Archive | September, 2013

Banned Books Week

27 Sep

Phew. One day left.

I missed it last year but this year, I got in just under the wire. You remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?

Yeah. Banned Books Week = hat.

So here’s my favorite of all favorite banned books: The Catcher in the Rye which has been banned about a bajillion times.

What makes [Catcher in the Rye] especially interesting,” the BBC observed in 2003, “is that it has been banned in many countries at one time or another and still remains on the banned list in areas of the USA. As well as containing ‘vulgar and obscene language’, drunkenness, prostitution, delinquency and references to sex it has also been accused of being: ‘anti-white’ (1963 – Columbus, Ohio), being part of a ‘communist plot to gain a foothold in schools’ (1978 – Issaquah, Washington). . . .

-Daniel Jack Chasen, “Why J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye still provokes book bans”

And look what I found:

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Nice, huh? That’s from the 5 Criminal Mugshots of Characters from Banned Books which you can see here.

So here are some favorites and why they were banned:

1. Autobiography of Malcom X – “how-to-manual” for crime and “anti-white statements”

2. Call of the Wild – “too radical”

3. For Whom The Bell Tolls – “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state”

4.  Grapes of Wrath – profanity (goddamn) and “spreading propaganda”

5. Great Gatsby – “sex”

6. Howl – “homosexual sex”

7. Invisible Man – “marxism”

8.  To Kill A Mockingbird – “promoted white supremacy.”

9. Our Bodies Ourselves – “promotes homosexuality” and the use of the word “vagina” (I kid you not)

10. In the Night Kitchen – “baby boy’s penis.” (again, not kidding)

Penises and Vaginas. They’ll get you banned every time.

Happy Banned Books. It’s always fun to see how ignorant we can be!

Happy Birthday, Jim

24 Sep

“I believe that we form our own lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best.”

                                                                                                                                                                          – Jim Henson




Happy Birthday Jim. You’re still missed.

Water is Patient at Mad Swirl

24 Sep

Just a quick thank you to Mad Swirl for picking up this poem Water is Patient.

And yes, if you think I got the idea from Doctor Who, you couldn’t be more right.

Though at the time it was written, it was rather eerily fitting.

Besides if Amanda Palmer can write a whole song called Bigger on the Inside then it’s all good.

Thanks again to Mad Swirl.

Peace, Love and Poetic Doctor Who,


Pushcart, Poems, and Paintings

23 Sep


So the really wonderful ladies over at Blue Hour press were nice enough to nominate my poem, Worship for a Pushcart. The Pushcart is a best of the small press award. I think it’s 100% awesome that out of all the poems that Blue Hour published this year, they picked mine. I can’t thank them enough for their support. As I’ve said before, I have the utmost respect for small presses.

Speaking of poetry, I’ve started writing a chapbook tentatively titled How To Be An American. Normally when I put a chapbook together, I just haphazardly throw together 50-60 poems and hope for the best. But this time, I’m writing with a theme.


So I’ve been reading this book called Culture Shock: America which was written to acclimate new immigrants to the weird ways of Americans. The whole things has been sort of strange because while the book definitely has gross assumptions and stereotypes, some of it hits so close to home it’s unsettling. I pulling a line from the book and then writing a poem. Like this:

Americans Have an Enthusiastic Look. They Feel Empowered. No one Else Has That Special Kind of Confidence


Making our way through Paris,

my husband has left behind the baseball caps

that normally grace his head.

We’ve packed only plain t-shirts.

We keep the map folded, out of sight in our back pocket.

We speak in low, hushed tones

anxious about speaking English

and our American accents

and yet,

here he comes, in tight jeans, a small scarf,

his face shaved,

lithe, attractive,

crossing the wide open

space of the garden

points and says “Obama, ça va?”

He gives us a thumbs-up and a too loud laugh before passing.

So this weekend, I went to see the Chagall exhibit at the Jewish Museum and on the way, had a conversation with the mister about ny and he was telling me about this thing that he read on Salon (which I can’t find to link to) about two competing writers talking about the cost of NYC. Here’s my take on this. Rent is high, but there are so many cheap/free things to do in the city it’s insane. All summer there are free movies, free Shakespeare in the Park, plays that have discounted nights, nearly every museum has a free day. For instance every Saturday you can see these for free from now until February:

and every friday night, you can go to the MoMA, like we did after the Chagall, and see these for free:

and you know, not to mention this:


And then afterwards you’ll spend all day singing Rene and Georgette Magritte with their dog….after the war. (Curse you Paul Simon!)

All I’m saying is it’s a pretty good deal. People should really take advantage of it.

