31 March 2012

X

X 3/31

Here I choose to see them as continents
that once were Pangaea

And now set to ocean themselves



This poem continues in Y.

30 March 2012

W

W 3/30

Do they drift - break the sound barrier
spin like atoms in coliders

When hands are holding each other
- gravity - friction - casing them in atmosphere

Which is a planet - and which of them is the moon -



This poem continues in X.

29 March 2012

V

V 3/29

The nailbeds

Can they be as mother-of-pearl

Can they match the ice shelves of the Arctic

Are they as perfect as a kernel of corn



This poem continues in W.

28 March 2012

U

U 3/28

Out across the fields

Imagine those fields!

The tall grasses bending to the will of nature
to the spring call to grow until winter lashes
them down in their green opulence

Can these hands - touching
now

Be that opulent ?



This poem continues in V.

27 March 2012

T

T 3/27

Rough

The ribcage is
an abandoned building

Its frame
leaning sadly

How to shake this rock
until it finds grace



This poem continues in U.

26 March 2012

S

S 3/26

We are silt

The cherry trees drip silk
and the noise of them -

breaks any sense of truth
apparent in the sidewalks

These hands are rough
against each other

Are rock



This poem continues in T.

24 March 2012

Q

Q 3/24

The eddy that is our lives - breaks
across the flatlands out Long Island
where Tesla drew his electric lighthouse

That flow - ions - positive - negative
history braking against the tide barrier
And New York doesn't have one

But still -



This poem continues in R.

23 March 2012

P

P 3/23

Let's hold hands again

Walk to the museum

Stare into history's tide



This poem continues in Q.

22 March 2012

O

O 3/22

The mind is broken

Like this planter

The pieces of clay

The lobes of the brain

Here -

This one is your motor skills



This poem continues in P.

21 March 2012

N

N 3/21

Then the season changes

Right before our eyes
the ices melt and the water rises

I think about water mills

Lifting that cold clear fluid
and raining it down as moss

That is taken
 crushed into a fine powder and

Mixed with milk

Painted on walls
it spells out what you are thinking

Right this moment



This poem continues in O.

20 March 2012

M

M 3/20

Where are those flowers coming from?

I know that they are bought and sold
in warehouses in piles in Holland

But who is that person who prunes them
weeds them and
waters the root systems until

These things are cut and wrapped
in brightly colored tissue paper

Maybe some Dutchman
some straw-haired woman

In wooden shoes with windmills.



This poem continues in N.

19 March 2012

Sellers : Celebrity In Death

Celebrity In Death
Author: J. D. Robb (Nora Roberts)
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Date: 2/21/12
400 pages

J. D. Robb is Nora Roberts. Nora Roberts has written over 200 novels and has over 400 million copies of her books in print. 124 of her books have been NY Times bestsellers. Not one of her novels has been reviewed by the NY Times.

Not one.

This is the 43rd book in the "In Death" series. The 44th will be out in September. The first was in 1995. Just look at that math for a second. She averages 2.6 books a year in this series alone. When you factor in her other series and stand-alone books this woman averages about 7 books a year.

I can't even begin to understand those numbers.

Look at the NY Times hardcover fiction list for a second. 4 of the top 5 are the latest installments in series. Some of them very long-running. The names are the ones you'd suspect as well. Jodi Picoult, James Patterson, even Stephen King and Anne Rice in there for you fans of the 80s and 90s. If you extend to the top 10, 6 books are the latest part in a series. No wonder we keep getting sequels and rehashes of old things. Clearly we like them.

What about these authors keeps people coming back. Is it purely familiarity? These being the written version of watching Two and a Half Men? Or, is it simpler than that.

I am in the middle of reading another long-running series that is no stranger to the best-seller list; Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. I won't bore you with the details, but it is a drawn out fantasy series that spans a projected 14 books at an average of 800+ pages each. Nora Roberts lands about half of that with each of her books. But Jordan didn't churn out 7 a year. He didn't even write all 14 books in 23 years. And he died before finishing.

What has kept me reading isn't that Jordan is a particularly great author. The characters are by-the-book and the plot lifted from Lord of the Rings note-for-note. The pacing is glacial and the word count gigantic. I read them because they are digestible.

Like Chicken McNuggets.

I would suspect this is why my mother reads Mary Higgins Clark books. Why my father likes 24. And why Two and a Half Men is still on the air.

Nora Roberts isn't even a new phenomena. Corín Tellado has written 4,000 novellas. R. L. Stein has taken us to Fear Street and given us Goosebumps around 400 times. Enid Blyton wrote 600+ books for children, including Noddy. Roberts isn't even close to the high water mark of Barbara Cartland's 23 novels in one year and 722 total.

