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Zelda's Inferno exercise: considering the poet laureate

Happy new year!

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write the poem that gets you disqualified from consideration as poet laureate

"considering the poet laureate"

the state is the opposite -
the polar opposite, the antithesis, the additive inverse, the eternal opponent -
of poetry

it was the state that put Thoreau into a jail;
it was poetry that kept him free inside those walls

music art and poetry can
only free a soul
only bring us closer to
that angelic state
that bodhisattva state
where every man and woman and child and dog
knows and acts the lovingkindesswisdom way

and what need then for guns of governence?
what purpose then to the state's violent threats?

poetry steals Caesar's thunder from him
makes empty the angry threats of kings
when every person knows their gods directly
there's no place left for fear of church or state

so, no:
propaganda is not the poet's place
non servium

shooting at the stars

Been meaning to write about this for a while:

Thus have I heard:

The planet Venus is sometimes so bright
it is mistaken for the lights of an airplane

and so during WWII
anti-aircraft crews would try to shoot it down

shooting at the stars like
a drunken cowboy shooting out streetlights

shooting at the stars like
a little boy throwing stones at the top of Olympus

shooting at the stars like
a dribbling ejaculation

shooting at the stars like
pissing into the hurricane

shooting at the stars like
slandering the Buddha

shooting at the stars like
trying to blow out the sun or deny the moon's tidal pull

shooting at the stars like
trying to deny love
to deny the goddess Venus

hopeless mistaken heroism -
the wise man knows when to fight

Zelda's Inferno exercise: attempting alliteration on a seasonal subject

Tonight's Zelda's Inferno exercise: write a poem using alliteration, about this time of year (winter, holdays, new year, whatever)

wildly warm winter weekend and I am wondering
about weather
and what warming trend will wend it's way toward us
and whether we'll stop witlessly polluting the air before the waves wash cities away

and on a more personal level
about where I'll go and what I'll do on New Year's Eve, and whether I'll have a date

on "A Christmas Story"'s Jean Shepherd

Over at Slate, Donald Fagen writes about his appreciation for Jean Shepherd, known to most of us as the author of the stories upon which the classic film A Christmas Story is based. Shepherd also did the voice-over narration for the film. Fagan writes about Shepherd's career as a radio storyteller:

But long before A Christmas Story was made, Shepherd did a nightly radio broadcast on WOR out of Manhattan that enthralled a generation of alienated young people within range of the station's powerful transmitter...

In the late '50s, while Lenny Bruce was beginning his climb to holy infamy in jazz clubs on the West Coast, Shepherd's all-night monologues on WOR had already gained him an intensely loyal cult of listeners. Unlike Bruce's provocative nightclub act, which had its origins in the "schpritz" of the Catskills comics, Shepherd's improvised routines were more in the tradition of Midwestern storytellers like Mark Twain, but with a contemporary urban twist: say, Mark Twain after he'd been dating Elaine May for a year and a half. Where Bruce's antics made headlines, Shepherd, with his warm, charismatic voice and folksy style, could perform his most subversive routines with the bosses in the WOR front office and the FCC being none the wiser.

Zelda's Inferno execise December 14: creative ways to avoid our needs

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about one (or more) of the following:

creative ways to avoid our needs
postmodern patriarchy
organizational politics

This ended up a random disjointed thing, but in keping with Rule #1 of Zelda's, I have words on the page, so I win!

the creativity of excuses -
not just the ones we make to each other
but the ones we make
to ourselves

I don't really want that
Don't really need that
I'm sure those grapes were sour anyway
I don't care

So there's no feeling of loss
You can't fall out of the tree you never climbed

Religion and politics and the homogenization and commodification of culture
Excuses for not looking deeply
For not seeing
"You'll pay to know what you really think!"
'Cause you've forgotten how to do it yourself
Specialized like an insect
"Eating food that will not fill it"
Empty calories for the mind, no vitamins, no minerals, no fiber, no complex carbs
Just gooey fat and protein, a bacon double cheeseburger served in a lard fried donut
Mental pathways as clogged as the arteries of the brain that thinks them
so this is the way it ends
not with a bang or with a revolution or with an invasion
but with a stroke
Yes, a fat and bloated Uncle Sam stroked out on the toilet
Trying to crap out the constipating intestinal blockage of modern culture

Human Rights.

I get some interesting correspondence sometimes. This was sent in through the "send a story" link above. It's such unintentional poetry that I have to share. I've just altered the e-mail address to protect against spam-bots, otherwise it's unedited.

