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Gerasene ’17: The Kollektiv at Notre Dame

4a52b04c-9854-4f8d-857b-c68d95a89614-002[Image: the Mississippi gravesite of Senator LeRoy Percy, Walker Percy’s uncle.]

CONFIRMED: Two [hopefully three] members of the Korrektiv as panelists at this summer’s Trying to Say “God”: Re-enchanting Catholic Literature, June 22-24 at the University of Notre Dame. Rally, Korrektiv, rally!

Uncle Walt Wrote a Novel!

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Who knew the multitudinous poet had it in him?

Apparently a grad student named Turpin did.

And apparently everyone does…now.

As noted in the New York Times, Whitman once wrote in 1882, “My serious wish were to have all those crude and boyish pieces quietly dropp’d in oblivion.” Later, when he heard someone was interested in publishing his past fiction, he said, “I should almost be tempted to shoot him if I had an opportunity.”

Clearly, Whitman hadn’t expected Turpin…

Plus ça change…

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Oh, my. A bondage-themed chandelier made from actual women, some cantilevered over the scene, backs arched and hands manacled over their heads, some supine with their legs spread and raised to heaven… Lady Gaga, perhaps? Or Madonna at the height of her “Express Yourself” antics?

Nope. The “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number from 1953’s featherlight rom-com Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. They’ve got women working as candelabras, too!

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Opening Up a Dialogue

House of Words paid Facebook a nominal fee to boost the dissemination of a haiku in support of the Women’s March this past Saturday. And it generated some interesting feedback from outside the usual House of Words demographic.

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Three Short Poems about the Sásq’ets

Two Faces of the Sásq’ets
For some, folkloric kitsch,
for others, Gigantopithecus
blacki
, a Bering land bridge
migrant who’s still with us.

Near Bluff Creek, California, October 20, 1967
Near Bluff Creek, California, the Sásq’ets was yclept
Bigfoot, as attested by a plaster cast where he stepped.

Hiking in the Blue Mountains
Sitting on a log, I heard
a footfall behind me stop. I rose
slowly, turned and saw
the Sásq’ets, stinking and pilose …

Fiction Submission

The following story was submitted to me in hopes of having more work published by Korrektiv Press. I explained that we really are a boutique publishing house, an elite group of writers catering to an even more elite group of readers (alas, you read that correctly), and that it would take some time—not to mention a long, hard look by our editorial staff—before his stuff ever saw it through to print. The fellow responded that this was just fine—suited him to a t, in fact, since he was looking for as much feedback as possible. To which I thought, well, why don’t we just post it to the blog, opening up his work to whatever commentary our good readers choose to provide. So … Have at it, folks.

Debita Nostra

Sedately, a hand as though Michelangelo’s Adam’s stretched toward the bulletproof window, outside of which sprung April’s sweet shoots, this man’s hand anticipating no divine spark, reaching instead for infinite space. Garrett stared there, almost praying in spite of it all, sing in me muse of many harried years, I am a man unskilled in the ways of contenting, lax index finger then firming to flick an ant—exiled or escaped from the anthill’s very brotherhood—not utterly destroying it, but doing a crippling work on the hind legs. Dominion over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Should tell someone here. Insecticide. Black dots distracting work that could be done. Contrary to all efficiency and decency. Not that he cared but they would wouldn’t they. Black dots better than black plague, better than the oriental rat flea that gorged on blood and spread it across Europa, eliminating at least one hundred million in seven years, 1353-1346, as though yesterday, danse macabre, dance my little wounded ant, skeletal epitome of eternal mortality, set us dancing again, mon Dieu, Dominus. Dominion. Dominus vobiscum.

