Tuesday, May 26, 2009

earth note 125

bicycling across neville island pennsylvania

it isn't easy
coming to terms
with abandonment
steel fabricating plant hollowed out
like a ghost town
leaving droopy sheet metal extensions

scattered empty locker rooms & clothes racks
overhead crane runways
disconnected from the body

i used to walk those runways
scared shitless of height
out to stranded motor controls
a meter and tools stuffed around me
usually tons of load
between lifting or lowering
i'd figure out a way of completing the lift
and then getting a crane ride to the exit ladder

our strike in the mid 1970s
didn't last but a few weeks
the injustice of working
way below
basic steelworker wage levels
brought out solidarity even from
electricians welders fitters
even crane operators

haven't taken a hard look
at that shell of a plant
for over thirty years
green brush growing up around
once-black corrugated steel siding
rust chunks dropping
from the i-beams
stain the earth forever

i'm still listening for distant voices
coalescing near the tracks
rooftop hide-outs
out from a patchwork of shade
a surge
at the river's edge

--- e b bortz

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

Deep Green: Culture, Rebellion, Poetry

by e b bortz

"something is happening here
but you don’t know what it is
do you Mr. Jones?
" --- b. dylan

If you’re looking for a scientific essay with footnotes, or a practical political platform or even an agenda, this won’t be the place…though you’re more than welcome to stick around. Everything from here on is based on observations, impressions, subtle influences, emotional predispositions…in a word: feelings…which can be as good a place as any for a starting point…leaving the road map-making to others.

First, let’s acknowledge that there’s a growing mainstream green consciousness sweeping across the world, including in the United States. Inherent in this mass green acceptance are the more radical seeds of deep green consciousness which basically rejects (or rebels against) social and cultural foundations, assumptions and social conditioning that rationalizes "human domination" over all other living things on the planet. Maybe within this deep green phenomena there lives the fundamental antidote to the slash-burn-extinction dogma we've all been spoon-fed as "normal."

When we look at the innate interconnection and interdependence of all living things, the ideas of deep ecology, living co-existence and co-evolution are relevant, but this goes beyond what I want to say here.

So for now, let’s just recognize deep green as a growing and developing body of alternative cultural images and logic that needs no conventional wisdom or schedule.

Rebellion in the form of an alternative holistic life style might be one of many natural deep green oppositional responses to a dominant culture based on money-making, violence, and exploitation. Other forms of rebellion are found in music, art, and poetry…countercultural expression if you want to use the handy phrase.

But it’s in poetry that I want to dwell, not as a critic or reviewer, but as a participating poet. Let me use this opening as an open reading to emphasize the theme herein.

earth note 66

round face like the sun
on a mountain path too crooked
to keep a straight face
your wire-rim eyes feel through the darkness
but insist
there is a better way
to carry out our karma fortunes
under one arm
and still use the other
to stop those fleeing
their eyes never seeing
the forest

earth note 37
the strip, pittsburgh

acid apron steam heat blanket
draping river basin
a crack on the thirty-first street bridge
shakes loose unclips my clip-less pedal delusion
street-unwise propensity to rant
at rusted machinery
crippled rolling mill appendages
bandaged round a river beaten through the ages
approximation chaos
a tongue licks inverted water droplets clean
perennials return to carry forth
our burden

earth note 59
provincetown, massachusetts

white underside of a humpback's tail
a series of creamy sand dunes
position themselves
between purple sundown ocean spray
and a nest of juniper pines
their rough green branches
needling our impatience
of living
between morning and evening stars
a cricket song from the hollow
is a million voices

Hope no one can find a specific agenda in any of the above. If a poem works, it can stir thought and emotion that may ultimately lead to practical individual action. These actions can in turn stir new poems and emotions --- something like a closed loop of rising awareness. But the poem is not a power on to itself…it requires an interaction with living beings, submerging parts of itself deep into an unknown living region many would call consciousness. The poem or parts of it may stay submerged and never find expression or utterance again. Or it may burst out into a newer, synthesized form branching into the emotional (life) experience of another being.

Do species other than humans communicate with their own poetry? Can we hear or synthesize from them? Can they hear us?

Sharing the Work…Sharing the Stage

If the goal of a poet, musician, or artist is to create "works" for dissemination, and the objective is to be as honest with the emotional "product" as possible, then that means one must ruminate over what’s inside of oneself continuously. Intense self-reflection and churning up of the internals and experiences is part of the process I have found to be a confidence builder. So much of what I perceive to be "academic poetry" dwells in the "mechanics of poetry" and very little in the realm of consciousness, either individual or societal. A simple sharing of the stage (or internet) with other poets is essentially an aspect of "sharing the work."

