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The Lost Blossoms of March March 28, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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The birds at 7 a.m. are chattering like a girl’s high school has just let out and my back is aching from spending yesterday humping sacks of dirt and the digging and filling of holes in the yard, sure signs in a place where we measure our year by another set of seasons–parading, Carnival, hurricane–that it must be spring.

You can’t trust the Japanese magnolias. They were in bloom everywhere a few weeks ago, and I only learned their name sitting in the patio of the Maple Leaf bar admiring one while shivering through an afternoon poetry reading. The bloom to soon to server as anything more than an early warning system, but they put you in a mood for spring (one soon disappointed by the next cold snap), and in a nostalgic reverie for my time in Washington D.C. and the blooming of the cherries along the tidal basin, that Odd rite of spring in which the pink blossoms rain down and blow along in imitation of the past winter’s snow.

It was an Odd winter, with a long hard freeze that killed most of the yard and the power company Entergy sucked more money out of my wallet than a pass to Jazz Fest. Everywhere the city was brown, and the last time I saw New Orleans stripped of its evergreen was in the deep flooded suburbs of the Lakefront, the East and Gentilly after Katrina. The dull colors of ground and garden did not, however, put me immediately into some PTSD reverie of the Federal Flood. It must have been the weeks of shivering weather just past that instead led me to remember the lawns of Fargo, the ubiquitous brown and gray when the snows are finally gone.

Now the clover and thistle are bursting through the still dormant grass sward in front of the house, and with tiny patch of lawn in the back is coming up and seeding, at least on spots, and with the change in the air I’m more inclined to try to re-seed it rather than cover it with rock or deck it over as my wife suggests. Not only are the song birds having their ritual March carnival but some possum has trundled out if its winter hidey hole to inspect our yard, driving my wife into a pest frenzy and my son and I to wonder if they make good pets. I haven’t seen it myself, but I may slip a dish of apples into some corner of the yard my wife won’t notice and hope to catch sight of it. I have a soft spot for possums.

One of the few reliable signs of the seasons I can spot from my porch was the tree across the street. I’m no arborist. I know plants about as well as I know art or classical music. I enjoy them immensely at times and know what I like but you won’t be able to engage me in much conversation on the subject, but this tree was special to me, the calendar by which I measured the almanac’s seasons. At first I thought it was some kind of cypress, light barked with a pronounced change of color in the narrow leaves come fall, deep reds that reminded me of my time in the north. I watched it all winter, measuring the passage of cold front storms as it gradually lost its dead but tenacious leaves with each passing wind storm until it stood bare and spindly. And it bloomed in spring, covered in pink blossoms, just after the Japanese magnolias were past their season.

I wish I had studied it more closely, taken a few leaves and a blossom to press into a book because now it’s gone and I am trolling through the terrible mess of digital photos I have dumped on the computer, looking for one that captured it. I got up one recent Saturday to the falsetto roar of small chainsaws and watched (as much as I could bear to watch), two guys in an unmarked pickup hacking it down to a low stepping stone stump. I stood there a while at a low boil, threatening in my head to call the city arborist as the tree was on the median strip, that bit of green between the sidewalk and the street. Can one just cut down a tree on city property, even if you’ve planted it? I rented most of my life and know the rules for private property. What I planted in my landlord’s yard became his. Even if that was their tree, something they had planted long ago by putting it on the city’s land had is ceased to be theirs?

Now I am trolling through websites and Google photos, trying to put a name (too tall when frown for a dogwood, I think; I’m leaning toward an eastern redbud. Somewhere I must have a picture of the tree living (even in its winter undress), but for now all I have is this camera phone snap of it at the end, a pile of beautiful blooming branches piled in the back of a pickup, an aftermath of pink petals littering the ground.

I am probably in more trouble now than I was snapping camera phone pictures of them (the view in the picture is from my steps). It’s never good to make the neighbors angry and best I can figure someone (probably kids) let the air out of one of my tires the other night, but who the hell cuts down such a beautiful tree right at the peak of its spring bloom? People who don’t have a single plant in the ground, not so much as a ready-made planter or basket to decorate their porch, I guess.

