Man or Ape

between being a militant pacifist
or a boring reactionary
I read the news and weep.

has little to do with it;
the dinner conversations
are always heated.

attentive to detail, there are nit pickers
in my history, necks stiff
from keeping their eye on the ball.

blinded by the light, we get down
but we seldom get it right
in this half-jungle tundra

of sinew
and synapse
and a fleeting emotion
that would bring a tear to your eye.



The Oulipians
when writing
practice constraint

They say
Break it down

One syllable
non complex
Words that are rawboned
and bare to the core.

The kind
that stare you down.

And yet
who insist on one syllable

ask for
that’s two isn’t It?

And their name
That’s three.

(That’s four)
I think it can’t be done.

But then I think
of love

trust, sun, warm,
truth, song, notes,
motes (it’s time to dust)

I think
that constraint
and impossibility

might be
no more than
rein and myth.

Oulipo is based on constraint. It can be taken to the ridiculous. One syllable words are just one form of Oulipo. For instance,  take a poem, preferably your own, that you love (or hate, as the case may be) and look up each noun, then count 7 down (7 nouns that is) and replace each noun with the 7th after it in Websters (or whatever dictionary you choose). Then rework the poem to make sense of it with the new nouns.

They say we will find freedom in constraint, and maybe so.  I don’t know. I haven’t yet, but I’ve been having fun. Obviously my muse has flown and I’m gasping for air here. 

Below are a few facts I found about Oulipo.

OuLiPo, the “Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle” or “Workshop for Potential Literature,” was co-founded in Paris the early 1960’s by mathematician and writer Raymond Queneau and Francois Le Lionnais. Oulipian writers impose constraints that must be satisfied to complete a text, constraints ranging across all levels of composition, from elements of plot or structure down to rules regarding letters. The informing idea behind this work is that constraints engender creativity: textual constraints challenge and thereby free the imagination of the writer, and force a linguistic system and/or literary genre out of its habitual mode of functioning. . Famous Oulipian texts include Queneau’s Cent Mille Millard de Poemes.


Queneau’s poems

Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes is derived from a set of ten basic sonnets. In his book, published in 1961, they are printed on card with each line on a separated strip, like a heads-bodies-and-legs book. All ten sonnets have the same rhyme scheme and employ the same rhyme sounds. As a result, any line from a sonnet can be combined with any from the other nine, giving 1014 (= 100,000,000,000,000) different poems. Working twenty-four hours a day, it would you take some 140,000,000 years to read them all. (but who would want to? s.m.z.)


Stars in her Hair for Janis Joplin

The Daily Texan ran a profile of her in the issue dated July 27, 1962 headlined “She Dares To Be Different.” The article began, “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her Autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.”

Long curls tangled in abandon,
she raced barefoot through the fields
picking wildflowers for the table,
berries for cobblers, or just gathering
sun rays to feed the freckles
sprinkled over her nose.

She wove chains of daisies
and wore them in her hair,
but that was in the summer. Months
of sun slip by; innocence is lost
in little things.  The beautiful
blue sky

and there a hawk  and there
a sparrow. Her face tilted, worshiping
the sun. She saw the feathers falling,
and something like a chill wind
said this is living
and this is dying

She wove her daisy chains
until winter spent the wildflowers
with its will. She was too young
to know that spring would come
and they would bloom again,
so she caught the stars

at midnight and wore them in her hair
though no one saw them…Just her
and the moon streaming in the window.
Alone there with songs to sing
and dreams to dream, she must have thought
this is living — and this is dying.

Commemorating the Victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

 Please join in the ringing of the bells tomorrow, Friday, March 25th at 4:45 PM.

Poet and human rights advocate are among the many hats that Gene Dixon wears. Today I received an email from him asking that I share an event that is to take place tomorrow. I said yes, of course, without even a moment’s hesitation because I know him to be a person of honor who stands for honorable causes. As usual (pardon my modesty) I was right.

Below is an email of the announcement. Josephine and Michael are the parents of Anthony Giacchino. Anthony produced the movie The Camden 28. It is a story of how protest led to change that bettered the human condition. As is too often the case, the change came at great personal sacrifice by the courageous people who engaged in the protest.

That movie relates a vital moment in our history. Anthony has taken steps to commemorate another moment in our history, the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire. He addressed a letter to each of those who died in that fire. It would come as no surprise that the letters would be returned to him stamped “Deceased, Return to Sender”. To see how he turned that into a commemoration please visit the links below.

I hope you will pause tomorrow at 4:45 PM to remember those victims.

Here is the note that Mr. Dixon shared:

Dear Friends.

Since Sacred Heart people are known to be great bell ringers, would you please consider being part of a project that is very close to our son, Anthony’s heart. All you have to do is to step outside and ring a bell at 4:45 PM on Friday, March 25. It is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City.

For more information click on the links below.
There was also an article in the NY Times, Feb. 14

Love and Peace,

Josephine and Michael