Postmodern Collage Poetry

A blog about writing collage poetry, post modern poetry, multi lingual poetry

Friday, November 19, 2004

Whitman, South America and Nascar

In the December issue of, the website that I edit with my wife Waltraud Haas we are profiling 7 Brazilian poets. One of the poets to be profiled is Regis Bonvicino- a magisterial poet- who I was first introduced to by Charles Bernstein in 1999. Regis is a poet in the way that French, Italian, Spanish and Latin American poets are poet- he is a public figure. Regis is a poet who matters in his nation.

I do not want to reveal his answers to the interview but one of the things that challenged me is the fact that he said and I am quoting in translation that many American poets view Politics and Public life and Poetry as separate things and that many poets in the USA view Political Poetry as something for the Developing World. I then had an experience on my own where a Chapbook of mine was rejected because it was 'too political'. Not that the poetry was not good- the editor liked it- but that it was too political I do not know what that means would Whitman be too personal?
Neruda too romantic?

Latin American poets, Neruda, Drummond de Andrade, Vallejo, Cardinal, and many more have always been political. Art and Politics are not seen as separate things. Unfortunately here in the USA we do not take life as a whole- we are "Feminist poets" "Working Class Poets" "Experimental Poets" and in the end we continue as poets to talk to ourselves, alone. I think that poets need to stand for Freedom. Our verse is not quoted by the average person and we are marginalized and ignored while billions is spent to promote Monday Night Football and Desparate Housewives. Poets should answer the lies.

If you go back to America's seminal poet Whitman, he wrote confessional verse, but he also wrote about the world as it was and he made a political statement by what he wrote. Alan Ginsberg did the same thing with Moloch, But this has not been normal in the USA. The most important Americans of the Modernist Period (1906-1945), were not overtly political in the way say a Neruda or Lorca were. Yes Pound was a Rightist, but he was not actively writing poetry for that reason, he did write some essays however, Williams and Stevens were not political. Eliot made a political statement with the Wasteland, and then proceeded through the rest of his life to become more conservative and almost repudiate his Avant Garde Credentials.

I do not think that we as Poets should be overtly Political but as poets we possess insights into Politics and Language that are disarming- especially to those who wish to silence us. I just finished reading a new translation of Akhmatova, fabulously put out by Yale University Press translated by Nancy Anderson and here we have a woman who is a Conservative, Christian and Traditional and Avant Garde at the same time. I only wish I read Russian to hear these words

"There was no one who smiled in those days
Except the Dead who Found Peace at Last"
A Akhmatova- Requiem

The issue here is not Red and Blue states. The issue is whether those who are Poets will offer an alternative to the vulgar world in which we now dwell. All is commodified, all is for sale. Wal Mart gives us lower prices- American Factories close because of Wal Mart's low prices and then
50 year olds are out on the street is that the America we want?

I do not fault the Evangelicals for believing in what they do- I am a Christian as well- but what I fault is the fact that we have become a nation of screamers. The fact that we are not interested in working for the Common Good- only for our own good. Petty political games and nastiness are the norm for our nation. I think that it is evil that politicans use people's sexual orientation to divide people, it is evil that people who want to reduce the amount of Abortions cannot sit down both sides and say"Lets work on this" lets try to make this situation ok? A president who uses Dred Scott to send 'messages'to his base; Frederick Douglass must have turned over in his grave.
We are one nation-Indivisable- at least we were.

I feel like America has become the set of the Godfather. Like a Mafia family winners win, losers die and no one questions anything. In the end I grieve not because my candidate lost the White House, I grieve because we as a culture are in decline. China and Asia in general are advancing; they will overtake us economically soon- and unlike past declining Empires like France, Russia and Britain we have demeaned our national culture- we need to create that culture and begin to
answer what we are as a people in our own enviable poetry. I dont think anywhere else is better- Europe has big problems- they more selfish than we are and less vibrant, when was the last time a British poet or Painter tore up the world? But I want so much for the US to live up to its creed.

" I celebrate myself.
And what I assume you shall assume,
Every atom belonging to me as good belongs
to you"... I stand on this spot with my soul"

Walt Whitman

Howard Zinn came out with a new collection of principal sources for his People's History of the United States. In this book he includes the speech to the Jury by Vanzetti. He challenges the court and says that he is on trial for being a "radical and an Italian" racism; yes in 1922 Italians were not White and are not now White- and hatred of Radical politics were on trial and both lost.
You read some of these people and I am just ashamed of myself- I should be doing more.