Peace, love and arty-happiness,


Soft Machines at Blue Hour

20 Sep


Many many many thanks to the lovely ladies over at Blue Hour for publishing this poem, Soft Machines.

Please, do yourself a favor and pick up some of their books. They are putting really quality poetry out into the world. And when really quality poetry is in the world, the world is a better place.

Peace, love and starbursts,


Speaking Shakespeare and Star Wars

12 Sep

“There’s something about working our way back to Shakespeare rather than dragging him into the 21st century”

If you’re a Shakespeare fan or a linguist or word geek there’s no way you won’t find this video, shot on location at the Globe, fascinating.

Also, why hasn’t anyone bought me this:

It’s like taking two of my favorite things in the world and making them one. Like ice cream soup. (yeah, that comparison didn’t really work did it?)

Brainpickings has got a great little write-up on it.

Get thee to the book store!

Peace, love and Starbursts,


Where the ducks go…..

5 Sep

I got to see a good friend of mine the other day. She’s about to start her senior year of high school, in a particularly crappy school. I’ve known her since she was 12. She’s smart and talented and insightful. Unfortunately, being a teenager she’s mostly blind to this fact about herself.

She recently read Catcher in the Rye. It should be stated this is one of my favorite books. Not my favorite by Salinger but up there. She was trying to tell me about how she felt, how her friends made her feel – you know the difficult minefield dodging that is high school – and she was using Holden as an example, specially Holden’s feelings about the ducks at the lagoon in Central Park.

For the sake of context, Holden asks a few people in the book, mostly cab drivers, where the ducks go.

One of the actual quotes is as follows:

“I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go? I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away.”

So as my friend is telling me about this, I can see the tears, two big fat ones that roll down her cheeks before she can even get to the point. And the point is this: My friend worries about the ducks.

And I understand her cause I also worry about the ducks. And the snails. And 19 year old boys hiding in boats.

Let me back up. If you do a quick search you’ll get a lot of “theory” behind the ducks. What do the ducks mean? What is Holden really worried about? You’ll read things about how it’s his transition from childhood to adulthood (caring about the ducks is considered childish); you’ll read that it represents death and Holden’s fear of it and his grief over his deceased older brother; that it stands for Holden’s understanding that life is cyclical. That the ducks returning means Holden will return. Persevere. Survive.

And maybe those are true. I’m certainly not a literature scholar (just a reader) so I’m in no position to judge alternate interpretations. But to me, the ducks are about empathy.

Empathy is defined as the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being.

Empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

On my old walk to work, I used to pass a very large house. At the edge of their property was  a stone wall and a large cherry blossom tree. I loved that tree and when I was passing one day I noticed that the stone wall had dozens of little tiny snails on it. I would stop on my walk and trace their spirals of their shells with my fingernail. I loved those snails. I love that they existed on this wall, in this corner of Brooklyn, on this planet spinning in all that lonely space.

But I also worried about these snails. I was careful when I walked, sure not to step on any of the ones that had migrated down the wall to sidewalk. I was careful about the ones that could be under leaves. I was terrified of the notion of crushing one of these poor things under the hard hard heel of my boot. And I was terrified about other people killing them. Other people wouldn’t worry. They wouldn’t fret about snails. They’d probably just laugh or worse, not even notice.

These snails could stop existing and they wouldn’t even notice.

I worried all the time about snails.


Where the ducks go.

Nineteen year old boys who hide in boats after doing horrible things.


I tried to tell my friend what a good thing it is. How empathy will save her. Yes, it will break her heart and yes she will cry a lot but that one day she’ll realize that it is her soul – that her capacity to empathize is what makes her the remarkable human I am privileged to know.

I’m constantly told I’m “overly-sensitive” and not surprising, I’m sensitive about that word.


As if there were was only so much sensitivity a person should have. As if their heart could only hold so much and mine, holds too much and that is a weakness. That is something fundamentally faulted.


……And when the wizard gets to me I’m asking for a smaller heart……”

-Trout Heart Replica by Amanda Palmer

But what I want my friend to know is that she shouldn’t want a smaller heart. She should want everyone to have a heart the same size as her, the kind that keeps growing, the kind that keeps changing. The kind that has the courage to ask “How are we failing each other?” and “What can we do better?”

I want to empathize with everyone. Every horrible monster this civilization creates and every truth seeker and every saint. All of them.

So yes, what about the ducks?

What happens to the ducks?

Everyone should want to know where the ducks go.

Three Poems at The Blue Hour

2 Sep

Many thanks to the lovely ladies of the Blue Hour for picking up these poems.

They’re all a bit wayward and sad, what with having been written during some wayward and sad times.

Happy September, kids.

Peace, Love and Starbursts,


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