12 Days to Go

With 12 days remaining before our trip to France, this morning I was greeted by this construction sign at Denver's leading slacker coffee shop, Paris on the Platte, the only place around where I can enjoy my liturgical weekly Camel. I began this habit with the late Tom Auer, publisher of The Bloomsbury Review, when we used to have coffee once a week. One day, after not smoking for 20-plus years, I asked for one of his Camel blunts. Tom was a tall, rare man of integrity and kindness, and my weekly cigarette always summons his presence. Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 17, 2005

How to Make God Laugh

Billy Collins read poems and talked about poetry tonight at Denver University. Gates Hall, which holds 900 people, was nearly full, and the former U.S. Poet Laureate did not disapoint. He read a mix of funny and serious poems, which is the same mix found in each of his poems on its own. He said his personal failings are sentimentalism and sarcasm, so he is always calibrating his work to avoid falling too far toward one or the other. "If there was a blackboard here, I would now go write the word 'irony,'" he said.

One student, admitting that he was being "ostentatious" in the question period, asked if he could read Collins a short poem and have him critique it on the spot. "I'd say that's presumptuous, not ostentatious, so we need to start right off looking at language," Collins said pleasantly, "but go ahead." The poem was terrible, but Collins kindly noted it had decent rhythm. He also said its title, "Poem," needed work, and that an image involving an angel was "cartoonlike and painful." I could barely breathe during this exchange, but we all lived through it. Another youngster asked if Collins writes all the time. "I'm not always writing, but I'm always waiting," he answered. In my collection of Collins's books in my study, I can't find my favorite poem of the evening, one in which a dog of the speaker comes back from the dead to say he never liked his owner. It was a Swiftian sendup of every maudlin portrayal of man's best friend in the history of literature, simply brilliant, and in the end, the best ode to canines I've ever heard.

Collins said the Poet Laureate gig appeared to be a plot by the government to silence one poet for two years, but his office had a nice view of the Capitol. "The phone never rang once," he told us. Asked why he doesn't write more political poems, Collins said they tend to have a short shelf life and are driven more by will than imagination, so they are less fun to write. As for the Poets Against the War movement which was launched during his watch, Collins said, "It was like 'Generals FOR the War'--it was just too obvious."

He wandered through his poems in a spontaneous way, and his responses seemed to amuse himself as much as his audience. At one point, he posed the question of how you make God laugh. His answer: Make a plan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Am I Really Writing This Blog?

I followed an Instapundit link to an item about bloggers declaring war on the Times of India. It included a comment by Rush Limbaugh, but when I clicked on his name, my e-mail program whipped up a message to freedomcome@yahoo.com . That looks like a fishy address; I am sure Rush can afford his own domain without using Yahoo mail. But I wasn't about to try it, for fear I'd end up receiving a lifetime membership as a Ditto Head. What was even odder was that the comment, "I support you", was a link to a blog apparently written by Bill Clinton. I've always thought Clinton would make the perfect blogger, so I was excited to see it. Nothing on the blog showed it to be satire or spoof, and the voice was convincing. Doesn't the following excerpt SOUND like Clinton?
I had a lot of time, when I was in the hospital to think about my future. I have at least twenty more years to go. I’m not interested in retiring. Just lying on my bed for days, made me understand how much I love my job. Whatever that job is nowadays, be it an educator, speechmaker, writer or peacemaker. I love my job and I want to continue being active in the world community for years to come.

I don't think a Rhodes Scholar would misuse commas in such an odd way. And now I'm sure it's a fake, because the official website for Clinton's Foundation makes no mention of a blog, and I came across another blogger who was trying to figure out the same mystery.

I can see how someone might have fun putting up a satirical blog pretending to be Bill Clinton. But why work this hard simply to mimic him so accurately that it's difficult to spot the deception? The posts go all the way back to June of last year. It's creepy--like stalking, or identity theft. And it proves that you never know. This very blog you are reading now may not be what it seems. Perhaps it's a spoof created by Matthew Saunders, the brilliant tech wizard at WESTAF, or Joel Taggert, talented poet and chef from the Zen Center of Denver. Reader beware!

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