Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Odd Sentence from the Pen of Keith Badowski

Each person dealing out castigation was carefully screened by a panel of big-tent clowns and varsity football mascots to make sure that no merciless hecklers were granted a federal license and issued fully loaded cream pies in error.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anne Sexton on Letting Out 'Some Extraordinary Animals'

Patricia Marx asks Anne Sexton what she means when she says, "The form is always important."

PM: Do you mean by form just the physical look of the poem?

Anne Sexton: Yes, sometimes, but also the sound. But I think of it as something you can hold. I think of it with my hands to begin with. I don’t know what the poem will be and I start out writing and it looks wrong. I start a long line and that looks wrong, and a short line, and I play around with rhyme, and then I sometimes make a kind of impossible syllabic count, and if I can get the first verse and it’s right, then I might keep on with that for four more verses, and then I might change it because I felt that it needed a new rhythm. It has as much to do with speech as it does with the way it will look on the page, because it will change speech—it’s a kind of compression. I used to describe it this way; that if you used form it was like letting a lot of wild animals out in the arena, but enclosing them in a cage, and you could let some extraordinary animals out if you had the right cage, and that cage would be form.

from “Interview with Anne Sexton” (1965)by Patricia Marx in Anne Sexton: The Artist and Her Critics edited by J.D. McClatchy (1978)

Anne Sexton seems to be saying that by using formal structure in poetry, the poet is liberated in terms of content. Sexton, at least, found form to be freeing instead of limiting. One way this might be characterized is that the form occupied the logical part of the brain, allowing the creative side to sneak out and go wild. --Keith Badowski

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Paltz Alumni Poetry Reading

Anne Gorrick reading at the SUNY New Paltz Alumni Poetry Reading on Thursday, December 4th, 2008. Anne gives a delightful reading and the music goes wonderfully with it. I don't know Anne, but I did graduate from New Paltz many years ago. The aura reminds me (fondly) of those days. Perhaps someday they'll invite me!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry and Writing Stunts

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m a sucker for writing stunts, such as the “spontaneous poems” I did for awhile. (By the way, I fully intend to get back to that stunt one day very soon—so keep tuned in!)

Anyway, I found my way to the website of René Battelle, who has explored several varieties of writing stunts.
See: http://afternoontea.250free.com/SpecialEvents/EventsFrontpage.html
Main Page: http://afternoontea.250free.com/

The following Writing Stunt ideas are inspired by René Battelle’s projects. In several instances, I’ve slightly modified what she describes on her website. Whatever the case, the credit goes to her for the inspiration.

Poem-a-day challenge—It’s self explanatory isn’t it? Write a poem every day for one month, any style, any length. (I’ve also heard of other poets doing this for an entire year, but that would be a Herculean feat!)

Stanza-a-day challenge--Write a four-line stanza for each day of the month, then post the entire poem for the 30th. The only real rule is that you are not allowed to look at the previous stanzas while you move forward with the poem. You can't look at any of them until the entire thing is done.

24-Hour Surrealist Poetry Marathon!--Produce one poem, written during that day sometime, that is no less than 10 lines long. Then the fun begins! All night, from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m., produce at least one poem per hour. There are no form or line restrictions for those hours, and since you’re awake all night it could get weird, which is where the Surrealist bit comes in!

Midnight Madness—For one week (or month if you can stand it), write a poem every night at midnight. Wake yourself up from a dead sleep (if necessary), and give yourself a mere hour to compose, edit, and post a lovely piece of verse for general consumption.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words--See if you can produce a thousand words for a picture. . . . All right, maybe not a thousand, but how about as many as you can? The challenge is to produce poems and/or stories from pictures in magazines or any other source of photography.

Ten Hour Shower—For ten hours, 8:00 p.m. -- 6:00 a.m., write a poem an hour, two if possible. Start out writing in your bathtub or shower stall. From there move to other unusual writing locations as needed, such as under the kitchen table or with your feet in the fireplace.

Poetry Duel—Find a fellow poet with a strong constitution and challenge him or her to a poetry duel. Go back and forth each day and write poems in response to each other's poems. See if you can keep it up for an entire month.

Morning Minute—For one month, every morning, within minutes of opening your eyes from sleep, taking no more than a minute (but less, if it happens) to write everything you’re thinking.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Denis Leary, Poetry Fan?

I've noticed that there are crossroads in various places between stand-up comedy and poetry. I've come across a number of poets who when they read their poems attempt to crack up their audience with their wit and delivery. Poets like Billy Collins and Thomas Lux weave humor into their poetry like it's the most natural thing in the world. My friend Ron Self, Columbus, GA attorney and poet, has this flare for comedy in his poems. Another friend of mine, stand-up comic, Joe Bronzi used to write brilliant poems; he still writes incredible dialogue in his scripts. As far as I can tell, poetry and stand-up comedy go well together. Both arts are language driven. Word choice, rhythm and style of diction have everything to do with it. You must love language to be good at either craft. So I wasn't too shocked to read in a recent interview published in the Chicago Tribune that, actor/comedian, Denis Leary is an avid poetry reader.

Q:So when you put your book on your bookshelf, what else is there?

Denis Leary:I've always been a fan of poetry. People may be surprised by that. Early in college [Emerson College in Boston], I had a huge crush on this poetry teacher ... that probably helped.

And also a plethora of sports books and history books, biographies. Any book about the Boston Red Sox, any baseball writing—it's the most prosaic thing in the world. I like Hemingway. But if there was a Hemingway book and the Robert Creamer book on Babe Ruth—I've read that book about three or four times—that's the one I'm going to pick up.

Q:What poetry's on your shelf?

Denis Leary:Tom Lux and [former U.S. Poet Laureate] Charles Simic and Bill Knott. Tom Lux and Bill Knott taught at Emerson College. I'm not really a classical guy because I grew up in the city. I actually don't get Shakespeare. I would never be able to perform Shakespeare. Scorsese's films "Taxi Driver" and "Mean Streets"—that's the first time I saw guys in the movies who I felt like I grew up with them. That's like my Shakespeare.

Q:As a college student, you had two poems published in the distinguished poetry magazine Ploughshares [published by Emerson College]. Does it help your comedy writing that you once wrote poetry?

Denis Leary:It's the rhythm of it. I just learned this whole thing about rhythm, listening to these teachers talk about it.

For the entire article http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-denis-leary-1208dec08,0,6606675.story

Monday, December 08, 2008

History Among the Rocks by Robert Penn Warren

The reader of this Robert Penn Warren poem has a hypnotic voice. I'm impressed by the reading and the poem itself. Click play, lean back in your chair and treat yourself.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Apes Invade London

Den of Geek posted this picture and several others. I just love seeing these Apes roaming around London. In this picture, I love the fact that just as always the subway riders seem to be ignoring everything going on around them! The other pictures are well worth a look if you're an old time Ape fan like me. As a kid, I'd watch those Planet of the Apes movies every time they aired on television. One of my fondest memories is of viewing Battle for the Planet of the Apes in a drive-in with my family. It was a double feature with Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. There is a rumor going around that there will be another Planet of the Apes movie, despite the lack of enthusiasm around the Tim Burton outing. I'd be curious to see another take on the concepts of the old films. However, if I'm honest with myself . . . those old films live best in my memory and will never be topped or replaced by any "reimagining".

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dennis Lehane on The Given Day (novel)

You can watch this video for free at Amazon.com.  
Video: Dennis Lehane on "The Given Day"
Comment: Here's a rare thing--an author interview where the novelist clearly shares his logic in constructing plot and character. Also comments on the gift of those characters that just "show up". Lehane is unquestionably one of my most admired novelists. --Keith Badowski

Watch this video at http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/mB850HYHBAVZY

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct/Nov 2008

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
October/November 2008 • 60th Year of Publication

Days of Wonder (novelette) – Geoff Ryman
5 out of 5

A riveting tale of warfare between horses and cats. Both the horses and cats have human characteristics, such as speech; they also wield guns. The core of the story focuses on Leveza, a horse whose fold is slaughtered by the cats. Leveza in turn takes a cat captive, binds it with ropes, and knocks out its teeth. In the course of the conflict, a fascinating bond develops between captor and captive. I was swept up in the savage heartache of Leveza’s story. The sci-fi concept is that the now vanished humans genetically seeded their own knowledge and characteristics inside the DNA of animals. Leveza believes that humans could be genetically resurrected if all the various elements are brought together from the animal kingdoms.

