Rollin’ Thunder: The One-Stop Poetry Shop

28 07 2004

It seems that I am not the only one to have noticed the turn blogs have taken toward literature. I figured there had to be some poetry blogs out there, and just as I was getting around to trying to find them, along comes an email from one ‘cafe rg’ who operates a blog called ‘Rollin’ Thunder’ that’s essentially a clearinghouse for poetry and discussion about same.

The entries are a mix of notices (‘Hire a Free Poet!’), poetry challenges, quotes (many of them about poetry: ‘You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick… You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps… so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in. ~Dylan Thomas’), and discussions about poetry (‘Does Technology “make us” more creative?’).

There are also links to other cafe rg sites like ‘SplashHall Poetry”, a BBS specifically for poets, and the ‘Poet’s Cafe’, which features live poetry readings as well as chat boards, workshops, even an electronic chapbook. If I were a poet–which I’m not, I admit–this is obviously the place I’d hang out. It’s like an online version of City Lights–the only thing missing is the coffee. And Ferlinghetti, of course. Otherwise, it looks lively and fun.

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Writing for Blogs

23 07 2004

A reader named ‘Tammi’ posed a comment to the cross-post of ‘Sgt Missick’s Rebuttal’ that nicely phrases some real concern about the whole idea of ‘reviewing’ blogs and asks what criteria I use. Because I think her questions probably reflect a fairly general attitude toward writing blogs, specifically, I thought this was the appropriate place to answer them. I’m not going to reprint her whole comment, but I’d like to suggest you click the link above and read it for yourself before you read the rest of my reply. It’s thought-provoking, and well worth reading for its own sake.

Here’s my issue – and please, if I’m off base I will apologize up front. This has nothing to do with politics, religion or anything. It’s actually just a question.

You’re not off-base at all. They’re perfectly legitimate questions and you have a right to know the answers. In fact, I figured when I started LitBlogs that at some point I needed to lay out what the criteria were so people knew where I was coming from and could judge whether or not my opinions had any relevancy for them. Your comment gives me the opportunity to do that.

And I want to state again for the record that my reviews have nothing whatever to do with politics or religion, either, except in so far as the blogs themselves deal with it, and then my concern is how well they express themselves, not how ‘correct’ their positions are. The purpose of the reviews is to give people some idea where to go and what they’ll find when they get there. Finally, what I pick is what I like. Fortunately, I like a lot of different things for a lot of different reasons, so my choices tend to range along a fairly wide spectrum.

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Sgt Missick’s Rebuttal

22 07 2004

On Sunday, I reviewed three blogs by soldiers from Iraq, including one written by a Sgt Chris Missick called A Line in the Sand which I suspected wasn’t legitimate because of the way it read. It would seem I have done Sgt Missick a gross injustice.

Much of the following was written tongue in cheek.1. To address Mr. Arren’s fist fallacious statement, that I am “a PR flack for the military,” I have this to say: I am a 31 Romeo, a multi-channel systems transmission operator/maintainer. I am currently working with Army phone and internet networks, administrating them to ensure they run properly. Unfortunately I can not go too much further into my daily job descriptions because of something the military refers to OPSEC, Operational Security, and I can not breach that trust. I have never admitted to being on the frontlines on a daily basis and have always made quite clear that I am simply proud to be a cog in the wheel that is the machine of the US Army. Mr. Arren, you may just be receiving a confirmation from my lieutenant after he reads this, he’s a good man and can verify that my word is good. I do have PR experience in my civilian career, but when I am in uniform, I simply a soldier with a blogging hobby.

That isn’t necessary, Sgt Missick. I believe you. That was Charge No 1. Charge dismissed. Read the rest of this entry »





Iraq Journals: A Little Writing Advice for Bloggers

19 07 2004

In a comment to the previous post, reader Kayz alerted me to a page she keeps that’s devoted to promoting blogs by soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a number of civilian blogs by Iraqis (and one Saudi, which looks interesting). I spent yesterday afternoon reading through most of the soldier-blogs and reviewed three of them at Omnium. I’ll be getting to the others over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully.

I didn’t include them here not because they’re without interest but because they’re not, for the most part, very well-written. Certainly nothing I’ve seen so far comes up to the standard set by MY WAR, and the problem with almost all of them is a simple one often made by new writers: they’re trying to Write with a capital W. They seem to think that writing is about adjectives. One of them (not yet reviewed) was so full of ponderous layers of pseudo-profound adverb/adjective combinations piled on top of each other like compost that it was almost impossible to wade through.

So, for what it’s worth, a few words of advice to aspiring bloggers on how to make your writing more interesting.

