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Poetry Month is almost over and I have been writing away, trying to catch up on the Poem-A-Day challenge. I wanted to point out the upcoming Poem in Your Pocket Day which is April 30th, but now I am hooked on this story:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6652066.html?industryid=47144

Lulu, the print-on-demand self-publishing company that you may be familiar with already, has purchased the domain http://www.poetry.com and created a whole new site built around the old name. It looks to me like a decent resource, complete with free contests that users vote on (and actually award $$), but also a well-played marketing move to encourage amateur poets like myself to invest in a self-published collection. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; poetry has a long tradition of self-published poets. It worked for Walt Whitman, among many others. There is of course, a darker [and slightly juicy] side to this story. You  may be familiar with the original Poetry.com site which has been featured on such prestigious lists as Winning Writers’ “Contests to Avoid” and Professor Roy’s Amazingly Bad Poetry Journal. This is the site connected to the infamous National Library of Poetry, and several other aliases, which scammed innocent poets into paying for anthologies and awards that seldom materialized.The site has basically been considered a joke among literary and writing circles, though some others may have harsher words for it. It has even inspired parody contests for Bad Poetry.

Lulu legitimately paid for the domain name and are trying to change the tarnished image into their own shiny one, but now they are warding off dissatisfied customers and p.o.’d poets who

a.) want their money back

b.) want their poems back  [yes, they got some of the archived poetry along with the domain, though they swear they did not buy the business itself. That company, Watermark Media, is double-dead].

c.) want revenge

d.) All of the above

The comment board on their blog already has ppl writing in all caps what they think about Lulu and poetry.com … I think they should have thought this one through a bit better, though maybe the controversy will be good PR. Hey, it drew me there, and the prize money sure looks tempting. I would just laugh, but many people really fell for the scam and it somewhat marred the image of poetry publications in America. So, I do question how legitimate this move can make that domain name now. Obviously it is optimal for the search engines, but as any former tween celebrity can tell you, it is hard to shake a bad rep, even if you change your name, Lulu.

I know I talk about writing and books a lot more these days, but when I first began this blog, I was often ranting about media issues, and I was “dedicated” to fighting censorship and the demise of print media. So, this topic tweeked my ire last night and now I return to my roots:

In case you haven’t heard, there is a huge controversy going on about Amazon’s ranking system which is suddenly [from some accounts drastically] dropping sales rankings of books which they deem to be “Adult” in nature. No, we are not talking the smutty books which honest people used to have to go to dark rooms in the back of “those stores” to purchase. Some of the books being affected include feminist books and especially LGBT books. I am reading what I can, before I pass too much judgement, which is always recommendable, but from what I have read and seen, not surprisingly, Amazon is bowing to the puritanical pressures which have been dictating what we are supposed to read, watch and think for about as long as we have been here. I don’t really use Amazon often, and some arguments in the comments are that they “can do what they want with their sales rankings” but this reeks of censorship to me. If books are being bought they deserve their rank. And how are they deciding what is too “adult”? Which seems weird to me anyway… Because most books are written for adults and there are some pretty hot scenes happening in plenty of hetero romance novels. Once again free speech, literacy and the pursuit of happiness are being hindered based on what other people think is appropriate? Anyway, I need to read more, but you can follow it on Twitter, hash #amazonfail or at Jezebel here and here or …A brand new update at NYTimes I am going to read now…

Glory be! I am writing from the comfort of my own home in the security of the Obama administration. I am definitely counting some blessings. I did spend several hours staring at C-Span on Tuesday taking in all of the pomp and circumstances. I believe the only highlight I missed was the removal of…departure of W… which was probably what I had looked forward to the most…for 8 years.

