Somehow summer break is even busier than the school year. I always think I’m going to have all this time and flexibility, but the first couple of weeks of June still end up being a catch-up on all the appointments I had to put off during the last six weeks of school. Ah well! C’est la teaching vie.
Yesterday this song came on the radio and it was JUST the right thing I needed to hear at JUST the right time I was in the mood to hear it. It came out in 1990, I think, the start of a very dynamic and changeable decade that ended in maybe no way like it started. The 80s influence is quite strong here, of course, but you can tell things are also very clearly moving forward.
I hope everyone has had a good holiday weekend (if you’re here in the US) or a good weekend and Monday generally (no matter where you are). I have been aggressively decompressing from the school year by reminding myself frequently that I don’t have any school work to do right now and also forcing myself to sit on the couch and play Wordscapes on my phone for extended periods of time while silently repeating the mantra that I am not wasting time because there are no more papers to grade or lessons to plan for this week.
I also want to acknowledge the sacrifices of our military and express my appreciation for them. Being in the service is another underappreciated and deeply necessary career, and I send my gratitude and best wishes to all our service members, past and present and future.
It is also, after all, a Monday, and I really like this song. It’s not really related to the holiday, but that’s okay, too. The musical style goes with a mellow kind of day, and it comes from an underrated but absolutely excellent album.
I know it’s Tuesday. I was grading and then after that putting together issue 2 of Sonic Chihuahua (due out mid-June). Pretend it’s Monday. Enjoy your do-over day and then enjoy this delightful music. Dance, even. (I’m such a fan of this band.)
Is there a more iconic 90s-era one-hit wonder than “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger? It’s possible there is, but it’s not coming to mind at the moment. And the reason why? Because this song has been stuck in my head for a while now.
Recently I teased a note on here that I was working on a new project but couldn’t say anything about it yet. Well, that project has come to fruition in the last few days.
Back in the early 90s, I and a couple of my friends from high school, named Alli and Lauren, made a zine called The Sonic Chihuahua. We published it for one summer, three issues. I wish I still had them. I wrote articles and printed them out on my mom’s dot-matrix printer and then taped them onto plain paper and Xeroxed the zine on the copy machine at my family’s grocery store. I don’t remember a whole lot about the content of each issue, but I do recall that in our first or second one I wrote a review of Nirvana’s first album — not Nevermind, which was pretty hot at the time, but Bleach, which might have been a demo. I’d gotten a bootleg cassette of it and went to town with my hot take. We also had a regular column called “EAT THIS” that featured recipes. I remember Alli and Lauren made some great doodle illustrations for the margins.
But come August, I was going off to college and my friends were going back to high school, and I was getting antsy that they might get in trouble at school for doing something so edgy and underground. (That was the kind of school we went to back then.) So I wanted to stop the project because I was worried about them. They were not worried at all and didn’t want it to end, but I pulled out of the project, and it died.
I have always regretted that: my anxiety for them and my unwillingness to risk.
Well, for the last couple-few years I’ve been thinking about The Sonic Chihuahua and wishing I’d kept up with it and wondering whether I should revive it. And to make a long story short, several things have happened in this last month that, frankly, have assembled themselves into a giant Magic-8 Ball telling me, “All signs point to Yes.”
So. Twenty-nine or so years later, Sonic Chihuahua is back, better than ever. My Friday-night decompression the last few weeks has been putting this zine together. I’m going to try and do an issue each month. It fills a creative need I have and has also catapulted me out of a..let’s call it a malaise. Maybe at some point the new Sonic Chihuahua will find its way to Alli and Lauren and I’ll be back in touch with them. That would be serendipitous, I think.
Anyway, time for this week’s earworm — which is late because today was the last day of classes and I’m preparing for final exams (and because yesterday I spent some time on zine distribution). The lyric “I wanna publish zines and rage against machines” has been stuck in my head since I first decided the zine was going to come back. And I went back and looked up the lyric and found the title and band name (which had been lost to my memory). And I really paid attention to the song this time and realized that the lyrics are actually pretty funny, mildly clever, and a refreshing change from the lowest common denominator of pop music we sometimes get with two and a half verses of mostly repetitive and mostly uninspired words.
Anyway. Enjoy this bit of nostalgia. (And if you want a copy of the zine, send me an email to SonicChihuahuaZine@gmail.com. I’ll mail you one.)
I couldn’t help myself so went to the Monks of Doom website and found some video clips of their performances. Do not ask me why I induged this curiosity, for I cannot explain why I could not leave well enough alone.
BUT! One of their songs was unusually compelling. Here it is for you tonight.
In other news, I’ve been working on a new project which I think some of you will love. I can’t tell you about it quite yet, but I promise I will. More on that later. Soon, actually. Before the semester ends… Stay tuned!
When I was a sophomore in college, “Flip Fantasia” came out and became basically one of my favorite songs. I’m not sure it’s ever fallen off my Top 10 list.
Toward the end of the semester, the Honors College was having its annual dance — a bunch of college kids in the basement of the library dancing in dim lighting, etc. etc. etc. — and one of the upperclassmen on the periphery of my social circle was DJing. We had all brought our own CDs for him to play tracks from and could give requests. I brought this one and asked him to play it.
He grimaced. “You can’t dance to that.” Oh, his dismissiveness.
I thought, What? Are we going to have another four tracks of Devo? (Not that Devo isn’t awesome.)
