Saturday, July 04, 2009

Moment to Moment

How did you like Jurassic Park, I ask the old lama?
It's like the Bardo only the Bardo is worse

For J & AM ...........May We R.I.P.

This morning H. Smith, my diabetes counselor
captures my poetic sensibility when he tells me that Byetta,
the miracle drug for lowering blood glucose
comes from the saliva of the Gila monster
a sort of reptilian bodhisattva though
repugnant creature-- sluggish, ugly, and foul,
Like all losers I fantasize that my April first
Powerball is a winner
I see my seaside cottage overgrown with Rose of Sharon
rose hip clusters at the weathered picket fence, air scented
with salt, kelp and sweet grasses
distant laughter carried over the swoosh of ocean sounds

                          I’m happiest here, in my primal memory from growing up  on 
             the Pacific coast.

I’ve already gifted poet friends, given millions
                                                                      to a Cambodian girls

recovery fund from sexual bondage in brothels.

             I know my charities
I want to walk barefoot
           on pristine hardwood floors accented by plush
oriental carpets
                                     a high bed looking out to sea through gossamer curtains.

my own movie almost as good as the real thing,.

It’s all I have

     I’m already exhausted imagining it all.

     I’m not surprised you consider me “crazy” or “power hungry,” 
a “malicious liar”—I’ve been called worse.

            Remember “dear ones” every projection is a T-Rex
            Chasing you down in the bardo corridor

when you’re lost in Juarez without a name.
oooxxxx    Won’t MATTER HERE
on the back streets of Old Weird America.

    I cleaned my fridge down on haunches emptying out fetid fruits, 
veggies, and brown labia sprouting barnacles

          My disregard for the world’s hungry shameless

MY MIND A Garbage


I remember her once before things got complicated
she wore his fedora hat when we were in Mexico
still      humble       in    awe of the company and her lover

the poet, ugly as a toad,  who sang of my scrambled eggs
I hand picked from the market
                                   each night sipping tequila from thumbnails
                       before the fireplace

swapping tales of poet scandals.

But it’s the old man leaning on a wall
I conjure
basking in the first rays of the sun *
misery dissolved
as he lifts his brown face upward

free from the moment.

*The old man basking in the sun is a traditional metaphor for rigpa or primordial wisdom

Jacqueline Gens
Brattleboro, VT

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ali Akbar Khan 1922-2009

Photo Credit: By Lawson Knight

ALI AKBAR KHAN, SUPREME SIDDHA, brother of legendary hermit musician Annupurna, son of the great wizard Ustad Alauddin Khan, who broughtt the solo instrumental music of the West to the USA, in his performances w. Chatur Lal at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1950's- who taught thousands of students at his school in San Raphel, California,which I was privileged to attend, who taught me the melodies for the Mira Bai Bhajans which you have heard on many occasions -who gave me a scholarship to study at the Conservatory of Music in Basel - Heaven is blessed to receive him.

from an email by Louise Landes Levi, June 20, 2009

for a video of Ali Akbar Khan, click here

Obituary from the Washington Post

More links to come

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Allen Ginsberg--83rd Birthday, June 3

Garrison Keeler on the Writer's Almanac this morning gave a fine and intelligent homage to Allen on his birthday today, June 3.
The Bard lives on. You can listen to it below.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Remembering Tiananmen Square June 4, 1989-Twenty Years Ago

To read the compelling story of Shi Tao's poem, June, click here. Shi Tao is one of many Chinese writers currently imprisoned. His poem, June, was selected by the Pen Poem Relay to be rranslated in every language and circle the globe.


by Shi Tao

My whole life

Will never get past “June”
June, when my heart died
When my poetry died
When my lover
Died in romance’s pool of blood

June, the scorching sun burns open my skin
Revealing the true nature of my wound
June, the fish swims out of the blood-red sea
Toward another place to hibernate
June, the earth shifts, the rivers fall silent
Piled up letters unable to be delivered to the dead

Translated to English from Chinese by Chip Rolley.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Irina Mashinski on Boris Pasternak & Marina Tsvetaeva

May 29th

Tomorrow Pasternak dies
in Peredelkino, where on his grave
we spent our youth
reciting "August,"
surrounded by quiet men in dark suits ––
they almost liked the lines.

