hankrules2011

A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘death’

Reflections on Lyn Lifshin’s Cold Comfort: Selected Poems, 1970-1996

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 5, 2022

Cold Comfort: Selected Poems, 1970-1996Cold Comfort: Selected Poems, 1970-1996 by Lyn Lifshin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book. I’ve known Lyn personally going back to the 1980s and as “Queen of the Small Presses,” I saw her in every damn magazine I came across for decades. And I would buy, obtain or she’d send me copies of new books and chapbooks over the years so that while I only have a fraction of the roughly 150 books she published over the years, most are among my favorites and this is definitely one of them. This was Lifshin’s first book to be published by Black Sparrow Press, Bukowski’s publisher (and I think about the same time another old friend, Edward Field, started getting some of his books also published by Black Sparrow), and it was the biggest one of hers I had seen to date at close to 300 pages, or what I would call “average” for Black Sparrow book sizes. Lyn had a lot more complexity and talent than some people give her credit for, and I’m thinking of certain academics, none of whom will ever accomplish even 1% of what Lyn did, but all of whom with their big (small, actually) 2 damn books in hand have the temerity to look down on her as “inferior” because she wasn’t part of “the Academy” (despite spending time teaching a year here and there at many schools such as Syracuse). And yes, I actually had a good but mainstream academic writer friend use that description. I tried not to be pissed off. After all, most of the academics who are critics of Lifshin, Bukowski, the old Beats, the slam scene, confessional poetry, ME, etc., are quick to tout themselves and each other as descendants of Keats, Byron, Cummings, Thomas, etc., but few can match those old masters and more importantly, note the world “old.” These academics are stuck in ancient decades and centuries and either haven’t realized or cared that they’ve been killing any remaining interest in poetry from non-academics for decades, explaining their sad press runs of 250-750 books no matter how many awards they win (back when I was heavily publishing, people were often surprised to hear the average press run for most American poetry books was 750 copies. You don’t get rich off that. Which is why so many teach. Or if you’re lucky, live a life like Bukowski, be a drunk in the gutter screwing whores, gambling, playing with cats, pumping out 10 poems a night and became successful, popular and live off your writing because you don’t give a shit and you’re simply a) more talented and b) a harder worker) because while they may master craft, they have little concept of actual LIFE for you and me and most people outside the Ivory tower, so remembering back to a standard university lit review (and yes, I’ve been published in many, but rejected by more), I recall one of its average issues having poems with titles such as “Sunset at Deer Late,” “Robins at Sunrise,” “Mysteries of the Pond’s Ripples” and other bullshit like that, boring most people to tears until some are lucky enough to happen upon “less talented” (meaning “less formal”) populists who are writing not only confessional, but experimental (the LANGUAGE poets of some decades ago, the surrealists, etc.,), and who are writing about topics and things in life that are REAL to most people who don’t have the luxury of taking sabbaticals to go mentally masturbate and accomplish little while looking down your nose at everyone else. Most of the rest of us have to actually work! Ferlinghetti busted his ass to make his bookstore a success in the Italian North Beach section of SF while also making his new publishing company successful as he was being prosecuted for publishing Ginsberg. Also found time to write the best selling book of American poetry in history in A Coney Island of the Mind, a book that changed my life in changing my understanding of poetry, allowing me to learn the rules dictated to you in classes are constructs created by the untalented academic dictators and they exist to be smashed, which is what so many more interesting, popular, meaningful, influential poets of actual substance have been helping do to save poetry from the destruction that was being wrought on it by academia. Thank god! The irony about Lyn is the Academy was wrong just like my friend was (who was the director of the creative writing program at a big university). In this big book, rest assured all of these poems had been published in magazines before being collected to make up this book and most assuredly appeared in hundreds of the “small press magazines,” she and many others (I know and was one of) were known for but while she could have included those in the Acknowledgments, it’s almost funny to see the huge Acknowledgments page so full of largely only mainstream literary journals of high quality that very few academics so critical of her could barely match it! Revenge is sweet. (A small arbitrary sample: Chicago Review, Georgia Review, Carolina Quarterly, North American Review, Ploughshares, Long Shot, The Sun, New Delta Review, Chelsea, Christian Science Monitor, Caliban, Literary Review, Mudfish, Denver Review, Cream City Review, Wormwood Review, ACM, Grain, Puerto Del Sol, Hollins Critic, Free Lunch, Midwest Quarterly, Hiram Poetry Review, and on and on and you get the picture, right? Yeah, like usual, the academic snobs are wrong. Just because she mixed with the masses didn’t mean she couldn’t play in their yards too and she did so more and better while at it.)

