Archives for June 2014


Webb has a set. Scholars will be knocking at his door when the (other) Web unravels.

Heermeneutic of Suspicion

Tweet-er Jeet Heer, incidentally, though not himself a Catholic (see the last paragraph of his article on Hugh Kenner), wrote an interesting examination — and appreciation — of the centrality of Catholicism to Marshall McLuhan’s work for the July/August 2011 issue of The Walrus magazine.

See also?

What I did for Matthew Lickona’s birthday

kentucky buck

It’s called a Kentucky Buck  (a mule variation) and it’s coming to a San Diego cocktail review near you!



The usually-dormant Percy-L listserv has heated up of late.



Post your poems, prayers, and spankings in the birthday boy combox.

Kurt Olson

grew up in Clarkston, but the river
And falls, the whispers and glances, the side-
Walk life, the upright’s strings aquiver
Beneath his touch, made him decide
To chance it north, to break his language
In two or three, to speak the garbage
Out, out, to dumpster dive
His soul and come back out alive
With music that was lost on fathers
(Ungiven, unforgiven, lost)
And words beneath forgotten crust
Cast out in alleys where no one bothers
With berries from Kurt’s favorite pie,
The filling filling up his sky.

Thom Caraway

The Spokane flows the right direction
Away from North Dakota, with
The Empire Builder gaining traction
Towards the coast and mountain’s wrath.
Inside the train, a car away from
Dakota’s oceanic daydream,
Thom dines on salmon steak filet,
Adjusts his laurel-wreathed beret,
And watches good ideas grow better
As small town architects increase
Their sense of timing, form, and grace,
As morning comes and thoughts grow lighter.
Then Thom wakes in his Spokane bed
Where train dreams end with daily bread.

Three Sonnets

I. Word House
Where Amherst’s hermitess had bitten
The Puritan tongue with reproof,
Spokane now speaks such song, begotten
As rain, pronounced as raftered roof,
Refined as wine in cooling cellars.
What whirrs there through the threshold’s pillars?
It sounds to be a potter’s lathe
That spits out earthen sparks to bathe
The night with reason: words are shelter
For faith which palates reach with speech
Like star to planet, wave to beach.
The mystery of diction’s altar:
In stormy house, a world of calm –
In sonnet’s hovel, castled psalm.

II. Beard Nest
A formal nudity is shameless
Because the body knows what lust
Denies to serve: the many nameless
Conspiracies of love that nest
Like birds within the beard of Jesus.
Will darkened theaters cease to please us
(More known than knowing) just because
The plight of Job excites applause
For pleasure’s picture show? With Satan,
The naked frame reveals; but beer
Is found as near to elbow’s cheer
As language brewing roots in Latin –
And here, a man and woman found
A common tongue on common ground.

III. Water Board
The sifting surf is sorting shingles
Upon the beach. The clashing sounds
Of armies, ignorant as angels,
Is drowned as holy rage compounds
The wave that builds. But you know, fuck it.
A man can throw up in a bucket –
So justice gains what mercy lost –
A man can take his licks on a post –
So blood and history are bonded
As Adam waxes up his board
Now bounden where he lay, a lord
At play. Sea-savaged and up-ended,
He’s framed by grace – and tries to name
Its aspect ratio to fame.

Zan Agzigian

A flame from Sandra, both eyes open—
A tape recorded organ drones,
A spirit forces them for pardon
So full of tears and telephones.
In insulated Spokane houses
October Spokane windy punches
Handled our hearts with sleight of hand
In absolute pastures of chambered grassland.
Zan caught the truth and sent it flying
Inside our music, note for note
To help survive the spring time bite
Of being born while busy dying.
No fooling Zan’s become this place,
There is a God, she found the trace.



I can’t say enough about how great this movie is. Great story, beautifully filmed, and extremely well acted throughout. Anna has grown up in a convent and become a novice in due course, but is told by her Mother Superior that before taking final vows she must make a visit to her only known relative. Aunt Wanda had declined to take her in as an orphaned child, and isn’t especially excited about having the aspiring nun visit now. As for Anna, What good can there be outside the convent? She complies because she must. When Anna finally arrives one morning, Wanda is blithely smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee as a man prepares to leave the apartment. When she asks her niece, “Didn’t they tell you who I am? What I do?” one can’t help but fear the worst. But it isn’t the worst at all: Wanda is a judge, it turns out, as well as a former prosecutor for the newly formed communist state, although despite this apparent success seems hell bent on drinking and sleeping around as a way out of careerist misery. Aunt Wanda is also a Jew, which of course means that Anna is too, and the aspiring nun learns that she was named Ida by parents who were first hidden and then murdered during the war. Details are murky, but Wanda, spurred on by her niece’s visit, is ready to confront the past. Ida, now more than vaguely unwilling, has no choice but to follow.

That really doesn’t give too much away. The unlikely pair set off on a trip, and there they learn that historical discoveries can’t be made without accompanying interior revelations. Perhaps for Ida it is the reverse that must be learned.

I don’t think there’s a frame in the entire movie that isn’t exquisitely realized. It is the boxiest aspect ratio I have perhaps ever seen in a feature film, all of it 1:1.37, just about every shot static with only a few remarkable views that aren’t straight on. This goes a long ways towards taking viewers back fifty years or more, although I doubt there are textures and surfaces in films of that era so stunningly captured as they are here. Blacks, whites and grays are kept in beautiful balance. The finest contrasts are between the somewhat medieval interior of the convent and the drab hotels and civic spaces of postwar Poland, as well as the more cosmopolitan settings and the elements of earth, sky and forest. The faces of the two women also tell quite a story, Wanda, beautiful despite her obvious inner torment, and Ida quietly self-contained by devotion, maybe reluctance and even fear as well. See it in the theater if you can, add it to the queue if you can’t.

Dennis Held

He polkas two step flops out of the
Serene dead ends of Vinegar Flats
Where time and time’s children love the
Unhurried pace. The sidestreet cats
Meander round the poet’s broken
Down heart, beat up car, aching
Iambic lines laid out like seeds
In rows where syllables and weeds
Comingle with pugnacious music
In step with river rush and trains
That sing to Dennis soft refrains
And bathe the tragic in the comic
Insistence on the rocky ground
Divine in dialects of sound.

Selfie of the Self as a Self


A Message from Wiseblood

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 9.47.30 AM

What is Wiseblood? A press. A record company. A script-to-screen concern. And now, a brand:

With 10 full days to go, we are astonishingly close to our goal of 301 likes! (We had no idea we were so likeable.) We sincerely thank each and every one of you for sharing Wiseblood with the world!!

In appreciation for your help, we’re raising the bar:

1) We’ll draw a name as soon as we reach 301 likes. The winner still gets any Wiseblood original of their choice, but they don’t have to wait until June 30 like a chump to get it.

2) If we reach 350 likes by June 30, we will draw a second name–this winner will receive an autographed copy of A Waste of Shame and Other Sad Tales of the Appalachian Foothills by Geoffrey Smagacz.


Thanks again!


2413 Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.

My Email to Garrison Keillor re. Walker Percy

Dear Mr. Keillor,

You and Walker Percy both occupy honored places in my personal constellation of literary stars.

That’s why I was shocked and disappointed by your treatment of Dr. Percy in the May 28, 2014 edition of The Writer’s Almanac. Percy never worked as a psychiatrist. In fact, although he was an M.D., he never really practiced medicine. He contracted tuberculosis while conducting autopsies during a residency in pathology at the end of medical school.

And that synopsis of The Moviegoer (which thankfully only appears in the printed version of TWA) is just as horribly askew. Binx Bolling is a stockbroker who goes to the movies but “in an attempt to get over a nervous breakdown” reeks of having been pulled out of someone’s ass who never read the book and doesn’t really care.

I’m not sure I can trust what you say on TWA anymore.

Maybe what you need is a crusty old librarian who cares about real facts and knows how to dig into reliable sources. Coincidentally, I am just such a librarian (and poor starving poet to boot, having earned $100 from TWA, thank you very much, and about $3.95 in royalties since publishing my book). I would be interested in supplementing my meager poet-librarian’s salary, if you’re hiring.

I didn’t start off this email thinking it would turn into a job application, but the spirit surprises us sometimes.

Let me know what you think. In any case, I’m looking forward to what you come up with for Walker Percy the next time his birthday comes round.

All the best,
Jonathan Potter
Spokane WA

Upon a Letter from a Friend Which Included Mention of Swans

jack yeats swans of coole


Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

– Yeats

The span of years hasn’t helped the eyes
Adjust to beauty’s knot in troubled times,
Nor eased the heart into its frame. Surprise
Is taken wedge by ounce
With gin and limes
We raise to give to Providence its half a chance.

You wrote to say that beauty’s gauge these days
Has been a ratio of swans per wing
To children growing old. – Here lie the ways
That lead to winter, straight
From early spring
To bleeding grapes which fill the untapped tun of Fate….

You said that swans preferred the Danube now
To Rhone or Rhine: in lamentation’s flight
Or drifting flocks of Charon’s candid dhow,
Each freights the stony ken
Of final night
In multiples of starry Cygnus – cob and pen.

How strange to think upon your mated swans
As each a year of moments gliding past us:
Their slender necks submit to clear-eyed Fons
As our own eyes blear with
Tears of Bacchus,
Who keeps us blind to Leda’s fortune – beauty’s myth.

From the Korrektiv HR Dept.

bus sg

Wisconglish for “Mass Transit System Career Opportunities – Now Hiring!”



Lucrative Perks…the parking lot in which the vehicle is located belongs to a newly opened microbrewery…Sunshine more than three days a year (even when it’s 40 degrees below zero!)… and, as always, unique camping experiences.

Happy Father’s Day

IMG_20140615_153010“Here I went to mass with Samantha, happy as a man could be, ate Christ and held him to his word, if you eat me you’ll have life in you, so I had life in me. After mass we’d walk home to Paradise through the violet evening, the evening star hard by the red light of the TV tower like a ruby and a diamond in the plush velvet sky, and I’d skip with happiness, cut the fool like David while Samantha told elephant jokes, go home, light the briquets, drink six toddies, sing Tantum Ergo, and “Deh vieni alla finestra” from Don Giovanni and, while Samantha watched Gentle Ben, invite Doris out under the Mobile pinks, Doris as lusty and merry a wife then as a man could have, a fine ex-Episcopal ex-Apple Queen from the Shenandoah Valley. Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you.”

— Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins