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Black Anger May 31, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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An accidental silhouette of the speaker's platform at the BP Gulf Oil Protest at Jackson Square in New Orleans Sunday, May 30.

An accidental silhouette of the speakers at the BP Gulf Oil Spill protest rally at Jackson Square Sunday, May 30 in New Orleans.

Now, go read this un-bylined summary of just how dire our situation is. I wish this story had a byline so I could find the writer and thank them for this. Instead I am left to lament that a story that should have moved in time to run in every Sunday paper in America will be lost among the Monday holiday shopping ads.

If you think the timing of this story–led by the timing of the announcement that top kill had failed–is an accident, I have some Gulf-front property in Louisiana I want to talk to you about.

UPDATE: Credit for the story, from someone at the T-P who reminds me they pull the bylines and credits off of wire stores. The linked piecewas written by Mary Foster, the AP person in La., and Ted Anthony, who wrote from New York. Included contributions from Ben Nuckols, Seth Borenstein, Matthew Brown and Melissa Nelson. Matt Brown used to work for the TP, but left for AP in Montana a couple years ago

We Are Not OK May 29, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, Louisiana, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I keep watching this over and over again. Sometimes, instead, I go look at this. And I don’t know what to say or how to say it. I will be at the demonstration.

They have moved it to the amphitheater steps across Decatur from the Square, and I know there is no way it will hold everyone. I would not recommend driving into the Quarter (for more reasons than just traffic. Try to ride your bike or take public transit), but I am fairly certain the crowd will spill into Decatur.

I have been home four years this weekend and will crib a link because I’m not in the mood to write about the holiday I now think of as Homecoming. BP is drilling in 5,000 feet because the rest of America refuses to drill in 50′ or 500′ and because we are expendable. Excuse me if I’m not feeling especially patriotic today.

I don’t know what else to say today.I am too busy worrying about the dying to bother about the dead.

Odd Words May 27, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Here in the land of 10,000 bars you have to love the idea of a book titled THE DRUNK SONNETS. I think we’ve all penned a few bar napkin or pocket notebook masterpieces we wish we could read the next day.

This was the part of the review of Daniel Bailey’s book that intrigued me: “…I found it difficult not to admire Bailey’s willingness to put himself on the page without regard for how he might be received in a current poetic climate which more and more seems to be spitting on personal sincerity. These aspects of the collection look into the eyes of existing trends in poetry and say “NO” and that is something hard not to get behind. I say the approach in “Drunk Sonnet 15” is only seemingly formulaic due to the fact that by virtue of the formula usage, Bailey is refusing to pander.”

The reviewer calls up the memory of famous tipping authors Charles Bukowski and Frank O’Hara, but given the attempt to stuff a rebellion against contemporary poetic preferences into sonnets published in ALL CAPS, I can’t imagine why John Berryman didn’t come to mind. He quotes DRUNK SONNET NO. 1 and Berryman’s clever disregard for syntax and convention even as he managed to create hundreds of poems in the same form. If you don’t hear a bit of Berryman in these two lines, you’re not listening hard enough.

I CAN’T SLEEP AT NIGHT AND AT DAY I DON’T WANT AWAKE
AND A BODY THAT RUSTS INTO HARD AND AND UNBELIEVABLE

As the reviewer points out, it’s hard to criticize the occasional erratic syntax of a man who confesses to writing while drunk, and whose author photo shows him holding a PBR. Then again think about talking to someone who’s quite drunk and the syntax makes as much sense as Berryman and Mr. Bone’s minstrel speak. Here’s another example from the author’s blog DRUNK: THE DRUNK SONNETS. The first line is one example of many on the blog (I don’t have the book yet) of what I would suggest is not a fortuitous accident of drunken scribbling but a serious attempt to create what looks like drunken scribbling.

