November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Category — Lynda Barreto

Mark Levy/Casual Observer

 

 

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What’s A Decade?

by Mark Levy

As geologic time goes, a decade is almost insignificant. Dinosaurs, for example, thrived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods for eight million decades. Those two periods, by the way, make up only two-thirds of the Mesozoic Era, which lasted an additional fifty million years or five million decades, if you’re a stickler for consistent units of measure, and who isn’t?

And geologic time doesn’t hold a candle to astronomical time, measured from the Big Bang, almost fourteen billion years ago. I guess I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but I wanted to put in perspective how insignificant a decade can be if you’re measuring dinosaurs or galaxies.

On the other hand, in human lifetimes, a decade is quite significant. For example, it’s unheard of for a person to make it to even twelve decades, although some giant sequoias and sea turtles do better.

Much has been accomplished by humans in a decade or less. The American Revolution, for example, took less than a decade. So did WWI and WWII. Speaking of which, the Nazis were able to wipe out millions of people between 1939 and 1945. The total number of casualties in WWII is estimated to be 60 million. And that all happened in barely more than half a decade.

Most studies of infant mortality measure casualties of babies up to one year old as opposed to child mortality rates that measure casualties of children from one to five years old. Few studies discuss mortality rates of children up to a decade old.

Here is one more depressing statistic before I move on to more pleasant thoughts. When it comes to newborn babies, the United States has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world. About 11,300 newborns die within 24 hours of their birth in the U.S. each year, 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.

Frankly, though, I’m more impressed with positive things people can do in a relatively short time, like a decade. Take Barack Obama. He lost an election for the House of Representatives in 2000 when he lived in Illinois, but he became President less than a decade later. In ten years, Picasso moved through his Blue Period, his Rose Period, and into Cubism. In Mozart’s first decade and a half, he wrote thirteen symphonies and a few other musical pieces. In 1961, President Kennedy announced his goal to Congress to send an American to the moon and less than a decade later, Neil Armstrong was taking a giant leap for mankind in the Sea of Tranquility.

In 1879, Edison invented the first incandescent electric lamp and during the next decade, made improvements to dynamos, voltmeters, sockets, switches, insulating tape, gummed paper tape, now commonly used in place of string for securing packages, the first electric motor for a 110 volt line, a magnetic ore separator, and a life-sized electric railway for handling freight and passengers, and he obtained 300 patents along the way. He also invented a system of wireless telegraphy to and from trains in motion, wax cylinder records, and — almost forgot — the motion picture camera.

So you see, many significant, depressing, or exciting thing can happen in a decade.

Only 29% of all businesses survive for 10 years. Ragazine is one of them. As Mr. Spock is known for saying during Star Trek’s original one-third of a decade TV run, “Live long and prosper.”

About the author:

Mark Levy is Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer.”   He is a lawyer, lives in Florida, and is an occasional contributor to National Public Radio where his columns can be heard some Saturdays around noon. You can read more about him in “About Us.” 

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buzzkillby Lynda Barretto

March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Mark Levy/Casual Observer

Books & Reviews

 

Coffee

Eclectic Coffee Spots in Puget Sound
Marsha Glazière
ISBN #9781468598575
AuthorHouse

 

Eclectic Coffee Spots In Puget Sound

by Abigail Smoot

A sublime example of a local interest title, artist Marsha Glazière’s Eclectic Coffee Spots in Puget Sound, achieves a most difficult goal in aspiring to appeal to more than just the region’s residents. Beautifully designed and presented, with striking mixed-media paintings and captivating photography, each page adds to a varied and remarkable collection of coffee shops throughout the one-hundred or so miles of the Puget Sound locale. It is a book which one could flip through over and over, and discover something new with each perusal.

Glazière’s piece offers a combination art book and documentary, with Seattle’s renowned coffee culture at the center. While the book focuses on 109 different cafés, nearly one such establishment per mile, they comprise only a few of the total destinations, and only those the author found most notable. Seattle’s love of coffee is well-known; still, the extent is rather stunning. In the U.S., Seattle’s Puget Sound area has the largest concentration of coffee houses. In Seattle proper, statistically, there’s a coffee shop on every block. The Discover America website for the region states that there are 2.5 coffee shops per 1,000 citizens. To put that into perspective, the Mid-Atlantic city of Baltimore has 0.026 coffee shops per 1, 000 citizens – that’s 154 coffee shops for the 5.9 million people living in the Baltimore-metropolitan region. With over 100 of these cafés represented by two chains, either Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, less than a third are small, privately owned businesses. Quite conspicuously, of the 109 shops mentioned in her book, Glazière includes only a single chain café, the flagship Starbucks, established in 1971, at Pike Place Market.

