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Showing posts with label Boulder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boulder. Show all posts

Friday, April 6, 2012

May a Chancre Lame You

A Poetry Month post at The Poetry Foundation, 4/5/12:





Poets are a beggarly lot, but no poets are more desperate than those who are on the streets, trying to push poetry. One has a much better chance peddling herpes, and yet, in several cities now, I’ve encountered half-crazed and alliteration-prone poets trying to hustle you into taking what you clearly have no need of, but for which some of you’re dying every day, or something like that. In New Orleans, I ran into two young poets for hire. Sitting behind typewriters on a sidewalk, they will instantaneously write a poem on “your topic,” and, get this, at “your price,” and in Boulder, there is a smudgy facsimile of Walt Whitman wandering around, wearing sandwich boards that announce, “I’m Reverend Friendly—a poet and I know it. I earn my bread by reciting a poem I have stored in my head, But if you’re too poor, I’ll do it for free instead. Halleluiah, praise be to the Holy One!”

When the Reverend says one, he means the same poem each time, but sometimes not even that in its entirety, as when he forgot the final, killer stanza to Baudelaire’s “To The Reader.” After some nudging from me, however, Friendly finally belted out, with flecks of spittle spraying my poor face:

Boredom! He smokes his hookah, while he dreams
Of gibbets, weeping tears he cannot smother.
You know this dainty monster, too, it seems —
Hypocrite reader! — You! — My twin! — My brother!

Those lines, here translated by Roy Campbell, are so memorable because of their sudden aggression coupled with empathy, but animosity alone is usually bracing and fun in poetry, since it is rather rare. Most poems are disguised love letters and suicide notes, so damn pathetic, so we don’t mind being whipped every now and then, especially when it’s preluded and lubricated by the appropriate foreplay. Here’s one more example of rough and playful love in literature. From Rabelais’ prologue to his Gargantua, as translated by Samuel Putman (always remember to acknowledge, and tip well, the translator!):


And now, my dears, hop to it, and gaily read the rest, wholly at your bodies’ ease and to the profit of your loins. But listen, asswallopers–may a chancre lame you!–remember to drink a like health to me, and I will pledge you on the spot.





POETRY-Your-Topic-Your-Price--New-Orleans
REVEREND-FRIENDLY--Boulder





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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prone Pioneers

As published on OpEd News, Dissident Voice, Common Dreams, Online Journal and Counterpunch, 10/30/10:





Don’t sit. Don’t lie. I mean, lie all you want to, especially if you’re sitting in office, but don’t sit or lie on a San Francisco sidewalk between 7AM and 11PM, should Proposition L pass this week. Repeated offenders could be fined up to $500 or jailed for 30 days.

Across the land, new laws are being introduced to criminalize our most vulnerable and destitute. In Santa Cruz, one can now be arrested for sleeping outdoors, including “in, on or under any parked vehicle,” between 11PM and 8:30AM. Venice Beach is also banning sleeping in parked vehicles.

Punishing our most desperate for being desperate is not only cruel, it’s also a self defeating proposition. The homeless can’t pay their fines, and if you jail them, it’s only a waste of tax money. Take Boulder, which has a law prohibiting camping outside overnight. Like all of our other municipalities, Boulder doesn’t have nearly enough beds in its shelters. In the last four years, Boulder has handed out over 1,600 tickets to its homeless. Hundreds have been arrested when they can’t pay up. After a night or two in jail, they end up on the streets again. The idea, I think, is to chase these people from Boulder altogether. They can become someone else’s problem.

As this depression becomes more undeniable, as more homes are foreclosed, more jobs evaporate, more businesses shut down, as our homeless population explodes, you can count on seeing more laws passed against helpless people sitting, camping or maybe just coughing on the sidewalk. Each city and town will try to dump its economic casualties onto the next. The homeless of Manhattan can trek over to Newark. Those in Newark can shuffle to Manhattan… While we’re at it, we should pass laws against curling up in a dumpster or being frozen to death outside.

We already lead the world in incarceration rate. More than one percent of American adults are jailed. With many more to be locked up, expect more prisons to be privatized. Lowest bidders will get the contracts. Privately run means more efficiency, means trimming costs. Just pack them in and, instead of sloppy joe, just feed them soy burgers or whatever. There’s a growth industry for all you investors out there.