I have to admit to getting rather emotional during the ceremony and speech. Part of me was missing being at the party but mostly it was a happy set of tears of relief/joy/anticipation. Of course I celebrate the historic factors, etc, but mostly I am thrilled to hear the revival of a positive discourse in our culture. We should be able to “choose hope over fear” without sacrificing our ideals. We should be models to the world based on “what you can build not what you can destroy”. President Obama is not the first politician or even POTUS to offer similar hopes, but it does truly seem like he may be the one to make lasting changes and renovations in the culture. Yes, there is the obvious one [many claim this is a post-racial America now, but I think that in saying that they prove we’re not quite there yet], but there is so much more to this “new revolution”. He offers a multicultural point of view, a world view which we need in the 21st century, not a close-minded view that says we only care about US.

So here we go , ready to change the world [again] for the better. I hope this is the end of American imperialism and the beginning of a simpler, open-minded democracy. We have a lot of work to do and it will not end in 4, 8 or 20 years. But I do still have concerns. I am not sure that everyone celebrating this week is getting the message that we have to stop wasting time, energy and resources on ‘stuff’ and that part of the problem of the previous 2 decades has been caused by our need to succeed. Many people still want the rich lifestyle and the gadgets that go with it. Many people still see others as enemies or Different. And in that respect, I think the most brilliant statement made on Tuesday January 20, 2009 was not by a president, a preacher and definitely not by a pundit. It was a poet who said “What if the mightiest word is Love?”

First of all, I liked it. I listened closely and took notes. I have heard some ridiculous statements and criticisms by people who should not comment on things they do not understand, [but that’s the American media for ya], though I have not yet checked out the Poetry community’s reaction. I did not really like the way poet Elizabeth Alexander read her “Praise Song for the Day”, and that may be one of the factors leading to the criticisms. The thing is, she read it the right way [obviously, it’s hers, she can read it any way she chooses] as far as academics and poetics goes. I have been taught “how” to read poetry, but I always thought that the Beats had the right idea, and she probably would have made a great impact on the day’s events if she had gotten up and slammed it. But of course, staid and solemn is more appropriate for the event [tho apparently that message did not get out to the other 1.5 million people there]. A song of praise was exactly what we needed though it could have sounded a bit more jubilant.

That is one of the powers of poetry which I have always loved, however. To me, a poem begins as a thought: the poet has a thought, jots it down [at keyboard, in journal, on napkin grabbed out of the glove box, etc]; the poet elaborates on the thought, then shares it with others. A listener or reader will take that thought and make it their own, based on what they hear, what their experiences are, what their interpretation of metaphors, images and individual words are- or what they think the poet meant. Which is why some poetry lasts centuries, because it is open to interpretation by whatever reader encounters it, whenever it is read.

So, I suggest we read it again. Silently, slowly, to yourself, over and over if you need to, then out loud as expressively or solemnly as you want. Her words are “words to consider, reconsider” just as the speeches are.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each others’
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of someone and then others who said,
“I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.”
We need to find a place where we are safe;
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
Others by “first do no harm,” or “take no more
than you need.” What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp —

praise song for walking forward in that light.


—transcribed from the Presidential inauguration ceremony

January 20, 2009
© 2009, Elizabeth Alexander

I did attempt my own creation after the party had ended, though of course it is nowhere near as profound. At first, I was focusing on the idea of Freedom, specifically the so-named statue atop the Capitol building that was cast and placed by a slave. There is even more irony to that story. I have to work on that piece more especially if i want to use poetic metre, but then I jotted out my ode to the crowd 🙂

[photo from michaeldeangelis on flickr]

Come, Together

They came to gather
Whether for history or
For honor,
For celebration or
Revolution,
They were there today.
They weathered it together
As the winds of change
Swept the world up and
Blew them all away
Leaving chapped cheeks
And cheerful smiles.
They filled the monumental Mall,
Each a drop in a grand pool
Reflecting the “patchwork heritage”
Flowing through
The nation’s veins.

Millions have worked,
Prayed and hoped for
Positive resolution
And so they milled together
To enter the new era of Love.

I am sure others have created their own lasting tributes to the day and I would love to read more. Please share if you have a poem, post or opinion. Now that I am back in the virtual world, and we are in the midst of the new administration, I am eager to connect with everyone. Happy Day! Write on!

