Monday, May 26, 2008

Sleeping Homeless Princess

Gloria Alford's piece, The Jaded Princess, appears above (at the top). The original, Gloria's inspiration (hers is consciously modeled after the jade burial suit of Chinese Princess Tou Wan, Han Dynasty, 140 B.C.), appears below.

Now for something completely different.

Moving from Emily Gould, Gawker and the NY Times (yesterday's posting) to something closer to home. We're re-visiting Gloria Alford's sculpture The Jaded Princess, now on display at Santa Cruz’ Museum of Art and History. She's part of the museum-wide MAH exhibit, Ying: Inspired by the Art and History of China, scheduled to end July 1. After that date the oft-exhibited Princess will be technically homeless.

At the opening, Paul Figueroa, the Museum’s Executive Director, spoke of the "breath-taking impact" of Gloria's Jaded Princess, which, "as a replica of an historical artifact transferred to the contemporary immediately sets the 'tone' for the gallery."

Following a showing at the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, the director, June Braucht, wrote, “A lot of excitement left the Museum when we returned your exhibition. I really hated to see it leave.The show was one of the very few ‘modern’ shows we’ve had that was as popular with the conservatives as it was with the more avant garde enthusiasts. All comments were favorable as is evidenced in your guest book.”

Earlier, exhibited in a show titled Technology and Art, Metro San Jose wrote, “The show could begin and end with Gloria Alford’s The Jaded Princess and have said it all. Lying in state in her Plexiglas coffin, the figure, constructed of meticulously wired, jade-green computer rchips and soldered lead, replete with a scalloped headdress of round chips the color of tarnished bronze, calls to mind Buddhist temple sculpture, medieval church monuments and mummies—icons of a culture’s revered elite, studied by anthroplogists for insight into past practices...”

Sarah Handler, author of Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture, writes, “Mirroring the famous burial suit of the Chinese princess Tou Wan, constructed of pieces of jade which, like a great cathedral, took a generation to carve, Gloria Alford suits her princess out in a stunning coat of computer chips. Using lifeless chips, she brings face and body alive in serene beauty. With the electricity of creation, she resurrects the princess for our time. Inspired by the second-century B.C.E. jade suit, she transforms a Chinese tradition into an original and imaginative work of art.”

The Princess draws rave reviews and, retired English teacher, I've been lazy. I'm the composer of business letters, self-appointed agent. So I keep promising I'll write on my wife's behalf, approach some likely venues, curators, directors... "What about the National Museum of Women in the Arts?" I ask. "Or that Computer Museum in Palo Alto? Or the Tech Museum in San Jose? Or Google, say? Or Intel? Sun? Oracle? Microsoft... Bill and Melinda Gates?"

We think of loaning the piece with a footnote that it could be purchased. I dunno. Other things get in the way. Even now. Here I am working on my blog. The show ends June 30. I'm gonna make some coffee. I'm gonna write some letters.

Gloria's piece appears above (at the top). The original, Gloria's inspiration (hers is consciously modeled after the jade burial suit of Chinese Princess Tou Wan, Han Dynasty, 140 B.C.), appears below.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Exposed, Emily Gould

Blog-Post Confidential

Emily Gould feature in NY Times Magazine, 5.25.08

Sit down with the Sunday Times planning on skimming, racing through the news, week in review, book section, etc., and getting on to The Day. Stuff that needs to get done. My To Do list. Instead, get caught up with Emily Gould's "Blog-Post Confidential" feature. Then see how, for me at least, it connects with panic attacks, depression and, strange as it may sound, soul-retrieval. I haven't forgotten what this blog, drswardscureformelancholia, is about, and skirt the issue as I may, it's there. As is the idea of a cure, namely, that the cure for melancholia (dramatic and implausible as that may sound) is to be found in the recovery of...

If psychology is the study of the soul, psyche (soul or spirit) - ology (the study of), some think the "answer," if there is an answer, is in the recovery of what has been lost. Speaking from experience, zombie-days, zombie-hood, well, I've been writing about that in the new book*. And the intersection between zombie-hood and what, for want of a better term, I call "soul retrieval." There's at least one book on the subject, a book titled "Soul Retrieval." So, I'm not the first and there's nothing original in what I'm suggesting. Anyway, back to the Sunday Times. I highlight a couple items from Emily Gould's "Exposed."

1. "I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there's a place where a record of their existence is kept...

2. "But because we were so busy, we continued to I.M. most of the time, even when we were sitting right next to each other. Soon it stopped seeming weird to me when one of us would type a joke and the other one would type 'Hahahahahaha' in lieu of actually laughing.

