Brad Craft's Blog

April 24, 2015

From New and Selected Poems, by David Lehman


Did you know that Evian spelled backwards is naive?
I myself was unaware of this fact until last Tuesday night
when John Ashbery, Marc Cohen, and Eugene Richie
gave a poetry reading and I introduced them
to an audience that already knew them,
and there were bottles of Evian at the table.
As air to the lungs of a drowning man was
a glass of this water to my dry lips. I recommend it
to you, a lover of palindromes, who will also
be glad to learn that JA read us three "chapters"
of his new poem, "Girls on the Run," a twelve-
part saga inspired by girls' adventure stories, with
characters named Dimples and Tidbit plus Talkative and
Hopeful on loan from "Pilgrim's Progress."
As Frank O'Hara would have said, "it's the nuts."

The poets' books were on sale and afterwards
two of the poets signed theirs happily and the third
did so willingly and Joe took photos and I smiled
for the camera, shaking hands with people
I knew or didn't know and thinking how
blessed was the state of naivete
my naive belief in the glory of the word
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Published on April 24, 2015 00:15 • 1 view

April 20, 2015

From The Collected Poems, by James Merrill


The panes flash, tremble with your ghostly passage
Through them, an x-ray sheerness billowing, and I have risen
But cannot speak, remembering only that one was meant
To rise and not to speak. Young storm, this house is yours.
Let our eye darken, your rain come, the candle reeling
Deep in what still reflects control itself and me.
Daybreak's great gray rust-veined irises humble and proud
Along your path will have laid their foreheads in the dust.
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Published on April 20, 2015 00:02 • 1 view

April 19, 2015

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1) Lists reduce complex philosophical concepts like “the good” to dumb, even dangerously oversimplified cliché– with statements like this one.

2) Almost everyone is “most like” either Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ, or Jane Eyre.
3) Cats and dogs are largely unaware of any ongoing contest for our affections, and, moreover, cats could give a damn.
4) Everyone's favorite color is probably a primary, unless we're just being perverse and or actually love pink, in which case, congratulations, you are Barbara Cartland.
5) It doesn't matter how many of the 100 Best Books you've read if that list includes Harry Potter and you are not eleven years old.
6) No one needs a reason to call his or her mother on Mother's Day, let alone ten reasons. (Call your mother.)
7) If you have either a lease or a mortgage – or a Sugar Daddy --where you should live has already been settled for the time being.
8) Which Disney Princess you are is only relevant if and when your lawsuit for residuals or copyright infringement is actually found to have merit by a judge.
9) Which tree, cheese, compact car and or Iggy Azalea song you are does not matter as you are, in fact, not a tree, a cheese, a compact car nor an Iggy Azalea song – none of which have thumbs, or a soul.
10) No, you would not survive the coming ______ apocalypse. That is the very nature of an apocalypse.
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Published on April 19, 2015 22:49 • 2 views

From The Poems of Leigh Hunt


There is May in books forever;
May will part from Spenser never;
May's in Milton, May's in Prior,
May's in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;
May's in all the Italian books:--
She has old and modern nooks,
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,
In happy places they call shelves,
And will rise and dress your rooms
With a drapery thick with blooms.
Come, ye rains, then if ye will,
May's at home, and with me still;
But come rather, thou, good weather,
And find us in the fields together.
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Published on April 19, 2015 00:17 • 2 views

April 18, 2015

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Published on April 18, 2015 23:17 • 2 views

From New and Selected Poems, by David Lehman


Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat
intolerable feelings of inadequacy;
Won't admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind
numerous marital infidelities;
Looks fat in jeans, mouths clichés with confidence,
breaks mother's plates in fights;
Buys when the market is too high, and panics during
the inevitable descent;
Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference
between Pepsi and Coke,
Has defined the darkness of red at dawn, memorized
the splash of poppies along
Deserted railway tracks, and opposed the war in Vietnam
months before the students,
Years before the politicians and press; give him
a minute with a road map
And he will solve the mystery of bloodshot eyes;
transport him to mountaintop
And watch him calculate the heaviness and height
of the local heavens;
Needs no prompting to give money to his kids; speaks
French fluently, and tourist German;
Sings Schubert in the shower; plays pinball in Paris;
knows the new maid steals, and forgives her.
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Published on April 18, 2015 00:00 • 1 view

April 17, 2015

A friend posted this to me on social media.  I've seen it elsewhere, of course, if never in such fancy calligraphy before. To put it plain again, it reads:

"If you must steal books steal from a richly stock'd Corporate Bookstore."

Oh, please.

First, it's that word, "must" that just does my head in.  Who exactly, in a country with the largest system of public libraries in the history of the world "must" steal books?!  Jean Valjean stole from necessity.  Bread.  He stole bread.  He stole to feed his widowed sister and her seven children, remember?  Hunger and the suffering of others are compelling reasons to steal.  (And keep in mind, it didn't really work out all that great for him.  The consequences of his theft were monumental, measured in plot or pages, and the suffering?  Prisoner 24601.  Chapter One, Book One.  Need I go on?)  Nobody has to steal a book in this country.  Nobody.