The Visionaries (novelette) – Robert Reed
3.5 out of 5

Trolling the slush piles of various publishers are the agents of a mastermind who has figured out ways to identify the visions embedded in speculative fiction and apply them as financial tools. Certain rare visionaries have an innate bond with another individual existing 100 years in the future. This story focuses on one such “visionary” writer and his career path as author and forecaster of the future. The concept is clever, the narrator is likable, and there is nice surprise twist toward the end. However, overall the story seems light and designed mostly for brief amusement.

Planetesimal Dawn (novelette) – Tim Sullivan
3 out of 5

On an asteroid two humans struggle to get back to base and accidentally discover an alien mining system. One of the two humans is insufferably antisocial, so much so he resists all efforts to return to base. The other extricates herself from the mining system and encounters a bizarre alien in the process. The story’s concepts and plot held my attention while I was reading it, but characters were so unremarkable, I’m sure this one will quickly fade from my memory.

Inside Story (short story) – Albert E. Cowdrey
4.5 out of 5

Entering the wrong FEMA trailer could turn you inside-out, literarily. This tale feels like the X-files blended with a situation comedy set in New Orleans. I loved the dialogue with Cajun dialect. My favorite line: “’Jeeeeeesus Key-rist,’ Fournet muttered. ‘A four-foot-high parakeet made of rubber bands. I never seen nothing like that, even on Dr. Who. What the hell I’ma put in my report, assuming I ever get to make a report? They’ll think I’m nuts at Tulane and Broad.’” Highly entertaining.

Sleepless Years – Steven Utley
5 out of 5

Admittedly I’m partial to stories that examine issues of faith, particularly the gulf between Christianity and atheism, or in the case of this tale, agnosticism. The agnostic in this story is scientifically revived from death but in a state that prohibits sleep. Since he donated his body to science, his life is not his own, doomed to an endless existence as a lab experiment, since he could be kept “alive” forever. This painful story portrays how throughout a life characterized by tragedy one man is unable to accept Christian faith. I was deeply moved, saddened, and chilled by this story.

The New York Times At Special Bargain Rates – Stephen King
3 out of 5

It’s a ghost story. The eeriness is slight and not too memorable.

Dazzle Joins the Screenwriter's Guild – Scott Bradfield
3.5 out of 5

A talking dog is tapped to write a screenplay based on his biography. It’s amusing send up of Hollywood, worth a few chuckles, but that’s about it.

Going Back in Time – Laurel Winter
4 out of 5

This is a short, fragmented, experimental piece that playfully illustrates some of the theories of physics. It’s sexy, lively, and humorous.

Private Eye – Terry Bisson
4 out of 5

Not a P.I. story, but a vignette about the near-future of voyeurism. Subscribers pay to see what other “wired” people, called “Private Eyes” see. The Private Eye’s strict protocols result in a tour-de-force of sexual tension for the Private Eye, the object of his sight, and his viewers. At the risk of repeating myself, it’s sexy, lively, and humorous.

Whoever – Carol Emshwiller
4.5 out of 5

This is a fascinating little tale of amnesia. The narrator has no idea who she is or how she got where she is. It reminded me of Corwin’s plight in Roger Zelazny’s 1st Amber novel. The story has not only an interesting puzzle, but also romance and action. The narrator’s voice quite engaging as she theorizes what has happened to her.

Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter's Personal Account – M. Rickert
4.5 out of 5

I’m a big fan of M. Rickert, so I’m sad to say this isn’t her best story, but if you’ve never read her work before, it’ll probably blow you away. As usual for Rickert, she’s come up with an extremely creepy premise. Wives and mothers are vanishing, some on the run, others being captured. Some of these women are next seen at their public executions, which are broadcast live. This story follows one family whose wife/mother is missing. There’s a political barb in this one, and it’s fairly disturbing.

The Scarecrow's Boy – Michael Swanwick
4.5 out of 5

In a near-future where robot intelligence has been installed in such things as a scarecrow, a car, and boat, a little boy’s fate is in the hands of a one such scarecrow. This in an intriguing story of how an AI being sorts through memory, emotion, and programming to arrive at a suitable solution for this boy in danger.

December 22, 2012 – Sophie M. White

This poem has vivid details and a humorous premise.

"New Beginning" by Max Bertolini


Monday, November 10, 2008

While Eagerly Awaiting the New Star Trek Feature Film. . .

. . . let's cast our memories backward!

Book Review: Players at the Game of People (1980) by John Brunner

Having been delighted with John Brunner’s The Whole Man, I had high expectations for Players at the Game of People. Unfortunately this novel turned out to be bleak, where as The Whole Man was hopeful, and depressing, where as The Whole Man was uplifting.

Players at the Game of People is also quite a confusing read. If it were not for the dust-jacket blurb, I wouldn’t have understood what was going on until about halfway through the novel. That said, the second half of the novel is much better than the first and almost made the novel as a whole worth my while.

Here’s the basic concept: Godwin is one of many human beings who have surrendered themselves to alien entities (or if you prefer a supernatural metaphor, devils). In exchange for allowing these entities to take over their bodies at a moment’s notice, the humans receive whatever career and/or lifestyle they wish. Godwin has chosen to be a man of leisure, experiencing exotic locales & women, eating posh food, and driving a fancy car.

The first half of the novel is so tough to get through because Godwin is so deeply unhappy and bored with his life. Clearly the deal he made has resulted in his inability to appreciate any of the delights of life, because they come without any effort.

In the second half of the book, Godwin comes to an awareness of how he has “sold his soul,” despite his adamant argument that without the deal he most likely would’ve ended up a wasted drunk on skid row. Sadly his awareness does not lead to character change. The ending is decidedly tragic.

As a reader, I’m perfectly willing to lay aside a book part the way through if it doesn’t please me. So it says something that I finished this novel, actually reading the last half in one sitting. Perhaps the hope of a redemptive ending kept me going. Whatever the case, I must admit that Brunner has done a excellent job of revealing in excruciating detail what it truly means to ‘gain the whole world but lose your soul.’

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Audio Anthology: Poems read by Keith Badowski

These poems were not written by me. I only wish I had written them.

MP3 of the sound of Jealousy

MP3 of the sound of Aging

If you have Quick Time, the track will automatically play in it's entirety when you click on it.You can get Quick Time here.

Your other option is to right click on the link, select "Save Target As", and Browse to the location on your hard drive where you want to save the MP3 file.

In that case, you'll need to open the file in Windows Media Player or some other media program that handles MP3s.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Poetry Readings/Workshops in Atlanta, GA and Columbus, GA


Meets the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road. Poetry Workshop meets the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at 513 Broadway. Call 706-649-3080 for information.

source: Georgia Poetry Society Newsletter


Meets the third Tuesday of each month. We spend time reading and discussing poetry. For more information, contact Terry Hensel (tlhensel@comcast.net).

source: Georgia Poetry Society Newsletter


Meets monthly at ArtWorks, a gallery/studio in Pine Mountain, GA. For information, contact Jeanne Koone at jlkoone@aol.com or by phone at 706-663-2671.

source: Georgia Poetry Society Newsletter


A group of writers and poets at North Georgia College and State University have created the StonepileWriters. For information about this new group, see http://stonepilewriters.edublogs.org/.

source: Georgia Poetry Society Newsletter

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Join us for an evening with celebrated Irish poet Bernard O’Donoghue

Dear Library Friends, we hope you can join us for this reading by Bernard O’Donoghue on 10.29.08 -- **no RSPV required**!

Look forward to seeing you, Lea

6:00 p.m. Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Cox Hall Ballroom (third floor)
569 Asbury Circle, Emory University
Poet and literary critic Bernard O’Donoghue was born in Cullen, County Cork, Ireland
and now resides in Manchester, UK. O’Donoghue is author of Seamus Heaney and the
Language of Poetry (1995). His poetry collections include Poaching Rights (1987); The Weakness (1991); Gunpowder (1995); Here Nor There (1999); and Outlining (2003). In 1995 he received the Whitbread Poetry Award for Gunpowder. His most recent work consists of a verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2006) and Selected Poems (2008).

