Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Drive My Karma

As a life-long Beatles fan, one of the highlights of my trip to India was visiting the abandoned ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh. As you can tell from the photos this place was really weird. Mattias and I had some vague sense of the path to take to get there, but when we stumbled on the back entrance with its rusty old sign, we couldn't quite believe this was the legendary place. Seems the good guru had some tax issues and took himself to kinder turf in Switzerland, leaving his space-odyssey hobbit-playground spirit-outpost to overgrow as a ghost town. Packs of mean monkeys, spiderwebs, underground meditation chambers, the odd squatting baba, I couldn't really relax and felt as though the ghost of Ringo's baked beans was gonna jump out and goose me any second. There was a caretaker there (I have a great photo of his daughter in front of a "Jai Guru Dev" --"Nothing's gonna change my world"-- mosaic which I couldn't find for this...of course), but he was too busy reading something holy to bother with the likes of us. Plus, his wife was brushing his hair. We returned the next day with some Brits and took lots of photos and...et cetera.

Something that always seemed strange to me about Rishikesh was the complete lack of Beatles references--no Let It Bidhi Stand or I want to Hold your Genuine Discount Indian Handicrafts; no "Everybody's got pee in their chai 'cept for Super Best Chutney." The owner of one bookshop, a learned man in his 40's, hadn't even heard of the Beatles. I was asking if he had any books about their visit there--of course he didn't. In fact, the only book I could ever find about their time there was mostly photos and not very informative. So I was really pleased to see Lewis Lapham's new book With the Beatles. I mixed feelings about Lapham (he can be sort of a blowhard), but I do trust him as a journalist, and although he's more cynical than I am about it all, he does a pretty job of capturing the atmosphere of their visit. It's not a perfect book but if you're a Beatles fan with some interest in that strange sidenote of their illustrious career you might enjoy it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Entertainment Weekly is one of those magazines I love until I hate it. As with Pitchfork, I'm excited when they give something I already like or that I'm really hoping will be good an "A" (or in Pitchfork's case, a nine), and I'm pissed when they pan something I like. Then they're idiots (Pitchfork particularly).

So my feelings were mixed when I read the most recent issue and saw they'd given Billy Collins' new book the featured review spot. That's not the problem. I like Billy Collins, and anytime a book of poetry is getting the full-page treatment in a pop culture magazine, well, that's a good thing. What gets me is the reviewer's approach. "Do poems scare or bore you? Try Billy Collins on for size." It continues in this vein: "Billy Collins is like the best buggy-whip maker of the 21st Century. While many have an almost allergic reaction to text with ragged right-hand margins, they might change their minds if they opened (BC's new book)" "Perhaps because his work is accessible and widely read, and perhaps because people (and not just English department colleagues) actually pay money to hear him speak, he doesn't get much respect in some serious literary circles." You get the idea. What a cliched, condescending, and intellectually lazy approach. They don't frame their review of the new French film with "Most people think French movies are really boring..." Or start all hip hop album reviews with "Does rap scare you? Do you think it's all 'bitches and ho's? Do you think it's 'not music'" Ugh. I'm risking charges of sour grapes, but come on! Don't talk down to your readers, EW. You're always reviewing "serious literary fiction" so you know your readers aren't stupid. Review things on their own terms, please. Otherwise you're not doing us poets the big favor you think you are. And there should be a law against any other person using the word "accessible" in relation to Billy Collins, damn it.

I feel much better now, thank you.

Gone Legit

Why would I let my ears be cleaned on a beach in India by a man with a little sandy, cracked black notebook full of such dumb-ass references as "He scraped what he dug out my ear on his palm; it looked like black, sticky hash--Dof from Australia"...?

Because I was a dumb-ass. And because Angelo did it first. And though I wouldn't let him stick me with acupuncture needles at our Goa guesthouse...

(Mattias was braver)

...I did trust that he knew what he was talking about. My ears hurt like hell that night so I wouldn't do that again, but I guess I was right to trust him: This week I received this in an email. He's cleaned up a bit, eh? Crazy. If you're ever in London...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Why I'll have a Pepsi

Mural, guesthouse porch; Masasi, Tanzania; 12/31/01

Lil' P

Blade said she never heard of this dude.

In my memory he was an owl.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Poem Seven (Redux)

I did some rewrites, curious if this machine functions...



Getting there: A not-cheap ticket, a shaded
deliberateness, a tourist boat’s
muddy slowness. So you can’t blame

mistake, claim you just bumbled
in wanting a milk chai, this
gleaming ashram which,
tallest thing for miles, gloats over
the oil-laced, famous Kerala backwaters.

