November 13, 2013
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
November 3, 2013
This is a review of my book, ‘murder’. I did not write it though I will confess that I had something to do with its existence. (Unfortunately I cannot discover who wrote this wonderful review.)
Review: murder by David Halliday
David Halliday’s murder is one of those great little books I’d never have discovered except for the internet. It was originally published in 1978 by the now defunct Coach House Press, then again as an ebook by Wonderbeams before they closed up shop at the end of 2001, and now David Halliday has released murder into the public domain.
Murder is a series of poems telling the story of a murder and subsequent trial and lynching. Yeah, I said poems. Don’t flinch and imagine this is a book in Iambic pentameter packed with e’ens and whences and e’res.
David Halliday is not that kind of a poet.
Halliday doesn’t mince words, he uses them with the precision of scalpels. He’s tough and honest and a little cheeky and raw in places. He writes the essence of the world in all its delicate ugly humanity.
Every word is deftly placed, sometimes down to its physical location on the page, to evoke the story Halliday is telling. Each poem is a finely wrought link in the chain—the killer stalking his victim, the police report and investigation, even the victim’s identification of her killer (“No one heard. No one listens to the dead.”) through the culmination of the trial and a mob stringing up the innocent man accused. (“a french girl pointed to the flag pole the mob unraveled him and hung him from the top where he waved in the wind to the crowd”)
The meat of the book is devoted to the trial; there are sketches of the jury, the media circus, the attorneys and the judge. (“Hammocks of flesh swinging below his waist skin melts sliding down his bone stocking overflowing in his shoes.”) Witnesses give testimony in their own poem-scenes and some of the most compelling moments are when Halliday turns to the spectators, the people for whom the trial is a kind of post-Roman Colosseum where justice justifies blood lust. There is the old woman who thinks, “these problems we all go on about are just a social disease,” and the cub reporter whose buxom neighbor masturbates him while he sleeps, the flasher wrapped in his flag, the murder groupie in her black satin jacket. These people are all redolent with their own sins and the carnal and carnival atmosphere of execution reinforces the Christ-like image of the wrongly accused man on trial. (“x flower child root bound barb’d wire head band”)
The rule of law in Halliday’s world is decaying. The plaster of his courthouse is crumbling and the paint is peeling. There are cockroaches and flies and bats in these hallowed halls, and while justice is miscarried to appease the appetites of the crowd, a cat is “laughing like a gatling gun.”
As I read murder, I keep returning to the idea of violence as entertainment in modern life. The killer sees his victim in the terms of a film. “I thought you were my leading lady,” he says. The witnesses watch the attack and later entertain the spectators with their evidence. There are reporters throughout; they are outside the courthouse with their cameras, inside reporting on the trial, they are there for the lynching.
In the end it is just a tiny injustice in the world. A single woman raped and murdered while a crowd watches, a single innocent man hanged from a flagpole. A single killer goes free. The people drift away, the spectacle is over. The TV cameras are packed up; there’s no more blood to be had in this place. If there is redemption, too, in Halliday’s narrative, it is in this: in a world where horror has become a commodity packaged to amuse, there is still innocence and hope. “two kids were flying a kite tugging at the moon with the wind.”
I wonder, if the innocent man wrongly hanged is Halliday’s Christ, what sin is his blood intended to wash from our souls?
A note for readers: The physical form of the words on the page is important to Halliday’s work. I had to set the font to the smallest size to get the full effect of the layout when reading the .epub on my Nook. I had no problems with the .pdf on my computer screen. (All versions seem to have an extraneous page 8: “Click to edit this text.”)
August 31, 2013
August 21, 2013
HOMICIDE May 19, 1980
Suddenly, the sun was gone, the blue sky disappearing behind a riptide of boiling gray clouds. Heat lightning danced in jagged bolts overhead. Trees swayed and the ground shook. The daylight turned to darkness. Mount St. Helens had blown her lid.
Jess Baker of Battle Ground: “The birds just went to sleep.”
Bob Harju of Vancouver, Clark County: “God, it was quiet out there.”
Bob Brotmiller looking up at the boiling gray clouds churning out of Mount St. Helens: “It was like an atomic explosion. But there was no sound. This was the face of God.”
Kathy Anderson who was directing a U.S. Forest Service replanting crew on the side of the mountain just four miles below the summit, described an awesome scene of flashing lightning bolts, a boiling cauldron of volcanic ash billowing out of the crater: “I felt as if my consciousness had been turned inside out and I was condemned to look inwards for the rest of my existence.”
Her colleague John Morris: “I kept thinking, this is it, this is the end of everything.”