It has become time for Poets, Artists, and Writers to begin a Greek Choir to the world in which we live. A world where Middle Class people have less and less, a world where narrow provincalism is damaging our nation and removing our sense of optimism. A world where we are in reverse- Civil Rights, Evolution, Art and Culture are challenged for no good reason than the fact that it makes people uncomfortable- I yearn for the voices of dissenters smashing icons and ignoring feelings of the those who have not opened their minds.

I yearn for poets whose opinions and writings land them in jail not in small lit mags unread. It is our job to stand among the wreckage and yell STOP to the world in which we are now entering.

I yearn for a nation that is aware that more than being the nation of Bill Gates, JP Morgan and Henry Ford we are the Nation of Whitman, Dickinson, Stein, Vanzetti, Jackie Robinson, Dorothy Day, Jane Addams, and many others. The question is not Blue and Red states the question is for me are we the nation only of the Dow Jones, NASCAR, Suburban Sprawl and vulgar selfinterest or the Declaration of Independence and Leaves of Grass?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Problem with America

As we all lick our wounds after what happened on Tuesday regarding the election I began to ask myself questions and here is what I think the Democrats and the Left keep losing elections in this country.

In Europe the Left made a decision a long time ago that comfort and security was the most important thing to winning elections. They won the the argument in their societies that healthcare should be free to all, that people deserved employment security, that education should be free and that social services should be universal. The establishment of a universal welfare state defanged the right in these nations. This also marginalized religion and volunteerism because the government does those things for the people.

The bad thing about this welfare state is that Europeans do not have a sense of volunteerism or religioisity the plus is that Europe does not have the kind of dislocation-poverty and social problems that the USA has because of the Welfare state. Europe is a bad place to live if you are a
Bill Gates and you want to excel as a businessperson, t a great place to live if you are Roseanne Barr (Working Class- Woman)

In the USA the left made another choice- in the face of social problems the left decided that the way to power was to cobble together an alliance of special interests that together made up a majority.

The American welfare state was never universal- except for the Social Security and Medicare- which can n never be changed because they are universal- the special interest welfare state became a tool that could be used by the right to divide people from their economic interests to support a political point for view outside their interests.

The result of all this is that the left in the USA does not have a coherent philosophy because less Americans have a stake in the government and government programs, Americans are deluded to believe that they can all be Bill Gates- even though this cannot happen for most.

The result of the mobilization of the Right was caused because of the fact that Lyndon Johnson
made a political mistake- he viewed Welfare as a way to uplift the poor- rather than as a safety net for all Americans. The result today is that the Democrats are viewed as the party of "special interests" rather than the protector of people's standard of living.

If the Left in America wants to win elections they need to present a vision that is radical and that needs to be sold to the American people that with them in power the country will change. The left needs to say the following- it is not right that European workers at all levels have lavish welfare states and healthcare and American workers can be fired and layed off for no reason-it is not right that in the name of free trade American industries are outsourced and that these company continue to garner huge profits- it is not right that if you are rich in our society you pay few taxes and if you a middle class you pay allot.

You will notice that I did not mention any social issues. The fact is that liberal social issues are losing issues until the US population views a left wing agenda as a benefit to their lives. Liberal America is never going to sell people on the idea that Gay marriage is a good thing unless they have a whole program that actually changes people's lives.

Most Americans are not comfortable with Partial Birth Abortion and Abortion on demand, but if a National Health Service existed that was committed to making Abortions truly safe-legal and rare they might be able to win over people to that agenda but the feminist pro choice arguments are losers in much of America.

The USA is careening towards a day of judgement- not the false rapture of the Evangelicals- but a day in the very near future when the 85 million Baby Boomers begin to retire. Our society and our welfare state cannot bear these costs- our society and our country is on the verge of many problems. The Right's response to this is the outsource welfare to the 'faith based' and use cultural issues to divide the society. The Left in this country needs to focus their efforts on Economic issues- and on the creation a a real Welfare state-

I would love to hear a candidate say my platform is the following;

National Health Insurance for all Americans, Education is going to be free through college, all Americans should get 4 weeks vacation a year regardless of time served, and Social Security for the elderly will be fully funded. Also, we will not allow companies to to outsource and fire people without making up for the social dislocation that this causes.

Then the Left needs to be honest- taxes will be higher- you may not be able to become a millionaire but you wont be bankrupted by your health problems, you will have time to spend with your family, you will have an old age pension that allows you to live well in old age and if you lose your job you will have time and money to find another one. I think that the left needs to put this type of choice to the voters and I bet you they would win if they had the guts to be honest.