If I didn’t have a dam utility poll right in front of my house I think I might even have to miss the Indians this Super Sunday to hump myself over to the large garden center Avondale to buy myself a sapling, and spend another day humping heavy sacks of dirt and shoveling up the worm-less clay of Mid-City to plant a tree. Instead I’m going to have to let it go, as I’ve promised my sister a ride uptown to see the wildest birds of spring and the season’s best colors, the Uptown Indians.

From now on I will have to mark the change of the seasons from memory, standing on my porch with my morning coffee and starting at the barren house across the street, imagining the blood red leaves of fall, the naked sticks of winter, and the lost blossoms of March.

Isolation is the gift March 27, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

— Charles Bukowski (Factotum)

Odd Words March 25, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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If you’re bothering to read this you certainly already know this is the weekend of the Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans. My own first experience I summarized here:

I hunched in the back with a tattered dimestore notebook balanced on my lap, an Oddity in the mostly female crowd dressed to meet for lunch under the clock at D.H. Homes. I had surrendered my cafe au lait at the door and as I sat damp from the steady spring drizzle outside, I waited for someone to announce that tea would be served, and hoped they would serve me.

At 51 I was one of the youngest people in the room and the most ill dressed, until that spot was taken by a guy in a ball cap who arrived and sat two rows up. One of the older book clubbers who filled the seats asked him to remove it, and I felt instantly more comfortable in my own shabby jeans and t-shirt. I had taken off my own driving cap when I sat down.

I find the program to be a bit heavy on Best Selling Authors and Notable Editors/Agents sharing their secrets it was an interesting experience, and I plan to try to get their on Friday to hear author/publisher/screenwriter/activist/educator Dave Eggers’ two presentations on this work. On Saturday the historic presentation on The Vieux Carre in the 1930s sounds interesting : “…a slide presentation on the literary milieu that so attracted the young Tennessee Williams to the French Quarter [along with] Sherwood Anderson, Lyle Saxon, William Faulkner, Caroline Dureiux and Roark Bradford.”

A 2:30 on Saturday “New Angles in New Orleans Writing” also sounds very good, with panelists Rick Barton, Andrea Boll, Bill Loehfelm and Paula Morris. Toulouse Street neighbor and author of a fine short story debut Barb Johnson will join Jill McCorkle and N.M. Kelly in a short story panel titled The Long and the Short of It at 11:30 AM Saturday.

The sole poetry event is 1 p.m. Sunday and features Peter Cooley, Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque and Allison Pelegrin. I don’t know why the TWF cut out the poetry contest, which I think is a big mistake. I guess the books-and-tea club types I find at a lot of these events don’t read much poetry anymore, except maybe a little Tennyson or Frost (if they’re feeling daring) now and again. Also on Sunday at 11:30 am is a panel on the HBO Series Treme “All that Jazz…and Beyond: The Making of Treme” with the writing team of Lolis Eric Elie, David Mills, Eric Overmayer, Tom Piazza and David Simon.

Finally, there is the Stella shouting contest late Sunday, and a performance of Ignatius On Stage.

§ This Thursday 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series hosts a reading & book signing featuring Manhattan poet, editor, publisher, and translator BILL ZAVATSKY. The featured poet will be followed by Open Mic hosted by Jimmy Ross. Bill Zavatsky is an American poet, teacher, translator, jazz pianist, and former publisher, editor-in-chief of SUN press and SUN magazine. He currently lives in New York City, where he teaches English at the Trinity School. Zavatsky’s co-translation, with Zack Rogow, of Earthlight: Poems by André Breton (Green Integer), won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize. His translation of The Poems of A.O. Barnabooth by Valery Larbaud (Black Widow Press) with Ron Padgett was republished in 2009. Zavatsky has written poems for twelve CDs by the jazz pianist Marc Copland. His recent full-length book of poems Where X Marks the Spot was published by Hanging Loose Press. Zavatsky recently received the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim fellowship for his poetry.

§ On Sunday the Maple Leaf Poetry Series, the longest running reading in the South, will host local poet Poet Sulla reading from and signs his new chapbook followed by an open mike. As Spring comes on and the Saints season behind us, what better place to spend a Sunday afternoon than in the patio Everette Maddox made famous.

