Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cheers for New Year

Listening to the bootleg CD of Tom Waits' Cleveland show at House of Blues, which he performed after nearly three memorable hours of melancholy croaking in Akron, which we were lucky to witness. It was a highlight of a remarkable year. After 20 years in Tremont, moved into a cottage on the lake; it has made all the difference. angle magazine also moved--to the choir loft of the former St. Josaphat Church, renovated by Alenka Banco into Josaphat Arts Hall. Unconventional? Yes.

Certain friends celebrated a certain landmark birthday; Pam started an amazing, challenging job that has her traveling to Hawaii, Napa, and MIT; Nancy and Mike opened their arms to baby Lee, direct from China; Lara married Jon in a most fabulous wedding and party, she also got a new lady boss who might shake (shape?) things up; Greta and Danny continue to live fully and well, inspiration to us all. Guy and Mel moved to Independence, or as Pam would say, "Somewhere in Ohio." Russell and Karen received "the boot," full of figs in whiskey, reminding everyone of the loss of Gary Lupico. And Marcie has arrived home from Puerto Rico, wearing her down coat in "freezing" 50-degree weather.

Erin's blog took off, attracting the wonderful and the weird to her unique sense of humor, she also landed a column in a local paper, one she is too good for. Maureen took her quirky brilliance to Austin, Texas, and, oh yeah, was short-listed for The Story Prize. Young and lovely Jessica, wise beyond her age, is writing knock-out poems. Sarah is working on her fifth (or sixth?) novel, and teaching young Catholics how to write a scene. Karen was kicked upstairs at a newspaper, then found her way back to writing. Steve won a big prize in Italy, and was wined and dined with Salman Rushdie, among other luminous literati.

Beloved Luna and Spaulding, 28 dog years between them, made permanent exits. We mourned the loss of legendary hostess Mitzi (Jerman), and the inimitable outsider artist Rev. Albert Wagner. Both led long, fascinating lives. More tragic, we lost artists Masumi Hayashi and John Jackson in a double shooting. Both led shorter, equally fascinating lives. Young photographer Lauren Bugaj left us at the end of the year with beautiful, traditional photographs, and loads of potential.

On an abnormally warm day in November, we watched thousands of people make a pilgrimage to The Christmas Story House, carrying leg lamps back to their cars. Wonder what folks at the Rowley Bar thought.

My old friends at Cleveland Film Society--Marcie, Bill, Beth, Patrick and Debby--continue to work and play hard at the same time. I'm missing you already--a most unusual workplace.

My new friends Holly and Christopher have taught me more in 4 months than any school ever could. (Apologies to my teachers Maggie, Steve, Will, Mike, Susan, Neal, and my teachers-to-be: Robert, Craig, and Mary B.)

Cleveland is busy with demolition and construction, some good, some bad. But Ohio is a blue state again, and Issue 18 passed--a tax on cigarettes for the arts. And those of us mouth-breathers who avoid restaurants and bars because of smoke can now go (almost) anywhere without coughing.

And who are the generous donors who are raising the roofs on Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Institute of Art, Akron Art Museum, and MOCA Cleveland? Can they spare a proverbial dime for an arts magazine named angle?

Today, the lake is pearly gray-blue, the horizon line almost invisible. There is no wind. No sniff of snow. The world's out of whack, but here, where the sun is luxury, we are quietly happy to be able to walk outside. The turning of the year is an arbitrary date decreed by a pope a long time ago, but something is changing--you can feel it. Have another scoop of new in the new year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Three Day Holiday

It started around midnight at the end of a long day of home, the day the house became a home, nothing religious about it. From the northwest, pushing the front of the house head on. Ringing the damn bell again and again. The tree, already dead but faking it good, is strung with mirrored squares, hung with seashells, bracelets, earrings, driftwood, a gypsy tree topped by a tin angel. Pure pagan.

Three days of great meals and good company. Nella Cucina at Guy and Mel's house in, strangely, Independence, complete with indoor waterfall, sunken bar and '70s porn atmosphere. Traditional, or what has become a tradition, cioppino at Pam's and stories. Yesterday, what remains of family, bloody marys, poached salmon, secret sauce, turkey and the new stuffing king named Ben.

