Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The talented and gentle Sandra Simonds will be posting a little e-mail interview with me at some point, so check that out if you want to know which dead poet I'd most like to kiss. In her latest posting she expresses her ambivalence, or former ambivalence, about the anti-war movement among poets, and wonders if that has something to do with her being an American Jew. For what it's worth, Sandra, I'm an American Jew and I'm against the war—I'm also against Sharon and his government, which many good Israelis are. For a little while I wavered on the subject--Saddam is a brutal dictator and I didn't and don't want my antiwar sentiments to be construed as support for him. What it boils down to is that I wouldn't trust George Bush to take out the trash, much less take out a dictator. He has squandered all that post 9/11 goodwill abroad and almost completely foreclosed any possibility of this nation's coming to reflect on how it might wield its power more justly (I'm not much for slogans but "No Justice, No Peace" makes total sense to me). He is obsessed, simply obsessed, with Saddam, whose power to threaten us or his neighbors is miniscule compared with that of, say, Kim Jong Il. What frightens me most about our president, and what makes me mistrust him, is that I believe he believes what he's saying. It's not about oil for him, at least not at the gut level. He truly is on a Christian crusade. And we are going along with him out of fear, because we don't believe in our own strength and cling automatically to someone so self-assured. The headline in the local paper today is BUSH DRAWS THE LINE. The relief in those big black letters is palpable, as it is in the jump upwards of the stock market. Meanwhile ordinary Iraqis are frantically buying up all the bottled water they can, looking nothing so much like we did a few weeks ago when duct tape and plastic sheeting became the order of the day. Fear plus lies equals complicity in terror. It's a black day for democracy.

Still life goes forward, as it were automatically. I'm flying to California tomorrow to celebrate my sister's 30th birthday and to meet up with some old friends from Montana, the talented and charming poets Catherine Meng and Caeli Wolfson. There's also a good chance I'll get to meet their friend and mine Stephanie Young. And it's spring. I am going to celebrate life in this time of death because really what choice do I have?

One thing that makes me feel like celebrating life is Armand Schwermer's Tablets, which I just read an old chapbook of (Tablets I-XV) at the Cornell library. Thrilling, funny stuff—the rare book of poems I have a physical, Dickinsonian reaction to (less the top of my head coming off than a rush of warmth in my chest). I wonder if the poems' hyperbolically "primitive" sexuality is meant as a send-up of the fuzzy picture most of us have of Sumeria and ancient civilizations generally—the Willendorf Venus, etc. Sumeria, of course, is one of the places we'll be bombing in the next 72 hours. Wow. That buzz didn't last too long.

Gotta pack. Will post from San Fran if I can.

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