Tomorrow is the day, the 30th. And three months from tomorrow
Tsvetaeva will hang herself
in a Tatar town on the black Kahma river
Kahma - a tribute to the fuller, solemn
Volga, which rolls her waters south farther from the yoke.
the town with a hook-like name: Elahbuga

A tributary to the yet unknown,
if only I could give her all my blood
to fill those cobalt rubble veins of a laborer!
If only - all the pine tree air to fill his tormented lungs -
I, illegitimate offspring,
looking for the two of you

on every bank
of each big frozen river
where boats are stuck in hardened hummocks.

Born in Moscow, Irina Mashinski (Mashinskaia) immigrated to the U.S. in 1991. A bilingual poet and translator, Mashinski is the author of six books of poetry and a winner of several prestigious Russian national literary awards. Her poetry has been translated into Serbian, Italian, English, and French and is regularly featured in most of the leading literary periodicals and anthologies in Russia and abroad. Her new Russian books of poems, Volk (Wolf) and Peschanik, (Sandstone, Selected Poems ) are scheduled to come out in the summer and fall of 2008 in New York and Moscow. Ms. Mashinski is a co-editor-in-chief of the Storony Sveta (Cardinal Points) major literary magazine published in the US. She graduated from Moscow University magna cum laude and is a current graduate of the MFA in Poetics at New England College. In the US, she has taught Mathematics, Science, Meteorology, and Russian History in high schools and colleges of New York and New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Lilac Thief

OK, it's that time of year and I'm a sucker for lilacs. I steal them by the armfuls past midnight or in the hours just before dawn when there's no one else around. The heirloom bushes at Memorial Park appear diseased this year. Here's a poem I wrote about them a few years ago at the height of my prowling for lilacs on other peoples' property or in abandoned places.

The Lilac Thief

This year I looked for lilacs
off the beaten track
in places no longer tended –

A different kind of boundary,
long rows where once houses stood,
lots now empty.

I love the deeper purple of old bushes,
their crushed bloomets falling into my hand
taken from gnarled bark bearing heavy plumage.

I am the local lilac thief,
that one who stops to follow
the scent of unseen blossoms.

Jacqueline Gens

Monday, April 06, 2009

In Memorium: Allen Ginsberg RIP April 5, 1997

For Allen

A few days later I saw you
seated at a dusty crossroad
looking toward a vista of waterways
reminiscent of a cranberry bog or saltwater marsh,
maybe the river Styx.
A geography of immensity without habitation
where you sat on an old wooden stool,
with books and papers, focused intently.
One familiarity—your Calvin Klein
Goodwill navy blazer, my favorite;
your pens poking out from the pocket.
I stood quietly to your side waiting to assist you
yet not disturb your concentration.
Finished, you handed me a sheaf of papers,
Here, these are for you—for translation.

Then, you got up and walked slowly down the left-hand road.
I followed but you turned to me and said,
This is as far as you are allowed to go, I don’t have the water rights
for your passage—
a hitch of sadness in your voice,
your face mostly impassive, Bell’s Palsy,
one eye bigger, your face a bit cock- eyed,
but looking straight on
as we finished our business together once again
in clarity and respect, our natural elegance
hanging there a second
as we stared at one another.
I watched you walk off and knew you were finally gone.

Text from Primo Pensiero by Jacqueline Gens
Photo by Myles Aronowitz, 1984

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Haruki Murakami Beyond Duality

Feb. 20, 2009

I have come to Jerusalem today as a novelist, which is to say as a professional spinner of lies.

Of course, novelists are not the only ones who tell lies. Politicians do it, too, as we all know. Diplomats and military men tell their own kinds of lies on occasion, as do used car salesmen, butchers and builders. The lies of novelists differ from others, however, in that no one criticizes the novelist as immoral for telling lies. Indeed, the bigger and better his lies and the more ingeniously he creates them, the more he is likely to be praised by the public and the critics. Why should that be?

My answer would be this: Namely, that by telling skillful lies -- which is to say, by making up fictions that appear to be true -- the novelist can bring a truth out to a new location and shine a new light on it. In most cases, it is virtually impossible to grasp a truth in its original form and depict it accurately. This is why we try to grab its tail by luring the truth from its hiding place, transferring it to a fictional location, and replacing it with a fictional form. In order to accomplish this, however, we first have to clarify where the truth lies within us. This is an important qualification for making up good lies.