§ — Missed a Good One for Tonite The Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Tom Dent Congo Square Lecture Series will present poet, author and activist Amiri Baraka at Dillard University’s Lawless Memorial Chapel Thursday, March 25, 7pm. Baraka, perhaps best known for his 1963 book “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” will speak as part of the lecture series’ current theme of presentations, “Jazz in Black & White.” Contact (504)558-6100

§ Missed another one: Dave Eggers returns to Octavia Books to sign ZEITOUN Friday, March 26, 5:00pm – 6:30pm at Octavia Books, 513 Octavia Street. I’m going to have to try to get one signed at the TWF as I won’t be able to get away and back uptown by then.

Treme Is Not OK with PZB March 23, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Novelist, blogger and a champion of New Orleans on a par with Ashmo isn’t to terribly fond of the Treme film crew in her neighborhood, Treme in general or David Simon. In fact, she tears them all a new asshole in a viscous screed worthy of her idol Hunter S. Thompson. Or Ashley, for that matter. However she goes down a path that is disturbing, dismissing Simon’s work while admitting she hasn’t watched film work, suggesting he is just an out-of-towner here to profit from out pain.

Over at the new Back of Town blogWe Are Not Amused. I mean, that William Styron guy wasn’t Black or (to my knowledge) Jewish. Hell, he was 25 when he wrote Lay Down in Darkness. So he should just shut the fuck up. I guess.

I will, however, buy dinner and ammo if I can watch Brite (whose online work and persona I generally like, unlike most of the rest of our circle of NOLA Bloggers) shoot up mock Katrina fridges.

Notes from the Mountain (Black) March 22, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Poetry.
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OK, that’s the worse title I can imagine, but it’s getting late so I’ll leave it up there. I case you wonder (and you probably don’t, having stumbled in here looking for Grandpa Elliot videos or something), if it seems like I’m not around here that doesn’t mean I’m just off somewhere drinking beer. Or off somewhere just drinking beer. I might be somewhere else, preferably drinking beer while I’m at something like this. You don’t really need to click on it, you know. Just wanted to let you now I hadn’t forgotten about you.

Shelton Alexander: When the Levees Broke March 20, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Sinn Fein, We Are Not OK.
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I posted a clean but abbreviated version of this video a long time ago, but it was deleted from You Tube. I’ve found this bad quality version but it includes Shelton Alexander’s interview and the entire speech.

The original post, with the new video follows:

Ground truth has a face. It is Shelton Alexander’s.

I told you I would be here.
It was important that I came.

Damn.o

Back Of Town March 19, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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Brought to you my Maitri’s new Back of Town blog on David Simon and HOB’s Treme:

“You hate the food. You hate the music. You hate the city. What the fuck are you doin’ down here?”
– John Goodman as Ashley. Near the end. Wait for it.

Odd Words March 18, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in books, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Nothing clever to report today, especially after last night’s Downtown Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade. We stood in front of Mimi’s and it was steadily raining black condoms from the balcony. I’m not sure the Saint involved would approve, and where we would get all of the damn Irishmen for the parade if they were used? Anyway, I’m a wee bit hungover so here’s a quick quote right off the side bar (you do browse the sidebar occasionally, don’t you? There are links to some fine blogs over there):

I write about myself with the same pencil and in the same exercise book as about him. It is no longer I, but another whose life is just beginning. – Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)

§ This week 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series presents a film screening of legendary twentieth century poet CHARLES OLSON: Growling Shaman 1956 – 1970, video outtakes of Charles Olson speaking from his home in Gloucester. Note: This screening will begin PROMPTLY at 8:00 p.m. Our featured presentation will be followed by Open Mic hosted by Jimmy Ross (sign-up begins @ 7:30 p.m.)…storytellers, poets, fiction writers, essayists, vocalists & performance artists are welcome.

If I were going to quote Olson, I’d probably go straight for The Lordly and Isolate Satyrs, except, um, well, I’ve just done that recently.

§ The city’s two arts-centric high schools, The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and Lusher High School, will present their third annual literary festival for your writers. Poet Matthew Dickman, who won the APR/Honnickman First Book Prize for All-American Poem in 2008 will give a reading free and open to the public at 7 p.m. at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, 2800 Chartres St.