3. "I was initially put off by Julia' naked attention-whoring--'Attention is my drug,' she often confessed.

4. "A week later, I found myself lying on the floor of the bathroom in the Gawker office... felled by a panic attack that put me out of commission for the rest of the day.

Famous for 15 people

5. "Whenever I left this comfort zone, I would be seized by one of my irrational, heart-pounding meltdowns, which I would studiously conceal from my fellow subway passengers or pedestrians. The panic attacks were about a desire to be invisible, but if I showed any sign of having one, everyone would pay attention to me."

* Sample of work on the subject appears now in Bear Flag Republic, Prose Poems and Poetics from California, edited by Christopher Buckley and Gary Young. Four of my poems in this anthology, including "A Face to Sadden God" -- with a section which begins, "There are three parts to the human soul..."

Saturday, May 24, 2008



Take #1

Braided blonde hair
white and pink barrettes
Bette Davis gorgeous
I hug her
dreamy daughter with no make-up
silver skull and crossbones
three or four others in each ear
rings in her navel
rings on her thumbs
gentle moonchild
“pal” she announces
to “Porno for Pyros”
formerly the group “Jane’s Addiction”
“Nothing’s Shocking”
with Perry Farrell
Dave Navarro on guitar
and Stephen Perkins
on drums
Ain’t No Right they sing.
“What are you,
some kind of groupy?” I ask.
She says nothing.
Just turns up the volume.
Been Caught Stealing
they sing.

I hold her
Wet ‘n’ Wild lip gloss
diamond stud earrings
and glitter on her cheeks

Wan, she’s looking wan
my dancing daughter

Hannah Davi –a new name–
walk-on in the movie Day Of Atonement
with Christopher Walken

And a part in a Levitz Furniture ad
(“it’s work”)
and a part in an MCI commercial
(“Best Friends”)
breaking in
Brotherhood Of Justice

a Swiss Alps bar-maid
(“classic blonde Gretel”)
in a Folger’s Coffee commercial

“Grunge is in,” she says
visiting Santa Cruz,
“any Goodwills around?”

* * *

“crowning” says the doctor

“Hannah” says her mother
“the name means ‘grace’”

Two-year-old drooling
as I toss her into space
and back
she falls
and back
into space again

Flawless teeth and perfect smile
one blue eye slightly larger than the other
her three-thousand miles away mother
still present as
two as one
two breathing together
we three breathe again as one
Hannah O Hannah

(Reprinted from The Collected Poems, Black Moss Press, 2004,
and Four Incarnations, Coffee House Press, 1991)

Friday, May 23, 2008



Her third eye is strawberry jam

has a little iris in it

her eyelids

are red

she's sleepy

and the milk

has gone down

the wrong way.

I've just had breakfast

with the smallest person in the world.

(Reprinted from The Collected Poems, Black Moss Press, 2004,
and Four Incarnations, Coffee House Press, 1991)

One critic dismissed the HANNAH poem above as "sentimental." Sentimentality is said to be the exaggeration of feeling, feeling for its own sake. But what if you really feel it and feel it in the way the images and tone, etc., suggest you feel it?

There's another kind of exaggeration: opting for easy irony, an irony that will impress people though you may or may not really feel what you're setting down on the page. You'll get more attention in a writers' workshop with irony than you will with, dare I say it? honesty, saying what you're really feeling.

Above all else in a writers' workshop you want to be "cool." The inner circle of most workshops is made up of people you can count on to be "cool." Cooler than you, cooler than me, cooler than thou.

At the Iowa Writers' Workshop sentimentality was to be avoided at all costs. We were taught to be _anything_ but sentimental. Irony was OK because if you were ironic you couldn't be held accountable for anything you might have been feeling. That is, no one could accuse you of being sentimental and, if they were to accuse you of being sentimental, you could always say, "No, no, I was just being ironic. Surely you're not taking me seriously!"

If there's irony, you can more easily defend yourself. Further, the use of irony implies there's another level, maybe several levels, of meaning. We all want to write poems with more than one level of meaning.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Uncle Dog: The Poet at 9

Photo by Lynn Lundstrum Swanger

Kai is serving here as place holder. He has the attitude and manner of famed *Uncle Dog, though not the "mongrelness" of that legendary animal, a nine-year-old's vision of a Chicago garbage man's dog.

