Friday, September 5, 2014

Ferguson Missouri - August 2014

This piece was printed by The New Verse News August 15th 2014 -

Ferguson Missouri - August 2014

Every morning
    the electroejaculated goats
    my wife texts me from work
and on the twitter feeds and facebook posts
    Ferguson Missouri burns -
You don’t think supplying army (military) grade equipment
    to the police was unintentional do you?
That any conflict in the world between police and protest
    looks exactly like this?
That anyone taking pictures, especially reporters, recharging
    their equipment in the local McDonald’s
    wrenched from their seat, their head jammed against
    a cement wall by an ordinary lug saying oops
    before being taken in and arrested 
because they didn’t show their i.d. fast enough
You don’t really still think this is about race or
    race wars like the bigots and racists do, do you?
You don’t think the government had plans for this,
    their contingencies for “growing inequality” Can you say
    pharaohs and slaves, bitches? (No really, in mathematical terms
    you have to look at the modern world’s inequality in those terms
    or even larger)
That we live within a two tiered justice system
    that the effects of climate change have now been brutally calculated
You don’t think they’re worried 
that now the white shit, not just the brown and the black
    is starting to hit the fan
And you don’t think Ferguson Missouri is still
    just a small town in the middle of the country,
    do you?
What? you expect me to say that unless things
    change it’s your hometown next -  
    it’s in your heart -
    it’s the whole damn world - boom?


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Somebody Shut Off the Water in Detroit

Originally published in The New Verse News 

MONDAY, JULY 07, 2014


by Steve LaVigne

Thousands of Detroit residents are facing a reality rarely seen around the Great Lakes: Life without water. But a Canadian group is leading the charge against a controversial plan to stop water service on delinquent accounts. The bankrupt city is shutting off water at a rate of 3,000 residents per week. It also recently increased water rates by nine per cent. Nearly half of the 329,000 accounts are in arrears and the average cost of a Detroit water bill is double the national average. Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, flagged Detroit's plan to deal with delinquent accounts to the United Nations earlier this year. The UN calls the plan to shut off water a clear violation of human rights. "I've seen this in the poorest countries in the world," Barlow said. "This is what we call failed states, but to see this in North America, it's a disgrace." --CBC News, July 3, 2014

Somebody shut off the water in Detroit

City of Philip Levine’s brother
waiting in the unemployment line
all who can are leaving now

Somebody blew up America
Amiri said
it’s just happening in slow motion

I want to say in history it was religion
than the state and now corporations
oligopoly trickling down but that just wouldn’t be

Somebody shut off the water in Detroit
and there’s no recourse now
It’s not the man / It’s not the machine no
Somebody blew up America in slow motion
run duck and cover
like the good ol days
when all we had
to fear
not fear not ruskies
just the good old days
when the bomb started ticking

and now the best jobs in Detroit are
scavenging old buildings for copper
wiring to sell to salvage to sell
to chinese dealers the last best
investors in America’s infrastructure

Somebody turned off the water in Detroit
and not just to the 40,000 abandoned homes
and feral packs
of dogs running the streets
all those good ol pooches let loose
and alone
by those who could fleeing/fled/gone from
the rotting

Somebody turned off the water in
DE - TRoiT   mo town blues
Blazing Blurry Bleary cry
foreshadowing they call it
when I want to say morning in america
But they knew it was really sunset
you know (that whole shtick) darkest before
the you know the rest

Can’t we all just agree water is
a basic communal good
Somebody call the U.N.
Somebody’s blowing up America in
slow motion
and hey it’s happening to everyone now
not just the browns the blacks and the reds

The poems referenced in the above poem are:
an eye opening piece on the selling of america’s big cities like detroit and cleveland piece by piece by Vice

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Writing in the Wild West

While visiting Bozeman Montana this week attended a local writer’s workshop to see how we in Champaign-Urbana can improve our own workshops.  
Even out West it seems a local weekly writing workshop is a local weekly writing workshop, but I did gain some fresh perspectives as an outsider.

The numbers -

Although this group has been in Bozeman for 5 years, they said they have a core of 8-12 folks and really have no interest in expanding to anymore than that.  My thoughts - why not expand?  Writing is at its core about self exploration and personal improvement - doesn’t our society need more independent creative thinkers in this increasingly corporatized, NSA surveilled world?  You will just need a) more small 8-12 person groups or b) different formats which brings me to ...

