Canada is cool. Like Fonzie.

You know what the funniest thing about Canada is? It’s the little differences. Wonderful place it is, the message could not be clearer: if you want unsweetened ice tea at any store or restaurant, fast food or fancy, you can drink lemonade-sweetened Nestea or fuck right off you wimp.

Given that it’s a British Commonwealth, or something, I’d thought Canada would have more sensitivity to the variations of tea people like to drink.

Basilique Notre-Dame De Montréal on Canada Day en route to the fireworks show at Old Port.

Breezed through with only part of a day in Toronto and two days in Montréal. In French-speaking Québec I fought the instinct to gush out my halting high school French freshman year skills. Kept the clumsily composed phrases to myself, sometimes whispering them when the moment passed. Did break out a few “Merci” without shame. Increased resolve to some day get to France and of course apologize to all around for George W. Bush-era and now Trump-era buffoonery done by Republicans des états-unis.

I unknowingly scheduled us to arrive in Montréal on Canada Day (July 1). I got to the Old Port where a 10 p.m. fireworks display was the crescendo to a day-long event. The city was active, weather great, and a lot of human activity.

I missed the first minute of fireworks as I was still walking down a street to get within sight. The music was not the national anthem of “Oh, Canada”. It was the main music theme to the “Lord of the Rings”. Then after about 10-12 minutes of medium trajectory fireworks, the show was over. Disney-trained me expected spectacle, grandeur, patriotism, boasting, expense! Fireworks in shapes! Hearts! Mickey Mouse heads! Fireworks bursting inside other fireworks then becoming another kind of fireworks!

Instead it was a modest “Here are your fireworks. Got ‘em? Good. Now let’s all go home. The police are working late and most of you probably have got work tomorrow. It’s Monday night.”

Others leisurely and pleasantly walking back didn’t seem to be as bewildered and underwhelmed as I was. Then I started laughing and I’m still chuckling on & off about it now.

(Below: “Autoportrait” (2016) by Yannick Pouliot. A two-way mirror. [Right] Your narrator. My daughter and I marveled at this exchanging places. [Left] Daughter sits to rest as I stand on the other side.)

Within the first few minutes of watching Canada television, my daughter remarked during a commercial break for a local show & tell programm(e) that most every element seemed to not yell or want to rattle the t.v. in the way that we were used to. Typically that’s attributed to a Canadian trait/stereotype of modesty (“Sorry”). But Canada has national healthcare. The U.S. does not. Canada seems better in attending to general well-being. Increasingly I don’t think the tone is attributed to modesty so much as we in the U.S. are accustomed to feeling so on edge, working to exhaustion, aware that a major health event could bankrupt us and put us on the street, that we need to get screamed at to get our attention. Stress and worry has made us collectively dumber and more selfish and unable to identify our true sources of stress. Our media often whips us up then directs us to the wrong causes for why life/society isn’t working for us like it could. In the wealthiest nation in human history.

As we wrapped up watching the “Good Omens” series finale (fun - ups & downs - but fun!), Room Service (ehm, I mean “Service Aux Chambre”) knocked on our door tonight and accidentally gave us extra sheets and blankets. So our teens made a pillow & blanket shelter.

Le Forte du Portland Famillie en Montréal, Québec.

Yes, we had poutine in Montréal. Two different kinds. La Banquise seves 30 different kinds and is open 24 hours a day. Charming place, tasty. Back to the States tomorrow!

"My Mother" by Frieda Hughes, a daughter's love & fury

"[My mother] wasted nothing of what she felt" — Frieda Hughes, daughter of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

I'm reading Ariel: The Restored Edition by Sylvia Plath. Published in 2004, it presents the full set of poems that Sylvia Plath intended for her collection Ariel. Initially, Sylvia Plath's widower, poet Ted Hughes, had removed 12 poems from Ariel when published in 1965, two years after Plath's suicide, mostly because they were directed at particular family members and friends that would have been hurtful. He selected 12 other poems and an introduction by poet Robert Lowell. The Restored Edition removes the 12 Ted Hughes added and restores the 12 Plath left in a black notebook with her manuscript.

This book has a facsimile of her manuscript with several edits by Plath. It's interesting to look at her notations and process.

Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath

Some people who project themselves into Sylvia Plath's poetry and biography have long viewed Hughes as a misogynistic villain looking to suppress his gifted wife. Frieda Hughes, one of Plath & Hughes' daughters, defends her father throughout the Forward:

In considering Ariel for publication my father had faced a dilemma. He was well aware of the extreme ferocity with which some of my mother's poems dismembered those close to her — her husband, her mother, her father, and my father's uncle Walter, even neighbors and acquaintances. He wished to give the book a broader perspective in order to make it more acceptable to readers, rather than alienate them. He felt that some of the nineteen late poems, written after the manuscript was completed, should be represented. "I simply wanted to make the best book I could," he told me.

All of the poems Ted Hughes removed showed up in Plath's Collected Poems, published in 1981 and edited by Ted Hughes. In that book, Ted Hughes listed the original poems in Ariel that Plath had left in her manuscript.

My father had a profound respect for my mother's work in spite of being one of the subjects of its fury. For him the work was the thing, and he saw the care of it as a means of tribute and a responsibility.

Frieda Hughes then becomes devastating toward family interlopers. It took me a long time to read Sylvia Plath because oa cult of possession and preciousness got in the way of my ability to value the work (and I struggle with poetry anyway — and, okay, this silly-ass reason, too). But this section provided a direct connection where she sums up people who attack her father and reshape her mentally imbalanced and astonishingly talented mother into a golem:

But the point of anguish at which my mother killed herself was taken over by strangers, possessed and reshaped by them. The collection of Ariel poems became symbolic to me of this possession of my mother and of the wider vilification of my father. It was as if the clay from her poetic energy was taken up and versions of my mother made out of it, invented to reflect only the inventors, as if they could possess my real, actual mother

The Forward is fascinating. With thought and care it fans away the fog of melodrama. It tethered me from a person still living to passionate, caring, flawed people. On the role of her father, Frieda Hughes sums up:

When she died leaving Ariel as her last book, she was caught in the act of revenge, in a voice that had been honed and practiced for years, latterly with the help of my father. Though he became a victim of it, ultimately he did not shy away from its mastery.

Frieda Hughes, a painter and a writer with several volumes, maintains that she did not read either parent's poetry until she was 35, save for a few instances where her father read children's verse to her or played recordings. She wanted to establish her own identity away from her parents' work. Intellectually, avoiding your famous parents' poems is possible. When they came up as a subject of study, Frieda says she was able to develop another course of study with her tutors. Bad marks would be devastating, good marks would lead to her being thought as having an advantage. Though, Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence howls at this claim at decades-long avoidance. Frieda Hughes in a speech also describes holding her mother's books in bookstores, presumably without opening them, thinking of what if her mother had lived, and setting the books down and leaving.

Frieda Hughes wrote the furious poem "My Mother" on the verge of the movie Sylvia, a BBC production starring Gwyneth Paltrow released in 2003. Frieda Hughes, her mother's literary executor after the death of her father in 1998, denied the use of her mother's poetry in the film. Biography can add color to art, but there's a balance to be struck between sublime absorption and ghoulishness.

MY MOTHER

by Frieda Hughes

They are killing her again.
She said she did it
One year in every ten,
But they do it annually, or weekly,
Some even do it daily,
Carrying her death around in their heads
And practising it. She saves them
The trouble of their own;
They can die through her
Without ever making
The decision. My buried mother
Is up-dug for repeat performances.

Now they want to make a film
For anyone lacking the ability
To imagine the body, head in oven,
Orphaning children. Then
It can be rewound
So they can watch her die
Right from the beginning again.

The peanut eaters, entertained
At my mother’s death, will go home,
Each carrying their memory of her,
Lifeless – a souvenir.
Maybe they’ll buy the video.

Watching someone on TV
Means all they have to do
Is press ‘pause’
If they want to boil a kettle,
While my mother holds her breath on screen
To finish dying after tea.
The filmmakers have collected
The body parts,
They want me to see.
They require dressings to cover the joins
And disguise the prosthetics
In their remake of my mother.
They want to use her poetry
As stitching and sutures
To give it credibility.
They think I should love it –
Having her back again, they think
I should give them my mother’s words
To fill the mouth of their monster,
Their Sylvia Suicide Doll,
Who will walk and talk
And die at will,
And die, and die
And forever be dying.