Merry Christmas to you both, also This Famous Vincent Bugliosi. Since I don't know, don't think, if I can count on The Bible to my any more of my 'chosen' business, '': a word, I'm not satisfied with, I'm contrarily happy & maybe under certain obligation to let you receive this my labor offer, i.e. for us all three & maybe someone else to start working as PIs to be, whatever may be & is our reason for it, so that I can of course tell & e.g. help us all find out & maybe a good answer to, what's our just as good future, now that God & I etc. are still through with Each Other, greetings & to be continued from Yours, faithfully, 'J.A.,', I hope The Buddhism means something to you.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "spiritual progress"

Tonight's Zelda's Inferno exercise: wordlist on the topic "spiritual progress". Write a poem using eight words from the following list: struggle *grace *knowledge *perseverance *clarity *breezes *mountains vibration blockage introspection burden relationship blindspot hoping growing sitting caring *climbing *translucent covered loose heartfelt ubiquitous

to persevere -
this is the single law

keep showing up, and then progress is made
mountains are climbed in increments of inches

so knowledge comes in drops that fill the sea

enlightenment is not an stable thing
the world becomes translucent for a glance
then resumes its weight of suffering

don't try to hold that bit of clarity
or even perfect grace becomes a burden
a ship at sail has to release its anchor
to catch the breezes that can move it on

so catch the wind when it may blow your way
and man the oars when you become becalmed

with perseverance you will cross the ocean
and arrive upon the other shore

Zelda's Inferno exercises: what mental territory, are you entering?; enriching the past

Zelda's Inferno exercise: in your journey of the mind, what country, whose territory, are you entering?

The land grows gentler. Not flat, but not the steep up and down of the mountains we traversed on the way here. Just hills that a traveller might confortably walk up and down, not scrambling for a handhold or a foothold on a rockface. Wildflowers scatter across the fields like a big box of crayons - the 64 count Crayola package, at least - kicked over by some child-fairy.

Occasionally we startle a rabbit, who usually runs and vanishes into the scattered Crayolas. Twice - or was it thrice - we walked right by a rabbit who sat on the side of the trail, nibbling its whatever-it-had-found and ignored us. Perhaps we are entering into a country where even the rabbits are unafraid.

The ground is soft here, after coming down from the mountains - not mushy or muddy but springy, easy on the feet. I feel like I cold walk forever. I pick a wildflower I don't recognize, put in in the band of my hat.

Second exercise: writing from the phrase "the historian uses his [skills] to enrich the past" (from Tom Robbin's Another Roadside Attraction)

the historian takes the moment-points
and draws a curve through them -

or at least near them

new book chapter: It's All In Your Mind

I've put up a rough draft of a new chapter for Why Buddha Touched The Earth. Here's an excerpt:

For believers in the paranormal, all these coincidences and visions and unexplained events are evidence of some sort of supernatural entities or powers. To the skeptical, they are the operation of random chance given meaning by the overeager pattern-recognition circuits of the brain, or illusions or delusions or hallucinations, malfunctions of the sensory nervous system.

From a Zen Pagan perspective, neither of these explanations is satisfactory. The true believer's approach makes claims about the objective universe that don't hold up to controlled experiment and observation. The skeptic's neurological reductionism neglects the fact that most events in the universe occur outside of laboratory controls, and ignores the person to whom the experience is happening. The subjective dimension is flattened out.

When we practice ritual, or engage in meditation, or seek otherwise to alter our consciousness, we expect to see and experience strange and unusual things. To encounter "spirits" or to have some other sort of transpersonal experience after staying up all night dancing or drumming around a bonfire, or fasting for days, or sitting unmoving in mediation for hours at a time, or ingesting strange herbs, or working yourself into a ritual frenzy, is not odd. To the practitioner, these experience are the goal of the work.

Dismissing the experience as "mere delusion" is like calling a performance of Bach fugue a "mere disturbance of air". It is technically correct, and even captures important information - understanding that disturbance of air allows for the proper acoustic design of concert halls, after all. But it misses the aesthetic dimension that makes the whole thing worthwhile.

In the same way, calling a shaman's vision a "hallucination" may be accurate, even useful in certain contexts. (If someone was going to risk their life or well-being on information that came to them in a vision, for example, it would be good to point out that such information is not a reliable guide to objective reality.) But it misses the mystical element, the deep emotional content, of the experience.

Zelda's Inferno exercise November 23: "It sounded like Satan snoring"

Tonight's Zelda's Inferno exercise: writing off of a phrase provided by another workshop participant, "It sounded like Satan snoring on a down bed as the sun rose over the hills."

It sounded like Satan snoring, a deep vibration that filled everything, set the glass and the girders shaking in sympathy, moved the floor under my back and set my vertebrae ringing like the chimes of a vibraphone. Satan snoring, sleeping in as the red sun rose over the hills of Hell, lying on a soft bed stuffed with the down of angel wings, a sound low and primal.


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