Having a holistic vision of the world (that all living things are a part of…even poets), being a close and critical observer of everything around, being as emotionally honest and self-sufficient as possible, keeping the ego in-check, creating not for fame but for passionate self-expression/personal wholeness (which can also serve a broader interest), refusing to suppress "uncomfortable experiences" and thoughts, refusing to homogenize with conventional wisdom or conventional "schools" of poetry (i like to say when in doubt, subvert the paradigm)…these are all exercises and ideas not easily "taught" or transferred via academia for many reasons. It might be useful to examine why this is so.

earth note 62
khanom, thailand

let me taste the early morning light
before smoky sunrise mix
distant yellows of a coconut plume
speak seductively sweet
swallowing my words
forgetting the murky river
a charge
coming through the shadows
from who knows where
a mother answers the child's question
in the teeter of teak stilts
a balance

earth note 35
bethel, vermont

fog halo granite mountain
the mist tilts east
white river rapids
wild irreverent backwoods chanting
white birch bark peeled away
a trunk of blemishes opened to light

earth note 31
fineview, pittsburgh

a few songbirds have saved the day
just when i thought a cold drizzle
had touched deep in the darkest
of marrow
a gray soup wrung from the hillsides
tension spitting upwind from the ohio
broken city steps become timeless corridors
green agendas
budding sycamore and maple seedlings
creep along the concrete
cardinals and finches shout their venues
of an awakening

forsythia breaking away
for all us local quarry cutters

right at the exit ramp
dropping yellow bell-bottoms
every pothole can testify
if you’re close enough to listen
there’s a halo
that’s been snatched
from those would-be
us bitter ones
can see the race for what it is
but like acid to the alkaline
our hands will grow a garden

earth note 44

the mist along the beaver river
leaves a crooked path
for those who follow in its

an orange morning cloud is surrounded
by gray ones
may be the face of a seeker
a passion shiftless unfulfilled

in the northwest corner a yellow cumulus cluster
refuses to yield
an altar of its peers speak
from voi-dom
i do not listen

we live by the river and look past
the footprints of yesterday

there's no security

in the old order
asphalt patched concrete
heaving up
from the mantle
pedestals by definition
are abused visions

broken tar
a melting planet
to be borne

Celebrate the Uncontrollable

Poets have died for their words: Federico Garcia Lorca,
Victor Jara, and Ken Saro-Wiwa come to mind. Outright repression of poets is common in many countries (check with Amnesty International for specifics). But the most effective method of suppression and marginalization in the U.S. seems to center around mass media "acceptance" or "disapproval" often involving something close to an incestuous relationship with academia. Community poets, particularly "non-credentialed" ones are creating venues and publications galore, but rarely are recognized in mainstream and academic circles. In a sense, this frees community (including radical and deep green) poets from the pressures and homogenizing trappings of the mainstream. And since poetry as a profession is rarely a subsistence living, the majority of poetry that rages in coffeehouses and bars from coast to coast on any given night, needs only to satisfy the poet, and sometimes the audience. Yet no one should minimize the power of the words and ultimately the artistic influence that springs from the most ignored places, including high schools in broken down neighborhoods, rural hollows, and prisons.

earth note 61

my bucket of words are a pile
of dust
might as well fling them
to the clearcuts
clearfield pennsylvania
broken strip mine draglines
barren hills spread their legs
no seeds to receive

earth note 42

september is a cold river
dying and being born
that bloated highway outta town
of red maple shoulders
to cry on
valleys i wish i could sometimes forget
what brought me back
the mills were dead
(let them rest)
a brown spent monongahela
rolls over the wreckage to the ohio
a rusty railroad trestle picks up acid droplets
lets them eat the deep black primer
of aliquippa
broken ridges slip down to the river
the bass are steadily abandoning
and everywhere evergreens hang on cliffsides
more resilient than the rest of us

earth note 45

something about autumn
that makes me feel so damn
maybe its just the singularity of each tree
becoming leafless
or the japanese water coloring that whispers
seeming to know where those
painted cotton clouds are going
and what they mean
i haven't decided
i'm still looking in airports and museums
at every face
for that unintentional gentle love rage
free of judgments
still connected to cave wall brush strokes
of basquiat
a gospel left unspoken
capturing my hollowness and booting it
i look at clouds and wonder if you
have found the answers


all poems are by e b bortz (ebbortz.blogspot.com) who wishes to acknowledge the following publications:
Whiskey Island, tight, ptrint.org, Green Panda Press, ArtCrimes, Hellbender Journal, Split W*sky, Jawbone, thecitypoetry.com, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, The Exchange

(published in opednews.com, Dec 24, 2010)
(published in greenchange.org, August 2009)