I stole a book and I liked it.

Sing it to the tune of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”

 

Of COURSE I didn’t really STEAL it; well, I kinda did. While I was visiting Angel Boy 2.0, I found an intriguing book that belonged to my son and it sorta made its way into my carryon.

By CAConrad, Ecodeviance (Soma)tics for the Future Wildnerness is a book of poetry and essays that demands attention. This is not a quicky beach read.

There’s humor, pathos, despair; references to Reiki and crystals. There is love and death.This is a polar shift diversion from my usual reading fare of romance novels and vegan cookbooks. It’s like this…it’s as if you’re driving down the highway on your regular commute and all of a sudden you slam on the brakes, and while they’re squealing and smoking, you completely turn around and speed 100mph in the opposite direction.

Not only is that an apt description of me and this book; it’s a metaphor for my life right about now.

Conrad has become known for his “(Soma)tic” poetry — works that are part map of his process, part writing exercises, part final product, and that emphasize doing and living in a body. In an interview in the film, Conrad calls the (Soma)tics “ritualized structures where being anything but present was next to impossible.” [From http://www.notey.com/@hyperallergic_unofficial/external/8647290/the-ritualized-anger-of-a-queer-poet.html]

“What would you wear for camouflage if you were hiding in a gingerbread house?
I’m NOT hiding, I WANT the witch to eat me!”

From the Poetry Foundation website:

Poet CAConrad grew up in Pennsylvania, where he helped to support his single mother during his difficult youth. Influenced by Eileen Myles,Audre Lorde, Alice Notley, and Emily Dickinson, he writes poems in which stark images of sex, violence, and defiance build a bridge between fable and confession. In a 2010 interview with Luke Degnan for BOMB Magazine’s BOMBlog, Conrad discussed his approach to poetry, which focuses on process and on engaging the permeability of the border between self and other. “Ultimately, I want my (Soma)tic poetry and poetics to help us realize at least two things. That everything around us has a creative viability with the potential to spur new thinking and imaginative output and that the most necessary ingredient to bringing the sustainable, humane changes we need and want for our world requires creativity in all lives, every single day.” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/c-a-conrad

CAConrad’s childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift.  He is the author of eight books of poetry and essays. A Pew Fellow , he has also received fellowships from Lannan Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Headlands Center for the Arts, Banff, and Ucross.

For his books and details on the documentary The Book of Conrad (Delinquent Films, 2016), visit http://CAConrad.blogspot.com

Two of my favorites:

PRETERNATURAL CONVERSATIONS

for Dana Ward

Every once in awhile I think something about a stranger on the sidewalk and they dart a glance at me and I get it—I GET IT—we are one! Allow seven consecutive days for this exercise. DAY ONE, think about a woman you know, think about experiences you have had with her. Think about conversations you have had, think about the things she wears, eats, her way of walking, her laugh. Think about every detail you can imagine. See if she calls you or emails you. Take notes about this attempt at psychic connection.

DAY TWO, do everything you did in DAY ONE, but for a man you know. DAY THREE, go out to the streets and follow someone walking a dog. Look closely at the dog, study the dog’s movements. Whistle in your head, bark in your head. Imagine throwing a stick, yelling “GOOD DOG! GOOD DOG! YOU ARE A VERY GOOD DOG!” Does the dog respond to this? If so, how? Take notes.

DAYS FOUR, FIVE, SIX, and SEVEN are for strangers. In cafes or restaurants, or followed briefly on the sidewalk. Try to connect with two women and two men, complete strangers out in the world. Study them in cafes, museums, going up escalators, or maybe standing in line at the bank. Aim your attention at the clothing they wear, or the way they chew food. Envision saying HELLO, and tugging their sleeve. TUG IT with your mind, punctuated with putting an imaginary hand on their shoulder and saying, “Don’t I know you?” Imagine clapping and shouting “HEY! HEY! HEY YOU!” Did they look at you WHILE you were walking behind them? Communicating beyond the auditory is our goal. What are their reactions? How do you feel about it? Take these seven days of notes and form your poem(s).

 

SEVEN

if i had been
there when they
invented the word
chair
things would
be different would sound better
look at this amazing
structure holding
our bodies in place
to write
to quarrel with ourselves and others
to eat and sing
to launch forth new ideas
to comfort the sphincter
chair is a ridiculous word
monosyllabic NONSENSE
i love chairs but remain
annoyed by their name
living in this post vocabulary
chosen without
imagination
chair chair chair CHAIR
nothing less than
seven syllables will do

CAConrad reads “Preternatural Conversations”

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Eco-poetics, Berkeley, Spring Rain by Robert Hass, and my Angel Boy

On March 2, 1981

Thirty-two years ago I was sixty pounds heavier than I am today. I lost a lot of that weight on March 23rd when I finally gave birth, but on March 2, I was nesting, adding final touches to the nursery. Back in those days, amniocentesis and tests to determine sex weren’t the norm and I had no scientific proof — but I knew absolutely for sure —  I was going to have a boy. I knew it from the very beginning.  I had no doubt.

This isn’t my Angel Boy’s birthday tribute; that’ll happen later.

I’m just so very proud of him and all he’s accomplished and it seems like a good day for a couple of poems. Not by me, though.

UC Berkeley hosted an Eco-Poetics Conference last week and my son was invited to participate.

He got his Ph.D. last year from Yale. His dissertation also was due in March — March is an important month — his diss focuses on Goethe, Stifter, and Benjamin.  It incorporates his love for nature and philosophy.

Eco-poetics

The term ecopoetics has become increasingly important to scholars and poets alike. It is certainly a critical moment for the field and practice.

The conference addressed these topics: What is ecopoetics? What representational strategies and sociopolitical commitments might characterize this practice? How might we periodize ecopoetics and situate its modes of cultural production?

My son was lucky enough to meet Robert Hass at the conference. Hass served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. He won the 2007 National Book Award and shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the collection Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005.

Enjoy a couple poems by Robert Hass…

Spring Rain

Now the rain is falling, freshly, in the intervals between sunlight,a Pacific squall started no one knows where, drawn east as the drifts of
warm air make a channel;it moves its own way, like water or the mind,and spills this rain passing over. The Sierras will catch it as last snow
flurries before summer, observed only by the wakened marmots at ten
thousand feet,and we will come across it again as larkspur and penstemon sprouting
along a creek above Sonora Pass next August,

where the snowmelt will have trickled into Dead Man’s Creek and the
creek spilled into the Stanislaus and the Stanislaus into the San Joaquin
and the San Joaquin into the slow salt marshes of the bay.

That’s not the end of it: the gray jays of the mountains eat larkspur seeds,
which cannot propagate otherwise.

To simulate the process, you have to soak gathered seeds all night in the acids of coffee

and then score them gently with a very sharp knife before you plant them
in the garden.

You might use what was left of the coffee we drank in Lisa’s kitchen
visiting.

There were orange poppies on the table in a clear glass vase, stained
near the bottom to the color of sunrise;

the unstated theme was the blessedness of gathering and the blessing of
dispersal—

it made you glad for beauty like that, casual and intense, lasting as long
as the poppies last.

The Failure of Buffalo to Levitate 

Millard Fillmore died here.
His round body is weighted by marble angels
He lies among the great orators of the Iroquois.

Paint does not arrest the tradebook houses
In their elegant decay. They peel
Like lizards in the dying avenues of elm.

Gentle enough, night drifts
Above the yellow bursts of aspen in the park.
Something innocent and reptilian

Suffers here, cumbrously.
The souls of the wives of robber barons
Are imprisoned in the chandeliers.
http://www.poetryfoundation.org