Friday, October 28, 2011

*Poem: "No Judgment Zone"*

O beautiful woman at the gym with your big body and your highlighted hair, your black button-down shirt and sneakers,
thank you for being here, whatever the reason.
It's a no-judgment zone, but that doesn't mean I can't look
at the pregnant woman in the long tight shirt pulled snug over five month belly,
man in the wife-beater and sunglasses, fingerless gloves,
tattoos that blend into his dark skin,
soft man in white , bright red face,
twenty minutes on the treadmill, TV tuned to MSG,
soft woman in pink sneakers, t-shirt advertising our gym, following a
trainer from station to station like an advocate of an unseen cross,
all here to look better, or feel better, or because their spouses want them to be,
or to be somewhere that's not their own house,
to meet somebody sober, somebody in the same sweaty boat. 

I've never found romance here, but I've taken kisses
from an old friend dripping with effort on the elliptical,
giggled at later by ladies watching, not judging me.
And there is the beautiful man I've been watching for years now,
beautiful because he keeps coming back.
He is always on the stationary bike when I begin my careful routine,
is still there when I come back for my last fifteen minutes, on a bike too.
He's the only one I recognize week after week, three years now,
and he isn't getting any smaller, but he's here, keeps coming back.
I want to thank him, this beautiful man in the dark goatee.
I want to tell him that some days the idea that he might be there,
keeps being there, is the only reason I come. 

I want to thank everyone for coming, and to skip the free pizza
on first Monday nights, unless it fits in with their food plan,
but it's a no-judgment zone, and doesn't that include cheerleading?
I am there myself to get it over with,
to lounge guilt-free before the fireplace video,
devour homemade popcorn 'til I pop myself.
I am here not so I can live forever,
but so I don't die quite as badly as I might otherwise.
O beautiful man, o beautiful woman,
thank you for joining me at the purple fountain, for the company
on this arduous stroll across the universe of machines,
into the path of most resistance.

CAR  2/1/11

Sunday, September 18, 2011

*Poem: "Iowa"*


A kindly tourist explains the difference between
the heat in the Hudson Valley and Iowa, his home,
which can get this humid but, he said, it's hard to explain.
This New York valley holds the moisture in its bowl,
and that's what makes the trees so green,
then the autumn colors so vivid. He says the weather here
is comparable to southern Iowa or Missouri.
Twain spoke at commencement for the girls at Vassar
once upon a time, a century ago.
Was the weather like home then?
The tourist begins again on the shelves of books on autism,
says he's finished the top two, and has three more to go through.
He gets a hot coffee, despite the heat outside,
inadequate air cooling inside, dark, no milk,
lidded before he leaves the counter, so sugar is out, too.
Missouri, Iowa are faraway countries from upstate New York.
Nothing is far enough away from Long Island, and
inconsequential in any case. There are no beaches
on the shores of the Mississippi. There are no shells
in the mud of the Big Muddy. The sunlight, quickly returned
after a brief, hard shower, enters the shop with some
resistance from the awnings. The glare off cars across the street
is sharp and familiar, a part of summer sunshine in June,
when the light lasts longer and has more to say,
has a more definite impression to make.
Milt Jackson's metal bubbles pop on the CD,
barely audible in the background.
Ambience. It doesn't stop the kids in the afternoon
from playing with the puppets, using a flannel mouth
to say what they mean, assuming the dull roles of
physician, cheerleader, pirate, dragon.
Only Coltrane, narrating his own destruction,
Can chase the teens out into the heat,
down to the park, to smoke as teens always smoke
before their lungs fall out, beside the Esopus,
tribute to the Hudson, distant cousin of the
Mississippi, both being of water, both rolling
while we here stop and talk about the weather.

 CAR  6/1/11

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Just a quick note today, but after a few months of pretending to live like a non-poet, I have decided to embrace my fate and recommit to the Writing Life. I have several projects in the works, and a reading on Oct. 1 at the Beahive in uptown Kingston (part of Phillip's Levine's COW series), so I need to be back on the poetic ball. Bohemian Book Bin in November and Vooreheesville in December are a couple others readings I see on my dance card.

Wondering whether I should put another chapbook together on my own, or put some energy into shopping manuscripts around to some of the smaller presses. What's your opinion? I like the artistic control of doing it all myself, but of course being published by an outside entity is tremendously satisfying and validating. Perhaps I'll do both...