Other session offerings include fiction writing with Barb Johnson, author of the story collection “More of This World or Maybe Another”; dance and text with Jeffrey Gunshol, Tsunami dance company member; screenwriting with writer/director Henry Griffin; spoken word with local favorite Chuck Perkins; experimental poetry with Laura Mullen, author of three collections of poetry and two hybrid texts; radio essays with Cheryl Wagner, contributor to NPR’s “This American Life”; and book art with collage artist Deborah Norsworth. In addition, there will be a panel discussion comprised of representatives from the Lusher and NOCCA writing programs, the Neighborhood Story Project, the Queer Youth Project and other organizations that support young writers.

The Saturday festival is open to high school age students only and requires pre-registration. The registration fee is $20 and is payable upon arrival at the event March 20. To register or for information, go to http://www.nocca.com or contact Brad Richard at N.O.new.writers@gmail.com or 504.554.0963

§ Author Rick Barton discusses and signs his book of essays Rowing to Sweden. 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Garden District Book Shop, The Rink, 2727 Prytania St. Barton is the last familiar name at UNO from my own time long-ago as a student in Eng. Lit. He oversaw the establishment of the creative writing program and is a teaches Fiction there.

§ This Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Maple Leaf Bar poet John C. Knight reads from and signs his new collection, Body into Earth. Followed by an open mike. Spring is here so its a great time to visit this event in the back patio.

§ CORRECTION I saw Thaddeus Conti tonight at 17 Poets and he says his Tuesday night poetry reading at the back bar of Molly’s has ended. Sad, as it was great fun, equal parts poetry, seminar and drinking. We both agreed that deep down we’reAbbey men anyway, a preference that for me date back to the early 1980s when Betz Brown owned the Abbey and snakebites only came in one flavor and were, for the regulars, on the house. It was at once one of the most convivial and unconventional places I’ve ever frequented. Monihan had the TV personalities and the politicians but we had the people worth staying up until dawn talking with.

§ Long-time local champion of the environment Oliver A. Houck discusses and signs Taking Back Eden. 7 p.m. Tuesday. Garden District Book Shop, The Rink, 2727 Prytania St.

If I Should Fall From Grace With God March 17, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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Lazy quoting of old posts from Wet Bank Guide. Was it really four years ago? Have I been home that long?

Friday, March 17, 2006
If I Should Fall from Grace with God
Where no doctor can relieve me
If I’m buried ‘neath the sod
And the angels won’t receive me
Let me go down
Let me go down
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

- Shane McGowan of the Pogues

On a day when many New Orleanian’s thoughts turn to Parasol’s and the pubs scattered across town, my mind wanders over to the great monument to the Irish in New Orleans, the New Basin Canal, which ran from about where Union Station stands today to Lake Pontchartrain.

Most of it’s gone. All that remains are the right of way of the Pontchartrain Expressway, the great neutral ground between West End and Pontchartrain Boulevards, and the small basin that runs the last half mile or so to the lake.

If you say Irish cemetery to someone from New Orleans, they’ll think of St. Patrick’s on City Park. The great burial ground of the Irish is the New Basin Canal route itself, where the remains of somewhere between 8,000 and 20,000 Irish laborers lie buried in the spoil banks, near where they fell. Stand anywhere along the route of the expressway, and you stand on the bones of the Irish, people hired at a dollar a day to dig the canal so that the wealthy of New Orleans need not risk their slaves in the dangerous work.

Today, all that stands in remembrance of the Irish who built the canal is a Celtic cross in Lakeview near West End Boulevard and Downs Street. I didn’t even think to check on it when I drove around Lakeview when I was home Mardi Gras week. It’s fitting there should be some remembrance, in a city famous for its cemeteries, for the jazz funerals, for the way we have come to very public terms with death.

That the cross stands in Lakeview is a fitting reminder that The Flood was not the city’s first experience with mass death or with disaster. Our entire city is a monument to death and disater overcome. The area of cemeteries where St. Patrick’s and all the other cities of the dead stand was once the back of town, where the remains of the yellow fever victims were kept away from the living.

