To the Point

There comes a time in every epoch when pragmatism simply evolves into extreme acquiescence and surrender to the forces of apathy and do-nothingness, a guarantor of the status quo in all of its easy, democratic criminality--its fortress of greed.--TL Simons

Friday, September 30, 2011

Trials and Tribulations

I hope what happened to me this morning isn't indicative of the remainder of my day.

And I hope it never happens to you.

I tried to toast an English Muffin in my "Bagel Perfect" Toastmaster this morning and the little sucker fell to the bottom of the toaster. I couldn't get it out!

I wanted to eat that savory half of a muffin, which appeared to be perfectly toasted, but alas I had to shred it into tiny crumbs with a long knife to get it out of the toaster.

Don't tell me I should have taken the bottom of the toaster apart. I tried that. It's idiot proof.



Thursday, September 29, 2011

First Wednesday at the Blackbird Wine Shop

This little blurb in Willamette Week guarantees an overflow crowd for RBP's First Wednesday Reading at the Blackbird Wine Shop in N.E. Portland on Oct. 5.

But we'll make room for you if you insist on coming.

Charles Deemer and I will read some of our recent work as well as a few poems by Bill Deemer and K.C. Bacon, who unfortunately can't be in attendance.

I also plan on introducing two guest readers who will tackle the poems in Cold Eye. This anthology reintroduces poems I published in 1978 while editing the poetry section of a Northwest Portland newspaper.

It's been a long time since I've read to a crowd, so naturally I'm a little nervous.

Oh well, we'll see what happens Wed. night.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011


(Evan Longoria's walk-off homer puts Tampa Bay in the the playoffs)

An unbelievable finish to the baseball regular season this evening.

I won't even attempt to describe what happened. Just read about it, or find a TV and watch the reports.


I'm not even much of a baseball fan these days, but I've never before seen anything as dramatic in sports as this night in major league baseball.

I'm exhausted and stunned, like these ESPN guys.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


While rehearsing for the Round Bend Press reading at the Blackbird Wine Shop on Oct. 5, I've lately noticed that my eyesight is atrocious and growing worse.

I'm having trouble deciphering the words on the printed page.

Short of obtaining new glasses or having my eyeballs scraped clean, the only solution will be to print out some children's book-size pages and read from those, which is never as sexy as reading from the actual book.

It's just cooler to read from your published book than a manuscript. At least it always was in my feverishly romantic vision of literary endeavors.

Reading from the published book connotes performance and expertise, while reading from a loose-leaf manuscript suggests workshop, the rigorous work of rewriting, the pain of finding a publisher, and the possibility of rejection.

The printed book is a security blanket.

Loose pages are depth charges dropped from a publisher's yacht.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Great Scenes from the Movies #11

The magnificent Levon Helm in Scorsese's "The Last Waltz."

It was a Civil War, folks.


Great Scenes from the Movies #10

I'm not ordinarily a Neil Diamond fan, but Diamond collaborators Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko set up this stellar highlight in The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese's 1976 tribute to The Band.

I saw this shortly after moving to Portland in 1977. It is a terrific concert movie.

The best thing Diamond has ever done, and Robertson co-wrote it. Diamond is perhaps best known for writing much of The Monkees' 1960s bestselling bubblegum.

Despite everything, Neil sang this with a lot of soul.


Christian Darling and the NCAA

I'm looking forward to another big weekend of football.

Listen, I am a fan, but I am also a realist.

It is around this time every year that I celebrate one of the greatest short stories ever written, Irwin Shaw's The Eighty Yard Run.

As a young man reading this story for the first time, I was thrilled by the way it captured the essence of football, yet still revealed the human character of its protagonist.

Christian Darling has discovered, after the glorious feeling that accompanied his greatest day on the gridiron, that fate and the journey of living offer a man more complex challenges than any game ever invented.

Fifteen years after his eighty-yard run, which occurred during a scrimmage, Darling is lost. His awakening to this fact is brutal and oppressively sad, and that, not football, is the theme of the story.

In the end Darling is offered another dead-end job by a man who wants to cash in on his fading renown, and Darling knows it, for his eyes have come open at last.

Today, college football is over-lorded by a group that has refined the chattel/exploiter mentality of Darling's wannabe boss.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a worn-out and corrupt disaster.