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MY WAR – Fear And Loathing In Iraq

16 07 2004

This is, as far as I know, one of a kind. Not only is it a blog written by a soldier now serving in Iraq, it’s written by a soldier who can write. His grammar isn’t great, his spelling is OK, his punctuation is horrible. All of that is beside the point. Like Emmett, he can communicate a sense of time and place so clearly that it’s almost physical–you can hear it, you can see it, you can almost reach out and touch it. In a post called ‘Cleaning Up the Streets of Mosul’, he describes going on an IED Sweep.

We had an IED Sweep for a mission this after noon. An IED (Improvised Exploding Device) Sweep is when we drive around town for hours until we hit an IED speed bump, or until one of us visually finds an IED along the road. No lie, that’s how we find IEDs on IED Sweeps out here, we drive around until one literally blows up on us or if one of us visually finds one. Today was a successful sweep, we found 3 rocket launchers, two of them with rockets in them. We found them right there next to the road, not even hidden, in front of a playground. We stopped our vehicles and pulled 360 security around the area and had our demo guys blow em up with some explosives. You have to be careful in situations like this, whenever UXO is placed blatantly in plain view like that, it could be a possible ambush. Example, one time we found a bunch of artillary rounds by the traffic circle in the middle of Mosul, just sitting there, and we went to secure the area for the Demo guys to show up and blow it up, and we got hit with an RPG, or like this one time in Sammara, I had a demo guy tell me that the terrorists placed some UXO (Un-Exploded Ordinance) along the side of the road (Artillery Rounds) that was totally visible for them to see, and they booby trapped it with a solar powered calculator. They placed the solar powered calculator under the ground, and when the demo guys came and picked up the UXO, it shifted the dirt off the solar panels on the calculator, which turned the calculator ON, and thus set off the UXO, which was actually an IED. Lost some guys from that.

His voice, like most combat infantrymen’s, is flat. He doesn’t embellish, he doesn’t try to make it pretty or boost the horror or milk the pathos; he’s just telling it like it is. Read the rest of this entry »





LitBlogs Update

13 07 2004

# The latest entry at LumpenBlog, ‘Mickey Snaketail’, has Nefertiti Snorkjutt in Maui attempting to rescue Lola from the clutches of Bruce–who Lola rescued Nef from after Nef rescued Lola from… You know, this could go on forever. Cut to the chase: Bruce wins.

At last I have a chance to report on my search for the misogynist Bruce and the, well, intrepid Lola. Lola rescued me from Bruce’s clutches, only to be taken by him to Maui, where I tracked them to a popular nude beach called Baby Makena.I decided to perform what I believe the, well, gendarmes call a “stake-out.” I thought that I had come rather well-prepared to look inconspicuous, but on the very first day a presumptuous woman with nipples that point straight up walked past me and said, “Can you sweat through leather?” So I decided to sacrifice my last, well, what you might call shred of modesty and remove all of my clothes, save for the plastic strap holding my binoculars.

And if you can resist reading the rest of that, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

# At The Mermaid Tavern, the philosofairy encounters creatures in the shower drain and gets a best-selling book idea out of it. Would that it were that easy for me.

Early this morning, as she stepped into the sparkling freshness of her shower, the philosofairy came up with a surefire bestseller Book Concept.But before she tells you about this surefire bestseller Book Concept, you need to know something. The philosofairy is a lover of nature. She has immense respect for all creatures big and small, including those alligators that live in underground New York City sewers and that take their breakfast straight from the homeless person’s box. She is an advocate to the animals, and does not endorse harming any living thing (note: an exception would be made for Ashton Kutcher).

I won’t give it away but it includes references to hairy eight-legged things and The Da Vinci Code, not necessarily in that order.

# Emmett at Maine Line has written a rather unsettling post called ‘Father’s Day’. It was hard for me to read, not because it’s badly written–in fact it may be the best writing he’s done so far–but because it details the kind of horrific family nightmare we all dread: skeletons escaping from their closets. The day starts well and ends…badly. Here’s a piece of it from just before the shit hits the fan. After a decent day when ‘Nobody started a fight or picked on anybody else or went off and sulked in a corner or called anybody else vile names or gave them the finger’, they go in the house to play cribbage.

