From the Mad Mind

of Anthony Watkins

Honoring the Dead

This month, we had a poet/creative person/artist, Stephen Mead, send us an image with some copy of a write up by another publication regarding his work. The subject line on his email was: Heather Heyer Memorial Tribute piece.

My first thought was, "Oh No!" I thought it was going to be a sappy poem, but it turns out the image is just that, an image. So we did what we sometimes do, here at the weathered old offices of Better than Starbucks, we held a round table. fortunately, or unfortunately, our round table is about 7,000 miles across, as we have an editor sitting in Pakistan, another in Zimbabwe, and the rest of us are scattered from Palm Beach County Florida to the Treasure Coast and up to New Jersey and then on into Canada. Virtual round tables are handy that way...

After a bit of back and forth, we decided we were not interested in diverting our focus from poetry and art. Yes, everything is really politics, and politics are really everything, but there is a difference between people writing about issues and people becoming a mouthpiece for one political party of another.

In a seemingly unrelated matter, Vera reminded me that I had intended to publish a piece of free verse poetry by a poet who is rather famous for his formal poetry. In fact, we ave featured him on our cover as an interview subject a few months back. So you will see it as one of the two featured poems on the front page. It turns out, his poem is very political, too. It also turns out, it is a bit of a memorial to those who died fighting the same crowd Heather died fighting.

Nazis. 

The thing is, until a few months ago, Nazis were really considered a political issue. In America, and most of the West, (I don't know enough about other parts of the world to include them) Nazis are a settled issue. They are bad. They may or may not have the right to free speech, depending on what country they are in, but their message of hate and murder and genocide is not really considered a "matter on which reasonable people of good faith can disagree."

Somehow, and I will not go to how that somehow  has come to be, in the last few years, and especially in the last few months, there are those who have given these really evil people equal standing with those who fight against them. 

There are even those who attack people like Heather as being "just as bad." I am not interested in poems that rail against these evils. There are places for that, though I don't frequent the kinds of publications that tend to publish those sort of poems. Even when I agree with a poem's message, I find I appreciate the poem better, if it, as Emily Dickinson famously told us, "Tell all the truth but tell it slant."

So we hope you enjoy Michael Burch's remembrance, as well as Stephen Mead's. We are not a publication to honor the dead, but sometimes honoring the dead is just the right thing to do.

Heather Heyer Memorial

Heather Heyer Memorial Image

If you would like to read the piece that Stephen wrote to go with this image collage, you can find it here.

And, of course, you can also read the Burch poem on our front page, here. 

Publisher's Poem

After last month, I realized I enjoyed sharing where my mind is, not only on other and "bigger" issues, but also on where I am in poetry. I have been struggling for the past four years to sort out how "academic" my poetry should be, and how much of the "outsider" that I have been for the last 50 years I need to hold on to. So this may become a reccurring, if not regular feature.

I doubt anyone will ever confuse my work with William Carlos Williams, Frank O'Hara, Cid Corman, John Cage or Gertrude Stein. If for no other reason, the talent is probably never going to be close. But given that caveat, I still think I have some talent, and I don't want to chuck it out chasing them, nor do I want to fail to learn from these and other talented poets and teachers whatever I might to improve my craft.

Below is a poem I wrote this month. It reflects a lot of what I am learning. In fact, it is something I once would have never done. It is "stolen" or inspired by a series of more or less random words in the William Carlos Williams autobiography. But beyond the method and subject matter, I have taken to what I understand is called "concision." That is: removing as much from a poem as you can while still trying to communicate the idea you have in mind.

So, if you please consider the "long and the short of it." If you are so inclined, I would love some feedback.

 

There was a Hospital

 

It sat out on the grasslands

low and long, a wing to each side

doctors and staff at leisurely pace

 

Not the stinking butchers

we have here who chop off

pieces for a dollar or two

 

kind chunky matrons

and a couple of old doctors

younger than me now,

 

but old then,

with kind hands

that smelled of tobacco.

 

Each room opened onto a field

almost pastureland

only missing cows

 

I didn’t get well there

nor do I improve here

in the city with the butchers

 

but illness had

a peace about it.

 

Let me die in the city on the grasslands.

 

There was a Hospital

 

On the grasslands

low long wing each side

doctors, staff, leisurely pace

 

stinking butchers

here, chop off

pieces for a dollar

 

kind chunky matrons

old doctors, younger now,

but old then, kind tobacco hands.

 

Rooms opened to fields

pastureland minus cows

 

I didn’t get well there

nor here with butchers

but illness had peace.

 

Let me die: city on grasslands.