Dogs exhausted.

Thank you all.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

5th day of christmas

the tree is land and see
florida shells on black hill
spruce, hook line and sink her

in the drugstore holder
not whored up this time
spattered with whelks

and skirted, poor girl
scenting and shedding
as if life depended on it

Friday, December 15, 2006

10th day of christmas

snow's at bay, but breakers grab hands and run to shore
for the brass ring and get the ding of the rusty bell instead
poor waves, knock your heads together and spend it
too early, see, so try again again

Monday, December 11, 2006


angle, a journal of arts + culture born four years ago in a coffee shop in Cleveland now has a new home: Josaphat Arts Hall, the stunning space Alenka Banco spent 4 years renovating into an art gallery, living quarters and art studios. angle now sets up shop in the choir loft! Close to the angels and puffy white clouds Clay Parker painted on the vaulted ceiling.

Thanks to everyone who came to visit Friday, the 8th, to warm the space. More gatherings to come. In the meantime, check out Chris Pekoc's retrospective in the gallery.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


On the news: The City of Los Angeles reversed its notorious water aqueduct system and flushed water back into the once-beautiful Owens Valley. Hetch-Hetchy Valley is still full of water nearly 100 years since it was flooded. Yosemite Valley is full of tourists.

On the news: The oceans are getting bluer. More blue. Less green. This, they say, is bad.

Outside the window: Lake Erie is a shade of gray not found in the Pantone color wheel, pushing up swells five feet or more, and slamming the cliff, where giant slabs of stone and rebar and gnarly roots of survivor trees do their best to protect.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Harryette Mullen vs. George Bilgere

In one corner it's poet Harryette Mullen, pushing and pulling the language like taffy. In the other is bear-like George Bilgere, champion of everyday speech. You can try, but you can't really root for both, unless you're magnanimous and full of holiday honey wine.

At the beginning of the evening you can't choose one drink and switch to another later on, no it's either mullened cider or bilge beer.

Yeah, both have seasoned cut-men, but Bilgere's got the likes of Billy Collins, John Barr and Ed Field, while Mullen's got everyone's attention. Both like to play with language, but it's either football or acrostics, you guess which.

Awards too. Mullen's "Sleeping with the Dictionary" (2002) was a National Book Award finalist. Bilgere's "Haywire" (2006) won the May Swenson Prize. Says Ed Field, the Swenson decider: "I wasn't interested in what I call the torturers of the language, who write without any relation to what and how we really speak."

We don't like torturers either, and he's not exactly calling Mullen one, but he's being polite by not naming names. He goes on: "[Bilgere] reclaims the language as it is spoken. This is American speech transmuted into poetry. And the struggle to do this must be repeated in every generation, to recapture poetry from the forces that want to neuter it."

We can appreciate Field's neuter conspiracy, but whose speech is Bilgere reclaiming? And whose speech is Mullen claiming to reclaim, or add to literature what hasn't been there before? Do we want nostalgia? Or do we want ad jingles?

Bilgere undercuts:

And suddenly, as in a myth
or fairytale when the son
recognizes his lost father under the rags
of an old beggar, I realize
it's the kitchen table of our childhood. (from "The Table," p. 41)

Mullen spits back a mish-mash:

I beg to dicker with my silver-tongued companion, whose lips
are ready to read my shining gloss.
(from "Sleeping with the Dictionary," p. 67)

Maybe this isn't the greatest match-up. Maybe we should save our tickets and play the lottery instead. Now there's a conspiracy.

Monday, December 4, 2006


Belching begins early
here at the edge of the world
where boys skeet-shoot
over the steelyard. A truck
tops the rim spewing
black chunked mud
poured dried cracked
pot-holed and poured again
asphalt. Our Appian Way.

Near the blast house
the nursery of unholy
noise drowns any bird-
speak, or bark. All are
mute before the mouth
that pukes the city's bones
up one by one,
its vertebrae straining
to raise its skull.

A hot coal ffssses out
in the Cuyahoga
and joins a scatter
of drift logs to the beach
where the waves sniff
and nudge the sharp-
edged bricks into mollified
forms, circles and curves,
awaiting the great whatever.