Lesley Hazleton’s New Book

 

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Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, Riverhead Books, N.Y., 2016, by Lesley Hazleton

When Lesley started working on this book I wasn’t sure what I thought or felt about the word AGNOSTIC. Now it is published and selling briskly. I read this book with great pleasure—the questions it raises and the wild ride in ideas and words. I’ve marked and turned down the corner on countless pages. I’m happy to share my interest and enjoyment.

Lesley and I had met years ago over our various writings on Muhammad and what needed to be said about him and the women around him. She read the Qur’an cover to cover in several English translations! Who can say they’ve done that? She gave TED talks. I am in awe of her accomplishments. Pilot. Journalist. Funny friend. My all time favorite book she wrote is Mary, A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother. Lesley Hazleton is my SHE-ro, that’s hero with a she, the most skillful driver of the vehicle of the written phrase. Her sentences move you right along.

I wondered how agnostic thoughts might fit into my world of Sufis, my research on Muhammad and Fatima. There is a very wide scope to this book.

Begin with the title. …A Spirited not Spiritual Manifesto. Yes! I like that. I live in a world where sentimentality lurks very close by, since Sufism is about LOVE. Like GOD it is almost impossible to discuss. Lesley writes:

God is such a little word for such a huge concept. A mere three letters in English, it’s so short, so concise, so …familiar. Far more user friendly than the amorphous idea of the divine or the transcendent or the infinite, its really kind of a nickname, a shorthand claim to intimacy…. 1

See what I mean? As with LOVE, everyone assumes the meaning is shared. Like LOVE, GOD gets held hostage by personal beliefs and experiences. Then the AHA! we share is lost. Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto brings up and stirs around what we assume we know, yet don’t question.

The agnostic stance defies artificial straight lines such as that drawn between belief and unbelief, and shakes off the insistence that it come down on one side or the other. It is free-spirited, thoughtful, and independent-minded—not at all the wishy-washy I-don’t–know-ness that atheists accuse it of being. 2

I want to explore unanswerable questions with an open mind instead of approaching them with dismissive derision or with solemn piety… to get beyond old, worn-out categories and establish an agnostic stance of intellectual and emotional integrity, fully engaged with this strange yet absorbing business of existence in the world. 3

The following lines make me want to be Banksy, Graffiti Master of UK, painting phrases and paradoxes on buildings at night— everywhere.

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The meaning of life is that it stops. 4

…to be lost is to be fully present. 5

(The agnostic )…takes a spirited delight in not knowing. 6

Names pin things down…create the illusion of understanding. Which is why naming God might be the trickiest business of all. 7

As with your keys or your wallet, you “find” God or “lose” your faith. 8

This is the agnostic’s faith: not in answers, but in possibilities. 9

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She speaks a truth that is rarely spoken:

By refusing to accept death—by seeing it as failure—both physicians and their patients (assume)…death is the enemy… “you can do this, you can beat it,” as though we declare war on death, As though, absurdly, we could kill it… 10

Perfectibility seems so hollow to me. The definiteness, the absolutism, the dead-endness of it— all these leave no room for life. The perfect tomato in the store turns out to be tasteless, genetically engineered for shelf appeal, not for the palette…. Complete agreement with whatever I might say leaves me gasping for intellectual air, longing for something more than a mirror of my own thoughts. 11

I can’t follow her into the mathematics of the universe, big numbers and infinity, so these pages with words like ouroboros and googolplex have me scanning and page-turning.

The book ends with a discussion of “soul.” She does that thing like the child’s game of repeating a word until it’s like Dr. Seuss, or like cracking an egg—

…soulful, a good soul, soul music, soul food, soul mates Soul… we seem to end up in a haze of well-meaning sentiment…

 Then she brings in a deeper layer:

…soul not as a thing, but as a dimension of being that defies the narrow lens of dogma…12

Hazrat Inayat Khan, the great Sufi who came to the West in 1910 calls the soul “…consciousness, which is all-pervading. That same consciousness is caught in a limitation … All the holy beings of the world have become so by freeing the soul, its freedom being the only object there is in life.”13

I like this, since I am in the lineage that reaches back through Inayat Khan for over 1000 years of direct guidance and experiential understanding. It is not a religion. I like to call Sufism, “the fragrance over the flower of religion,” I am open to what these Sufis have shared, but also look for and cherish a healthy “spirited” view including humor and paradox that insists on real experience, not just accepting what I’ve been told. Out of the deep sincerity of that attitude, devotion to the path I walk can be born in my heart.

This book …to quote Lesley’s final page about the soul, “makes my heart swell… makes me glad to be alive.” 14

Reference Notes

1     Lesley Hazleton, Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto p. 25.
2     p. 4, 5.
3     p. 6
4     p. 135
5     p. 117
6     p. 6.
7     p. 51.
8     p. 47
9     p. 79
10   p. 145,146
11   p. 190
12   p. 193.
13   Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Sufi Message of HIK “Spiritual Liberty.” vol. 5, Chapter 1.
14   Lesley Hazleton, Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto p. 204

Fatima’s Touch—my new book!

I just finished a phone conversation with Steve Scholl of White Cloud Press in Ashland, and my book will be published there in 2017. Yes. I can celebrate, and will be— over the next year. FATIMA’S TOUCH, POEMS AND STORIES OF THE PROPHET’S DAUGHTER.

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I have felt the urgency to make this happen, as world events usher in terrible stories linked to Islam, driving away any association with kindness and compassion, with no thought to the family visited by Angel Gabriel at the beginning of the seventh century, or the man Muhammad, who believed he was in the line of Abraham of the Old Testament. FATIMA’S TOUCH looks at her life based on historical writings in fifty-three poems. I should stop here, because much can change in a year, but for the moment, this is it.

[There are three poems from the book and an interview  with me in the April issue of AJI Magazine: http://www.ajimagazine.com ]

I remember living on a small sailboat, a thirty foot trimaran,  in 1970. We were sailing down the coast of Baha, with no radio or cellphone, just point-to-point navigation, calculating latitude and longitude. We’d had our dingy stolen near San Diego so we needed a dock to land. There was no road down Western Baha in those days. All that was left in the cupboard was rice. We had fresh water. It was my watch, the 9-12 slot, day and night. That morning, and I was at the helm with a line out the back, trolling for fish. Suddenly a strike! Reeling it in carefully, there on the deck lay a good size tuna. I remember my stunned surprise and delight, not unlike being told I have a publisher, not just a line out. A fresh meal-of-words lifted out into the sun.

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May this book’s story continue to unfold and bring understanding and increased clarity. May it be read far and wide.  <><  <><   <><

ON PROCESS: Poetry with WendyTC

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Wendy’s here from Eureka Springs Arkansas. She came to give a poetry reading at Willow Glen Library in San Jose. Wendy Taylor Carlisle. My heavenly poetry muse. She has been editing my 52 poems. My back has been out for weeks. Working at the computer, I’m sometimes kneeling or standing with boxes under the screen, the mouse.

6 lines to this poem, # 40 in my Fatima book. She looks with concern at line 2. Metaphorical beings….

Can’t say that.

After dancing with the Thesaurus for awhile I change it to Inconceivable hands

I wave it in the air at her as she stands at the stair landing.

Then I recite it as I walk down the stairs.

That’s arrogant, honey. You put yourself above those beliefs mentioned

You need something else.

W +T

And I’ve got the metrics. Needs to be a /u/uu/

Look up “Mystical.” In the Thesaurus.

Enigmatical?

            no

Preternatural

That’s good, but “outside nature” is that what you want to say?

Clear, ambrosial?

Ambrosial refers to food.

But I like it!

Can’t do that. How about encompassing.

YES. I like that but it needs another syllable!

            Strong encompassing hands.

Wait.

 

           Firm.

 

That’s it!! Firm encompassing hands.

Great. Listen…

 

Letters of Love

Houris call to her spirit, signal nightfall.

Firm, encompassing hands untie her life; she

exhales Arabic.  Dazzling repetition

lifts: Muhammadan-Rasul’illah re-echos

“God’s perfection through human limitation*.”

On these letters of love she can fly to heaven.

[*quote: Hazrat Inayat Khan defining Rasul – Messenger of  God. Also, a text says that Fatima died saying the words Muhammadan-Rasul’illah: Muhammad is God’s Messenger. The form is hendecasyllabic, 11 syllables /u/uu/u/u/u.]

We did it.

I’m going to take a bath.

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Here’s my blog. I just wrote it while you were in the bath. I’ll call it

“Editing.”

Call it: On Process.

Done.

 

Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

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artwork at Zaatari Refugee Camp

82 new Syrian Refugees entered Jordan in the last 24 hours, according to Albawaba News posting (2/17/16). The estimated number of Syrian Refugees in Jordan is close to 1.5 million, almost 650,000 are actually registered as refugees, but all are being offered food, water, and a place to stay. Having spent nearly a month in Syria in 2003, this beautiful place and people are still very alive for me.

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I look back at my first blog posting, August, 2013, Zaatari Syrian Refuge Camp in Jordan. At the time there were over 115,000 refugees. In 2013 the camp swelled way beyond capacity and services to 156,000 people.

In April 2014, another refugee camp was opened in Azraq and both new arrivals and people from Zaatari began to settle there. The latest numbers put Zaatari under 100,000 people in two square miles. It is a city with a wall around it, no trees in the northern plain of Jordan.

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Above is a satellite picture of Zaatari almost two years ago.

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Young Syrians playing computer games at a market in Zaatari.

There is so much attention to the flood of refugees across the water to Greece, or North and West into Europe, but Jordan and Lebanon are in a waterfall of displaced persons. Blessings on the King of Jordan, who continues to offer food, water and shelter to so many.

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New housing modules, distributed by the UN High Commission for Refugees

 

We in America need to think of these refugees as  people of all levels of education and training, with languages and skills, those who stayed in the beautiful city of Aleppo, now steadily bombed, places that a year or so ago were normal cities, and are now places of death. They had no choice but to flee. Here are some more recent photos of Zaatari:

 

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There are no water pipes to deliver water to the dwellings. It is supplied by water trucks like this one.

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The main market. There is even pizza delivery. People here have accepted they are likely to be here a long time…

Here is a staggering fact: only just over 1% of the residents here are over 60 years old. 26% are children, and now infants are growing up in the camp. This is the only home they know.

It is important to keep these people in our thoughts and prayers, that they be safe, well, and even find happiness in their everyday lives, in friends and loved ones.

Celebrating Solomon ~ Four Years

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Solomon Kahn left us on January 31, 2012. He lives vividly in the light on the faces of his family and friends. I take him with me on all adventures. Love you, Solomon!

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Nicole and baby Samantha Rose

Nicole has gone on with her life, mothering and leading yoga classes, parenting baby Samantha Rose with Ryan Lucero. Here is Sam wearing a warrior’s baby suit as the Golden State Warriors win another one. Solomon would have loved it! He was DJ for the Warriors for all those years before they were champions.

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Nicole shared the other night how he would get home from DJ’ing at a club very late  and rise at 7:30 to go for a bike ride before breakfast. It seemed he had an enormous amount of living to squeeze into 34 years on this planet.

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As the hours count down through my fog of sadness, I remember that it picks up in February. Every year at this time I write about my son Solomon’s life and I feel better just sharing sparkles from his complete and completed life with those who knew and love him.

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On the trail where the BENCH will be sometime this spring

I’ve been looking for a place to install a bench with Solomon’s name on a plaque. After asking about Mount Tam and an ocean view, I understood dealing with the state and the park commission could take years. Then there’s the wetlands below Lucas Valley Road where Las Gallinas water treatment property has created three small lakes with walking trails.

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Shabda and I go there often for the abundance of wildlife including ducks, geese, swans, egrets, night herons, hawks, swallows, pelicans, a coyote or two and otters. We can see Civic Center and Mt. Tam in the distance. There is a place with a couple of large rocks. That is where the bench will be. Not just to honor Solomon, Jon Brilliant’s name will be there too. A pilgrimage spot for friends of Solomon and Jon (who died in January 2011 of cancer.) In an extraordinary coincidence Solomon and Jon’s names were next to each other in different handwriting on a beam of the large wooden Temple at Burning Man a couple years ago. Jon’s mother, Girija, has become a close friend.

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Sol and Jon at Burningman

This year Scott Kaiser shared a new story about inviting Solomon to surf off the Marin coast with him. This is a sport Sol did not engage in, but he had snowboarded with Scott and wake-boarded often. He was up for it. The day had really big waves. Scott said this was no day for learning to surf, but Solomon wanted to try. He had difficulty just getting beyond them. Scott gave Sol his wet suit—which was a bit tight, and a couple hours and many spills later it was shredded. Solomon refused to do anything but give this adventure his 100%.

Scott and Arun Sol

Scott and his son Arun Solomon on the board…

As the mother of a thirteen-year-old, I remember seeing him refuse to stop at a swimming meet, even though it looked to me like his body could not go another stroke. He would never give up.

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Solomon and good friend Sheikh Tijani

I brought a picture of Solomon to Ammon’s house this week. I showed it to Sol’s niece, Oona. She kept asking me to tell a story about Solomon. I thought of this part of a poem I wrote in the ‘90s:

When Solomon was twelve

He mentioned one night over spaghetti

That he found out mediocre was a real word.

Someone not in our family had used it.

He always thought his dad made it up…

I could tell her that when Solomon got his permit to drive with an adult, he wanted to drive in a rainstorm and I said no. Come on, mom, how am I going to learn to drive in a rain storm if I can’t practice in this one? (He could have been a lawyer) I said no again and he said: Why? I replied: Because I don’t FEEL like it is safe. He never let me off easy if he thought he was right. (I won’t tell Oona that story.) I can show her the picture of the last day she was with him. (She is now six years old) He carried her on his shoulders to the schoolyard Christmas day. He was wearing a paper crown.

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Uncle Solomon and Oona Christmas, 2011

I end with a video that Sol would have loved. STEVIE WONDER CARPOOL KARAOKE. He opened for Stevie Wonder in 2011 at the Salesforce.com party sometime that year. He loved Stevie Wonder. Who doesn’t?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqrvm2XDvpQ

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photo Solomon took at the Salesforce party

Link

Annie Finch all-day class

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Poet Annie Finch is giving a day-long class at my house February 20, 2016.  There are still a few places open.  [See flyer below].   A decade or so ago I was lucky to attend powerful writing gatherings such as “A Room of Her Own” at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference), and West Chester Poetry Conference in Pennsylvania, places where recognized word masters opened my perception of poetry and let in fresh air.

 

Annie Finch was present with her gentle strength and delight in well-chosen words. She read in Berkeley when her book Calendars came out in 2003, and I found myself reading with her from the poem of that name, “A poem in chants for four voices.” I was Demeter reading: …make me our shadows/ as I reach for flowers. With Annie I always felt like I was “in the band,” a very rare feeling in the unspoken hierarchy of recognized poets.

After my second time at the West Chester Poetry Festival I received an offer, probably from Kim Bridgford, a list of poets willing to engage one-on-one with a skype or phone conference meetings. Annie’s name was there. I requested her. For the last three years she has looked over many of the poems I have written. She is a perfect editor for metric poetry. Correcting patterned poems is a rare specialty. You need to hold a deep understanding of metrics and rhyme. I write about Fatima, a lesser known woman in history. Annie, a feminist, has been supportive of the vision I hold of this seventh century Arabian women’s stories.

Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote that “motion is the significance of life, and the law of motion is rhythm.” That is the first sentence of chapter two Annie Finch’s magnificent book, The Poet’s Ear. This is a coincidence that stunned me. She is not directly connected to our Sufi family founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan! The book is a profound work that shares metrics in a way I could apply directly to what I was writing. When I read it I was in a writing residency at Ragdale Foundation in Illinois. I began to explore dactyllics, and hendecasyllabics, (rhythmic patterns)—like finding a skateboard-of-words after years of riding the red wagon.

If you look her up on the internet, Annie Finch has a rich presence: her poems, her many books, The on-line Poet Craft Circles Community, and her work with bringing women and nature forward in The American Witch. For these reasons and her good-heartedness, I am very happy to offer a container for her to connect with writers and lovers-of-words. I’ll end with a poem she wrote. Listen to the rhythmic music of each phrase:

Chain of Women

These are the seasons Persephone promised

as she turned on her heel—

the ones that darken, till green no longer

bandages what I feel.

 

Now touches of gold stipple the branches,

promising weeks of time

to fade through, finding the footprints

she left as she turned to climb.

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For more info on the all-day write to me at tamam@completeword.com

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Ann Riley: in Memoriam

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Guruji (Pandit Pran Nath), Ann and Terry Riley

Friday evening, November 27th my beloved friend Ann Riley passed away, surrounded by family in hospice care at her Moonshine Ranch home in Camptonville, CA. In 1974 Shabda took me to Terry and Ann’s newly-purchased ranch for an overnight. As I remember we were warmly welcomed, and slept under the stars on the hill behind the house. Shabda and Terry rose early to sing together, and Ann and I began a soon familiar kitchen tea-talk. She was an excellent listener, with a wide variety of interests, known to break into a smile or laugh easily. Soon we were pregnant together with Gyan and Solomon, so the conversation went down that path. There was the porch with the grapes, and the garden, the pond, and the barn, where the music happened, until the remodel, considerably later.

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Both our husbands had another “wife.” The same one. Shabda called Pandit Pran Nath or “Guruji” his first wife, and I was the second wife. Terry and Shabda spent a great deal of time in service to this wonderful Indian singer, who honored each of us. We were a family. Our private family occasions were times when the guru stayed with us and music was everywhere. The public ones were concerts, in the San Francisco area, at Mills College, in The Garlings’ house, or in New York City at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, in New Delhi and places I no longer remember. After Guruji died, Terry and Shabda went to India for the next four years, then as time passed we saw less of each other, but in the last decade, Gyan, a brilliant guitarist, performed with Terry, and we’d go to see them whenever they played in the Bay Area. Birthdays. The decades stretched out.

New Years Eve was a time when Ann and Terry and I sang standards way into the night years ago. Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep. Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street…

My 50th birthday I spent as an overnight with several close women friends. Ann was among them. Shabda’s 60th we were together by Donner Lake. Weddings, funerals,  family gatherings. For my last birthday party they appeared with a sweet gift. It was a colored gourd with an OM, a Buddha crowned with flower patterns hand-painted in gold, white, green and brown. Inside was a card with birds wearing party hats and the message in Ann’s tidy script “We love you, Tamam.”

This morning, in meditation there was Ann all covered in light and I knew, before the phone call that the line that held her here had stretched thin. She was already gone beyond the body. I searched my poetry books for the right words to honor her. She liked Naomi Nye, wrote me in 2011 she had bought her poems.

from Fold:

I am partial to poems about

little rumination, explosions of minor joy,

light falling on the heads of gentle elders.

Also the way pampas grasses look toward

the end of summer, shining, shaggy…

 

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I like the melancholy tone of this one—

From One of the Butterflies by W.S. Merwin

…I cherish

only now a joy I was not aware of

when it was here although it remains

out of reach and will not be caught or named

or called back and if I could make it stay

as I want to it would turn to pain

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Ann and Shawn, Alia Meyer, Shabda and me at our wedding, 1976

Ann, dear friend, what a beautiful life you have shared! Married to Terry for 60 years, friend to many, teacher to many, mother and grandmother, you will be missed. You will bring love and great benefit wherever you go.

T&amp;Ann

Fairness isn’t always so….

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“The world isn’t fair, Calvin.””I know Dad, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?”― Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbs

“Maybe yes, maybe no, fairness isn’t always so…” These words I stuck on my fridge from my friend Hayat Rubardt started this.

Unfair: not based on or behaving according to the principles of equality and justice: unjust · inequitable · prejudiced · biased · discriminatory · one-sided · unequal · same-test.png - Version 2uneven · unbalanced · partisan · partial · skewed · undeserved · unmerited · uncalled for · unreasonable · unjustified  (Dictionary.com)

Frequently parents hear the voices of their children age four and up saying, “That’s NOT FAIR!” My granddaughter, Oona, cries big tears when she says the word, UNFAIR, followed by a sound that explodes like an explanation mark that hurts her mouth. There can be a kick or something thrown. Fairy tales in children’s books, often begin with unfairness and triumph at the end, like Cinderella restoring fairness as her foot slides into the glass slipper. A poem should show, not tell, as in this beautiful section by Naomi Shihab Nye from So There:

Because I would not let one four-year-old-son

Eat frosted mini-wheat cereal

Fifteen minutes before dinner

He wrote a giant note

And held it up

While I talked on the phone

LOVE HAS FAILED

Then he wrote the word LOVE

On a paper

Stapled it twenty times

And said

I STAPLE YOU OUT…

∇  ∇  ∇  ∇  ∇    ∇  ∇  ∇

My father was a lawyer and his father was too. I remember he gave a good deal of attention to the word “fairness,” attentive to how it felt to my sister and to me. So did my son Solomon. When I told him it was too stormy for him to drive the car (he was 15 and had a permit) He countered with how it was more than unfair, unreasonable even, followed by words for the defense, “Don’t you want me to be able to drive in all weather conditions?” My logic rarely stood up to his, so I said, “It doesn’t FEEL right to me.”

“You could say to the universe: this is not fair. And the universe would say: Oh, isn’t it? Sorry.” Terry Pratchett, Interesting Time

The Dictionary “Fair” moves from “free from bias” to “likely” to “bright and sunny” to (#22) “Archaic: A beautiful or beloved woman.” Fair meaning “beautiful” is an old German word of origin: fagar.  “Mirror, mirror on the wall,/ who is fairest of them all?” Poster - My Fair Lady_04The answer was enough to drive one woman to poison another. FAIR can mean light in color, especially blond: fair hair. It means light complexion: fair skin. Not so good in an era of equality for women. Unfair, in fact. Although Audrey Hepburn was a brunette…..

I spent hours recently going through scores of poetry books, looking for poems using FAIR or UNFAIR. Here’s one. Gerald Stern in his poem The Dove’s Neck has “Fair or not fair” on the top line of the second page in an uncorrected proof of his book, LAST BLUE. I was lucky to find them, although to take a piece of a Gerald Stern poem is like extracting a tooth. It works so well with the other words and ideas it seems wrong to mess with the over-all structure.

…I lay in a field of daisies and clover… practically

sleeping, a short drive east of Ohio, near the abandoned

coal mines, half a century

after the grass had hidden

the disgusting earth including,

fair or not fair, the anger

for all I knew, underneath that

field which seemed to tilt

in such a way that stretching

my arms and legs the flowers were

always there and the wind

was always blowing, one of

my bitter personal heavens.

 ∇   ∇   ∇   ∇ ∇ ∇   ∇ ∇ ∇

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Although I know it’s unfair, I reveal myself one mask at a time.      Steven Dunn.

I’ll end with a poem from a favorite moment in my life. I was at San Miguel Poetry Week years ago, in small Q & A with W.S. Merwin. I had never met him before, or heard him read, although I read his poems for years. I raised my hand and asked how we can tell what needs to be told. He looked right at me and recited this sonnet by William Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

     So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

     So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

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After those Creative Hours….

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I’ve “finished” my poetry book on Fatima, daughter of Prophet Muhammad. There still remains the fine edits and that page (paragraph? sentence?) where you mention all the poems in this collection have been published. All the awards, etc.

Now there’s that reading I’ve been wanting to do, the tidy pile of books by my bed-table… outside exercise such as strolling the trails on Mt. Tam with my friends, the ones I’ve been saying for five years — can’t, working on a new poem…. The movies I’ve been wanting to see, but put haven’t. Poetry came first.

What about my prayers to let me just finish this book before death or a major health concern interrupts my concentration? Do other writers do that?

At this point I’m still alive and just can’t concentrate to make those minute, squirrel-y corrections. I can’t see either the forest or the trees. Or smell the roses—which aren’t in the forest, anyway.

Oh, yes, I remember this territory from my first book. The Valley of the Shadow of What-Did-I-Waste-the-Last-Ten-Years-Doing? This time it was five years.

Then there was my husband’s cousin’s wife, who mentioned her book to me. The one that took a week to write back in the 70’s, translated into dozens of languages, sold over a million copies, and has supported her for years. She told me this at our kitchen table. That small, self-help book. No endnotes or bibliography. Simple. A great success!

I spent a jittery weekend compiling possible open submissions posted on the internet. The names are changed— well, you understand.

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Collision Press: The winning manuscript will receive a cash prize of $1000, publication in the next summer, and a complimentary copy of the winning book. The judge reserves the right to declare no winner. Must be postmarked by September 30. Simultaneous submissions are allowed. Non-refundable reading fee of $25.Unspoken message: due to the heavy volume of submissions, and the enormous slush-pile, the chance of our Judge even seeing your manuscript is very slim.

Cataplexy Press (I looked up the word: Pathology. a condition characterized by sudden, brief attacks of muscle weakness sometimes causing the body to fall helplessly, that is usually triggered by strong emotion) Our Submissions process is under the guidance of an international team put together by the former editor of a prominent Israeli publication. At this time, it is best not to mention the journal name or hers. She has promised to be fair and unbiased.

Fat City Press does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Submissions. Send a Book Proposal only. After 6 months if we are interested, we will notify you to send the book manuscript. (Spoken message) You should keep in mind we have a long line of books already scheduled for publication.

Grannie and Gramps Press. Finally, a publisher who appreciates you as an older writer. We welcome your submissions, but ask that you contact us only if you are in good enough physical shape to attend readings, and publicity events should we publish your book. Must be postmarked by August 30. Simultaneous submissions are allowed. Non-refundable reading fee of $20.

If you are about to write your first book, don’t let this discourage you. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even though it may just be an LED. Keep the Faith (KTF).

Here's to delicious poems!

Here’s to delicious poems!

DJ AM played it first

August 1st, 2015 edit:

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Last night I went to see the film As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM, created by Kevin Kerslake. This was an emotional journey for me as AM or Adam Goldstein, had been a mentor for Solomon. He was at the top of the DJ world six years ago this month, when he died, but the Berkeley theater was half-empty, and when the woman who introduced the film asked the audience who knew about this man, only about 15 of us raised our hands.

The film points out what a genuine, heartfelt friend, genius musician, and man-with-a-mission to help others give up addictions. Sadly for me, the movie stresses AM’s relationship to drugs much more than his wizardry at the turntables. I wanted to see and hear parts of a set, instead of seeing the girls wiggling to his music. The filmmaker was clearly an observer, not a fan.

Here is my blog on DJ AM from 2009, after I saw him play with Travis Barker, the drummer, at the Mezzanine just before the plane crash when he was burned and on pain killers and anti-anxiety drugs that let to his death August 28, 2009.

Original 2009 post:

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He’s gone now, connecting tsunamis of sound in heavenly gigs. DJ AM, (or Adam Goldstein) died last week in New York City. His was considered the “top” of his genre of Mash Up DJ music. I like the best of anything musical and he was it, so here is the tribute.

It was April, 2006 and my son Solomon was playing San Francisco’s Mezzanine Club south of Market Street – a very  high profile DJ event. He and Guitarist-Songwriter Chris Clouse were opening for DJ AM and Travis Barker, drummer for the group Blink 182. Each duo was a good match: a live musician and a DJ.

DJ AM and DJ Solomon

DJ AM and DJ Solomon

Solomon had been educating me in his niche music for sometime. Years before, he took me to see the film Scratch about the birth of the rhythmic and inventive art of manipulating vinyl in new ways.  Now Solomon, like DJ AM, was on the cutting edge of digital, and he had offered me mixes of AM, so I could see what he could do. I listened on my i-phone and liked what I heard.

My friend Cynthia and I passed a line that snaked around the block for the sold out event. At the door we were given passes and entered to find Solomon already at work on the stage, alone. He was warming up the crowd. Chris would join him as soon as the room filled. AM and Travis were due at around 11. An hour later I stood on a balcony wondering if it could hold under the weight of the gathering crowd.IMG_0070_2

Somehow Ean found us and took us backstage for the last 20 minutes of and Chris and Solomon’s set. Then AM and Travis took the stage. The crowd was screaming and the volume was turned up way above ear safety. My heart began to experience an a-rhythmical take-over by bass tones. It occurred to me that I was in a territory where anyone up to twenty years younger would fear to tread. I had stepped over the line of audial sanity and entered something not unlike the film Close Encounters … standing beneath the gigantic Mothership as it lands… with DJ AM at the controls.n500248739_1302718_4856

As a writer my job is to translate his music into words. But that is impossible.I offer my own sample 45 second flash of AM and Barker at Mezzanine when I can get this page to up-load it. He is all over You Tube. Here are some clips:

If you want to feel like you are with the band with reasonable volume, try this cut with Travis on drums– recommended by Solomon – (T-Mobile Sidekick Launch Party, Paramount Studios, May 2009): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07-n1V-YSLo&feature=fvw

Stunningly unusual recent stuff – (BFD Festival, June 2009)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyykVQcN57c  you mostly can’t indentify the tunes. He’s moved into musical Abstract Expressionism of beats and short lines, not even dance music – though you can’t stay still. It’s like he’s distilled early mixes into this elixir which is internal and physical and new.

Mystery Mix: http://bestdjsoftware.com/wordpress/?p=124  Scroll down to DJ AM “Mystery Mix” part 1 and 2. Good download for the car.

DJ Qbert – tribute: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVERHGpOd0M

I like a couple minutes of a piece recorded outside the loud performance world and nailing the likes of an orchestration of the cool 80’s? song Bette Davis Eyes set to what??  And Jump (for my love)!!

For me his signature opener is Dance to the Music, with “inda da, do do do, inda da do do” –and fast scratches over it. I feel really sad about this loss. DJ AM you won’t be needing those special ear-protectors every DJ mom wants her son to wear… Heavenly tunes to you!1190762389.61663.56339

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