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Journal, Day Five

By Major Jackson

[Indianapolis International Airport–Gate D1]

US Airways Express
Flight 3078G 17NOV 1200P
Coach Class–Zone 3
Indianapolis to Boston

25 Thoughts for Friday

1. So many successful people in the public sphere suffer from mild forms of narcissism and pretense, especially politicians, art administrators, and poets.

2. Beware megalomaniacal executives tampering in the valley.

3. I am drawn to poets whose work presents touches of madness.

4. I am repelled by excessive earnestness of politicians, thus a superficiality of spirit, but adore politicians and poets who possess heartfelt intelligence.

5. What makes my life a gem of a life are my friends, and the poets for whom I feel the greatest affinity, both the living and the dead. Those circles widen and widen.

6. I hope to be read some day in Uzbekistan.

7. Yesterday, I picked up a used copy of John Ashbery’s Reported Sightings–Art Chronicles 1957–1987. It’s his collection of critical essays and reviews of painters, poets, art exhibits, and movements. I turned to the chapter on Toulouse-Lautrec and came across this sentence: “[Toulouse-Lautrec’s] work[s] depend far too much on their subject matter for their effect, and that one’s response to them is sharply conditioned by how worked up one can get about Montmartre night life at the turn of the century.” I begin to think about a host of poets for whom their names are allied with their subject matter. I’ll refrain from listing, but fill in the blank with your own awareness. Is this a bad thing for a poet? What happens if one does not have a subject matter, but is all technique?

8. Sabine Scho, a very fine German poet living in Sao Paolo, Brazil, is translating some of my poems for the foreign publisher Jung und Jung. I am very grateful. http://www.goethe.de/ins/au/lp/prj/bpo/poe/sch/enindex.htm or http://www.jungundjung.at/

9. Driving through Indiana, I am reminded of Auden’s line: Raw towns that we believe and die in.

10. The blog is a narcissist’s wet dream.

11. Lately, when reading poems, I can detect a palimpsest of abandoned choices beneath the poet’s final draft. It is almost as if I can detect what words and decisions of syntax had been scratched or erased out, which sparks a desire to see the original drafts.

12. At Bread Loaf, a Chicano writer, who I had spent nearly two weeks with on the basketball court, when not drinking Cape Codders, came up to congratulate me after my reading, then confessed that upon first meeting me, and up until an hour before I had read, he had wondered where was “my anger.”

13. Affordable parking in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a joke.

14. For those of us who believe crafting artful language is a social practice of high literacy and participation in a democratic society, we should begin now on working to advise Senator Obama from having his name associated with Osama, a tactic I fear his adversaries and political strategists will deploy to divert his presidential bid, should the time come.

15. The Boys Are At It Again: the death of poetry and the counterargument of poetry’s well-being. I just read D.W. Fenza’s eloquent “Who Keeps Killing Poetry,” in the Writer’s Chronicle, his open-mouthed response to John Barr’s “American Poetry in the New Century.”

16. When I was a kid, about eight or nine years old, we used to have rock fights across vacant lots, where the kids on the other side in our own neighborhood we had constructed in our minds as a rival gang. I suspect Fenza and Barr will be shaking hands sometime in the near future.

17. My current playlist includes: Pink Martini, some audio lectures from the MLA Web site, Mark Doty’s poetry reading at the University of Chicago, jazz pianists and avant-gardists Andrew Hill and Ahmad Jamal, instrumental Beastie Boys, soundtrack from Waking Life, which features Tosca Tango Orchestra, Glenn Gould, Treme Brass Band, James Booker and the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars.

18. The disbelief and shock the world experienced watching victims of Katrina last summer on televisions across the globe as well as an indifferent federal government’s lack of response to those victims was what the world experienced over 30 years ago watching civil rights marchers and upright, decent black people being attacked by dogs and violent racists. After the Vietnam War, Pentagon learned to control images of war.

19. What makes my life a gem of a life is my family.

20. Congratulations to Nathaniel Mackey on winning the National Book Award for his collection of poetry Splay Anthem.

21. Maurice Manning is a fine poet; last night, I found out that he’s also a fine man.

22. If ever in Bloomington, Indiana, please visit the John Waldron Art Center and make a donation. They hold public readings in a former firebay that now serves as a blackbox theater. They also have lots of gallery spaces and classrooms.

23. Indiana University has some astute MFA students in poetry including Neil Perry, Sarah Wyatt, Elizabeth Hoover, and Tracy Truels. We dined at the Uptown Café, and their interests range from Ralph Ellison to Lincoln’s speeches. We all agreed IU does not have a dominant or abiding aesthetic from which the students write.

24. I had fun this week and thanks to all who sent warm e-mails. Well, I wasn’t so Lite, and someday, I’ll finish my essay on Violence and Poetry, and let’s continue to keep in touch. You know where to find me.

25. Not four feet away from me, a woman is talking to the large plate glass separating us from the airplanes. She has a cup of coffee in one hand and is wildly gesticulating with the other. I haven’t gotten used to seeing people with their “Bluetooths” in their ear. She looks like a cyborg .


Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, November 17th, 2006 by Major Jackson.