Then there's the second fallacy in this argument, nearly as bad as the first.  The "richly stock'd Corporate Bookstore" is very much a thing of the past, but even when Borders and Barnes and Noble were still going concerns, the idea that the harm done by shoplifting was to their corporate bosses was ridiculous.  Those losses were written off, it's true, but not by the managers and staff, the honest booksellers who worked for low wages and who were made to suffer for not controlling their inventory.  Trust me, the consequences were felt by the very people least able to afford them.

So, where does this come from, this persistent lie that somehow petty theft can be justified by politics?  And just why does it still exercise me so?

When I was young, I read Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, Tolstoy.  I called myself an Anarchist, now and then.  True, I never "liberated" books as a contribution to the coming Revolution, but I understand the urge to strike a blow here and there.  And when AIDS came along and defined my generation, I marched with the rest.  I even got arrested a couple of times.  (I was not a very committed activist though.  I once begged a policeman to let me go pee after I'd been arrested, promising I would come straight back and go to jail with the rest.  He cut my zip-tie and told me "don't come back," and I didn't.)  Still, I marched against Apartheid, and for a woman's right to choose.  I was there when we shut down the Capital in Sacramento once, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was there when we surrounded a drug company's headquarters because they wouldn't sell AZT at a reasonable price.  I blocked traffic.  I shouted "The Whole World Is Watching" and knocked over police-barriers when the cops were beating Delores Huerta.  I marched on Washington.  I didn't actually join much, or organize anything.  I put out the chairs a couple of times for meetings at the Women's Building.  I was an "emotional support" volunteer, briefly, for the Shanti Project.  I learned that I hated consensus building, cold-calls and sharing.

So maybe I'm not the best example.  Still, I was there, kinda.

Fight the power.

I also learned that the idiots who broke out the windows at the Wendy's on Market Street every single time we went marching by inconvenienced no one but the developmentally disabled employee who invariably came out to sweep up the glass.  I learned that the kids in Berkley who invariably tried to turn over the cop cars were always going straight back to their fully-paid dorm-rooms and supper on a meal-plan at the cafeteria after.

Working in bookstores nearly my whole adult life, I've learned that for every street kid who shoplifts to get a fix or a meal, there are two shoplifters who work as part of an organized gang and three more who steal art supplies or textbooks with the money to buy these things in their pockets --money from their parents who can afford it.  It's that last sorry lot who most often subscribe to the silly sentiment expressed in the sign above -- at least until Security catches them.  They always cry when they're busted.  They're always more afraid of what Dad will say, and how this might affect their transcript than of actually getting arrested.  None of them has ever expressed, in my hearing anyway, how it will all be worked out, come the Revolution.  It seems there are no committed revolutionaries ever handcuffed to the bench in the Security office.

It's a dodge, plain and simple, a way to avoid doing anything meaningful by assigning meaning to something done for the thrill of being bad, or sounding cool.  Sentimental anarchism of this kind has all the political veracity of "compassionate conservatism," or 'market communism."  It's just another way of being dishonest without feeling so bad about it.

So.  If anyone under twenty-five should ever happen across these words, and the mood should come upon you to steal a book from the independent bookstore where I work, should you want in this way to stick it to the Man, or whatever the phrase is nowadays, just come find me.  I'm almost always right there, on the sales floor.  Easy to spot: the little fat man with the big white beard.  Just stop by and say "hi."  We can talk about Slovoj Zizek and I'll tell you about the time we scared the Secretary of the Interior so bad he refused to get out of his armored car.  I can recommend a great book by Errico Malatesta.

And, hell, kid, I'll buy you the fucking book.

Just don't be such a jerk.
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Published on April 17, 2015 22:15 • 2 views

From The Lunatic, by Charles Simic


Death asking an old woman
To please sew him a button,
And she agrees, gets out
Of bed and starts looking
For her needle and thread
With a lit candle the priest
Had placed above her head.
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Published on April 17, 2015 00:37 • 9 views

April 16, 2015

Art happens when and wherever it can.  In every bookstore in which I've worked, corporate environments and independents, companies large and small, people have found space to put things up in unlikely places, unapproved, just... 'cause.  It's nesting as much as decorating, I should think, marking territory.  "Kilroy Was Here" -- none of it's graffiti as such, though I know graffiti has become respectable lately.  It's less message than mess, and all the better for that.

The best of it sticks around, curls at the edges, gets a patina on the tape, ceases to mean anything if it ever did.  I like the idea of these things getting on, going on even when the people who put the pictures on there have gone.  These carts are like crab-shells.

Sooner or later, someone with the authority to do so will have the lot scraped off.  Doesn't matter.  It always happens.  It will just start over; a clipping here, a comic strip there, a bit of colored paper and it will be art all over again.

I find it all strangely cheering.  Thought I'd share.
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Published on April 16, 2015 20:35 • 4 views
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Published on April 16, 2015 20:17 • 3 views

Brad Craft's Blog

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