Book review:

A Review of Gary Lindorff’s ‘Children to the Mountain’

Children to the Mountain by Gary Lindorff (Hiraeth Press, 2018)
 

Most so-called poetry today is the detritus of narcissism, and banal, vulgar narcissism, at that. Every other tattooed poseur of no particular ability, skill, insight merely declaims primitively, idiosyncratically about his/her suffering, perceived injustices, hatred, betrayals, (usually pornographic) affairs, with requisite denunciations of politically correct targets, and then lays claim to “poet.” It’s wretched, it’s pathetic, it’s embarrassing, and it’s epidemic.

It is also, of course, stoked by the Machiavellian corporate machinations of the so-called popular culture, which found an industry in creating and exploiting self-interest, self-adoration, self-glorification. Me sells. Coupled with avaricious dumbing down of culture, using the fake pretext of populism to mask profit motive, this has given way to outright sneering at actual intellect, study, reflection, hard-won accomplishment. Trump and the “alt-right,” of course, are the sneerleaders.

The idea of working at poetry, at investing thought of weight and consideration, of attempting to express an idea artfully, heartfully, in order to move, elevate, inspire, is uncommon to the point of freakish; almost to being dismissed as the arcane pursuit of stuffy old intellectuals. It’s so 20th century!

Which is why I find it ironic, and a bittersweet privilege, to tout a just published collection of poetry by Gary Lindorff, (poet in residence at ThisCantBeHappening.net).
 

    We are
    breaking the little bones of earth
    (bones of coral, bones of red wolf,
    bones of bat and bee,

    bonobos, their little fingers) . . .
    Now that all the bigger bones have been broken
    to extract the marrow,
    we are breaking all the little bones . . .

    to make ourselves powerful
    to defeat our enemies in battle. . .

      — from “Sucking the bones of the bee.”
 

To read the poetry of Lindorff in his new collection, Children to the Mountain (Hiraeth Press), is to understand that the pastoral poet is not dead. Lindorff is, in part, the 21st century spiritual descendant of Spenser, Shelley, Milton, Andrew Marvel. Like them, he “retreats from the trappings of modernity,” as the cheat-sheet definition goes, but unlike them, he does not merely rhapsodize over nature. He celebrates it, loves it, but chiefly mourns its degradation, while ruminating with the distillation and almost scientific eye of, say, Annie Dillard, or encoding in haiku-like condensation, or expositing in prose-poem. It’s a major theme in his work, along with temporality: the destruction of ecosystem by humans. As he says: “Living close to the forest means everything to me.”

Love this stuff or never heard it before, hie thee to a concert

Cooder-Skaggs-White Offer Up a Banquet of American Roots Music

The so-called music in this café would be very good for murdering giant lizards in hell. Then gutting them and eating their organs raw, and smearing yourself with their cold reptilian blood. While being flogged by Satan.

Other than that, it’s okay.

Which is to say, go and see Cooder-Skaggs-White. Hurry. It is music as good, or good as music. Well, it’s good music. It’s what music used to do, is supposed to do, for you. Not a murdered lizard in sight, no fires, no pitchforks. You know, like a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie. It is no bit of careless whimsy that the tour is billed, “For the Good People.” Me, I wasn’t sure there were any “good people” left in this country, but that’s beside the point. If you build it, they will come. . .maybe that’s the idea here.

Yes, that’s Ry Cooder, the six-time Grammy-winning, musically peripatetic champion of Cuban, African, Indian, Hawaiian, Mexican music, and blues, jazz, norteno, folk, various fare too conveniently summed up as “roots music.” Now, at 68, he is delving into an archaeology of tunes from a bygone era called the 20th century. From a country even more out of reach than Cuba was, because it no longer exists. Think you know what American music is? You might, but then again, you might not.