Lyn was loved and appreciated by millions and I hope she’ll get her just due fully one day. I feel privileged that while I was serving as poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review for some years, I had worked to build the quality of submissions and works published to a very high degree, during which time our acceptance rate dropped from 40% to below 2% and we went from largely unknown, uncredited writers (nothing wrong with that — we were all there once and as long as the stuff was good, I published first timers alongside household names) to contributors whose credits typically included Poetry, NYQ, Partisan Review, Rattle, Paris Review, The Atlantic, the New Yorker, etc. Even had an 8-time Jeopardy winner. While I was publishing writers I like and respect who have credibility and credits like Simon Perchik, Alan Catlin, Dancing Bear, BZ Niditch, Marilyn Kallet, Clifton Snider, Lowell Jaeger, etc., Lyn naturally sent me some stuff and of course I liked it and accepted most of it, prompting her to immediately send me more — even though we were booked 2-3 issues ahead and she wouldn’t be published for 6-12 months. AND while one normally submits 3-5 poems, she would send me 75 pages on average each time. As a result, without ever intending or even really discussing it, I was able to publish some two full books of hers in serial format and I loved having her aboard as a publisher, rather than a competitor — I mean fellow contributor — in so many mags.

Thus, about a year ago when I got the news that she had just died, it hit me damn hard and I had to take a deep breath. Possibly shed a tear or two. I remember going to visit her at her condo in DC decades ago. She was still so very into ballet. I remember trying to compete with her, back when people were describing me as the male version of Lifshin because I was so prolific for a good while. But honestly, so many old friends, colleagues and even heroes and mentors in this community have been dying over the past few years that it’s gotten really hard for me. Ferlinghetti a couple of years ago. Dare I call him a friend? We spent time chatting, he gave me a million autographed books, he gave one of my books a back cover plug. About the same time, another Beat poet, old friend Diane di Prima, who I’d enjoyed a great relationship with died. She lived in the same pad as Amy Tan in SF, got together with me when she came down to LA. And joined by fellow Beat writer Michael McClure. Shit! And since then I’ve been finding more and more have died during the past 5-6 years that my health has forced me “underground,” so to speak, and no longer part of the scene, no longer up on the news. So I’ve learned far too late of the deaths of Will Inman, Walt Phillips, Todd Moore and hell, I was looking through the contents of an archive of an old friend in Stanford’s Special Collections (actually Ginsberg, to be honest) and I realized half the people were damn dead now but the worst was when Gerry Locklin died last January thanks to COVID, or how I choose to describe it, thanks to the white christian nationalist science denying alt right republicans. Bastards! Proof of no god right there. It’s gotten so that I’ve started trying to find old writer colleagues who are still alive because I fear I may be the last one standing and I always thought I’d be one of the first to go. Alphabeat Press’s Dave Christy just died a few months ago. Good old Ed Field is approaching 100 and I don’t want to jinx that. I know Cat Townsend and Belinda Subraman are still out there, and I think I’ve heard Dan Nielsen is still around, but Gerry? Lyn? Life is cruel.

Look, Lyn was famous for her Madonna poem series, for her mother/daughter anthologies, for the film they made about her, for laughingly (almost) knowing you’ll see her in any mag you get published in, no matter how small, how niche, what country or language, and she was known for a million other things too, but she was damn talented and interesting and always had this mystique about her and I think this is a great book to either get to know her or to relish reading her again. I can’t recommend this book more fervantly. Get it!

