10 January 2010

memo from the editorial desk

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven — Ecclesiastes 3:1 (King James Version)

Memo from the Fringes is officially retired. Memo enjoyed a good run from Memorial Day weekend 2005 to January 2010. Now it is time to move on.

My new blog can be found at David Matthews Portable Bohemia.

Thank you for your support of Memo. I hope you will enjoy the new blog. Ciao.

08 January 2010

making ourselves safer

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), when asked by George Stephanopoulos for one recommendation President Obama could implement that would make the country safer, suggested, "One main thing would be, just himself, to use the word 'terrorism' more often."

Rep. King, ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, no doubt has thought long and hard about the threat posed by those who would employ terrorist tactics against the United States. Perhaps we should all take his recommendation to heart.

Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. There. I feel safer already.

31 December 2009

New Year's Eve looking back

I closed out 2009 with one last run in the rain and the dark and was exhilarated. As Jacques Derrida said of deconstruction, it is in some sense a pleasurable experience. In the evening I read from the 2009 journals, listened to Edith Piaf, and enjoyed an inexpensive Italian red wine I pick up at Trader Joe's.

The journals hold nothing profound but are not as pathetic as I might have feared. What follows are a few passages from the first four months of the year that for some reason or other strike me.


Kicked off the new year [2009] with a run, a bit soggy, as it rained throughout the day. Encountered two women just after I turned into the park [Laurelhurst] near run's end, waved, and one smiled broadly and said, "happy new year." Ah, the camaraderie of runners.

Surrealist imagery as a mutilation of conventional tropes in a quest for the fresh, the new?

Subject to mood swings, malaise, a downward spiral set off by anything, or nothing in particular.

Can I write poems when my spirit is unable to soar?

I remain pretty nutty. Apt to fly all over the place psychically at the least provocation.

I am unable to do much creatively. The surrealism essay for Memo, as far short as it falls, is the kind of thing I'd like to write for the blog, only better of course. That took several weeks to put in some semblance of decent shape, and I think I need to put something up more frequently than that. This is an ongoing source of frustration. Cutting back to 32 hours a week at work would help, but that's at least six weeks down the road — and that is the rosiest scenario.

It is absurd how anxious I get about — damn near anything and everything. More neurotic than ever about trip to SF, for crying out loud.

Excellent day [San Francisco trip]. The Rodin sculpture well worth the trek out to Stanford. The remainder of the Cantor collection not as exciting — a nice building to walk through. Got sandwiches at Cool Cafe and ate outside at a table by the sculpture garden. The day was overcast, threatening rain, similar to the day I visited Musée Rodin in Paris.... We strolled about campus a bit — lovely campus — before returning to SF early afternoon. At Sue's suggestion we went to Legion of Honor up past Golden Gate Bridge, moneyed residential district Sea Cliff, and China Beach. Legion of Honor has quite a Rodin collection itself. And like Cantor, the building itself is more interesting that the rest of the collection, which is serviceable, but nothing striking — except insofar as two El Greco pieces put me in mind of Dali — principally by way of the lighting — a certain almost garish brightness — in Dali would have been outright garish. Early dinner at Mandalay Restaurant, Burmese place Sue likes. Both had noodle dishes, hers with coconut milk sauce and broad flat noodles, mine vermicelli in curry sauce. Both quite tasty. Near end of the day thought occurred to me that we may have spent more time together than if I'd stayed at her place [instead of Beresford Hotel].

As I headed up to Coit Tower [next day], it came to me why I'm more comfortable visiting with Sue while staying at a hotel. When I stay with her, we're each trying to be thoughtful of the other, she the gracious host, I the gracious guest, so we get into this "What do you want to do?" "Well, what would you like to do?" "No, what do you want to do?"

Today's NYTimes has a story about nationalizing banks. Should it be done? Can it be done? The article noted that Summers and Geitner say the Japanese experience in 1990s shows that governments make lousy bank managers. The obvious rejoinder to that is that the American experience of recent years shows that bank managers often make lousy bank managers.

I do not as a rule write poems while travelling; however, travel experiences frequently provide fodder for poems composed at some later, often as not considerably later, date.

While strolling about Stanford campus, I was more than ever struck, more than ever convinced, that the university is where I belong, my failure to find a place there, well, I pay a high price for that.

Sue acted surprised Saturday when I mentioned I still have the drive to be creative. I believe I have the talent and intelligence to accomplish so much more than I have. I am an underachiever, and that nags at me — chafes my ass, as old Clay Carruth [Philosophy Dept college buddy] liked to put it.


For the first time in my life, I feel old. I feel defeated.

Another difficult week at the office. What will become of me?

When will poems come again? Will they come again? Perhaps with spring. All that I recovered late summer [2008]...is lost. That feeling for life I had got back is gone again.


Things are not what I want them to be. They will change or not.

The only poems I might compose now would be wholly negative. Any suggestion of hope or possibility would be in bad faith. I am not inclined to write such poems. Perhaps the poems will come back when hope and possibility come back — aha, in this statement there is hope.

This morning found a "dog tag" T-Bone dropped through mail slot on his way home from work. A chunk of metal with inscription:

David Matthews
Free Man

on one side, "chained to the wings of the sky" on the other, "from his good old buddy..." on the bottom. I can think of nothing that could have made me happier at that moment.

What we bring to a writer or a book has much to do with what we take from it...openness to a thinker...the streets wandered and trails tramped, the comings and goings, the partings, the sunsets that moved us, the books we have read — role of serendipity — and chance — My eye fell on a collection of essays by Kenneth Rexroth I'd not read before, and that collection held an essay on Martin Buber —

"I may not know the meaning of life, but the search for meaning gives meaning to life." — Nicolai Berdyaev


I stare at the page. No poem, not a single line or so much as a phrase comes. Stare out the window. Spring. Plants in bloom. Leaves reappearing, the very beginning of it. Allergy action. I recall Vancouver, scribbling in the journal at the Sylvia Hotel restaurant, mundane, prosaic stuff, writing just to be writing something and not nothing, in faith, or perhaps merely desperate hope, that one day it will come again. Why? I am adamant that poetry is not therapy. To present poetry, the creative act generally, in that light devalues it, strips it of meaning and worth. Poetry as nonprescription psychotropic drug, alternative to Prozac, Zoloft, and the rest. If that is all I am up to, might as well get a good piece of rope and find a tree with a sturdy limb and take care of things. "Thy flesh, near cousin to the common dust" — Keats

* * * * *

Ah, a sampling, as far as I got in the 2009 journals. I like to think that some of it may be of some modest interest. Now, on to the new year. Ciao.