IF EVERYONE IS OK THEN WHY I AM I NOT
IT’S OK TO CRY A LITTLE, I THINK, JUST CRY
I THINK I WANT TO EAT YOUR SMILE TONIGHT
I THINK THERE’S SOMETHING IN IT TO KEEP ME ALIVE

I also hear Bukowski, in a poem like DDRUNK SONNET NO. 10:

THE AIRPORT IS A TERRIBLE PLACE TO EXIST
THE GROCERY STORE IS A TERRIBLE PLACE TO EXIST
PETSMART IS A TERRIBLE PLACE TO EXIST
THE THAI PLACE IS A TERRIBLE PLACE TO EXIST

His litany of terrible places to exist goes on for four stanzas ending with:

I’M THINKING ABOUT EVOLUTION AND THE WAY WE CHANGE
AND HOW LONG IT WILL BE BEFORE I HAVE A TAIL AGAIN
AND I CAN FORGET ALL THAT’S HAPPENED

Just because what sounds good to you as your rattle the empties on your desk with loud music from the PC speakers doesn’t mean you won’t delete it in the morning. I am a huge fan of Bukowski and I must confess he likely published more than he should have but there are lines that come in the dark of night, wishing there was another beer in the house and watching the traffic roll buy or perhaps a police stop across the street that won’t come anywhere else. In the right hands, there is a drunken Buddha fortuitousness that produces a wonderful poem. In the few poems that he has up on the blog, Bailey has me thinking that I won’t like every one in the book but that like Bukowski there will be great rewards for my trouble.

And what can I say about a reviewer whose brief bio at the bottom tell us “Joseph Goosey parks cars in Jacksonville, Florida but he should soon be getting out of there.” And a hat tip (or, as we say on the Intertubes, h/t) to TheRumpus.Net. If I didn’t have sites like this to lead me to some of what I’m reading now I would probably have to quit my job and find them myself, and I would end up like Roberto Belaño’s teenage hoodlum poets, stealing books instead of buying them.

§ This week’s edition of Odd Words almost didn’t get written, as I’m in knots over the oil spill, but I feel like having started this I had better keep up my obligation to myself and you, my dozens of readers. Part of my reaction to the BP disaster was to send off a poem I wrote about the oil spill to The New Yorker, as there really aren’t that many outlets for poetry with a weekly publishing schedule and I wanted to get it out there and I thought: why they hell not? The reject slip is going to look mighty impressive up on the nail on my wall.

Another reason I almost skipped this week’s OW is that it’s another quiet week in Gulf Wobegon, without a lot of events but there’s always a lull after Jazz Fest in the first of summer’s heat. The bands all leave for the road, and I guess traveling author’s from more temperate climes aren’t banging on the door to come either. Here’s the usual suspects

§ The 17 Poets! series hosts a weekly poetry reading. An open mic follows. Free admission. 8 p.m. Thursday. Gold Mine Saloon, 705 Dauphine St. No note from Dave yet. I’ll post an update if he doesn’t get his announcement out before this goes up in the morning.

§ The south’s longest running poetry event, the Maple Leaf Reading Series has a Memorial Day open mic. Free admission. 3 p.m. Sunday. Maple Leaf Bar, 8316 Oak St.

§ I have yet to check this out but it comes highly recommended: Open Mic Poetry & Spoken Word – Loren Murrell hosts a weekly poetry and spoken-word night with free food. Free admission. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Yellow Moon Bar, 800 France St., New Orleans.

Black Rage May 26, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, FYYFF, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Here, go read this by Sam. I have had the good sense to delete most of what I’ve written about the oil flood out of concern for what Fatherland Security might think.

America Norte’ (or it’s bought-and-paid-for political leadership) is letting us die, and it’s a conscious decision, part of the same one that sent Category Five hurricane protection into endless study land.

As I stood through the Pledge, Anthem and American the Beautiful at my daughter’s high school graduation last night, I realized my heart has already emigrated to wherever it is the land of the free and the home of the brave has decamped to.

Piling Up the Dead May 23, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Remembering the dead over at the Back of Town Treme blog.

Je me souviens.

