My friend and I were in an elevator and when the door opened we stepped out into his village in Greece. The ground was lush with soft green grass. There was dew on the grass, and a drowsy blue dragonfly on his coat. There was a small gathering of people. They were his friends and relatives, but there were also some strangers present. In halting English, a man greeted me and asked my name. He was in his sixties. His face was broad and weathered by the elements. His hair, what was left of it, was gray. I told him my name. He said, “William. What does that mean. William.” Before I could answer, he started speaking in Greek. Then he wandered off. I was alone. It occurred to me then that I would have to learn Greek. I told myself that it would be easy, if I let it be easy. I said a few words, and when I couldn’t understand them, I smiled, because they seemed to fit in with the conversation I’d heard so far. There was a wall beside me now. A wall without a ceiling. I could hear Greek voices coming from the other side of the wall. My friend was beside me. His eyes were bright with happiness. He needed a shave. It reminded me of my childhood, and touching the stubble on my father’s face. I looked at my palm. I wondered if I should. I did. He closed his eyes. “Brothers,” I said. We were now at the edge of a granite cliff. Dark clouds, patches of blue sky. A man’s shadow on the opposite wall of the canyon. Far below, a river from my youth, an old road beside it, small enough to be a worm in my hand.
No Time to Cut My Hair Author’s Press Series, Vol. 2 ISBN: 978-0-557-20222-5 184 pages. Paper. $12.00 eBook: $4.00
Subjects: Fiction. Short Stories.
This is the second volume in my Author’s Press Series. Copies can be ordered securely online here*. A complete electronic edition — an eBook with front and back cover images — is also available for download here.
*If you’d like to order directly from me for any reason — you’d like a signed copy, you don’t have a credit card or would rather not use one online, etc., — I’d be happy to oblige. Just drop me a line using the email address at the bottom of the page and we’ll go from there. Paypal is an excellent option.
Book Description: Designed and published by William Michaelian, the Author’s Press Series was conceived as a set of relatively inexpensive, uniformly designed titles meant to explore different themes and facets of his writing. The second volume, No Time to Cut My Hair, is an engaging collection of seventy short stories written during a ninety-day period in 2002. While style, length, and subject matter vary, the author, noted for the brevity of his poems and the lyrical force of his prose, demonstrates a keen understanding of the short story form in pieces meant not only to be read, but heard.**
** Have I ever mentioned that I used to work in advertising?
When you have a moment, please read Paul L. Martin’s review of my book, The Painting of You.
Thank you, Paul.
And my thanks to those of you who have ordered the book so far.
I remain grateful for a life so rich that words can lift us up and break our hearts.
My thanks also to James Leese for signing on as follower of Recently Banned Literature. James is an artist/designer “searching out ways of visually describing the beauty of mathematics as a fine art.” You can visit his blog, Steadfast As Thou Art, here.
I’d also like to welcome th£ ba$tard, who insists that “behind all the morals, philosophy, mind wrestling, soul searching and spirit probing, there is a true story.”
And finally, my thanks and a friendly hello to freepangaea4ever.
William Shakespeare, Charles Reade, F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Brothers Grimm, Boris Pasternak
Eight volumes 4,527 pages $14.00
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Recently Linked: My thanks to Bob Arnold for linking to my main website from his blog, A Longhouse Birdhouse. Be sure to visit his bookshop when you’re there. Thanks also to Mt. Wood for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.
Update: In the Forum: a hundred cigars in three days.
In the Forum, another reaction to yesterday’s Birch Scrolls: “Wow. For some reason I see birds & shamans in there; specifically, as I look closer, it’s a shaman dressed in bird-garb, one arm uplifted, feathered wings rising behind him. I’m not sure what he's up to, exactly, whether it’s a healing ritual or what. Actually the shaman is located in some particularly remote region of Siberia. The day is cloudy. There might be some chanting in the background. Really, the whole scene is rather scary.”
Longhouse Publishers ~ Booksellers Bob & Susan Arnold Poetry, First Editions, the Arts Green River, Vermont 2009
The largest Longhouse foldout possible, many sheets of twenty poems selected by Bob Arnold and designed in three color tucked into two varied papers, heavy grassland (shown here) and brown batik. Signed and unsigned wrap around bands. Unsigned $12 / signed $20
Waiting for the Right Time Poems & Prose by John Levy
The Legal Studies Forum Volume XXXII, No. 1 2008
Note: For my review of John Levy’s book, Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs, go here.
Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Vern Myers, of Beaumont Texas, who has signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Vern, an environmentalist and runner, is author of the blog Running Green.
This afternoon, after raking up a mountain of debris from a recent windstorm (sounds almost like I’ve been editing), I discovered this entry about my book, The Painting of You, posted by Chrees in his fine blog, A Common Reader. His thoughts are greatly appreciated, as are the questions they raise.
My brother has been working much too hard. As he speaks, he sways from side to side, like an elephant or a bridge. All at once, his face turns gray. But his eyes are as bright as ever. My mother, young again, brings supper to the table. We sit down. The gray departs from my brother’s face. I can see dry hills through our old kitchen window.
Recently Linked: My thanks to PO Johnson for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. The poet lives in Norway and writes the blog Pumas and Johnson. He also contributes to the newly launched Flowers of Sulfur.
Update: In the Forum: three more photos of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Since I posted my get well card for Brian Salchert a couple of months ago, his sister has been kind enough to keep me informed of his health. While his hip turned out to be not as bad as originally thought, it is not expected that Brian will regain the use of his legs — a condition complicated, apparently, by a blood clot on his spine.
Through it all, Brian had been trying to use a laptop computer someone set up for him, but therapy and other activities left him with little time. Then, late this morning, I received a new message from Jean:
Brian is in the hospital again. This time he has pancreatitis. He needs a lot of prayers.
I think if I were to substitute the word “poems” for “prayers,” Brian would understand.
On my way home. On foot. On the wrong road. A sudden steep climb. Hands and knees. The road ends at the mouth of a cave. Inside the cave, a colorful framed painting on the wall. A button to press — an old brown coat button. The painting slides up. Behind it, a young man leaning over a narrow table. Test tubes. Board games. Dice. He looks up, says, “I will call him.” He goes. Returns, followed by another young man. Both are grinning. I think, “Oh, no, they want to sell me something.” Quickly, I press the button. The painting slides back into place just as they start their song and dance. Literally.
Henry was my great-grandmother Eliza’s husband. I know even less about him than I do about her. Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood — I remember my mother saying the fall from his horse that killed him was no accident.
I wish I’d thought of that title. But of course I have my life, and the man who penned it, the poet John Levy, has his. And from his book’s opening pages, as I nodded in silent approval of poem after poem, I found myself caught up in that warm feeling of newly discovered friendship that defies distance and the ordinary boundaries of the printed page.
John doesn’t write complicated poems; the language he uses is simple, but it’s simple in the way the calm surface of a pond is simple, complexity shimmering and beckoning just beneath:
My poems aren’t really mine. Any more
than a frog owns its croak
or its splash as it dives beneath the green surface.
You see the surface translated into language
ripples. (The frog, invisible, immersed.)
Indeed, poet that he is, he loves words too much to take them merely at face value. Other, more playful, poems also show the deep impression words make on him:
Imagine voting every four years not only to elect a President but also
to add a few more words to what, and how, we think. Who’d campaign for them? I’d wear those
campaign buttons, bringing to mind the title of Gertrude Stein’s book, Tender Buttons. Oh, to
treat words tenderly, try not to forget how much they bestow
their largesse and largeness, and their lovely lovely part
in governing our thoughts.
Levy lives and works as a public defender in Tucson, Arizona. This part of his life is a rich source of poems and a springboard for self-examination, as is time spent with his children and parents, who play a delightfully instructive role in the book. His shortest poems move me most — poems you’d think might have been tossed off in passing, but which belie years of observation destined for glory in a single moment:
almond blossoms in grey dusk appear as if their tree weren’t there
unless asked to who would look under a butterfly in flight for a butterfly shadow
If there were a poem made of only one letter
let it be the V growing behind this white swan
in the blue black water
Cover painting: Leslie Buchanan Book design: Lee Chapman
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Note: This is one of two books I received from John, who kindly sent them my way after receiving a copy of my book, The Painting of You, from our mutual friend, the gifted poet Vassilis Zambaras. I was delighted to learn that John and Vassilis go way back, and that the two spent time together in Greece. This experience and more is the subject of John’s other book, We Don’t Kill Snakes Where We Come From: Two Years in a Greek Village (Querencia Books, 1994), which I hope to start reading soon.
Recently Linked: My thanks to barefoot.navigator for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature.
Update: As the Conversation continues, we finish one page and start another.
On my way home from an errand downtown, I was absorbing the fall colors when I was suddenly struck through by the desire to see the portion of California’s Sierra Nevada foothills that lay just east of where I was born. I’ve taken many a slow drive through those hills, in every season, borne along by silence, thought, and emotion that seemed part of the rocks and dry grass themselves, under skies brooding, empty, and troubled, and at times defined by a single column of smoke or a hawk soaring with outstretched wings. Feeling as I do — as I still do twenty-two years after leaving the San Joaquin Valley and coming to Oregon — it’s little wonder that, on the rare occasions I’m asked about my influences, I begin with the place of my birth and the area around it, rather than any given writer, friend, or relative. And yet I do feel at home here, at least most of the time — and foolish, and rich, and defiant, and happy, and proud, and lonely perhaps most of all. I feel at home wherever I am, especially alone in a crowd, and I dig my graves as I go.
Update: In the Forum: The Silverado Squatters and an old photo of Robert Louis Stevenson.
California Classics The Creative Literature of the Golden State by Lawrence Clark Powell The Ward Ritchie Press Los Angeles (1971)
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Works and authors discussed: Anza’s California Expeditions, by Herbert E. Bolton; The Journey of the Flame, by Walter Nordhoff; Death Valley in ’49, by William L. Manly; The Land of Little Rain, by Mary Austin; The Wonders of the Colorado Desert, by George Wharton James; The Shirley Letters, by Louisa Smith Clapp; The Luck of Roaring Camp, by Bret Harte; Roughing It, by Mark Twain; The Splendid Idle Forties, by Gertrude Atherton; Up and Down California in 1860-64, by William H. Brewer; Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, by Clarence King; The Mountains of California, by John Muir; Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.; The Silverado Squatters, by Robert Louis Stevenson; McTeague, by Frank Norris; Martin Eden, by Jack London; California Coast Trails, by J. Smeaton Chase; Give Your Heart to the Hawks, by Robinson Jeffers; To a God Unknown, by John Steinbeck; California and the West, by Charis and Edward Weston; The Vineyard, by Idwal Jones; The Cattle on a Thousand Hills, by Robert Glass Cleland; Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson; Reminiscences of a Ranger, by Horace Bell; Land of Sunshine, by Charles F. Lummis; Boy on Horseback, by Lincoln Steffens; Oil!, by Upton Sinclair; Merton of the Movies, by Harry Leon Wilson; The Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West; After Many a Summer, by Aldous Huxley; Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler.
Spitter’s Light. Also known as Daylight Savings Time.
Buried deep in One Hand Clapping, there are references to a man who lived across the street from us only, it seemed, to spit. He spat in the morning when he came out for his paper. He spat a short while later before he left for work. He spat as soon as he returned home. He spat when he picked up his mail, and he spat each and every other time he stepped outside, until night fell, when, presumably, he spat on his kitchen floor and living room rug.
This “neighbor” didn’t spit because he was ill. He did so out of blind habit, and as a way to mark his territory. He even spat in his driveway and on his front lawn, where he and his wife walked and their little boy played.
Since I worked in a room that faced the street, often with the window open, I had to endure this ignorant soundtrack for years, until the spitter finally moved away. It was during that bleak period that I coined the term “Spitter’s Light,” because, for me, Daylight Savings Time meant having to endure an extra hour of spitting every evening. The term is still in use today.
Recently Linked: My thanks to Stephen Baird for signing on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. Stephen gets around, and has the pictures to prove it. Thanks also to Lola Koundakjian for posting my common speech definition as the Armenian Poetry Project quote of the month.
Updates: “Therefore I Am” is the newest, and certainly the shortest, entry in my Notebook. This drawing accompanies it. Past entries are archived here.