Among the repertory: The Delmore Brothers, Flat & Scruggs, The Louvin Brothers, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Bill Carlisle, Merle Travis, Hank Snow, Blind Alfred Reed, Ralph Stanley. Among the tunes: “The Family that Prays,” “Take Me to Your Lifeboat,” “Sweet Temptation,” “Mansion on the Hill,” “On My Mind,” “Cold Jordan,” “Daniel Prayed,” “Hold What You Got,” “Pan American Boogie,” “A Fool Such as I,” “Above and Beyond,” “No One Will Ever Know,” “Gone Home,” “Wait a Little Longer,” “No Doubt About It,” “Wait A Little Longer, Please, Jesus,” “Pan-American Boogie,” “Unload,” “Above Yer Raisin,” “Reunion.”
Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White and Ry Cooder diggin' down to the rootsRicky Skaggs, Sharon White and Ry Cooder diggin' down to the roots (for a sample of the music, click here)
 

New to you? Hie thee to hear it. Old to you? Hie thee to hear it. Not your favorite kind of music? All the more reason to go. I did, a couple months ago in Santa Barbara, Calif., not quite knowing what to expect. Wound up with an education, and no socks. Fields of clover spread before me as I walked out of theater.

Keeping it unreal in Dallas

JFK 50th Anniversary: The Eyes of Texas, Pt. I

I once did know a President
A way down South, in Texas.
And, always, everywhere he went,
He saw the Eyes of Texas.

The Eyes of Texas are upon you, all the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn
The Eyes of Texas are upon you ’til Gabriel blows his horn.

Sing me a song of Prexy, of days long since gone by.
Again I seek to greet him, and hear his kind reply.
Smiles of gracious welcome
Before my memory rise,
Again I hear him say to me, “Remember Texas’ Eyes.”

“The Eyes of Texas” by John Sinclair, 1903

(This was the last song JFK ever heard. President Kennedy was serenaded by the Texas Boys Choir in Ft. Worth on the final morning of his life.)

 CBS evening news anchor Harry Reasoner displays the grisly headline. Nov. 22, 1963.Nov 22 1963: CBS evening news anchor Harry Reasoner displays the grisly headline.

Zeppelin Over Washington

(Continued from Pt. I of Lori Spencer’s report from the nation‘s capitol.)

When Led Zeppelin attended a reception at the White House in advance of the Kennedy Center Honors, they were just as shocked to find themselves there as most everybody else was. Being personally roasted by the President of the United States — along with fellow Kennedy Center Honorees Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Natalia Makarova, and Buddy Guy — was an experience Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page could later only describe as “surreal.”

Led Zep was in the HouseLed Zep was in the House

Page, Plant, and John Paul Jones also enjoyed getting the royal treatment during a weekend of festivities in Washington, D.C., including a State Department dinner on December 1 hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former president Bill Clinton.

Secretary Clinton described the honorees as “a group of legends and icons as diverse as they are talented. We have in our group of honorees tonight a broad cross section of talent and energy from comedian to chameleon, ballerina to bluesman, and three men so synonymous with rock and roll they need no more description than Page, Plant, Jones,” Clinton said.

“Now, in my line of work, we often talk about the art of diplomacy,” she added. “I really like saying that because so many of the building blocks for art and diplomacy are the same. We have to be willing to try new things, occasionally take big risks. … So the arts and diplomacy actually do go hand in hand. They play out on world stages and reflect our common need to build bonds of understanding with others.”

(Now, if only Secretary Clinton would listen to more Led Zeppelin, perhaps she could manage to tone down the warmongering and actually live up to her words about building bonds of understanding with others. But I digress…)

Houses of the Holier-Than-Thou: Rock and Roll Crashes Washington’s Elite Holiday Party

This is the first part of a two-part series on Led Zep in DC. Click here for Part II
 

It was a few days before Christmas, 1970, and Elvis Presley was suddenly obsessed with a strange notion. Not another late-night private shopping spree for Lisa Marie, or a cross-country hamburger run this time. No, what Presley had in mind was far more important: the trumpet of destiny was once again beckoning him to her siren call. It had been decided somehow in his drug-addled mind that the King of Rock and Roll should meet the President of the United States. Not next week; not next year, or in the next decade: this had to happen right now.

