Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Catfish McDaris: Underground, Above-ground Poet

McDaris was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1953.
After 3 years serving in the military as a young man, he hopped freights and hitchhiked across the U.S. and Mexico. He built adobe houses, tamed wild horses, made cattle troughs, 
worked in a zinc smelter, and painted flag poles.

For a time, he lived in a cave and wintered in a Chevy in Denver.
He eventually settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he worked for the United States Postal Service.

In 1994, he organized a charity event of poetry and music in Milwaukee, called Wordstock. During the same year, he also read at The First Underground Press Conference at De Paul University in Chicago.

In 1998, he read at a Beatnik festival held near Allen Ginsberg's farm,

In 2007, he read at Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Paris. 
(from his Wikipedia entry)

Reception and Influence

McDaris has published extensively in the small press and independent magazines.  He is also often associated with Allen Ginsberg  and collaborated with Charles Bukowski on a chapbook called 'Prying'. In addition, his work has appeared in such publications as The Penny Dreadful Review, Chiron Review, The Shepherd Express  and Blink-Ink  Marquette University holds his collected published works and personal papers in their special collections archives.  (from his Wikipedia entry)

A Spring Ritual

When the lilacs bloom
their purple scent intoxicating
the air, the white bass run
in the Root River
My ladies & I catch
three & cook them over
a pungent fire on
green sticks with herbs
Most fisher folks take
stringers full & stop
at a place & clean
their catch for hours
They look at us quizzically
as we feast & wiggle our
toes in the icy rushing water.

My Magnum Opus

As I paint
I think about
Van Gogh painting
sunflowers & irises
Degas painting ballerinas
Cezanne painting fruit
Gauguin’s Tahitian women
Frida Kahlo capturing sadness
Neruda & Li Po painting
with words
I wonder if any
of them ever
Painted a bathroom
with ordinary
white latex.

(previously published in Steel Toe Review)

Listen to this recent interview with acclaimed poet, Catfish McDaris

Phalanxes of Tombstones
Reclining against a warrior’s headstone,
listening to a chevron of geese overhead
watching the pewter dawn sun peer forth
There’s no happiness at the end of a rifle
or in a bottle or magic potion, sitting among
my dead brothers, I know there’s no such
Thing as revolution, it’s just another word
meaning leap frog of the rich, so they can
buy a bit of power with the blood of the poor
The honking dies and fog vanishes, money
equals greed, possessions turn into traitors,
no one can stop time or conquer the rain.
(previously published in W.I.S.H.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

SuSu Babies: Custom Felted Dolls

SuSuBabies was born when Willette Arnett asked Susan Ludwig to needle felt a head that looked like her son Tony for his birthday. Willett (Sugar, to her family) hand sewed the body and the result made us laugh.

So Susan makes the heads out of wool and Willette sews the cotton bodies and accessorizes them. We, also make custom mini me’s and pets. We are located in Santa Teresa, NM and can be found at many of the craft shows in El Paso and New Mexico.

 Contact Susan through her website:

Maybe you could have the likeness of someone you love made into a doll?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SAIGON, ILLINOIS: Paul Hoover, reviewed by Su Zi

     The Vietnam War was a pivotal moment in American history; as those who lived that history are graying, it behooves us to consider carefully an impact now so ubiquitous in our culture that it threatens cliche: mud, blood, nightmare. Yet, there are voices that speak more quietly, that detail aspects of that period beyond either destruction, famous music, or colorful clothing.
One such voice can be found in Paul Hoover's novel Saigon, Illinois; a sly-witted story of a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.

   Hoover  is renown as a contemporary poet, and his sensitive language and erudite literary awareness form a solid subtext to the novel's plot. Hoover isn't shy about his references, the first line, "You can call me Holder" bluntly alludes to Melville, and the reader senses immediately the novel's archetypes of quest, of ended youth, and of impending horror. It's ironic that the protagonist's quest is to avoid the horror of war, yet he stumbles through a series of horrific events that are prosaic to both those times then and our times now.