Sign displayed by some bongo banging guy in Boulder: “Sleep is an Involuntary Action. Which is NOT ILLEGAL.” Yet sleeping on the sidewalk, even when you have nowhere else to sleep, is already illegal in many American places. During too late late capitalism, just about any street activity is illicit or a nuisance. Don’t beg. Don’t peddle. Don’t busk. Don’t even loiter. Just walk straight in to that big box store, why don’t you, and be a good American.

Emerging from a Bart station in San Francisco, I saw two men tap dancing quite magnificently to a rapt crowd of tourists. Dollar bills filled their donation bag. Everyone was having a good time until an unsmiling, shades-wearing cop appeared. Show’s over. Edward Jackson, one of the dancers, knew his nemesis, “Why do you always do this to me, Bob?” Hearing no answer, Ed continued, “Don’t you have anything better to do than stopping a black man from making an honest living?” Still no answer. “Why don’t you go down to the Tenderloin and arrest all those crack smoking junkies?! How am I going to pay my rent if you don’t let me make an honest living? What do you want me to do, go mug somebody?!”

A transplant from Detroit, Ed later told me that he had been dancing in downtown San Francisco for more than a decade, and that he made several more times than his wife, with her straight job in a retail store. Unlike most of us, Ed can’t be fired, but he can certainly be thwarted by a policeman.

If we can’t make a dime on the street, will Big Brother leave us alone if we just putz putz around in our own backyard? Not so fast. In Michigan, House Bill 6458, introduced by two Democrats, Gabe Leland and Mike Huckleberry, will prohibit farming in any city with a population of 900,000 or more. Why didn’t they name Detroit outright, since it’s the only one that qualifies? And what’s going on here, exactly?

Urban farming is about the only positive development in Detroit right now. If more Americans planted their own vegetables and raised their own chickens, ducks and rabbits, etc, even in the cities, they wouldn’t have to rely on the toxic factory farms. Detroit is also the only American city without a supermarket chain, so access to food, even crappy stuff, is already limited. With factories gone, jobs gone, can’t a person plant an odd cabbage without being branded a criminal?!

There seems to be a pattern here. In Chicago, school cafeterias are banned from using vegetables grown on school ground, by the children themselves. Big Brother is even messing with the Amish. Dan Allgyer, of Kinzers, PA, has been harassed by our Food and Drug Administration for supposedly selling unpasteurized milk, a charge he denies. Even if he was, I’d rather drink milk from any Amish farm than the diseased product on supermarket shelves.

As all of our interlocking systems unravel in the years ahead, each of us will have to become more self-sufficient and resourceful. Each community, each neighborhood, will finally be introduced to itself. For better or worse, you will be welcomed home. You will be home, at last. As we stagger forward, don’t scorn the ones who are scraping by on the fringe, the day-laborers, odd job men, buskers, scroungers, the peddlers pushing carts, even the homeless, for they are the point men, the pioneers of our time.






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Saturday, August 14, 2010

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ANY-KINDNESS--Boulder









[6/10]


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Friday, July 2, 2010

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Two-young-men--Boulder











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QUARTER-CENTS--Boulder











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EVERYBODY-NEEDS-SOME-HELP--Boulder











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Thursday, July 1, 2010

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Sleep-is--Boulder











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Pearl-Street--Boulder











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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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Dog-and-toilets--Boulder











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NEED-A-LITTLE-HELP--Boulder











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Little-kid-busking--Boulder











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Saturday, June 26, 2010

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Strait-jacketed-man--Boulder











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Flutist--Boulder-2











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Flutist--Boulder











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Joyful-Furniture--Boulder











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Friday, June 25, 2010

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Old-woman--Boulder











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Man-with-doll--Boulder











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Mountain-man--Boulder











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Squirrel--Boulder











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Thursday, June 24, 2010

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Man-with-hands-on-head--Boulder








[In Boulder just a week, dude punched another guy in the face, froze his adversary, a younger, taller and lankier guy boasting of having three black belts. Act witnessed by an undercover cop.]

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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy and England. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.