Untitled blues May 22, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Laying on the couch slowly recovering from my daughter’s 3 a.m. senior prom breakfast at our house, reading Yusef Komunyakaa’s Neon Vernacular, and came across one of the best New Orleans poems I have ever read, on a topic lately on my mind, and just had to share:

Untitled blues
after a photograph by Yevgeni Yevtuskenko
I catch myself trying
to look into the eyes
of the photo, at a black boy
behind a laughing white mask
he’s painted on. I
could’ve been that boy
year ago.
Sure I could say
everything’s copacetic,
listen to a Buddy Bolden cornet
cry from one of those coffin-
shaped houses called
shotgun. We could
meet in Storyville,
famous for quadroons,
with drunks discussing God
around a honky-tonk piano.
We could pretend we can’t
see the kitchen help
under a cloud of steam.
Other lurid snow jobs:
night & day, the city
clothed in her see-through
French lace, as pigeons
coo like a beggar chorus
among makeshift studios
on wheels–Vieux Carre
belles having portraits painted
twenty years younger.
We could hand jiv
down on Bourbon & Conti
where young tap dancers hold
to their last steps,
mammy dolls frozen
in glass cages. The boy
locked inside your camera,
perhaps he’s lucky–
he knows how to steal
laughs in a place
where your skin
is your passport.

– Yusef Komunyakaa.

Odd Words May 20, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Late Update: Tonight at 17 Poets! Marthe Reed followed of course by open mike with Jimmy Ross.

Yikes. I’ve been so busy I haven’t gotten a post ready for this Thursday. I know the Maple Leaf is open mike, I haven’t seen an announcement from Dave Brinks abotu 17 Poets! feature for tonight and no time to troll through the listings (but I’m going to do that right now even though that’s not why I came into work early. And while looking at something early this morning I found a post on the NOLA.Com book chat section about Odd Words from October. I haven’t managed to really miss a Thursday in all that time, I better keep it up.

I promise to post an update if I have a minute today and find something I missed in this hurried post.

§ But first, this. Lewis Lapham loves maps and graphs and charts as much as I do. H/T to HTML Giant.

§ Not exactly a literary event, but perhaps the first television show to treat New Orleans honestly was Frank’s Place, Tim Reid’s story of a man coming home to take over the family restaurant. It was full of genuine New Orleans characters and, sadly, fantastic music that it would be financially impossible to re-license today so the show does not re-run and is not available on DVD. Now the people behind HBO’s Treme offer a one nite screening of several episodes, hosted by Reid Monday, May 25 at 6 p.m. at NOCCA.

§ Keeping in our theme of Odd, I have gotten a few (very nice) comments from Wendy Rodrigue, wife of artist George Rodrigue, after she stumbled upon my post of the stencil of a blue dog run over by a car that had appeared on New Orleans streets. (Disclaimer: I have a limited edition print of Rodrigue’s Cajun work hanging in my house, and covet his earliest landscape paintings). She keeps a very interesting blog herself, Musings of an Artist’s Wife, which is like reading an artists biography unfold in slow motion. While I love most of Rodrigue’s work, I’ve never quite gotten Blue Dog. She sent me this to read and I’m pretty sure I’ve not read it before, even though I was sure I had read all of Marquez. It’s strange the way the world fits together, an unsolvable puzzle which we cannot resist throwing ourselves into.

§ Not an event, but something I first read in Stephen Elliot’s Daily Rumpus email and which he put up on TheRumpus.net. This is the sort of thing I try to do for New Orleans, although with less frequency lately. Life is just too hectic (c.f. posts below).

The world’s forgotten boy May 19, 2010

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, Toulouse Street.
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“Look out honey ’cause I’m using technology”
–Search and Destroy by Iggy Pop

Three cups of coffee on an empty stomach washing down a half a clozanepam and a ginko biloba capsule       tearing down Bienville much too fast for the potholes       it’s ok      I know them well by now since they started tearing up Orleans       no WWOZ for me this morning      no cool Jazz you need Iggy Popp       your life has been hijacked by pirates       and you have to rescue the bond stooge       except      as the towers of downtown peek over the trees you realize       you are the bond stooge       don’t think about it      not with all that coffee sloshing around your percolator stomach       just drive       take your usual route up Bienville until it runs into the Lafitte       a hard right just a bit too fast       tires squealing       between the cemetery and the bricks then left onto Iberville       and as the towers of downtown fully reveal themselves you think       these building are full of predators but you’re not looking at the empty courtyards of Lafitte       you’re looking at the CBD and you think       I am ready for them       with an absolute certainty deep in the gut       you are the craziest mother fucker for six blocks around.