Published in The Stonepicker and The Book of Mirrors

My daemon and "Frenzy" by Anne Sexton

Attended my first-ever writers/writing program/writing faculty/editors/agents/publishers/booksellers conference a few days ago. One among the 14,000 or so people attending the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference March 27-30. An impressive, wide-ranging, energizing event. And a few days before I found that this national event was right down the street this year in my home city of Portland, Oregon. Even though I’m not superstitious, I know a sign when I see one.

Anne Sexton

I mostly took sessions on the nature of the business of writing and the structure of the industry. Afterward I even more motivated to pursue this interest. Wish I found the conference 15 years ago, but glad to have found it now.

The ideas in my book are important and urgent to me, and funny. But trying to extract/wash/craft an exquisite silver filigree design from out of the mud I’ve glopped around it remains a challenge. Do the words from my head performs as I’d like when they run through another person’s head?

Trying to balance my free time between continuing to revise the complete manuscript, seeking agents, and continuing to tinker with a writer’s platform. With all that in mind, for National Poetry Month I’ve got “Frenzy” by Anne Sexton in mind, a poem about the creative process.

And oh, I know it’s not all a silver filigree in there. There are silver daggers in there, too.

Frenzy
by Anne Sexton

I am not lazy
I am on the amphetamine of the soul.
I am, each day,
typing out the God
my typewriter believes in.
Very quick. Very intense,
like a wolf at a live heart.
Not lazy.
When a lazy man, they say,
looks toward heaven,
the angels close the windows.

Click the image for more on National Poetry Month

Click the image for more on National Poetry Month

Oh, angels,
keep the windows open
so that I may reach in
and steal each object,
objects that tell me the sea is not dying,
objects that tell me the dirt has a life-wish,
that the Christ who walked for me,
walked on true ground
and that this frenzy,
like bees stinging the heart all morning,
will keep the angels
with their windows open,
wide as an English bathtub.

Posting "Zeus" via Wattpad. Check it out!

I'm dabbling with Wattpad as a method for posting my novel and joining a community of readers and writers. New territory for me. I seek advice! Link to my profile: DerekDenton

I also designed a cover from scratch. Modifying existing paintings or sculptures of Zeus is, like, RIGHT THERE as an idea but since I don't own the copyright to those artworks I decided to play with colors and typefaces and a simple design that I would clearly own. That cover design is in this post.

Have you used Wattpad before? It's vast and active, but looks like a good way to interact with comments and sharing posts. Let me know if you have pointers.

Zeus: The Autobiography - Intro & Chapter 1

READ THE INTRO & CHAPTER ONE

My novel Zeus: The Autobiography combines mythology and parody of celebrity autobiography. What if a major deity decided to dictate the details of his life, especially the more sensational elements, to a modern-day scribe?

The story starts with the beginning of existence, the formation of the earth and its mating with the sky in a celestial love scene. Then the creation of the Titans and monsters, then of the Olympian gods including Zeus. How they battled for power, established rule, created mortals, family issues, and breeding with immortal spouses and other immortals and mortals on the side. Then various heroes come into play, the Trojan War, Greek history, Roman history, and the emergence of Christianity. I could not bring myself to overtly bring Zeus into modern times, with him, say, being startled by microwave ovens, video billboards, or the internet. But sly commentary on modern topics is woven throughout the work.

I'm posting the first chapter of this 19-chapter novel to get your feedback. Following chapters get chattier and funnier and dirtier and more provocative. READ THE INTRO & CHAPTER ONE and let me know: Do you like it? Do you want to read more?

If you know me, message me. Otherwise please leave a comment on this site and share this post out with others. I want to spark conversations.

"An Ordinary Evening in New Haven" by Wallace Stevens

First post in many months, but suitably about poetry and imagination for National Poetry Month (April). A section from a long form work by Wallace Stevens. I've got a rough draft finished to a 18 or 19 chapter novel project long simmering (sometimes left on the stove for months) and am currently going through hundreds of pages of notes and adding that clay to the 18 or 19 linear piles of clay to start from the start and shape the first chapter then produce a draft ready to shop around.