  It's the novel's turns of language that make Saigon, Illinois a must-read. Hoover's modern poetic sensibility is introduced to the reader from  the second sentence,  a fragment grammatically that underscores the novel's binary of elegant language against prosaic doom: "It's one of your basic names, like Gold, Paper, and Anxious".  Although the reader isn't a hundred words into the text,  the novel has generated heat through the pun of the protagonist's name (Holder/Holden --Catcher (...)Rye), and the humor of Hoover's metaphors. Even in one of the novel's horrific scenes, a heart attack unfolding on Holder's Conscientious Objector job, Hoover's alternation between the expediency of fast-action phrasing and the poet's elevated linguistic meditation are put to the reader:
       "At the same time, the EKG technician strapped electrodes to the arms and legs and placed a brass cup on Mr. Johnson's chest by means of a suction device. All these were attached to wires that ran into the crash cart. By now the whole area was littered with wiring, like the engine of a car. Rickles gave his attention to the EKG machine perched on top of the cart. Out of it ran a thin gray strip of papet with mountainous blacl marks that indicated the rhythm of the heart. It slid through his hands--where he read it like a stock report-- and dangled to the floor, adding to the other debris of death ( 53)". Hoover's surety of language, concluding with the alliteration of the metaphor "debris of death", impacts the reader with the novel's thesis: that horror existed in those times everywhere.

   In the four decades that have elapsed since the conclusion of the Vietnam War--a war that ate a generation of soldiers and two decades of American culture--we have changed as a culture, and ought to consider these changes: violence that was shocking no longer startles, police acting as militia against the citizenry is becoming policy, hospitals remain houses of ordinary horror instead of healing, and another generation of young people are--voluntarily this time--sacrificing themselves physically in a far away place. Although there are many artistic works that detail the Vietnam War era, few have Hoover's thesis of the war-at-home, and even fewer show his linguistic mastery. Saigon, Illinois has not seen the spotlight such a work deserves, but that does not diminish the crucial nature of the novel's message.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Building Community: Jen Burke/ Soul Essentials of Su Zi

  For community to exist as a living entity—a collection of folks working in unity—there must be a Third Place : a safe haven that is neither home nor work, where people can congregate comfortably. The mindful creation of a Third Place is no easy task. Often times, institutions seek to capitalize on the need for Third Place , but institutions are hierarchical and many people can find this stifling. Nonetheless, Jen Burke, with Soul Essentials of Ocala, has successfully created a Third Place that has existed now for almost a decade.

      Beginning as a shop “in a little stone cottage house across from a school”, Soul Essentials of Ocala  was both gift shop and event host for meditation meetings, drum circles and psychic fairs. Jen Burke acquired the shop in December of 2006, and Soul Essentials existed in the cottage for four years, until Jen acquired the Victorian house that has been the Soul Essentials home since 2010. The house
was “built in 1912” according to Jen and “was a miracle: I went to do a house cleansing and some healing and we were on the way back and pulled up to this house. It was available […] I know it has been a boarding house, an antiques store, and it went into foreclosure, which is how I was able to get it” The house is  registered  as historical, and is in a neighborhood of recognized historical buildings.

     While Soul Essentials of Ocala as a gift shop has both an eBay and a physical presence, it also hosts an array of events that include yoga classes, recovery meetings, psychic fairs, drum circles, meditation groups, porch concerts, art events, and sacred tribal dance classes. Jen opens her home to the community for these events; she resides in the Victorian house that is home to the shop. Jen mindfully seeks to promote community:
                      “ I think there’s a need for an offering of
events, other than going to local bars, that build a family-friendly atmosphere and which promotes community. I love seeing everybody taking time out for themselves, to come meditate, to try and better themselves”. Any visitor can testify that they find themselves lingering, not only at the objects in the shop, but often on the porch of the house itself, which is wide and gracious and has plenty of comfortable seating. The porch is arrayed with statuary of angels and creatures, bordered by a year round flowering garden, and looks out on other historic buildings: one can sit comfortably without hurry, greet friends, meet new ones.

     In a community that resonates with mega-churches, the items housed within Soul Essentials can feel, to some, like coming home: there are multiple rooms that display everything from semi-precious stones, candles and clothing, to rare antiques from Asia .  For the most rare items, Jen posts their availability on eBay (\soulessentialsofocala ). There is also a Facebook page for Soul Essentials of Ocala , and a webpage with a link to the ebay site. On these pages, Jen says she posts “ the more rare, one of a kind, new and vintage , antique treasures: antique carved jade, jewelry, eastern antiquities.”  Soul Essentials is where one goes to get a statue of Quan Yin for the patio, a candelabra, a four foot tall geode of amethyst.