Uncle Dog was the first animal I ever saw who seemed to have some sense of purpose, dignity, pride, and self-regard. Fuck the human species. This Heinz 57 mutt refused to cringe or bark, or in any way even acknowledge other dogs. ‘Uncle Dog.’ He was the one who rode around with the once-weekly garbage man. This was Chicago back in the mid-1940s, and we lived on the second floor of a two-flat apartment. Rent: $65. a month. And the best of it was our back porch where I hung out with animals. But never my favorite, the garbage man's dog, dog of dogs!

I think of him now in our age of "companion animals," "designer dogs," a time when 69 million American households have dogs--73.9 million dogs! Dogs. Dogs. 39 billion dollars a year goes for the care and feeding of American pets.

Anyway, more than any family member or school teacher or, for that matter, yoga instructor... it was Uncle Dog who taught me the importance of carriage and self-regard. Self-respect. We’d gotten dogs from that notorious Cook County prison (c. 1940), the Chicago Humane Society and, no fault of their own, those canines were a sorry lot. Three hungry days in a cage and, broken-spirited... either they were“selected” by some dog-lover or were gassed. That's where we got some real "suspects," canines picked up off the street... dogs without street smarts, without credentials, without license. without class ...victims of human self-regard, the ruling class, "human exceptionalism."

Uncle Dog. The mongrel prince of princes. Dog of dogs.

In 1957 at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop I wrote the thing. And, surprise! it got accepted by the Chicago Review. Then the Chicago Review Anthology, Hayden Carruth’s The Voice That is Great Within Us, David Swanger's The Poem as Process, and some others. And, in low moments, needing publication to nourish my ego, to do for me whatever needs doing... needing inspiration, a voice from the past... no barking, no, speaking rather...

I can hear him now: Woof, woof! Woof fuckin' woof!


I did not want to be old Mr.
Garbage man, but uncle dog
who rode sitting beside him.

Uncle dog had always looked
to me to be truck-strong
wise-eyed, a cur-like Ford

Of a dog. I did not want
to be Mr. Garbage man because
all he had was cans to do.

Uncle dog sat there me-beside-him
emptying nothing. Barely even
looking from garbage side to side:

Like rich people in the backseats
of chauffeur-cars, only shaggy
in an unwagging tall-scrawny way.

Uncle dog belonged any just where
he sat, but old Mr. Garbage man
had to stop at everysingle can.

I thought. I did not want to be Mr.
Everybody calls them that first.
A dog is said, Dog! Or by name.

I would rather be called Rover
than Mr. And sit like a tough
smart mongrel beside a garbage man.

Uncle dog always went to places
unconcerned, without no hurry.
Independent like some leashless

Toot. Honorable among scavenger
can-picking dogs. And with a bitch
at every other can. And meat:

His for the barking. Oh, I wanted
to be uncle dog--sharp, high fox-
eared, cur-Ford truck-faced

With his pick of the bones.
A doing, truckman's dog
and not a simple child-dog

Nor friend to man, but an uncle
travelling, and to himself--
and a bitch at every second can.

(from Four Incarnations, Coffee House Press, 1991 and The Collected Poems,
Black Moss Press, 2006, Literary Press Group, distributor.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

2008 Santa Cruz Film Festival, Kerouac, Big Sur...

Fri., May 9, World Premier of ONE FAST MOVE OR I'M GONE: KEROUAC'S BIG SUR, A DOCUMENTARY by Curt Worden, Del Mar Theater. Hundreds of people turn out, $20. a ticket, standing room only... our little town, pop. 56,000, with two, three film festivals a year.

Headline in Metro Santa Cruz: On the Rocks, The Santa Cruz Film Festival opens with Jack Kerouac's Big Sur breakdown.

Based on Kerouac's 1962 book, Big Sur, the film, with extraordinary footage of Big Sur, the scene around Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin near Bixby Canyon... Kerouac's agent, Sterling Lord; poet Michael McClure; Ferlinghetti; Carolyn Cassady; Patti Smith... all making an appearance. One of the finest documentaries I've seen... and Santa Cruz, situated half way between San Francisco and Big Sur, draws an enthusiastic audience, average age, I would guess, early 40s... scattering of younger people, scattering of folks in their 70s and older...

Metro SC says, "The Big Sur trip was a farewell to the three-cornered love [Kerouac] had for the Cassadys. Neither Jack nor Neal would make it out of the 1960s alive. Ultimately, poet Gregory Corso's judgment of Big Sur seems the sanest: 'He needs help.'"

Press Release:

Welcome to the 2008 Santa Cruz Film Festival

The Santa Cruz Film Festival is a growing international festival that fosters cross cultural exchange by screening independent films and producing multi-disciplined art events throughout the year.
Since the inaugural year (honored by The Downtown Business Assoc. as the Cultural Event of the Year) our programming has championed voices and stories that are often left out of mainstream cinema. We have presented films from 5 continents.

