Sunday, February 27, 2011

Poets, Poets, Everywhere--So Where's My Draft to Drink?

Foto by tgw, New York City "Looking West," February 2011
Say Goodbye to: Bluesman Eddie Kirk or Eddie Kirkland.
How did he die? Poor old Eddie, 88, was still driving--tried to make a U Turn down in Tampa and was hit by a Greyhound bus--what a way for a bluesman to go...

Eddie Kirkland (August 16, 1923 – February 27, 2011) was an American blues guitarist, harmonicist, singer, and songwriter.

Kirkland, known as the "Gypsy of the Blues" for his rigorous touring schedules, played and toured with John Lee Hooker from 1949 to 1962. After his period of working in tandem with Hooker he pursued a successful solo career, recording for RPM Records, Fortune Records, Volt Records, and King Records, sometimes under the stage name Eddie Kirk. Kirkland continued to tour, write and record albums until his death in February 2011.


Say Goodbye to: The Duke of Flatbush, Edwin "Duke" Snider: Duke Snider, 84, American baseball Hall of Famer (Brooklyn Dodgers) He was an ex-Fort Worth Cat; and an ex-New York Mets cat, to boot.
Duke Snider Going After One Against the Ebbetts Field Centerfield Wall

Animath Faiza
I had never heard of this person until the other morning when I was checking the Wikipedia Death List (always ripe with soccer players's deaths) and saw that she had died Friday. What made me curious about this lady was her distinction as a what, a lot of poets around, and they do die. But how about a Maldives poet? A Maldives poet who writes in the Dhivehi language?

From Wikipedia:

Aminath Faiza (? - February 25, 2011) was a Maldivian Dhivehi language poet and author.

Faiza began showcasing her work during the 1950s after Mohamed Amin Didi, the first President of the Maldives, created the "Garden of Dhivehi Poets" local Maldivian literature. [1] She would publish her poems and other works in magazines and other publications throughout her career.[1]

Faiza also served on the advisory body of the Rayyithunge Muthagaddim Party, the first political party founded in the Maldives.[1] She became the deupty headmistress of the former Madrasat–ul Saniyya school, and was a member of the National Committee on Historical and Linguistic Research.[1]

Aminath Faiza died of complications of a stroke at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Malé, Republic of Maldives, on February 25, 2011, at the age of 82.[1] A resident of Daisymaage, she was survived by her three children.[1] She was buried at the Aa Sahara cemetery in Male in a ceremony attended by political and cultural dignitaries.
Animath Faiza's Most Famous Poem in Dhivehi (read right to left):
Aminath Faiza poem 'the nation's Ameen.. ah!
aminath faiza - poem - the nations ameen.. aah!
Aminath Faiza's poem 'The Nation's Ameen.. aah!'
from Faiythoora 202, 1996


If you'd like a translation, go to the Maldives Culture site link above where you can find it--the site's also interesting because it contains a fairly "compleat" history of the Maldives--a very interesting society to a Sociologist. Animath Faiza is one of those singular women who arise out of all cultures, and in her most famous poem she totally patriotically praises the first duly elected president of the Maldives after they got their independence from the British Imperial Throne/British Occupation Forces and Government--I mean so many of the world's current conflicts can be traced back to the conquering actions of the British Empire--the purveyor of the PROPER civilization for SAVAGES--and certainly to the sophisticated Brit conqueror, these Maldives Islanders sure were savage-looking as hell--the first clue being, "I say, those woolly buggers are bloody naked."

I haven't read the translation of Madame Faiza's poem--I prefer trying to read it in Dhivehi--what a language--you've got to love it and understand it just by its look--which to a Maldives Islander is an easy right-off-the-top-of-their-heads read...the rhythms, the rhymes. I'll be cynically critical and admit, and I've weighed the possibility of my Western chauvinism in terms of her work, I'd probably find this her most precious poem in the Maldives rather naive and simple and, oooh, elementary. I condemn myself--but it looks so interesting in Dhiveli, I could not trust an translation of it into English. [NOTE: You can download a pdf version of a Dhiveli Dictionary on the Maldives Culture Website linked above.]

I read up on Dhiveli and how it is a conglomerate language--of Arabic, Hindi, etc. And it seems to some Maldivians a "racist" language in that it was forced on them by the Islamic/Arabic invaders and occupiers. One Netherlands site said you could use htm symbols to approximate its alphabet. The site seemed geared to Windows XP , however, and not my Mac so I had trouble using it.

