Essays and Memoirs
The Lure and the Deep Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

John_William_Waterhouse_-_Ulysses_and_the_Sirens_1891(San Diego Writers' Monthly April 1992)

Eight floors up in a college dormitory conference room that overlooks the University of California campus and the dark blond beaches of the blue Pacific, I am finishing a long discussion with a writing student. Max. The one who waits. The one who ponders everything I say. Who wants me to tell him more about what’s really wrong with his work, the pained yielding behind those round glasses I can’t help but conjure in a young John Lennon. Behind him, through the sliding glass doors and beyond the railed ledge, is the water.

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On the Poetry of James Wright Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

3305598771_2112eb333e(Poetry Flash Number 220, July 1991; revised March 2011)

1.

My regard for James Wright’s poetry is something I have always found difficult to describe. It is made that much harder when before me I have his Above the River: The Complete Poems, holding potentially a new and unassimilated view of his work. To read and write about his entire opus will unloosen the spell, comfortable and known, which a few of his poems have had over me for decades. That spell was cast first in 1967 when I read his brilliant poem, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota.”

Some ache lingers from that poem’s ending irony to the pastoral landscape Wright created: “a chicken hawk floats over, looking for home./ I have wasted my life.”

I have not wasted my life because I feel more sensitive to the world and the unconscious because of his poetry. I wonder, though, if this posthumous volume will not change my sense of the kind of poet Wright was.

The rest of this critical essay is available in eBook form from Amazon.com: "On the Poetry of James Wright" $2.99.

 
Public Pain Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

73(San Diego Reader July 5, 1990)

Yesterday during a morning nap, Mrs. Jo Anglemire, a downstairs neighbor at the apartment complex where I live and the wife of Val, the maintenance man, died. I came home around noon, arriving moments after their adult daughter had heard the news. As I walked up, I could hear her shouting repeatedly, “No, not my mommy!” and “Daddy! Daddy! Make Mommy come back!” The words cut the air like mad hornets.

I walked up to their apartment. The screen door was propped open. Three people were in the living room. One man, tall and gaunt, stood alone. The other, heavy-set with shorts and long socks, stood holding the woman who wailed. The large man stood still, in an eerie frieze—arms clamped around her as she pushed her head up and screamed. He held tightly, her head giddy as if under the broadside of a fire hose. Leaning against the outside wall was a white-cushioned stretcher. I slumped against the doorjamb.

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Unanswering the Question: Charles Ives Meets Charles Olson Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

cdeb024128a0546bfd209010.L(Perspectives of New Music. Double issue: Fall-Winter, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1981; Spring-Summer, Vol. 20, No. 2, 1982)

This essay started out of a desire to experience my own convergence with the music and writings of Charles Ives and the esthetics and poetry of Charles Olson. What began as a measure of my relationship with them became their relationship, in something larger, with each other. Furthermore, the same experience has always been counterpointed in my own work as a composer and writer. The legacy of the arts as being separable, by virtue of their expressive content, audience, differing perceptive modes, etc., has seemed to me to be an illusion propagated by some traditional casting of identity, of what art-forms "say."

How one form can say something, or one thing, better than another, the economic argument of the efficiency of art mediums. I feel that the genesis and experience of music and language are inseparable, if one can get beyond, if one can unanswer, the questions they supposedly address, to the exclusion of each other. They indeed converge in essence.

This essay, perhaps my first significantly original work, is now available here.

 
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