Is anyone else not surprised by this? The talking head on Fox finally admits his show is “stupid“…[OK that’s not quite what he says but i could definitely frame an argument around it]… Seems he has an interview, potentially if not definitely historic in value, with presidential candidate Clinton tonight, yet all he has prepared to talk about are “stupid” questions. Big surprise. Any bets on whether they are sexist or racist too?

Once again, I ask, how do these people become pundits? Who is he speaking for? Even Karl Rove wants more information, Bill! This is not a joke! Why should it be a “fun” interview? Do you really feel the pressure to compete with Colbert and SNL? Obviously, he feels that he can make “fun” of this interview because he does not take Clinton seriously. Or the Democratic Party. Or the American viewing public.

As an educator, I generally support the old adage that there are no stupid questions, [but I don’t actually watch foxnews by choice], so I have to believe that he’s still lying. They won’t be stupid questions. They will be aggressive, derisive, pandering, and most definitely, insulting. Which is his goal. His agenda. His style.

But he is not alone, of course. He just has the audacity to admit it, because he believes he is above reprobation [just like he still doesn’t understand what he said wrong about Sylvia’s]. Most of his peers are guilty of asking “stupid” questions. Or at least, insulting ones, whether they are insulting their interviewees, their viewers or everyone else in the human race. I am so tired of hearing what she is wearing, or what he is not [get over the lapel pin crap now] or what they have to drink for breakfast. Do you think we are that shallow and ignorant? Ask about the environment already! [It’s that big space surrounding everything we experience and no, you are not the center of it.] Ask about the appalling economy and war and health care issues. Oh wait, you don’t think that stuff is news, do you, Bill? No wonder they call it faux.

 UPDATE: i went on a tag search on wordpress and found this nugget at The Implied Observer which made me laugh…till I cry. Yet another example of fauxnews…but it’s all for fun, right? ha. ha.

That’s Save Our Books y’all…  which i believe was my original focus for this blog… i tend to get side-tracked, but I am inspired to share these calls to arms, or to write/petition/blog whatever way you choose…First, of all [warning: i may get political for a moment] They claim that there will be no children left behind but it seems that in order to fund trillion dollar wars we have to cut out all of those little extras like literacy, so funding for programs like Reading is Fundamental is in dire straits….  do your karma a good turn and check out the info….it’s easy to help if you want to….

If that doesn’t get your goat, then maybe this will… personally I cannot stand the way children are commercially targeted. Of course that’s nothing too new, after all Saturday morning cartoons wouldn’t have existed without Saturday morning commercials, but don’t you think they are taking it a bit too far? I mean, there are ads and commercials even on school buses these days and now they want to put the equivalent of commercials in books. I am not talking about the cardboard pullout order form pages that they have in the doctor office books… I mean full-on product placement. As if they even need it! Haven’t they noticed that the good/popular books end up with their own merchandising line anyway? But this middle reader series is not about publishing good books…it is basically an advertising campaign. The “author” is actually a marketing executive…if that tells you anything. I’m not putting the title, but it’s coming out from Harper Collins and you can get more info here from Commercial Alert

OK now I can have a good weekend and read in peace and I hope you do too!

Here’s the lead from “Editor& Publisher” about the latest attack of bigotry in the mainstream media: [UPDATE 3/26/12: For some reason this link can not be found now and I am searching for one that still exists. But I copied it from the original article and do not remember hearing any rescinding of the statement.]

Ann Coulter on CNBC Show: Jews Need ‘Perfecting’

By E&P Staff

Published: October 11, 2007 12:15 AM ET

NEW YORK Appearing on Donny Deutsch’s CNBC show, “The Big Idea,” on Monday night, columnist/author Ann Coulter suggested that the U.S. would be a better place if there weren’t any Jewish people and that they had “perfected” themselves into — Christians.

It led Deutsch to suggest that surely he couldn’t mean that, and when she insisted she did, he said this sounded “anti-Semitic.”

Asked by Deutsch regarding whether she wanted to be like “the head of Iran” and “wipe Israel off the Earth,” Coulter stated: “No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. … That’s what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament.”

