Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Scripture for Our Time

A Chapel Talk

William Stafford

at Lewis & Clark College

1 Mar 1962

Sometimes listening alertly to Scripture, I am touched with a flickering realization of how it might be to live in times when Scripture is lived and write. Think of coming alive to participate in human events so important that they connect with the everlasting. How would it be to know that what you did, what you said, what you wrote, how you responded to others was crucial?

I love this sly guy William Stafford, copied this exerpt from the typescript of the chapel talk when I was at the library at Lewis & Clark College this last Sunday. Here's some more:

...and I think steadily about our own times: there should be writings so coercive that all in our time yield to them. Maybe our crisis is an art crisis: people must come to believe art, and art must come to be worthy of belief.

Yes! Yes! And keep talking, Mr. Stafford:

...An ultimately responsible writer could feel this way: things happen the way they ought to happen when people know enough - and soon enough - about their own situation. When people want what the world will give them, and in terms they live with, then they have balanced their culture.

Yeah, as Wayne said, and monkeys will fly out my butt, but also, yeah, and why the heck not?

I would like to be an utimately responsible writer, and an artist who creates art worthy of belief, just as I hope that I am worthy of belief from the kids I work with in classrooms. Am I a writer? Yes. Do I believe that reading and writing can change or even save my life? Yes. Do they believe me? As much as I live it, yes.

I don't know what the chapel looked like. By the time I attended Lewis & Clark, beginning August of 1970, there was a brand-new round rather Native American looking edifice that was the pride of the campus. One anti-Vietnam-war protest began with a prayer vigil in this chapel, when my Yeats professor, John Callahan, read "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen" by W.B. Yeats, and catapulted my socks into orbit around a distant star. John Callahan later became literary executor to the estate of Ralph Ellison. In life, they were great friends. Callahan has endured some rather unfriendly "you are not Black, you have no rights" derision, but has carried on as his friend asked him to with the business of Ellison's literary legacy.

I dropped out of Lewis & Clark one quarter and seven weeks after beginning, mostly on the basis of being so far over my head in Callahan's senior seminar on Yeats that I couldn't even open my mouth for air when I surfaced in his little quanset hut office. Humiliated that I had no idea what the 22 year old literary lights were talking about in seminar, being 18 and fresh out of high school, I couldn't face my first academic defeat and hitchhiked away from school with a friend of a friend who claimed to be hitching to New Jersey, which I thought was funny; everyone was hitching to California at the time, good drugs, countercultural correctness. We did in fact hitchhike to California, Santa Cruz. Excrutiatingly predictable.

My daughter graduated from Lewis & Clark, and had John Callahan for teacher in her freshman "Imagining America" mandatory philosophical college grounding course. Love that school.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Subjects in Email Inbox this Morning:

space probe capture spreads

Mary Poppins Canceled(sic) Dollar

I've been here at the vaulted ceiling

said Leslie Looney, who

Home-based positions for you.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Going to see Henry Darger exhibition at the Frye today. Probably. I'm leery. Saw a couple of big panels a few years ago. Saw the movie made about his life.

Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. I want to live unobserved and unquestioned, untended and left alone. I want to do absolutely nothing but sit in a large chair and declaim about all that is wrong with the world and basically morph into one of my elder relatives. Obviously I share their dna as I am participating in their particular dreamscape. I have a sore throat. I want to be put in a darkened room and fed triangles of cinnamon toast while I read books piled beside me on my bed. Jim asked me yesterday what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to lie around a read books. What I ended up doing was taking the book I'd told myself I would read only to myself, Thirteen Moons, and offered to read it aloud. With the sore throat. Part of me imagines I will be sainted for this. The same part of me that goes into resentment autopilot any time anything is not the way I'd like it to be. Leaves on the deck, "That Jim..." No toilet paper, "Jim again..." Which is a bunch of hooey but if you took a reflex hammer and tapped just behind my left temple, the resentment reflex would pop the hammer out of your hand. I spent my twenties learning a different way of being, but when I am tired I limp and go into that old reflex craparoni in my head. Luckily my mouth has a shutoff valve.