     Of the objects  available through Soul Essentials, Jen says: 
“ They’re all passions—everything I have in here is stuff I love.
 I know when I was struggling and having difficulties in this earthly realm, everything in here was a tool that helped me feel more connected to a spiritual realm, a universal source. I do better surrounded by beauty. It reminds me to focus on the good”. This dedication to positive, community support can be witnessed, most simply, by the more peaceful expressions on folks’ faces when they take their leave of Soul Essentials—there’s no rush anymore, there are smiles, hugs. People hold paper bags of their chosen treasure, wrapped in tissue and sprinkled with sage; people hold their yoga mats and move more fluidly; people linger and notice the evening.

     Although Jen Burke’s Soul Essentials of Ocala is by patriarchal technicality, a residence and gift store, it is far more than that: it is a place to take a class, to come drum, to join guided meditation, to bring home the wind-chime that makes one always smile, to get that heart quartz necklace that seems to ward off grumpy vibes at the job. Jen, herself, is far more than a shop keep: hers is a dedication to community, a community of “the importance of healing”; she quotes YogaNanda “more than removing bombs and hunger, the way to transmit the consciousness of god to others is through meditation”; by her home opened to others, by the tools for healing and delight she offers, by the no hurry hospitality, Jen has given  everyone who reaches out to her Soul Essentials presence a most crucial gift.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

David Rovics: The Musical Version of Democracy Now!

Rovics tours regularly on four continents, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. He has had his music featured on Democracy Now!, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, Acik Radyo and other networks. His essays are published regularly on CounterPunch and Truthout and the 200+ songs he makes available on the web have been downloaded more than a million times.

In an interview article with the Baltimore Independent Media Center entitled “Inspiring the Troops” Through Music, Rovics said:
"...when I first started writing any songs that were any good I had already become very much involved with activism and wanting to talk about what was happening in the world. But when I first started writing songs, I wasn’t writing political songs..." 

"I say, that I’m not really hardly at all involved with the folk music scene and I don’t play for the folk music audiences so much and shows don’t get booked by the folk music presenters. Everything I’m doing pretty much in the activist scene. I find that when folk music aficionados come to my shows that they usually like it. I think I could be doing fine in the folk scene if there was enough interest there for more people to be booking shows. The interest in the kind of music I’m doing is almost entirely in the activist scene, which is fine..." 

"If you look at it – take a real cursory glance of the world around you we see that pretty much every institution out there uses music in one way or another. Every corporation uses music to sell their products. The military uses music to inspire their troops. I use music for my troops. It’s the same basic function that music is playing. You know, even from a capitalist perspective you could say it’s used to sell products and to foster – in the military for example, that people are working together – that they’re part of the same thing, that they’re sticking up for each other. That’s what we’re using music at marches and rallies. It’s to inspire the troops. And in other settings it’s to educate people about things that are happening and to talk about it in a way that hopefully might be more memorable than a speech..." 

"Yes, to communicate to people on an emotional level. And perhaps even a spiritual level and reach them in a way that people don’t often get reached by other means. And it’s just one of many means of communication, but I think it’s an important one and when we have events, whether they’re protests or educational events or whatever, the events that have music and food at them are so much different from the ones that don’t. Everyone, whether or not they’re conscious of why they come out of those events inspired and feeling like they’ve learned something and they’re going to do something with that knowledge – that’s the difference between even a really good speaker, they’re still – are not really pessimistic but good educational optimistic speaker – there’s still something missing compared to when you hear that speaker and you sing a few songs before or after – preferably after I think because then you leave on a feeling on more togetherness and optimism even when the songs are not particularly optimistic. There’s something about music that makes people feel optimistic..." 

Opinions on file sharing
David Rovics supports file sharing of his own work. "Feel free to download these songs. Use them for whatever purpose. Send them to friends, burn them, copy them, play them on the radio, on the internet, wherever. Music is the Commons. Ignore the corporate music industry shills who tell you otherwise. Downloading music is not theft, you're not hurting anyone, I promise. (And in any case, yes, this is legal, and I'm making all of these songs available myself.)" 

Rovics' album Meanwhile In Afghanistan features a track entitled Steal This MP3, in which Rovics encourages listeners to steal the very track and states "I've got words for these plutocrats who claim to represent me. Steal this MP3." The song is critical of copyright and the record industry.  (Wikipedia)

Visit David's website for more info.

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