Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 27, 2008 National Book Award Winners

November 18, 2008

National Book Awards Ceremony in
New York City

I turned on the TV yesterday in time to watch a tape of the November 18, 2008 National Book Awards Ceremony. Poet Mark Doty was accepting the award for his book of poetry Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems.
I also heard Judy Blundell children's book author accept her award for What I Saw and How I Lied.

I know the book business is downsizing and changing due to the economy and also because of new media formats like the Internet, Amazon Kindle, Blackberries etc. I have loved books since I was a toddler. I love the feel, smell and concreteness of a book. I hope that books do not go the way of the dinosaur. For me and many readers that would be a sad day.

Click on the link to read about the awards and to see videos of each winner's acceptance speech.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Galway Kinnell "everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;/ though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness,"

Saint Francis And The Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

© 1980 by Galway Kinnell

Monday, December 15, 2008

December 15, 2008 - I Can't Watch War Movies But I Read This Book

"Extraordinary... a vast, ambitious, spiritually lusty, all-guzzling, all-encompassing novel" The New York Times Book Review

I can't watch war movies. The blood and bombs, the hand to hand combat gets to me. I was surprised that I enjoyed this novel. Oh, yes the battle scenes were there (they filled many of the pages of this 860 page novel) but I saw them in the context of the greater story of the life from youth to old age of Alessandro Giullani, soldier and believer in beauty, art, and the spirit.

As an old man, Giuliani tells his life story to his traveling companion, a young man of seventeen, as they walk through the Italian countryside.

"Synopses & Reviews
Publisher Comments:
For Alessandro Giullani, the young son of a prosperous Roman Lawyer, golden trees shimmer in the sun beneath a sky of perfect blue. At night the moon is amber and the city of Rome seethes with light. He races horses across the country to the sea, and in the Alps he practices the precise and sublime art of mountain climbing. At the ancient university in Bologna he is a student of painting and the science of beauty. And he falls in love. His is a world of adventure and dreams, of music, storm, and the spirit. Then the Great War intervenes."

Read the rest at Powell's books

Friday, December 5, 2008

December 4, 2008 Join the ninth annual CALLS FROM HOME radio broadcast for prisoners.

"Thousand Kites is asking you to call our toll-free line 877-518-0606 and speak directly to those behind bars this holiday season. An answering machine will record your message. Read a poem, sing a song, or just speak directly from your heart. Speak to someone you know or to everyone---make it uplifting. Call anytime, now through December 9, and record your message.

The United States has 2.4 million people behind bars. Thousand Kites wants you to lend your voice to a powerful grassroots radio broadcast that reaches into our nation's prison and lets those inside know they are not forgotten.

We will post each call on our website as it comes in! Check our website to listen to your call and others!

CALLS FROM HOME will broadcast on over 200 radio stations across the country and be available for download from our website on December 13. This is a project of Thousand Kites/WMMT-FM/Appalshop and a national network of grassroots organizations working for criminal justice reform. Learn how you can help blog, distribute, broadcast, or support this event ("

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Downsize my Monthly Budget? In 2005 I Tried to Live Without TV.

They Unplugged Me on August 22 at 6:00 a.m.
↑ that's a permalink! visit the full archive

by Elizabeth P. Glixman
originally published on 2004-05-17

It seems like yesterday I was O.K., breathing, full of life, love, and laughter. I had dreams and purpose.

Sunday nights I watched Mad TV. Monday night I kissed Fluffy and Boo Boo on my dusted TV screen. They were amazing animals on Miracle Pets rescuing their owners from faulty smoke detectors and heart attacks. On Tuesday I saw Simon Cowel ruin people’s dreams.On Wednesday I watched the dreamers sing goodbye, friends and family crying in the audience. Kleenex , please.Thursday was Will and Grace. Friday night Mad TV (redundant, I love that channel) and Nightly News. I avoided the segments where a man from Texas barbecued. Saturday I made fettuccine alfredo, tofu eggplant casserole, and egg foo young. When the cooking shows were over there were the infomercials, educational marvels that titillate us with flatter tummies, larger breasts, bigger pectorals, stainless steel egg cutters, and hair anywhere we want.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Update-Bloggers Unite Poetry and Poverty

I don't know why I thought today was a Bloggers Unite Day. I am embarrassed to say it isn't, but I decided to leave the post up anyways.

Poverty is the theme of Bloggers Unite Day this year. I've chosen to post poems that deal with poverty( in it's various forms) or poems that suggest ways to go beyond poverty.

Olga Angelina Garcia

A Poor People’s Poem

This poem
has got
a bad attitude
un genio from hell

and you
you’re afraid
of my poem

afraid of this
deep dark red poem
that bleeds
woman words

you’re afraid
cuz even though
this poem
about survival
it isn’t about
endangered whales
or dying forests

this is a poor woman’s poem
a Mexicana
Este de Los Angeles

this poem’s
got roaches crawling
all over it
and tiny pink mice
nibbling at the edges
and corners of
simple-everyday words

Listen this poem rides the bus
works 12 hours a day
7 days a week
with no medical benefits
and no paid vacations

this poem
has crossed rivers
and mountains
jumped over
and crawled under
barb-wired fences

this poem
has slaved
in hot-sun pesticide fields
your lettuce
the vegetables
and fruits
that make your meals
nice and balanced

And this poem
has worked all kinds of shifts
in inner-city factories
the clothes you wear
the jeans
the shirts
the jackets
that keep you
in style

this is a poor woman’s poem
a brown people’s poem
so you see
right now
we don’t want to talk about
the ozone layer

the people in this poem
we wanna talk about where we live
about affordable housing
about how the hot water doesn’t work
and the windows don’t close
about the Never-no-heat-in-the-winter

we wanna talk about drugs
about the alcohol cocaine crack heroin
impregnating our communities
making modern colonized brown black slaves of us

we wanna talk about food stamps
about jobs and fair wages
about 12 hour shifts
and working conditions

we wanna talk about the police
about choke-hold
and billy clubs
about busted heads
and handcuffed minds
about sharp-teeth dogs
and shackled freedom
about racist cops
who hate

we wanna talk about dying
about the river of blood
flowing where we live
about the heads of 2 year old babies
scattered on concrete floors
about the mountain of bodies here
outlined in white chalk

So you see
right now
we don’t wanna hear you preach
about recycling
cuz poor people like us
we’ve always recycled
we invented the damn word
and out of necessity
recycled our papers, cans, bottles
recycled our socially constructed poverty
recycled even our dreams

So you see
we do wanna talk
but talk about lies
about Am er i KKK a
about treaties broken
and lands and people stolen

we wanna talk about
U.S. colonization
Third World penetration

And you
you’re afraid
of my poem

afraid of the East side poem
holding hands
with El Salvador
holding hands
South Africa
South Central L.A.