Letting Go May 18, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
9 comments

“Once, I thought that to be human was the highest aim a man could have, but I see now that it was meant to destroy me. Today I am proud to say that I am inhuman, that I belong not to men and governments, that I have nothing to do with creeds and principles. I have nothing to do with the creaking machinery of humanity– I belong to the earth! I say that lying on my pillow and I can feel the horns sprouting from my temples.” – Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

I am thinking of posting this up on the wall of my cube just to see if anyone at the Counting House notices. Hell, I’ve been passing off a quote from famous UFO fraud Frank Scully as business wisdom in the signature on the bottom of my email for years. I often get compliments on it.

I spent last night watching an old friend’s computer-based slide show of their escape from America by sailboat, the red rock Baja landscape against the cerulean Sea of Cortez, idyllic Gauguin islands along the coasts of Central America. It made me feel so happy for them, like the prisoner watching the reprieved man walk past his cell.

I think today at lunch I really need to take a long, slow walk down Royal Street and remind myself why I’m here, the sense of living in a place where history does not bear down upon us but somehow floats on the soft land and buoys us up, imparting a slight list and roll to the street. I will stop and eat something that has not come out of a food court stream tray and is not wrapped in the logos of its makers. I will look in the windows and see not I-Pods or running shoes or some other mass produced fashion but books, art, antique jewelry. I will go stare at Blue Dog and try to puzzle out the nature of his thousand yard stare.

I will try not to look too closely at the people all around who clearly do not work on the 18 floor of Place Sans Charm, lest I never go back.

Where blackbirds fly May 17, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA.
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Manic tourism in the style of a Radiohead cover. A perfectly relaxing way to start your Monday…

…and yes I know the title of the song is “Where Bluebirds Fly”. Nothing against bluebirds. Charles Bukowski had his. Here on corvus-obsessed Toulouse Street I just like my title better.

Bill vs. Bill May 14, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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“That villainous salt-petre should be digg’d
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth
Which may a tall fellow had destroyed
So cowardly; and, but for these vile guns
He would himself have been a soldier.”
— King Henry IV, Part I.

William Burroughs having fun with guns.

Odd Words May 13, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Updated 5-15 11:30 AM below

I haven’t read this book, but the second half of this review on how the novel fits into the 21st century bears reading. Or maybe just this excerpt is enough. I forgive him for 1) being unclear which example is which in some of his binary examples and 2) thinking The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle a gimmicky failure if that’s what he meant.

As a narrative form, the novel is barreling through a crossroads where it’s choices are to go either bigger or smaller or more genre-oriented than does American Subversive. Bigger, and it veers off into the wild possibilities of fiction that no nonfiction or film can match, but runs a very high risk of seeming like a gimmicky failure (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle versus Special Topics in Calamity Physics?); smaller, and the writer turns poetically inward, burrowing deeper into character and language than other narrative can go, thereby risking irrelevance and lacking a hook for radio interviews but standing a better chance at literature along the lines of Alice Munro. More genre-oriented, and the novel can follow rules—thriller, sci-fi, romance—that restrict it but also guarantee certain expectations, deliverables, pleasures, audiences, etc., while still striving for the LeCarre or Lehane level of good writing. The middle ground is a trap. A novel must be truly great to survive here and compete with all the other media it finds itself up against. That’s why the novel must increasingly ask itself what it can do that nothing else can, or risk the fate that has befallen it: a glut of pretty good but unextraordinary literary books that want it all but struggle to compete with all the other printed media, with film, with art, with games, with life.

H/T of course to the excellent TheRumpus.net for this. If you’re the sort of person who worries about the impact of the video game and the Internet on literature. Hell, if you’re the sort of person who never gives those things a thought, you probably should as well.

§ Damn.