August 20, 2013
HOMICIDE: January 8, 1997
One of possibly three sniper-arsonists who terrorized a five-square block area of downtown Montreal in a continuing 12 hour shooting spree was killed by police bullets fired from an armored RCMP helicopter at 10 p.m. Sunday.
“He was hiding in a cubbyhole when the guns from the helicopter and marksmen on the roofs of surrounding buildings opened up on him. The poor bugger rushed out from the concrete cubicle to fire and was ripped to pieces. Chunks of him flew into the night and over the sides of the building spraying the onlookers below.”
As the siege of the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in downtown Montreal continued officials were reluctant to state who was responsible for the massacre but it is known from reliable sources that a group of militant homosexuals calling themselves EKWAUL has claimed responsibility. Another, up to this time unknown group called OFC (The Organization for a Free Canada) has also claimed credit.
“It was all on the tube. They must have had cameras in the copters. I thought it was a promo for a movie. It made me sick. But I couldn’t change the channel.”
August 16, 2013
Rain on the tin roof. Rain on the tent canvas. Rain falling. Like a drunk staggering home to the woman he loves a little bit more after several drinks.
Watching television. House. You turned to me. Do you still love me. I don’t even know how to answer the question. Do I still love my arm. Or my skin. I think the cat wants in.
The fire has gone. Partly due to the medication. Partly due to my boredom. Partly due to that empty bottle rolling across the floor. And yes its partly due to you.
I’m beginning to lose my keys. I’m beginning to forget if I turned off the stove. I’m beginning to forget the names of the kids. But I’ll never forget you. Standing on that frozen corner. Selling jewellery to the freaks of nature. My last thought, I’m sure, is of you turning to answer me
August 11, 2013
Rummaging around in the ruins of the flood (our basement) I found some old poems floating in my unconscious mind. I thought I might as well save them. Put them on paper. Put them back in my memory.
Name: Its on the tip of my tongue
Sex: For medicinal purposes only
Age: Beyond that of reason
Born: I was almost recalled
at the last moment
but my mother said
I could get by in life without one
Place of birth: The anti-gravity machine
Blood type: pot pourri
Religion: Always believed
God was a good gamble
since there never seemed
to be much fun in betting
on a sure thing.
June 19, 2013
I used to do reviews of poetry. I hated it. The books were chosen for me. And I had to find something I wanted to say that was positive. If you want to be negative don’t review the book. Recently and for some time I have been reading a young woman’s poetry. It is wonderful. Earthy. Sensual. Gritty. And she knows just when to add that insight that doesn’t overpower the whole piece. Poetry is very personal. Or so I’ve heard. Her name is Stacey Michelle. Or maybe its Michelle Stacey. Check it out. http://thelanguagewespeak.wordpress.com/about/
June 6, 2013
I love Leonard Cohen but he doesn’t exist. What does exist is a mask. I love Bob Dylan but even his name is a fabrication. Like Zha Zha Gabor. (She must have made that up.) Kierkegaard created other voices for his ideas. And he was a philosopher, not a minstrel. Our whole notion of soul is a series of layers. Even the voice in our head speaks to us with an accent. So where is reality in all of this.
Staring at the blank canvas waiting for Beauty to rise, to pull back the sheets and show me her nakedness. I want to peel back the snow white gesso and feel her eyes on the tips of my fingers. I am the hunter, my brush a knife. I want to slit open the perfect belly of her goodness. But always there is a flash of light. The cameras of the paparazzi. Always Beauty on the event horizon. Waiting to show us her black hole. Always the tease. The stripper with the scent of the hunter on her. Eternal Return. Exploding into a new universe. Hiding in the jungle of experience. Camouflaged as reality. I put down my brush, paint sadly sliding off the ends of the bristles. I am sick of these little universes I create. I want to paint a stained glass window so perfect that I can smash the glass, look behind the shattered canvas and find the source of its light.
May 13, 2013
I think I hate Andy Warhol. But it doesn’t come to much. You can’t hate cellophane for long. Its not substantial enough. Although I do enjoy misspelling his name sometimes.
Most art today that I see is about pop culture. Either reflecting or analyzing or criticizing it. Warhol suspected that popular culture was like himself. Empty. Almost see through. Carrying almost no ideas. Those ideas would rest in science.
Contemporary physics, metaphysics, biology, etc. is far more interesting than the art scene. Art has become a distraction to intelligent people. Which is why I like creating art. Its a good place to hide.
Alice was tied to the railroad tracks. Her legs spread like fence posts. Who thinks up these ideas. She should have been falling down a hole. I can still see the world collapsing around Buster Keaton.
Moe was always so smug when he stuck his fingers into the eyes of Curly. Curly who ended up hanging in a closet. Like a recently pressed suit. A professional hit, Larry said. Moe wouldn’t do something like that.