Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bo Diddley, Rest in Peace, and the New Gerald Stern

Just back after a week away from the computer. Life, however, went on and, so, sadly, came the news of the passing of Bo Diddley. There have been and will continue to be many arguments about the roots and origins of rock and roll. One thing is certain: without Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard, there would be no rock and roll. Of course, there are many others who can be cited but, together, these 3 broke down the barriers by storming the charts, bringing the sounds of African American rhythm and blues into the mainstream and changing the world. This early clip from 1955 captures a special moment in this transition.

Well, I've come back to a mountain of mail/email/orders, so I need to attend to that. The list of Near Perfect Books continues to expand, with three more titles added this morning. I've begun laying out the next two issues of Lillie, which are due out in July. Wish me luck with that, since I'm about 3 weeks behind!

During my time away, I plunged into the new Gerald Stern book, Save the Last Dance. It is the usual blend of stream-of-consciousness, Gerald Stern mythologizing (as opposed to mythologizing about Gerald Stern) and, as a bonus, contains the entire The Preacher, last year issued as a Quarternote Chapbook from Sarabande Books. Here's my take on The Preacher, posted back in February.

I'm not quite through the section of shorter poems, so I won't comment until I go back and read the whole thing through again except to say one poem leapt out at me: "Asphodel." Here is the opening, prototypical Stern, a couple of excerpts, and the close:

He was dead so he was only a puff
of smoke at the most and I had to labor to see him
or just to hear and when we spoke it was as
if we were waiting in the rain together ...
----------and I forgot to say that
he was a veteran and he wore a green cap
that had Korea Veteran printed on the face ...
and I forgot to say his ears were large,
the way it sometimes happens in older men,
though he was dead ... and war
was what we talked about and what the flowers
were the way a poppy was the emblem
of World War One and we both laughed at how
there were no flowers for Korea nor any
poems for that matter though he was sad and although
he wore that hat he said it was a stupid
useless war, unlike Achilles Odysseus
talked to in Hell, who loved his war and treasured
the noses he severed and the livers he ruptured,
and picture them selling their aspholdel in front of
a supermarket or a neighborhood bank
and picture us waiting until our ears were long
just to hate just one of their dumb butcheries.


More soon,

Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free (or have your current subscription extended two issues), just make a suggestion of a title or titles for the Near Perfect Books page.


Charles Gramlich said...

A powerful poem. I think I've read a poem by this title before. Or I've seen this unusual word. I believe it was in Robert E. Howard's poetry but am not sure. I'll have to do some research on this.

Welcome back.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks, good to be back ... the poem is powerful, Stern is usually good for one or two of this type of poem (call it politic or humanitarian or whatever) per book and this one stands with some of his best.

I did a bit of searching and found a long poem by W C Williams entitled "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower."

For REH, I found a story entitled "The Curse of the Golden Skull" with a character called "Rotath of the Moonstone and Asphodel."

Let me know if you find anything else; as you know, I too am a Robert E. Howard fan.


Poet Hound said...

Dear Don,
I don't know if I've had time to thank you already, but thank you so much for my two free issues of Lilliput Review. They are wonderful and I would love to review them on my site if you don't mind? Also, thanks for the wonderful personal note, I tacked it above my desk and I am very happy that you enjoy my blog as much as I enjoy yours.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Great to hear you enjoyed the issues. A review on your site would be just great, also.

From your last posting, it sounds like you have a lot on your plate. Your questions are geared a bit more toward the poet but from the editor's point of view, I do have one tip: avoid self imposed deadlines. I had been doing that for years(imposing imaginary deadlines - I have to publish an issue a month etc) when my wife diplomatically pointed out that they were self-imposed and that if I was going crazy it was because I was driving myself crazy. The roof didn't cave in when deadlines changed: people were still very appreciative that I was doing what I was doing at all. So, if for instance you decided to post 3 times a week (say MWF), that might work. Or set more realistic goals for other things you do.

Once it gets manageable, you will feel the great weight lift off. Right now, I've set myself a once a week Thursday goal; however, I frequently post in between when and if I get the time. Also, I don't force the content, I let it come to me.

I hope this part is helpful for you. On the writing poetry part I can't be of much help. I go through very productive periods when I write all the time, even losing lots of poems on tiny pieces of paper etc and then will go months and months without writing anything. I let it come as it comes. One thing I will say: don't let rejection act as a writing block. Keep the work going out there, make sure you are sending to the right market (you wouldn't believe how many people send me work over 10 lines), stay in touch with your inner voice, and believe, believe, believe.