I know
you’re afraid
of this
brown black
poor people’s poem

©1998 Olga Angelina García

Sonia on Hope Street

This is where I live,
at 1352 Hope Street
with mamá, tía Mari, tío Leo,
and my brother Milagro
we live here, the five of us
packed together in a box
where there's no hot water
windows don't work
plumbing don't work
heater don't work
nothing here works.
But this is where I live
in this lopsided brown building
that sags like an old face.
Tía Mari says it's gonna fold
into itself one day and come
down on us, a giant toothless
wrinkled mouth swallowing us
whole. Says she'll be glad
when it happens too
cuz she's waiting for the Big One,
the 8 point earthquake
that'll crack sidewalks open
and crumble freeways,
turn skyscrapers into chalk dust,
she's waiting for the earth to move
beneath her feet. But my mamá,
she's living on bent knees,
cleaning rich people's houses,
wiping clean white tile floors
and toilet bowls. Walking on bent knees,
making pilgrimage, holding sacred
holy apparitions on street corners,
underground metros, churches,
trees, tortillas. Mamá is waiting
for Jesus to come back
from the dead, for La Virgen
de Guadalupe to send her a sign,
for her cemetery of candles
and saints to rise up like riot
flames among the living.
She's waiting for salvation on Hope
Street. Tío Leo laughs, says
God in the USA is TV and money,
is a rich White slum lord living
in Beverely Hills, is the Border Patrol
asking for papeles, is the police officer
who shot Turo from down the street
and got away with it. Says
the bullet whole in Turo's back es la huella
de Dios. Somos cucarachas, he shouts
y el zapato o la mano que cae del cielo
a darte el madrazo es tu Dios.
Scares us when Tío Leo starts saying stuff
like that, Mamá shakes her head and asks:
¿Qué, no crees en nada? He says he believes
in numbers. In 2 roaches + 2 roaches = 4 roaches.
In 3 days sin chamba + 6 days sin chamba = 9 días de desesperación.
In 8 hours worked + 4 hours work = overtime.
In numbers typed in at the right hand side
of his paycheck = never enough.
He's waiting to win the lottery,
for God to fuck up and accidentally
call his numbers:

13 52 4 28 7.

Me, I'm waiting for something
as soft as my brother's name
to come raining down on me.

I'm waiting for for a miracle
cuz we're 5-to-a-room here
cuz there's a muerta on the 1st floor
and a deaf woman who eats mice on the 3rd.

I wait for miracles cuz here
roaches have wings and fall
from ceings into bowls of soup
and cereal. Here, we can't get
rid of them, even with daily sprays,
those roach motels, that Chinese chalk,
and the manager won't fumigate
says we got roaches cuz we're dirty.
All 126 tenants have roaches
cuz all 126 of us are dirty
and lazy and poor and well
everybody knows that roaches come
with poverty and poverty with roaches.
And the other day
when I told the manager
we needed mouse traps
he told me, aquí no hay ratones
and he said we should
leave him alone because after all
he wasn't God and he couldn't solve
all of our problems and anyways
we were all crazy,
seeing things
all 126 of us who live here,
seeing things

I pray for miracles
cuz I live smack in the middle
of this city's aneurysm,
where drunk disenfranchised men pee
against cracked walls and shoot heroine
up swollen veins, where the unwanted
leave their dreams lying around like syringes
on sidewalks.
I pray for miracles
cuz I'm only 17
and I live among all these roaches
these mice
these men.

From the CD's Raza Spoken Here 1 and When Skin Peels ©1998 Olga Angelina García Echeverría.

Falling Angels- Recent poetry book release by Olga Angelina García Echeverría.


This World Which Is Made of Our Love for Emptiness

Praise to the emptiness that blanks out existence. Existence:
This place made from our love for that emptiness!
Yet somehow comes emptiness,
this existence goes.
Praise to that happening, over and over! For years I pulled my own existence out of emptiness.
Then one swoop, one swing of the arm,
that work is over.
Free of who I was, free of presence, free of dangerous fear, hope,
free of mountainous wanting.
The here-and-now mountain is a tiny piece of a piece of straw
blown off into emptiness.
These words I'm saying so much begin to lose meaning:
Existence, emptiness, mountain, straw:
Words and what they try to say swept
out the window, down the slant of the roof.

"His century was also a century of war and famine, where the Mongol hordes had wrecked havoc in
Asia . Not much different from our own, where the majority of human
race lives below the poverty line and is constantly at war."

Read more about Rumi

Yusef Komunyakaa

Believing in Iron

The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn't stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
We'd return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load, 
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn't believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.

"Yusef Komunyakaa was born in 1947 in Bogalusa, Louisiana, where he was raised during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. He served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star.
He began writing poetry in 1973, and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado Springs in 1975."

Emily Dickinso

Your Riches Taught Me Poverty

Your Riches—taught me—Poverty.
Myself—a Millionaire
In little Wealths, as Girls could boast
Till broad as Buenos Ayre—

You drifted your Dominions—
A Different Peru—
And I esteemed All Poverty
For Life's Estate with you—

Of Mines, I little know—myself—
But just the names, of Gems—
The Colors of the Commonest—
And scarce of Diadems—

So much, that did I meet the Queen—
Her Glory I should know—
But this, must be a different Wealth—
To miss it—beggars so—

I'm sure 'tis India—all Day—
To those who look on You—
Without a stint—without a blame,
Might I—but be the Jew—

I'm sure it is Golconda—
Beyond my power to deem—
To have a smile for Mine—each Day,
How better, than a Gem!

At least, it solaces to know
That there exists—a Gold—
Altho' I prove it, just in time
Its distance—to behold—

Its far—far Treasure to surmise—
And estimate the Pearl—
That slipped my simple fingers through—
While just a Girl at School.

About Emily Dickinson

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where Has Journalistic Integrity Gone in this Presidential Election?

Some say down the toilet. I have to agree. I thought that truth and facts were, well the truth and facts. I thought it was a reporter's job to state facts. I don't know, call me old fashion. I am not a fan of propaganda and mass psychosis. I still think 2 and 2 equals 4. I am telling you I can't listen to the news without wishing life was simpler and people were civil.

