The New Zealand Academy of Literature

aotearoa-200x300This week New Zealand revealed its first Academy of New Zealand Literature, and I really have to say that it is incredibly wonderful me to be included in the first 100 Members.  I left New Zealand young, only to return and to return in childhood and then as an adult for several years at different times — a country whose landscape and peoples arouse something in me so deep and mysterious — the both decimating and delirious power of the landscape, its intense relationship to the oceans around it, its cliffs and craters and hot pools of iridescent blue — a country one of the most isolated in the world, and hence with a purity and beauty all of its own. I cannot do it justice in a five minute blog post, but I am very proud this week and for all the future.  I studied New Zealand Literature at 21 for my Columbia BA and was a news reporter on the Wellington newspaper writing at 17 and 18 and also 21.  My MA was from New Zealand, in 2003, and my second novel Miss Me A Lot Of, published there.  Many many other things to say, and of course of ancestors — but I have to go and drink champagne and walk the beach of Lake Ontario to enjoy my good fortune. Thanks to the writers there who made this happen, in front of and behind the screen. Especially Paula Morris and Fiona Kidman and Vincent O Sullivan, Eleanor Catton.

Here is the link to the Academy.

And here is a link to my particular page.

New Zealand Or in Maori aotearoa — Land of the Long White Cloud

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One characteristic thing

sherbet1“It is a conceit so simple and ingenious that you wish you had thought of it yourself: 52 men — a few boys, many man-boys; 52 short fictional vignettes that evoke them.

“Memory has a way of reducing people to their essence, like a piece of sea glass honed to a bright, beautiful nub. This is, needless to say, a process that’s useful to a writer. “It seems to me,” says Carter, an introspective, sensitive 16-year-old who later commits suicide, “that sometimes people, especially girls […] have one beautiful little gesture they make, one characteristic thing.” For Leonard, the statement is something like a literary ethos.

“In interviews, Leonard has been transparent about the fact that she’s writing from experience (“Every story is a man and a memory that lives with me all the time”), and my guess is the names, while providing a thrilling little frisson, are also nonfictional stakes tethering the stories to the real world.

“They feel truthful, in part because, for all their weird specificity, they’re almost eerily universal…We all have such stories, and many of us have a deep and insistent urge to tell them. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion wrote, in one of her most frequently quoted (and misunderstood) lines.”

Amanda Fortini on 52 Men in the LARB SPring 2016 and online: Why Can’t You Be Sweet

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Why Can’t You Be Sweet?

Amanda-Fortini-e1347325060720Such immense gratitude and thanks for this incredibly thoughtful, deep and sensitive essay/review of 52 Men by Amanda Fortini in the Los Angeles Review of Books:  Why Can’t You Be Sweet? 

Some excerpts casually laid out for you here:

“A book “that still feels a tad revolutionary, even in 2016… when women write about their erotic adventures the tales have a different resonance and cultural impact than those written by men…

“52 Men suggests that our identity is at least in part a product of our romantic past, and that the particulars we choose to depict that past are significant, comprising a kind of personal psychobiography…

“Leonard’s focus is zoom-lens tight: she describes the various men, zeroing in on what they said and did -— and how she responded — in a pivotal moment.

“She suffered a grievous early trauma… and she’s wounded. Yet she’s also slyly, coolly observant and has transformed her experiences into art… We know her, ultimately, through the book she has written. The narrative specifics she selects to describe the men are hers, as is the deadpan humor; all of it arises from her artistic consciousness.

“Although in style and tone 52 Men differs from either Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights or Renata Adler’s Speedboat, it is, like both of these books, a novel of impressions unified by the author’s sensibility.”

Selections from the essay  Why Can’t You Be Sweet by New Yorker/New York Times/Rolling Stone writer Amanda Fortini in the Los Angeles Review of Books

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Older Men, Loving and Leaving Them

So I went to AWP in L.A. last week — the mega conference and book fair. And it was interesting, because I noticed something about myself  — and what I noticed pleased me, because it meant, friends, that I had changed, that I was not the girl I used to be. And though some might think this a shame, I found it a relief and quite pleasant.

I spent much of my youth, see, entertaining and being entertained by older men. And some of these men were great, and still are. But some of them — not so much. In fact, some of them, in a few vital cases, let’s admit, let me down.

Or is that they way to put it? Maybe not. Maybe it was more that they didn’t choose to do something for me, as a friend, when they could have, when I asked them, when it would have made a difference. And at the time — or times — I accepted this, and continued on with them, but I was not so much hurt as sort of baffled and taken aback. Because why would a friend not help another friend, particularly a younger friend who could benefit so? Honestly,  I didn’t know.