Unbelievable, but true, and of course they are going to turn this around and claim they are being libeled or ganged up on by the notorious Liberals. The saddest factor is how self-righteous these people truly are. It’s actually interesting watching them destroy their careers with the skills that got them such lucrative contracts in the first place- their big mouths. It might even be enjoyable if they weren’t hurting so many other people with their powerful words. When did spouting off and insulting people become acceptable journalism? Its bothered me for too long that vindictive and condescending attitudes are prized so highly in the media. These, pundits, supposed expert professional speakers, [who DO speak for part of the population btw] are promoted as America’s intellectuals, the voice of the people! They do not speak for me nor do they speak for all, but the bigger the mouth, the greater the P.R. and the income. People have to stand up against this.

well, at least she’s sexist too….

OK, full disclosure, I have never [to my knowledge] heard Ann Coulter speak since there are so many better things to do in life, and dozens of channels full of more interesting BS, so I decided to delve further into her world of wonders. I did not have to go too far back to find another example of her tragic foot-in-mouth disease. Maybe we should do a telethon…

Hey, I’ll go on record as defending the right of idiots to freely speak their opinions, I just wish they didn’t get paid so damn well for it…and why do people defend such statements with “it’s a joke”? Uh, no it’s not, they take themselves very seriously and when they speak under the pretense of news, they are presenting ideas to people who also take them seriously. She is not on the Comedy Central news and she knows it…plus, it wasn’t funny.

Do these over-paid “pundits” even hear themselves speak? Do they think about what they are saying before they face the camera? Is it funny, or very, very sad? Frankly, it angers me!

Bill O’Reilly, who apparently thinks the ability to speak outweighs the ability to think in human progression, ate his own foot for dessert after having dinner with Al Sharpton .

Summary: Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia’s, Bill O’Reilly reported that he “couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.” O’Reilly added: “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea.’ “

This article on Media Matters details some of the statements O’Reilly has made, which show just how ignorant and racist he is…he says things like:

“I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They’re getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They’re just trying to figure it out: ‘Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it.’ “

and seems to think that he is making some amazing insightful statement and showing the world that he is so open-minded, but he DOES NOT GET IT! Why do these people even get paid? And he is writing books for our children! How can someone who apparently slept through the 60’s civil rights movement be allowed to teach values to younger generations? He does not even see the irony in his statement “this is what white America doesn’t know, particularly people who don’t have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.”

If he and his peers had chosen to venture forth earlier in their lives, they may have learned a bit more about the entire American culture, society and population, much less New York City’s! Geez- I’m a white American and I have never been to NYC, but I’ve heard of Sylvia’s !!! It’s freekin famous and been there for like 50 years or something…. does he know they get cable there too?

More pulp in media….

2007-09-16-simpsonarrested1Normally I would pass on the Juice, I find it hard to swallow all those chunks and I am definitely more of a java junky, but I am willing to discuss global warming and the BS that passes as news, and this piece by Bob Cesca in The Huffington Post wraps it all up in one hilarious breakfast burrito…

And in other news….

Yes, the Emmys are censored, duh… [don’t the pretty puppets know they aren’t supposed to think for themselves… just smile and read the script…] Sally, we still love you!- from a mother

But at least Gore finally won something he deserves. (hey it’s a start, and more than Reagan got in Hollyweird.)

And since Freedom of Speech is in the news and it’s football season I will add…

GO GATORS!

Glad to see the Independent Florida Alligator still does such in-depth reporting. Well, at least Kerry answered the question…[anyone know what the response was?] And did he have anything to say about the cries of “HELP!” echoing down the esteemed hallways? [I always miss the good stuff…Gene Simmons spoke when I was there, but I missed that too.]

I know this has nothing to do with writing so I will call it writer’s overflow… and I will stop procrastinating now… good day!

I am still trying to recover from being struck down by this technological illness. I did everything right [i think] ran my viral scans and used a firewall yadayada…still got an evil bug, then got talked into wiping the whole slate clean and starting over [wouldn’t that be nice in Reality World]. But of course it’s never that simple…as so many of us have found out the hard way, you can’t just start over, so many pieces need to be fixed and some never can be…and I am still doing makeup work!