Excerpt from "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven"
by Wallace Stevens

XII

The poem is the cry of its occasion,
Part of the res itself and not about it.
The poet speaks the poem as it is,

Not as it was: part of the reverberation
Of a windy night as it is, when the marble statues
Are like newspapers blown by the wind. He speaks

By sight and insight as they are. There is no
Tomorrow for him. The wind will have passed by,
The statues will have gone back to be things about.

The mobile and immobile flickering
In the area between is and was are leaves,
Leaves burnished in autumnal burnished trees

And leaves in whirlings in the gutters, whirlings
Around and away, resembling the presence of thought
Resembling the presences of thoughts, as if,

In the end, in the whole psychology, the self,
the town, the weather, in a casual litter,
Together, said words of the world are the life of the world.

W.H. Auden's Dirty "The Platonic Blow" Job

W.H. Auden wrote this poem about fellatio, foreplay, rimming in 1948, but denied authorship when it first came into public light in 1965, then admitted authorship to a magazine in 1968. It is dirty and often funny, describing a sex exchange between two men.

Let us imagine Auden composing this - journal book scribbled on as it rests and wobbles on a young man's head. Or maybe the journal book is set open on the bed, as Auden performs this, that, or the other thing and pauses from time to time to jot a note.

Does anyone else detect boasting in the poem? Would any rapper care to take on this braggadocio and turn this into a 10 or 11 minute rap epic?

The Platonic Blow
W. H. Auden

It was a spring day, a day for a lay, when the air
Smelled like a locker-room, a day to blow or get blown;
Returning from lunch I turned my corner and there
On a near-by stoop I saw him standing alone.

I glanced as I advanced. The clean white T-shirt outlined
A forceful torso, the light-blue denims divulged
Much. I observed the snug curves where they hugged the behind,
I watched the crotch where the cloth intriguingly bulged.

Our eyes met. I felt sick. My knees turned weak.
I couldn't move. I didn't know what to say.
In a blur I heard words, myself like a stranger speak
"Will you come to my room?" Then a husky voice, "O.K."

I produced some beer and we talked. Like a little boy
He told me his story. Present address: next door.
Half Polish, half Irish. The youngest. From Illinois.
Profession: mechanic. Name: Bud. Age: twenty-four.

He put down his glass and stretched his bare arms along
The back of my sofa. The afternoon sunlight struck
The blond hairs on the wrist near my head. His chin was strong.
His mouth sucky. I could hardly believe my luck.

And here he was sitting beside me, legs apart.
I could bear it no longer. I touched the inside of his thigh.
His reply was to move closer. I trembled, my heart
Thumped and jumped as my fingers went to his fly.

I opened a gap in the flap. I went in there.
I sought for a slit in the gripper shorts that had charge
Of the basket I asked for. I came to warm flesh then to hair.
I went on. I found what I hoped. I groped. It was large.

He responded to my fondling in a charming, disarming way:
Without a word he unbuckled his belt while I felt.
And lolled back, stretching his legs. His pants fell away.
Carefully drawing it out, I beheld what I held.

The circumcised head was a work of mastercraft
With perfectly beveled rim of unusual weight
And the friendliest red. Even relaxed, the shaft
Was of noble dimensions with the wrinkles that indicate

Singular powers of extension. For a second or two,
It lay there inert, then suddenly stirred in my hand,
Then paused as if frightened or doubtful of what to do.
And then with a violent jerk began to expand.

By soundless bounds it extended and distended, by quick
Great leaps it rose, it flushed, it rushed to its full size.
Nearly nine inches long and three inches thick,
A royal column, ineffably solemn and wise.

I tested its length and strength with a manual squeeze.
I bunched my fingers and twirled them about the knob.
I stroked it from top to bottom. I got on my knees.
I lowered my head. I opened my mouth for the job.

But he pushed me gently away. He bent down. He unlaced
His shoes. He removed his socks. Stood up. Shed
His pants altogether. Muscles in arms and waist
Rippled as he whipped his T-shirt over his head.