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Governors reopening their states are endangering American lives

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 23, 2020

I ran across this excellent article I wish I had written by Jill Filipovic on CNN. For those of you who feel the few Republican governors who are doing this are doing so prematurely and stupidly and thus unnecessarily risking the lives of their respective states’s citizens, this article will more than confirm that belief. For those of you who think this is a GREAT idea and long overdue, I beg you to read this, as well as my previous post, to gain a better understanding of the risks you’ll take with yourself, your families and the lives of others who come into contact with you. Strongly recommended.

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It’s Been a Year

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2014

My father died one year ago today. He died unexpectedly, mowing my grass. He collapsed and died, just like that. It was a huge shock. And it’s been difficult to get over. I can still see him rolling around on the ground, can still sense the futility I felt as I tried to aid him. I still remember his funeral several days later back home in Knoxville. A lot of people came to that. My wife says it feels like it just happened yesterday for her, but it actually feels a lot longer to me. Like it’s been two or three years. So much has happened between now and then. Our former house was broken into and robbed. Our beloved cat Toby died. We looked for a new house, moved into in, and put ours on the market. Mom decided to move back to Knoxville, so we put her house on the market and helped her find a new condo. It’s been very time consuming. And I’ve gone back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville probably 60 times over the past year, virtually all to help Mom out. It’s been draining. So it’s been a year, but if feels like several lifetimes ago to me. I wish Dad could have been around to help out with our moves. I wish he was still there for Mom’s sake — she really misses him. Of course, we’d like him around for our sakes too. Sad. Tragic. Mom got some flowers today and put them at Dad’s grave. I wish we could have gone up to see that. I sometimes still talk to him. I enjoy thinking of him up in Heaven, if there is such a place. I hope he’d be pleased with how we’re all coping without him, how we’ve moved on. I hope he would approve. I really miss him. RIP Dad.

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Reflections

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 14, 2014

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually written anything here, besides book reviews. Sorry. A lot has been going on. My mom moved from Chattanooga to Knoxville and we’ve been back and forth between the two cities a lot lately. In fact, we’ve seen my mom four of the past five weekends, which is more than we saw her when she lived here in Chattanooga.  It’s been very tiring.

A few weeks ago, we went to my high school class’s 30th reunion in Knoxville. It was pretty good, but a little odd too. So strange to see how people have changed, including me. We got a few good pics, had fun catching up with some people, and had a good time. It was nice to introduce my wife to my old classmates.

This month marks the five month anniversary of our cat Toby’s death. We miss him horribly and I wish he could have lived long enough to move to our new house with us. I’d love to see him running around here. Strangely, our other cat, Henry, has been doing some Toby-like things lately, like he’s channeling Toby. Very odd.

This month also marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death last year. He died mowing my yard and it was — and still is — a huge shock. There are so many things I wish I could have and would have told him and so many things I would like to tell him now. We really miss him. We’ve stopped at his gravestone in Knoxville a few times.

Meanwhile, I love my mother, but … she’s been driving me crazy ever since Dad died. She’s got a LOT of anxiety about a lot of things, which is somewhat understandable, but she calls me all the time. Like 6-18 times a day! She’s gotten better over the past few weeks, but the damage has been done. Now when she calls, I just sigh and pick up the phone. It’s hard. She’s changed a lot. She’s not the mom I grew up knowing and loving. She’s become extremely ADD and OCD, and that makes things difficult. And she refuses to acknowledge such things. I also got her to get Life Alert because she’s elderly and living alone. But she refuses to wear the necklace! She says she doesn’t like it and it’s “psychological.” But why is she paying $70 a month for a service she doesn’t use??? And last weekend, she fell down our stairs. She’s very lucky she didn’t get hurt. What would happen if she fell at her new place? She would not have us to help her. That’s what Life Alert is for! I don’t understand why she doesn’t get it, why she’s being so damn stubborn.