Conservative Media

Citizens Demanding Truth in Media

Liberal Media

The truth. Who knows? I have turned off my TV and will not turn it on again until the election is over. Maybe not even then.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Eclectica - Interviews, Poetry, Fiction and More. Eclectica 's 12th Year Online

The new issue of Eclectica is online. There is lots to read: poetry, commentary, fiction, book reviews, travel essays.

Check out my interview with author Jayne Pupek (Tomato Girl, Algonquin, 2008), and if you enjoy comic books, Alan Baird interviews comic book author C.J. Hurtt. Donna George Storey interviews Xujun Eberlein about her new short story collection Apologies Forthcoming, Livingston Press, 2008.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I've been reading prose and poetry by Eng and Neruda

Nominated for
"This remarkable debut saga of intrigue and akido flashes back to a darkly opulent WWII-era Malaya. ...measured, believable and enthralling."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

I can't stop thinking about Phillip Houston the main character and narrator of this book. I can't stop wondering if he is sitting in his house overlooking the sea or if he has passed away. I wonder what the sea looks like today from his house on the hill.

Phillip Houston's story is so engrossing. His father was British, his mother Chinese. He grew up on Malaya. He was not fully either of these three cultures. He befriended a Japanese man who was his sensai, his teacher of akido. The man rented the island Phillip could see from his house on the mainland. Who would he be loyal to when the war broke out and the Japanese invaded the country of his birth: his family, his country, his teacher, his heritage?

The book is full of memorable lyric writing and wonderful descriptions of a time and place full of turbulence and personal anguish before and during WW II.

Read an interview with Tan Twan Eng

Chilean Poet Noble Prize winner 1971 Pablo Neruda

The sea is often mentioned in the poetry of Neruda. I especially love his Odes and erotic love poems.

"Si Tu Me Olvidas"
By Pablo Neruda

En Español:
(In Spanish)

Quiero que sepas
una cosa.

Tú sabes cómo es esto:
si miro
la luna de cristal, la rama roja
del lento otoño en mi ventana,
si toco
junto al fuego
la impalpable ceniza
o el arrugado cuerpo de la leña,
todo me lleva a ti,
como si todo lo que existe:
aromas, luz, metales,
fueran pequeños barcos que navegan
hacia las islas tuyas que me aguardan.

Ahora bien,
si poco a poco dejas de quererme
dejaré de quererte poco a poco.

Si de pronto
me olvidas
no me busques,
que ya te habré olvidado.

Si consideras largo y loco
el viento de banderas
que pasa por mi vida
y te decides
a dejarme a la orilla
del corazón en que tengo raíces,
que en esa día,
a esa hora
levantaré los brazos
y saldrán mis raíces
a buscar otra tierra.

si cada día,
cada hora,
sientes que a mí estás destinada
con dulzura implacable,
si cada día sube
una flor a tus labios a buscarme,
ay amor mío, ay mía,
en mí todo ese fuego se repite,
en mí nada se apaga ni se olvida,
mi amor se nutre de tu amor, amada,
y mientras vivas estará en tus brazos
sin salir de los míos.

"If You Forget Me"
By Pablo Neruda

In English:
(En Inglés

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists:
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loveing me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Read more
Odes Pablo Neruda

More About Pablo Neruda

Monday, September 15, 2008

"an absolutely unforgettable experience " Check Out the Slide Show

Hugh Hodge whose poems I posted yesterday sent me the link to pictures Sonja took on their trip to a national park in South Africa. He wrote

"A few months ago Sonja and I walked through our biggest national park with our cameras, six other people and escorted by two (armed) game rangers (there are untamed lions and other very dangerous animals in the park): an absolutely unforgettable experience (if you're interested I'll post a link to some of our pictures). No shots were fired on the three-day walk, other than by the cameras. But we were careful."

Take a look at more of these breathtaking pictures and slide show of animals in the African landscape.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Like These Poems by Hugh Hodge

Exercise #30

A superstitious day, the last storm still
battering up the coast. A cormorant silhouettes
the line of surf, an arrow to the heart.
Out in the bay the great ships heave and sinew,
chained by a bull-ringed capstan. The sea
swells from the north-west catching
the port quarter to roll awkwardly,
twisting and plunging her head
into the backing southerly, and the crew waits
pilot and tugs to lead her
to the still waters of the basin.

This in the pen’s imagination, each word
an arrow uncertain of its meaning,
peers from the page a frightened lamb
born on a cold night in the desert air.

Barbed wire rusts in the mist,
drying in the wind.

Spider webs jewelled in dew diamonds
like photographs.

Friday then, fish and faith,
the fishermen and the fishers of men.

The sea, its fathoms and cables,
parallel rule, dividers, compass rose,
the binnacle of brass, the lifting deck.

The ease and happiness of the soul
found again in the loneliness.
13 June 2008

Exercise #28

The sea has risen to the wind
from its beds and deeps.
It rolls before the north-wester
on shoulders of rain and squall,
muscling in from the island,
crouched in its collar,
to reefs of Malmesbury shale
here these six hundred million years,
charges into the valley of death
left and right. It is a grand poem
of heroes, foolhardy but performed
each winter of its seasoning
steeped in form and remembering,
repeating lines and rhythms,
and broken men. Yet there is no fear
I do not provide in visions
of drowning kelp, reaching for air
in rain and foam, still alive,
gesturing ashore where I watch
with Ted’s dented eyeballs
and the black-backed gull bending
like an iron bar. And twa corbies
thinking theft in dark snow
where rabbits scutter
in meadows and memories. But here,
now, a Southern Right intersects
the weather and blows knowing nothing
of my dark eye and thoughts
that drive this pen.
11 June 2008

Hugh Hodge lives in Cape Town, Western Cape , South Africa

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beating, Shooting, Poisoning- Methods of Wildlife Management

Baby Seals are beaten to death each year infront of their mothers. Wolves are chased until they can run no more by men in planes until they are exhausted and shot. Pups, mothers are killed no none is spared. "Big Men" pay money to shoot captive animals in shooting parks. This sport is called canned hunting. There really is nothing more to say about this brutality. Google wildlife conservation groups such as Defenders of Wildlife and read about what is done in the name of wildlife management, testosterone, and earning a living.

Here are a couple links.

Sad News For Alaskan Wolves

Gray Wolf Looking Up, Corel

"I have some sad news. Unfortunately, Alaska voters defeated a ballot initiative yesterday that would have ended the state’s brutal aerial hunting program.