Throughout the book, Glazière is adept at capturing the diversity of the region. The names of the cafés themselves range from mundane and unassuming, to distinctive – Walnut Street Coffee, Q Café, Joe Bar, Fuel Coffee, 909 Coffee and Wine, Cafe Bambino, A Muddy Cup, Zeitgeist Coffee, Burial Grounds Coffee Co., The Doctor’s Office, Ladybug Bikini Espresso. Each featured coffee shop has a different feel. Some are large with vaulted rooms, others impossibly tiny, having seating for just a few patrons. The diversity of styles is tremendous and varies from casual to upscale, cozy to uber-modern, artistic to austere, rustic to metropolitan. Each shop creates an overarching aesthetic, which feels both personal and authentic. Whether showing smiling baristas, overstuffed chairs, gleaming espresso machines, colorful paintings, whimsical sculptures, suspended lighting, performing musicians, or windows overlooking sylvan vistas, it seems that there is a perfectly-tailored venue to fit any personality, and any mood.

The images contained in the book are truly lovely. Looking at the mixed-media artwork, it appears that Glazière may begin with a distinguishing photograph, and then creatively overlay paint, fabric, and other media, in working toward some unique and telling composition. This gives a strong sense of continuity between the volume’s paintings and its photography. The pieces are dynamic and active, and show a mix of interiors and exteriors. Glazière’s use of perspective in the pieces is unique, one largely accomplished through incorporating interesting angles which reveal significant features of the various coffee houses. Instead of a flat picture of a building’s façade, Glazière adds her own twist by integrating the small, sometimes curious, but always defining objects into her pieces. In one, she includes a breathy sketch of a tiny garden, outside of one café’s front entrance, and in another, a photograph of a dog, leashed to a deck overlooking serene water. Each depicts something essential to the individuality of the place.

These subtle facets might not be noticed by a patron, and generally are not captured by promotional photography. The captions, too, impart interesting details – which café roasts their own beans, uses organic ingredients, or bakes their own sweets – elements that fully embellish Glazière’s rich portrait of the very eclectic coffee houses of the Puget Sound region.

The end of the book contains a few noteworthy shops, which during the course of the volume’s creation, have gone out of business. They are highlighted, Glazière explains, because these places captivated and inspired her. She also includes a handful of recipes that go well with coffee, and encourages her readers to enjoy a similar, cozy coffee shop experience in their own homes. Overall, the book is a warm and inviting piece, and is a relaxing and enchanting book to peruse. Upon reading Eclectic Coffee Spots in Puget Sound, one not only might wish to visit the Seattle area, but also investigate the lesser-known and locally-owned coffee spots in one’s own region.

 

Eclectic Coffee Spots in Puget Sound (ISBN #9781468598575)

Marsha Glazière

AuthorHouse

164 pages, 8.5 x 0.4 x 11 inches paperback, full color ($25.99)

 

 

Capture
Seven American Deaths and Disasters
Kenneth Goldsmith
ISBN: 9781576876367
powerHouse Books

 

Collage Become Poetic: Kenneth Goldsmith’s

Seven American Deaths and Disasters

by Abigail Smoot

 

In his latest collection of poetry, self-described as “non-creative writing,” American author, Kenneth Goldsmith has transcribed and assembled media coverage of seven high-profile tragedies, spanning several decades. Extremely conceptual, and in a large degree, collaborative, given the source materials, Seven American Deaths and Disasters is a cacophonous tableau, documenting infamous events in a way unusual for text, and very different for poetry, if defined traditionally. Influenced greatly by the internet age, and specifically, the contemporary dissemination of information, Goldsmith has put into print that which is more commonly seen in present day music and film media – the mashup: assembled snippets of varied works, combined into one piece of music, video, or in Goldsmith’s case, printed poetic-prose. For the collection to be described as poetry, one would need to extend traditional definitions. Perhaps an accurate description delineation of the work would be non-fiction creative collage – where the artistry is derived from the artist’s intentions, rather than through the use of his own words. Taking precedence are the ideas, the design, and the implications of the work.