The NCAA is as corrupt an institution as exists in the U.S. today. If I didn't have a love for the game aside from its politics, I'd wash my hands of it.

I'm not ready to do that. I'll watch the games this weekend, as I'm sure Darling would, with an open mind, fully aware that college football is rotten under the skin.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blackbird Wine Shop Reading: Oct. 5

The best public poetry reading I've had the good fortune to witness occurred at the San Francisco Public Library in 1976.

It was held in the library's auditorium before a packed house. Charles Bukowski came on stage to thunderous applause mixed with heckling from a contingent of homosexuals determined to give Buk a bad time.

Bukowski was at that time something of an underground legend in poetry circles, after working incessantly for many years without earning much notoriety among mainstream taste-makers.

He'd invented an alter-ego, Hank Chinaski, a voice of his discontent.

But things were changing fast. Buk was working with John Martin, bringing out a succession of books under Martin's Black Sparrow imprint, and it would not be long before the poet found the international success that changed his status from cult hero to bestselling author.

To this point, Buk had published his first novel, "Post Office," a chronicle of his experiences working for the U.S. Postal Service in L.A. A book of stories, serialized in L.A.'s Open City newspaper, had earlier appeared under the auspices of Ferlinghetti's City Lights Press. That book was titled "Erections, Ejaculations and Other Tales of Ordinary Madness," and it was filled with stories like none before published, and certainly unlike any I had ever read.

Like "Post Office," it was funny, bold, twisted, and mesmerizing stuff. Bukowski broke all the literary rules and created new ones. He would go on to be much imitated.

He had arrived, a new literary lion, and people either loved what he was doing or hated it.

That explains why the homosexuals were in the library that night, determined to destroy Bukowski. They hated him--though to this day I'm not certain why--and they failed miserably.

Buk wrote stories and poems that put many lifestyles and belief systems under scrutiny. He was determined and fully capable of denigrating all, and he didn't really pull any favors.

He was as democratic a curmudgeon as ever lived.

It was mankind Buk could show utter contempt for, not simply subsets of humanity. In his mind, everybody deserved a lashing, and he spared no one.

The table in the front of the auditorium was decorated with a single, potted cactus plant and a wash tub of iced Heineken beer that Buk consumed to his fullest advantage, taking long swallows between each poem to keep his throat limber and to build his courage, which was considerable already.

Bukowski read for two hours, straight through. He was sensational, holding the audience like a great actor.

As Buk would often point out in subsequent years, poetry readings, particularly his, could be nasty affairs. If the poet wasn't at the top of his game, people could crucify him and wouldn't hesitate to do so if given an opening.

That's the way it was in 1976, but things have changed.

Two weeks from today, I'll move to the front of the room to read some of my own work. It'll be the first time I've read in public since the late eighties, and while I won't drink a tubful of Heineken like Buk did that evening in San Francisco, I may very well fortify myself with a cocktail or two beforehand.

I don't expect anybody to protest too much if things get skewed. People are too mannered, too damn nice these days, too genteel.

Stony silence or embarrassed applause might greet a flawed author these days. It'll be nothing like the scene in the San Francisco Public Library one night years ago when one author played to a crowd of sympathetic rebels and a group of his detractors.

That night Bukowski had his act together and he prevailed.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Raw Bukowski

The poet at his best. This is sad but exhilarating.


Poem of the Day

back to the machine gun

I awaken about noon and go out to get the mail
in my old torn bathrobe.
I'm hung over
hair down in my eyes
gingerly walking on the small sharp rocks
in my path
still afraid of pain behind my four-day beard.

the young housewife next door shakes a rug
out of her window and sees me:
"hello, Hank!"

god damn! it's almost like being shot in the ass
with a .22

"hello," I say
gathering up my Visa card bill, my Pennysaver coupons,
a Dept. of Water and Power past-due notice,
a letter from the mortgage people
plus a demand from the Weed Abatement Department
giving me 30 days to clean up my act.

I mince back again over the small sharp rocks
thinking, maybe I'd better write something tonight,
they all seem
to be closing in.

there's only one way to handle those motherfuckers.

the night harness races will have to wait.