Garrett brushed back his black bangs that when hanging ceased just before they reached the eyebrows. Covering it. The broad forehead. That’s how God fits the brains in there, Uncle James had said more than once, often upon introducing him from afar but within earshot—and here he is, broad-forehead-big-brained bullox, pressing blood-blanched fingers against the off white keyboard, trying to formulate a response to client ZX3820 and failing, yet carrying on the slow-motion slog against the debt, stacking his hecatomb against the mortal god who sent summons biweekly: $123,000 total, for which reason we would like to offer you the payment plan option of $1,230 per month, which, o man, measured against your Cosmoception wages of $2,500 per month, leaves you $1,270 per month. Forget not the old cafe job that brought in $1,300 per month at best, if tips bespoke the jubilee generosity, that as dictated by that little known book of Leviticus and insisted upon by the prophet Isaiah, for the faint spirit shall become a mantle of praise enunciated by otherworldly unction.

Still failing to settle the right syntax for client ZX3820. Not for lack of sample form letters provided during orientation, but because not a single one fits. Refusing the forms as inadequate. Aristotle refusing Plato’s theory of the forms–if the father of all philosophical footnotes had one single one anyhow. Failed to figure how this world holds order also not only other-world Forms. Some semblance of home here. My father has many dwellings. Not is only in heaven but as it is, otherwise why the comparison? Client ZX3820—you enter the numbers and the computer program inserts a name which you, the staff, are unable to see, privacy—wants foundation. A shade of peach, non-scented, but can get it cheaper at even the convenience store. He heard now-departed father say have your convenience and hang all to not-yet-widowed mother when she suggested they purchase an eighty dollar keychain by which the doors would unlock and lock by your remote finger’s command. Garrett straightened his spine, felt a click or crack at the base of his back, wrote Have your convenience and hang it all as a draft, then deleted it posthaste, else that $2,500 departs like nymphs leaving you in the wasteland again, leaving no address for anyone, The yellow fog of debt that that rubs its back upon the window-panes, collectors licking their tongues into the corners of the everything.

The nymphs are departed,
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors;
Departed, have left no addresses
.

Departed, have taken with them the luggage of panic, for if deadened from dull days at work at least there no worried pacings punctuate the evenings as in the elder days, before this big break job, no heart kicks at every door knock as though Loan Co. Himself was on the other side, knocking. Dithyrambic pound with each envelope delivered, even sweepstakes nonsense sometimes looked like loan bills to bloodshot eyes. Taking more hours at the cafe, more coffee cups filled and customers humored over steaming pink salmon, seizing on others’ sick days almost as a parasite and still failing in spite of this to meet monthly payments, readying for default until an entirely oblique conversation with Loan Co. led to a letter that read “ . . . pleased to inform you that your loan has been rescheduled,” which meant, his Uncle James told him over the phone, reduced monthly payments by means of a second loan to help pay off the first which meant increased interest rates but extended repayment schedule so that at least the monthly interest and a bit of the capital balance would be in the hands of the bank every thirty days.

Three Short Poems about Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw

Whether You Call It a Wolverine, a Glutton, a Carcajou, a Skunk Bear, or even the Demon of the North, this Beast is Fierce in Any Language
G. gulo can make you sick—catch
a whiff of that anal stink
and you may claw your own face
off. Fast enough to chase
a lynx, so tenacious it won’t blink
from a bear. It has thick,
oily fur to keep warm and wick
away water. Stocky. About
a foot tall at the shoulder, snout
to tail, three: the Quickhatch.

Life Curled Under a Heat Lamp
Stirring from sleep, his penultimate
action was to eat living mice. Creepy.
He may decide to then molt. A pet
snake is mostly boring. And sleepy.

Cooperative Hunting
Some Roving Coralgroupers nod
at a school of Giant Moray
Eels, inviting the double-jawed
serpents to a feeding foray
in the reef—to flush out every nich,
to kill their prey with a twitch.

