Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Bitter Aftertaste

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction) Part 19

It remains foggy and yellow out.

I am for some strange reason that I can’t explain persisting in reading this bad memoir by the writer Marge Piercy, “Sleeping With Cats”.

She presents herself at least to me as eminently unlikable and the book is poorly written.

But the thing that unnerves and fascinates me is how arrogant it is. I also had this impression when I read Erica Jong’s latest memoir although Jong struck me as being fundamentally delusional and sad.

Maybe like the mom in “Running With Scissors”? I haven’t seen it yet.

I am interested in what makes someone arrogant. A friend of mine called me a couple of weeks back and asked if I remembered this guy we both used to work with. He asked, “We didn’t like him and thought he was arrogant but I can’t for the life of me remember why. Do you?”

I couldn’t. It was just this impression, this aftertaste.

“Proud and overbearing through an exaggerated feeling of one’s superiority…”

When does confidence turn into arrogance?

I believe my poetry is good, not all of it all the time, but that pretty much I have a gift and when I shoot I score more times than not. If you’ve been reading this mess you know I have that opinion by now.

I wonder if Sylvia Plath was that way, or Elizabeth Bishop, messed up big time both of them. Bishop a drunk like Jong. Dickenson was certainly a tad bit unusual.

Is it so difficult to be a women poet that has some modicum of success that it drives us to drink and over the edge into mental illness?

Is the arrogance a defense? A wall of fuck you armor?

I was watching two women talk the other day, they were walking and one was angry about something at work and was slamming a coworker or boss and her face when she barked out the staccato bitter words was just contorted enough to be profoundly ugly.

Audrey Hepburn used to say the best way to have a good picture taken of oneself is to think happy thoughts while the photographer is working.

I fret about these things, being arrogant and ugly—because I admit I believe in my work and I am bitter that other’s don’t.

Do I have to go further into these dark places and ways of being to have the work, instead of me, (like with Peter), seen and heard???

Yes dear, you write poetry dear? That’s nice.

I look at plain women and I think no one even sees them, particularly if they are old. I think of Marilyn Monroe, dressing down.

Sometimes I wear my glasses and my hair pinned up and kind of sort of slouch when I go to an event to see if someone will be interested in the work but even with that I am beginning to dislike the person I am becoming full of bile and frustration.

It is one funky vile mix.

Christy Turlington says that beauty is not so much in the eye of the beholder as in the heart of the beheld.

I would like to believe I have a beautiful heart.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lonesome and the Yellow Light

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction) Part 18

Poor Christian is really struggling with a bad tooth. He’s only working part time doing set-up and dishes at the church my photographer friend works at. He went off to some sliding scale dental clinic this afternoon to see if he could get the offender tooth yanked out.

Before he did though, he wrote a blog entry about a poet we both admire, the mysterious and multitalented Weldon Kees. Man, Kees knew how to wear a hat!

The thing I know about him was that his cat was named Lonesome and when he disappeared one dark night in San Francisco his friends took Lonesome in.

Christian (like most guys I know) is way more reactive and competitive than he’d like to admit. He reads and is often inspired to respond to Duncan’s blog. Duncan is also writing about his favorite poets. Or at least the poets he has been told are good by the loathsome fat old arbitrator of taste Harold Bloom. Ewww.

I’m all for reading other’s people’s opinions but Jeezaruni, can’t we make up our own minds about what is good? I guess not.

When my parents died they left life insurance proceeds in trust for me. They didn’t want me to be a “trust fund baby” so I just get a stipend to cover the basics, rent and food and transportation. I have to work for my cigarette money. My Aunt pays for my health insurance out of the trust. I so wish Christian had something like that!

I love the fattening crescent moon. We are having such clear cold evenings with these very atmospheric foggy mornings. The combo deal of the damp fog (speaking of San Francisco) and the fact that all the trees appear to be in their yellow phase makes the light just fascinating.

This morning I was thinking what if an alien came here for the first time. An alien with perceptions enough like ours, they would think this was a sulfurous pit of a place. Something I expect Christian feels a bit of. When one is in pain, the world sucks rocks, big time.

Or maybe it is all just preparation for The Day of the Dead. A celebration that makes so much more sense then handing out candy to children who have everything they could ever need anyway.

I think I’m going to be a barnacle this year. I’ll smell like wet pilings and stay put.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

In a Mood

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction) Part 17

My mother’s family is from Kyrgyzstan. A place I thought no one had heard of until last night in passing I saw the mountains of my grandmother’s home in a piece on an American Army base on the news.

My mother was very fair, her mother’s mother a Volga German resettled from the Volga river basin in Russia to this landlocked patch of nowhere by Stalin. My mother’s mother spoke German and Russian and some Chinese. It is not as strange as it might seem that my mother who spoke English and French and German and Russian should marry an American born (mostly) Chinese guy.

Christian is reading Osip Mandelstam. He was all excited the other day, his eyes lit up in that special way they get when he discovers a “real” poet.

Someone with genuine talent.

Mandelstam was ill and impoverished and arrested by Stalin’s men in 1938.

He was friends with Anna Akhmatova; what a cruel life they all had at that time! So much sadness and difficulty.

Mandelstam’s friend Nadezhda said about the day they took him away, “Why did he obediently follow the two soldiers, and why didn’t I throw myself on them like a wild animal? What had we to lose? Surely we were not afraid of being charged with resisting arrest? The end was the same anyway, so that was nothing to be afraid of. It was not, indeed, a question of fear. It was something quite different: a paralyzing sense of one’s own helplessness to which we all were prey, not only those who were killed, but the killers themselves as well. Crushed by the system each one of us had in some way or other helped to build, we were not even capable of passive resistance…”

Anyway, because of this connection in my own family I feel connected somehow to those great Russian poets who really did understand that poetry was an art and that if one writes it, lives and breathes it, it is because one has no other choice. At least then ordinary people still had the rich oral tradition of the epic poem.

Now we have hip hop and sound bites and the attention span of gnats.

I wonder sometimes if this passion for poetry isn’t some sort of genetic throwback, that the art has outgrown its usefulness to us as a species?

Sure in times of great stress as a people we reach for solace in poetry to explain our pain to us but maybe that is just habitual. Pretty soon it will all be explained by brain science anyway, or like me we will all be taking prescription drugs to even out our moods.

No one ever need be unseemly and overwrought again!

The morning light is awfully nice right now on the leaves of the trees turning orange, turning yellow. I think I’ll just concentrate on that and let this mood I am in pass.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Boots and a Crime Against Nature

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction) Part 16

It was my birthday earlier this week and a gallery owner named Bobby insisted on taking me out to the Coast to Bandon for a few days of lots and lots of sex.

He is one of those gray at the temples, drives too fast, talks on his cell phone all the time mid life guys. Dime a dozen, but he did pay for a trip to a salon for a set, trim and blow out and bought me a pretty new black dress and best of all some brown suede boots. Yum, real suede, so wicked in this rainy city.

We stopped by his house on Thursday on our way back and as all these guys do, he turned on the big screen television the minute he walked in. It was PBS, the local show, “Art Beat” and he went to wash up when they started talking about poetry.

He could care less about poetry other than telling me he’d hang a show of my poems with my photographer friend’s pictures sometime to get me into bed with him. Hey, I just wanted him to pay for dinner.

I think I need to be more precise here, they weren’t actually talking about poetry, they were talking about Lawson Inada who for years taught poetry and has been named Oregon State’s fifth ever Poet Laureate.

Christian and I went to see him a few years back at a fundraiser reading at the Japanese Historical Society’s new museum. I loved loved loved the building (an old hotel for Japanese immigrants) but the poetry reading was about as boring as you can get.

He is a nice guy, very American in spite of his time in an internment camp as a child. He is, like David Bicycle, a very well loved teacher, particularly by Paulette Paul, the local poetry maven of the mostly academic world. So this isn’t about him as a person. His poetry sucks. Seriously.

And there he is all 60’s jazz and multicultural and if I try hard enough you can almost see my black roots showing bebop hip in clipped cheerful rhythms saying, “I am not going to be the Johnny Appleseed of Oregon poetry, I am going to be the Wal-Mart Greeter. They have those cool orange vests.”

“Anybody, everybody has poetry inside of them, my job is to bring it out.

Yeah-right Lawson, everybody has a fricking air guitar player in them but that doesn’t make them write “Layla”.

This just makes me completely and totally insane.

Poetry is art and is close to impossible to do well. Nobody goes to the schools and says everybody in this room can be a composer, sit there in this moment without any training and be cute and clever and write a nocturne will you?

My mom, when she was a little girl had the opportunity to go to Leonard Bernstein’s young people’s concerts in L,A. She would talk about how funny and amazing and awe inspiring it was to realize how much training and discipline and sheer desire went into one playing of Peter and the Wolf.

No matter how well intentioned and full of good will Mr. Inada is, what he is doing feels to me like a crime against nature… at least my nature as a person who struggles mightily to write not only the best poems I can but to write something that shoots towards the best poems that have ever been written. Somewhere up there by the moon.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

All That Moonlight

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction) Part 15

It has been a world of moonlight, last night and now this morning I am up without having really slept, thinking about Polish amber and the huge full moon set over the Pacific in the foggy mornings in fall when I’d get up for an early ballet class in San Francisco.

I guess I am a bit homesick. Everybody tries to be sophisticated and oh so urban here but it doesn’t really work, the girls wear just a bit too much make-up and everybody spends too much money on the wrong things. It is kind of sad.

What we are good at here in Portland is this homegrown funkinerss. The TBA arts festival and First Thursday and Last Thursday and now they finally finished the theater at the Armory, which is just down the block from where I work at the Gelato place. They are opening with “West Side Story.”

That was my mom’s favorite musical, she’d get a funny far away look in her eyes when she’d hear a bit of one of the orchestral numbers on the Classical radio station we always had on at home.

Anyway, I hope I can score a ticket before the run ends. I am broke again. Too many cigarettes and this hand knitted green wrap sweater. Some people eat comfort foods, I buy comfort clothes, okay?

This thing happened recently with this guy and I am still tender and trying to write a poem about it but nothing is working. I have muses, you know, it has always been like this since Michel. Instead I drape myself on furniture and sigh and think about all the art I’ve been seeing.

My favorite was these clay sculptures, a bit larger than life size in yoga poses but they are not yoga sculptures. It is hard to explain, they are how a particular eye that is connected to a particular brain that has something interesting to say about the human condition sees yoga poses.

I suppose you could say I am addled by too much moonlight and longing.

Ron has added WiFi to the store so people will come in and buy dessert and coffee after they go to a reading at Powells. It will mean more guys will come over and spend more time.

Melancholy old guys, like the guy I know Duncan, who always wears a beret in winter and goes to film festivals and likes to flirt with pretty young women but has absolutely nothing to offer them except stories of a glorious and wild past. Salad days.

It gets tiresome, all that magical thinking and wistfulness. I hope somebody shoots me before I get like that, truly I do.