I think writing time will have to be carved out of the evenings. Mornings are a little rough lately, what with the back out and the allergies due to come back in full force any day now...  So, I'll be cutting way back on the Netflix dinners with my Beloved Roomie, TMM. Except for "Gomer Pyle, USMC"...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

*Green Eyes & the Green-Eyed Monster*

            Just so you don't all get the idea that I'm the benevolent, generous and all-supportive Poetry Diva of the Hudson Valley you thought I was, you should know that a friend shared a pre-production layout of a postcard promoting a first book of poetry, to be published by a real press, and after my initial thrill, the very next emotion I experienced was jealousy. I feel like the last kid to get my ears pierced, despite my many self-published products, appearances of my work in over 40 literary journals and my recent success with the RANDOM WRITING poetry workshop. I think what pushed me over the edge were the three endorsements for the book, written by mutual friends. Wonderful, insightful remarks all, but I really wished they’d been about my work.

            Not that I often think my work is worthy of professional publication. I know how much sweat and blood my friend put into the preparation of that manuscript. I helped with the revisions, and had the opportunity to read a large chunk of this work all at once, the same experience readers will have when they order the book. Dues have been paid and publication earned. I fluctuate about the quality/value of my work between somewhat worthy and total crap. I don't write this to fish for compliments. It is really what's happening between my ears. I continue to write mainly because I continue to need to express myself, to witness, to shoot my mouth off in a subtle way that I suspect will deteriorate over time into blatant curmudgeony haiku. 

            I am also very aware of the serendipitous nature of the publication game itself. I have often read published works that very clearly illuminate the sexual relationship that surely exists between editor and poet. I do know black from white. My efforts at publication have also been intermittent at best, and life at large usually gets the best of me these days. I have work out now, not much new but little circulated. Coming back to it a few years after its composition, I had the ability to cast a fresh eye on it, and saw it was good. Good enough for publication? I don't have that answer. All I know is no one will publish poetry that's still in my computer files. Otherwise, I'd have been the new Plath by now. Although Sexton had more fun.

            Incidently, I wish my friend nothing but the best in this endeavor, and am honored to have been included so intimately in the process. I'll keep you all posted, and you'd really be doing yourself a favor to pre-order when the time arrives. 55 must be pre-sold for publication to take place, a practical stance for a 21st century publisher to take. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

*Poem: "The World Stood Still For Easter"*

God, the world stood still for Easter,
no Walmart strolls for fun after church,
no super sales at the mall!
You were lucky they had milk left at the 7-11,
to make it to the deli by noon!

We got up early for our chocolate bunnies
(one year blinded by my brother before breakfast),
chosen not for the taste, but their fascinating shape,
rabbit fur, sometimes a cart molded into their waxy shells,
silky pressed daisy pasted onto their necks,
and jellybeans eaten in order of preference:
green, yellow, orange, red, sharp pink, black,
always one lost in the cellophane grass
until next year.

Breakfast was eggs we dyed the day before,
R2-D2, or just a crayoned name,
stripes or stickers on impatient pastels,
a few muddied experiments,
some tucked into a braided wreath of bread.

Then into new outfits for church,
my small rosebud bonnet early on,
sheer white shell covered with gauzy flowers
that hung around for years, then went away,
navy pantsuit, black for optimists,
and always new shoes, black velvet wedges when I was older,
strappy white sandals when the weather held.

And sometimes spring was with us by Easter and
sometimes not, but we always gambled to dress the part,
though some years winter coats covered
sky blue, peach pink granny gowns.

And our church had Easter in it every day,
giant paper butterflies hung from the clean rafters,
white and orange and yellow blocks of glass
glowing in the morning light and sometimes sun.
Hymns we knew all the words to on Easter,
jiggling the plate with envelopes of change.

Dinner was pot roast or sauerbraten,
Sunday dinner where we all behaved,
sat politely at the picnic table we kept for dining
in the little kitchen, fire at my mother's back,
spoke to each other as if we'd just met,
wondering how to proceed,
the promise of a new meal
broken by the last crescent crust.

And dessert was solitary relief in front of the TV,
Davey and Goliath faded with the noon and the robin,
shoes and long dresses discarded,
descent into puddings and cakes and all heaven,
Peeps silent in the common basket,
bonnets laid aside in the dark.

CAR  4/11/04

Monday, March 28, 2011

**Town Versus Gown: Academic and "Street" Poets**

Last week, a friend of mine was featured reading his poetry on a local radio station, along with a professor from one of the area colleges. Mike Jurkovic has no college under his belt that I'm aware of, but 25+ years of fairly technical experience at Cosmodemonic Communications. The professor's work I am aware of, but I don't know him personally. The contrast in style was striking and as most poets know, there is something of a split in the poetry community between those with schooling and those who are driven to express themselves in words without a formal education. Generally, I can see the positive attributes to both types of writing, but personally my taste does lean towards the so-called "street" poets.