Reception and book signing will follow the poetry reading.
For directions: http://www.map.emory.edu/
Parking: In the Fishburne and Peavine parking decks
For more information: 404.727.0148

Lea McLees, Director of Communications
Emory University Libraries
540 Asbury Circle, Atlanta, GA 30332
TEL 404.727.0211 * FAX 404.727.0805
WWW http://web.library.emory.edu/

source: email announcement



Mark your calendars now for the fifth annual reading, which will be held this year at Wordsmiths Books in Decatur. A wine and cheese reception will be held, and poets will be signing their books. Visit www.wordsmithsbooks.com for directions and parking information.

source: http://www.poetryatlanta.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 9 –

Poet Cecelia Woloch will give a reading of her work.2:00 PM, Smith-McCullers House, 1519 Stark Avenue.Woloch was named 2004’s Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry, and her work is included in Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times.

source: http://www.mccullerscenter.org/

Monday, November 10, 2008
is the deadline for requesting an application for GA Tech’s Poetry at Tech Community Poetry Workshops

Workshop with Travis Wayne Denton
Saturday, January 31, 2009
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Room 10, Wesley New Media Center
in the Skiles Building on the Georgia Tech Campus

Workshop with Thomas Lux
Saturday, February 28, 2009
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Room 10, Wesley New Media Center
in the Skiles Building on the Georgia Tech Campus

Workshop with Ginger Murchison
Saturday, March 28, 2009
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Room 10, Wesley New Media Center
in the Skiles Building on the Georgia Tech Campus

Workshop with Katie Chaple
Saturday, April 11, 2009
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Room 10, Wesley New Media Center
in the Skiles Building on the Georgia Tech Campus

To request an application, e-mail travis.denton@lcc.gatech.edu or call Travis Denton at POETRY at TECH at 404-385-2760 with your name, address, zip code and phone number. If you leave a voice mail, please speak slowly and spell your name and street address. Include your zip code and a phone number. The deadline for requesting an application is November 10, 2008.

Applications will be sent by November 20, 2008 to the physical address requested or to the e-mail address on the online request. POETRY at TECH is not responsible for snail mail or e-mail that does not reach you. If you requested an application and do not have one by the end of November, e-mail again or call. There is no need to call before November 15.

All applications without exception must be returned by email and postmarked by MIDNIGHT DECEMBER 10, 2008. Applications will be considered IN THE ORDER THEY ARE RECEIVED.


NOTE: Applicants will be given the opportunity to request a preferred workshop and a second choice on the application; however, if your first- and second-choice workshops are full, you will be notified BEFORE being placed in another workshop. Should you decline a place in a workshop with availability, that place will be offered to the next name on the list.

Applicants should submit ONE poem (30 lines or fewer --Please!) with the application. Late submissions or those submitted on the day of the workshop will not be accepted as instructors will have studied the poems ahead of time. An application without a poem will be taken as indication that the applicant wishes to attend without workshopping a poem.

Instructors assume that all who submit poems are ready for and, in fact, invite rigorous critique by the instructor and other workshop participants. At no time, however, will a participant or his work be treated with disrespect or harshness. Workshop size will be strictly limited to ensure a safe and intimate environment in which participants can confidently develop their poetics and aesthetic standards.

Participants may bring a lunch or order a box lunch that will be delivered to the classroom. Menus and order forms will be part of the application.

E-mail any questions to travis.denton@lcc.gatech.edu

source: http://www.poetry.gatech.edu/workshops.html

Wednesday, November 12 –

Award-winning poet Michael Waters in two events: In the afternoon, a workshop at the Smith-McCullers House, 1519 Stark Avenue. In the evening, a formal reading. Exact times and locations to be announced. This is a Georgia Poetry Circuit event.

source: http://www.mccullerscenter.org/



Join two amazing poets Stephen Bluestone and Ginger Murchison as Callanwolde celebrates the art and performance of poetry with readings in the unique setting of the Callanwolde Conservatory. $5 General Admission, $3 Students/Seniors/Members. For more information call 404-872-5338.

Stephen Bluestone, a native New Yorker, has received numerous awards for his poetry, including the Greensboro Review Poetry Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize. Two of his volumes of poetry, The Laughing Monkeys of Gravity and The Flagrant Dead, were nominated for the National Book Award in Poetry. Holiness Everywhere, his free adaptation of a 12th-century work by Jehudah Halevi, set to music by Atlanta composer Curtis Bryant premiered in New York City in 2002. O City! a tribute to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy was performed by the Gregg Smith Singers in New York City in 2003, and more recently, a collaboration with composer David H. Johnson has resulted in a new work, Jerusalem Trilogy. Bluestone teaches English and film at Mercer University.

Ginger Murchison, is currently a candidate for an MFA in poetry at Warren Wilson College and editor of The Cortland Review. She assisted in the founding of Georgia Tech's poetry program, “POETRY at TECH”, while working there for 7 years. She is a two-time Pushcart nominee and her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Terminus Magazine and in Volumes II and III of Java Monkey Speaks: A Poetry Anthology. Her chapbook Out Here, was recently released by Jeanne Duval Editions

source: http://www.callanwolde.org/events/index.html


Seventh Annual
Bourne Poetry Reading
The Clary Theatre
In the Bill Moore Student Success Center
7:00 p.m., FREE
Open to the Public
No Tickets or Reservations Required
Book Sale and Signing to Follow the Reading
Parking across North Avenue
in the Burge Parking Deck.

source: http://www.poetry.gatech.edu/events.html


Award-winning poet Sharon Olds will make a rare appearance at the The Literary Center. Details to be announced soon. www.gwtw.org.

source: http://www.poetryatlanta.blogspot.com/


An Evening of Spoken Word

The Clary Theatre
In the Bill Moore Student Success Center
7:00 p.m., FREE
Open to the Public
No Tickets or Reservations Required
Book Sale and Signing to Follow the Reading
Parking across North Avenue
in the Burge Parking Deck.

source: http://www.poetry.gatech.edu/events.html


Keith Badowski, featured reader

Johns Creek Poetry Writing Group meets monthly on a Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Northeast Spruill Oaks Regional Library, in the Johns Creek/Duluth area. On Dec. 13th, Keith Badowski will offer a 45 minute presentation of his poetry. Keith is incoming President of the Georgia Poetry Society. His poems have been published in Oxalis, Rambunctious Review, Monkey, and The Reach of Song. Johns Creek Poetry Writing Group also has a critiquing session, and a poetry book review presentation.

source: my own personal calendar


Seventh Annual
McEver Poetry Reading

The Clary Theatre
In the Bill Moore Student Success Center
7:00 p.m., FREE
Open to the Public
No Tickets or Reservations Required
Book Sale and Signing to Follow the Reading
Parking across North Avenue
in the Burge Parking Deck.

source: http://www.poetry.gatech.edu/events.html



The LeCraw Auditorium
in the College of Management in Technology Square, 800 West Peachtree St. (5th and West Peachtree)
7:00 p.m., FREE
Open to the Public
No Tickets or Reservations Required
Book Sale and Signing to Follow the Reading

source: http://www.poetry.gatech.edu/events.html

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tunes That Will Inhabit Your Dreams and You'll Wake Up Singing

These are mostly pop tunes that I couldn't ignore. I guarantee that after slight exposure you will happily catch yourself singing these songs in your head.
Groovey Finds

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What I did last weekend instead of 'Spontaneous Poetry'

So, last weekend I was in Baltimore, MD for the Baltimore Comic Con.
“Where are you from?” a stranger asks.
“Alabama,” I say.
“What brings you to Baltimore?”
“The Baltimore Comic Con,” I reply.
“Oh, yeah? Say something funny!”
“No. Not stand-up comedy, comic books.”
End of conversation.

Believe it or not, I had the above conversation twice. Two different people jumped to the same conclusion. Maybe they should rename it the Baltimore Graphic Pictorial Storytelling Convention.

The weekend was quite enjoyable except for the stomach virus on Friday and the fever chills on Friday night.