Broken into seven chapters, each document a different incident: there are three assassinations, of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and John Lennon; one accident, that of the Space Shuttle, Challenger; two mass murders – Columbine and the World Trade Center attack of 9/11; and one death with current ongoing litigation – Michael Jackson. Going beyond simple remembrance, the pieces are not the emotionally neutral news reports or solemn obituaries, but on-the-scene reactions replete with confusion, gasps, and “Oh my God!” One is thus urged to experience the events as they occurred.

The title, Seven American Deaths and Disasters, is drawn from Andy Warhol’s 1962-1963 art collection Deaths and Disasters, similar in name and mode. In Warhol’s compilation, suicides, car crashes and other catastrophic events are portrayed in the flat two-dimensions of black and white photography, some washed with a single matte color. This format, delineates the impersonal impression that photography can render, as the medium gives the same emphasis to both happiness and tragedy. The impact, then, comes from a personal reaction, rather than the medium itself.  Goldsmith’s black and white print, like Warhol’s photographs, is a stark representation of each incident. In approaching Goldsmith’s collection, understanding this context and presentation is important. Otherwise, especially by the uninitiated, reading of the book, with its interjected exclamations and sudden changes of speakers, fonts, and uses of both colloquial and more formal language, might otherwise feel impossibly disjointed and disparate.

The modest volume’s cover immediately alludes to the conceptual nature of the entire piece. The spine of the white dust jacket gives the title, author, and publisher in black. The jacket cover has excerpts of each chapter printed vertically in red, and the chapter numbers are dark blue. When turned on its side it has the impression of the American flag. The red letters and white spaces making up the red and white lines, the space around the blue numbers giving the impressions of stars – American colors for the American deaths. However, under the jacket, the back of the book is red, the spine white, and identical to the jacket, the front cover is the same blue. As well, aligned with the chapter numbers, printed on the jacket front, are the numbers of those killed in each tragedy. This subtle inclusion speaks to the psyche of society, where one event, in which there is but a single victim can have the same, or perhaps more, impact than an event in which many more were slain. Each occurrence had immeasurable impact on American culture, and has rippled some much more strongly than others, throughout the entire world – leading to mourning and candlelight vigils, even to decades of war.

Beginning with a quote by Wittgenstein, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” the scene is set for the author’s exclusive use of ancillary material to deliver the message. Goldsmith’s decision only to include the words of others ironically shows the limits of the totality and a lack of overarching impact of his missive. He gives no discourse to describe why the various events were included in the volume. He provides no conclusions. All of the answers to these questions are left to the reader to determine. Offered are only the words spoken by individuals who had witnessed the various events. The chapter, dedicated to Columbine, is a scant five pages, but is powerful in its content. It relays a 911 call made by a teacher as the gunmen slowly approach her and her students’ hiding place. Her fate is only implied, but not expressly portrayed in the collection. Illuminating the widely known and the unknown may be Goldsmith’s point and the reason for his unconventional format in Seven American Deaths and Disasters.

In the face of continuous media, instantaneous digital content, unlimited information, the bombardment of modern broadcasting and society’s dependence upon it, will this all-access, 24-7 availability ever be enough? News sources offer immersion in place of experience, and cannot provide adequate space in order for one to process what has occurred. In his use of firsthand, extremely immediate accounts, perhaps Goldsmith’s collage illustrates that the way to comprehension and solace, when confronted with trauma or tragedy, is through contemplation – after having experienced the unfiltered event for oneself.

 

Seven American Deaths and Disasters
(ISBN #9781576876367)
Kenneth Goldsmith
Literary Collections / Poetry / America
http://www.powerhousebooks.com/#

Paperback
4.3 x 7.06 inches
176 pages
ISBN: 978-1-57687-636-7
$19.95
$23.95 CAD

 

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Words the Interrupted Speak
Paul B. Roth
ISBN: 1-59661-152-9
March Street Press

Pardon the Interruption

Review by Alan Britt

    