Touch this skin honey, touch all of this skin.
Dame Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland, DBE, CStJ (1901-2001)
I'm not debating the merit of the work. Easily read, simple, escapist entertainments are a huge part of our lives. In some ways these are the most important part. They provide a refuge from whatever it is you need shelter from. As Roberts herself put it when discussing why she still writes shorter, paperback fiction, she "[remembers] exactly what it felt like to want to read and not have time to read 200,000 words." from her years as a young mother of two boys without much time to read.

In 2007  Time named Roberts one of their 100 Most Influential People saying she "has inspected, dissected, deconstructed, explored, explained and extolled the passions of the human heart." That year only two authors made the list, the other was David Mitchell, who has won the Man Booker Prize.

Sellers is my attempt to examine what books are topping the best-seller list and why. To talk about and understand the trends in popular writing.

L

L 3/19

When a dog
pees
on the sprouting
pale
green flowers

I think about
the cut flowers
at the bodega
wrapped in paper
for twenty dollars



This poem continues in M.

18 March 2012

K

K 3/18

The leaves of the tulips are untwisting

And that helps a bit



This poem continues in L.

17 March 2012

J

J 3/17

So what if these bagels are hard

The coffee watery

The dog watching us from the window

Is too cute to notice these things

Why should we



This poem continues in K.

16 March 2012

I

I 3/16

The dust in the corners of the window is black
soot like thin and sifted soft

The cat sniffs at it and the wind brings it around
my pillows until they are dark with it

The buildings outside shed this skin
hiding themselves behind billboards and signs

That church with the dragons along the roof
a line of people snakes down the block

They wait for the food bank to open
call out their numbers and call out their needs



This poem continues in J.

15 March 2012

H

H 3/15

The ice
Blue, green, brown

Clear like glass

They roll on their sides
basking in the cold sun

Inside the dust of the past



This poem continues in I.

14 March 2012

G

G 3/14

And the tides wrap about the boats in the harbor
the container ships that may pass
through the Panama Canal

May head east for Europe, Africa, wherever

Will they go north
moving along the lines the Titanic drew
until they reach the ice drifting in the Arctic



This poem continues in H.

13 March 2012

F

F 3/13

Then the world wakes

Cat birds news food clear sky

Here is a puddle from rain
flies are skimming the skin
of the water

The river flows out to the Atlantic

Dark and slow



This poem continues in G.

12 March 2012

Dust Jacket : You Are My Heart

You Are My Heart (2011)
Artist : Nickolas Muray (1892-1965)

I first saw this cover in September 2011 at Moby Dickens Bookshop in Taos, New Mexico. The image is striking. The gaze, the slight smile, the colors. The typography is a little off for me but overall this cover is gorgeous.


McCall's, July 1938
George Eastman House Collection

The photo was originally a McCall's cover from July 1938. It was taken by Nickolas Muray.

I am such a sucker for this Technicolor look. Over-saturated colors are painterly and luxurious. This photo is actually 'lush' in the same way as film. Below is the trailer for An American In Paris for comparison.

Looking at Muray's work, I am aware that my entire framing of the 40s is based on his work. This look.


Muray's work is romantic. The photos look like paintings. Everything is perfect, lighting, color, tone. Looking at these and then turning to modern photography you realize that in our world of photoshop, etc. it feels like we may have lost some of the artistry. I know that there are in camera, developing, and printing tricks, but that photo had to be on point.

I am reminded of the Dutch masters.
Girl With a Pearl Earring (1665)

Black and white cinematography.
Metropolis 1927

Muray was born in 1892 in Hungary and by 1920 had a studio in Greenwich Village. By 1921 he was getting regular commissions from Haper's Bazaar.

By 1931 he had started a 10-year affair with Frida Kahlo. This led to a series of portraits of the artist and what many consider his best work. The affair would end in 1941 when Muray married his fourth wife Peggy.

After the market crash Muray would go on to pioneer many of the conventions of modern commercial photography and advertising. He is considered a master of the 3-color carbon process and just looking at his work you can see it echo in every ad you see today.

Muray competed in the Olympics in 1928 and 1932 in sabre fencing. He died from a heart attack while practicing at the New York Athletic Club in 1965 at the age of 72.


Dust Jacket is a sometime article about the design and artwork of book covers. The idea is to shine a spotlight on the work of the designer separated from the work of the author. It is literally judging a book by its cover.

E

E 3/12

Hands

This is one body

Tickling another



This poem continues in F.