The great fire of 1788 that ravaged the old French city left the French Quarter a monument to Spanish architecture. In Christopher Hallowel’s book Holding Back the Sea is a plate of a lithograph of nineteenth century flooding in the downtown area reminiscent of recent news photos.

New Orleans sprang back from these previous disasters, just as Chicago rebounded from its great fire, and San Francisco from the famous earthquake. Still, some commentators wonder if New Orleans can recover once again. They point out that in other citywide and famous disasters of the past, the damaged cities were on the rise, not yet at the peak of their potential.

New Orleans before the levees failed, they argue, was a city past its prime–shrinking in population, losing company headquarters, mired in poverty and crime. They suggest that New Orleans is a city that has been passed by history, and that this will make a difference in with city’s ability to rebound.

Perhaps we have been bypassed by history. But history is written in mud by the marching boots of armies, scrawled in slag left by the great engines of industry that tear nations apart, remake them in ways their people do not understand.

Perhaps it is a good thing to be left behind by history, a place at the margins, inconsequential to those who measure the world in divisions of troops and the splitting of stocks. If we are of no consequence to the legions of fanatical Christian and Islamic warriors who would destroy the world lest if fall into the wrong hands then maybe, just maybe we have a chance to save ourselves.

The Irish are no longer at the center of history. The great moment of the Irish people is chronicled in the book How the Irish Saved Civilization, which argues the Irish preserved learning and culture through the Dark Ages, then sent out legions of monks to restore that heritage to Europe. That golden moment was a millennium ago.

Today’s Ireland, while not a nation at the center of events, is a thriving place sometime referred to as the Celtic Tiger. It’s economy is one of the fastest growing in Europe, with a robust high tech and medical sector, as well as strong legal, accountancy, finance and call center industries.

This Celtic Tiger is not like it’s Asian or American counterparts. It is not a place of glass skyscrapers and souless modernism. People live in the old houses, and follow the old ways. They did not have to give up the leisurely lifestyle perfected over generations to achieve prosperity, or remake their landscape in the image of Dallas.

Most Louisianians would feel immediately at home in Ireland, as I did when I visited over a decade ago. The joie de vivre of music, food and drink are so like those of Louisiana, it’s as if you discovered a new parish, a lost part of Acadiana. Fiona Ritchie, host of the Celtic music show Thistle & Shamrock, once endorsed my own personal view–the Acadians are the lost tribe of the Celtic race. After a day in Ireland, you would understand why.

I think we can learn a lesson from the Irish, should study their ways as we are studying the dikes of the Dutch.

To prosper, we don’t need to give up the life that makes New Orleans and Louisiana the place we all love, the place we all insist we will come home to, the place that must live again. Prosperity is possible in a town where most of the buildings are generations if not centuries old, where a pint at lunch is as common as coffee in Kansas, where people live for the craic, a Gaelic word best understood as what happens in a Irish pub when the good times roll.

I think it’s possible to be bypassed by history, and to prosper in spite of that. I think success–which for us is not just rebuilding, but rebuilding better–are possible without giving up what we love about this place. We have only to look to the Irish for an example.

So, as we celebrate the unique American holiday of St. Patrick’s Day, let me lift a glass to the forgotten thousands of the New Basin Canal, and to their cousins who never left the old country. You made this city what is is, and can teach us what it can become. You show us that we can embrace and celebrate our past and ourselves while we make a new future. And that there’s no need for the music or the drink to stop to make it happen.

“This land was always ours
Was the proud land of our fathers
It belongs to us and them
Not to any of the others
Let them go, boys
Let them go, boys
Let them go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry”

Gather by the river March 14, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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How am I going to manage to watch the David Simon’s new HBO dramatic series Treme if I can’t sit through the trailer without my eyes welling up in tears? There are some images that haven’t crossed my consciousness in a while: a floor caked in cracked mud, a desert camo Humvee rolling down a street of flood-stained houses, one ruined home’s contents scattered on the curb as the owner stands over it with one thing in his hands transfixed with grief. When a half-million of us sit down in April to watch this I am not sure what will happen. It will be a shared, civic catharsis to rival winning the NFC Championship and the Superbowl, a powerful psychic bomb the shock waves of which will do something profound to this city.

I am just not sure what.