Anyway, this month also marks the six month anniversary of getting my new car. I still love my Camry. It’s so much better than my money pit BMW was. I’ve put 4,000 miles on it, mostly driving back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville, and that annoys me some. I don’t like to put miles on my cars. Still, it’s a great ride and I got a great deal on it and I’m very happy with it.

When health permits, my wife and I like to go to the shooting range. We have a .22 rifle we both like to shoot and my wife is quite good with it. We also have other guns we enjoy shooting, among them a Ruger 9 mm, a Glock 23, a Beretta PX4 Storm, a Ruger .22, a S&W Bodyguard, a SCCY 9 mm, and a Taurus revolver. Among others. I’m pretty good with the Ruger 9 mm, but need to work on the others. I think I’m going to really like the SCCY. It’s new and I think it’s going to be pretty good. I got a good deal on it on gunbroker.com.

I did something to my arm recently and have been having to go to physical therapy for it. It really hurts. It’s probably just tendinitis, but it’s bad. Meanwhile, my wife has a severe case of poison ivy. It’s all over and it’s tormenting her. I feel really bad for her. We need to find the plants she touched and get rid of them, but neither of us are that good at identifying poison ivy.

Oh, also, this month is our six month anniversary of moving into our new house! We love it here. It’s so much quieter and safer than our old place. We still haven’t gotten most of the pictures up, but we’re otherwise unpacked and we really like it. However, we can’t sell our old house. No one will buy it. No one is buying ANY house in our old neighborhood. We’ve lowered the price three times and have had two open houses, but nothing. We actually did get an offer a couple of months ago, but it fell through when their credit was damaged and they lost their loan. That sucked. It’s a nice house, but not in a very good area, so the property values suck and crime is bad. I wish we could sell it though. I’m sure there have to be people out there who would like it. It’s got character! It’s got a HUGE den and a HUGE kitchen and hardwood floors and a fireplace. Three beds, two baths, 2100 square feet, one level home. The yard isn’t that great though, and I think that’s probably hurting it. Oh well. Maybe one of these days….

As you know, I’ve really been enjoying reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books lately. They’re really enjoyable and he’s so witty. A lot of fun. I still like reading Philip K Dick too though. I haven’t read much nonfiction lately though, and I was doing a lot of that over the past couple of years. Maybe I got burned out on it, I don’t know. We have a great, huge used bookstore here where you can pick up six or seven books for $10. It’s great.

Election season is coming up and the two Republican candidates for Congress here are really going at it. The incumbent is an asshole Tea Party-type who is the angriest, most hateful person I’ve ever seen. We saw them debate on TV. The other guy is really young, but it seems he wants to work with everyone on issues, so I really hope he wins. Of course, I’m a Democrat, but here in Chattanooga, no Democrat ever has a chance at winning anything, so it’s really tough. I hate living in a Red state. I often wish I was back in L.A. My wife often wishes she was back in Maryland. Oh well.

I guess that’s it for now. We’re trying to get well. I’m trying to deal with my mother. Things go on. It’s a month of reflections. Thanks for joining me. Cheers!