It’s especially daunting trying to read through the mailbox while new stuff keeps rolling in [in my “spare” time] but I am compelled to write because of this disturbing piece I just read [not the heinous crime in WVA which words cannot express enough horror over.]

No, this piece of news is the news that almost wasn’t, meaning to say that

CENSORSHIP IS ALIVE AND WELL IN THE USA….

apparently restricting citizens’ rights, creating a police state and being a dictator is only “bad” if you live in another country. If you live here and do it you are patriotic not despotic….

It’s not all news to many but it is interesting to see it all in one place- rather a long entry since we get to read the TOP 10 CENSORED/IGNORED STORIES together…..

Some highlights:   “This year’s Project Censored presents a chilling portrait of a newly empowered executive branch signing away civil liberties for the sake of an endless and amorphous war on terror. And for the most part, the major news media weren’t paying attention.”

“While the project usually turns up a range of underreported issues, this year’s stories all fall somewhat neatly into two categories – the increase of privatization and the decrease of human rights. Some of the stories qualify as both.”

“the federal government continues to provide major news networks with stock footage, which is dutifully broadcast as news. The George W. Bush administration has spent more federal money than any other presidency on public relations. Without a doubt, Parenti said, the government invests in shaping our beliefs. ‘Every day they’re checking out what we think,'”

this just goes to show that the mainstream media which insist on broadcasting parodys of debates are being controlled by the central government, whether it’s financially, legally or physically has yet to be discovered…

Well, I am attempting the sensational headline…but it MUST be true! I read it on the Net. If even the news that isn’t fit to print is no longer being printed, then what is the future of the hometown paper? The Weekly World News is actually folding, because their readership has fallen under 90,000. Yes, these are the people who brought us the original Batboy and numerous laughs at the checkout counter. No, I am not suggesting that the literary world will suffer without this not-too-prestigious publication [I consider the Washington Post’s description as “The most creative newspaper in American history” both arguable and amusing]. But I do think it illustrates to even casual news readers that the status of print journalism is in danger. What’s next? The Enquirer? The Post? Time?

At the very least, local papers are definitely suffering because of the webmedia blitz going on in the nation and so are their readers. I subscribe to my local newspaper and read it every morning. It’s a ritual I generally enjoy. [if i get to read in peace with strong coffee by my side] More and more often I am annoyed by the lack of worthwhile copy that is actually printed. I swear the paper itself is being brainwashed by its own advertisements. The more fashion ads that are printed, the thinner the paper actually gets. Sometimes entire sections are dominated by ads, which of course is what is keeping the paper financially afloat, with a story or two squeezed in here and there… probably to fill whitespace not covered by ads. The “news” that is generally deemed “fit” often covers the same few topics that are rotated on the local and national TV news. When I do find articles/stories to read, I am constantly also finding spelling and grammatical errors [which tend to frustrate me]. Many moons ago, I read the same paper during my high school journalism class and found similar errors for fun.

So, is it worth it to keep subscribing when I can so easily turn on the tube or search the web for news/features/info I really want to read? Well, I will keep supporting my local newspaper, and probably keep complaining about it too. I do believe in the power of the press. This nation owes a lot to that estate and I hope we do not forget it too soon.

However, we are also continuously subjected to liars and thieves who seem to think that the reading public is dumb and will believe anything that they read! Who are these pseudo-journalists who assume that their career/opinion/ego deserve a greater boost than the Truth? The majority of journalists and writers are, of course, honest and hardworking citizens. They are also victims of liars like Private Beauchamp and Stephen Glass. The general public is not going to waste their precious time reading news media when they cannot trust it. They would rather hear about Paris’ latest adventure in Reality World because, as sordid as it may seem, it is generally true, aside from a few minor details. So the Star is probably safe for now, The New Republic is going to the dogs, and we can cross our fingers for the Post. And Batboy will always live on in the world of web.

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