Will it be the car backfire that takes the shell-shocked homeless man back to some long ago battle and sends him careening into a crowd, releases his government issued, muscle memory instinct to kill? Or instead like the blinding light and hallucinatory voice that transforms a minor government functionary into an evangelist revolutionary?

Or something else? One of those things that makes you think: only in New Orleans?

I find myself listening in a loop (party out of a conversation I had last night) to “Gather by the River” by Davell Crawford from the Nonesuch RecordsOur New Orleans recording of 2006. Perhaps Treme will be one of those strangely transcendent moments, the eerie scene from Brother, Where Art Though when the people in their baptism whites come out of the woods and down to the water’s edge, something like the gathering of Daddy Love’s faithful in William Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness.

We shall gather
At the river
With each other
Cause you’re my brother
And our souls
put in the water
for the healing
of each other.
Be saved
Sanctified
Freed from sin
Where freedom lines
Fly away
From the land
Because we can
Because we can.

A few months ago my friend the writer Sam Jasper started republishing parts of her Katrina Refrigerator blog documenting the months after. And now Ray in Exile (aka Ray in New Orleans and before that Ray in Austin) has been moving over his Katrina-period writing to his new site. They are both powerful writers and while some blog posts have the telegraphic simplicity of a front-line dispatch (two hundred and fifty six Viet Cong captured) or seem like pieces of a accidentally found private journal, the sort of thing you might find open and waterlogged in the debris pile at the curb, to the people of the Flood, they are like the notes toward a gospel: a narrative fraught with significance to the initiated and attractive enough to the curious outsider that perhaps they are the basis of a conversion to the truths revealed by the waters.

I never finished David Brinkley’s The Great Deluge. A work of history on the most important event of my lifetime shouldn’t begin be transposing two major geographical features (Lake Borgne and Bay St. Louis), then start with a vicious deconstruction of Ray Nagin as if his performance were the most important thing that went down in September 2005. I haven’t picked up Zetouin or Dan Baum’s book either. There is a lot I will have to make the time (and find the strength) to do before the fifth anniversary: watch Treme, read those books and re-read some others, to scan again the fragmentary texts of the blogs of 2005. I will have to figure out how, without the intervention of the distant and indifferent gods, to turn tears and anger into redemption, how to “fly away from the land” not into the sanctified clouds but into the bath-warm and comforting soul of New Orleans, washed clean by the waters.

Fly away
From the land
Because we can
Because we can

The Song of Wandering Aengus March 13, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Some things that endear themselves to you in your youth don’t hold up to well. If you don’t believe me, try looking up Bloodrock on You Tube. Other things just get better with every passing year, and as we enter what must be in New Orleans St. Patrick’s Week (because we must have a parade, and then go out again on the day itself), here’s one that only gets better every time I read it. Even if you’re happily married with beautiful and promising children and an entourage of real friends and sitting in a spot near enough to the top of the world that the taxes are killing you, if you are still not looking for that girl perhaps you’ve climbed the wrong mountain.

The Song of Wandering Aengus
by W. B. Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun

Whiskey & Gin March 13, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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As I try to somehow drag myself out of this psychological clochán that’s put the hard stop to posting here perhaps tomorrow (which is the real holiday in New Orleans now the only real St. Patrick’s day we need which is of course the parade) yes tomorrow is just what I need to snap out of it and by God if I show up at Greg and Christy’s tomorrow and the Tyrconnell isn’t still in its store bought box and the seal has been cracked then I may be a poor excuse for a party guest and I’m sorry my hosts but at least I will have a running start and the Devil’s best view of me will be my heels flying.

Until then, classs, we will compare and contrast the lyrical classicism of The Chieftains even as it mingles itself with Keith Richards and Ry Cooder on guitar against the pints-go-down-like-hot-buttered-scones-through-a-greedy-Christian Brothers’-clit-pink-lips authenticity of Scott Macgowan and The Pogues. Macgowan sings as sweet as a raspy case of the croup which is what everyone in New Orleans seems to have right now so I’m voting for him in this contest but by god there’s that minor chord moment late in the Chieftains-Stones version which is like the bite of God’s own best and favorite gin. It needs no tonic.

First, The Pogues:

And then, the Chieftains and their particular British and American friends:

If I don’t see you at Jackson and Magazine tomorrow, I’ll drink your share for in your honor.

