Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The N words

I was out today and two young guys were behind me, friends obviously and goofing around, and one suddenly called the other a Nazi. “Get lost, Nazi,” he said, laughing and pushing his friend. They were two completely decent looking 18- or 19-year olds and I was stunned that they broke this tabu. Of course the term is used often by non-Germans as the ultimate insult. It’s thrown around lightly these days, too, with Greeks calling Germans Nazis, or calling Angela Merkel a Nazi, or whomever.

But for Germans, outside of historical context, it’s a no-fly zone. When these two used it, it was so unexpected I had to laugh, and they were laughing, too, knowing they were stepping over a well-patrolled boundary.

It reminded me, oddly, of two black people fooling around call each other 'nigger' - that frowned-upon put-down, made innocuous for some as insider banter. There are worlds between the words, it goes without saying: one being a criminal, the other a victim, one having once been an official moniker, the other a condescending insult. And I surely don’t think Germans calling each other Nazis is going to gain any currency. Still, hearing it used was a kind of relief, like acknowledging the elephant in the room, and the laugh was the relief of tension.

song of the day: two little hitlers

Thursday, February 23, 2012

right-height trees

Though not a Romney fan, my father enjoyed his quote about trees being the right height. He likes the idea - says it's a kind of found poetry. But it's a bit short for poetry, even for haiku, so I looked up the quote and found more, out of which came this found poem.


I come back to Michigan.
I like seeing the lakes. Something special,
the Great Lakes, but also all the little inland lakes
that dot the parts of Michigan.
I come back to Michigan: the trees
are the right height.
I love the lakes. Brownish-green,
the grass is the right color.
I love being in Michigan.
Everything seems right.

Politicians seem to be masters of the deeply inane. Who knows what the right height is for trees? Romney, the sage, accidental poet, does. On the way home from work I sized up the trees. Some of them seemed insecure about their height. Others were too loose, too tight, or too symmetrical. Some had a freakish branch jutting out at an uncomfortable angle without a proper counterweight.

Monday, February 20, 2012


It's carnival time in Germany, with its parades and absurdity. There are costumes and floats, beer and huge paper maché heads. I imagine carnival is nice in Rio, but in Germany it is cold, damp and plain weird. It invariably drizzles, or just rains. Today is the height of it, Rosenmontag, but it continues tomorrow with Fat Tuesday. My boss takes three days off, and he’s not alone. The train station this morning was empty.

The holiday this year coincides with my reading of The Tin Drum. Like carnival, The Tin Drum in shocking in places with its dwarves, eels, onions & potatoes, horseheads as fishing tools, incest and invading armies, and also outrageous, and very engaging. Along with the story, I like the particularly German things that come up, like school-going "cornucopias" (Schultüten), which I wouldn't have understood if I hadn't had children here, and the famous fizz powder sweet, a stand-in for sexual climax in the book.

Anyone who knows anything about The Tin Drum knows it is about the rise of the Nazis, and the post-war years in Germany. The protagonist is a supposedly insane dwarf, who decided at three to stop growing and remain a child, and there of course are all the Germans who had no responsibility for anything in their society.

This is the year I penciled in to read more German/ic and Germany-related literature, and this seems a good start. Here's part of the first chapter, the creation scene, which leads us right into the distorted grotesque: My grandmother had on not just one skirt, but four, one over the other. It should not be supposed that she wore one skirt and three petticoats; no, she wore four skirts; one supported the next, and she wore the lot of them in accordance with a definite system, that is, the order of the skirts was changed from day to day. The one that was on top yesterday was today in second place; the second became the third. The one that was third yesterday was text o her skin today. The one that was closest to her yesterday clearly disclosed its pattern today, or rather its lack of pattern: all my grandmother Anna Bronski's skirts favored the same potato color. It must have been becoming to her.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

plans, schemes

someday i will write it all down in greater detail
someday i will write it all down in greater detail
someday i will write it all down in greater detail
someday i will write it all down in greater detail
someday i will write it all down in greater detail

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thumb Theater

I treated myself to a mac, and it is a lovely machine, clean and easy. But I am having a terrible time without Word. Apple has many programs for writers (too many) - Pages, iA Writer, Ommwriter, Text Edit etc - but it is difficult to make the transition. I almost gave in and bought Word yesterday, and even now I wonder why didn't I, but the Apple store convinced me to come in for a Pages class. It is not hard to use, but I want to save things in Word, or send them in Word, and I have run into one obstacle after another. For example, the computer accepts my password for some applications, but not others, so I can't set up my mail account. I only have one password! Then there's the question of where the hell are my files when I save them. MUST FIGURE OUT.

I was hoping to write more, not spend the evenings feeling defeated.