Other Poets, Other Rooms
New novelist phenom Teju Cole says in his essay about the Black Eagles football team in the recent World Cup and a poem written about them that poetry has to be necessarily in an not off-the-bat understandable form to be true poetry. And this is a general attitude among most poets, especially those who are qualified by reputation to be real poets and not phonies. I'm sure you would put most song lyrics in the phony poetry category. Or how about Poe's The Raven, a highly revered American poem?--once memorized by most schoolkids in this country. My dad could quote The Raven full length from memory--even acting it out as he reeled it off. My dad, educated in the early 20th-Century, could quote a lot of old classic American poems, like Hiawatha; The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck; and several other Poes, like Annabelle Lee.

I grew up with my grandmother a published poet. My grandmother was a natural-born poet, though today most of her poetry would be condemned by the celebrated American poets as being primitive--in the cute sense of the word. I used to read my grandmother's poetry books and find them revealingly fascinating, though rereading them now I can see how "flowery" they are--though the imagery in some of them amazes me in that it came from my grandmother, the woman who lived with my family in her back-of-our-house apartment for most of my developing years. And when you entered that apartment early in the morning--hoping she had made a big breakfast for herself that morning--especially hoping she'd baked a batch of her famous tea cakes and made a huge extra bunch of sausages and scrambled eggs peppered with jalapenos and bits of fat-back belly bacon in them that morning--and always when you knocked and she said to come in she'd already be at her typewriter writing--always writing at her poems--though she tried her hand at two novels, one published but the other one condemned as the pathetic effort of an old woman whose characterizations were pretty and neat but of no consequences to contemporary sophisticated American readers. I remember how my brother tried to help her get her last novel published. It was entitled Hilda and subtitled "The Story of a Woman Lost to Time"--a great subtitle, I thought; yet the subtitle didn't really describe this fictional woman's story, a woman same as my grandmother who wanted so much to be a respected poet and writer and yet now in her late years she sits surrounded by her rejected manuscripts and a pile of rejection slips--surrounded by her precious manuscripts, all typed up with great effort and perfection by her over the years on her precious L.C. Smith typewriter that she had bought brand new in the 1920s, when she started seriously trying to get her work published. And, yes, my brother let me read this Ms after my grandmother died and I saw right off that Hilda was so autobiographical with its great respect of nature through flowers and birds and the frustration at having all these poems in her head, her self-educated head--she had written about how as a young girl she had gone every day up to the a college close to her home, a girl's college, she had hung out by the open classroom windows absorbing all the learning she could obtain that way--becoming noticed by the college's head, "a gentleman of great breeding," as she described him, who called her into his office one day and came away letting her sit in on an English literature class where she was introduced to the man who became her writing hero, Lord Byron.

Upon her death not only did I inherit my grandmother's (and Hilda's) old L.C. Smith typewriter but also her copy of The Collected Poems of Lord Byron, an early-20th-Century Longman's edition. Every page contained her penciled marginalia--expressly explicitly romantic when it came to that marginalia that accompanied the selected sections of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. "How bold of vision he makes those alpine peaks, as though it is they speaking through his descriptions...." "As he passes through these expanses of the European landscape it is as though he is getting his language from Nature, his words so naturally in place in this journal of so vast a journey."

It's also obvious from this last Ms, that my grandmother had reached an age--she was in her 70s when she wrote it--where she realized her early success--she had two books of poetry published in the 1930s and her novel published in the 1940s--was long past, long gone, and she was puzzled in an overwhelming way by her late-age rejections--the rejection of Hilda the rejection of her as a writer, and embarrassingly, too, as a poet. The book ends sadly with Hilda sitting going over and over her rejection slips--"We are sorry but after reviewing your manuscript we find it is not fitting our current publishing agenda"--all signed simply "The Editors" with no personal names or hand-signed slips--the ultimate death-notice rejections--those with no hope in them. The book ends with Hilda sadly alone and totally rejected--wondering naively if her being rejected as a writer and poet and person would affect her status in Heaven, where she oh so wanted to be perhaps God's favorite poet.