Odd Words March 11, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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A couple of weeks back I posted up a link to a story about the young German novelist Helene Hegemann’s who was lifting pieces from other people’s work and calling it “sampling”. This week I’m deep into Ted Morgan’s biography of William S. Burroughs Literary Outlaw and reading about his “cut ups” which would include, sometimes, the work of other authors.

Burroughs and Samuel Beckett were seated together at dinner at a party and Beckett asked Burroughs, “What can you tell me. Mr. Burroughs, about this cut-up method of yours?”

“Well, Mr. Beckett,” Burroughs said, “what I do is I take a page of my writing and a page of the Herald Tribune, I cut them up and then I put them back together, and I gradually decipher new texts. Them I might take a page of your writing, and line it up with what I already have, and do the same thing all over again.”

Suddenly indignant, Beckett asked, “You’re using other writers’ words?”

“Words don’t have brands on them the way cattle do,” Burroughs said…

“You can’t do that!” Beckett said.

Burroughs would also take ideas from other writers texts and rephrase it as his own.. In the margins of books he owns he would write GETS, which meant Good Enough To Steal.

I guess nothing is new under the sun. Nothing, that is, except this week’s line up of readings and signings in New Orleans. It looks like a busy weekend, and its the weekend of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Some drink may be taken, and by Sunday I fear I may be like Sweeney and any sharp sound may drive me to madness so try to keep it down.

§ Octavia Books will host and evening to benefit WWNO public radio as the cast of Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me (the oddly informative news quiz) gathers as Octavia Books to celebrate and sign books. Featuring:, Roy Blount, Jr, columnist Amy Dickinson and actor/newsman Mo Rocca. Octavia Books will donate 20% of all book sales from the evening to WWNO to benefit its new literary programs including “The Sound of Books” with Fred Kaste. Roy Blount, Jr. is the author of 20 books, most recently Long Time Leaving: Dispatches From Up South, and including Feet on the Street: Rambles Around New Orleans, Robert E. Lee, If Only You Knew How Much I Smell You, Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor and Be Sweet: A Conditional Love Story. Modesty aside, Blount has done more different things than any other humorist- novelist- journalist- dramatist- lyricist- lecturer- reviewer- screenwriter- anthologist- columnist- philologist of sorts he can think of.

§ Garden District Books will host a signing by Rick Barton for this new collection of essays Rowing to Sweden Thursday, March 18, 2010 5:30 p.m. Rick Barton’s first collection of nonfiction contends with an impressive range of cultural and political issues. These award winning essays display a keen and perceptive critical eye trained always on the zeitgeist, whether it’s the 1960s, the political climate of the new millennium or anywhere between.

§ At the Maple Leaf at 3 pm on Sunday poet Dennis Formento reads from and signs his new collection, Looking for an Out Place. Followed by an open mike. Formento is the publisher of Surregional Press and the author of five chapbooks. A sixth, Ra Blues Are, is forthcoming from Umteen Press in New Orleans. He sometimes performs his work with free-jazz band THE FRANK ZAPPATISTAS “outside jazz with a poet inside”) . With movement artist Nanette Ledet, he is currently working on a “cosmo-drama” featuring the poetry of New Orleans ex-pat and original beat poet, Bob Kaufman.

§ This Thursday 1t 8 pm 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series hosts a poetry reading with two extraordinary poets: visiting guest, New York State-Susquehannaian MICHAEL CZARNECKI and New Orleanian MICHAEL FORD. Cxarnecki is a poet, storyteller and oral memoirist and the publisher of Foothills Publishing. Ford is a long-time resident of New Orleans. Ugly Duckling Presse published his first full-length book, Carbon, in 2006. His book Olympia Street (which includes the poem “These Violets”) was published in 2008 by New Orleans’ own Trembling Pillow Press. Ford’s poems have also appeared in 6×6 and YAWP: A Journal of Poetry and Art, North Carolina Review and Turntable & Blue Light. Ford currently teaches at UGA and is a PhD candidate.

