Friday, November 19, 2010

A Great Art Project

One of my fellow editors at Entasis is doing a fascinating art project in LA based on collaborations between poets and visual artists. Check it out.

Badlands (Call for Submissions)


“Makhóšiča”, (literally ‘bad land’) to the Lakota Sioux, “les mauvaises terres à traverser” (‘the bad lands to cross’) to the French trappers who came for Lakota furs. The Spanish called it tierra baldía (‘waste land’) and ‘cárcava’ (gullied). Wiki tells us that: ‘Badlands form in semi-arid or arid regions with infrequent but intense rain-showers, sparse vegetation, and soft sediments: a recipe for massive erosion.’ And, “…badlands contain steep slopes, loose dry soil, slick clay, and deep sand, all of which impede travel and other uses.” Badlands can also be man made after mines play out and farms wash away. Nothing there for the practical to exploit but a place to stare into the sublime.

The English philosopher Edmund Burke defined the sublime as: “whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger… Whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror.” But he also thought there was something pleasurable in the experience, like being held over a cliffside by your ankles. Shelly’s Mont Blanc perfectly captures this feeling of sublimity. I see the sublime in the Long Beach refineries tipped with fire, or in the wasteland around the UP railroad tracks in the City of Industry.

It isn’t just the outside world though, that can bring the sublime. For Burke, Milton’s Satan was a sublime figure. Springsteen (Bruce!) told us that to be real you had to confront the badlands but he wasn’t talking about a park in North Dakota. He meant ruined lives, those days, months, years when your soul looks like Bikini Atoll after the A-Bomb. I think the sublime is all over Cynthia Mitchell’s story from our first issue. It’s these different badlands that I hope we can reach in our next issue.
- RA

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Entasis Blog

Entasis Journal has a blog and my latest post takes on what goes into writing well. Of course knowing what makes good writing - or thinking that you know - is a lot different from doing it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Golden Eagles at Turtle Rock

I’ve been doing seven-mile runs about five days a week. I need the runs: not only do they keep me lean, they calm the devils and the devils have been pestering me. Most of the time I go up the hill at Turtle Rock. The final elevation gain is about five hundred feet and steep, enough to leave you gasping if you push. I usually do two loops on the hill then head back to the domain of traffic lights and SUVs.

One gift of Turtle Rock is the views – Orange County spread out from the Santa Ana Mountains to the blue decline of horizon, all the corporate towers curving roads and golden hills, Long Beach a distant urban mass. The other gift is a touch of wilderness, chaparral plants among the invasives, the shifting tones of gray and brown and dun. The roadrunners, doves, rabbits, phoebes, the rustling in thick brush. I’ve seen snakes and I’ve seen vultures. It’s only a touch, a taste of the wild. The houses lap against the hill, human stain, until the last two hundred feet.

The hill looms as you run up the winding roads, turn a corner and there it is. Yesterday as I came up to the last turn a large bird swooped into the canopy next to me and perched. A few seconds later, another bird lit on same branch, and the first bird hopped to the next tree with a squawk. I stopped to look at the bully. It was a raptor with the signature sharp curving beak. The bird was dark brown, with lighter brown feathers around the neck. Under its wings lay a checkerboard pattern of black and white feathers. These birds were large, maybe two-and-a-half feet long, with wings easily twice that or more. They were the first golden eagles I’d ever seen and I was close enough that I could see them breathing.

In the summer on a run I’d noticed a peregrine falcon perched on a power line. The falcon had arrested me in the same way, close to the life of large animal that wasn’t tame or in a cage, that had an aura of power.

The eagles hopped around in the branches and then swooped off. I saw them again as I crested Turtle Rock, fifty feet overhead, flying with steady powerful strokes. Chasing the eagles were eight or ten crows as frantic as clowns.

Entasis First Issue

Check out our new literary journal. Fantastic work.