways. Aslo, good is better than evil.

3. Therefore, we should start an acculturation process that strives for the good, and we can progress far in that direction.


This argument for striving toward a better world will not influence a lot of minds in any serious way. Walls of cynicism, blockage and redirection kill its straightforwared point about human mental flexibility. Look how long it took to get women the vote. The conservatives of the time said it was unworkable, because human nature is fixed. They were extremely wrong.

Humans are flexible in their mental ways, and can change drastically. It makes a difference whether the source of the change is healthy or darkling, like a demagogue selling hate.

Oliver Stone, in his recent book, The Untold History of the United States, points out that after WWII, the leaders of the US had a chance to shape the world. Two doctrines were on the table. One was enlightened and pushed for a universal, educated peace. The other was cynical and strove to maximize US power and create a climate of manipulable (hatred for Russia) fear in the public. Guess which was chosen?

We live under this illusion, propped by the thought police invisible in our cultural norms, that human nature is largely fixed in terms of how good we can be.

If humanity is to survive: (a) We have to deal with denial and projection in healthy ways, (b) Prevent demagogues (charismatic narcissists, sociopaths, etc.) from manipulating denial and projection in unhealthy ways, (c) Create a leadership that works with the human being, the human psyche, in caring, respectful openness, not as if people were pawns toyed with (lied to, tricked, baited, hate-mongered, etc.) for a larger goal.

For the positive outcome, humanity must accept its status as non-rational. This does not mean humans cannot be reasonable, because psychological processes can act wisely, ethically, and sanely, with an eye on longterm goals. This is a critical point: a healthy psychology can be reasonable, and can, for instance, work with the scientific method to eliminate bias, reality-distortion, etc.

Right now, with demagogues in power, a culture of consumer narcissism, and entrenched denial of the Empire's monstrious abuses of power, we have a long, exasperating road ahead.


Owl


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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Primordial Verbal

In dreams, when the penumbra between seen and unseen fills the inner senses, emotions can speak to the sleeper directly, with their own language, one that eliminates the need for particular sounds and alphabets. This is how animals live, in this language of emotions and sensations. That it is a language, a rich and full mode of vast conveyance, we have forgotten, and experience ourselves only when much of the machinery of culture--culture as an accretion of thousands of years of human rebellion against nature--succumbs to the desuetude of night.

Vaasya Spiderstrum, Keysinger of the Amaranth


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