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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Will there be rallies?

They won't just be Trump rallies anymore. They'll be  patriotic rallies with the full backing of the executive branch of government.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Way I see it

I've witnessed a lot of presidential politics in my 61 years, and I know that if anyone reads this it will probably be somebody who already agrees with me, but still, I have to go on record. I have to encourage people to vote. I have to encourage people to take a stand and go on record. In 61 years I have not felt our country and what it stands for to be in as much jeopardy as it is now.

If Donald Trump is elected president I will not move. I will continue to call him out on his lies and his mean-spirited ugly rhetoric, and I will laugh at the comedians who make fun of him.

But now is not the time for jokes. Now is the time for asking ourselves: Do we want a president who, despite the evidence of 8 years of appearances on TV denigrating President Obama and questioning the legitimacy of his birth certificate, now brazenly claims that Clinton started it, and he Trump ended it?

Do we really want someone who makes veiled threats with threatening gestures one day then claims we're deliberately misinterpreting him the next?

Do we really want someone who thinks he can fabricate reality? Can we actually trust anything he says?

For a while this summer it appeared that CNN was doing a good job calling him out, but now, they seem caught up in the fact that Clinton has low numbers with millennials and married women, and whose health records are least transparent, and how people just don't trust Hillary.

Listen, you only have to be a little better than the other guy to have the moral high ground. Even if Clinton were as guilty as Trump claims --I'm with her. The good news is I know she's not.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Unbearable Lightness and Progressive Politics

Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being is hauntingly beautiful and rings true on so many levels. I love this book and feel lucky to have read it. But its politics, while I can see where it's coming from, I cannot abide. I can understand how Soviet socialism rendered people unwilling or unable to believe in the possibility of human progress, but it's a political stance I cannot take. For one thing, I have not suffered the demoralizing effects of anything as cynical and brutal as the Sovietization of Prague in 1968. I've been lucky. The challenge for progressives: How best to keep the luck going, how to spread it around and make it grow.

Two New Books

Mark My Word and the New World Order --The Pedestrian Press, J de Salvo, Editor.
The new world order, it's a different kind of future, not what the Illuminati --or their detractors --think.

and

Restaurant in Walking Distance and Everything --Cawing Crow Press, Craig Grossman, Editor.
Growing up in the seventies. Some of us survived. Some of us didn't. This one's for all of us.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Looking the Part

Prosecutor: the person who stares you down as he lets you know you are guilty --like it or not --you're going to pay.

True Believer: Protector and defender of the nation's integrity. The kind of moral inflexibility that keeps a country strong in the face of its enemies.

Clear eyed, wide eyed, blue eyed, unblinking Trey Gowdy.

I'll take Hillary over Trey any old day.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What is Amazing, by Heather Christle

A review I wrote a few summers ago:

What is Amazing, by Heather Christle
Wesleyan University Press, 2012
Reviewed by Gerald Yelle


Recently released in paperback, What is Amazing is a book of poetry put together like a good record album: Enough solid consistency to make its weak tracks forgivable, even interesting as points of contrast with its strengths. This is a book that hooks the reader with its quirky high-energy obsessions. It functions not so much by rubbing words up against one another as by bringing ideas together in ways that reveal character--the work of a mind struggling to come to terms with what it means to be alone, or in society, or in nature, or some combination of all three; in other words, what it means to be alive. It does so without being self-consciously or patronizingly psychological, confessional or poetical. This ease of voice makes it highly readable, and at 64 pages, it’s the kind of book you can read in a day.      

Accessibility may be a key feature, but that doesn’t mean it steers clear of the opaque and mysterious. The opening poem, “The Seaside!” presents us with “a wall of great intensity and furious.” The speaker wants to know: “Why / is all the beauty in the wall and not / in me Captain,” It’s as if, in beginning to write, Christle immediately collides with an immovable object: the overwhelming reality of nature, the sea, Walt Whitman, the immensity of literary culture that could easily live without one more voice. This only makes her more determined. “I can tell you things I’m not a piece of foam” (3), she says at the end of the poem, and the book is under way.

The first section concerns itself primarily with gardens, with the flowers, mosses and animals that inhabit them, and with the elemental materials such as fire and water, that both compose and threaten them. The best, “Self-Portrait with Fire” and “People Are a Living Structure Like a Coral Reef,” flow with seemingly effortless energy. “The people Obviously they loved me were warm and pink,” Christle says in the former. It’s the extremity, the urgency, the repetition and self correction that gives this eleven line poem its irresistible charm.
They asked me if I was on fire and I said No no no no
no no no I did not want to make trouble I was lying I was
on fire on my legs and on my hands I was ashamed I tried
to hide my legs by kneeling I set the grass on fire (4).

The latter poem, a free verse sonnet of sorts, sings of love and windows and seeing people in windows, ending with “Oh people You have to love / people They are so much like ourselves” (7).

While a celebratory tone outweighs even the most painful moments of the book’s first section, the second is characterized by anger, defiance, isolation and despair. The title of the opening poem, “We Are Not Getting Anywhere,” states the case clearly enough, before slipping into its deceptively simple narrative.
The shark was calling to express his feelings
on his ugliness and his mortality
The two seemed related but the message was choppy
Where was he calling from
The shark said to call back      He was dying
He regretted that he would die soon
I did not want the message to happen
but it was too late I’d already heard it.

While the speaker’s relationship with the shark may not be getting anywhere, and while it’s clear that she doesn’t particularly want it to, the fact that she listens to his message seems to require some effort on her part: “Perhaps I could go rent a boat” (23). The title poem, “What is Amazing,” comes at the end of the second section, and with it a return to the obsession with animals. With it also comes a very effective deflating of the positive associations the title brought to the first section. Here, “What is amazing is how / the animals won’t stop sleeping” (42), as if anything could sleep with all the death and destruction going on. The poems are not uniformly negative in this section, but they are uniformly well crafted. Note the humor in “A Very Remarkable Story:”
It is shameful for a girl of my size
to be so cowed by horticulture
so I slap myself on the rump
and now every time I open my mouth
a daisy chain crawls out (37).

What is Amazing is composed of three sections, the first two of which are more engaging than the third. Maybe it’s just that the third gets off to a slower start. Its first five poems continue to work themes of absence and loss on materials such as light, sky, people and birds, but the speaker is less active, more evocative and contemplative. Consider the last lines of “Happy and Glorious:”
What I can say represents what I cannot

Grey snow filling in the driveway
Flown away bird to split the noon (46).

With “I Will Know You by Your Red Carnation,” however, the quirky energy is back. Speaking of a lost “box probably full of live animals / or other animals,” and of “blown out” stars, Christle marvels that we are able, “To have lost as we have so greatly / And to discover we still hold abundance” (50).

So how does this abundance of parts fit together as a whole? If the first section suggests that despite its challenges the world is an amazing place, and the second suggests that it’s amazing that anything survives in such a chaotic war zone, the third seems to suggest that chaos itself, as represented by the ocean, is the source of all amazing things: “A cruller comes from there / and also once some beauty” (64); it’s pretty amazing in itself, and it’s the source to which we’ll return.
        
Gerald Yelle teaches High School English.   He is a member of the Florence (MA) Poets Society.   

Gerald Yelle
91 Blackberry Lane
Amherst, MA 01002