August 31, 2006

In the beginning there was nothing
but it was kind of fun watching nothing grow

Angelo Filomeno, Spring Shower, 2005

* the rude pundit on New Orleans. excerpt:

"Sheriff Jack Stephens of St. Bernard Parish probably spoke for most of America when he said this morning on CNN, 'We feel like we've been let down again. That we think that Mobile, Alabama, Gulfport, Mississippi, Biloxi, Long Beach, Waveland, Ocean Spring, Slidell, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, New Orleans, Calcasieu, Cameron are all worth more than Baghdad.'

"Just like every visit to the Gulf Coast by President Bush stinks of flop sweat and desperation, of trying to overcompensate for his aloofness and absence early in the crisis, every year that passes after this one may have feints at making things better, but, like all those feckless visits, very little of worth will occur. Besides, inevitably, the next disaster will come along, perhaps the next war, and that initial momentum will be a distant memory as we try to learn to care about someplace else.

"No, today's episode of bloggery is not a funny little monkey post. It's not even particularly insightful or rude. It's just sad. Because New Orleans is gone, man, gone, as are so many little towns around it. It's gone because of the bureaucratic nightmare and rank incompetence on every level of government, because of the war-tightened/tax-slashed purse strings of the federal government, because of groups of people in New Orleans who are clinging to a hope of renewal that won't come and are preventing progress even at the edge of a bulldozer, because no one wants to build on what's still there, because there is no genuine will in a government that sees private enterprise and charity as the leaders in rebuilding, entities that are, for the most part, unaccountable to anyone.

"The anniversary is done. In the coming year, for New Orleans, more people will move away; opportunists, good and bad, will move in; those who can afford the contractors whose prices have skyrocketed past what meager insurance and federal assistance has offered will rebuild homes so that the best blocks will be checkerboard neighborhoods; crime will rise; the poor will be told to be happy in their trailers; water and electricity will still be unavailable to many places. At some point, someone in the EPA will admit that, yes, the ground, the water are contaminated.

"None of these predictions is awfully daring. They're pretty mundane. But they're nauseatingly probable. If you've ever experienced the steady glare of the Louisiana sun, you know that despair is just a sweat drop's distance from hopelessness."

* From an interview of Kenneth Koch. excerpt:

Interviewer: Do you have any words of caution or wisdom for our poet readers?

Koch: I think that the way that one becomes a good poet or a better poet, I suppose, one starts off with certain amount of talent for language and a certain amount of energy and a certain amount of crazy determination. But the way to develop them is to read a lot of poetry and be influenced by it. And to write a lot of poetry, to let yourself be influenced and become fearless in the way you write.

Extremely valuable for me, perhaps the most valuable in the whole career part of my life, was having friends like John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara, whom I was envious of and inspired by. It was absolutely wonderful, because it's all very well to be the poet in the little place where nobody else is a poet, and everybody says, 'Oh isn't that wonderful? You're a poet.' But it doesn't really inspire you; it doesn't make you nervous enough to try for more things. Whereas Frank and John and I were always showing each other our poems. Every evening, we'd see each other and pull poems out of our pockets, and it was unnerving and inspiring.

* How to Get Free Books, CDs, and Movies from Focus on the Family—Thereby Taking Money out of the Pockets of Anti-Gay Bigots—in 12 Easy Steps.


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