            Luckily, none of the poets I know who might fit into that category actually live on the street or spend most of their time there. Their poems can often be grammatically incorrect, or the meanings of words bent or broken, depending on how much they rely on computer thesauruses. One can be critical of these flaws, or accept them as part of the creative process. I can only completely do that if I know the poet made those choices to err consciously and deliberately. I still believe in proper grammar and usage because they are elements that make the language common to all of us-- the level playing field on which we all interact.

            Academic poetry (for lack of a better term-- I see Mark Doty has recently taken exception to it, but until the lines become blurred, if ever, it will be the one I choose) has a tendency to rely too much on form, in my opinion. The lines are carefully crafted, with rhymes and rhythms perfectly assembled. More often than not, however, I find the overall effect of such poetry gutless. It rarely soars for me. There are exceptions of course, but I am speaking now of my personal experience with poets in my immediate radar. The chances that street poets take in content, metaphor and vocabulary interest me far more than the level, sanitary structures that are the rule and not the exception from the Ivory Tower.

            I think perhaps the two groups could benefit from more exchange. The street poets could only make their work stronger by nailing down the basics of grammar, spelling and usage. Then variations would be deliberate choices for effect and not accidents. The benefits to academics would be less precise, but no less valuable. The subjects that street poets write about are far more wide ranging than those of the academic. Opening up to that expanded realm of possibility can only enrich their work.
            Writing is a solitary activity. Going out to open mics and hearing other poets from anywhere is always a broadening experience, even if you don't connect, even if you don't like what they have to say or the way they say it. Reading big and small publishers and going online, where many of the little magazines are migrating to because of economics, helps to remind us why we all do this. We are trying to communicate our feelings, our thoughts and our observations. The language that we are using, whether flawed or stilted, isn't really all that different when it comes down to it. Listen beyond the words, read between the lines. Go to the streets and climb the Tower. It will be an adventure, at the very least.

Monday, February 21, 2011

*Janine Pommy-Vega Celebration- Woodstock, NY; 2/20/11*

            There was a celebration of the life of Janine Pommy-Vega yesterday in Woodstock, NY. Vega, who passed in December, 2010, was one of the few females allowed into and promoted by the tight, male-dominated circle of Beat poets in the 1960s. She was a force unto herself as well, and for almost 30 years taught writing workshops in the prisons of New York State. Two former workshop participants were among the speakers, and they revealed that the groups often referred to Vega as "Mother".
            I knew Janine only as an acquaintance. My shyness, which may come as a surprise to some, sometime prevents me from taking advantage of the poets around me, the big leaguers that we are accustomed to having among us here in the Hudson Valley. The same is true of my relationship with Enid Dame, who many recall as perhaps the least threatening person to inhabit the planet. I was lucky to have had her attentions for one morning at a small workshop, but I do regret not just going up and chatting with her at the many readings she and her husband Donald Lev attended. Donald is still here, and yet I still feel that absurd intimidation with him at times, though I do my best to go beyond it. Regret is a bitter, irrevocable emotion, but one that can perhaps help to change my future behavior, at least a little.
            Vega was genuine, tough, dynamic, and yet so sunny and positive that if one didn't know better, one might think it was merely an attention-grabbing false face she wore at readings. Even the last few times I saw her read, her once strong body crapping out on her big time, the energy behind her words remained. I was privileged to have seen her up close and it action. She grabbed your attention, that's true, but it was because of the power of her words, her energy, for lack of a less Woodstocky term. She had the beat, she was a Beat, and that rhythm will echo down through future generations of writers, activists and optimistic doers.
            I will remember two things about Janine. During a chat after a reading, we were talking about chapbooks, and she advised me to use a spine as opposed to a folded and stapled format, so that the book would be visible on the shelf. What an excellent observation! I also have an image in my head of driving down the back roads of Woodstock during a fireworks display, sometime in late summer a few years back. We passed by Janine, standing beside her car, left foot wrapped in the boot that had become a permanent part of her wardrobe. She was looking up at the sky. smiling. Janine Pommy-Vega, who had traveled the world, charmed hardened criminals, moved mountains as she hiked them, could still be delighted by the simple spectacle of summer and gunpowder. What an example for us to follow, always trailing behind where she cleared the way.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011




SATS. 10 A.M.-12 NOON

RANDOM WRITING is a poetry workshop based on Inspiration, Word Play, Text Play and Peer Response, designed to encourage prolific and satisfying writing.

SATS. 1:30 P.M.-3:30 P.M.

Hamill’s course will examine the exciting panorama of 20th century Latin American poetry in all its regional and stylistic diversity.



Northeast Poetry Center, 7 West Street, Warwick, NY  10990