So, ironically, for now I am back to writing poems exclusively on paper. Page after page of the same poem with a slight change in each new version, like those flipbooks you hold in one hand while flipping through the pages with the thumb of the other to see a horse run, a head turn, or a star explode.
Kind of defeated the purpose of the new computer.

Happy Valentine's Day. I heart Word.

More flipbooks:
Break dance
Close up
Louis Vuitton

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Despite my choice of the kind sepia tone in the video below, I'm trying to modernize. Over the past couple days I've learned how to make audio files, convert photo files, use iTunes for more than music, and here's my first (fidgety) iPhoto video. Primitive! I'll take it down in a couple days to protect my secret identity. Ironically enough, this is my poem "Unseen," from my chapbook.

Monday, February 06, 2012

more fan love

Of Wislawa Szymborska’s poems, most American poetry readers are familiar with the one called “Could Have,” sometimes titled “Any Case,” which for some became almost an allegory of the 9/11 tragedy. If I’m not wrong, the New Yorker (?) printed the poem over a picture of the WTC, sealing its fate as a 9/11 poem. It’s an excellent poem, though its writing predates the terrorist attack and refers to the Holocaust, a tragedy of a much larger scale. (She later DID write a 9/11 poem, “Photograph from September 11.”) But the good thing about Szymborska’s poems is their seeming simplicity makes them like Colorforms, peel them off one situation and stick them on another. They leave lots of room. She ignores poetry workshop directives like, “Get all the senses in there! Did it smell like nutmeg?! Was the sky slateblue or greengrey!”

When Szymborska died last week, I didn't blog about her, though she’s a favorite of mine. I didn’t feel I had anything to add besides more fan love. Then I read this blog at Slate this morning, clicking in when I saw “the Szymborska poem above my desk,” fully expecting to see “Could Have” and finding instead “ABC!” That was refreshing.
All this is leading up to the fan love I promised and my favorite Szymborska poem – "Contribution to Statistics". This was the first Szymborska I ever read. It appeared years ago, before she won the Nobel Prize, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a newspaper that sometimes prints poems. Of course it was in German, as “Beitrag zur Statistik,” and because I first read the poem in German, it remains for me far superior to the two English translations I’ve since read. (One even uses a baseball metaphor – “not even in the ballpark” – which makes me groan in dismay. Sport metaphors!)

Anyway, I liked the Slate blog about the Szymborska poem that enjoys a “place of honor” hanging above the writer's desk, because “Contribution to Statistics/Beitrag zur Statistik” has a shrine in my home, too. However many years ago I cut it out of the paper, plonked it into a frame and hung it next to the mirror in my bedroom, or in all four bedrooms I’ve had since then.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


As if writing a poem weren't hard enough, then comes submitting. Sometimes, despite having some favorite zines, I don't know where to begin. A good way out of the 'where to?' question can be to find a poet you like, find out where their new poems are, and try there, too. I do this!

I find Duotrope also a big help. I look at "recent responses" for new publications and also to refresh my memory. Recently I saw Birdfeast start up, and I thought, oh, not another zine with a bird name. But I checked it out and the 'bird' referred to 'flipping the bird,' and it just seemed a desirable home for a poem, and I was lucky to have one accepted. Funny enough, I also checked out Thrush, yet another bird name, and thought it would be girly love and nature poetry but looks (and names) deceive and it is full of terrific poems. They rejected me, but I will try again.

Then come the cases of cool-sounding zines that have sleek and savvy layouts, and are full of poetry you think is bad! Not 'not my thing' bad but downright weak. This is disappointing.

Considering all the time and thought that goes into submitting, beyond writing the poem, I think I'll just lie back and suck plastic grapes and wait until the publications come knocking at my door. Um, more plastic grapes please...

For those who celebrate, V-Day is a week or so away, and Poetry Crush has a feature up on erotic poems. They asked the writers who are publishing with Hyacinth Girl Press to choose a favorite and write a little intro. Mine is ee cummings, and there is a rich and varied selection of other poets too. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

the balls off a brass monkey

It is -8C here or worse, which is about 17F to us Americans. Cold! The gypsies are nevertheless camped out across from the train station, sitting Indian style on their mattress with a blanket around them. At least until around 11 pm when the guy in the Mercedes comes to pick them up. He brings them back before the crack of dawn.

Anyway, yeah. Cold! Well-digger's ass! Witch's tit! Cold as hell. Cold as all get-out. Eskimo's chuff! Whatever that is.

My poem "Sidewalk Rage" is up in the new Snakeskin, which is all found poems. I admit Sidewalk Rage has also found me occasionally, most often when I'm behind the dope & her friend standing side-by-side on the escalator in the train station where I am trying to catch my train.
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