Buried In Poetry

In January, I began reading poetry incessantly.  Since I tend to write 8-12  poems per week, I figured I should start reviewing the greats, contemporaries of the greats, and contemporary (modern?) poets.

Now that it’s National Poetry Month, I have redoubled my efforts.  My twitter feed is chock-a-block with links to poetry I’ve never read before.  My office is piled with books, handy at a moments notice.  I’m reviewing T.S. Eliot, Benét, Don Marquis, and James Thurber (Thurber wasn’t a poet, but he always makes me laugh; my wife has a standing order that when I fall into my first coma, she is to read Thurber to me incessantly).

I found a fine hardbound book at the local used bookstore recently, The Bellman Book Of Verses, 1906-1919.  Many fine poems here amid the ones that simply don’t speak to me.  That is, not my cup of tea.

Well, isn’t that the way with poetry, art, music and literature?  When a bit of art is revered, it’s not a bad idea to observe it on your own and attempt to suss out why it is revered.  Of course, you can look at post analysis and comparative studies to find out what the fuss is all about.  As I have tromped about gracelessly on this planet, I have discovered a wonderful escape hatch which I use often.

I Immerse myself in a style or genre for a little while.  One that is just a bit outside of my own established interests.  There’s no real work involved.  Just read, or observe, or listen to that art, attempting to experience what others might.  My brain begins to make connections, revealing overlaps.  I’ll know when I think to myself, “Hey, that kinda reminds me of X”.

When I’m studying poetry, I know I already have an established feather bed to fall into if things get weird.  I can read 3 consecutive modern poems that do not rev me up.  No need to be disillusioned.  I can always rinse my brain’s mouth out with  Kipling.  Or Browning.  And in dire emergencies, break glass to access James Thurber.

Happy hunting fellow poets.  ~Tom~

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There Are A Thousand Ways

There Are A Thousand Ways, by PHILIP ALPHONSE RIZZO, published in Spillway number 6, 1997

I long for the earth
Honor dirt in fingernails
soil that blows into corners

Thank the dust
clarioned from the stars
impacts the tundra
that feed caribou

Bless ancestral ashes
that make roses bloom
Praise Sahara dunes
the droppings of camels
and horses

Give reverence to
warm grays ochres siennas
the burnt umber
that roots the pine
in Sedona

I love the black humus
that sticks to Italian names
hugs celery
around Rome and Utica

Kneel and kiss bricks
fired to propagate courtyards
Massage glazing pots
hungering for marigolds

Prostrate myself before loam
holy blend that substrates
corn and wheat and soy beans
in Iowa and Nebraska
gives artichokes to salads
grapes to wind in California

Wash not my hands too well
after digging in the garden

Am not harsh with what we were
or shall become

 

AR – 1ip 5ervice

AR – 1ip 5ervice

my father called his wallet a billfold

simply put a portable engagement

for goods and services

our n.r.a. has a billfold too

simply put a stable lobby

for goods and services

guised as rights (by god no less)

you are folded under leather

with no haggling in the street

with no argument for debate

           you are wrong

           they are right

          — i never feared the paper tiger

                                           — until now

 

The U.S. Census

census_early.jpg

Well, if ever I wanted to open a full can of wrigglin’ worms, the history of the U.S. Census would rate high.  I have been delving back into my own family history lately, and any researcher of that ilk will tell you that the life blood of many a new branch on the family tree begins with the census.

I will not attempt to scrawl an in depth history of the census.  You can do that yourself.  However, here are some fun links I recently found about what it’s like to be a census taker.  You know, way back before computers, and beyond.

What Did A ’40s Census-Taker Look Like? — Here you have a brief article from LIFE magazine.  The photos are posed, but they convey a great deal about what life was like in middle America coming out of the 30’s.

Here we have an article from AOL – yes!  AOL!  From 2010, this article will give you some indication of how antiquated the fact gathering system was, even in 2010.  DISCLAIMER: If this link is broken when you click it, don’t come cryin’ to me…

Here I leave you with a swell link to the actual Census Bureau website. Fascinating stuff!  On the left margin are links to facts about the progression of how the census changed over time.  As you might imagine, many folks have looked upon census takers as intruders, bent on collecting information for nefarious purposes.  In actuality, the census was conceived and perpetuated so the people of the United States can be fairly represented.  If you disagree with that perspective well, that’s your right.  I highly suggest however, that if the census man comes to your door, ask questions first.  Better yet; answer the questions.  ~TH~

The Answer(ing) Machine

I was thinking this morning of the stopgap technology known as the answering machine and it’s first cousin, the pager.  For readers not aware, the pager was a clip-on gizmo that alerted you when someone wanted you to call them.  It displayed the phone number you were supposed to call.  I never had one, I wan’t  prone to appreciate being interrupted so that I could do your bidding.

The answering machines of old used cassette tapes then later, mini-cassette tapes.  When you got home or back to your office (because remember, that’s where your telephone was; a slave shackled to a wall), you could check to see who called.  And thus began the psychology of excuses for purposely dodging calls.

I yearn for the days of yore, when, if you were not home well, you would miss the call.  You would have no idea if anyone called, or perhaps twenty people called.  It was not even on your radar.  No one ever came home, put the groceries down and began calling all their friends to find out of they had called.  The assumption was that if someone needed to speak to you, they’d call again.  If you knew someone might call but you did not want to be disturbed, you could simply take the receiver off the hook.  A busy signal would sound to the caller.  Doesn’t that sound great?  This made it appear to the caller that your line was busy.  Yes, this confirmed that you were busy as well, talking to someone else.  The caller would undoubtedly feel snubbed;  “Who could Tom possibly be talking to  who’s more important than moi?”

Then came pagers and answering machines, and with them a torrent of little white lies and miniscule bits of psychological damage, piling up in our heads.  “Huh- I didn’t get that message.”  “Huh, my machine must be broken.”  “Damn!  The machine ate the tape!”

These dodges have carried into our 21st century life.  I’ll wager you have a few go-to fibs for why you never call me back.  That’s ok.  I’ll just mentally stick my tongue out at you like we’re back in grade school, “Meh! I didn’t really want to talk to you anyway.”

~T~