Archive for November, 2010

“Little magazines are the pollinators of works of art: literary movements and eventually literature itself could not exist without them.” Cyril Connolly wasn’t thinking of Spot Literary Magazine when he said that – he was writing about 43 years before Susan Hansell started editing the journal – but he might as well have been.

After years of association with the journal, I was finally able to meet some of the artists whose work it fosters when issue 4.2 was released on November 21. A reading was held at a Borders bookstore in Long Beach with participants including Laurel Ann Bogen, Luisa Peña, Joan Jobe Smith, Bill Mohr, Eric Morago, Fred Voss, Jeffrey C. Alfier, John F. Buckley, Tobi Cogswell and me. Publisher Gerald Uyeno estimated that more than 100 people attended the standing-room-only event, which I enjoyed immensely.

Some of the contributors to Spot Literary Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 2

In an additional act of literature pollination, the SLM team arranged another reading the night before featuring Cogswell, who read from Poste Restante, and Voss, who read from Hammers and Hearts of the Gods. I read from Fighters & Writers, and Smith acted as emcee. (One of the essays in Fighters & Writers first appeared in SLM.) Essayist don’t usually read with poets; I did it on two consecutive evenings.

With Gerald Uyeno and Susan Hansell

SLM is something special, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Reading in Long Beach, November 21, 2010

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The publication after authors’ deaths of their letters and previously unpublished, sometimes unfinished work is common practice, but some small part of me objects to it.

If writers didn’t write such things for readers (or readers other than specific addressees) or couldn’t verify their work’s completion, do readers have legitimate claims to it? Then again, established authors know that their letters and journals may one day end up printed and bound and may write accordingly, with a larger audience in mind. Still, as someone who doubts the usefulness or necessity of knowledge about writers’ lives for the appreciation and understanding of their work, I wonder about the real literary (as opposed to commercial) value of such documents.

Such reservations haven’t hardened into a principle that keeps me from reading books such as Saul Bellow’s Letters, which I reviewed for The Oregonian.

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Thanksgiving has inherent religious aspects even if not all celebrants (aka diners) acknowledge the fact. Abraham Lincoln, the president who made it a national holiday, openly expressed the day’s prayerfulness. In at least one area of the United States, Thanksgiving supplanted a decidedly secular annual festival. Both Thanksgiving Day and now-forgotten Evacuation Day share close historical connection with certain wars.

The good folks at the American Humanist Association gave me the opportunity to consider these matters in the November 20 edition of their online magazine Humanist Network News.

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Writers necessarily spend much time occupied with the contents of their own heads. But the work involves more than sitting in solitary trying to put the right words in the right order. Sometimes we get away from our desks and actually talk with other people. I’ll be doing that at least a few more times in the last months of 2010.

As mentioned previously, I’ll be taking part in back-to-back readings in Long Beach, California, on November 20th and 21st. At the first, I’ll read from Fighters & Writers and poets from the area will read from their new books; at the second, I’ll join other contributors to the forthcoming issue of Spot Literary Magazine.

I’ve also been invited to participate in a festival of the arts on December 4 at the University of Colorado in Boulder organized by Palimpsest, a journal that’s publishing an essay of mine called “Second-Generation Punks” about the enduring relevance of bands like Crass, the Dead Kennedys and Discharge. (More details to come.)

I look forward to being amongst fellow readers and scribblers.

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The 1910 fight between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries was far more than just an athletic event. The contest between the first black heavyweight champion and a former titlist who’d previously refused to confront black challengers spotlighted and enflamed the volatile attitudes concerning race, identity, meritocracy and manhood not only of the two athletes but of the nation as a whole. The staunchly individualistic Johnson was a polarizing figure, and the racism of those supporting the Great White Hope Jeffries was sickeningly commonplace. Clearly, the struggle involved much more than just two men.

As I’ve mentioned before, I gave a talk called “Jack Johnson’s Fourth of July” at the centennial celebration of the Johnson-Jeffries bout in Reno, where the fight was held. The Nevada Review, a multidisciplinary journal that examines Nevada’s role in the political and historical development of the United States, has printed my remarks. The fall 2010 edition (Vol. 2, No. 2) is available from selected bookstores as well as Amazon.

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