Today, however, I have no intention of lying. I will try to be as honest as I can. There are a few days in the year when I do not engage in telling lies, and today happens to be one of them.

So let me tell you the truth. In Japan a fair number of people advised me not to come here to accept the Jerusalem Prize. Some even warned me they would instigate a boycott of my books if I came. The reason for this, of course, was the fierce battle that was raging in Gaza. The U.N. reported that more than a thousand people had lost their lives in the blockaded Gaza City, many of them unarmed citizens -- children and old people. 

Any number of times after receiving notice of the award, I asked myself whether traveling to Israel at a time like this and accepting a literary prize was the proper thing to do, whether this would create the impression that I supported one side in the conflict, that I endorsed the policies of a nation that chose to unleash its overwhelming military power. This is an impression, of course, that I would not wish to give. I do not approve of any war, and I do not support any nation. Neither, of course, do I wish to see my books subjected to a boycott.

Finally, however, after careful consideration, I made up my mind to come here. One reason for my decision was that all too many people advised me not to do it. Perhaps, like many other novelists, I tend to do the exact opposite of what I am told. If people are telling me -- and especially if they are warning me -- "Don't go there," "Don't do that," I tend to want to "go there" and "do that." It's in my nature, you might say, as a novelist. Novelists are a special breed. They cannot genuinely trust anything they have not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands.

And that is why I am here. I chose to come here rather than stay away. I chose to see for myself rather than not to see. I chose to speak to you rather than to say nothing.

Please do allow me to deliver one very personal message. It is something that I always keep in mind while I am writing fiction. I have never gone so far as to write it on a piece of paper and paste it to the wall: rather, it is carved into the wall of my mind, and it goes something like this:

"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg."

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: it is "the System." The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others -- coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on the System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories -- stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.

My father died last year at the age of 90. He was a retired teacher and a part-time Buddhist priest. When he was in graduate school, he was drafted into the army and sent to fight in China. As a child born after the war, I used to see him every morning before breakfast offering up long, deeply felt prayers at the Buddhist altar in our house. One time I asked him why he did this, and he told me he was praying for the people who had died in the battlefield. He was praying for all the people who died, he said, both ally and enemy alike. Staring at his back as he knelt at the altar, I seemed to feel the shadow of death hovering around him.

My father died, and with him he took his memories, memories that I can never know. But the presence of death that lurked about him remains in my own memory. It is one of the few things I carry on from him, and one of the most important.

I have only one thing I hope to convey to you today. We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called the System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong -- and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others' souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow the System to exploit us. We must not allow the System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made the System. That is all I have to say to you.

-- By Haruki Murakami

sent to me in an email in January 2009 upon his acceptance speech to the Jerusalem Prize. Possible source here.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The NY times reported yesterday that China has stepped up security forces in several Tibetan cities. Most Tibetans world-wide are boycotting Losar, the traditional Tibetan New Year, to mark the occasion.

On this Sunday's radio show for Write Action at [107.7 FM] radio I will be featuring Tibetan poetry and song reading from such contemporary poets as Woeser, Tsering Wangmo Dhompo, Tenzin Tsundue and others. Some attention & homage will be paid to traditional poets from the past.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Primo Pensiero Book Signing in Chicago, 2.13.09

Booksigning of PRIMO PENSIERO at the Chicago AWP Conference in the BookfaIr, booth 454 on Friday, February 13, 2009, 4:30 PM.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Year of the Earth Ox

Earth Ox Year

Hail, to the herd instinct moving us
in unison through winter's thick and thin
over razors edge between this or that crest.
One-pointed focus tames brute force
of cloven hoofs to the grindstone, heads
bowed intently with nostrils flared—
our horns poised to strike the bullwork of obstacles
shored up against realization or imagined enemies.
For, we are the earth-movers,
who graze with ease among sticks and stones
where nothing grows
except a sweet determination
to succeed!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On the Air

Check out the Brattleboro Reformer front page article "On the Air" about the Write Action radio hour.