Robert Bixby operated March Street Press for over 20 years. Along the way he published some 260 books by a wide variety of authors. In 2012 Bixby, a solid figure on the US poetry scene, passed away, likely from complications due to undiagnosed iron overload, often mislabeled as Hemochromatosis. Up to that point, Bixby managed to stay true to his vision of publishing quality books.  One of the last books he published was the brilliant book of prose poems, Words the Interrupted Speak, by Paul B. Roth. A well-known poet and publisher in his own right—of the award winning journal, The Bitter Oleander, plus an impressive line of books from his Bitter Oleander Press—Roth first gained prominence as an original member of the Immanentist poetry and art movement in the 1970’s and has continued to dazzle ever since. As Patrick Lawler says of Words the Interrupted Speak, “This book is a house with a thousand rooms, each room containing a thousand houses, each house containing a ventriloquist with a thousand voices….It continually surprises with its diamond-tipped images and the depth of its emotions.” Indeed, Roth is known for creating imagery that goes well beyond tepid metaphors that pervade MFA poetry like kudzu strangling the life out of so many young poets. Roth recognizes that as in life a poem must risk everything if it is to achieve the “depth of its emotions.” And it is this eternal struggle to communicate, to achieve an authentic connection not only with oneself, but also with others as well that characterizes much of the journey through Roth’s latest book. Take for example, from “A Little Faith Regained,” the bending and shaping of lexicon necessary to express an awareness that conventional wisdom doesn’t supply, along with the emotional depth or intellectual accuracy that the poet strives for:

Where I cannot see, messages are whispered up

through spiraling violet flowers, codes broken down inside an

insect gouged bark against which frogs rasp their guttural

songs, and a whole new language created from spaces between

the old letters I used to write before learning every word I

wrote was in truth a lie.

Likewise, from “An Ending,” we sense that detachment from convention is vital in order to protect individuality from being swallowed whole by our insatiable culture of conformity.

After all these years, I’ve made up my mind to live it out alone

and have these few walls be my ears, this one floor my feet and

this endless ceiling my eyes. When complete, I want to be so

much a part of this room that its windows will only open when I

breathe. I’ve been asked if instead I wouldn’t mind self-confine-

ment, placed under house arrest, or sequestered away in some

parking lot cinderblock bunker. Anything to keep from needing

to be so busy is my usual reply. Then, without warning, I have this

urge to have the fiberoptic cable lines running into and out of my

house clipped from their service. Believing I was being watched

by what I watched, heard by what I heard, I soon learned it was

cheaper to pay a saboteur than hire the requisite technician.

So, what does provide an authentic sense of connection for Roth? If artificial culture pursuits offer little or no “emotional depth,” what’s left? Anthony Seidman offer insight into what Roth is after: “(Roth) hears rust, frozen creeks, stone, stray fawns, and the seeds that sprout inside words; and because he is willing to stop and listen, he knows his name, daily traffic, and language are both exit and existence, a desolation he has the courage to behold in snowdrifts and in the flight of crows.” Indeed, even in dreariest of environments, the poet finds some solace in nature. In “Smelter Rats” Roth, through striking imagery, paints a clear struggle between imprisonment of the mundane versus vivid fragments of emotional and mental clarity in a smelter plant warehouse. The poem begins,

Tired of the melancholy abstract, the burdened night

watchman combs his hair in a doorway chained open to a glare

of parking lot floodlights. Miserable, he allows the light to

smother him for a moment in its warmth. Every night, his

rounds turn one key after another into the heavy punch-clock

slung over his left shoulder.

and ends,

When asked about their (rats’)

young, he shrugs, says that come dawn, just before shift

change, all he’s seen are their shallow paw prints in a gray dust

the sun’s been warming up across the smelter’s unswept floor.

As one might expect, the poet who struggles for spiritual depth in a conformist environment cherishes his moments of ecstatic solitude with nature. Many of Roth’s prose poems reveal that nature ultimately provides the quality of life the poet requires. From “Harp Dreaming,” Roth says,

Oozing between moss thick roots,

against dead grasses matted down along a marsh bank only

mosquitos can reach, frog eggs quiver in half moonlight. Their

jelly glints the way harp strings plucking gold and black

between thumb and forefinger sparkle and ignite to a common

rest….Alive all at once, my fingers portray these harp strings

crying from an unmined source wound too tight inside their

nickel-silver silence.

And another passage, this time from “Big Day,” echoes again the importance of connecting with something beyond the conventional:

I put the eyes of wolves I loved having in

place of my own eyes back on the fronts of day-glow t-shirts

won by racing plastic ducks with the limited aim of a water

pistol….Traffic’s choked with dust. Behind each open

shuttle-bus window, the maxed-out bladders of adolescents

shine their freckled faces with those crystalline tears of too

much sugar.

Words the Interrupted Speak offers the reader a cornucopia of intellectual and emotional stimulation. Central to Roth’s voice, however, is his struggle with communication in a superficial culture vs. the quality of life that nature provides. Along the way, the reader is in for a dazzling ride!

 

Words the Interrupted Speak (ISBN #1-59661-152-9)
Paul B. Roth
52 pages, 5½” x 8½”, paperback, ($9.00)
March Street Press
Greensboro, NC
www.marchstreetpress.com

 

About the reviewer:

Alan Britt is Books & Reviews editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

 

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Of Flies and Monkeys
Jacques Dupin
(Translated by John Taylor)
ISBN: 978-0-9786335-4-7
The Bitter Oleander Press

When Monkeys Fly

Review by Alan Britt

 

Paul B. Roth is not only a poet, but also a publisher of fine poetry books. Of Flies and Monkeys by the late great French FLIESpoet, Jacques Dupin, is a recent gem from Roth’s Bitter Oleander Press. Dupin’s 285 page book, which contains French and English texts, is eloquently translated by John Taylor. Dupin, although occasionally translated into English, has been somewhat overlooked by US poets and critics. He is, however, clearly a giant of his generation in France. Along with contemporaries, Yves Bonnefoy, André du Bouchet and Philippe Jaccottet, Dupin continues the amazing run of super poets in France that stretches back generations. Silly to argue who is the greatest poet among a group of super poets, suffice it to say that Dupin is near the head of the pack. His poems, as evidenced by John Taylor’s splendid translations, are many things at once: heady, earthy, and joyously imaginative. His imagery often echoes Breton, Desnos, Eluard, and at times, even Baudelaire. Take, for example, the following from his book length poem, “Mothers”:

The unadulterated pleasure. Of being blind. Of smelling her. A mixture

of stench and soul. With last words. Written in chalk. Planted between flesh

and fingernail. The word that rouses the widowing meadow, the white assonated

pebbles, the high grass of the shore…

Perhaps challenging to readers of English plain language poetry, Dupin’s verses require concentration and at least some cultivation of imagination. In his introduction, John Taylor says the following about reading Dupin for the first time:

Upon a first reading of several of Dupin’s volumes in a row, the references to the semiotic notion of a “sign” per se as well as the reiteration of specific signs can actually seem to constitute a sort of hermetic personal symbolism. Yet “symbolism” is not really the right term, even as the apparent autobiographical allusions (such as béquille, “crutch”) at once move the reader and perhaps deceive him. Hardly fixed or static, these signs—represented by key words often suggesting pre-conceptual sensate or cognitive experience—are strangely prismatic, often partly indeterminate.

With Dupin, the challenge is supremely rewarding, even if at times a little shocking. From the book length title poem, Dupin offers the following:

The panting blue pinks

of a pestilential

monkey haunch

make the stained-glass light

of your “soul” eaten by flies

nothing—

nothing—unless

the bottom

of the dead gods’

goiters

and again,

Meaninglessness as a watermark

in the thickness of the tongue—

excess meaninglessness vaporizes meaninglessness

it loathes this theater

it flows, a self-murderer, the liquid manure

of any naked writing

aspiring to mortality

by absorbing the magnifying glass

and cracking

the crystalline lens…

a combustion of flies

a cloudery of monkeys

deep within the party-

wall.

Dupin died last year at 85 at his home in Paris. One of the great poets of his generation, he will be sorely missed. Dupin’s New York Times obituary reads,

“Mr. Dupin was for a long time one of the directors of the renowned Galerie Maeght in Paris, which represented Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Wassily Kandinsky and other modern artists. His poetry, which has been described as intentionally ambiguous, emerged in a stark postwar period of re-evaluation at all levels of French society, art included. “It’s succinct, laconic, impersonal,” said Mary Ann Caws, a professor of French literature at the City University of New York. In some ways, she added, Mr. Dupin’s poetry was the opposite of Mr. Dupin himself. “I knew him as a friend,” she said, “and he was an awfully decent and warm man.

Of Flies and Monkeys comes highly recommended. Do yourself a favor, pick up a copy and delight in the superb imagination of one of the 20th and 21st centuries most gifted poets.

 

Of Flies and Monkeys (ISBN #978-0-9786335-4-7)
Jacques Dupin
(Translated by John Taylor)
285 pages, 6” x 9”, paperback, ($24.00)
The Bitter Oleander Press
Fayetteville, NY 13066
www.bitteroleander.com

 

 About the reviewer:

Alan Britt is Books & Reviews editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

 

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send#55

Lynda Barreto

 

 

June 29, 2013   Comments Off on Books & Reviews