Hold It All

Month: June, 2018

A Radical Presence Constantly Goading Us (Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems)

Owner of the San Francisco institution, City Lights Bookstore; publisher of the Pocket Poets series, including HOWL, which brought an obscenity suit to City Lights and global fame to Allen Ginsberg; poet of A Coney Island of the Mind, which has sold phenomenally for a book of poems in a country which doesn’t esteem poets; issuer of manifestos and proponent of poetry as a subversive art— like Mohandas Gandhi’s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s life has been his message.

Last year his publisher New Directions issued Ferlinghetti’s Greatest Poems, edited by Nancy J. Peters, Ferlinghetti’s long-time City Lights partner. Any avid Ferlinghetti fan will argue with the title, because each reader will note certain riveting works that are not included in this volume of 144 pages.

Yes, there is Rough Song of Animals Dying, but not An Elegy to Dispel Gloom.

History of the Airplane and Pity the Nation are here, but not Salute and Tall Tale of the Tall Cowboy.

I’ve shared Recipe for Happiness in Khabarovsk or Anyplace with scores of friends (page 66) but missing herein is In a Time of Revolution for Instance.

I first read Ferlinghetti in earnest in the middle of the Reagan years of the 1980s. His prophetic, engaged, and lyrical voice was a delight and a relief. Some of the poems from Coney Island were then and are now, worth rereading, such as “Christ Climbed Down” and “I Am Waiting.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Bella Levenshteyn Gives Me an Opportunity to Practice

“I’ll be filling two backpacks, and then I’m headed to Warsaw”
My heart sinks

Three deep breaths in and out
My heart expands

Share the Wealth with Dianne Lee: A Sanctuary

“I associate the garden with the whole experience of being alive, and so, there is nothing in the range of human experience that is separate from what the garden can signify in its eagerness and its insistence, and in its driving energy to live–to grow, to bear fruit.”
— Poet Stanley Kunitz

Dianne Lee will share her native garden and how gardening serves as a balm for the times.

Join us
Sunday 1 July
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Dianne begins sharing at 6:45
At Dianne and Bill Quick’s home
7457 Wise Avenue in Richmond Heights (63117)

“My Library Is What Is in My Head”

Leland Poague, ed.Conversations with Susan Sontag
University Press of Mississippi, 1995

Sometimes I feel that, in the end, all I am really defending—but then I say all is everything—is the idea of seriousness, of true seriousness. What strikes me is how unambitious and superficial most American literature is. 245

I write to be part of literature, not for other people. 262

Reading these interviews, I was reminded how clueless I was as a Bellarmine graduate. It was my senior week, 1982, no classes, and I was sitting in the cafeteria waiting to lunch with James Petrick and Paul Fleitz, and prof and poet and Merton intimate Ron Seitz sat beside me and asked me what I wanted to do now.  I mumbled something to him, and he offered me a wry smile as he said, “So you want to be an intellectual, don’t you?”  Yes, Ron, I did, but had precious few models.

I became keenly interested in the work of Susan Sontag quite late, 2003, in fact, while reading her speech for an award in which she linked the witnesses of Oscar Romero and Rachel Corrie, the latter who had been bulldozed to death by an IDF soldier while serving as a volunteer wit the International Solidarity Movement. Later that year, I and friends from St. Louis went to Palestine and gave time with the same organization.  I read many of her essays which were posted at Znet in the following years.   A “gluttonous reader,” Sontag reminded me of Edward Said and George Steiner, whom I began reading in the 1990s.

The following excerpts spoke to me: first, what some of her interviewers made of Sontag, and, second, some of her reflections on themes important to me over the years….

_______________________

Bellamy: No one could have been more charming and cooperative. 35

Raddatz: If I had to apply the word “intellectual” to a single person, only she would come to mind. She has a lightening-like joy, an inexhaustible curiosity about events and processes even of the most remote type… 88

Lesser: Her own tone, however, is one of eminent rationality. If she is the modern version of the nineteenth-century sage, then she is certainly a toned-down Ruskin, a sane Nietzsche—and in fact a great part of her appeal as a stylist lies in that reasonable tone of certainty, that restrained assertiveness, that assurance of her own well-groundedness. 92 Read the rest of this entry »

Make Lists Not War

Dear Cami,

One index of a profitable reading experience may very well be in the marginalia we make.