SKA2

Last week I referred to Newsweek as “a magazine that nobody reads any more”, but now here I am, linking to it again because of an article I was referred to on suicide. Of course I can’t think of suicide (not for very long, anyway) without also thinking of Walker Percy, so that obviously makes it of interest to readers of this blog (just how many readers would be interesting to know). Here is a good long sample:

Dr Zachary Kaminsky, assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is at the forefront of efforts to identify what has colloquially been termed a “suicide gene”. “Stress is like driving,” Kaminsky says. “You can drive really fast, and that can be useful, but you have to be able to slow down.” His team compared brains of those who died by suicide and those who didn’t. They had an inkling that for those who died by suicide, a gene called SKA2 might be, in effect, acting as a faulty brake pad, failing to control stress.

By looking at just this single gene, Kaminsky’s team was able to predict with 80-90% accuracy whether an individual in their research group had thoughts of suicide or had made an attempt. More research is needed, but signs are positive that in the future a simple blood test may provide at least some indication of suicide risk.

I had heard of the possibility of isolating a suicide gene, but I didn’t know it had been identified as SKA2 (not sure what that refers to, but it’s at least a name,which is helpful), and didn’t know, for example, that men are four times more likely than women to kill themselves, or that Lithuania has the highest rate in Europe. I know next to nothing about Lithuania, except that Czesław Miłosz is from Wilno, and of course this doesn’t tell us whether it’s something in the water, or in the genes, or if there’s anything particularly depressing about Lithuania.

Does the internet have much of an effect on these numbers? Here’s some anecdotal evidence from the story

In most of his YouTube videos, Brett Robertshaw has headphones on, head bobbing rhythmically, fingers flashing up and down the fretboard of his bass guitar. His talent had gained him a following; some of these videos attracted 40,000 views. One is different. In it he sits in front of the camera – a red-haired, matter-of-fact boy. He’s shy and serious, quietly answering questions from his online following.

On his Ask.fm page, while Brett’s written responses to questions about his life from other users are generally funny, sharp and acerbic, a few give pause.

Question: “What was the last lie you told?”

Brett: “I’m OK.”

Question: “Your (sic) in your own movie are you the good guy or the bad guy? and why?”

Brett: “I’m the extra, because fuck that shit.”

Brett wrote over 7,500 tweets in less than three years. Most are digital snippets quite typical of a young male life, but there were also infrequent, intense bursts of sadness and resignation. Struggles to sleep. Anger and isolation. Alcohol as a coping mechanism. On 14 May 2014, unbeknown to family and friends, Brett began to draft a long and eloquent message for his personal website. It began: “The truth is, if this post is live, then chances are, I’m probably not here any more.”

Very sad.

I was surprised to read in the article that not all suicides are classified as acts of the mentally ill. I’ve always taken it for granted that killing one’s self has to be some form of mental illness. Apparently not. Read all about it here.

Marsh Pennywort*

marsh pennywort

Marsh pennywort repays in dividends
As it multiplies interest, its coin-
Rounded leaves, dangling thin purse-strings for fronds,
Supports inflation of its foreign green –
Hard currency in wetland’s liquid time,
Precious specie preponderating pond-
Economies with toad-spawned tadpole slime,
Necessarily blessed because so fecund.

Now too, the marsh will pay what seasons played,
Yet holds interest in soil across the board
While reed and rush enriched by fluid coins
Of marshy realms devalue winter’s trade.
Resplendence sees pennywort well-prepared
To issue species: nature’s greener groynes.

*Thus begins an overhauling of my Carlos Linnaeus sonnet cycle, this time in the quatrain, alas, changing out the meditations on Genesis, which ended the old versions, for a more rounded, satisfying poem. In the revision here I attempt to stay true to the poem’s own interior logic, rather than attempting to impose an arbitrary logic on the poem based on a meditations which organically has nothing to do with the plant involved. At any rate, it continues to be a work in progress…

A few things to know about the Marsh Pennywort – while mildly invasive, it also does a good job of preserving marshlands by strengthening the soil with its root systems. Also, a groyne, as you may or mayn’t know, is a man-made jetty-like structure used to control shore erosion. Suffice it to say that the pun on the word proved irresistible.

The world of research has gone bezerk.

http://korrektivpress.com/2014/10/27507/