Within hours, and without telling anyone in his Memphis Mafia entourage, Elvis was on a red-eye flight to Washington, D.C. – alone. Before Vernon Presley could say, “Has anybody seen Elvis?” (thus setting off a full-scale panic back at Graceland), Presley had arrived at the White House gates uninvited, asking to see the president.

Elvis explained to an astonished security guard that he knew the president was very busy, but that he would just like to say hello and give him a gift (a commemorative World War II .45 caliber pistol). He also bore in his hand a six-page handwritten note requesting – incredulously enough – to be appointed a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Once it had been determined that the letter was genuine and that this heavily armed, velvet-and-suede-clad man at the gate really was the Elvis Presley, phones began ringing frantically all over the White House. “What the hell do we do with this guy?” was the question of the day. Elvis waited patiently in his three-room suite back at the Hotel Washington while the president’s men scrambled to accommodate his bizarre request.

In a staff memo fired off quickly to Nixon’s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, the president’s Special Assistant Dwight Chapin suggested that “If the president wants to meet with some bright young people outside of the government, Presley might be a perfect one to start with.”

Haldeman scribbled in the margins of the memo, “You must be kidding.”

Nevertheless, he approved the visit, and Presley was finally allowed entry into an inner sanctum that no rock-and-roller before him had ever penetrated: the Oval Office.

 Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Natalia Makarova, David Letterman, Dustin Hoffman, Buddy GL to R: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Natalia Makarova, David Letterman, Dustin Hoffman, Buddy Guy and President Barack Obama at the White House

13 Hours in the Hole: Occupying an Oklahoma Jail Cell

This is Part II of a series of reports from our traveling correspondent in the American heartland. Part I covered the arrest of 10 Occupy OKC protesters as they “mic checked” a local Walmart on Black Friday. Part II takes them through 13 hours in an Oklahoma jail. Part III will culminate in the occupiers’ final standoff against police as they face a forceful eviction from Poet’s Park.
 

All Chris Thomas remembers of his arrest was that “Several officers ran past me and tackled Jay first. I was grabbed from behind. I informed the officer that I had a compound fracture and had five surgeries on my elbow. I asked the officer to be careful because my arm does not extend fully. He said, `we will fix that!’ – as he forced my arm behind me and cuffed me.

“They left me in the cuffs for over an hour,” said Thomas. “I meditated while I was in cuffs and tried to ignore the pain. The officer that finally un-cuffed me commented that my had was twisted into a weird position. My hands were numb. My arm was forced into a position that my arm can not normally go in.”
(When I interviewed Thomas nearly 36 hours after the incident, he was still in a great deal of physical pain.)

Del City police deny that excessive force was used in handling the occupy protesters. Police Lt. Steve Robinson said that only one of the protesters – Jay Vehige – was “combative.” Vehige and his fellow demonstrators say even this allegation is untrue. Video of Vehige’s arrest shows that he was complying with all of the officer’s orders. He is lying face-down on the floor and does not appear to be physically resisting. Regardless, Vehige was also charged with resisting arrest.

Other Occupy OKC members arrested that night were Thomas, Agnew, Destiny Smith, 22, David “Cody” Grandstaff, 21, Sean Lovell, 25, Mark Faulk, 55, and siblings Helen Lavictoire, 27, Cassandra Lavictorie, 27, and Griffin Lavictorie, 19. All were charged with disorderly conduct.

“It’s a pretty vague charge,” according to Brittany Novotny, an attorney representing the Occupy OKC protesters. She told KOCO-TV, “I don’t think these folks are guilty of disorderly conduct. They were asked to leave by store personnel. They tried to do so and, at that point, a couple of them were tackled and arrested.”

“We weren’t being hostile at all,” Agnew insists. “We just wanted to raise awareness.”