I scanned his tan, enjoyed the contrast of brown
Trunk against white shorts taut around small
Hips. With a dig and a wriggle he peeled them down.
I tore off my clothes. He faced me, smiling. I saw all.

The gorgeous organ stood stiffly and straightly out
With a slight flare upwards. At each beat of his heart it threw
An odd little nod my way. From the slot of the spout
Exuded a drop of transparent viscous goo.

The lair of hair was fair, the grove of a young man,
A tangle of curls and whorls, luxuriant but couth.
Except for a spur of golden hairs that fan
To the neat navel, the rest of the belly was smooth.

Well hung, slung from the fork of the muscular legs,
The firm vase of his sperm, like a bulging pear,
Cradling its handsome glands, two herculean eggs,
Swung as he came towards me, shameless, bare.

We aligned mouths. We entwined. All act was clutch,
All fact contact, the attack and the interlock
Of tongues, the charms of arms. I shook at the touch
Of his fresh flesh, I rocked at the shock of his cock.

Straddling my legs a little I inserted his divine
Person between and closed on it tight as I could.
The upright warmth of his belly lay all along mine.
Nude, glued together for a minute, we stood.

I stroked the lobes of his ears, the back of his head
And the broad shoulders. I took bold hold of the compact
Globes of his bottom. We tottered. He fell on the bed.
Lips parted, eyes closed, he lay there, ripe for the act.

Mad to be had, to be felt and smelled. My lips
Explored the adorable masculine tits. My eyes
Assessed the chest. I caressed the athletic hips
And the slim limbs. I approved the grooves of the thighs.

I hugged, I snuggled into an armpit. I sniffed
The subtle whiff of its tuft. I lapped up the taste
Of its hot hollow. My fingers began to drift
On a trek of inspection, a leisurely tour of the waist.

Downward in narrowing circles they playfully strayed.
Encroached on his privates like poachers, approached the prick,
But teasingly swerved, retreated from meeting. It betrayed
Its pleading need by a pretty imploring kick.

"Shall I rim you?" I whispered. He shifted his limbs in assent.
Turned on his side and opened his legs, let me pass
To the dark parts behind. I kissed as I went
The great thick cord that ran back from his balls to his arse.

Prying the buttocks aside, I nosed my way in
Down the shaggy slopes. I came to the puckered goal.
It was quick to my licking. He pressed his crotch to my chin.
His thighs squirmed as my tongue wormed in his hole.

His sensations yearned for consummation. He untucked
His legs and lay panting, hot as a teen-age boy.
Naked, enlarged, charged, aching to get sucked,
Clawing the sheet, all his pores open to joy.

I inspected his erection. I surveyed his parts with a stare
From scrotum level. Sighting along the underside
Of his cock, I looked through the forest of pubic hair
To the range of the chest beyond rising lofty and wide.

I admired the texture, the delicate wrinkles and the neat
Sutures of the capacious bag. I adored the grace
Of the male genitalia. I raised the delicious meat
Up to my mouth, brought the face of its hard-on to my face.

Slipping my lips round the Byzantine dome of the head,
With the tip of my tongue I caressed the sensitive groove.
He thrilled to the trill. "That's lovely!" he hoarsely said.
"Go on! Go on!" Very slowly I started to move.

Gently, intently, I slid to the massive base
Of his tower of power, paused there a moment down
In the warm moist thicket, then began to retrace
Inch by inch the smooth way to the throbbing crown.

Indwelling excitements swelled at delights to come
As I descended and ascended those thick distended walls.
I grasped his root between left forefinger and thumb
And with my right hand tickled his heavy voluminous balls.

I plunged with a rhythmical lunge steady and slow,
And at every stroke made a corkscrew roll with my tongue.
His soul reeled in the feeling. He whimpered "Oh!"
As I tongued and squeezed and rolled and tickled and swung.

Then I pressed on the spot where the groin is joined to the cock,
Slipped a finger into his arse and massaged him from inside.
The secret sluices of his juices began to unlock.
He melted into what he felt. "O Jesus!" he cried.