Charles Bukowski



"The tax structure imposed by Washington on the US over the last half-century has seen a massive double shift of the burden of taxation: from corporations to individuals and from the richest individuals to everyone else. If the national debate wants seriously to use a term like "class war" to describe Washington's tax policies, then the reality is that the class war's winners have been corporations and the rich. Its losers – the rest of us – now want to reduce our losses modestly by small increases in taxes on the super-rich (but not, or not yet, on corporations)."

Here is the rest of the story from Common Dreams.

'Nuff said.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fascist Radio 970 in Portland

I tuned into the Portland State football broadcast a few minutes ago on local radio, the first time I've ever bothered.

I couldn't handle it. The broadcast is carried by an outfit that bills itself as "Freedom 970."

Over and over and over, hammering the word like a sacred cudgel, "Freedom," broadcasting some of the most god-awful right-wing propaganda I have ever had the displeasure of listening to.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for freedom. But the word itself will not suffice. The very word has become a refuge for a criminal breed of scoundrels, obfuscatory liars, and outright freaks.

I'm trying to listen to a goddamn football game and you'll see me in hell before I ever tune in again. What a disgrace.

Portland State, you ought to be ashamed! You've lost me as a supporter of the PSU Vikings football program.

And 970 AM, go shit on yourselves.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Meaning of a Poem

Here is your weekly reminder: A reading by myself and Charles Deemer, along with several guest readers, is scheduled for 7 p.m., Oct. 5, at the Blackbird Wine Shop in N.E. Portland.

CD will read from his recent poetry collection, "In My Old Age," a poignant and oft-hilarious look at, well, aging. He will also read from "Variations," his brother Bill Deemer's recent RBP offering.

I plan to read from my memoir, "A Marvelous Paranoia." In addition, I'll take a stab at the poems in K.C. Bacon's "Morandi's Bottles."

I've lined up two guest readers to tackle the poems in the RBP anthology "Cold Eye," which, I've reaffirmed while coaching the pair, is not an easy book. The poems are demanding, and because the book is a collection of disparate voices, the poets' themes are varied.

It'll take some serious study for my guest readers to find a meaningful interpretation of each poem they choose to read. We'll see how it goes.

I'm looking forward with great anticipation to the Blackbird reading. Join us if you're in Portland that evening.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A 9/11 Story

New York Times crime reporter Michael Wilson was plucked from the Oregonian staff in 2000.

Wilson is a fascinating guy. I used to sit near him in the bar and listen as he talked about reporting crime stories in Portland. One day he came in and announced that the Times had recruited him. He was very happy of course, and ready to celebrate.

Why would he want to leave lovely Portland for the rat race in New York, somebody naively wondered aloud.

"I'm a crime reporter," Wilson said matter-of-factly. "And Portland doesn't have crime."

This was an exaggeration of course, but one gathered Wilson's meaning. Portland has its share of crime, but New York has more.

For a crime reporter the job opportunity was a no-brainer.

Here's Wilson on the last New Yorker to die on 9/11, not as the towers collapsed earlier that day, but just before midnight on a dark street corner in Brooklyn.

When you think about that day 10 years ago remember that violent death is as American as baseball and comes in many guises.

Remember that one murder hasn't more meaning than any other. Not really. Mass murder perhaps sells better is all.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Time After Time

What happened to this week?

The days of this life stream past much too fast. What happened to my youth when I waited and waited for something to happen?

Hell, for that matter what happened to my middle age?

Now everything happens at once and it is suddenly Friday and I am old and feeling like it.

What did I do with the week? Well, I met with my landlord and talked about the terms of my tenancy.

I walked to the corner store Wed. night around ten and almost got robbed on the way home. A couple of punk Mexican kids came after me. I think one of them had either a knife or a gun in his pocket. The hand was definitely bracing something hidden. I warned them away. Warnings always create smirks on the faces of cowardly punks.

They kept coming. Fortunately I was near the porch of my building and scampered up the steps. I grabbed the lobby phone as they walked past the doors, watching me.

They hustled around the corner. I didn't call the police. They were looking for somebody to mug. I think I'll get a pistol for protection. The area of town I live in is getting sketchier by the day.

I was robbed at gun point about 10 years ago. Mexican punks that time, too.

On the work front, I met with Charles Lucas regarding his art book, which will make a nice addition to RBP's lineup. I think I talked Lucas into reading some of the poems from Cold Eye at the Blackbird Wine Shop reading Oct. 5.