Thousands of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund supporters gave invaluable support to this important campaign, but in the end, deep-pocketed special interests carried the day.

This morning, I spoke with Nick Jans, co-chair of Alaskans for Wildlife, our grassroots partners in The Last Frontier who spearheaded the state ballot initiative to end Alaska’s brutal aerial hunting program. He wanted me to pass on this message to you:

“I want to thank Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund supporters for their help in this hard-fought campaign.

"We faced an approximately $750,000 campaign from our opponents -- including Safari Club International and a $400,000 state-funded campaign approved by Governor Sarah Palin and the Alaska legislature. They used deceptive propaganda and the authority of the Alaska government to defeat the ballot initiative.

"But thanks to the generous support of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund activists and donors, we were able to reach thousands of voters. Yesterday, over 75,000 Alaskans voted to end this barbaric practice.

“Despite this loss, we’re not giving up -- Alaskans for Wildlife will continue to hold the state Board of Game’s feet to the fire and redouble our efforts to end this brutal program.”

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund will continue to partner with groups like Alaskans for Wildlife and our sister organization Defenders of Wildlife to end Alaska’s slaughter from the skies.

As we prepare for another bloody season of aerial hunting in Alaska, we are redoubling our efforts to pass the Protect America’s Wildlife (PAW) Act in Washington, DC to bring an end to Alaska’s aerial hunting program -- and prevent programs like it from spreading to places like the Greater Yellowstone region.

This bill already has strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives -- now we must ensure that this important bill gets passed.

Please take a moment to write to your Representative in Washington, DC and urge him or her to support this important wildlife-saving legislation today.

Once again, thank you for your support in this important campaign. Together, we’ll continue to fight for sensible wildlife management -- and end the senseless slaughter of wolves by airborne hunters.

Defenders of Wildlife

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obambi McScary

I don't know why I read the comments on political blogs. But I do. I get all worked up over peoples' rudeness. Some bloggers like to say McCain's POW experience qualifies him for nothing. Okay. I hear ya Mr. Blow It Out Your... People have user names like this. Another poster Liberal Missy writes, "Yeh, all being a prisoner of war did for the old guy is teach him how to sit still. He could be a kindergarten teacher."

Then there are the Obama haters. Mr. Rise Up for America writes, " Precious" needs to commit to something other than his wife and hoop shots." How about Same Old Same Old who calls Obama and his VP pick ObamaObiden Oboy.

Resentment and anger and of course wanting to win can make people creative and rude. I think the Obama Obiden Oboy is quite catchy. I made it up like I did all the posters' names. I could not go back and read their names or posts again. My pretend names and posts are mild curry sauce compared to the nasty biting real ones. No water needed to read this post.

I told a friend today if I start talking about the election and begin to look or sound hysterical to walk away from me or hang the phone up.

I wish there was some way to block me from, Real Clear Politics, Puma, and No Quarters. It is like a feeding frenzy of animosity and rudeness in their comment sections. I go back like a fighter in the ring trying to thinking of a verbal punch to post. I delve deep into my store of sarcasm and wit and most of the time come up with nothing. I am like a defective hot air balloon who gets all fired up and then crashes.

Since I like words I am making a list of all the "mild" able to repeat when there are children in the room names the Obama posters could call McCain and visa versa. I am listening to the sounds and perhaps will write a poem using them. I think it is the only way I can get through the election process.

Here is a start:

Mc Bush, MC Needs a Cane, Mc Can't Digest McDonald's low fat burger ( too old), Obominate, please don't, Obomba,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Two of My Recent Poems are in Hiss Quarterly Vo. 5 ~ Issue 3- Ekphrastic Poetry

Hiss Quarterly Vol. 5 ~ Issue 3

Elastic Ekphrastic
Another Way Toward Poetry

by Jennifer Bosveld

In ekphrasis, or ekphrastic art, there are initially two imaginations at work—that of the original artist, and that of the respondent through his/her medium.

For the purpose of this discussion we’ll primarily talk about writing poetry in response to visual art. That writing may define, redefine, or simply react to (in whatever way feels valid to the writer) the original piece of art.

Questions asked about ekphrastic poetry

What kind of art can be used for ekphrastic poetry?
You can write in response to the Springprint Company illustrated barns restaurant placemat at the greasy spoon down the street. It’s up to you. Writing poetry in response to a play, dance, movie, sculpture, oil or any other kind of painting, wood carving, you name it, can be a grand opportunity to respond with an ekphrastic poem. For ease of discussion I’ll talk about “paintings” and “drawings.”

How scholarly is your take on ekphrasis?
I haven’t a clue. I’ve studied everything I can get my hands on, and there is much disagreement in the subtleties of current use of the word and practice. I’ve decided to go with broad interpretation. There hasn’t been that much available on the subject but in the past 10 years there’s been a huge increase in interest—so much so that the words “ekphrasis” and “ekphrastic” are making their way back into dictionaries. They were gone from all but the Oxford for a very long time. This discussion is meant for the poet who wants to engage in ekphrasis and this is a subjective offering coming from my opinion which might find some disagreement elsewhere on the literary playground.

How does one approach the art
in hopes of accomplishing an ekphrastic poem in response?
Become physically comfortable and committed to a long period of time in front of the art. If possible sit in front of the work and attempt to become one with it. If you have permission, take a photograph of it and carry it with you or prop it in front of your computer, especially for the revision process. Since while writing poetry “it all depends on the questions that you ask,” ask yourself and ask the painting about the movement in the piece. What is going where? Ask about color, light, shape/form, subject/items, geometry/direction/balance, relationship/tension, taste, sound. Is anything here making noise? Is anyone/anything speaking? Can you create dialogue? Monologue? If you can’t take a photo of a museum piece, try a “naive poet’s sketch” of the piece just to remind yourself of the elements of the painting, its flow, and relationship of the subjects.

How might I choose one piece of art out of a whole gallery? Tour the gallery without pen or paper, and after a while, feel the tug toward a particular piece of art. Honor that “tug” by returning to the work and staying with it, studying it as much as possible in the short period of time you have for it. Thirty minutes? An afternoon? Then start taking notes. Is this feeling like a picture you want to further explore? Yes? Then it’s yours. Let the piece go to work on you.

There are different approaches, right? Can you simplify an explanation of that? Choose whether you wish to try the minimalist approach by saying exactly what you see there in as few words as possible (example, Cathy Callaghan’s book, Other Worlds available through Pudding House) or the embellished and flamboyant approach (example, my book, The Magic Fish) that allows you to have your way with this art without regard for the artist’s possible message.