The Santa Cruz Film Festival presents nine days of non-stop, truly independent film screenings from May 9-17, 2008. Venues include: The Del Mar, The Rio Theatre, The Museum of Art and History, The Regal Riverfront Twin, Community TV, and the Cayuga Vault.

This year the Festival will present over 140 films from 26 countries, 17 World Premieres, and 4 US Premieres The fest will screen 41 Documentaries, 76 Narratives, 15 Animation, 21 Experimental, 43 Student 22 Local Grown, and 12 - 18 years of age films all of which will be in consideration for SCFF’s Audience Awards. The Jury winning documentary will receive a World Premier on Link TV.

Our community is reflected in our programming. 20% of our films are internationally produced, 10% are locally produced, and approximately 50% are produced or directed by women. 15%-20% are programmed for a GLBT audience. 10%-15% are by or about Latinos. 10% are youth-produced (under 18 years of age) including by students at high schools in Watsonville, Aptos, Scotts Valley, and Santa Cruz.

According to the Santa Cruz County Visitors and Convention Bureau, the SCFF has brought 1 million dollars to Santa Cruz County businesses since its inception in 2001. Over 23% of festival attendees come from outside of the county. The festival promotes Santa Cruz globally, while contributing to the economy and enhancing the collective cultural awareness locally.

The Santa Cruz Film Festival strives to engage in cultural and artistic diplomacy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Crossing Lines: Poets Who Came To Canada in Vietnam War Era

A Migration of Poets

Mail brings copy of new anthology Crossing Lines - Poets Who Came To Canada in the Vietnam Era, Seraphim Editions, Canada.

Edited by Massachusetts-born poet Allan Briesmaster and L.A. -born Steven Michael Berzensky (Mick Burrs), Crossing Lines includes the work of 76 men and women who grew up in the U.S. and then immigrated to Canada in the Vietnam War era (1965-75).

As noted in the Preface (A Migration of Poets), “…thousands of American women also emigrated during the historic period of upheaval and change in both countries… about a third of our Crossing Lines poets are women.”

And, as the editors point out, “Although the Vietnam war and the Draft and anti-war protests were prominent in the news of the time, individual circumstances differed greatly, even among those wishing to avoid ‘crossing the line’ into military service. These varied circumstances are in plain view in some of the poems here as well as in the contributors’ bios. At least two of the poets (Kolos, Sward) actually served in the U.S. armed forces” [I served in the combat zone in U.S. Navy during the Korean War and, exempt from the draft, came to serve as Poet in Residence at the University of Victoria (1969 - 1972) before moving to Toronto].

Apart from the draft, many came to Canada seeking opportunity or a fresh start; many were university students or, like myself, teachers…

Judging by their poetry, many contributors seem to have had little involvement with the politics of the day, or even with the counter-culture… they write instead of their feelings and experiences in making the transition—loneliness, a sense of separation, a lowering of expectations, the difficulty of finding work… and some write of going back as more difficult than leaving.

What did these people contribute to Canada? The editors observe, “One quality that characterizes this particular immigrant group is a dynamic individualism, a widely acknowledged American trait which they each brought undeclared across the border, prodding them to contribute something distinctive to Canada’s culture."

Press Release (see below)

Representing the Best of Small Press

P.O. Box 3471, Stn. C. Hamilton ON L8H 7M1
Voice: 905-545-5274 Fax: 905-545-5208 E-mail:

May 2008

Anthology Reflects America’s Loss, Canada’s Gain

Seraphim Editions ( is proud to publish Crossing Lines: Poets Who Came to Canada in the Vietnam War Era, an unprecedented 256-page, 76-poet anthology of poetry by men and women who grew up in the United States and emigrated to Canada during the years 1965-75.

Some of the poets came north to avoid crossing the line into military service; a few came after completing their stint; and still others, who were exempt from the Draft, chose Canada for a fresh start in life, many of them as students and teachers. Individual histories, literary careers, and writing styles differ widely, but all were fundamentally affected by their change of country.

Crossing Lines explores numerous themes related both to the turbulent decade 1965-75 and to our own time: including personal responses to the Vietnam War itself, reflections on war in general and war today, thoughts on leaving home and familiar places, memoirs of arrival and a new beginning, and, above all, a longing for peace. Many of these writers have achieved great literary distinction, and as a group they represent a cultural phenomenon which has been insufficiently recognized both in Canada and the U.S.