And there they were, at AWP, these few older male friends who I hadn’t seen in person in years, and who in the past I used to go back to even if they hurt me because  back then I had this compulsion see — stay with me — to please these older men, to win them over.

But I also learned, over time, that there is such a thing as generosity, and that some people are just more generous of spirit than others. And those are the people who give to you not because they owe you, or you owe them — but because they can give.

So I spotted one of the older men in the lobby of the Hotel Marriott, and another signing books at his VIP table. And whereas once, I would have approached to say hello, and smile and chat a while, this time I didn’t. This time, I stayed in my seat, I walked on by.

You only get so many chances to be generous in life, and he who goes back to the empty hand is a fool. I am not a fool now..

And by moving on this time, by the way, I came across a whole bunch of other people, such as Toni Neale (essays out this week in The Miles Between Me) and Sean Bernard — handsome young writer of Studies in the Hereafter — and the famed wild and eccentric Mr Richard Peabody – all of whom gave to me freely, and openly, and without fear — and who knows if I would have met them if I’d been hanging around trying to please those who couldn’t quite be bothered….

Cheers to the wise mind, and to smartening up and to being there “when the right one comes along.” Below:  Me and Mr P who also published me in Gargoyle 64 this year — thank you.
me and Richard

 

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Steve and me, from Flash Frontier in NZ

 This piece, Steve, is from the new issue of Flash Frontier, An Adventure in Flash Fiction. They also run a quite a long interview with me about 52 Men:  Here.  Maybe I’ll write some more about that in the next few days — will have to check if I am ‘quotable.’  lol Meanwhile: to Steve Raea, reporter friend of my youth: 

#53: Steve

I work with Steve, at The Dominion. We are both reporters. He lives on Mount Vic, and other times with hiSteve Rae on bikes girlfriend Diane. She is much older, over thirty. Things happen, Steve says.

We take his motorbike around the bays. The day is blue and cool and the light gold. We stop at my grandfather’s house in Lyall Bay. We lie in my room, and drink wine, and fool around. We go out to Red Rocks, and drink scotch, where the great seals loll. We head out at midnight around the rocky hills along the ocean curves to Makara. We do this so fast, and so drunk, I think it might kill us.

Back on Mount Vic, in his single room above the harbor, he plays me Simply Red: If You Don’t Know Me By Now… You Will Never Never Never Know Me. He plays me “Tiny Dancer” from the 70s by Elton John. Tiny Dancer, he says, is the name he will give his boat. When he gets his boat, which he plans to do soon, and sail away. I start to cry, at the thought of this. Steve cups my head in his hand. “You’re so intense,” he says. “What do you think,” Steve asks, “is the value of that?”

Then he tells me he louiseonbikehas something to say, something he realized when he saw my name in the newspaper. His father, he says, is not his biological father, but his stepfather. His biological father, Steve says, raising a scotch to me in his dim lit room above the dark harbor, “is your grandfather’s brother.” My grandfather? I ask. “Apparently.” My grandfather has more brothers than I have ever met. I pause. “So, we’re related?” I ask. Steve laughs. Steve clinks his glass to my glass. Steve reaches for the baby oil, to rub down my naked body. “I’ve been thinking, Steve says, “that I might change my name to your name.”

Soon, I take him to meet my grandfather. My grandfather takes him to meet his biological father. Diane buys him a new car and he moves in with her in Thorndon. Then he leaves the car in the garage and takes off to Tonga. He does not change his name. He buys a boat he calls Dancer and writes letters from the sea.

 

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Exile: One Year In

ElaineThis one goes out to my ex Charlie Smith of the new novel Ginny Gall

Remember the scene in The Graduate when Ben stands in the church above Elaine’s wedding tapping and calling out her name and her entire family stands around scowling and seething at him, something which Elaine sees and which spurs her decision to run away from them all?

Our desire to think ourselves loved by our families (and hence not fundamentally alone) has made a million psychiatrists rich, and a million lay people busy with the task of rearranging the truth and living in illusions so they can bear reality. But what happens when others come to you and tell you how others really perceive you, what they have been saying about you for years, in your presence and even absence — when all the well-meaning guides of your life have repeated, decade after decade, for thirty years, that your family is a danger to you? What then? What when you finally do believe them? When you finally face the truth and respect yourself enough to break away?