Are there additional techniques that could
help me make a successful ekphrastic poem?
Minimize adjectives and adverbs and choose just the perfect qualifiers, not over-doing the descriptive just because you’re “interpreting” art. Tap into the senses that might be in the picture. It is easy to write what you “see” but what about smell and taste? Get all the 5 physical senses into your writing. Try a narrative, writing a story in poetry form about what you see there and beyond, starting long before the action in the painting or long past. Avoid vague language, trite notions, over-used expressions. Use strong action verbs and the finest detail regarding the nouns and even presumed proper nouns in the visual art. You may name the subjects even when the visual artist did not. Some say “art is anything you can get away with.”

How do you know you’re understanding what the artist intended?
You might not get it at all and I don’t know many artists who would care. Most professional artists I’ve known are at least amused by various interpretations of their art if not flattered or gratified by differing opinions. My recommendation is that the poet should have her way with the art and see what happens. In my work on The Magic Fish: Poems on an Edward Boccia Sketchbook, I went with immediate reactions and did not try to interpret the painting with concern for Edward Boccia’s meaning, though one can always attempt that. Perhaps occasionally I came close to his own story regarding the drawing. Boccia gave me carte blanche to have my own experience with the art. This way you have two different pieces of art, a drawing and a poem, that might meet somewhere on the spread between the two side by side, but that’s for the third pair of eyes to decide, isn’t it? For the poem to have its highest experience, we might remember that ART is always taking things and altering them. Study the picture, deconstruct it, then put it all back together again your way. It will be valid.

Are there any legal issues
when making your own art (poetry) off of another’s work?
Always include a citation regarding the art: Title, medium, year produced, artist’s name, and sometimes the owner of the piece and whether it is on loan and where you saw it exhibited. If you’d like to publish a photo of the work, you’ll have to obtain written permission from the artist and/or owner of copyright. Some artists will not give you permission. This is not legal advice, I am not a lawyer. If you are concerned, you should consult an attorney.

What is the value of ekphrastic poetry?
Exercising your pen with ekphrastic writing, when it comes down to it, is great practice for empowering your writing re: any “picture” life presents. “Get the picture?” It is great practice for poetry therapy group participants. “Taking a picture of a moment” is one of my most popular writing exercises and in my mind writing in response to a freeze-framed moment of two siblings arguing in the backyard is no different than responding to Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte. Ekphrastic poetry brings renewed attention to visual art. It is an excellent way to bring art ‘back from the dead’ or to just bring additional attention to worthy works, old or new. People who have trouble appreciating “modern art” (as they’ll lump it all together with this nondescriptive or incorrect label) could find an enhanced understanding of any work they spend enough time with to write a response. Ekphrastic writing can unlock the mysteries of the painting and grow an appreciation for the art and artist. It is also a way for the poet to go outside the self and respond to something outside her/his usual experience.

Are the paintings and poems supposed to interact?
If the poet wants them to. The poet may struggle to discover precisely what the artist intended, go wildly in another direction (as I often do), or anything in between. The poem might require the painting to stand beside it in order to get meaning from the poem or the poem might stand alone.

Since Ekphrasis was better known long ago,
can you tell us more about that?
Where did the term come from?
It isn’t a joke out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it really did come from the Greek. We know that school boys were instructed to write (usually poems) about the architecture and art in museums and grand public places—for public consumption and understanding. Around the 4th and 5th Centuries, ekphrastic poetry was pretty much limited to poems derived from visual art. The poems were often elaborate and descriptive and might have been about the religious architecture or paintings surrounding people or that the citizens had little access to. English romantic poets: (Keats “Ode on a Grecian Urn” always comes to mind first), Shelley, Byron, and others composed many such works, some of which became well known.

Can you give us an example of ekphrastic poetry collections
or resources on the subject?

Poetry on Art / Poets on Tour
Edited by Jennifer Bosveld, with the work of poets on tour through galleries. Ekphrastic poetry has been on the rise for 15 years and is only now beginning to be understood. Here is a marvelous classroom or workshop resource for writers responding to art. Released in 2003. Perfect bound, red enamel cover, 71 pp, $14, ISBN: 1589981669.

Other ekphrastic poetry collections
and resources on the subject:

Monet in the Twentieth Century by James R. Scrimgeour (chapbook, Pudding House, 2002)
Elastic Ekphrastic: Poets on Tour through the Galleries edited by Jennifer Bosveld (chapbook anthology forthcoming from Pudding House, 2003)
Other Worlds: Poems on the Drawings of M.C. Escher by Catherine A. Callaghan (Pudding House, 1999)
The Magic Fish: Poems on an Edward Boccia Sketchbook by Jennifer Bosveld (Pudding House, 2002)
Snow Effects by Lynne Knight (Small Poetry Press, 1999)
The Gazer’s Spirit by John Hollander
Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis From Homer to Ashberry by James A. W. Hefferman
Transforming Vision: Writers on Art ed. E. Hirsch (Art Institute of Chicago, 1994)
Paint me a poem: a canvas of words (King County Poetry & Art on Buses), 1999
Visions: paintings seen through the optic of poetry by Marc Elihu Hofstadter, Scarlet Tanager Books, 2001, 72 pages, $14. No art included but this is still another take on ekphrasis. Some might argue that most of the poems are not ekphrastic because they don’t capture the whole of the art or attempt. But the poems are elegant, very much at least a response to the art. Among experts on ekphrasis (and they are very few with a broad vision) it would be interesting to hear opinions on whether this work is ekphrastic. Regardless, I think it is splendid.
Ekphrasis, The Illusion of the Natural Sign by Murray Krieger
“Ekphrasis and the Other” by W. J. T. Mitchell in Picture Theory (University of Chicago Press), 1994
Getting the Picture: The Ekphrastic Principle in Twentieth Century Spanish Poetry by Margaret H. Persin, 1998
The Sculpted Word: Keats, Ekphrasis, and the Visual Arts by Grant F. Scott
Poetry in Crystal: Interpretation in crystal of thirty-one new poems by contemporary American poets, sponsored by Steuben Glass w/support of the Poetry Society of America (a reversal from the norm!), 1963

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Everyone is Picking On Bill Clinton. I Empathize Bill.

My Lewinsky


Elizabeth P. Glixman

I have a confession to make. I can't go to church and confess. I'm not Catholic. Can't be on national TV talk shows. I tried but my name isn't Bill.