I got to spend a bunch of time with my bud, Tim Healy. When we’re together we never let up on the joking around and teasing each other. On Thursday evening, I was doodling in the bar at the Marriott. Drew a lousy Spider-Man head on the back of an envelop. I discarded it and grabbed another envelop.

“What are you going to draw?” said Tim, “another lousy Spider-Man?” (Thanks, Tim.)
“No! You tell me what to draw. I’m taking requests.”
“Okay, Wolverine.”

So I start to draw Wolverine, staring with his pointy hair. When I get to the rest of his head, I draw a round circle. Spontaneously, I merged Marvel Comics with . . . well, you can see for yourself. (Click the thumbnail below to enlarge.)

Tim and I laughed so hard over that one, tears started rolling. Every so often, when the laughing started to trail off, Tim would utter a firm, declarative, “Wow!” About fifteen times, Tim said “Wow!” I thought I would burst. The bartenders thought perhaps we’d both had a bit too much. One beer is my limit, at least when Tim and I are goofing off. We are so easily amused.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Interview with Keith Badowski on Writing Poetry

Recently I’ve been serving as mentor to a high school student, Maria, who is working on a senior project in poetry. For one portion of her project, Maria was required to interview her “poetry mentor.” The following four questions were posed to me. The answers, reproduced here, are what I wrote for her, plus some other expanded thoughts that have occurred to me since I emailed her my reply.

1) How has writing poetry affected your life?

I’m sure that being a poet has enhanced my attentiveness to words and my awareness of how people use language. For instance, I recognize in half a heart beat when someone is trying to sell me something or convince me of their point of view. My interest in words and sentences has also made it second nature for me to read between the sentences, to intuit what people are in fact not saying, but actually really mean. Definitely I am not superhuman in these talents and by no means perfect in my accuracy. (Ask my wife!) Yet attentiveness to language usage has had its advantages in a variety of circumstances. I suspect many writers, whether they write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, are better attuned what people are saying and what they really mean.

Being a writer, when you are truly devoted to the craft of conveying experience or observation, forces you to notice more about the world around you. I find that I’m a people watcher, noting gestures, interactions, and habits. My tendency is also to wonder about the things I see: How did that house get in such shabby shape? What led to that trailer being set on fire? How did that rusted out car get turned upside down? Admittedly, there is the chance that my personality naturally leaned that way, and that is why I also leaned toward doing writing. However, I have no doubt that a commitment to writing requires a commitment to noticing things, so the natural tendency toward such would necessarily be enhanced.

All that said, I’m just as guilty as the next guy to having my blinders up in my own household. Countless times, I’ve left my socks on the floor of the bedroom and they have become invisible for literally weeks! So it’s really only in environs other than the familiar that my interest in observing is at its best.

The most obvious way writing poetry has affected the course of my life is that I’ve fostered many friendships and associations with other poets and poetry lovers. Poetic types tend to be drawn to each other for a variety of reasons. One of the main ones is that poets like to get feedback on their poems, so they get together for poetry readings and workshops.

I started attending poetry readings back in the 1980s, and two decades later (and after the turning of a new century), I’m still attending them. Back in the late 80s, the readings were on my college campus at S.U.N.Y. New Paltz in New York. Those college readings featured dramatic antics, music, and experimental approaches to literature. One guy did something where he smeared ice-cream on a guitar! (Don’t ask.) Most of my close friends at the time would attend with me. Afterward we would discuss what we had heard. We would recruit poets from those readings to participate in our college literary magazine, The Accordion Flyer. Even though I’ve moved from New York to the South, I’m still in touch with many of those people and consider them friends.

As time went on, I attended more and more literary readings, featuring published poets and writers. Often I came away from those readings feeling inspired to write more and to write more ambitiously, employing the style or technique of those writers I’d heard. I also started to amass a huge collection of poetry books that are autographed to me by the poets. Those events make up some of my fondest memories.

In more recent years, I’ve had the delightful privilege of being part of the GA Poetry Society and a member of the local poetry group here in Columbus called the Brick Road Poets. Among these poets are some of my most valued friends—people with whom I’ve broken bread, taken road trips, and planned events. Participating in all these poetry-related activities tends to create bonds and connections that are important in life. Poets also tend to be smart and sensitive, so those are good folks to have in your corner.

2) What types of problems do you encounter with writing poetry?

The biggest problem I encounter with writing poetry is myself. Although I keep up appearances, and my friends might tell you otherwise, I’m not as disciplined as I would like to be when it comes to writing. I will go long periods of time without writing anything (sometimes as long as 5 or 6 months). I easily fill my time with much less meaningful activities, such as watching television or surfing the internet. What I really ought to be doing is writing every day, or at least on regularly weekly pattern. I find that when I am writing regularly I generate material that might not be “finished” but at least provides an excellent starting point for revision. It is only through the revision process that “complete” poems start to form. Sure, every once in a great while, I do get a complete poem almost all at once. However, the majority of my finished poems have been through numerous revisions. So all those times when I allow myself to waste time instead of writing, I could have been revising something and thus finding a poem.

On a related note, I don’t send out my poems to publishers as often as I should. I’ll send out two or three packets of submission each year, and spend the rest of the year waiting for them to come back. If I were more disciplined, I’d keep all my poems in the mail at all times. That way I’d have more of a chance of getting some of them published. I’ve been told that the average number of submissions a poem must go through before acceptance is usually about 10. That’s just a guideline, not a hard rule. You might get lucky and find that editor who “gets” your poem in the first try. The point is you have to circulate your poems far and wide until you find that editor or editors who like what you’re doing. That takes dedication and effort—something I’ve been missing.

3) What are some misconceptions that people have about either poetry or poets?

I’ve noticed that some people think poems should be treated like puzzles or riddles that need to be solved. I think this idea comes from teachers who ask their students to interpret the poem. Students are given the assignment to put the poem into their own words and explain what the poem means. I realize the teacher is trying to develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills, however, it gives the students the wrong impression. Poems are not made out of ideas; poems are made of words. Often poets use specific words that can not be substituted by the student’s own words. The poem is a unique creation that can’t be summarized or dissected. In a way, you kill the poem when you try to explain it. Also people get a bad taste about poetry when they think you only read it to figure it out.

Ideally, poetry readers should enjoy the words and phrases for themselves. Sure, you need to be attentive to the text to get a sense of what effect the poem is striving for. But you shouldn’t feel as though you have to study the poem for hours to “get it”.

Another misconception people might have is that there is a universal quality scale that can be used to judge the merits of poetry. While there are great guidelines out there for what constitutes good craft in literary poetry, there is no such universal scale for judging whether a poem is good. Sure, the poem might be characterized by originality, brevity, metric grace, and pleasing word choice, yet still not be universally praised as “great.”

The reality is that the judging of quality in poetry, just like the visual arts and music, is largely subjective. Almost always it comes down to the personal preference of the critic or reader. What means the world to one person can mean nothing to another. Because there is no “absolute” in judging poetry, it is very important that poets and poetry readers identify for themselves what they like and why. Only once you understand and know your preferences can you judge for yourself the merits of what you have written or what you are reading. The reign of subjectivity and diversity is no excuse for “anything goes.” Instead you must choose where to plant your stakes and then diligently tend to your tent poles.

Perhaps you will find a few like minded folks who share some of your preferences, and if you are lucky, maybe they will offer you useful and constructive feedback on your work. At the very least, it is up to you to construct in your imagination that ideal reader for your poems. Accept that very few may ever salute what you do, but that’s also true for everyone else. I’ve also realized that trying to please all the possible critics is impossible, trying to go that way leads to insanity

4) What tips do you have for intermediate level poets, such as myself, for improving on writing skills?