As [the game] went on dad kept getting up and leaving the room for a minute and then coming back, and he was doing this every couple minutes and I was starting to get worried, thinking he was out in the kitchen nipping off his stash on the sly. Which is just what he was doing, it turns out. Howie and me were just about to slam them with double when I put down a card that let dad hit 21 for extra points. “That was a bonehead move,” he says. I didn’t say anything but I must have looked it because Cyn jumped in and started telling a funny story about one time when she got Ma to play poker (which she didn’t know how to play) and this one hand she leaned over to Cyn and showed her her cards and whispered, “Is this any good?” and Cyn said, “Ma, you got a full house!” and Ma said, “Don’t be silly. We’ve had twice this many people over. There’s plenty of room.” Even Gary laughed at that one but then dad said, out of nowhere, “She was one stupid bitch, that woman. Don’t know why I put up with her all those years.”I froze.

What comes next is the recounting of a previous incident that left me a bit shaken, and a more or less predictable end to the day. I have never, thank god or whatever, been in that position but I know way too many people who have, and they didn’t handle it any better than Emmett. There is no good way to handle an alcoholic parent, and Emmett is honest enough to admit his wasn’t the best. If you have an alcoholic parent or are close to someone who does, read it. It won’t be easy but you’ll be glad you did. I think.

# Finally, there is a new story at Snake Tales, ‘belinda c and fergus the leprechaun plan an uprising’, the title of which pretty much says it all.

she was prepared for a rat. she was prepared for a kid swiping her tomatoes, dry, shriveled things that they were. she was even prepared for a burglar, though what he might have hoped to steal in a neighborhood like this would bear explaining. of all the things belinda c was not prepared for, at the top of the list was what she actually saw–a leprechaun perched on her chickenwire fence, munching on a lettuce leaf and talking to himself. or maybe that was singing.”shoo”, she said. “shoo. shoo.”

the leprechaun–if that’s what it was and what else could it have been?–looked up at her with mild amusement in his tiny hazel eyes. “i’m not a housefly,” he said. “or a timid field mouse with his racing shoes on at the slightest crack of twig. i’m not that easy to get rid of, if that’s what you’re hoping. why don’t you sit down in that old stuffed chair you threw out last year, and we’ll have a talk.”

Fergus has a favor to ask that involves pixies, a city construction project, and–he promises solemnly–no dragons at all. (They all moved to Cleveland.)

Enjoy.

(cross-posted at Omnium)





Maine Line: A Journal We Can Relate To

8 07 2004

Maine Line (I know, bad title) is brand new–only a month or so old–and written by a guy in north-central Maine named Emmett who says it’s a summer project for his creative writing class. It’s a public blog, though, either because he didn’t know how to make it private or because he didn’t give a damn if it was or not. I’m guessing the latter because that’s what kind of guy he is.

Emmett is in his 30’s and just decided to go back to school (an inheritance made it possible).

See, Aunt Flo allowed for 5 years to get my degree (she knew how slow I am, she used to say, “Emmett–” that’s my name– “Emmett, you got a mouth like a rusty gate hinge, always swingin’ back and forth, back and forth, despite all efforts to keep it shut, but for all the yappin’ you do, you ain’t got a helluva lot to say that’s worth stayin’ awake long enough to hear it. You got a underdeveloped mind, boy, like a green tomato, and while green tomatoes is good for cannin’ piccalilli, it’s useless on a growed man.” She talked like that, my Aunt Flo did, and I’m not saying she was wrong. She was a smart old fart, my Aunt Flo)….

In true Maine style, since the inheritance allowed $15K/yr for school tuition, he signed up with an online university (he doesn’t say which one) for $5K/yr and he’s living off the rest as a sort of semi-permanent paid vacation, though it seems he has to buy books for his classes. Here he is on re-reading The Great Gatsby for his English class.

I had to read The Great Gatsby in school and I thought that had to be just about one of the dumbest books I ever read in my life, and what was the big deal with the damn lamp on the dock? Hell, every dock has some kinda light because otherwise you’ll smack your boat right into the damn thing at night because you can’t see what you’re doing. I was kinda literal when I was in high school, I guess, like them people in church who think Jonah actually got swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it. I’ve seen whales, brother, up close, and if that ain’t the grandaddy of all fish stories, I don’t know what is. You go down a whale’s gullet, you’re gonna last about long enough to think, “Damn, I’m in a whale’s gullet,” and that’ll be it for you, pal. But this time, I don’t know, it made more sense to me. Like the light meant more than it was just a light. Something. I wasn’t sure what but it seemed like that light stood in for everything he ever wanted, everything he ever dreamed about when he was hustling the streets for the mooch to buy his way into “society”. I know about that dream, we all have it when we’re young, and the poorer you are the bigger that dream gets.

The whole blog is like that, a mix of intentional–and unintentional–jokes and the first stirrings of legitimate thought. Read the rest of this entry »