Waves of immeasurable pleasures mounted his member in quick
Spasms. I lay still in the notch of his crotch inhaling his sweat.
His ring convulsed round my finger. Into me, rich and thick,
His hot spunk spouted in gouts, spurted in jet after jet.

Thank u, Prince

Prince often came across as a kook, but mostly he worked and played and danced his ass off to help people get their heads straight.

When a contemporary artist dies, if we have carried that person's work along a span of our lives our reaction to that death is interwoven with our personal memories. The truncation of the artist's life cuts a hashmark into the branch of our own life. No new art will accompany our life as if the artist continues to compose with us in mind. There is past art to be reviewed, and perhaps art to be uncovered despite what may be the artist's intent to keep it hidden. But the living conversation with the artist stops. We engage the artist as a ghost, or pretend the ghost is there as we converse indirectly with ourselves.

1983 was a miracle year for me. Somehow, at the age of 14, I shifted from listening to Abba (dorky, but wonderfully crafted) and Air Supply (dorky, flat-out, though I try to make a case they are darker than you think) to Prince and The Police. As a pimply, gangly, 14 year-old with braces - being cool or, really, having any idea what the heck was going on anywhere remained far down the road. As a white kid in Eugene, Oregon chances I would be exposed to anything non-white or sophisticated were dim. I had a faint sense of Prince beforehand, mostly from an album cover that made him look like a Breck girl with a mustache.

Breck Girl (left), Breck Boy (right)

Breck Girl (left), Breck Boy (right)

I had heard the song "1999" and liked it. Then I saw the video and, well, rather than make 14 year-old-me seem more eloquent, my reaction was essentially: "What is going on? This is crazy! I think I like this. A lot." I got the album after latching on to "Little Red Corvette" and determining well, whatever this dude was doing, he did it two songs in a row and it was awesome and I should check it out more songs.

Prince 1999 - Record One, Side 1: "1999", "Little Red Corvette", "Delirious"

1999 was double album. Four sides of vinyl. His eye at the center of the platter where the spindle went. Music that was exuberant, horny, deep, wrenching, playful about lust and Armageddon and psychological complexes and visions of a better unified world that could come together even if it doesn't happen until the world's ending. I recorded the album onto a cassette tape, then listened to it over and over on my Walkman knock-off many nights when I should have been asleep. Soaked it in.

Then went backwards into his work and liked his albums Prince and For You, but really absorbed Dirty Mind and Controversy almost as deeply as 1999.

Conformity was oppressive in the 1980s. The Reagan presidency was both a product of it and fostered it. The nation was moony-eyed over the illusion that the 1950s was a great time. Not a good time to be a minority. Not a good time to be homosexual. In the 1980s tens of thousands of people were dying from AIDS in the U.S. as the President remained silent. His braintrust and allies sniggered behind the scenes, and sometimes in front of cameras and microphones, about the "gay cancer" as something the victims deserved.

Prince's strangeness, "Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?" in the realm of his music and performances all came across as entirely normal. That realm was a better place to be.

Prince, Bryant Junior High B-Ball Team

There were scarcely any black people in Eugene. Gender lines generally were strongly marked and never broken openly. Yet here was this person in a confident mid-point. Mixed-race, if that phrase has much meaning. A short guy who played junior high and high school basketball. A man dressed in bikini briefs, high heels, eyeliner, in touch with his feminine side and primped to within an inch of his life, yet one of the most masculine forces ever to take the stage. Like a tornado or hurricane. He seemed to say: "You know nothing, kid. But that's okay. Be yourself. Let others be themselves. Let's all mingle, we're all we've got, and let's all be funky."

Taking in all of his music up to 1999 primed me for Purple Rain in 1984. I got the album right away. And... the movie that came out in July 1984...?

I was stuck in Boise that summer, and at age 15 had no ride to a movie theater who could accompany me to a rated-R movie. I didn't see the movie until EARLY SEPTEMBER. The world had moved on by then, and I was a huge fan struggling to catch up in an almost empty theater. My frustration remains palpable to this day. Though feeling sly about getting into a rated-R movie alone gave some solace.