Three things: read, Read, and READ! In order to improve in any style of writing, you need to read lots of that genre. In the case of poetry, you ought to read the classics, such as Shakespeare, Spenser, Keats, and others. You also need to read the contemporary poets! I tend to buy Best American Poetry each year and read through the anthology to discover new voices that interest me. Some of my favorite poets writing now include: Ken Babstock, Seamus Heaney, Mark Strand, Billy Collins, Frank Bidart, and Natasha Trethewey. You will never know what is truly possible in poetry until you expose yourself to those who have come before. As you find poetry you enjoy, imitate it. Write poems that sound like those poems. In that way you will learn techniques. Eventually you find your own voice by toying with the voices of others.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Spontaneous Poem: 'Jesus as a teenager . . . '

Last week, Ron Self sent me the following challenge: "Jesus as a teenager . . . "

Here's what I came up with this afternoon:

Jesus as a Teenager
for Ron Self

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
---John 21:25

At the dawn of creation, God gave teenagers survival instincts--
a supernatural sense for the patsies who would never tell,
a radar for the abettors young and old who would cover up,
and a gift for schmoozing every slippery way out of scalding water.

Oh, but the Hebrew teens at the dawn of A.D. were especially loved,
at least those podunk Nazarene punks who grew up with Jesus.
When they stole their parents Passover skins and got stinking drunk,
Jesus passed his hands over their heads and filtered them sober.

And we all know why those wineskins were never missed.
When those boys played too rough near the street and one went under
the crushing wheels of the chariot, Jesus was there to inflate his torso.
When he caught Bennie Barnabus deflowering the prim and proper Pricilla,

Jesus turned back time and orchestrated an escort. The Son of God
was a handy to have around, although at the time they couldn’t say why.
There was just something mystical about that gawky youth
who spent his days seated on the temple steps, his head in a scroll.

Those God-given instincts reigned in their jibes, sealed their mouths.
After all what were they going tease? If you keep reading like that
you’ll go blind. Stop playing with that scroll or your hand’ll fall off
Yet Jesus had no friends, too busy for that, so many sins to undo.

He was so grateful at eighteen when God’s messianic plan for him
finally penetrated his greasy hair and zits, when he finally knew
he could rest at night instead of listening at tent flaps and thatched roofs.
He could take it easy for awhile, slow down, build a bench.

What a relief to know he would undo it all. So what if he had to die . . .
that would be a pretty good rest too.

Keith Badowski

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Spontaneous Poem: 'Action in France'

From: Steven Shields
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:57 AM
To: Keith Badowski
Subject: RE: Poetry Challenge?

Keith, have a look at the first photo in the blog I am keeping for our family history. It's entitled "Action in France" and can be found at http://shieldsfamilyconnection.blogspot.com. There are lots of other photos there too--maybe something else strikes your fancy. This is what I've spent most of my summer doing, most of the past year or two actually. This blog is a small slice of it but maybe will prompt something. Hope all's otherwise well with you and yours--S.

Here's a link to the photo mentioned above.

3rd BN Infirmary, 26th INF. USA
(Charles Thorne, fifth from left

for Steven Shields

Those coarse white-washed bricks
and the crusty mortar in-between them,
every morning I opened my eyes in the dark
to escape that texture.

All night my dreams skittered like mice—
miniature hearts racing, anxious to preserve fur.
That morning I awoke breathless,
terror stricken that my mouth had scabbed shut.

My fingers sprang to my teeth, my tongue—
still there! Oh, yes,

I’ve patrolled the mouthless rows,
watched ribs stand in for jaws,
seen those who can not sneeze.

As the photographer posed me,
instructed the whole infantry where to place
arms and hands, so our bodies would not repeat,

I kept marching past rows of moaning blankets—
stubs of eroding trench feet poking out,
white pads draped over sightless sockets.

Against the bricks, I couldn’t hear them.
The nurses would tend to the bandages
while I stood stock still, held my breath for 26 and 3—
certain those bricks would grind me to dust.

Keith Badowski

Friday Spontaneous Poem: 'Sexy Push Ups in New Fall Colors'

From: Jean Copland
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:49 AM
To: Keith Badowski
Subject: Re: Poetry Challenge?


Sexy Push Ups in New Fall Colors - Victoria's Secret
in rhyming couplets.


Seasonal Marketing Strain
for Jean Copland

When bras must mimic leaves
autumnal orange heaves

beneath silk-cutter’s cuff.
These spinning models slough

saffron and sage like slaw.
Our designers dread the thaw

all those dyes they must expend
and heft of time suspend!

They so rarely know the peace
of hooks undone, release.

Keith Badowski

Friday Spontaneous Poem: 'a bald man speaking'

From: Brad Tree
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:43 AM
To: Keith Badowski
Subject: RE: Poetry Challenge?

a bald man speaking
I will explain my source after I see the poem. I do not want to spoil your process.

Bare Club for Men
for Brad Tree

Whether a bald man is speaking to the cold
that has infected his children
or to the plastic vessel brimming with cough syrup
or to a market square littered with overturned trash cans
or to a ballpark that’s lost its third minor league
or to the valium he’s about to swallow dry,
he has to break the silence despite his baldness,
stomp his foot sometimes for emphasis
and wield his bald tongue.

It’s easy to sympathize with his plight
especially if you already feel badly
for anyone whose daily
chores include scooping kitty litter.

When the bald man is speaking you feel sorry for him,
not because he can’t jump on one foot
and rub his belly, nor because can’t swap
his snobbish tone for newscaster's,
but because you know in your heart of your hearts,
he’s worried

that while he’s speaking
all you’re thinking
about is his glistening
under the compact fluorescents
and not really listening
at all.

Keith Badowski

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Too Many Cooks (A Nero Wolfe novel) by Rex Stout 1938

In recent years I have discovered the distinct pleasure of reading Nero Wolfe novels--not only reading them, but reading them aloud to my wonderful wife, Christina. I so get into doing distinct voices for the characters. But most of all, I enjoy portraying the deep, prima donna voice of Nero Wolfe--the obese, cranky, yet brilliant detective, who loathes to leave his chair, let alone leave the house.

It’s also jolly fun to do the sarcastic voice of the ever astute Archie Goodwin, the narrator!

Nero Wolfe novels are the epitome for me of the “pleasure read” because the characters, Wolfe in particular, are so intensely animated in their dialogue. Wolfe serves as a magnet for every player in the incident of foul play, no matter how minor. And Wolfe’s right-hand man, Archie Goodwin, serves the reader as well as Wolfe with his keen eye, photographic memory, and pitch perfect ear. If you love humor, quirky characters, intriguing asides, clever plots, and a good old fashion mystery, you will love the Nero Wolfe series!

Here are a few notes about Too Many Cooks, a Nero Wolfe novel from 1938:

Wolfe is miraculously out of his normal digs in this novel, lured away from his house in New York (which he typically never leaves) to West Virginia via train for a gathering of elite chefs. Wolfe has been enticed by being invited as the guest of honor and to give a speech on the merits and contributions of American cuisine. So part of the fun of this novel is that Wolfe is a fish out of water. Throughout the entire novel, he refuses to take on any clients (although there are numerous requests) because he is anxious to leave precisely on time for his return trip to NY. (Much to the dismay of Archie, who can’t believe how hard they are working for no fee at all!)

The following excerpt, dramatically read by yours truly—Keith Badowski, touches on Wolfe’s mood in exile. Also this scene gives the uninitiated a flavor of the yin and yang of the Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin partnership/relationship.

Wolfe Gives Advice

Note: If you have Quick Time, the track will automatically play in it's entirety when you click on it.You can get Quick Time here.

Your other option is to right click on the link, select "Save Target As", and Browse to the location on your hard drive where you want to save the MP3 file.

In that case, you'll need to open the file in Windows Media Player or some other media program that handles MP3s.

Here’s a couple more scenes for your listening pleasure:

In this one, Wolfe’s indignation at being offered a job he must refuse is delightful.

Wolfe Is Not A Bodyguard

Lastly, here Wolfe is grouchy over lost sleep and emotionally expresses his deep concern for a friend. One can hardly miss Wolfe’s distaste for the woman who has wrecked his friend’s life.

Wolfe Lets It Fly

Having been originally published in 1938, Too Many Cooks, portrays the state of race relations in West Virginia at the time. Racism, replete with the most offensive racial slurs, is in evidence here. However, both Wolfe and Archie are shown to be enlightened; all their interactions with the mostly black service staff are on equal and respectful terms. If anything, Wolfe is the least tolerance of those white “officials” who express racism.

More to the point, in all things Wolfe’s attitude is one of mostly wanting to be left alone. He hates to waste his time on anyone, no matter their race or color, unless they are a paying client or one of the suspects he must interview to unravel the puzzle. Race is irrelevant to Wolfe in that regard.

One of the challenges of reading Too Many Cooks is that, as the title suggests, there is a huge cast of characters, thus many, many suspects. If you do dive into this novel, as I hope you will, don’t go crazy trying to keep everyone straight. Rex Stout, through his mouthpiece Archie Goodwin, does an excellent job of reminding you of just enough to keep tabs on who is who, and why he/she might have motive to kill the victim.

So to sum up. . . Too Many Cooks offers up the following:

Wolfe as a fish out of water.

Accurate portrayal of race relations in the South, with Wolfe being an equal opportunity pursuer of the guilty.

A slue of suspects, but Archie keeps them straight for us.

The usual hilarious interactions between Wolfe and Archie, as well as Wolfe’s magnetic persona that draws everyone towards him, like flies to the spider.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Catchy Rookies: A Selection of New Music

I've been exploring some new music lately. On Pandora (http://www.pandora.com/) I created several act-based stations for myself—Bob Dylan, Grant Lee-Phillips, Marillion, Love and Rockets, They Might Be Giants, Alternative / Indie, and Psychedelic / Garage. Pandora plays music that aligns with the style of the acts you specify. Using the “Quick Mix” option, I get a nice variety of music, new and old.

This playlist is entirely new acts, playing recent music. I’m defining “new” here as any act that debuted in the last 5 – 10 years, since it does a take awhile for some bands to rise to public prominence.

The playlist was created using an account on Imeem (http://www.imeem.com/). This website allows users to upload songs, search for new stuff, and create playlists to share.

Generally this playlist reflects my overarching taste in music. I love interesting or poetic lyrics. I love strange sounds and experimentation. I love hard-driving rock, but also intimate acoustic songwriters. The predominant trait of my favorite music is that it is slightly weird, never run of the mill.

So I’ve test-driven these selections. I hope you try them. Let me know what you think.
Catchy Rookies

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Star Trek (TOS) Book Review: The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes

The Pandora Principle (1990) by Carolyn Clowes is predominantly an adventure designed to reveal Saavik’s origin. As such, it does a nice job of making sure the origin story is vitally important to the Spock-centric adventure of the Enterprise. This one is set just prior to the first Trek movie, the Motion Picture. Clowes novel effectively sets the stage for Kirk being relegated to a desk job, as he is at the beginnings of both movies. Cleverly putting the focus here on the Spock/Saavik dynamic, the author sets a brilliant trap for Kirk, having him out of the way, locked in vault for most of the novel.

Saavik’s origin, as told here, held my attention for the most part. (I seem to recall a different Saavik origin from DC Comics.) I felt that Clowes used the technique of withholding information a bit too often and for too long, I suppose in an attempt to build suspense. Personally, I find action oriented stories to be more suspenseful when the eminent danger for the main characters is the cause of tension, not something unknown and unexplained that is lingering out there somewhere. Probably Clowes heavy reliance on that approach was my biggest complaint.

The Spock/Saavik relationship was quite moving at times, with excellent bits of comic relief. In particular, I loved the conversation when Spock explains Pon-far to Saavik and further, her reaction to the tale that is “Amok Time.” Saavik plays the role of fresh audience, reacting with such abhorrence for how Spock’s betrothed treated everyone involved. Mainly through their interaction we get a glimpse at how Spock might have been as a parent. His long suffering and patience are completely in character. And it’s only one such as Spock that can tame the wild beast that Saavik seems to be when he finds her.

The new (unofficial) Romulan weapon was quite frightening, a virus that instantly consumed all oxygen. I was delighted that Dr. McCoy out-sciences and out-logics Spock in coming up with the antidote.

McCoy also gets the funniest line in the novel, “What am I saying? I just told the Big Bad Wolf to go cheer up Little Red Riding Hood!”

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Star Trek Lives!!!!!!!

Wow! Wow! And triple Wow! Star Trek lives! Did I say Wow?!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Marillion - Whatever is Wrong With You

This one is delightful fun! Well worth a look.

Friday (Sort Of) Spontaneous Poem, After Sappho

The Poison of People Watching
after Sappho

I would believe he has the power to breathe
life into pots of clay or crush the globe
into dust between his fingers
as I watch his nose, mere inches from yours,
inhaling air that carries your voice
and healthy laughter.

The peaks of your joy stab
my lungs, my diaphragm. Seeing
you smile at Jehovah-man, cracks
my ribs, leaves me incoherent, groaning.

My groin, my armpits, and underside of my tongue
blaze as if razor burned. My eyes squeeze shut
against the glare. My ears fill with unlikely tears.

My entire body weeps sweat. I’m parched
as lawns in drought. The kiss you share with him
may simply extinguish this observer.

Keith Badowski

Doctor Who Series Four: The Roll Your Eyes and Bear It Season

I’m a lifelong fan of Doctor Who. Tom Baker was my first Doctor, seen on Public Television in the state of New York on a staticy TV using rabbit ears. Peter Davidson was my favorite Doctor for years and years due to his sincerity and fallibility—he really made me worry that the Doctor might not save his companions, that the Master might finally take over the universe. The tension was higher as were the sakes. And I had a big crush on companion Tegan. (What was I thinking? Yeah, she was a “looker”, but she really was such a whiner! Wasn’t she?)

So far I’ve loved the new series that began back in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. Yeah, I was sad and worried to learn that Eccleston only had one season in him. His portrayal of the Doctor was so melancholy and charming. The relationship between the Doctor and companion Rose was so intense and believable. Rose seemed to me to be the best companion ever, since she has as much to do with defeating the monsters as the Doctor himself. Bright, pretty, and energetic, Rose was a match made in heaven for the Doctor.

Also in 2005, David Tennant took over the role of the Doctor as the Tenth Doctor. It took me a few months and several episodes to get used to the change, since I had found Eccleston so beguiling. It was hard to get over the loss. Yet Tennant brought such intensity, wit, and conviction to the role, it was a forgone conclusion that I would be won over. The relationship with Rose continued to be fascinating and heartfelt. In addition, the Doctor took on more and more mythic proportions complete with prophecies and the return of arch enemies.

Fast forward to Series Four (2008). David Tenant is still the Doctor, after three years in the role. His performances continue to be riveting. However, the writing and concepts for Series Four seem to me to be sub par. The latest crop of episodes strike me as suffering from fatigue and the old mistake of believing that bigger and broader is better. It feels like the show is a victim of its own success. It’s perhaps a wise move that the BBC has put the show on semi-hiatus for a year.

For example, “The Doctor’s Daughter” where the Doctor must deal with the sudden creation of his own full-grown offspring is an episode where the gimmick overwhelms the characters. Things are kept moving fast in an attempt to distract the viewers from the faulty concepts. Jenny, Doc’s daughter, has potential as a character, yet the constraints of a 42 minute episode doom her to cartoony flatness. Her existence seemed like nothing but a cute gimmick. Her resuscitation in the final moments of the show, or whatever you want to call it, struck me as corny. She just snapped awake, as if nothing had happened. Why no regeneration? Who knows? And what was up with her blasting off in a rocket? Yes, it leaves openings for her to encounter the Doctor somewhere in the universe, but it makes no character sense. It all seems contrived and forced. I thought it was interesting that Jenny had the same basic build and complexion as Rose. Some kind of genetic Freudian slip? The only true, deep, and meaningful note in that episode was the revelation to Donna that the Doctor had had children and that they had perished. Made me wonder if they were going to develop something around Susan, the First Doctor's companion, who called the Doctor "grandfather." So far, no such luck.

The other big disappointment of Series Four were the last two episodes “Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End”. These were a crazy jumble of characters, action, and wild concepts. Overall I enjoyed it as entertainment, but felt let down. Let down because it could've been so much better. Rose's character seemed undervalued due to the swell swarm of other companions. What could've been a meaningful and poignant return with some depth was blown off by demented spectacle. It was big and sloppy and falls apart if you think too much about it. Yet it was still entertaining, tender and moving in spots, and goofy fun in others. The insane Dalek Caan was probably my favorite part. Such loopy dialogue!

My feeling on the Fourth Series as a whole is much the same. It could've been better, but there was a lot to appreciate along the way. If only it all could have been as good at “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”. That Fourth Series 2 parter (written by Steven Moffat) was among the all time best of Doctor Who stories. (My only complaint is the shadow creatures are defeated by the Doctor’s reputation, not his direct action, but perhaps that's how it works in human/political conflicts in the real world, so what do I know?) This story had emotional depth, epic intonations, mystery, atmosphere, and really scary monsters. This is Doctor Who as it should be!

Here's to hoping that Steven Moffat will oversee a new level of quality for the series when he replaces current Head Writer Russell T Davies, who has held the role since 'Doctor Who' returned to screens in 2005. Overall, I'm hoping for much better tone, character development, and intrigue from Moffat than what we got from Davies in season Four. I expect Moffat to infuse the series with more darkness and emotion. Also I'm hoping for a bit more logic and cohesiveness. I've had enough of guest-star gimmicks for quite some time. Let's get back to character building and breaking new ground.

Of course, I did place my pre-order for the Season Four DVD despite it all, because Tennant is so good and there were some fantastic moments (Moffat’s doing!) here and there. ‘Nuff said.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Poems??

Got the following email from my blogliophile friend, Todd . . .

Hey, Keith --

What happened to the Friday spontaneous poetry? I bet you've got a backlog by now, so bring it on!

If you need some more keywords to get going again, add these to the pile:






Hope all's well,


Hey Todd:

The requests dried up on 4th of July weekend and I didn’t have the mood anymore to nudge anyone else for prompts. Basically I quit writing on the 4th and hadn’t picked up keyboard or pen to do anything poetic until yesterday. The 3rd Thursday poetry workshop met again yesterday and I hate to go without something to get feedback on. So I dusted off a scrap of writing I’d started and whipped it into a more finished form for the group. It got some good responses but it’s not quite done yet.

Anyway, I was ambivalent about the arrival of your prompt. I almost turned it down. But the poetry bug seems to be biting again. Not to say this is anything all that great, but I’m getting more in the mood to play with words again. So thanks for the prompt. I hope you find the results interesting enough.


Dream Theory

Superfudge is a book about a boy
who wants to be a bird.
That dream will never come true.

Waterloo ended Napoleon’s rule.
Some dreams end in abdication.

Although rumored to be lethal,
the Spartans left on permanent vacation.
Some dreams are never written, dying on the tongue.

Girls and boys are raised up for the Presidency,
but who watches those watchmen who let us down?
Too many dreams of justice never reach the psyche.

Tachyons, tachyons, theoretical but never slowing down—
dreams are like that, cold hard proof never found.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Marillion - Whatever is Wrong With You?

Marillion is sponsoring a video contest for their new song "Whatever is Wrong With You?" The prize of 5000 pounds goes to the video that gets the most views on YouTube. So far this is my favorite. I haven't invested the time to watch them all yet though, and doubt I'll ever do so. At least take a look at this one, and listen to the new song!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Reader's Response: "Pump Six" by Paolo Bacigalupi

Reader’s Response: “Pump Six” by Paolo Bacigalupi
from Fantasy & Science Fiction September 2008

The first person narrator, Alvarez, has troubles at home. He and his wife Maggie are trying to get pregnant, and Maggie doesn’t seem to be thinking too straight as she uses a lit match to locate a gas leak.

Alvarez has troubles at work, the sewage treatment plant for all of New York City. His fellow employees do no work and simply hang out and bicker all day. When an equipment problem comes up, they call Alvarez to fix it, if they think to even call Alvarez at all. In the course of the story, Alvarez comes to discover that the whole sewage treatment system is on the brink of complete collapse due to lack of maintenance over the course of one hundred years.

The world described in the story is one that is winding down. It appears that human beings may be de-evolving into new hermaphrodic, pack-like race called trogs that does nothing except hang out on the streets and have orgies. Alvarez worries that if he gets his wife pregnant their baby may end up being one of these trogs. Various other descriptions of the water, the lack of availability of certain consumer products (such as bacon), the breakdown the of the university system at Columbia (the students spend all their time on the quad in the nude), all suggest a future of social and genetic decay caused by environmental pollution.

Although the vision of things breaking down is depressing, I found the narrator’s voice to be engaging enough to maintain my empathy and interest. He’s a hard worker, thinks of the needs of others before himself, and endures the company of idiots for the sake of making a living.

My only complaint was some of the repetition of Alvarez’s worries and concerns. I guess the cycles of his griping about his co-employees (notice I don’t call them co-workers), about trying to get Maggie pregnant, and about how he’s stuck with the responsibility of being the only responsible fix-it person in sewage management, are intended to add realism. We all do tend to repeat ourselves when it comes to our everyday complaints. However, I would have preferred a bit of trimming on these points to make the story more concise.

“Pump Six” is an excellent example of the range of science fiction that is being published today. Anyone who thinks the genre is still only about space men and time travel hasn’t been reading the genre in ages. Even so, I would have never expected a story about future sewage treatment, yet it was fascinating and frighteningly plausible.

Bacigalupi’s story highlights the slump in human ingenuity and thus in turn society’s infrastructure that we all witness right here and right now. Food contaminated with E. coli bacteria, bridges collapsing, cranes falling: we face system failure all the time. Who doesn’t fear genetic mutations due to the poisons we have pumped into our environment?
Well, maybe those who are ceasing to think, which is the bigger horror Bacigalupi has illuminated here. There are those we encounter daily at work, in our schools and universities, and in our government who seem to be a thoughtless and ambitionless as Alvarez’s co-employees and as the trogs in the streets. One wonders at times if we are seeing the inevitable decay of our species.

Yet there are glimmers of hope, as Bacigalupi portrays in the final pages of the story. Alvarez appears to be a human with the ability to grow and learn, so all is not lost. There must be others.

I forced myself to look at the good things. People were still out and about, walking to their dance clubs, going out to eat, wandering uptown or downtown to see their parents . . . Lots of things were still working . . . I couldn’t let my myself wonder if that baby was going to turn out like the college kids in the quad. Not everything was broken.
As if the prove it, the subway ran all the way to my stop for a change. (41-42).

Even though most of the conflicts in the story remain unresolved, the tale ends on a tone of hope, suggesting we might be able to fix some of the problems we are creating for ourselves. But we need a few more good men, like Alvarez, who are willing and able to keep thinking to pull us out the muck. I hope they’re out there.

Monday, June 30, 2008

CAPS and Microsoft ® Word

At a recent “Poetry Workshop,” one of the topics of discussion was the traditional convention of capitalizing the first word of every line in a poem. Most of the poets assembled for this particular workshop were not devoted to the traditional forms or norms. Actually one admitted that the only reason for the capitalization all along the left side was that Microsoft ® Word automatically capitalized it.

I’m sure many poets have faced this annoying problem as well. Well, I’d like to help. Here are your instructions for turning off automatic capitalization in Microsoft ® Word.

Note: I’m using Microsoft ® Word 2002 for this instruction series, but it should be the same in most versions.

1. Open Microsoft Word.
2. Click on the menu option named “Tools” (located above the typing area).
3. Click on the drop-down men option named “AutoCorrect Options. . . ”

4. On the AutoCorrect tab, uncheck the option named “Capitalize first letter of sentences.”
5. Click OK.

6. Get back in the habit of hitting the Shift key to capitalize where you actually want capitalization.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Spontaneous Poem

This week’s challenge came from Joe Bronzi, comedian extraordinaire and my best friend from childhood. We grew up together in Poughquag, NY. As can happen between childhood friends, we lost touch in adulthood. But . . . we’re working on a reunion of sorts sometime in the near future. Check out Joe’s comedy on his MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/joebronzi

Here’s the challenge:


Sign me up, sure. Here’s a suggestion, too – A Flying man dreaming he is sleeping.