My grandmother lived several more years after my brother made his final attempt to place Hilda with an editor acquaintance of his at Simon & Shuster. He received the Ms's final rejection slip with a hand-signed note this time from this editor saying how sad it was to read but also how totally out-of-date it was and how childishly written it was. She put the final death sentence on the Ms by saying, "I know of no publisher who would consider this Ms in its present state; in fact, I don't even suggest she even rewrite it...." The ultimate condemnation of my grandmother's final work. My brother never showed her that rejection slip; in fact, he never gave her back the Ms and it now rests to yellow and rot away to never be read in his archives at a Texas university.

Ironically, I also inherited her copy of her published novel. Inside it I found a letter from a New York City poet, he was a pretty famous poet to the newspaper poem column crowd at least, concerning a poem she had submitted to him for criticism. His reply was that he had found her poem intriguing--he liked several of the lines in terms of their position in the poem--and overall gave her an "A" for effort, though he did suggest some areas where the poem needed "some improvement"--at the end of the form letter, he checked off the general areas on which the poem needed work. Though a form letter, it was hand-signed by the guy.

I became a published poet during my senior year in college. My first published poem was called "The Flying Red Horse and the Telephone Pole"--it was published by the poetry editor of the Piggott, Arkansas, newspaper's poetry page. This lady accepted it and asked me to submit any other poems I had, and I submitted one I wrote hot off my head and typed up on the spot and she accepted it, too. After those two poems, over the next 5 years I published over 20 more poems in various literary and poetry journals--some of them fairly successful, like one published in a University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee-backed poetry journal that got me a 15-minute spot on the journal's once-a-week radio show on the UW-Milwaukee's FM station--15-minutes in which I read my poems and discussed how I had been almost entirely influenced in my writing by Gertrude Stein. I rued later not giving my grandmother the main credit for my ever even attempting to write a poem. And in honesty now I can say it was a haiku poem of my grandmother's I'd found in a Haiku publication from the 1930s that got me interested in writing poetry--haiku, the Japanese form of poetry that became a craze among US poets during the 20s and 30s--and I was so intrigued by that poem I learned and practiced haiku for over a year, eventually getting it down--and only then switching over to my own sort of free-verse poetry, those that got published like hotcakes for 5 years. Ironically, after college, I became ashamed of my poetry, to the point of being ashamed of listing my poems as my published works when I started submitting short stories. I remember how thrilled I was when my first short story was accepted for publication in an at-the-time girlie magazine competing with Hugh Heffner's very successful Playboy naked-girl format legitimized by former magazine editor, Heff, publishing "serious" short stories and book excerpts (of course with MALE interests, the primary one being SEX) between the air-brushed photos (no pubic hair allowed) of naked women. This Playboy copycat magazine paid me $600 for the rights to a story I had written while living in Mexico City about this American guy going to a Mexico City party where a gay guest is uncovered and then is begun to be humiliated by the more macho male guests to the point that these guys eventually murder this gay guy--it was a good story--I thought well written--though it never appeared in the magazine. Soon after this acceptance, I got another of my stories, this one more sexually explicit, published, this time in a sleazier girlie mag but one managed by a famous old magazine editor in the sleaze business--and this time this story was published and I remember running down to Tito's Grocery Store (in Santa Fe, New Mexico) and picking up several copies Tito had ordered from the magazine distributor and put back for me. How proud I was. Finally, I was no longer ONLY a poet. This story led to my being picked up by the Scott Meredith Agency, who sold it to a magazine in Denmark. When Scott Meredith tried to get the rights to my Mexico City story from that magazine that canned it, they refused to release them--a magazine now long-since out of business.

My attempts at becoming a great published writer and respected poet after a long while of efforts became a huge pile of rejection slips--and difficulties with New York City editors--so eventually, I gave up submitting my work.

Now, I have these schoolboy notebooks always by my side. Of late, I've filled two of these notebooks with, of all things, POEMS...and song lyrics. I amaze myself sometimes with off-the-top-of-my-head poems that sing back to me my own deepest reveries, no matter how clearly understood they are--though I certainly understand Teju Cole's saying a poem easily understood is not a great poem--though I also doubt that Teju Cole would find my most clearly understood poem clearly understanding to him.
A Poem, by Elmer Snowedin, The Daily Growler Poet Laureate

Sliding Glass Doors

My mirror image cracked me in two
Why? I cried, Mirror, Mirror in my face
My face blitzed with your kisses
Glass-cracking kisses..."Cut them out!"
There is so much pain in self-love
Especially when you're distracted by it
While on your merry way to the back yard.

Elmer Snowedin
Coleridge, Nebraska
for The Daily Growler

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