It’s freeing, of course, the moment of realization. It allows you to look elsewhere for your bond to life.  Such as, did you know, they think now that the cells of a fetus remain in its mother’s body all of her life (and beyond)? And did you know that if the universe is nothing but matter rearranging itself, death has no meaning?  And that your life does not have to be a struggle to be loved? It is only a matter of being with those who do love you?

So complex, human nature, and the lies we tell ourselves. I was watching the new film about the psychologist who performed the Obedience experiments in the sixties, and though it was shocking and disheartening, to discover that some 65 percent of people will obey orders to physically harm another if they believe they ‘should’,  that still leaves 35 percent who will break away, who will protest, who will endure the ignomy of not being obedient and accepted.  Are you one of the 35 percent?  If so, come to me.

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This Kind of Loneliness

“She was so lonely,” I read in a book once, that “she grew away from other people.”  It could have been Milan Kundera. Or perhaps Sherwood Anderson. I was 21 and living at my grandfather’s house in Lyall Bay, New Zealand.  I had fled my life in New York City — in love, strung out, abandoned and abandoning —  and the emptiness inside me felt as vast as the ocean at the end of my grandfather’s street.

iceballsYears later, when this kind of loneliness returned, I was 37, and again — after sixteen years — returned to my grandfather’s house.  At that point, my loneliness was so great, I couldn’t even speak to people. Stepping into a store was painful. Speaking to a cab driver or a library clerk was fractious. Being met by “how are you?” or “can I help you?” when the sound of these words was unbearable.

What cures it, this kind of loneliness?  Most of us think it is other people — the love of other people.  But first, to be loved by other people, one must be able to tolerate them, to tolerate their closeness.

I  think of this fairytale I liked as a child in which the earth opens up to reveal a whole new world in which a prince’s people are preparing for his wedding.

That’s what loneliness is — the vision of an abyss, of another world we have no part of — the awareness that one might be passing through life with no tether or meaning at all.

My solution to this — to the great loneliness?  To tether myself.  To walk the lake.  To breathe the oxygen from the trees. To  watch the ice balls float in the January  lake.

Corniness — I was raised to hate it.  But nothing is so different between us and the earth, birds, balls of ice.  One cannot be lonely when one has experienced this.

 

 

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Will you please be quiet please: Me and Mr Merton

NYGE1-Minh-vow_400 x 292Down at the monastery, resting my brain, I ran into Brother Isaac who is also the poet John Slater, and we basically blew up the silence rule by discussing   erasure poems, 52 Men, Raymond Carver, Carolyn Forche, and Slater’s book of poems Surpassing Pleasure  for two hours non-stop in a room off the abbey.

Later,  I was listening to a talk by Father John Eudes, who had been Abbot for some 30 years, and a monk for 66. “Suddenly, at at any moment,” Eudes was saying, “you will be facing death. Your  bodies are chemicals, 97 percent hydrogen and so on, and you will dissolve.”

Most people, he said, especially those with a higher education, had no idea of what more there might be.  He looked around, lowered his eyes, lifted them up again. I mean, he asked, “How can people be so dull?

A little later, out in bookstore by the Monks Bread Ship, I realized that Eudes was actually Father Eudes Bamberger — author of the book Thomas Merton : Prophet of Rewewal — that Eudes had known Merton for 18 years and screened applicants to the Abbey with him.

Imagine, I thought,  that John Eude’s hands had touched Merton’s. And not only that, but that Merton — Eudes told me — had written so much at the monastery he had exhausted both of his secretaries who came to Eudes privately and said, Please, could you get this guy to slow down a bit, Please?

Merton died in 1968, electrocuted by a fan when stepping out of a bath in Thailand. He was 53. Father Eudes was  the American who identified his body when it was flown back in to the States.

It’s all so fantastic, what you discover when you set out to rest the brain. As Brother Isaac writes in Surpassing, all of which poems I tried to read down  in a great rush down there at the Abbey of Genesee:

 

… here in the green world between

eternal fields of light

there is time

there is ample, empty, time

to acknowledge

all that is passing….

 

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NEVER Ever Ever Getting Back Together

scandjp2Here is a piece of mine published on ThoughtCatalog a few days ago:

Nine ways to break up and NOT be Friends.

My favorite way is probably the first way — to come home from a business trip to London and leave out a beautiful jewelry box — for someone else.

And yes, it was done to me — though I never confronted the man. I can still see the finely wrapped little box, its Liberty-like pattern of orange and black, its shimmery ribbon, his satisfaction as we both gazed at it on his mantel in Brooklyn Heights — and his then sudden turning away from it and reaching into his bag for my present — some English chocolate bars he’d bought at the airport.

What to say? We had been on a “break.” Not for long though…

Most of the break up ideas in this Thought Catalog piece are for men to use on their girlfriends.  A few days ago, however, my retired friend Jackie asked why there weren’t ideas for women to use on their boyfriends? It’s a good point, and I am working on that.

Please check up my piece,  should you feel so inclined.

Many thanks.

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All Gravy, From Now On: The James Jones First Novel Award

James JOnes winners

 

You know what’s better than being a winner? Than being a winner who gets up on stage and collects a prize for Best First Novel and a check in the thousands of dollars, and the feeling that Yes, from here on in it’s All Gravy for Me?

Being a past winner: being a past winner with a bunch of other past winners, as above two days ago, at Wilkes University in PA with six winners of the annual James Jones First Novel Award, founded by Jones’ daughter, novelist and writer Kaylie Jones.

And why is it better? Because when you win, — let’s face it — you are younger than you are now, and when you are young and you have worked hard, and been praised, and been fortunate, you think — let’s admit it — you think somewhat, well, Yes, Of course! I deserve it! You  you think you have been recognized — (for what you already were); you think this selection of you is a result of you and your oft praised ability and your hard work.

But some years after the win, as all of us in the photo above are, you realize that you were lucky.  That every writer around you has worked and struggled and despaired and doubted themselves.  That writers “as good as” or more “brilliant” than you are born every day.

At the same time, charming new James Jones winner Cam Terwillinger  writes in this piece that after taking a trip abroad recently, in an effort to expand himself and be different — and then discovering himself abroad with hundreds of other people his age striving in exactly the same way to be different — that he no longer believes he is “original,” and that there is no such thing as the original self:

After meeting all these folks, you have to realize that no matter what you do or where you go you will never be truly unique. It’s liberating in a way to realize that originality is a myth.

With this, I strongly disagree.  We are all original — and good writers most of all. To be a good writer, one must turn oneself inside out; one must become an Inimitable Self. No writer is any good until he/she discovers his/her original self.

But two, ten or in my case 16 years after being chosen out of some 600 manuscripts as the “best,” you realize that luck was shining on you all the time: that you, too, are the gifted one that understands as the poet Louise Gluck understands:

The darkness lifts, imagine, in your lifetime..  Everywhere you turn is luck….

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Have any of your 52 men been in contact since the book appeared?

GuyHere is Guy Somerset, left, reading his launch speech for my second little novel in New Zealand: such “scrotum-tightening insights into the hollowness of male desire,” Guy said — ever heard a better blurb? Not for one of my books you haven’t.

Guy once kindly picked, in his newspaper column on books, my American published and freighted to New Zealand (and therefore for sale for some exorbitant $33) first book Since You Ask as his discovery of the year!  Discovery of the year! It was awesome. I have seldom been so happy.

Then, most kindly, he started assigning me book reviews for the magazine for which he was then Books and Culture editor: The Listener. Even when I was overwhelmed in my personal life (no, really, you ask?) Guy patiently let me rewrite, waiting for me to get a proper thread to pull my book reviews together. Then he’d send me another book to review.  It’s called cutting someone some slack. And you know, I appreciate that. I really do.

Below is his interview with me about 52 Men for the New Zealand Arts Festival.  Thanks Guy, for thinking of me, and asking the hard questions:

Fifty­-two – that’s a lot of men. Were you surprised how many there were when you totted them up?

Read the interview here: Five Questions for Louise Wareham Leonard

 

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An Interview with me, by Caroline Leavitt !!!

LouiseAtVSWlgWhy it took me so long to start writing; how no one will stop me now… On the vitriol of  social media, and a note to the 52 Men, in particular… was I even available?

Pic by Paul Dodd of Popwars. Interview here:  Down the Rabbit Hole of Relationships: Caroline Leavitt interviews moi. 

 

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How to Date a Writer — in the Rumpus this week

shakespeare_1758033bFUNNY WOMEN #132: HOW TO DATE A WRITER

Friends, this piece of mine is in The Rumpus this week:

http://therumpus.net/2015/09/funny-women-132-how-to-date-a-writer/

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What Girls Like: the publisher on the 52

LouiseWareham_AuthorPortrait_TeriFiske65
Some men are already angry about it.  Angry because this character dates men and throws them away.  Women are supposed to long for comfort, to weep, to wish, to pine, to wait by the phone.  Our girl sallies off to the next date. She washes her hair and starts all over again.  She will survive.  She’s energetic. She’s sassy. She’s on to the next one.  She dates Jonathan Franzen, Michael Stipes, Lou Reed.  She’s unstoppable, somewhat unstable, but dishy and cool.  Lots of men don’t like smart; they like sweet. They don’t like a witty roil and tumble as much as fumble with their trousers in the dark.  And speaking of the dark, this girl comes across as both brilliant and wounded and that might scare men too.  Women will love this book; it’s already a buzz.  Women like other women with power in their fingertips.  In the author photo, Louise Wareham wears boots. And boots as we know, are made for walking.