"No way," said Helena, a famous talk show hostess, when I pleaded with her.

"Just give me one prime time minute to confess. I promise to make it juicy."

"No can do," said Helena. "No viewer interest in your type of crime. I'm sorry but you have to face the fact that you aren't Bill. Maybe one of those evangelists would give you air time. They love confessions from ordinary people."

My crime was as good as the next person's, as good as Bill's. But because there wasn't a young intern involved no one was interested.

I have to confess now. I can't turn back. It took me years to gather the courage. I told a few friends my horrible deed. I needed practice. They minimized my crime. "What's the big deal?" they said. "Do you know how many people steal towels from hotels or cheat on their spouses?"

"No," I answered.

"Thousands of people break the law everyday. Your crime is diddly."

I was hurt. My crime meant a lot to me.

"Where has morality gone?" I said sadly.

"It never existed," said my friends.

I have to confess. Otherwise I will live in a world darker then the blackest night. I need the relief that comes from public humiliation, media coverage, talk shows, and full color spreads in Karma News.

I say to myself every day since it happened, "Why did you do it? What were you thinking?" I looked at my reflection in the Atlantic Ocean this summer as I contemplated jumping in, and wondered, how could this happen to such a good looking person? I had my hair done that day. The ocean was silent. She had taken the fifth.

What was my crime? Just like Bill I had a professional speechmaker write my confession. Here goes. "My fellow Americans I am talking to you on national TV tonight to tell you something I did that I am not proud of, that I regret. On July 24, 1975, I ate a tuna fish in a holy ashram in the country of India. Yes that is my crime. Sorry. No sex. No scandal. No violence, unless you consider vigorous chewing violent. This was a serious offense to the Indian people. To many of you it may not seem an impeachable act yet I betrayed a people. I violated a country's trust. They let me in their borders, sit in their temples, sing their songs. Doesn't that count?

My fellow Americans, can you feel my pain? I ate the tuna before morning meditation. While people were om-ing, I was gulping. The truth. You want the truth. I'll give it to you. My desires got the best of me. I'm middle aged and I needed a fling.

It's not like I murdered Ghandi. That may not be completely accurate. It's all how you look at it. The cycle of birth and death is tricky. A politician today. A fish tomorrow. Remember that Bill. A crime is a crime. I can not be excused. I broke the rules of the ashram. I broke these ancient laws in India (of all places). I might as well have committed a crime against the American people while living on Pennsylvania Ave. Forgive me." End of speech.

Now I will wait for the consequences of my confession. Eating fish at the ashram is a sin that will be investigated. I wish. Bill, that lucky guy, is the one with the special prosecutor on his back. Not me. I'll get a three hour epic lecture on tape from my mother and a bolt of lightening will strike my year supply of tuna fish.

I am working on a defense. I have two plans. One is the genetic defense. Eating fish was genetically encoded in my cells. My ancestors were as coincidence would have it fisherwomen. It was those dam cells that made me eat the tuna. Genetics determining behavior is a good start. It's a popular theory that can be debated. Debate is good. It confuses people and will give me time to create defense two, the philosophical argument.

Defense two goes like this. It's an animal's job to give up their lives for us so we can do good in the world. It's in the plan of creation. They know the score. Tuna fish don't mind. The cosmic plan to be eaten works. Why else would God have made spare ribs? This defense won't get me off the hook, but it could with defense number one added, create public support and let me at least keep my job.

If all fails I can say legally I did not eat tuna on the ashram grounds. I ate tuna at the park that was next to the ashram. I'll falsify make believe measurements from non-existent government land surveyors to prove this. I was close to the ashram but we were never intimate. I know I've already confessed but I can change my story. Many famous leaders do.

The decision, no doubt, in my case will be to throw her out of the ashram forever. I will not be allowed to go to a spiritual retreat again and will be stripped of any spiritual attainment I have made in this lifetime. No dream team, no PR experts will get me off. Why should they? I broke a special trust. No one at the ashram would be able to look at me again without wondering if I had a fillet mignon in my suitcase.

I did it, Bill! Did you hear me? I confessed like you. I'm glad I'm not you. No offense. It must have been hard to confess in front of millions of people, telling them what a jerk you had been. Better think twice before you look lustfully into the eyes of any women but your wife. As for me, I'm joining Tuna Eaters anonymous. There are too many fish in the sea and I can't control myself.

This piece was originally published in the now defunct e-zine "Snark Byte." It was then republished on a website for people from India. It was my error submitting to the site and not reading the fine print. I don't have any ancestors that lived in India as far as I know. Even though I wrote and said I am not from India, the piece is still there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Slow down you move too fast, gotta let the moment last

I am not sure what group in the 60s sang this lyric but I know I relate to this idea. There was a blackout for an hour last night where I live. There were no street lights , no indoor lights, no radio, TV, or computer. When I got use to the silence and darkness, I thought this is wonderful. I imagined what it was like living in a period before electricity or living in a modern country that has no electricity. What do people do at night? In some places there are no oil lamps or flashlights. There is fire for illumination. That is all. Silence and darkness can be so full. It is an idea to contemplate. I've decided to slow down and stop multitasking. I've decided to do less.

"From Publishers Weekly
A former "speedaholic," an award-winning Canadian journalist advocates living a slower, more measured existence, in virtually every area, a philosophy he defines as "balance." Honoré's personal wake-up call came when he began reading one-minute bedtime stories to his two-year-old son in order to save time. The absurdity of this practice dramatized how he, like most of the world, was caught up in a speed culture that probably began with the Industrial Revolution, was spurred by urbanization and increased dramatically with 20th-century advances in technology. The author explores, in convincing and skillful prose, a quiet revolution known as "the slow movement," which is attempting to integrate the advances of the information age into a lifestyle that is marked by an "inner slowness" that gives more depth to relationships with others and with oneself. Although there is no official movement, Honoré credits Carol Petrini, an Italian culinary writer and founder of the slow food movement in Italy, with spearheading the trend to using fresh local foods, grown with sustainable farming techniques that are consumed in a leisurely manner with good company. The author also explores other slow movements, such as the practice of Tantric sex (mindful sexual union as a road to enlightenment), complementary and alternative medicine, new urbanism and the importance of leisure activities like knitting, painting and music. For the overprogrammed and stressed, slow and steady may win the race.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. "

Carol Petrini

Friday, July 18, 2008

Art & Writing Together At Last

My planet Venus that deals with love and beauty is in the house of Gemini (the twins). I seem to always have two goals or two activities going on at once. I write prose. I write poetry. I draw. I make collages. Perhaps in the creative process that is an asset. One feeds off the other. I am experimenting. I am combining my love of art and writing and making an artist book. This is my "first draft" of a poem and image about my great uncle.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Poems at Unlikely Stories

Unlikely 2.0

Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny. —Lloyd Biggle, Jr.