Here’s the resulting poem:

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

When I defied gravity at five
my Pa dubbed me bird-boy.
I got my kicks hiding Ma’s apron
on the tip of the weathervane’s
rooster beak. I could fly out
the window at night
flutter over to the lake
where bats swoop and wheel,
swim and then dry myself with velocity.
Afterward I could sleep
under the covers or over the mattress
like a butterfly on a crib mobile.
Now I would give up my levitation gift
even sacrifice my X-ray eyes
for one night of innocent sleep—
oblivious to bald, evil geniuses,
rampaging aliens armed with kryptonite,
this nightlife of mighty labors
while slumbering Lois wraps her legs
around a pillow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Catch-Up Spontaneous Poem

Here's a challenge I received awhile ago . . .

Okay… here’s something for you.

- mutant

- breakout

- painting

- script

Thanks! linda

Linda Ames

GPS Newsletter Editor (www.georgiapoetrysociety.org)
CVWC Publicity/Webmaster/Graphic Art (www.chattwriters.org)

OK, so here's another one for Linda, who based on her emails has been one of the biggest fans of this Spontaneous Poetry stunt. Thanks for your support and encouraging words, Linda.


Observe the new form of fruit
which had nothing to do with innovation.

Its mutant difference from all other fruit
was spontaneous like ketchup

splashed on white paper and called
a painting. Not even Tropicana could script

the creation of this violet skinned fruit
filled with gallons and gallons of bruise

tinged juice—one tree bears enough
to quench the thirst of all of Baghdad.

If only we could bring it to market,
extinguish the breakout of fighting

amongst the marking team
tasked with naming this Juicy Fruit.

I already have received the challenge for tomorrow’s “Friday Spontaneous Poem”, so please hold any new challenges until mid-next week. It’s nice for a change to be caught up!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Spontaneous Poem

From: Emery Campbell

Hike Eith,

Interesting. I once entered a similar sort of challenge contest in which one was to write a poem incorporating the following words:

exaggerate, wind, dirt, raisin, game, chicken, garlic, cream, chimney, and soda.

It could be any form but it had to make sense.

If you show me yours I'll show you mine (nudge, nudge, wink, wink...)


OK. Here it goes, Emery:

The Greatest Form of Flattery

Chimpanzees under attack exaggerate
their screams and the more cinematic ones wind
up channeling Tarzan. These exacerbate
quandaries of the immaterial mind.

‘Who’s imitating whom?’ stirs us to dig dirt
to crush clods in search of the golden raisin.
‘Well enough’ is never left alone. It hurts
to pray when answers are trapped inside resin.

A chimp would never booby trap the chimney,
bait Santa Claus with cookies and spiked soda.
Our vocal cords and thumbs have made us cagey,
plotting murders while prone in a pagoda.

The chimps have moved on to a banana game
they wring the peels as if choking a chicken.
When bananas go extinct who will they blame?
Moot point when the baby chimps cry and sicken

while onlookers lunch on stir-fry with garlic
sauce and one of us humans orders up cream.
A sip of tea to go with man’s oft cyclic
icing up of ‘nice’ into a cube of ‘mean.’

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Spontaneous Poem in a Child's Voice

This one was written under the influence of Brod Bargert, a children’s poet who writes in children’s voices. Catch the distinction here. His poems are not only FOR children. They are poems children can perform, because they are written FROM A CHILD’S POINT OF VIEW. Check out his work at http://www.brodbagert.com/

The children’s poem genre felt very appropriate for a poem written for Jean Mahavier. For years now, Jean has been involved with the Poetry in the Schools program through the Georgia Poetry Society. Thanks for your dedication to bringing poetry to children, Jean!

Here’s the prompt:

From: Jean D. Mahavier

Here's one for you:

Five pounds in two days? No way!


Remember to click the scan of the poem to enlarge.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Feeling Sad? Feeling Blue? Play this Video, It's For You!

Justin Blackburn, poet, mystic, voice in the wilderness, delivers a very important message. Don't miss it! It's for you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jollyship the Whiz-Bang: "Cleaning up Coney Island"

I'm planning a vacation to New York and was researching Musicals in New York City when I came across this bit of strangeness. The music and lyrics woke me up and amused me. Perhaps you'll enjoy it too. But be forewarned some of their material is, well, bawdy. Think Devo, Frank Zappa, and They Might Be Giants for an idea of their genre.

For more strange samples visit http://www.myspace.com/jollyshipthewhizbang

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Spontaneous Poem

This week’s prompt comes from my friend Todd. (Apologetic note: Jean and Linda, please be patient. I’m sorry it’s been taking me awhile to get to your requests. I hope to attend to them this weekend. Todd’s request came earlier and was misplaced.)

I suppose Todd thought I was ignoring his request, thus the challenging tone of the re-request I got:

If you're not up to the challenge of incorporating:

(( greased pole climb ))

(( town square ))

(( courthouse clock ))

(( sunburn ))

...then I'll wrap that one up myself, since it's drawn from a pretty specific summer memory of mine when I was about ten years old. Your call; let me know either way.

Well, Todd. I’d sure like to see you write this poem also. But here’s my crack at it, buddy! And thanks for the positive feedback and encouragement too!

One last note: If you ever have difficulty reading the scans of these poems, you can enlarge the view by clicking on the poem. If that doesn't help enough, drop me a line. I'll fix the problem somehow.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Spontaneous Poem

I didn’t prod anyone for a prompt this week which resulted in no new prompts. However, I do have a backlog of requests from the last two weeks, so I’m working through those in order of reception. Waiting in line are Linda Ames and Jean D. Mahavier. I’ll get to those requests as time permits.

The prompt I took on this week comes from my Mom, Ronnie Badowski:

animated suspension (not the other way it is usually said)
worm hole

Sarcasm Before and During the Leap

Give that genius a polished Red Delicious
whomever it was thought
to dive from a bridge
wearing a network of suspenders
hooked to tether of bungee.
Clearly she has the same kind of beautiful mind
as the guy who invented lederhosen
or the one came up with scuba gear
or ice fishing. So ingenious to eat
around the worm hole in the apple
all the way down to the edge of the core—
at least get something in you
before that plummet, that fall
towards the ravine, the rapids, the ice
bugs impacting against your pupils
but unable to feel it
your whole body is a sensationless
windshield the sky draws away from.
Only madness could aspire
to this animated suspension
as the cord lengthens out
and the ground pauses near your nose.
You are drawn back
but not enough to breathe
to get out the words
I want my apple back.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Actual Fortune Received This Week

I'm not a believer in fortunes or horoscopes—but the slip of paper in this week’s Fortune Cookie amused me, given the Spontaneous Poetry project I’ve been doing on Fridays.

Friday Spontaneous Poem

My friend Brad apparently wanted to make sure that his prompt was the first received this week, since he sent it on Monday. Honestly, I did not dwell on the prompt this week or have any extra time to think about it, since I was so busy with life in general. And, you may be interested to know that Brad's was the only prompt I received this week. (I still have a backlog of two prompts from last week though. So there might be a couple bonus Spontaneous Poems in store for this blog.)

From: Brad Tree
Sent: Mon 5/26/08 9:38 PM
To: Keith Badowski

wind hair 20 years 30 pounds

Brad Tree

I must continuously remind myself of the purpose of this Spontaneous Poetry exercise. It is to keep loose, to starve my inner critic, and to practice generosity and freely giving. It is a battle though. Whenever I finish one of these, part me of feels on edge, knowing it should be revised before it goes out to the world. That inner critic is screaming, "It's not done! It's not good enough!" I must reply, "It's not ours! We disown it! We are giving it away!"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Manaties Watercolor

Some of my long-time friends know that my childhood dream was to be a cartoonist or comic book artist. You know how adults are always asking kids, "What do you want to be when you grow-up?" Well, my earliest answer was "Charles M. Schulz!" Yeah, that's right! I wanted to take over writing and drawing Peanuts when Schulz got too old to do it anymore. Good thing I gave up on that dream, since Schulz refused (wisely) to allow anyone else to continue the strip after his retirement and death. Anyway, I have retained the germ of the drawing bug over the years. Rarely I pull out my sketchbook and simply draw. Recently, Christi's elementary school had an art exhibit as a fund-raiser. The theme was "Underwater Creatures". I decided to contribute, and here is the result.

If anyone reading this likes this illustration enough to want it for a wall decoration, I'm willing to gift it. It's yours for the asking! Note: It is unframed and would need to be matted.