Kate Gale, Red Hen Publisher:  https://kategale.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/new-book-coming-out-with-red-hen-called-52-men-by-louise-wareham/

 

 

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Richard, Sergio and a boxer who reads Neruda at the Turkish Baths

52Men on Tin House BlogUpdating from yesterday, with the screenshot:  Three Men, an excerpt on the Tin House Blog here. 

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Crazy Times, Good Times, S-e-x-y times

And today, fr52Men_RedNameom TIN HOUSE, three of my personal favorites

(because yes, they’re S-E-X-Y….)  Please click  Here.  

Richard “the deadhead”

Sergio with his euphemisms for Sex

Tony the boxer & The Turkish Baths

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52 Men: the trailer; Carter Cooper, age 23

And now the trailer, with pix of the anonymous few, whom you must read about in order to identify… Unless, perhaps, you recognize Carter Cooper, who died on this day July 22, 1987 aged 23.

Maybe, he says, we could take the train out to Montauk. Or
we could go to Vermont and find his brother. We are not city
people, are we? Whenever he thinks of me, he says, he thinks
of the ocean.

First exclusive excerpts from 52 Men, on view today at The Rumpus AND The Fiction Advocate. 

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A Pyrrhic victory – the awful grace of God

6874408-M

Yes, he has won, but his victory is soiled and has no pride.  Why is it that the Greek playwrights of three thousand years ago can rip your heart to shreds? Or should the question be, how do they do it?

I knew a long long time ago that I was not a Shelley or Wordsworth kind of’ ‘girl.’ I mean, I liked them and all — I walked Wordsworth’s Lake District, and visited Dove Cottage. and Shakespeare’s thatched shack on Stratford-Upon-Avon.

But all of it paled beside the Greek playwrights, besides Euripides:  And shall not Loveliness Last Forever. Besides Sophocles: He has won, but his victory is soiled and has no pride.  Also, there was the Roman Catullus: I love and I hate and I know not which, and the pain is crucifixion.

Tomorrow — or at least soon, I am going to unearth these brief writings that had such an eviscerating, enlivening affect on me and I am going to Amaze you with them:

Aristophanes:

And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God

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Trump Threatens to Sue My Ass, a little story

Trump 86I am here to report, on this most excellent day when Trump has been “fired’ by NBC for racist comments, that I had a little conversation of my own with Trump once.

It was on the phone. I was twenty and an intern reporter at TIME.  Trump was being sued by a hotel chain.  I had to call Trump, and ask him about it, and straight away he started calling me  “Babe.” It was “Babe” this and  “Babe” that.   His voice was gold — a veritable sunbath —  as if we were close, even intimate. 

Then I read him one of the allegations against him, which I had in the affadavit.

You should have felt it. The change in atmosphere — even on the phone — when a man such as he drops his charm.

“You Print That,” Trump told me  (and it sounded to me like “You print that Bitch”)  “and I’ll Sue You.”

I wish I could say it was the only time I’ve  heard a man turn on a dime. I wish I’d learned my lesson, right then.

These men — these charming powerful men of a certain kind – how many times must they reveal themselves before we finally dump them?  Keep trying, I say. Keep trying till it Takes.

 

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Slip Away

streethassle_alb-streethassle (2)SO your girlfriend left you. Or your parents moved country, without telling you, thinking it would be some kind of Gest.

And they’re gone. And you wonder, Why Am I Here? In this speck of land, in this County, in this Country? And you look around.  You walk the street. You examine the tree, which, while you were not noticing, has turned green.

And this is how it is, in eternity.  Just you. You looking around. You waiting for the next thing. And you kind of like it.

Street Hassle: (Lou Reed)

O babe I’m on fire and you know that I admire your body.   Why don’t we slip away…

Although I’m sure you’re certain, it’s a rarity me flirting this way..

Hey babe.. come on let’s slip away….