Bronwyn Agnew and Sean Lovell (photo courtesy Bronwyn Agnew facebook)Bronwyn Agnew and Sean Lovell (photo courtesy Bronwyn Agnew facebook)

Arrested for Supporting Local Business: Occupying Black Friday at the Big Boxes in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City – In the early morning hours of Black Friday, 10 members of Occupy OKC  discovered that chanting “Buy local!” in a crowded Walmart is an arrestable offense in the United States of America. 

Walmart stores were the target of occupations in Oklahoma City last FridayWalmart stores were the target of occupations in Oklahoma City last Friday

It all started with a group of about 20-25 Occupy OKC demonstrators doing “mic checks” at several mega retailers around the Oklahoma City area open on Thanksgiving night. “We hit Best Buy, Toys `R’ Us, a Target store, and two other Walmarts between 10pm and midnight,” said Nick Saltzman, 19, one of the local occupiers who managed to avoid arrest. “It was going so well.”

That is, until the group left Oklahoma City limits and ventured into nearby Del City (recently voted “OKC’s Worst Suburb” by 41% of Lost Ogle readers.) Unlike the Oklahoma City police department, the off-duty officers working security at the Del City Walmart on Tinker Diagonal were not in a tolerant mood. Maybe they were already unhappy about having to work an extra shift on a holiday when they could have been home with their families. They probably needed the extra dough, and were willing to be on the payroll of the 1%. 

“We have taken a lot of steps in our stores to maintain a safe shopping environment,” a Walmart spokesman told the Daily Oklahoman. “As part of these plans, our store worked with police to have officers at the store during the (Black Friday) event.”

All of the earlier protests within Oklahoma City limits had gone off without a hitch.  A group had walked in, mic checked the assembled shoppers and employees, spoke their piece, and walked out unmolested. But they did notice something interesting as the night went along: With each new store they visited, there was an increased police presence.

Occupying America: Sowing the Seeds of a Second American Revolution

“There are combustibles in every state which a spark might set fire to.”
— George Washington’s letter to General Henry Knox concerning the
Shay’s Rebellion, 1786

 

One month ago, a group of some 1000 demonstrators gathered in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to protest the pillaging of the nation’s economy by powerful corporations and international houses of high finance. While these young activists were entirely peaceful, they also made it clear that this would be no hippie-dippy flower-twirling love-in, sit-in, teach-in, or even a camp-in; this was an occupation. The demonstrators announced that they intended to Occupy Wall Street 24/7, staying until hell freezes over if need be.
 
The New York City police welcomed them warmly with pepper spray and more than a few violent smack-downs, even going so far as to arrest some 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge who werelured into a position where they could be charged with blocking traffic.
 
After video of these outrages went viral on the Internet, a wave of righteous indignation swept the land. Hastily-formed Occupy groups proclaiming themselves in solidarity with the NYC protesters began to spring up in big cities and small towns across America. At first it was just a handful: 20-30 groups in the first week, growing to a few hundred in the second week, then rapidly mushrooming to today’s current total of 1,947 cities around the globe.

The most common critique leveled against the Occupy demonstrators is that they don’t seem to have a plan. “Disorganized,” “unfocused,” and “aimless” are buzzwords the movement’s detractors — both liberal and right-wing — like to toss around. Last week former President Bush’s key political adviser Karl Rove cynically opined in the Wall Street Journal that Democrats should distance themselves from the Occupy Wall Street movement to avoid alienating potential voters in 2012.
 
And it’s true that even those Americans who are in fact part of the 99% and generally support OWS’s principles are themselves unclear as to what the protesters ultimately want and how exactly they are going to accomplish it. What are their demands? How long are they going to keep this up? Have they proposed any concrete solutions? But that’s an awful lot of pressure to put upon a spontaneous social movement that is only little over a month old.
Sign on the side of a tent at the Occupy Oklahoma City encampment (photos by Lori Spencer)Sign on the side of a tent at the Occupy Oklahoma City encampment (photos by Lori Spencer)