The movie was exciting, but clearly bags full of dumb that even I could detect at 15. However, it was electric that the world was catching on to Prince. Roger Ebert listed Purple Rain among his top 10 films for that year. When it came out on VHS, I bought a copy at my beloved Earth River Records in Eugene and watched it over and over. Especially during two following summers in Boise. I kept count and viewed Purple Rain over 50 times. I had no illusions about it being a great film, or even a good one beyond the performance sequences, but I was fond of it and absorbed it with adolescent intensity. It takes little to trigger my memory and start reciting minutes of dialog.

Yesterday, driving in rush hour the day of Prince's death, I recalled that once when my house was empty of family as a teen I put a black light bulb in a lamp in the living room, turned off all other lights, and danced & pantomimed to the entire "Purple Rain" album. I might have been in a t-shirt and shorts. More likely it was just in tighty whities (we lived in the country so passers-by were unlikely). I smiled in modern-day rush hour at this nerdiness. Then I realized this was probably at some point after I had started dating, against the odds and perhaps in defiance of Nature, one of the coolest girls in the high school. That I did this after having at least gotten to third base, possibly all the way around the bases, made it even funnier and I started laughing out loud. Skinny kid in white briefs, miraculously a player.

I stuck with the following zillion albums devotedly. Around the World in a Day, Under the Cherry Moon (and its esoteric and weirdly charming movie), Sign o' the Times, The Black Album (unreleased for years, snatched a bootleg), Lovesexy, Batman, Graffiti Bridge, Diamonds and Pearls, O(+>, Come. His side projects and protegees as soon as I heard of them. Of course, the fun Jill Jones album. Yes, I can also defend Carmen Electra's album. Apollonia had charm, but didn't her thin singing sound like she was yawning all the time?

In 1988 (or was it 1990?) at a summer camp job at a college campus, I was a dorm counselor who was also the camp dance disk jockey. In a dormitory loading dock (Carson Hall) on the concrete upper deck that I had to myself I did a rehearsed dance to "Alphabet St.". White billowy shirt. Tight black pants. Even did a hurdler's stretch split on the ground and bounced back up. It was fun. The kids really liked it, as they often liked seeing grown-ups let down their guard. I think fellow staff liked it. I know that I loved it, got lost in the song and let Dionysus take over with an abandon I have rarely allowed since.

I would not hazard a split like that again, but I do practice the other moves in private from time to time. Don't ask me, though, I'll probably blush.

As adulthood waxed, music became a less intense experience for a while. But I bought all the albums. Crystal Ball (a lot of past material from his vault), Emancipation, and The Rainbow Children remain favorites. 3121 and Musicology also stood out as albums I enjoyed but didn't absorb, though I couldn't tell definitively how much of this period was Prince phoning it in (he seemed to be conveying songs, not being within the song) or my not being as enthusiastic for music. Probably a little of both.

But Prince remained productive, even if his agon was not as strong, music was his essence.

The last couple of years were great ones for Prince. His heart was back into his music, and he was having fun and continued to challenge the forces of power. Art Official Age was playful. His 3rdEyeGirl project with three female musician partners was a blast. Hit 'n' Run Phase One and Phase Two had great spirit and social conscience. His song "Baltimore" last year to take on the beating death of Freddie Gray is among Prince's many career highlights. The energy behind it is strong.

His messiah moods irked me. Former bandmates are chock full of stories about him conferring blessings, pretending to have a pathway to higher existence he could confer to others. That he became a Jehovah's Witness was dorkily inevitable. But while listening to his music the day of his death, I realized that even his desire to be a conduit to magical experiences was driven to make things better for people. He wasn't trying to trick anyone for his material gain or terrestrial power as we see in so many others.

His songs on erotic matters were almost fully an interplay of equals. Perform for me, I'll perform for you. I like your mind, but let's not talk right now. Okay, I'll shut up, too, so you can do your thing to me.

After typing the last few sentences it may be fun to take one of his lust paeans and neuter it by translating the lyrics to be square:

Act ur age mama, not ur shoe size and maybe we can do the twirl.
U don't have 2 watch Dynasty 2 have an attitude.
Just leave it all up 2 me. My love will be, will be ur fool.
- "Kiss"
Behave at a level appropriate to your chronological attainment to assist our erotic compatibility.
To develop a sense of stylish self-possession does not require study of tony pop culture touchstones.
Delegate the burden to me, and I will engage you with respectful humility.