§ If it weren’t for people like Stephen Elliot who didn’t heed this author’s advice and in fact don’t have a day job, I would never be able to bring you gems like this advice to an aspiring your wrinter from a veteran journalist. I started out in journalism, where the salary in my first job was in the high four figures [pause for effect] so, yeah, J-School: Why bother? That salary included my $20 a week car allowance which, given the kind of cars I had back them, barely kept my in Stop-A-Leak and duct tape. If you are smart enough to get free ride to Columbia why not, but then you’d be smart enough to not want to be a writer. If you enjoyed her article or the one that opened this week’s Odd Words, you should immediately go to TheRumpus.Net and donate $5 or I will put a chicken gris-gris on your next submission. We do that sort of thing down here you know. Didn’t you see it on Treme?

§ I seem to be on a roll today but we’re Gemini and Mercury just pulled his head out of his wing’d ass and started heading in the right direction. That and I’ve probably had too much coffee. Or both. But since I mentioned Treme, if you’re watching the show you really need to visit the Back of Town blog where a number of our more literate and less stable citizens are getting way under the covers looking for Lucia Micarelli the Real Truth. Together with TP TV Writer Dave Walker’s excellent companion pieces, it’s a must visit. Watching it without reading Walker and BOT is like going to the track without a Racing Form.

§ UPDATE: Iabel Allende to New Orleans will read from and sign her new book Island Beneath the Sea. Island Beneath the Sea is set in New Orleans and Haiti at 7PM in the Sacred Heart Nims Center 4301 St. Charles Avenue. A tale of a woman who moves to New Orleans from Haiti in the time of the slave rebellion, this is a book I know I am going to read given my own family ties to colonial Haiti.

§ The Saints and Sinner Literary Festival of GLBT literature kicks off today, May 13, and runs through the weekend. I don’t know doodly about GLBT literature but I do know on Saturday at 1 p.m. the panel TO GET THE NEWS FROM POEMS includes notable ex-part Orleanian poet and digital pal Robin Kemp, who this year published an excellent volume This Pagan Heaven which should be on every New Orleans bookshelf. You can get the rest of the details here. Wish I could get to this but I’ll be setting up my daughter’s high school graduation crawfish boil at this time. Are we sure Mercury isn’t still retrograde?

§ This Saturday May 15th, at 10:30am in the Audubon Zoo’s Dominion Auditorium join Mark Doty, Poet-In-Residence and National Book Award recipient at Audubon Zoo for a poetry brunch and a presentation of the Zoo Poetry Installations, Followed by Free Admission to the zoo.

Pick up admission passes at Latter Branch Library between May 8th and May 13th. Limited number of passes available. Limit two (2) per person. Call us at (504) 596-2625 for more information.

The Language of Conservation is an initiative of Poet’s House in partnership with the Audubon Nature Institute, the New Orleans Public Library and a consortium of zoos and libraries nationwide. It is made possible by a Nation Leadership Grant for the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services

§ OK, this week’s must do event/must buy book: Wilbert Rideau;s IN THE PLACE OF JUSTICE: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance. Rideau, an award-winning journalist who spent forty-four years in Louisiana prisons working against unimaginable odds to redeem himself, as he now tells the story of a remarkable life: a crime, its punishment, and ultimate triumph. Rideau became editor of the prison news magazine The Angolite, which under his leadership became an uncensored, daring, and crusading journal instrumental in reforming the violent prison and the corrupt Louisiana justice system.

While in prison, he was a correspondent for NPR’s Fresh Air; co-produced and narrated a documentary, “Tossing Away the Keys,” for NPR’s All Things Considered; collaborated on “In for Life” for ABC-TV’s Day One; and co-directed the Academy Award–nominated film The Farm: Angola, USA. He is the recipient of a George Polk Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, among others. He was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2007 and has worked as a consultant with the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project.

§ I did not get to the Maple Leaf Sunday poetry reading to see The Poetry Bomb, so if you did and are reading this shoot me a quick review of the event and I’ll buy you a drink next Sunday. Until then, this week’s feature is poet Dale Matthews reading from and signing her new book from Maxine Cassin’s New Orleans Poetry Journal Press, Wait for the Green Fire .