Unlikely Stories is a unique online e-zine. Check out the interview by Belinda Subraman with editor Jonathan Penton and read my poems in the July issue.

Monday, June 23, 2008

For Jazz Lovers- Cicily Janus Interviews Mulgrew Miller

Cicily Janus & I both write for the online lit magazine Eclectica I learned recently Cicily loves Jazz. She has combined her love of Jazz with her love of writing and is writing a non-fiction book on Jazz.

Cicily wrote :

"I am attaching a link if you would like to see the review I did of Mulgrew Miller from this past weekend. He was absolutely wonderful. If you don't have any of his works, I encourage you to go to iTunes and get at least one of his albums. He is Oscar Peterson with a flair. A tour de force of Jazz Piano.

The photos included in the review were taken by the photographer I am using for my non fiction book on Jazz. Ned is a complete blessing to my project. His artistic vision and organizational skills work in great harmony with mine. I can't wait to show you all the final product."

Ned Radinsky

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Forms of Intercession Poems by Jayne Pupek

Dear Caleb


Jayne Pupek

How can I explain? You were small and indifferent.
Maybe I craved the sound of a vacant house,
no voices or footsteps,
no one seeking me out with a litany of needs
I couldn't fill. Maybe I wanted to spare us both
that moment when we'd awake, mother and child,
hating each other. I'd be lying if I said
I'd had second thoughts. I can't tell you if the notion
floated into my mind that day or if it had been there all along,
a seed wedged in the crease of my brain.
The certainty of what I was about to do, the unwavering course-
how can I break those into segments you might comprehend?
I was compelled to take the life I'd given you.
The sequences unfolded like the scene in a play,
you sitting on the floor with a fistful of crayons,
me in the next room, kneeling by the tub,
waiting for he water level to rise
before I called your name.

from Forms of Intercession
Mayapple Press
Reprinted with author's permission.

I often wonder what the moment is like before a change. I think about how trees grow. We can't watch this growth yet it happens. Our minds are not hardwired to view such small subtle increments of transformation. Cameras can capture this slow motion growth.

In terms of people I think about how fragile our lives are, how things can transform in a split second by a word or action. What is that moment like before an action occurs that can change a life for the better or the worst forever?

Something totally unthinkable is about to happen in Jayne Pupek's poem. Pupek captures this time before change. I found this a powerful poem.

Monday, June 9, 2008

I Wonder If Howard Dean takes Ambien to Get to Sleep At Night

I think Ambien is a sleeping pill. I don't use sps. When I have insomnia, I stay up and watch the hands of my clock and or lately I have been listening to Conservative Talk Radio. Talk Radio is a new world for me. I feel like I am Christina Columbus and have found not only that the world is not flat but everyone is not a Democrat. Where have I been all these years? In liberal land. My parents were liberals. Everyone I knew was a liberal. My aunt once told me if I ever voted Republican she would disown me. But since the whole Obama - Clinton DNC debacle I am learning how like religion politics can cause people to yell, lie, embellish, rant, swear, revert to temper tantrums, become illogical, pull their hair, disown their friends, have insomnia, and send every extra dime they have to the person they think can fix the country and their lives. People are fed up and want change. No more George. For others that means no more Clintons. This is all very interesting.

I could be wrong about Howard Dean and Ambien. HD may be sleeping like a baby. I don't know how much he or any members of the DNC who have endorsed Obama are affected by the blogs written by angry Democrats pledging to vote for McCain and leave the Democratic party.

I have been seeking out these blogs. I too am concerned about change. I love this group's name PUMA, Party Unity My Ass. I have a fondness for witty anger. But this is no joking matter. I do feel that the DNC' s election process is flawed, and I am concerned that people have been disenfranchised. I am also worried about who will become the president. For now I am watching the whole thing play out. I do think the DNC is in more trouble then they know. Is party unity only a dream?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Review of A White Girl Lynching in Her Circle E-zine

New York Echoes

Buy now from Amazon! "Warren Adler is a unique and prolific writer. He is a world-renowned novelist, short story writer, and playwright. He has written 24 novels and four short story collections. His novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Two of his stories were made into movies: The War of the Roses starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner and Random Hearts staring Harrison Ford. In 1974 after the publication of his first novel Banquet Before Dawn by G.P. Putnam's Sons, Adler became a fulltime writer, leaving behind a successful career in business.

New York Echoes (Stonehouse Press, 2008) is his most recent short story collection, and Funny Boys (Overlook Press, 2008) is his new novel that reviewer Stefan Kanfer describes as "powerful, poignant, sexy and, as the title suggests, hilarious."

The War of the Roses is a darkly funny film. Adler's short story Collection New York Echoes is also often dark and funny and relevant to any reader interested in the twists and turns of human relationships. I interviewed Mr. Adler about his story collection and about writing fiction for Eclectica.

Read More

Thursday, May 29, 2008

focusorganic .com

Copyright 2008 A.Coven
Copyright 2008 A. Coven

Nothing makes me happier than to be in the woods or in a field or in my friend's front yard (where these photos were taken) surrounded by nature and it vast spectrum of colors.Thats' why I read blogs by people who are into "green" living. I want the earth to stay " green." I want flowers to bloom and animals and people to stop being poisoned by the errors of human thought.

Many people do not believe global warming is real. Many of these people want to drill in Anwar for oil. Read the arguments pro and con. This site has mostly a conservative pro- drilling attitude.

Defenders of Wildlife are anti-drilling.
I am not a scientist and I haven't read all the data that supports global warming or rejects it. I do believe that going green is a good idea no matter what the reality. There are carcinogenics in certain cleaning products, other chemicals that are not people friendly in construction materials, and pesticide residue in foods. Going green also can reduce energy consumption and reduce our sole dependence on electricity and oil which is good thing when the cost of a gallon of gas could reach $5.00 this year.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wicked Alice Poetry Journal Spring 2008

Cows c1990 Elizabeth P. Glixman*

My poem "Ride" can be read in the Spring 2008 Wicked Alice Poetry Journal.There are images of cows in the poem incase anyone wonders what the the heck this photo is doing in this post.