And, as autonomous as he was and often playing most or all of the instruments and many of his albums, he was a collaborator. He liked to share music, he liked cultivating other artists, and took joy in making music happen and fostering happiness.

Skimming over his 700+ songs of his that I have (all the studio albums, all the officially released live recordings, many Napster-era live bootlegs), it strikes me that Prince never mastered how to incorporate rap into his music. He tried as himself. He tried through male rappers. But tellingly he got the best flows from women. Two examples popped up while shuffle playing his tracks over the last day. Sheila E. in "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" and Cat Glover in the album cut of "Alphabet St." Of the lyrics encountered in the first day following Prince's death these fun but still sincere lyrics sum up a lot of Prince's ethos:

Talk 2 me lover, come on tell me what u taste. / Didn't ur mama tell u life is 2 good 2 waste? / Did she tell u Lovesexy is the Glam of them all? / U can hang, u can trip on it, u surely won't fall. / No side effects, the feeling lasts 4 ever. / Straight up, it tastes good, it makes feel clever. / U kiss ur enemies like u know u should. / Then u jerk ur body like a Horny Pony would. / U jerk ur body like a Horny Pony would. / Now run and tell ur mama about that!

This bootleg recording of him playing "Superstition" with Stevie Wonder in 2010 shows so much delight in his face as he jams with one of the few humans capable of understanding what it's like to be so talented. That Prince also has his longtime friend Sheila E. onstage to assist is also is a delight. Even an initially disconnected guitar does not dissuade him. The groove is going. He will add to it soon enough. Then he gets there and it's loose and terrific.

Prince has left us many grooves. And the word for decades is that he has a vast vault of already recorded tracks, alternate takes, and other songs. Unless his will legally locks that material up, we will probably be exploring new music from him for years to come. I am down with that.

All those scattered thoughts and words, and I'm still staring at the screen feeling hollowed out. I will miss this talented, prodigious, Muse-driven, caring, mad, skinny, sexy motherfucker. My life would be much poorer without him.

Most everyone does "Jabberwocky" wrong

Like many annoying people, I memorized "Jabberwocky" at a young age and am precious about it. Such as, well, now. Imagine me typing this with a shrewish self-righteous face that looks eminently punchable. Few things send me into a rage so quickly as when someone pronounces "borogoves" as "boro-groves", inserting a second "r". Not news about genocides, insults to those I love, nor essays on how the Star Wars prequels are okay movies.

Rationally, I know the story takes place in a forest and so it's liable to trick minds into thinking of a "grove". However, if a person recites a poem, and gets a word wrong, then stands there like he/she actually got the whole thing right, it's an aesthetic crime. You don't have it memorized. Get the fuck off the stage. Though I have never a read anything he wrote, I have read & listened to many Neil Gaiman interviews and find him charming. But even Gaiman fucks it up:

He messes up on another word, too, but I'll forgive him that. The full poem:

Jabberwocky
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

Kate Burton starred in Alice in Wonderland in a fun production on PBS' Great Performances in the early 1980s that I watched many times as a kid. It features famous (and soon-to-be-famous) actors in sets and costumes drawn from John Tenniel's illustrations. She even has a scene with her father, Richard Burton, who plays the White Knight.

Kate Burton, to her eternal credit, gets "Jabberwocky" right. If you ever catch someone fucking it up, bring this up on your smartphone and play it to the person with your most pointed pointy finger:

Edna St. Vincent Millay “If I should learn, in some quite casual way”

How do you hear poems in your head? In a voice, or as silent words? A variety of women's readings of this poem, from serious to torch song to taunting, lent a lot of fun in a few short minutes.

Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote the following sonnet as part of a larger set, "Renascence" which was written when she was 20 (if I understand her biography) and published when she was 25.

Sonnet V

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,    
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

The reading below is a little thin and more world-weary than how I imagine the poem. A good start for contrast.

I'll link to the torch song version here, but want to make sure you watch the following informal recital below, which I thought was charming. It gets to the playfulness and blitheness the poem brings to my mind. Maybe 1/3 the first reading and 2/3 this reading: