James K Baxter’s Jerusalem Sonnets (1971).
I had a surprise yesterday: a comment on this blog that ended up in my Inbox for approval turned out to be some entity who had taken the whole thing without asking and reposted it on their blog.
Was I happy? No, I was pissed off because they had not even bothered to ask me. But that’s just the reality of copyright online: if you don’t like it, don’t post. I was interested today though, talking with Stephen my newfound poet friend here in Iowa (he’s not an IWP or MFA person, he’s a librarian), when the subject of anger came up.
I had waited for him at the Java House Coffee shop with my copy of James K. Baxter’s Jerusalem Sonnets to lend him (he knew of Baxter’s poetry when we last talked, so I was impressed).
We got to talking about politics and the cognitive dissonance that seems to be out there in the marketplace here – of what passes for ideas in this election, especially the vitriol and bile that comes from the Tea Party and its conservative so-called Christian rootstock.
Child of Carl Rove: get the conservative evangelicals voting, George, and you’re back for a second term – and they did. Now look at things: bipartisanship is all but dead, the art of compromise scorned, and the nation was almost brought to bankruptcy just so the Republicans could say Obama had done nothing (that was almost true – they stopped him doing anything as much as they could it seems to me, an outsider, simply to get rid of him and get themselves back in).
Holding the world to ransom: as we talked I got a bit stirred up. Then Stephen made a comment that whatever was going down, he had to avoid the poisonous cocktail of indignation that was swirling around us. It was bad for his thinking, bad for his poetry in general and added to a dangerous air of intolerance.
Lots to think of as we went our separate ways. Next, through some other new friends, I scored a bike to use while here: Dan pulled up outside the Union in his Nissan coupe with a lovely blue Bianchi street racer, a foot pump as well, and a bike lock. Sweet guy.
Now Bianca (so called) shares my room. A trip to the delightful Broken Spoke bike shop got me a helmet: the shop is a hole in the wall down a back street and they are true blue bike guys. Jim – passing through the place, a professor here and a jazz man – took the picture below.
Next, I zoomed off to get a handheld fan at Ace Hardware on North Dodge: hot as hades, 95 degrees F, no day for biking, but ah, it was sweet to be on wheels again and exercising. That will help me sleep better. The fan I want for when we travel in these baking hot days in the back of the 10-12 seater buses they use to cart us all about.
The kind woman at Ace Hardware said she could order me a fan: she went to a heap of trouble to source what I wanted, and get it ordered. She was using a stick to move too, obviously impaired – but as patient as an angel. No intolerance there.
When I said it was hot on the bike, she said, “Get yourself some water out of that fridge – it’s only 99 cents!” I had exactly 29 cents cash and my ATM card – she paid the difference. Sweetheart, that’s the kind of customer service that gets folks coming back. The water was as delicious and as cold as William Carlos Williams’ stolen plums.
I rode home on the wings of the wind. I showered to get rid of the stinky sweat, napped clean and fresh for an hour which got me through the day to here. A trip to Evensong at Trinity, chanting with three other older men the psalter was a boon; so even though I had totally the wrong time and place for the poetry reading I turned up for at Prairie Lights at 8pm, I came away happy with a copy of Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet.
It might make for essential reading in the run up to November 6th when I leave here and fly to San Ramon to see my US family – the same day a President gets elected, bile or no bile.
“I didn’t give up God completely as they did, and I never accepted Humanity. I reasoned that God, while improbable, might exist, in which case he should be be worshiped; whereas Humanity, being a mere biological idea and signifying no more than the animal species we belong to, was no more deserving of worship than any other animal species. The cult of Humanity, with its rites of Freedom and Equality, always struck me as a revival of those ancient cults in which the gods were like animals or had animal heads”.
From, “The Book of Disquiet”, translated by Richard Zenith, (Penguin Classics: 2001).
Yes indeed: like Blue Elephants and Red Donkeys, the mysterious traditional symbols of the Romney and Obama camps that are exciting such strong feelings in the land. I think I will stick to poetry for the rest of my stay, and just watch. Oh yes, and cycle about on my Bianchi.