I teach developmental composition in the Westbank of New Orleans, over the bridge from my home. If you were to keep on driving out there, away from New Orleans, you would be in the area on the map that looks like it’s breaking apart into the sea. If you followed any of the spill (spill always feels like the wrong word, let’s call it THE FUCKING EARTH HEMMORAGE) that occurred recently, you’re familiar with some of these areas: Plaquemines Parish, Lafitte, Barataria. I’m from California; I ride my bike most days; my father was an artist; and my mother was responsible for negotiating minority contracts for the City of Los Angeles during the 80s. It’s easy to say that if I lean, I fall over left. For me, indentifying the enemy here is easy – oil.
A few years ago, the poet D.A. (Doug) Powell and I, in a fit of industry, embarked upon a project called The One Sentence Review. This was our call for submissions:
“Have you ever wanted to review a new book of poetry, but you felt like you might not have enough to say? The One Sentence Review doesn’t need you to blather on and on about how life-affirming or ground-breaking or challenging or redemptive each book is. On the contrary, we want the true essence of the book, cooked down into one encapsulating, qualitative, complete thought. Or less.”
Perhaps to be human is to forget. Perhaps every culture survives by forgetting. In America we have forgotten so many things that we are sometimes called a people without a memory. Modern Turkey sometimes strikes me as a culture based on forgetting as many things as possible about the country’s past. Since the late eighties, the place to eat in Istanbul for serious foodies has been Ciya, in Kadikoy, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Ciya is the creation of master chef Musa Dagdeviren, whose mission is to restore to Turkish diners a cuisine that they have forgotten.
So begins Robert Lax’s Voyage to Pescara, written in 1951 and first published in full in 2000 by Overlook Press, as the last third of a three-books-in-one collection, Circus Days & Nights. I won’t go on at length about Lax’s fascinating biography or the wonders of his minimalism and documentary poetics, because I’ve come to know his work only recently and I don’t have a grasp on its range, but along with George Oppen, Anne Carson, and Ernesto Cardenal, he’s already up there as one of my favorite 20th century meditative writers.
Late-night dispatch, San Francisco: I’m about halfway through Martin Amis’s novel Money, relentless, repellent, ridiculous, exquisitely crafted Money, a 1980s period piece written as if it were destined to be a 1980s period piece.
Which is better than most.
Which is taking me forever, reading the book I mean, because who has fucking time for that.
This endless couple-pages-before-maybe-a-handjob-and-then-sleep slog through Money has got me thinking about money.