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Depression

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 28, 2014

I think I’ve been in a deep depression since Toby’s death last month. And I think his death magnifies my father’s death last year. I should be feeling good, living in a nice, new house in a nice, quiet, safe neighborhood, but all I can think about is how Toby isn’t here and doesn’t get to see it and live in it and how Dad can’t experience it — he was a great handyman — and how he can’t help out around the house. It’s really disappointing and I’ve been struggling. My wife has commented on it. I don’t know how to snap out of it. Of course it’s not been helped by the poor, grey weather. That’s really been getting to me too. Years ago I was diagnosed with SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — but I’ve never been treated for it. Basically it’s getting deeply depressed due to extended poor weather, most common during the winter. I finally caved in and bought one of those lights for it. You’re supposed to be exposed to it for about an hour each morning, but I haven’t found or made that kind of time for it, so I don’t know that it’s doing any good. I’m spending about 20 minutes a day in front of it. I need to make a better effort. Meanwhile, I’ve been listless and I don’t care about a lot of the things I normally care about. Gretchen misses Toby and my dad too, but she only got to experience being with Toby for two and a half years. He spent his entire six years with me. I watched him grow from a demon imp kitten who I wanted to kill to a loveable, dependable companion cat whose company I really enjoyed. I/we really miss him. He had become Gretchen’s cat, so to speak, over the past few years. When she came home from work, he would jump up and go to greet her, just like a dog. I’m also having to deal with my mother, who I think has unresolved issues regarding Dad’s death and who is lonely and doesn’t know how to deal with many things, such as financial things. I’m having to help her a lot, but she calls me a lot and comes over and sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. She just bought a condo up in Knoxville and will be moving back up there in a little over a month, so that’s going to change the dynamics, but it will also be weird and I’m going to worry about her living alone at her age up there without me able to come over to help her with short notice. Additionally, my job situation hasn’t changed and our cash is starting to run low due to all we’ve paid out to contractors for new home repair issues — electricians, plumbers, appliance repairmen, handymen, etc. I’ve also had car issues and have had to pay some big bills for that, and I need a new oil pan gasket which, the dealer says, costs $1,700 alone just for the stupid part, never mind the labor costs. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve got a lot going on. Things are starting to ease up now, which is good, but all I can feel is blah. I’ve had moments of happiness — time spent with my wife, time spent reading or going to the gun range for some target practice — but generally I just feel bad. And I don’t know how to fix it.

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Toby is Gone

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2014

Yesterday, we had to have out beloved cat, Toby, put to sleep. We’re devastated. He was only six! It was kidney failure. He had been showing symptoms for a few months and we’d taken him to the vet before and changed his diet as a result, but a couple of weeks ago, he became really lethargic, and basically stopped eating and drinking. He enjoyed taking showers with us and drinking water out of sink faucets and he didn’t do that anymore either. He just slept and acted listless. Gretchen wanted us to take him to the vet last week, but because of the snow, we didn’t. This weekend, he appeared to be pretty bad and vomited five times in two spurts, so Gretchen took him to the emergency animal hospital (which costs a fortune!). They put him on an IV and said the blood work showed his numbers to be very bad. When I went to pick him up Monday morning, they explained that his numbers had come down a little, but not very much and recommended taking him to our vet for continued care. Well, I didn’t want to do that. He was acting better, so I took him home. And he ate and drank and let me pet him. He even rolled over on his side so I could pet his tummy, which he never does, and he got on my lap. However, as the day progressed, he started slipping back into his former state, so yesterday morning I took him to our vet. They put him on fluids and gave him blood tests to measure the results. I got a call from the vet around 1:15 PM. The news wasn’t good. His BUN had increased from 125 to 159. Normal is 30. His Creatin (sp?) has increased from 9.3 to 11.9. Normal is 1. She said the numbers indicated total kidney failure and recommended terminating his life. So I called Gretchen and we talked about it. We didn’t want to because he didn’t appear to be in any pain and he could still live, although not much of an existence obviously. So we decided to go with the vet’s recommendation. I called her back, gave her permission, and she did it immediately. We’re having him cremated and will get his ashes in an urn on Friday. And we’re just sick to our stomachs. Looking back over the past year and a half or two, we can see the signs now — the insatiable thirst was key. We just thought that’s the way he was. We didn’t know. I feel like a murderer. Gretchen said that when I took Toby away yesterday morning, she had a bad feeling she wouldn’t see him again and I worried about the same thing while I talked to him on the drive to the vet’s and again while waiting for the vet to come in the examination room. He looked beautiful. Angelic. Peaceful. I hope it went quickly and painlessly and I hope he’s in Heaven now, drinking out of golden faucets. We talked last night about his routines and how we’re really going to miss them. He was my morning buddy. I usually get up hours before Gretchen and he and I would hang out. I folded my clothes this afternoon and got sniffy because he loved to jump in a pile of warm clothes and pass out. Never again. Henry seems confused, and that’s understandable. He waited for Toby to eat last night before he ate. Toby always ate first. We’re really going to miss you, Toby. We love you Toby. RIP.

Toby and me on the sofa.

Toby and me on the sofa.

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