11 March 2012

D

D 3/11

Under the water of the blankets
the two figures twist seaweed
in the night

They break the surface
laughing like children



This poem continues in E.

10 March 2012

C

C 3/10

Toe
just over the line of the blanket

Into the ice
cold air of morning

Feel that cocoon of night
evaporating

The moon
dips below the surface of the world



This poem continues in D.

09 March 2012

B

B 3/9

The expanding

Is night

Blanket over your eyes

Ripped quickly

Eyes become the full moon



This poem continues in C.

08 March 2012

A

A 3/8

Here is the line
in some imaginary sand

You are the foot
across that line

Toe dipped in
the shallow end of a great pool

That expands
in all directions at once



This poem continues in B.

06 March 2012

Załuski Library

Załuski Library 3/7

How much can a set of shelves take

Lean against the wall and hold this history
take the Czar the Nazis the uprising

And press on the joints until the wall creaks

The screws strain and the drywall
pulls on its perfect studs

The smell of old paper is vanilla

Volatile organic compounds leaping
as pages turn causing the age to give itself

The smell of burning paper is endless dark

Library of Congress











Library of Congress 3/6

August is a warm month in Washington
and they walked down Pennsylvania Avenue
burning everything public in their path

The young Library and its 3000 volumes
the unfinished capitol building
Madison's White House

Dolley and the slaves pulling paintings
from the walls and hiding silver
in her dresses

05 March 2012

Sellers : 11/22/63

11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner 11/8/11
849 pages

I've always had a spot on my shelf for King's work. Say what you want about his books, they are entertaining good reads. I always place him in the same category as Philip K. Dick. A sort of pulp writer who manages to insert depth and artistry into the genre.

When King won the National Book Awards Lifetime Achievement in 2003 Harold Bloom, that bastion of ivory towerism, had this to say:

[the decision is] another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life...What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis.

My reaction to Harold Bloom.
Book-by-book I find King to masterfully change his style and genre. He is not only a horror, sci fi, or thriller writer. He can jump from Carrie to the Dark Tower books to this new book 11/22/63 with an ease that few writers manage convincingly.

The alternate history novel is not a new thing. It has been done to death. The earliest example is Livy's Ab Urbe Condita which was written between 27 and 25 BC. It examines an alternate 4th century BC where Alexander the Great expanded his empire westward and meet Rome.

Two of my personal favorites are The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick and The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Both are about alternate WWII outcomes. The 'Nazis win the war' plot is one that is revisited often. It pops up in books by Stephen Fry, Robert Harris and even Newt Gingrich. One of the best episodes of the original Star Trek (The City on the Edge of Forever) follows this plot and brings in Joan Collins to guest star.

Star Trek has used the alternate time line story numerous times. They have gone so far as to detail an alternate history for their 'mirror' universe in the shows. Fringe, Sliders, and Quantum Leap are both shows that used the changing of history to drive the premise of the show. Dallas famously revealed a whole season to 'be a dream'.


While I find this sort of thing can be very annoying on TV shows. A book can make this trope interesting, fun. In the best examples they allow you to appreciate historical events and the impacts they have in a new light. At worst, you enjoy the ride. It certainly can be a cop out. As a writer, how can I get to play with ready-made characters and situations but divorce them from reality and my need to research? Alternate history!

That isn't to say that people like Philip Roth don't have things to say when they write The Plot Against America. I think they do. And important things can be said with TV as well. Despite Harold Bloom's naysaying I think King has a point with this book.

Sellers is my attempt to examine what books are topping the best-seller list and why. To talk about and understand the trends in popular writing.

House of Wisdom


House of Wisdom 3/5

Books used as stones to build a bridge
The Tigris runs black with the ink

The death of 1,000,000
sacked and burned, Baghdad in ruin

No one would return for centuries

04 March 2012

Imperial Library of Constantinople

Imperial Library of Constantinople 3/4

Last of the great li-
-braries. Savior of Greek. Burned
in the Fourth Crusade.

03 March 2012

Nalanda










Nalanda 3/3

Three months ago
they set it alight

Burning books still
turn the night orange
like a monkey fruit

All those words
must scream

02 March 2012

Library of Alexandria


















Library of Alexandria 3/2

Destroyed in
48 BC
or in
275 AD
or in
391 AD
or in
642 AD

Once by Caesar
Once by Aurelian
Once by Theodosius
Once by Amr ibn al `Aas

Maybe

The greatest house
of words

Lacks precision
in this regard.

01 March 2012

The Late Post

The Late Post 3/1

I will admit
to sleeping in

In fact
I was in bed til noon

Having spent
the night

On a spaceship
with Carl Sagan.