Sunday, November 25, 2012

In A Perfect World

In a perfect world, this would be the cover  photo to my book, Hobble Creek Almanac.  Featured in the photograph is the Blanchard Family.  On the left is Achilles Blanchard, who figures prominently into my book.  To his left is his father, Achilles Blanchard; his mother, Margaret Sylvia; and then his grandmother Margaret, who lived to be 106.  At his feet is a harp he made from a bicycle frame.  Both Ether (the father who played violin) and he were known for writing poems and songs.  The front portion of cabin in the background was actually moved from the Salt Lake Valley to Springville, and purportedly was the second cabin built after the Mormon arrival.   

Friday, November 9, 2012

One New Thing

Something I have noticed with my writing, the poetry manuscripts I have written, is that for each one, something new happens.  For my first book, Four Way Stop, it was the realization that I was actually writing a book.  In fact, I knew I was writing a chapbook---not a full length book.  For my second book, I was attempting to make the landscape the protagonist.  ---And so on.  With each book, I do something new.

Well for this book, I am also doing something I have never done before.  I am submitting poems for publication after the book is finished.  Now I am still making minor changes to the manuscript and to some poems here and there, but I am probably 98% finished, and it is only in the past little while I have been submitting the poems from this latest manuscript for consideration.  I don't know if anyone else has worked like this, but it is an odd sensation for me, knowing I have a manuscript finished and knowing most of the poems themselves are finished, but waiting until now to see if they are things other people will find interesting. 

And I have found publication for some, approximately 13 poems so far.  However, the anxiety I feel now over the poems I have making the rounds is a little different.  The poems are essentially finished, and where I might have had the chance to throw out a poem that is not working or start over, I am less prone to make that decision because I see the poem in its current state as something much more solid, immutable. 

I don't know if that is a good or bad thing, either.  You see, I have never been very good at telling my good poems from my bad poems.  If a poem gets finished, I am pretty happy with it because it survived my process of drafting, tinkering, explosion, and rebuilding.  It has made it through the gauntlet, so to speak.  I love my poems almost unconditionally, which is a little brazen, and certainly not always the wisest of all behaviors.  Poems can be dangerous if we love the wrong one too much.  The wrong poems can cloud our vision, warp our perception, make us snow-blind to our own faults, which certainly happens to me all too often.

So I hope this pattern of having written the entire manuscript before submitting poems for publications will be a one-off, or at least take an unspecified hiatus.  I want to go back to gathering momentum as I go.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My November 6th Political Post

A few months ago I made a promise to stop posting anything political on Facebook until Election Day.  Tonight, on the eve of the election, I have a few things to say, and I will be posting this message to Facebook first thing in the morning.  I hope my Facebook friends, both liberal and conservative are willing to read, and possibly share what I am about to say.

1.  I am voting for Barack Obama, and regardless of who wins, people in this nation should be okay with that, regardless of who they voted for.  I am not an idiot for voting my conscience and political ideals, I am an American.  More than that, I am a citizen of the United States of America.  I am a history teacher in a public school.  I served this nation in the U.S. Army, and I am a veteran of the First Gulf War.  I challenge anyone to question my patriotism or devotion to the ideals of this nation because I voted for Barack Obama.

2.  I read just now, how Billy Graham published a political statement where he urges Americans to vote for the candidate who espouses the idea of so-called traditional marriage and family values.  With all due respect to the Reverend Billy Graham, I too, believe in God, but here I must differ with him on this issue, as with many others.  Setting aside Graham's flip-flop regarding Mitt Romney and Mormons (of which I am), I disagree with his interpretation of God and Jesus.  The Jesus I learned about in Sunday School in the Mormon faith was the Jesus of Love, the Jesus of Justice, the Jesus of Compassion.  Marriage is a right duly granted to some in this nation, but not to others, and I think it's a gross injustice to allow something as highly subjective as the Bible determine for citizens of a nation which was founded on the principles of freedom, free from the constraints of religion, to define (and thereby deny) marriage. Either we are a nation interested in liberty, or we are not.  Reverend Graham concluded his statement with praying we remain one nation under God, but that motto was only instituted during the Communist Scare of the 1950's.  It was not any part of our official or original National vision.  I personally pray and work for a nation which considers all citizens entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone else. Either we believe our Constitution was written with the intent to change with the needs of its people, or we do not.  Civil Union is not Marriage, and as long as marriage is denied to the people of this nation, then I cannot in good conscience take seriously any candidate who thinks denying marriage is okay.

3.  The same goes for women's rights.  When are we going to make it okay to be a woman in this nation?  When are women going to be afforded the same respect and pay as men?  With so many GOP men fumbling about God's Plan for Conception, Abortion, Legitimate Rape, Equal Pay, and Birth Control, it begs the question:  When are we as a nation going to stop listening to men about these issues and listen to what women have to say?  Any candidate, who feels the traditional role of family excludes women's input on the above issues cannot expect to receive my vote.  Ever.

4.  It's the Economy, Stupid.  Like it or not, I am swayed by the left when it comes to the economic state of our nation.  I admit my bias.  I believe President Obama has done the near impossible.  He literally helped to avoid another Great Depression.  He continued the policies started by G.W. Bush (but actually got people to pay their loans back) and stopped the economic free-fall the U.S. had started.  Think of this:

a)  The unemployment promises he made were based on inaccurate numbers.  we had the wrong numbers, which meant his estimates of what could be done were off.  This wasn't anyone's fault---not even G.W. Bush's.  However, the GOP, blindly following the TEA Party, seemed to blame it on President Obama.

b)  Congress actually said in public (Lindsay Graham) their first priority was to deny President Obama a second term.  Not jobs, not economic recovery.  Just refusing to work with the President.  The weight of that statement is simply staggering.  The Republicans in these past two sessions have yet to propose a single jobs bill.

c) Congress happily raised the debt ceiling dozens of times for G.W. Bush, but suddenly stopped when it came to President Obama, projecting to the American Public that the Deficit and the debt ceiling were essentially the same thing.  Way to exploit ignorance.

d) Mitt Romney has said many times his economic plan can get the U.S. Solvent in 8-10 years, attempting to map out a Paul Ryan presidency in the years to come.  However, he blames President Obama for not fixing anything to his satisfaction with the above conditions and struggles which were very real in the past four years.  This is basic hypocrisy.

e)  In spite of all of these problems, President Obama's attempts have started to help create jobs and reduce unemployment.  Solindra? I reject the premise.  Of the 65 companies which benefited from the same money Solindra did (which subsequently failed), 92% are still in business and solvent.  92%.  How do you like them apples?

5)  Foreign Policy.  There has been a lot of coverage of  Ambassador Stevens, who was killed in Libya.  That is problematic, and it is a true tragedy.  My question is this:  Where was the GOP outrage and cries for administration investigations for the dozens, yes dozens of consulate employees killed abroad under G.W. Bush's administration?  The fact is because it is an election year, we are hearing the GOP attack President Obama for something which happened a lot more times while President G.W. Bush was in office.  It is of course how the GOP plays the game.  [sideline: The GOP also plays itself up to be the Military's greatest friend, but G.W. Bush routinely reduced military and veteran's benefits.  Remember, I know because I am a veteran and I get letters telling me what my benefits are  and are not on a regular basis.]  So if I don't count that, I won't allow President Obama credit for Osama Bin Ladin.  It was, after all, a national effort and he simply happened to be in the White House when it happened.  So what can I say?  President Obama restored our international integrity.  Yes, he did.  He soooooo did.  A lot of nations and people of other nations like the U.S. again because President Obama does is not an arrogant shit-heel to them.  He proves the U.S. can enforce it's foreign policy without being ass-hats.

6)  Racism.  Let's face it.  Not all Republicans are racists and  I would not even go as far to say a very large percentage of republicans are racists, but you have to admit those people who are racists in this, the 21st Century, align themselves with the Republican Party by in large (if they are not even more to the extreme right on the political spectrum) and that is simply disturbing.  It says something very powerful about the Republican party for tolerating those people to be a part of their ranks.  And let's not forget the TEA Party consists of Republicans or people who think the GOP is not doing enough for them.  Why do I bring this up?  Because of all the many signs which equated President Obama with Hitler,The Joker, and labeled him a foreign national.  We simply have not moved as far as we need to, and I am not going to let this nation stagnate if I can at all help it.

So go ahead, those of you who disagree with me.  Tell me my devotion is less or misguided simply because my politics are different.  Challenge my patriotism because I am a liberal. Tell yourself I am not educated, or I have been duped if it makes you feel better.  But if my politics frighten you so, then maybe the problem isn't with me.  It would truly be unfortunate to lose friends over this, but if that is the price for my convictions, there's the door.  Show yourself out.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Right now I am reading Jeffrey Skinner's book, The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets and I am struck by some advice he gives early on in the book. 

He states among other things:  Give Yourself Goals.  Have a plan.  I will edit a manuscript by this date

That last thing there is strange because I actually gave myself a goal to have written and be finished with a manuscript by the end of 2012.  I had given myself this deadline in order to capitalize on my energy and desire to write a manuscript detailing a lot of the stories I had heard about my home town while growing up, and many more on top of that. 

Wait.  That's not the strange part.  The strange part is that I ended up writing a book which was entirely different than the one I imagined.  My original idea was to explore the narrative poem, with small, lyric poems to be placed intermittently throughout the book.  What ended up happening is a book of lyric poetry with narrative elements in a good deal of the poems.

 As it turned out, the harder I squeezed my brain to wrap itself around the task of writing these narrative poems, the more I slipped into the groove of writing lyric poems.  I was, in effect, writing a book behind my own back.  In  the end I have a manuscript which will be ready to submit by January, 2013.  I can hardly wait to start gathering my stack of rejection slips and for that one special acceptance note.

More news soon on the publishing front, I am certain.  Trust me, it's good news.