Last weekend I sat in boats and steered them around while stronger women with hip joints not made out of titanium pulled on oars to move the boats through Lake Washington while the sky attempted to send Lake Washington amounts of rain down on us. Many other people in other boats did the same. It's an annual regatta called the Tri Mountain Regatta. This weekend some of the women in my crew went to Boston to participate in the Head of the Charles Regatta. I didn't get to go because of the many many bridges, many many boats and many many ways in which to run afowl of the many many rules for how boats must behave while going under the bridges. It is not unusual for boats to capsize. Love that dirty water. Oh Boston. Maybe next year.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What does it take for us to not take our spectacularly unprecedented selves for granted? Me, I am talking about here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Violoniste Bleue by Marc Chagall
I'm reading tonight at Ravenna Third Place Books with three other Finishing Line Press Poets: Jane Alynn, Donna Frisk and Carlos Martinez. We'll be setting the night on fire, so come on down. 7:30 pm. No dress code. In the back by the espresso machine. cshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Circe Invidiosa
In the 3rd through 5th grade classroom, where 3rd grade boys have a wee fascination with violence or at least an interest in testing the poet in residence, I read from Homer's Odyssey, not from the Illiad and not the Odyssey scene where Circe warns the crew about Scylla and Charybdis, but the scene where Circe turns half the crew into pigs. When I was done several kids wanted to get hold of this great book. One girl asked if I could photocopy the whole thing for her. Homer lives! (I read in English not ancient Greek.)
I read Homer today to fifth graders - the section where Circe warns Odysseus about the sirens Scylla and Charybdis. A couple of kids had encountered the sirens in video games.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Public Service Restaurant Review

In the lively new trendy happening Green Lake neighborhood that houses Tangletown and a block and a half worth of eateries and coffee houses there is eva. eva dissappointed Saturday evening, but at least I have come away with a new verbed noun: "to plate", as in, after our table had been waiting over an hour after ordering our meals, our wait person informed us our dinners were being plated. Electrostatically? we wondered. Plating took another twenty minutes. Plating as in to put onto a plate. What was put onto the plates tasted a little burned around the edges, as if a creme broulee torch had been engaged not so light handedly for the task. Sauces were tasty. Featured crustaceans, fish or meats were perched pertly atop vegetable mounds and had to be deperched to be eaten, but that was fine. Because we are a group of indefatiguable in for the duration kinds of people we ordered coffees and desserts. Time ticked away. The conversation turned to disastrous restaurant experiences we have known. A member of our table was delegated to ask the kitchen for an eta on the ice cream and flourless chocolate cake. They were. astonishingly, being plated.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Abecedarious for Condoleeza Rice

Abracadabra! Magic opens its arms,
brash actor that she has become,
commits your face to memory,
decides your future before you blink.
Entertainer, evangelist, devil-elf, she
flings favoritism, forgets you,
goddess in her way, your way.
Hocus-pocus howler of no pity,
igniter of basest instincts, careless
juggler of all you value most,
kite raiser, curtailer, your
last best hope,
maternal and just as cruel.
Neither Nymph nor Narcissus
ordered you around like this,
pinned you to foam core, made you
question yourself, all qualms, no
reality or race card to
silence her silky tongue, her red
tonsils coming closer,
uvula trembling over our heads,
vicious and victorious as
W would have you imagine him, that
xenophobic embarrasment, empty birdcage,
yellow feather drifting past your ear. You're
zealous you say? Spare me.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Web is wonderful, except that you cannot touch anything.
This is one of the handmade books entered in a contest called "Abecedarium" - featuring paper made by the artist and the earliest written cuniform for letters. No matter what groovy idea you think is original to you, it ain't baby.