Seeing the group from a group dynamic perspective -

Although the group was slightly smaller than usual due to a storm, the dynamics were strikingly similar to other writing groups I am familiar with - i.e. CU Poetry, but I suppose any small group wanting to get something accomplished needs a similar structure. Cue the strong charismatic leader. Each group needs a leader - yes - but when one person is so dominant for such a long time the overall organization may tend to lose flexibility and experimentation.  What I have tried to do here at CU Poetry is to informally share leadership duties within individual workshops. But what I think we should do is formally have long standing members take control of certain workshops and see how creative we can get - thus if (and when) we grow we can have folks with experience leading their own groups.

Technical Speak -

Although they are mainly a fiction group it was interesting to hear a list of  writer’s jargon - tone, narrative, pacing etc. used with each piece to get the participants thinking along those lines. I think our group actually shies away from such terminology in order to seem more inclusive although we do use a variety of other terms for similar concepts. And after reading about workshops here -

So you want to be a writer … from The Guardian   (Last week Hanif Kureishi dismissed creative writing courses as 'a waste of time', yet they have never been more popular. Other leading author-teachers reveal their advice to students)

it occurred to me -  should we even refer to ourselves as a workshop?  That is certainly up for debate. But I think creativity, self exploration, freedom of expression, self improvement and individual striving for enlightenment is too important to be left up to the professionals.
In any case just as we should not slavishly avoid sounding like traditional workshops, we should not be afraid to use established workshop language and techniques to continually challenge our works and ourselves.

Practice writing during the group time -

Was glad to see a live demo of how another group writes during workshop time as we have some folks anxious to do just that. Their approach? They free write for a couple of minutes (which no one sees) - then the leader picks a topic and they write for a couple of more minutes and have a few folks share their fresh off the press works.  Seems to work well and frees up the inspiration a bit. For example - not hesitating when thinking a line is too simple or plain - or not being hesitant to use an image or idea you have previously used.
The example this week was to use one of the elements - fire water earth air and use one of those to describe the creative impulse or where your writing comes from - Fun little exercise (or variation of) we will definitely have to try. Personally I didn’t go with just free association but was in poeming mode here is what I came up with first -

fire warms at certain distances
burns you from others
too much too little
this goldilock zone
we spin in
I orbit with you
sun to planet
planet to moon
reflecting fire or burning
from within
how I long to know you
and myself
(as I know myself)

and even though some of the lines are a bit too pat for my taste and I have used the image idea of goldilock zone before, after just a few tweaks I have this

Fire warms from certain distances
burns at others
too much too little
this goldilock zone
we spin in
orbiting with you
sun to planet
planet to moon
reflecting fire or burning
from within
how I long to know you
as I know myself

I don’t know maybe I will work on it later or use some pieces of it later on or simply shelve it as the writing experiment it was but it was a good exercise to try and got me writing and thinking so was worth the effort.

In conclusion -

When visiting another town and you have some free time, I highly recommend checking out some of the local writing groups. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the Gypsy Rhythm Writers twice monthly open mic as well. But even so it was encouraging to see such a wide variety of courageous people willing to share a bit of who they are through the written word. I found the folks here in the real west of Montana to be not so different from home or, as I expect, the rest of the world.  If you have the impulse to write, then write - And when it comes to your writing remember in the immortal words of the band “38 Special”

“Your baby needs someone to believe in
And a whole lot of space to breathe in
It's so damn easy
When your feelings are such
To overprotect her
To love her too much…
Just hold on loosely but don't let go
If you cling too tightly
You're gonna lose control
Yeah, yeah, yeah”

Or something like that - happy writing and have fun

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Steve LaVigne Open Mic at the Front Porch - Full Version

Above is a soundcloud file of my "performance" at the open mic event. There were some very good slam poets, story tellers and singers representing there in addition to our couple of bookish folks from CU Poetry -

