Thursday, May 31, 2007

Read us a poem, Mr. Brown

Let me introduce you to Bill Brown, another terrific poet from these parts. I’m embarrassed to say his work was new to me when I reviewed his latest collection, Tatters, last month. He’s been on the scene for a long while, and I can’t believe I haven’t been enjoying his work all this time. As you can tell from these two poems (posted with his permission), Bill is a righteous and talented man. Charming and gracious, too. Bill taught high school for many years. Imagine how wonderful it must have been to have a teacher who can write things like this:

(From Tatters)

The Children Who Love Holes

It’s not the customary ring
in the ear, but three or four,
high and low, rings and studs
in nose, lip, and eyebrow;
in tongue and navel, scrotum
and nipple. Perhaps, it’s the news
about exploratory drilling
in fragile environments.

The children who love holes
shave their heads like strip mines,
like devastated rain forests,
or they shape their hair into spikes that
poke the sky like urban landscapes.
Maybe it’s the dead animals punctured
on the road or drive-by shootings
piercing windows, piercing people.

What is Doom but an extravagant
game of darts? Even the ancient
practice of tattooing has gained
momentum. Hundreds of electric
needle pricks inked into an icon—
a monument of tiny holes,
an epidermal billboard to last
a lifetime. Maybe it’s talk about

super novas, the lives of stars
imploding, a universe weighted
with dark matter, black holes
sucking up light. Who can blame
them for wanting to emulate
society, act out the on-going
nature of creation? The children who
love holes understand the importance

of elevator shafts, missile silos,
and underground conclaves for important
survivors; for atom smashers and massive
sewers that drain the waste of our cities
like colons. They know about Arlington
and visit home town graveyards.
There are so many holes to make,
So much emptiness to fill.


(Forthcoming in The North American Review)

Infant, Collateral Damage 2006

She has forgotten her mother’s breast,
her father’s coaching smile that made her

smile in return. She no longer points
when her sister says Light. The words

forming in her mouth are mute,
lost in the sand that for a time

will shape her features, then take them
as its own. Overhead, far above

the killing planes, above the satellite’s
pinpoint aim, night lights cold candles

as if to grieve how easily joy and loss
intermingle like clay and sand and stars.


It's worth taking a look at the website for March Street Press, which published Tatters. It's an engagingly eccentric little press. Apparently, it's set up as a non-profit, so if you order a book directly from them you'll be making a donation. Doesn't that feel better than plain ol' shopping? Read the submission guidelines, which will make you smile, and also make you feel a little sympathy for the plight of writers and independent publishers. Tatters is also available from

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The 'Fume-Hating Witch

NPR’s Morning Edition ran a story today about Chandler Burr’s perfume dinner (listen to it here if you missed it.) The story was just ho-hum from a perfume freak’s perspective—at least, I thought so. I’m pretty lukewarm on CB, though I admire his gift for self-promotion. Really, I do.

What did intrigue me was a remark from the reporter who covered Burr’s dog-and-sniffy show, Margot Adler. She’s a very fine journalist. She’s also a Gardnerian witch who wrote a book, Drawing Down the Moon, which has been a primary text for Neo-Pagans for nearly 30 years. It’s actually a book of reportage, often referred to as a “field guide” to earth-centered religions in America, but because it was so friendly to the movement, people embraced it and defined themselves through it. The process of researching and writing the book led Adler to express her own spirituality in the Wiccan tradition. She also consorts with the Unitarian Universalists (who officially love witches, BTW), and she wrote a nice article for their magazine about her religious awakening.

So, Ms. Adler is my kinda people, or so I thought until I heard her say this morning that she is “perfume-phobic,” and can’t even tolerate scented candles. How can that be? How can anyone so devoted to a love of nature actually reject the sensual pleasure of scent, one of nature’s great gifts? Moments like this are the reason I guard against admiring people too much. You’re bound to find out something about them that crushes your fantasies of soulful kinship.

After listening to MA talk about her antipathy for perfume * sigh *, I took my morning trail walk, and was struck even more than usual by the constantly shifting scent of the woods. Every day something new sprouts or blooms, and other things die and decay, altering the mix. During a single walk, tiny changes in the wind, the temperature, and the humidity rebalance the smells that meet the nose. My walk takes me over varied terrain, from a little hollow with a burbling creek to the crest of a ridge. I go through maybe a half dozen micro-climates, and they all smell remarkably different.

Stout Woods Nature Preserve, Indiana

It was wonderful, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the perfume-hating witch. I don’t know why Adler hates perfume. Maybe she’s just allergic. But from what I know about her, I fear she may be one of those who regards the world of scent as one more manifestation of our sick consumer culture, a tool of the great capitalist beastie who would twist our natural instincts to serve his (I’m pretty sure it’s a guy) lust for profit. I run into people like that in moonbat land all the time, lefty puritans who regard any pleasure as a potential instance of mind control. Orgasm is false conciousness.

But this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, we all know about Evil Businessman and his minions. After all, who hates him more than ‘fume lovers do, for his crimes against the great traditions of perfumery? Even back when the juice was pure and fine—when was that, exactly?—the marketing was often sexist and stupid. But it’s a terrible mistake to assume that the deceitful manipulation of pleasure renders the pleasure itself false. It doesn’t. The ecstasy of scent is goddess-given, baby. Just because you don’t want to do the deed on the bad man’s terms doesn’t mean you should die a virgin.

For the POL contingent...

Perhaps the moderators' decision was not unwarranted after all. Their feelings seem to be shared by the authorities in Britain. Safety first.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Welcome, and more Blas Falconer

Hello to everyone who knew me at the old POL blog, and to any new friends who happen to wander in. This blog will be eclectic, and probably a bit ragged until I get used to the way things work at Blogger, so please join me in keeping an open mind and low expectations.

I wrote about Blas Falconer in one of my final posts on the old blog, and I'm afraid I decamped a little too quickly for him to get the attention he deserves, so I wanted to mention him again here. Blas's emotional, imagistic poetry has haunted me ever since I read his collection A Question of Gravity and Light, which I reviewed for the Nashville Scene recently.

Blas gave me permission to post a poem in its entirety, and since the post with the gut-puncher ("The Vanishing Point") from the other blog has been consigned to the dustbin of cyberspace, here's another, very different poem. Somehow it feels appropriate to my sudden change of locale.


The storm lit the room with a blue, flourescent flash.
Even the dog stared into the darkness for some time
after, wide-eyed. In the morning, mist sprays the car
on the way to work, as tobacco barns pour sweet smoke

over the street, the pond where cows circle, and
you wonder if what could have been
was ever waiting for you
somewhere. You rest your head against the glass.

The deer dragged from the edge of the road isn't waiting
for anyone, though you look for it each day you pass.
You'd like to walk into the damp field where its legs
rise stiffly through the tall grass, the color of tall grass.