Thursday, April 12, 2018

But Who's Counting?

In June, nine years ago, my late dear friend Tony Pascal mentioned in passing that his son-in-law Alex had started writing a blog. Blog, what’s that, I asked. This is my 800th and I’m still not sure. When Tony described it as a web log I thought to myself, I could do that. The only reason I know the number is because Google is keeping count.

In a sense these blogs are my make-up exam. English composition was my worst subject in high school. I couldn’t cram or even prepare myself. There was nothing to memorize. Our assigned subjects were: What I did over the Christmas holiday or Our Happy Family or What Patriotism Means to Me or My Day at the Zoo. There were no good fits.

Up until my first blog post I wrote poetry or, at least, what would pass for poetry. Poems were passable enough to be published in about thirty literary magazines and win a few prizes. By blogging I wanted to see if I could remove that jagged right-hand margin and make paragraphs out of stanzas. Authenticity and accessibility, above all else, seem to be the trend in poetry. The result is conversational poetry or poetic prose.  

I’d like to believe that some of my sentences attain that level. Much of what I come across masquerading as a poem is what Kurt Vonnegut called, carefully ruined prose. I half-agree with him. In fact the most severe criticism of a poem these days is that it is too poetic. Of course Peggy’s poems are unmistakably poetic without the prose being purple or archaic.

There was something pretentious calling my stuff, poetry. So I unburdened the lines with the lesser designation. There is a blurring of categories between non-narrative fiction and narrative non-fiction and between poetry and prose. I’m fine with that.

My impulse is to lift my words into another dimension, here and there. Not to re-state what I read and watch on cable news or the Internet but to find some connective tissue or observe from a different angle sufficient to move the subject into a slightly different plane.

Taken as an aggregate the 800 blogs have become a tracing of my own obsessions, passions, celebrations, memories, infirmities and quirks. They run from reflexive vehemence to interior reflection. Rumination to rambles to riffs. As far as I know there are no rules to obey as in high school composition. 

My first blog posted in June, 2009 was called Much-Maligned Salami. I just re-read it. In it I attempt to confer upon salami its second act rescuing it from its cursed sodium nitrite and icky trans-fat, by calling attention to its zero carbohydrate content. Not that I had any desire to be stuck in a sausage factory but to give salami a small measure of redemption as a snack for diabetics. My take also revealed me as a card-carrying contrarian.

My choice for subjects runs from politics to movies, sports, history, literature and Peggy... and language itself. I’m fascinated by words, their elasticity and their long-traveled transformation over millennia. For instance, we live in tragic times and that word, tragic, has a cargo of 2,500 years on its back. It derives from a Greek work pertaining to goats or goat-song. Aristotle’s use of the term referred to theater-works of sadness or suffering which have an element of catharsis. The plays themselves were often awarded prized goats to be ritually sacrificed like scapegoats as if the sins of the city-state could then be expiated. There are plenty of goats in Washington today and millions of sheep who put them there.

After just about every blog I write I get the feeling it will be my final one. I would never have guessed I have so much to say. I can’t seem to shut up. The blank page welcomes my squiggles. It’s almost an affliction. If I don’t write for 4-5 days something starts gnawing at my entrails. I’m sure I’ve repeated myself along the way. Sometimes I plagiarize from an old poem of mine I might have come across. Other times I find that I don’t even agree with myself a year later. Blogging grants me that dispensation.

For the first few years I collected my favorites in book form. First came The Marriage of Everything, then I’m Just Saying and in 2014 Now and Then Some was published. All are available on Amazon. Since then I have enough material for at least two more collections but I can’t quite get my act together. My deathless prose may have to wait for posthumous publication…or wither away in virtual blogsville.


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