“Come on, just play it,” I said. “This is totally danceable.”
He wasn’t into it, and I had to wait a long time to hear it, but eventually he did play it. And lots of people danced.
This is the last day of April, and thus we come to the end of another National Poetry Month. I hope you have enjoyed this year’s Poem-A-Day series at least as much as I’ve enjoyed curating and sharing it with you all. If you’ve missed any of the poems, just click through the previous post breadcrumbs at the bottom of each page to see them all. It was, if I do say so myself, an excellent collection again this year.
Tonight we end this series with “Hinged Double Sonnet for the Luna Moths” by Sean Nevin, a poem from an anthology of poetry about mermaids, although this poem really only tangentially refers to mermaids in particular. Yet I think the careful reader will notice in here themes that we commonly associate with mermaids, or sirens at least.
I love this poem in part because its vivid imagery reminds me of going to the Moss Wood Retreat in Maine. On Penobscot Bay in June, I have to wear a jacket and scarf and socks on the screened-in porch all day; the colors of the landscape are fluid, deep, and rich; mosquitos and spiders and — yes — moths look over my shoulder as I write. I could sit there and drink tea and write poetry and stories for a week and never look up to see how many days had passed, and when I’m there, that’s generally what I do. What, if not that, is one true type of love?
Hinged Double Sonnet for the Luna Moths
—Norton Island, Maine
For ten days now, two luna moths remain silk-winged and lavish as a double broach pinned beneath the porch light of my cabin. Two of them, patinaed that sea-glass green of copper weather vanes nosing the wind, the sun-lit green of rockweed, the lichen’s green scabbing-over of the bouldered shore, the plush green peat that carpets the island, that hushes, sinks then holds a boot print for days, and the sapling-green of new pines sprouting through it. The miraculous green origami of their wings—false eyed, doomed and sensual as the mermaid’s long green fins: a green siren calling from the moonlight.
A green siren calling from the moonlight, from the sweet gum leaves and paper birches that shed, like tiny white decrees, scrolled bark. They emerge from cocoons like greased hinges, all pheromone and wing, instinct and flutter. They rise, hardwired, driven, through the creaking pine branches tufted with beard moss and fog. Two luna moths flitting like exotic birds toward only each other and light, in these their final few days, they mate, then starving they wait, inches apart, on my cabin wall to die, to share fully each pure and burning moment. They are, like desire itself, born without mouths. What, if not this, is love?
Sean Nevin is the author of Oblivio Gate (Southern Illinois University Press 2008) and A House That Falls (Slapering Hol Press). His honors include a Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry, and two fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and he has served as Associate Professor and director of the MFA Program in Poetry at Drew University and Arizona State University.
Here is another poem I had the good fortune to encounter during last year’s Poetry Super Highway contest. “KZ” by Carolyne Wright doesn’t need very much introduction from me; you will see its list of accolades beneath the poem itself.
But I do want to comment on its form, a sestina, one of my favorites to work with. The interlocking rotation of six key words at the ends of the lines offers the poet the opportunity to circle an idea, to bring it back around and around. In this way, in this poem, we remember the Holocaust, genocide, a looping cycle of circumstances and consequences, a history that we must always hold at bay.
“Arbeit Macht Frei“ —Motto over the entrance of every Nazi concentration camp
We walk in under the empty tower, snow falling on barbed-wire nets where the bodies of suicides hung for days. We follow signs to the treeless square, where the scythe blade, hunger, had its orders, and some lasted hours in the cold when all-night roll calls were as long as winter.
We’ve come here deliberately in winter, field stubble black against the glare of snow. Our faces go colorless in wind, cold the final sentence of their bodies whose only identity by then was hunger. The old gate with its hated grillework sign
walled off, we take snapshots to sign and send home, to show we’ve done right by winter. We’ve eaten nothing, to stand inside their hunger. We count, recount crimes committed in snow— those who sheltered their dying fellows’ bodies from the work details, the transport trains, the cold.
Before the afternoon is gone, the cold goes deep, troops into surrendered land. Signs direct us to one final site, where bodies slid into brick-kiln furnaces all winter or piled on iron stretchers in the snow like a plague year’s random harvest. What hunger
can we claim? Those who had no rest from hunger stepped into the ovens, knowing already the cold at the heart of the flame. They made no peace with snow. For them no quiet midnight sign from on high — what pilgrims seek at the bottom of winter — only the ebbing measure of their lives. Their bodies
are shadows now, ashing the footprints of everybody who walks here, ciphers carrying the place of hunger for us, who journey so easily in winter. Who is made free by the merciless work of cold? What we repeat when we can’t read the signs— the story of our own tracks breaking off in snow.
Snow has covered the final account of their bodies but we must learn the signs: they hungered, they were cold, and in Dachau it was always winter.
Carolyne Wright’s latest book is This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2017), whose title poem received a Pushcart Prize and appeared in The Best American Poetry 2009. A Seattle native who has lived and taught all over the country, and on fellowships in Chile, Brazil, India and Bangladesh, she has 16 earlier books and anthologies of poetry, essays, and translation. A Contributing Editor for the Pushcart Prizes, Carolyne has received NEA and 4Culture grants, and a Fulbright Scholar Award will take her back to Bahia, Brazil after the CoVid-19 pandemic. https://carolynewright.wordpress.com