Everyone says it’s the end of the world
Everyone says it’s the end of the world
and it’s not the “we’re good guys so we’re outta here
before things get really bad”
resistance is futile
we’re special, really special, chosen people
or even the rinse and repeat
who’ve won the contest,
(although Kali ( the goddess of death) might be able to make a convincing case) –
No, you can see it
in the care
reality star doomsday prepper
grandma takes
as she prepares her non-perishable feast
for her self defense students
from the Y,
that it’s the try without trying,
sitting under a tree, no fabricating,
who would a thunk it, underdog,
tortoise crossing
the finish line first -
hey, I see sick and dead people –
winner of all winners -
and we’re all buddhists now
living each moment
in a constant
on the impermanence
of a flawed
end of the world

Forget what I said.
A window is
a looking glass
and it is not alright to believe
that the world
is only 5,000 years old,
to say this is a christian nation,
to open museums with a white jesus
riding dinosaurs,
or to have your marquee ex-president
openly advocating
And I am not just saying that
because you are stupid assholes
or even because
by all empirical evidence
you are our very own American Taliban
denying women, gays, all those who are different
their inalienable rights,
but simply because
you are being manipulated
to fight for causes that are not your own,
you are literally, and I mean literally,
fascists fueled by fear and hate and the
need to grow for your holy cause
which, in case you didn’t know, is
enriching the greedy few at the expense of
all of society.
So forget what I said about tolerance
and loving thy neighbor as thyself -
Just forget what I said -
A window is
a looking glass
and the last thing I want to see
when I look out
at the world
is to see you
as myself.

Operation Surgical Strike
The video game console where the operator
earned his second armed services medal
watching from the heavens
with his surgical strike drones
protecting an anxious population
watches the unsuspecting enemies and
their sitcom life on hi def screen –
work, dishes, church, bedding
the wife, family time with the children
all observed, recorded, analyzed.
In Pakistan, when the brown American
and his 16 year old son
were targeted for elimination,
the wedding party strike was deemed unfortunate
but necessary in the media -
the operator’s suffering at killing
the family he had come to know so well
an exemplary act of service to his country.
And what kind of world do we live in, he thinks,
when here in Arizona, Northern California
white american extremists
hiding in our midst
must be monitored, observed –
his circling, lazy droning flight
just waiting for the order,
for just the right moment to strike
these terrorists so much like himself.

This is what meaning looks like

a tree
in winter
known only by its
or rough bark,
its patterned
the light –
no fruits, no flowers, no leaves
a mirror
the mirror
of your jeweled self
pressing hard on the glass,
tapping, knocking to be let in -
this marriage to the world
a fractured, splintered image
of your own

The surprise preemie
when her seal broke
only hinted at
what was to come –
months in the hospital
being trained to constantly
troubleshoot equipment –
knowing when the black gasket
wasn’t quite catching
in the suction machine,
dropping O2 sats, the fault
of a probe or a hidden leak
in the tubing of the
dirty filters, trach cuffs, gtube
ballons to be monitored,
their little boy, the fighter, the miracle,
beater of all the doctors odds,
so fragile
their hope
under the weight of the work, the pressure
of the years to come,
the little leaks
of doubt
always needing to be
retaped each night
with their quiet sobs
under the covers
while the other watches the
heart beat
of the machines
sitting alone
in the dark

by Amorak Huey

Mick Jagger’s penis is pleased to meet you.
Mick Jagger’s penis is the John Lennon’s penis
of penises. Also, the Steven Tyler scarf collection
of penises, the David Lee Roth midair crotch thrust,
the Gene Simmons codpiece, the Axl Rose attitude of penises.
This is a lot of pressure for a penis,
big shoes for a penis to fill. Mick Jagger’s penis
doesn’t ask for much, these days. Mick Jagger’s penis
is strongly influenced by the blues and knows
whom this song is about. There are two versions
of Mick Jagger’s penis: the one the world sees
and the one that lies awake at night
and worries it has let someone down.
Sometimes it wants to be remembered,
to leave its mark on the world, it wants
to be more than footnote, punchline, punching bag.
Sometimes it just wants to be held.
It grows weary of everything having two meanings.
If you ask Mick Jagger’s penis about its dreams,
it will tell you about a certain lightning storm
over a certain lake—which means
nothing more or nothing less than what it was:
the dark water, the sky splitting open.