For instance, I read Ed Sanders’ collection of poetry Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War eight years ago. I went through and collected my inked scribbles in the margins in a list:

I read for topics, for intriguing titles, for examples, for my own Emersonian rejected thoughts, such as …
“My political causes are hopeless”
Val’s life
We’re all gonna die
My brilliant non-career
13 years in a theology department
I could do better on Kerouac than he did in “A Visit to Jack’s Memorial Park”
Come up with an entire book of Lists Read the rest of this entry »

Our Only Salvation Lies in Words: On Arenas’s Before Night Falls

All dictatorships are sexually repressive and anti-life. All affirmations of life are diametrically opposed to dogmatic regimes. It was logical for Fidel Castro to persecute us, not to let us fuck, and to try to suppress any public display of the life force.
-— Reinaldo Arenas

 

Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls: A Memoir

Powerful and gripping memoir by homosexual, writer, dissident, which awakened me to Castro’s crimes against naysayers and gays.

Herein are great passages about the beauty of Cuba, its beaches and the sea, the countryside, the animals, the rivers, the trees, as in “And the sky’s radiance was not constant but an unending blaze of changing hues and, stars that burst and disappeared (after having existed for millions of years) just to enrapture us for a few moments.” Or, “I always thought that in Cuba the only thing that saved us from absolute insanity was that, being surrounded by water, we had to chance to go to shore and swim.” Arenas appreciated the created order throughout his life and seemed not to take it for granted. Could not his sexual voracity also be an element of the Via Positiva? For it is all about pleasure and enjoyment and splendor, he seemed, after he came out, remarkably free of guilt and anxiety (from this anyway) and self-hatred. So: “To get to a beach was like entering paradise because all the young people wanted to make love, and there were always dozens of them ready to go into the bushes.” Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Cami Kasmerchak: I Know Some of the Best People

And I want to tell you about them. There’s Buffalo Meg who is from Buffalo, New York and has a pitch to convince anyone she meets to move there. There’s Hannah Frank who is addicted to adventure and fearless in the face of the unknown. There’s Brandon who I still don’t know what he does for a living, but our emails are a collection of the existential crises we encounter on the daily. There’s Maggie who is an expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race trivia and constantly shakes her head at the lack of pop culture I know.  And there’s Laura who is writing her first book, embracing her inner quiet, and reclaiming Milwaukee as her home.

Sometimes it boggles my mind how I have crossed paths with such inspiring, compassionate, and strong individuals who I have the honor of calling friends. I love sharing stories about them, what I have learned from them, and what makes them eccentric in all the best ways. Jim Rohn says, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Even though I don’t always spend the most time with my favorite people because we live in different states (and countries sometimes), I am excited to share my reflections on what their friendships have meant to me, how friendship is an ever-evolving term for me, and hear from all of you about your friends too!

Join us
Sunday 10 June
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Cami begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Andrew Wimmer
5712 Arendes Dr.
South City Saint Louis
63116

A Friend Sent Me This Poem (We Inter-Are)

March 14
by Katie Murphy

It’s Amazing, Isn’t It?
I can be, at one moment, sitting at my table in the morning,
Annoyed at my boss for being an incomprehensible moron,
Pissed off at a coworker for talking down to me yet again,
Worried because my checking account balance is lower than I’d like,
Lonely because I am missing certain people dreadfully,

And then, my eyes are welling up
with the beginnings of tears,
And I’m drinking a delicious
coffee drink that I made,
And I’m listening to the different
birds chirping outside my house,
And I’m noticing how good it feels
to stop and not think of going,
And I’m reveling again in the sun and
shadows on my wall,
And isn’t morning light
the most beautiful of all,
And I’m reading your short chapter
about Hedy and thanking God and the universe
letting me meet Katie Consamus,
who could convince me, in rural France,
to log into my SLU banner account
and change my life.