Just like when you were fourteen and fifteen, alone in your room at one a.m. leaning out the window smoking a cigarette and realizing this is it. Moon in your hemisphere. Nowhere much else to go.   Hey that c*nts not breathing… I think she’s had too much or something or other I mean you know what I mean?…. 

 

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Weird Fucks and 7th Heaven: Patti Smith and Lynne Tillman

Weird_Fucks-HeroAlt-960x540 PattiSmithseventhheaven

Always I have been a fan of little things. I had a wagon as a child, a little red one, and used to drag it around the garden and to houses checking if anyone had any “little things” to spare.  I favored tiny objects: a plastic monkey from Barrel of Monkeys, a ceramic owl, a broken tiny figurine, a fancy shaped rock.

My passion for small things extended to books. Even now, my faves are  03, (74 tiny pages), Briar Rose by Coover, (86) Theseus by Gide (51). And I’d rather have ten pages of Aristophanes  than 100,000 of old English verse.

As a teenager, one  of my favorite discoveries was Seventh Heaven by Patti Smith: 47 pages, in a tiny little white paperback, and with the following poem, in its entirety, about Marianne Faithfull:

I was born in Hampstead. My mother wasn’t

screaming so they didn’t believe she was in

labor. Later I went to convent school. Later

I rode in leather. Later I took some sleeping

pills. I needed to lose

Jane Eyre is tiny, too, at least my 1932 edition is. So is Smith of Wooton Major.  Could it be that small terrors must be contained in small spaces? That striving to fit all we can into into a tiny box or space or form or page, is a way to control that emotion, that experience, that pain.   Lynne Tillman, having recently received my 52 Men galley kindly sent me her little book, above, the 58-page  Weird Fucks.  And it’s all there: the intensity, the glee, the intelligence, the pain and the loss and the making of her, we, us.

 

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Book of the Week: “03” on a streetcorner

“From the bus stop across the street it was hard to tell, but suddenly I understood, seeing the passengers in the van that collected her every morning, that she was slightly retarded.

Once you knew, it was easy to make sense of her thin adolescent frame, her black hair spiking up on her little head as though she were enduring some slow, endless horror, her eyes, like that of a heroine in a Japanese cartoon forced open onto the real world, eyes so round and so opaque that if they’d focused on me, I might almost have picked them up like two black marbles rolling in the gutter at my feet.”

Ask not why this book drives me to distraction with it weird lust and frustration, its setting a bus-stop, its lyrics from Joy Division, its childhood specious and a lie.

“… and I weighed up the pros and cons, what tied me to life like a blood oath, what left me cold, or tired me out; and when the noise grew sharper, more grating, and when the headlights from the first bend in the road began to cut out the sides of the buildings and project a slow revolving shadow dance on the wall, I always came back to the same conclusion  — that I felt something stir inside me, as hazy and phony as a childhood memory, as insistent as a hit song you’d heard so often you couldn’t get its bitterness out of your head, something that promised me a better future, only somewhere else….”

84 tiny pages  Valtat

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Hello Darkness Goodbye Franz

franzSo I was upset when Franz Wright died last week. He is, as one obituary said, a “beloved poet” to many, including me. The first poems of his I read, twenty years ago now, took me by the throat and shook me.  Talk about a man who has lived. He spoke to darkness and to grief and to anger and to life — and he also, later, spoke to God.

I’d been watching him on Facebook for the past year or so. He had lung cancer, and was ill from opiates and withdrawal, and kept posting grueling videos of himself looking strung out and desperate, reading his poems right into the screen in a voice so low and ragged I could barely make out the words.

I checked with some people to see if he was ‘all right’ and they said he was, as such things went.

But he was asking, still on Facebook —  if he could give readings somewhere –this a Pulitzer Prize winner — for $5,000 a university visit.  I don’t know if anyone took him up on this and now he is gone.

It makes me so angry that a man such as he could die struggling in this culture — the same culture that gives a $2 million advance to a billionaire’s daughter for her vapid badly written ‘novels’ (yeah, I went to school with her.) I live in horror and dismay at the rise of the one percent in this country.

Then there is Franz Wright’s father James, who was also a Pulitzer Prize Winner in Poetry.  You know what he said to Franz, when he read his first poem?  “Well, it looks like you’re a poet. Welcome to Hell.”

God Bless Franz and all those who fight the good fight. We need you. I need you. I love you.

Thank you for plumbing the depths and writing for me.  Below, the very first poem of his I ever read, decades ago cut out of The New Yorker: The Comedian. 11066135_10152809487282761_3063216015030491497_n

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