§ Tonight (Thursday) I think Dave Brinks 17 Poets! will be hosting his celebration of New Orleans-born Beat legend Bob Kaufman, but he hasn’t sent out his announcement email as of my self-imposed deadline to get this out Thursday morning. All participants will be invited to read from Kaufman’s work (I’m bringing my copies Solitudes Crowded with Lonliness and The Ancient Rain, and will remind my friend Sam to bring the copy of the selected works Cranial Guitar if you need something to read from. If that’s not tonight, well, sorry if I got you all excited. Check back here later for an update when I get Dave’s delayed announcement email. 17 Poets! is at the Goldmine Saloon on Dauphine Street in the Quarter, starting 8-ish. Open mike follows.

§ The New Orleans Haiku Society holds it monthly gathering Monday at 6 p.m. The New Orleans Haiku Society holds it monthly gathering Monday at 6 p.m. The meeting features readings, writing and discussion. Free admission. Latter Library Carriage House, 5120 St. Charles Ave. [No that's not a typo. It's an inside joke].

§ SOLA-RWA Writers Group – Sarabeth Gordon presents “Writers, Websites and WordPress, Making It Easy.” 10 a.m. Saturday. East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, (Metairie), 838-1190. This sounds interesting, even if it’s way out in east Kenner. WordPress is an interesting platform for online writing because even the free version saves all of your revisions as you make and save them, which I find incredibly useful for ToulouseStreet.net and PoemsBeforeBreakfast.wordpress.com.

Damn, it’s a busy week, so get your nose out of that book and go out and get you some.

Pedestrian I: 310 May 10, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Jazz, Pedestrian I, Toulouse Street.
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“Oh the streets of Rome/Are filled with rubble.
Ancient footprints/Are everywhere.”
–Bob Dylan, “When I Paint My Master Piece”

310

Mondrian ruins on the hard luck side of Rampart, the pawn shop gone, the facades unredeemed, avoided by spooked rail-pass tourists walking past the remains of the Eagle Saloon wondering where the picturesque history and jazz are hidden.

Trading blood for oil May 9, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, Acadian, Cajun, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“We’re all of us, all of us, stained with this blood. These wetlands were once holy, full of the bounty of God.”
— Sebastian Couteau

In Raymond “Moose” Jackson’s powerful play Loup Garou, Sebastian Couteau’s transformation into the loup garou, the Cajun version of a werewolf, is a powerful metaphor for the deal all of coastal Louisiana made with devil oil, welcoming the work and money even as it destroyed the land beneath their feet–compressing 5,000 years of geologic subsidence into a century of erosion as the marshes were slashed by exploration canals.

The offshore rigs were often seen as a bountiful addition, unnatural reefs favored by sports fishermen, and the explosion of employment allowed a people who had long lived on the margin to have some of the things they saw on their new TVs, to participate in the America scheme.

Today’s Times-Picayune offers a glimpse into the relationship of the coastal communities to the oil industry. It seems a fair enough story, given what I know of the history. Too many people have prospered by trading their time between oil work and their traditional fisheries. The anger in the coast so far has been limited to the inept and bureaucratic response of BP and their contractors, their slowness to hire the people who once led them to the in-shore oil because they didn’t have the proper HazMat training required by the government and the insurance companies (familiar villains to everyone on the Hurricane Coast).

I have to wonder how long that comity will last. Here is another story from today’s paper, the consequence of the oil’s steady drift to the west. If it will truly take two, three, maybe four months to put a relief well in place and the entire coast is poisoned with oil, when the oyster beds and shrimping and wild crawfish seasons are closed for years, then BP follows the Exxon model and fights any compensation for 20 years, will they still feel the same?

Another story from today. I think I need to take a break and go read the funnies:

“Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spilled almost 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the herring still have not come back.
Without that cornerstone species, the commercial fishing season now starts two months later, in May instead of March. Oil still wells up in the little pits dug by sea otters as they forage for clams. “

“Oil accident Gulf” brings up 6,770 Google News hits but what happened here was not an accident. It was inevitable. Just look at this map and imagine the odds. Throw in our blind devotion to corporate capitalism, where every decision must be weighed carefully against the bottom line, trusting the lawyers to protect the stockholders from their agent’s bad decisions for production over safety, and it was going to happen. When, not if.

Perhaps BP will finally get one of their emergency fixes to work, but no one has tried any of what’s being done at 5,000 feet before. We may have to wait months for the relief well while the oil slowly migrates on shore and fouls the fishing grounds that feed not just Louisiana but a quarter of the nation’s appetite for seafood. Still, this will not be the whole story, not even an act but just one small event–something Shakespeare would have left off-stage for the characters to discuss like the great battles of his histories–because it is not the main story. This is just one more nail in the coffin the United States has been building for coastal Louisiana for years.

To quote myself once again in the piece from 2006 I just reposted here last week: I recommend you take the time to read Mike Tidwell’s Bayou Farewell or Christopher Hallowell’s Holding Back the Sea. Within this generation it will all be gone, not through an inexorable process of natural erosion–that would take another thousand years or two–but by a combination of choice greed and willful ignorance of the costs of what man has wrought.

And when the fisherman begin to realize that we are drilling in 5,000 feet because the world’s oil is playing out, that their grandchildren will have neither fishing nor oil to rely on and that the land they grew up on and around will be open water, will they still bite their tongues and hope for clean-up work? Maybe not. Man is a voracious and ambitious predator, the one species that managed to colonize every niche of the world save Antarctica. When the game and forage is gone, we pack up and move on to the next valley.

Perhaps all we will leave behind of what was once Louisiana will be the equivalent of Cherokee gift shops and the penned bison at stops along the highway in North Dakota, along with some dusty books in the library no one checks out any more. In the next Acadian diaspora will the children will have no more clear recollection of their ancestor’s lives than I have of the plantation lifestyle of a few of my own long-gone elders? I think of the two pictures that hang in my house of men who came to Louisiana from Haiti from after the slave uprising. I know their names, and at least a tiny bit of their story. My children look at their frock coats and one’s wig and call them Louis and Clark.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Odd Words May 6, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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From, Maud Newton, thoughts of poet Phillip Larkin on your day job versus your writing. I mean, it’s not like anyone I know is getting paid to write anything other than journalism. (No problem with journalism. I’ve done my time, and the pay is a good bit better than poetry, but not by much). A day job, Larkin says, “forces you to think about something other than yourself and other than your own poems and I think that’s good for you and for y our poems…and the whole thing releases you from that awful pressure…of having to write something to carry on living…”.

I’ll try to keep those words in mind, although part of me would rather be spending my day among books than herding bad-tempered feral cats, which is about what corporate project management amounts to, be free as I re-shelved the books by rote to think and dream. Then again, based on the experience of one city librarian I know, it’s just as likely my outcome would be to police the computer lab and read to bad-tempered, feral children in a bookmobile in East Jesus. So maybe I should just shut up and finish this before someone important walks past my cube.

§ The Poetry Bomb is coming to New Orleans next weekend. Los Angeles poet S.A. Griffin purchased a hollow training bomb on Craigslist and is traveling the country filling it with poetry. At The Maple Leaf on Sunday at 3ish. Unfortunately for me, it’s Mother’s Day and if I suggest showing up here I may have to claim the Everette Maddox Memorial Bench as my new home, but this looks fascinating.

§ I haven’t watched but half an episode (the last of last season) of the TV series Mad Men, but local-born actor Bryan Batt will be signing She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother, “an achingly funny and deeply moving portrait of his beautiful New Orleanian mother” one blurb reads, at Octavia Bookstore Saturday, May 8 at 6:30 pm. Probably not my thing but always good to give a local boy his props.

§ Sandra Cordray and Denise Danna discuss and sign their book Nursing in the Storm: Voices From Hurricane Katrina at the Garden District Bookstore May 6, 2010, 5:30pm. The book “takes you inside six New Orleans hospitals-cut off from help for days by flooding-where nurses cared for patients around the clock. In this book, nurses from Hurricane Katrina share what they did, how they coped, what they lost, and what they are doing now in a city and health care infrastructure still rebuilding, still in jeopardy” per the publisher.