He also promised to shoot the event, stills and video.

Things are happening. They're just happening too damn quickly.

I'm ready for the Blackbird reading though, starting with a short chapter from my memoir A Marvelous Paranoia titled "My First Beer." I think it's funny. We'll see what the crowd thinks, I guess. With a fifteen minute reading slot, I'll also read a pair of my best poems from Cello Music & Other Poems if time allows.

Looking forward to a big weekend of football. Oregon State at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. They are playing a very good Wisconsin team on ESPN, so it might get ugly fast.

My Ducks have Nevada a little later in the day. I see this one, after witnessing last week's Oregon debacle, as a toss up. Nevada was 13 and 1 last season. They have an outstanding coach and good talent.

We'll see.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Blackbird Wine Shop Reading, Oct. 5

A month from tonight, at 7 p.m., Oct. 5, CD and I will appear at a special RBP event at the Blackbird Wine Shop in N.E. Portland.

We'll read selections from our own work as well as poems from Bill Deemer's Variations and K.C. Bacon's Morandi's Bottles.

A special guest or two may be in the lineup, but poets being poets, we'll see who shows.

The public is welcome to join us for what should be a memorable meshing of poetics and wine, a particular fascination for writers throughout history.

Bringing in the Wine

See how the Yellow River's water move out of heaven.
Entering the ocean, never to return.
See how lovely locks in bright mirrors in high chambers,
Though silken-black at morning, have changed by night to snow.
Oh, let a man of spirit venture where he pleases
And never tip his golden cup empty toward the moon!
Since heaven gave the talent, let it be employed!
Spin a thousand pieces of silver, all of them come back!
Cook a sheep, kill a cow, whet the appetite,
And make me, of three hundred bowls, one long drink!
To the old master, Tsen,
And the young scholar, Tan-chiu,
Bring in the wine!
Let your cups never rest!
Let me sing you a song!
Let your ears attend!
What are bell and drum, rare dishes and treasure?
Let me be forever drunk and never come to reason!
Sober men of olden days and sages are forgotten,
And only the great drinkers are famous for all time.
Prince Chen paid at a banquet in the Palace of Perfection
Ten thousand coins for a cask of wine, with many a laugh and quip.
Why say, my host, that your money is gone?
Go and buy wine and we'll drink it together!
My flower-dappled horse,
My furs worth a thousand,
Hand them to the boy to exchange for good wine,
And we'll drown away the woes of ten thousand generations!

Li Po


Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Big Game A Big Dud

(James taking his licks)

There's no crying in football, but I feel like crying.

The Mighty Oregon Ducks fell hard last night to the mean old SEC--again. It was close for a half, but Oregon didn't have the horses, finally, to stay with a fast, aggressive LSU team.

Darron Thomas looked ordinary, missing receivers too often. I said here earlier that Oregon needs to replace Jeff Maehl. No one showed that kind of ability for the Ducks last night as every one of the wideouts managed to drop a pass.

The returning wideouts, Huff and Tuinei, couldn't get separation from LSU's DBs, making it that much more difficult to pass successfully.

Thomas only occasionally threaded the needle. He's no Aaron Rodgers in that regard.

Worse, Oregon's bread and butter running game was stale and moldy.

If any goodness comes out of this defeat it could be said that Oregon, while not a top 5 team, still has plenty to play for this year.

The Pac-12 will be more to their liking, though I suspect there will be a few nailbiters throughout the season.

The Ducks are a very young team. Last night, it showed, translating into fumbles, bad penalties, and poor decision-making on many fronts.

Oregon must regroup for Nevada in friendly Autzen next week.

I'm saying they should win that one. But you never know.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Read All About It!

(A telling scene from last season)

Led by the hardest working football writer in Oregon, Rob Moseley, the Eugene Register-Guard does a stellar job of covering my football team, the Mighty Oregon Ducks.

The Oregonian, with twice the number of beat writers covering the Ducks, simply can't compete with the RG's lock down coverage.

With kickoff of the UO vs. LSU top 5 match up just two days away, the RG today published its fully-focused special football preview of the Ducks and the rest of the PAC.

The RG does a swell job in this year's roundup.

The self-aggrandizing moralist Canzano is nowhere to be found in this publication, so consider yourself lucky.

It's that time of year folks. My time.