The Power of Poetry

Sometimes the power of poetry is literally a life or death situation.

To Douglas Arnold, who knew how to rhyme poetry with philosophy earlier than anyone.

When W. H. Auden read at Bartley College in 1967, he said “Poetry makes nothing happen.” This pronouncement so distressed David Ramsdell he made plans to burn his own poems on Payne Hall’s front steps. But would there be enough of them for a decent fire? Should he, instead, write Auden? Demand how the famous poet could thrive in such futility and when the great man wrote back, David could tack up the response on his door. But flaming poems would be so much more dramatic. He could stoke the fire with textbooks and term papers, and later tack up the newspaper photo of himself getting arrested for arson. Both were great ideas. Why not do both? Continue reading “The Power of Poetry”

Putting What Where: A vintage book review of for GIRLS only by Dr. Frank Howard Richardson (1953)

Vintage sex education manuals for young people were silly and ignorant back then. We’re much better now. Right?

Why am I writing about a seventy-year-old sex education manual? Everybody knows they were conservative back then, and that lapses of information were more the norm than the exception. It would be like writing a movie review of a typical sword-and-sandal Bible epic like King of Kings (1961), which features literal enactments of the New Testament. So why bother? The cockeyed ideas in for GIRLS only certainly couldn’t still be with us today. We’re so much more enlightened now. Or are we? Let’s look into it. Continue reading “Putting What Where: A vintage book review of for GIRLS only by Dr. Frank Howard Richardson (1953)”

I Owe It All to John Carpenter

He made me the videographer I am today. Sort of.

Let’s put the blame right where it belongs. Straight on John Carpenter’s film They Live. Released back in 1988, it was lambasted by many mainstream critics. Although not exactly spelled out, their antipathy was never about artistic failings or lack of box office appeal. Most likely, it was about appeasing the watchdogs in the Reagan administration. As Gertrude chided her son Hamlet, “Thou hast thy father much offended.” Continue reading “I Owe It All to John Carpenter”

My First Condom

June 7, 1968

I’d rather be in so many other places than here. In line to see the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Waiting for Jimi Hendrix to go on at some festival. Prowling through a used book barn in Wyoming. Instead, I’m standing at the counter of the only drugstore in Windsor, Colorado. I’m almost 21 and home from school for the summer. The store’s empty except for Mr. Mercer, who’s leaning on the counter reading a newspaper he’ll probably unload onto the next customer. Not me.

Because I’m not here for newspapers.

Continue reading “My First Condom”

The Night That Opera Saved My Ass

“A priest, a minister and a rabbi are discussing when life begins. The priests says, ‘It begins at conception’. The minister says, ‘Life begins at 24 weeks gestation’. The rabbi says, ‘You are both wrong, Life begins when the kids move out of the house and the dog dies.'”

Family friend Wally forks his last piece of tenderloin steak and washes it down with Chivas Regal from my father’s store. He guffaws at his own joke, like Red Skelton. Continue reading “The Night That Opera Saved My Ass”

Three Excellent Films about Abortion

Although hard to find, there are good movies sympathetic to abortion. Here are three.

YOUNG MAN. Wow! Look at that sunset!
YOUNG WOMAN. Yes, so pretty. I have something wonderful to tell you.
YOUNG MAN. Don’t keep me in suspense. What is it?
YOUNG WOMAN. You’re going to be a father!
YOUNG MAN. (surprised but smiles) Are you kidding?
YOUNG WOMAN. No. Even though I’m four months pregnant, I’ve saved telling you for the right moment. We’re going to be parents.
YOUNG MAN. Hurray! Even though we’re not married and still living in a tiny room at my grandparents’ house, this is the best news ever!
YOUNG WOMAN. Even though neither of us are working because of the town’s 15% unemployment rate, everything will work out fine.
YOUNG MAN. Even though I’m just eighteen and you’re seventeen and we’ll have only 80% of our brain synapses until our mid-twenties,1Bill Bryson, “The Brain,” The Body. we’ll have no problems making informed, adult decisions on matters affecting the rest of our lives.
YOUNG WOMAN. Even though I’m still in school, there’s always home schooling. People are so willing to help!
YOUNG MAN. Even though my grandparents can’t get around that well, they’ll be overjoyed to babysit for hours at a time.
YOUNG WOMAN. Even though the sonogram revealed problems with our child, we will give thanks for him every day.
YOUNG MAN. No way else to say this. It was meant to be.

What’s missing from this touching discussion? Continue reading “Three Excellent Films about Abortion”

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    Bill Bryson, “The Brain,” The Body.

Book Review: Notes from the Column of Memory by Wendy Drexler

Some poets never peak. Leonard Cohen never did. And unlike those who churned out clunkers late in life—William Wordsworth with Ecclesiastical Sonnets (at 52) or Bob Dylan with Together Through Life (at 68) —Wendy Drexler shows no sign of peaking. Through her latest volume, it’s clear she continues to improve her poetry in metaphoric complexity and thematic scope. Her first book, Drive-in, Gas Stations, the Bright Motels was a kind of poetic memoir of her childhood. It captured the quirkiness of her family through humor and poignancy. Before There Was Before delved into self-reflection, focused on guilt, and used experimental techniques like dramatic hard-hitting endings. An amateur photographer herself, she also began writing about photography, ruminating on its imagery and implications.

Continue reading “Book Review: Notes from the Column of Memory by Wendy Drexler”

Book Review: LIST FULL: List Poems of Necessary Orderliness. By bart plantenga

A book with a new type of poetry. The poetry of the found list.

By Peter Bates

War. Pestilence. Global warming. Layoffs. Financial ruin. Lawsuits. Bad hookups. There are random forces poised to get you, most of the time when you least expect them. Some of us organize our lives in patterns that create a sort of balance. We forge schedules, we label stuff, we categorize, all to squeeze this mad mad world back in line.

Continue reading “Book Review: LIST FULL: List Poems of Necessary Orderliness. By bart plantenga”

I am Not a Survivor

Not exactly. I’m something else.

Where I live, the old men sit around the spa after workouts sipping coffee. Once in a while, they’ll gloat about their now-easier lives. One day one said, “You know Pete, we’re survivors.”

“Not me,” I replied, “I’m an escapee.”

Here’re some notable things I’ve escaped from: Continue reading “I am Not a Survivor”