Publisher Maureen Whyte notes: “This book reveals some of the voices which helped to shape the styles and themes of Canadian poetry in the late 20th Century and beyond. I am very excited to contribute such an important addition to Canada’s literary legacy.” The moving and outspoken poems collected here will interest students and lovers of poetry on both sides of the border, and will be uniquely valuable to Canadian Studies programs, and to historians.

Founded in 1995, Seraphim Editions publishes the works of established and emerging writers from across Canada.

For more information about Crossing Lines and upcoming readings in Canada and the U.S., or to arrange an interview with editors Allan Briesmaster or Steven Michael Berzensky, please contact Trudi at The Book Band,


Maureen Whyte, Publisher
Seraphim Editions
238 Emerald Street North
Hamilton, Ontario
Canada L8L 5K8

Telephone: 905-525-5509
Facsimile: 905-525-0332

Monday, May 5, 2008

Paul Blackburn, Re-visited

Paul Blackburn about to lift rock... mid-1960s, probably in vicinity of Aspen, Colorado.

Link to Jerry Rothenberg and more on Paul Blackburn...

With thanks to University of Pennsylvania Professor Al Filreis...

Nearly half a century after Paul Blackburn read these lines [see below] aloud in one of our kitchen colloquies, the lines are fresh as ever. I can still hear his voice. And, certainly, Paul was an influence on the work I was doing then, Kissing the Dancer, Cornell Univ. Press, 1964, and now, God is in the Cracks, Black Moss Press, 2006.

As for generosity of spirit, Paul was the first poet I met who seemed to have that quality and, 50 years later, he’s still pretty much at the top of the list. Yeah, and to Paul’s name I’d add perhaps two or three others.

Paul Blackburn’s 1954 “statement” of poetics was published in The Parallel Voyages, Sun-Gemini Press, 1987.
Please see The Parallel Voyages for correct formatting.

“My poetry may not be typically American, or at least in matter, not
solely so: but I think it does make use of certain techniques which, even
when not invented by American poets, find their particular exponents
there in contemporary letters, from Pound & Doctor Williams, to younger
writers like Paul Carroll or Duncan or Creeley.

"Techniques of juxtaposition.
Techniques of speech rhythms,
sometimes very intense,
sometimes developed slowly, as
one would have
conversation with a friend.

"Personally, I affirm two things:
the possibility of warmth & contact
in the human relationship :
as juxtaposed against the materialistic pig of a technological world,
where relationships are only ‘useful’ i.e., exploited, either
psychologically or materially.

"...the possibility of s o n g
within that world: which is like saying ‘yes’ to sunlight.

"On the matter of song: I believe there must be a return toward the
musical structure of poetry, just as there must be, for certain people at
least, a return to warmth within a relationship.

"However impractical that may seem in a society controlled in some of its
most intimate aspects by monstrous, which are totally irresponsible,
corporations, organized for the greatest gain of the most profit: and whose
natural growth, like that of any organism, is toward monopoly,
self-support, self-completion, self-
and eventually self-competition and self-destruction.

"In a world that is so quickly losing its individuals, it can only be the
individuals who persist, who can work any change of direction, i.e. control
the machines, or destroy them.

"Machines can be very beneficent as means

"to a better
(materially better)
life, as either
democratizing or socializing agents.
But as a means to control for the limited number of men who now own them,

"(but the president or general manager of the corporation
really owns nothing but his own salary (and his power) so that
even the controlling minds of these gigantic corporate machines
are irresponsible. That is, not subject to the effects
of their own decisions)

the personnel, the individuals
are replaceable, all the way to the top. The machine, the organisation, has
itself created the position and will function without the individual, has,
in that sense created the person to fill the ‘p o s i t i o n’
and its own needs) so that
when, in these upper reaches, the ‘organisation’ the machine itself
becomes master, it can only mean disaster, global and particular.

"I do not claim that a greater frequency of rhyme than is now made use of
in American poetry will, in time, set things right.

"Only that if a man could sing the poems his poets write

— and could understand them — and if

"the poets would sing something from their guts, rather than
the queasy contents of same,
then that man would stand a better
chance, of being a whole man, than
him who stands or sits and says but ‘Yes’ all day.

"Enough man to stand where it is necessary to take a stand.

"To give
and man enough to receive, LOVE,
when he finds it offered.

"To take the sun and the goods of the earth, while it lasts.
and to
fight in whatever way he can
the monstrous machines that try, and will try, to

"o b l i t e r a t e him, for

$1 more."


[See preceding April 28 post for more on Paul Blackburn].