Laughing All The Way To The Bank March 8, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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I really need to try to manage at least one post a week besides Odd Words and I have a dozen ideas in my head or as jotted notes in draft articles but that seems to be as far as I can get lately. It’s a quiet time in New Orleans now anyhow, the lull between Carnival and the Spring festivals that starts on St. Patrick Day, but here on Toulouse Street we’re screening Koyaanisqatsi 24-7 on every wall and someone’s put the popcorn kernels down the garbage disposal again and you close your eyes before you put your hand down the hole but the soundtrack doesn’t stop and the vertigo starts to pull you into the screaming traffic scenes [don't hit the switch] the taillights flashing by like a demonic red meteor shower [pull your hand out before your head hits the switch] and the next thing you know you’re waddling across that double yellow line on all fours, frozen in the sudden lights and the sound of grinding gears. [Pause. Deep breath here. And another swallow of coffee.] So instead of an actual, thoughtful post here is more lazy quoting from better writers (itself a line stolen from Greg), a little piece that might cheer you up as you sit exhausted on the porch sipping (hah, slurping too quickly your third) beer, considering the potential intersection of your insistent Blackberry and the hammer you forgot to put away this weekend. Just remember, it’s always darkest just before the 1,000 lb weight hits the coyote. Be the roadrunner, not the coyote.

The Laughing Heart
by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

Odd Words March 4, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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3 comments

Is traditional literature dying, or merely transforming itself to fit new media and new ways of reading? Here’s an interesting piece on subjects like twitlit (attempts to write in 140 characters), the evolution toward flash fiction and other very short forms to fit the attention span of the multi-tabbed multi-tasker, and similar thoughts. Yes, some things deserve more time and space that 1,000 words or 140 characters, and always will, but I don’t think that devalues attempts to create for new media outlets. We write for ourselves (or why are we here?) but we are lying to ourselves if we don’t admit that we also write to be read. As traditional print diminishes and new channels open, it would be ridiculous to disregard them.

On a related note, this.

Also:

§ Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove, the country’s first African-American poet laureate, will read at Tulane University’s McAlister Auditorium on Monday, March 8 at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. After the reading, Dove will sign copies of her book. Dove won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for her poetry collection Thomas and Beulah, which places the lives of her grandparents in a richly vivid historical context.

§ Poets Michael Czarnecki, Daniel Kerwick and Thaddeus Conti read from their work at the Maple Leaf Bar Poetry Series, Sunday at 3 p.m. followed by an open mike

§ Barbara Johnson’s striking debut short-story collection More of This World or Maybe Another (HarperPerennial) took second place honors in Barnes and Nobles 2009 “Discover Great New Writers Awards.”

§ No email from Dave Brinks and I forgot what he announced last week as a feature because I was too busy chatting up that night’s featured reader, but you can usually find me at The Goldmine Saloon on Thursday nights around eight for the 17 Poets Reading Series. The feature last week was Sandra Beasley, and I strongly recommend you check out her work.

Update: This just in from D.B.– This week 17 Poets! features the contributions of two extraordinary, early twentieth century poets: Romanian TRISTAN TZARA and French author SABINE SICAUD (1913-1928). Poet Dave Brinks will present selected English translations by Lee Harwood from CHANSON DADA: Selected Poems, TRISTAN TZARA (Black Widow Press 2005); as well as selected English translations by Norman R. Shapiro from To Speak, to Tell You?: Poems, SABINE SICAUD (Black Widow Press 2009), http://www.blackwidowpress.com.

§ Poet and artist Thaddeus Conti will open a showing of his drawings at the Kevin Gillentine Gallery, 3917 Magazine St., on Saturday at 6 p.m. If you can’t make the opening, gallery hours are Monday to Saturday 10-5. Or you can stop by Conti’s Dinky Tao poetry reading Tuesday nights in the back bar of the Maple Leaf on Decatur St., where you will often find him with sketch book under his arm.

§ A closing thought from today’s Daily Rumpus email by Stephen Elliott of TheRumpus.net: “Something that keeps you occupied with no expectation of recognition is not necessarily art, it might just be television.” So don’t just slap it on the blog or stick it in a drawer. Go out and read or submit something.

A pig. In a cage. On antibiotics. March 1, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Some light lunchtime reading from the foie gras cube farm. Moo. Or Oink. Or something like that.

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