Thursday, January 14, 2016


Some 30-plus years ago, the Poetry Center at San Francisco State, concerned at having given its annual book award the previous two years to, I believe, Laura Moriarty and Jackson Mac Low, asked C.D. Wright to judge the 1985 prize, under the presumption that this would take care of any implication that the school was too much in thrall to language poetry. They should have known better than to expect the woman who brought Frank Stanford’s battlefield where the moon says I love you to the world to meet expectations. She picked my book Paradise, thereby initiating what I take to have  been the real prize, a thirty-year friendship with a wonderful person. She was a great writer with a restless, probing intelligence that never settled and was always questing. Although I had not known who she was back in 1985, I was to learn a lot from her, as I expect to do from her writing till the end of my days. The last time we saw each other was at a reading she gave at Haverford College, after which we went to dinner with Tom Devaney, Gus Stadler and others. I’m going to hold the tone of her voice & that lilt of Arkansas accent in my ear forever.


Friday, December 25, 2015


Thursday, December 03, 2015


Ryan Costello, the GOP congressman from our district in Chester County, PA, looks like one of those farm implement or panty-hose execs used to comic effect in so many episodes of Mad Men. But when he’s not channeling the late 1950s-early ‘60s fashion sense of mainstreet Midwest, he’s an active puppet for the NRA, having received $9,900 thus far from the folks who brought you Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech and literally hundreds of other nightly news horror shows.

Some pols got a lot more – by US electoral standards, Costello’s a cheap example of the world’s oldest profession – and quite a few have gotten less. But he’s what you get when Dems don’t turn out in off-year elections. And he’s precisely the kind of pol who convinces people that government is hopeless, useless and corrupt.

But the biggest con of all here is not all the little congressmen who do the bidding of the gun lobby, but the NRA itself. The idea that the NRA represents gun owners is a total fabrication. It represents gun and ammunition manufacturers. Plenty of polls have shown that NRA members support rational constraints on gun sales and ownership. They don’t benefit from mass murders and the 30,000+ Americans who die by gun violence every year. The only folks who do are the manufacturers. They are the problem. Time to focus on them.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Penn students

(also students at schools
with a reciprocal class agreement
with Penn)

There are still plenty of spots
in my poets & poetry course
meeting on Wednesdays
2 to 5
at Kelly Writers House

(130 S. 34th St, at Sansome)
has all the texts

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Saturday, August 22, 2015


I have a dream. The first time as history, the second time as farce.

My dream is this. The disaster that is Hillary Clinton’s email server lies not in what’s on it, although that may turn ugly down the road as well, so much as it lies in what that box tells us about Hillary Clinton. That she was totally paranoid after decades of abuse on the part of the GOP and did not trust even the State Department to protect her appropriately so that she felt compelled to totally control – as in wildly micromanage – her information environment. We have had that in a president before. His name was not Bill Clinton. It was Richard Nixon.

I believe that some of the national Democratic elites have realized this and recall Nixon’s capacity for self-destruction and are terrified that Hillary will do likewise – may already be doing likewise – before she has a chance to install another Democratic administration in the White House. They are looking around frantically for Plan B and this is what is currently fueling the Joe Biden boomlet in Florida and elsewhere, hawking polls that show that Joe beats Trump in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The elites don’t believe Bernie can win because – like Pope Francis – Bernie thinks that the big problem facing the world isn’t ISIS or immigration, but global capital. And the Democratic elites are totally, one thousand percent, indebted to big capital. Just ask Wall Street’s personal US senator, Chuck Schumer.

But although Joe Biden may well have been the nicest guy in the US Senate, and one of the most progressive not named Bernie Sanders, Paul Wellstone or Teddy Kennedy, Biden in this scenario does not look like the Joe we know, even at 76. He looks like Hubert Humphrey, stepping in for the elites in order to protect their prerogatives, put out the fire, save their cookies.  

In 1968, with the war in Vietnam in a state of collapse, the GOP nominated the only Republican whom the Democrats might have beaten – Richard Nixon. The Democrats responded by nominating the only northern Democrat whom Nixon could beat: LBJ’s water carrier, Hubert Humphrey. The rest, as they say, is history. If Hillary Clinton is not the nominee, the likes of a President Bush III, Kasich or Walker becomes much more plausible, even likely. Unless Trump can be converted into a Ross Perot and run on a third-party ticket.

The scarier alternative is if the conservative movement decides to live with the hot mess that is under that comb-over and present Trump as Reagan Redux. At this point in 1975, I was convinced that nobody in their right mind would think that Reagan was qualified to be president. And I recall what happened next.

The Republicans right now are reaping what they sowed when they decided that the right strategy for an Obama presidency was to make the US ungovernable. Their own bases is vomiting over the idea of establishment Republicans as the future of the party. Trump at least is not that.

All of this is a bad scenario with nothing but awful choices forthcoming, and I think everyone knows it. I will be voting for Bernie if he still matters when the too-late-to-mean-anything Pennsylvania primary takes place. But I think it’s clear that he can only show the deep flaws in Hillary’s game plan, not beat her. Although she may well be in the process of beating herself once again. In 2008, she knew that post-Iowa the race was going to come down to her and the anti-Hillary alternative. Her presumption was that she would look like the new politics against any white male in the field, especially Christopher Dodd, John Edwards or Joe Biden. But her hawkish Goldman Sachs version of the Democratic Party could not stand up against someone who recognized that the party was no longer just white men in bad suits and that the base was even then well to her left. Hence Barack Obama.¹

Her politics are even more of a problem in 2016, and her attacking them as if she were Richard Nixon is not the solution. The obvious alternative – Elizabeth Warren – is, I believe, serious when she says she does not want to run. Warren appears to believe that if she stays in the US Senate for a quarter century or more, she can do more good tackling the Goldman Sachs problem there than from the White House. And she may be right. There is a reason Chuck Schumer is not running for President.

Which leaves what? If you are a Democratic centrist, Claire McCaskill suddenly looks very good. If you are a progressive, Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin might make a far better choice if you believe that the national electorate is ready to vote for an out lesbian. Either might be stronger than a Joe Biden-Julian Castro, Joe Biden-Keith Ellison or even Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket. As an already-on-board-for-Hillary US Senator, Baldwin might just be acceptable to the Goldman Sachs wing of the party without succumbing to it.

But all of this grasping for silver linings presumes that we are heading for a train wreck, and that is what my dream tells me. I recall that the very same dismissive thoughts that I once had about Ronald Reagan – whom I’d met and seen up close & personal in his role as governor of California – I now have about Donald Trump. And I know how that turned out.

¹ The tragedy of the Obama administration is that it has not governed as it campaigned. Instead of offering a new politics, it simply offered Clinton’s third and fourth term with a better face. Even its belated support of basic civil rights for the gay community took a serious prod from, who else, Joe Biden.

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