Other poets included in this issue are Rachel Dacus, Jen Blair, Bethany Carlson, Elizabeth Bruno, Kelli Rush, April Dressel, Suzanne Grazyna, K. Goodkin, Amy Bracken Sparks, Kirsten Holt, Amy L. Sargent, Juliet Cook, Lily Scarborough Heehs

* photograph cannot be reproduced without permission

Friday, May 16, 2008

Would You Be Upset If Someone Said You Had Stainless Steel Thighs?

Take a look at the Hillary Clinton Nutcracker.

How do many women feel about Hillary Clinton's treatment in this election? You can click on this link and find out.

And check out NARAL blog link on Guerilla Women. Over 3,000 people posted on the NARAL website to show either suport or anger at their endorsement of Obama.

It is my belief that the feminine is abhored, disrespected and ridiculed in our patriarchal culture and sexism is alive and well. It is so ingrained in many peoples' (both women and men) thought processes, they can't see it. Too many women equate sexual freedom with being free not seeing they are still de- personalized sexual objects and second class citizens. I think Clinton's campaign has many problems besides the blatant sexist media, but I do think her campaign has shown this country is not ready for a woman president. Women have the vote but what huge strides have we made? Some women feel the way Clinton has been treated has set the Women's Rights Movement back.
Here is a disgusting comparison I just thought of- Sexism is a pimple and it is coming to a head.
Will angry women affect the outcome of the Democratic primaries?

And another thing to ponder. Are Republicans ( in part) responsible for Obama's rise to power?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I love words. I can't imagine not being able to read or write. There are people who can't. They never learned. Sometimes this is the fault of the school system. In the mid 90s I took a course in literacy as part of a graduate program in education. I did practicums in first and third grade classrooms. I read a lot of books and articles on how children learn to read and write and what educators and parents can do to encourage reading and writing. I thought about the socio- economic divide in our culture and how it affects children's education. At this time educators were divided as to how to help children from all socio economic backgrounds become readers and writers. Classrooms in the city I lived in were confronted with children of immigrants whose parents(collectively) spoke over twenty languages. Children were not on the same page when it came to language in school.
The how to teach reading and writing debate was in some ways like the present divide between candidates and parties in our present presidential race. The old ways didn't seem to work so onto the new.The Whole Language method of teaching was a "new" way to bridge the divide .
The whole language proponents say that teaching students grammar and mechanics in oral and written language was less important than teaching content-process, meaning. But was that true? The linguist James Gee’s book "The Social Mind" supports a different view. He uses ideas from psychology, sociology, and linguistics to support his belief. He looks at how people come by the discourses they are members of. He makes a distinction between acquisition and learning. Acquisition is what we learn from modeling our discourse (values, talking, actions) from those people and situations we are exposed to. We must learn a discourse to function in our lives and create a place for ourselves in a group. Learning is more conscious, formal, reflective. What needs to be known is broken down and analyzed. Reflection and meta cognition as well as formal teaching are parts to learning.

For minority or low-income students who have not acquired mainstream discourse but the discourse of their group, success in school and life can be unattainable. Since schooling cannot make up for acquiring a discourse, Gee suggests that schooling that teaches the superficialities or surface aspects of a discourse, the grammar and mechanics and meta cognitive skill can help students make do enough with a discourse to give them more of a chance in life to succeed in mainstream society. It is the small technical aspects of language that separates language insiders from outsiders. Racism or classicism will not be eradicated but opening the doors to mainstream discourse is a positive way to start changes in society.

I believe what Gee writes is important. Children who are taught how to speak and to write mainstream will do better in testing which unfortunately our culture values. Children who are given meta cognition skills have power. I saw this in a first grade classroom. Ms. A’s first grade class demonstrates this power of shaping and expressing ideas and feelings. Her children are from a mixed ethnic background in this inner city school and many of them exhibit verbal skills that surpass some older mainstream children I have seen at other schools. It is the critical thinking skills I believe that make the difference, thinking about thinking leads to reflection on what you know. Not all the children in Ms. A’s class exhibit success in language and thinking but quite a percentage do. They are young enough to acquire some skills through Ms A’s modeling, but I am sure the discourse of many of their homes is different. Parents from all different socio economic backgrounds were able to choose this school for their children. They probably chose the school because they have a common set of values about doing and saying and aspire a “successful mainstream life” for their children.

I believe as does Gee that partial acquisition “coupled with meta knowledge and strategies to make do” is better than leaving these non mainstream students in a classroom where there is no explicit teaching of mainstream discourse. If educators and politicians really want to improve education they need to be realistic. You cannot expect people with different discourses to enter school and talk the same language. The language of the classroom needs to be made more explicit! Ms. A gives children this explicitness. She says we are now doing critical thinking questions to the children. What is the name of these 3 letters that slide together? The children are learning processes.

Sheila Tobias whose interest is math and science education describes in her article 'Tracked to Fail" how children are divided through standardized test results into the smart and “dumb” and are put in ability groupings or tracks that have different curriculums; higher level thinking skills are encouraged for the intelligent children, rote memory for “dumber one." These tests scores once meant the child needed to try harder. Today they have come to mean the child can’t learn. I think the use of standardized testing to group children is very harmful. I still remember being in the lowest college preparatory track in junior high and how I always felt I just made it and really belonged in the general track. This placement effected my self-esteem.

The idea that one child’s is brighter than another may have some initial truth but once a children are labeled why should a child try to learn, they are not smart anyways or they are so smart who needs to study.

Levin’s idea of accelerated schools* appealed to me. At first I was not too crazy about the idea but when I looked at if from what standardized testing can do to children’s self esteem and our society as a whole, the idea of Levin’s model seems a constructive hopeful alternative. Schools besides teaching have to undo a lot of the damage teaching has done to children’s belief in their ability to learn. The idea of a product standard is a great way to teach and assess learning at the same time. It is truly authentic assessment.

I became aware from my readings and observations that the self-image problems low achievers have are the same as students who cannot use English or Standard English because they did not acquire the language as children. It really appears that these children are being sorted out as the failures of the future.

I can hear people saying that children from different cultures should not have to become immersed in the dominant culture's speak. It is the assimilation thing vs. keeping your own identity. I agree no one should have to assimilate and loose their heritage. School is a public institution where education is free. Schools are social organizations. The dilemma of how to deal with differences and have learning occur is complex. The bottom line is that no matter what culture you are from you need to be literate to be able to read and write and understand that language will shape your life. Diversity presents a whole lot of challenges.

I am through with my rant.