The shore’s
fat foliage’s eye-speckled wetness
buzzes like the twenty five year old Polish skeptic’s
throat-stuck anti-malarial pill. She’s wishing
she’d bought another carton of that juice at the bus stand,
cardboard mango but still somehow crisper than
the freshest tropics via ice-packed jet
that Europe can muster. Upper left
arm tattooed with an Oswald swirl of dancing bears,

she doesn’t care much about the Grateful Dead—
she likes bears. Krakow and Green Tara,
and the seventeenth Karmapa. She frets the constant doubling
of the Dalai Llama’s influence at the expense of the magical lineages,
naked snowcave monks levitating
wrestler-masked in moss, and
she’s working on not sniffing so much at
escalation up the Virtues.

But even a queasy hour on the boat, palm frond current’s
empty fishing nets, families up to their necks, hasn’t
eased the guilt of her haughtiness during
that bumpy bus ride to the Cochin boarding dock:
The honeymooners from Chennai
come to seek in jitteriness their guru’s blessing,
the drippy groom’s asking her reasons for coming, and
her reply, her grin
cocked snide to quote the ad on the side of the bus, that

very juice she now missed, the slogan’s snaky
script of a mirage barbershop quartet: “Why,
‘It’s time to Jive.’” She
considers her own spiritual practice rigorous
enough, thanks, and
won’t even risk a yoga class inside India’s borders
in case they try to make it more than mere exercise,
bypassing Mind to tuck new, and Hindu,
concepts deep behind her doubts. She recalls
a Gdansk schoolmate’s Vespa crash
amnesia: Regained his address
and phone number but never again remembered
he was vegetarian

and addicted to heroin. However,
the fact of last night’s fight with—
again—her fiancé after his missing evening sitting
to buy some bogus antique coins, their agreement to meet in a week
down the road, this morning’s failed
rendezvous with some Danes she met in Goa—well, maybe she’d
just try the ashram. Research. A day or two. Couldn’t hurt.
Besides, perhaps, relationship
of quality to source’s closeness,
it’s just like that fruit juice, and in India

even the spottiest gurus’
roots run deep truer than those back home grown moldy
in steerage from California. Perhaps India’s seekers, petals
shed by a culture blossomed from soil
gleaming black-volcanic the wisdom
of countless teachers back
beyond time, can sense
true intentions better than Westerners
and demand a teacher have
a legitimate lesson or two up his beard
before they’ll tithe enough to install
central air. (Never mind that she’s noticed
every bookshop in this country seems to stock at least

three copies of Mein Kampf ).
Never mind the grand lesson
of her childhood gutted by the Russians,
they of the grand pronouncements,
whom for, even when pressed,
she can’t summon one compliment:
No matter what they say in Llahsa
intention is not the ultimate.
Disembarking she’ll decide

her intention is silence.
And to take advantage
of the Master’s reportedly failsafe
smoking cure.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Space Brothers

I've never been a fan of concert movies. I even found Stop Making Sense boring. I love the Talking Heads and I know it's one of the "best concert films ever," but there's something about the disconnect of watching a crowd having the time of their lives while in a hushed theater or on a couch that just leaves me cold. It's like a big "you shoulda been there! It was awwwesomme." Comedy concert movies can pass muster if you're in a crowded theater, but it's hard.

There are of course exceptions. Woodstock and Gimme Shelter are great, but in those
the performance is part of a larger, more interesting story. I guess those films are more about the crowd than the stars (though there are amazing performances in both those movies).

This brings me Rainbow Bridge. I had heard of it, but wasn't that interested until my friend Mattias told me I had to see it (Mattias is a Swede but knows more about American hippie culture than anyone I know). I expected it to be like any number of grainy late '60's/early 70's messes that the studios funded after Easy Rider hoping to exploit (and sleep with) the longhairs: Murky and boring. Well, it's certainly cloudy in its philosophies but it is anything but boring...If you have any interest at all in subcultures/Utopianism/naked people. Mattias figures the reason this one seems real lies in the fact that it features real hippies. Non-actors. True! This is the freakin' most hippiest movie I've ever seen! Astrological charts are read! The evils of floridated water are exposed! The Space Brothers are already here! And there's surfing! And a volcano! And Jimi Freakin' Hendrix making no sense whatsoever but still blowing minds with his toothy Star Spangled Banner (And if you don't like Jimi--Sean--he doesn't show up for an hour and a half)! These people are so ridiculous and cool at the same time...I mean they can rock headbands! And if the existence of headbands isn't proof of the Space Brother's arrival then, well, tell me, what is? What is?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Techncial Difficulties

Poem 7 is back in the shop. Product recall. All the poems I've posted on here so far have been worked to death on paper--I saw all I could see for the time being. But the computer screen offers a totally different perspective, literally a different
angle, than the page, allowing me to see the poems anew. That happened with this last, now deleted, poem... Some major design flaws right there in the first few words of the weirdo first stanza, overlong and chunky and...in need of some Monday morning kitchen table coffee work-work. So I'll do that tomorrow and slap it back up here, see if it sticks.