I know, a lot of people are not ready for another Katrina book, but I tend to agree with Dave Eggers who said at this year’s Tennessee Williams festival that there are a hundred Katrina books waiting to be written. “I think we’re at the very beginning of telling the story of Katrina,” he told the audience. “There is a market beyond New Orleans.” You should not feel obliged to read them all, but this event is too important to think it will go undocumented. I‘ve written mine. Have you written yours?

I’ll try to get back to my Egger’s notes and write him up his remarks (now that I’ve typed up my month-old notes) as the brief feature at the top of Odd Words next week.

§ It’s not too late to to donate to any of the participants in theNeighborhood Story Project Write-A-Thon featuring their own authors and anyone else willing to step up and ask for sponsors. You can donate here to any of the participants here and if you’re reading this blog and this post in particular, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to.

§ This week at 17 Poet! features novelist and short story writer MOIRA CRONE and poet DAVE BRINKS (Dave’s Birthday Party!) Thursday, 8ish at the Goldmine Saloon on Dauphine in the Quarter. And don’t forget the upcoming birthday celebration for New Orleans-born Bob Kaufman. Come and read something by this original Beat, perhaps the most original of the Beats with all due respect to Ginsburg and Corso. If you don’t know his work, call up the main library and find out if the collection Cranial Guitar is still in cataloging. I mean, it’s been two years. Maybe they should hire me.

Beyond The Pale May 2, 2010

Posted by The Typist in NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: , , ,
7 comments

“BP’s print and TV ad campaign, which is winding down this month, represents one of the most dazzlingly high-profile corporate P.R. efforts in recent years. Created by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, it aspires to a conversational, almost confidential voice that suggests, You know what oil companies do to the environment, and we do, too, but honestly, we’re not like that at all. “
The New York Times Magazine


Dead sea turtle at Waveland, MS Sunday May 2, 2010. Photo by Jenny Lindsay Bell

The Black Plague May 2, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, Federal Flood, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: , , , , ,
2 comments

“We will armor the levees with their skulls”.

I wrote that once on this blog, but someone else said it first. I won’t remind you who that is, as there are people in the government who might find that statement provocative in ways that I’d rather not contemplate. It’s not like I’m some tea-bagger firing my AK-47 at Obama targets or some other acceptable American sub-culture. I am a citizen of New Orleans and a descendant of our neighbors in Acadiana, and I have learned by experience that I don’t count as a first class citizen of the country of my birth. Three-fifths, perhaps. If you think I’m exaggerating, wait until you see the response when the pristine tourist beaches are black with oil (sand much more easily replaced than an entire mash ecosystem).

I am too angry to write fresh words at length about the massive river of oil British Petroleum has let loose. Please don’t call it a “spill”. A spill is what you do to your shirt with red sauce. This is another flood–like 1927, like the one that followed the storm when the Federal levees failed below their specified load–this one of oil. They have no idea how to stop it, short of a relief well, and that will take more than a month, an oil field engineer acquaintance tells us.

We are urged to be calm. “This is not the apocalypse” say two Mississippi congressman after their helicopter overflight and briefing, one eye on the oil slick and another on the lucrative casinos that line their waterfront. Mary Landrieu, the Distinguished Senator from Big Oil takes to the floor and delivers for those campaign dollars, reminding us that we should not panic, endorsed President Obama’s view: “…when he said we want the industry to move forward [with offshore drilling]. We do not want them to retreat.”

It’s Jazz Fest but maybe I should stay in today. If I see a Hummer or an F-350 Crew Cab that has clearly carried nothing but groceries, I will be hard pressed not to run them off the road into a tree.

“We will armor the levee with their skulls.” There are probably not enough BP executives to go around. We will have to widen the pool to get enough skulls. As satisfying as that sounds, that will not save St. Bernard and east Plaquemine fisherman from a second disaster of biblical proportion in five years, or if the winds spread it west of the river.

Until then, from a time when anger seemed as natural a state as sleep and consumed almost as much time, from my retired Katrina blog Wet Bank Guide:

Thursday, December 27, 2007

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