Local writer Jennifer Reeser has contributed heavily to the new edition of the poetry periodical Life and Legends. Reeser contributes three original poems, as well as two of her translations of formulas used by Cherokee shamans. (The original Cherokee, as written by the shamans, is included in the publication.) The theme of the new issue — the fourth edition of Life and Legends — is “The Essence of Warriorship.” Reeser homes right in on this theme, devoting two of her poems to Cherokee historical figures who were deeply involved in war. The poem “On a Portrait of Chief Joseph” hinges on the poet’s speculations about the “sublime” utterance for which Chief Joseph was known: “My chieftains, I shall fight no more forever.” The narrator says Joseph’s strident vow to pacifism “stills and allays” a “bloody war … between the Red and White” that is going “inside her.” She states: “I’m tired. No more — forever — will I fight.” This variation drives home the exhaustion of long fighting in a way Joseph’s statement didn’t. The poet’s vocabulary and broken-up sentence structure make for a powerful expression of a fatigue that’s gradually become too big to handle. The poem “Jacob Surber, Indian Spy” concerns an Indian and American historical figure who, in addition to being an active warrior, must have experienced some sort of interior fight between his “red” heritage and the fledgling “white” culture of the American colonies. Early on, the narrator calls Surber an “Indian spy and rebel” — a “native agent … freely … killing your brothers.” He pauses from his military work to shake hands with George Washington after Yorktown. Surber’s ability to be loyal to the settlers’ way while, at times, anyway, turning against his own people, seems to make him a difficult character for the poet to fix with accuracy in 2016. She calls him a “mole.” She can’t seem to “see” him in her imagination, writing, “Light and shadow compete within a clearing “Over your features.” She emphasizes his unorthodox, unclear and unearthly nature one last time in the closing line when she describes him as “Spare as a specter.” Surber’s interior conflict is so like the narrator’s that she states, “Here inside me, your genes, your motivation / Move anew.” In the new Life and Legends, there are original works by at least 32 poets, as well as translations of Arabic, Filipino and Spanish poets. And there’s a book review of a new collection of poems by Jurgen Becker. But the big draw here is undoubtedly an interview with Robert Pinsky, who served as Poet Laureate of the U.S. for three terms in the 1990s. During his time in the post, he created the Favorite Poem Project. (See favoritepoem.org.) Pinsky hits several major topics. Of American culture, he says, “diversity is in the nature of culture … Culture — contrary to various ideologues — is by its nature impure, hybrid, in motion. Purity is an illusion … The effects of culture on society have always been profound. To ignore or minimize that fact is willfully blind.” He makes the point that neither show business nor academic curriculum constitutes culture; rather, they are both “included” in culture. Pinsky gives would-be writers the same advice I do: read. Specifically, he says, “Read like a writer. Read not to keep up with the present but to understand the past and the future. Be guided in your reading by your individual appetites and needs. Be guided in your writing by your reading.” Check out the new Life and Legends at lifeandlegends.com/content-fourth-edition/.
Respect The Beard
Been hankering for a facial hair competition? You’re in luck. Those with hair on their faces can compete at “The Shootout” event at Wild Bill’s Saloon at 2090 Pujol Road in Lake Charles. Festivities will start at 5 pm on July 30. Admission will be $10 per person. The facial hair competition will feature live music, food vendors and a cash bar. Proceeds from the competition will benefit The Molly Frank Foundation’s Operation Hero 6 group, which provides service animals to U.S. military veterans who suffer with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and physical disabilities and who can’t afford a service dog. Need to know more? Call 532-6800 or 802-7747.
Beards. They Grow On You.
Readers may or may not be surprised to learn that there are several sites on the great big internet that are devoted to beard humor. Here’s a sampling: “Real men don’t cry. They water their beards.” “Don’t worry about Alexander Putin. You should never fear a man who can’t grow a beard.” “I can’t decide whether I want my beard over the covers or under the covers.” “I don’t need your swag. I have a beard.” “I grew a beard because Ron Swanson told me to.” Editor’s note: at least half the beard humor on the internet is X-rated. So, if you’re into that sort of thing, start trolling.
Look Out For Bachman’s Name
The photographer who took the picture of the Baton Rouge protester in a sun dress confronting police is Jonathan Bachman: a New Orleans freelance photographer who provides images to Getty and The Associated Press. He took the recent shot for the British news agency Reuters. This was obviously the sort of a once-in-a-lifetime shot that makes a photographer world famous overnight. (Remember the shot of a lone protestor facing down a line of tanks in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989?) I’d be surprised if Bachman doesn’t win a Pulitzer for this one. Before this photograph, Bachman was best known as a sports photographer, with his work appearing frequently in Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine. We’ll see if this turn of events alters his focus.
‘We Can Save The World’
“Test drive a luxury car in support of Ronald McDonald House. “The BMW ‘Drive for a Cause’ annual test drive event will is [sic] today … “ — Reported by the Monroe News-Star, July 12. By the way, the words in the headline were written by songwriter Graham Nash in 1971 — decades before humankind finally realized that we can all save the world easily by test driving luxury cars.
When Life Gives You Lemons, Write A Headline
The News-Star was really on a roll on July 12. Another story in the paper bore the headline “Confidence is a result, but courage is a choice.” That got me thinking, and I searched carefully through the entire newspaper for headlines that offered additional life-altering expressions of rare insight. In particular, I was on the lookout for headlines that read: “Yesterday is history. Today is a gift.” “We can’t change our situation, but we can change our attitudes.” “A challenge is an opportunity in disguise.” “A frown is just a smile turned upside down. “It’s not the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away.” “If we have too many moments that take our breath away, we die.” I didn’t see any of those headlines. I decided to skim the “Courage Is A Choice” column, paying careful attention to see whether it might contain the serenity prayer, which, you may remember, goes like this: “Grant me the serenity to know there is nothing I can change; the courage to pretend I can change everything; and the wisdom to blow smoke when I get in a tight spot.” Although I didn’t see the serenity prayer, I was pleased to find that the column had loads of super popular catch phrases of rare wisdom. The column the News-Star was promoting was written by Bryan Moore, who describes himself as a managing director and planner. He ends his column with these words: “So think hard and plan well. But at some point in time, you’ll have to make a choice. “Choose courage.” Fortunately for all of us, it’s really, really easy to choose courage; easier, in fact, than spreading butter on bread or boiling water. That’s why almost everybody chooses to be courageous. I say, “almost.” Not everybody can boil water.
Three tree cutters attacked by bees in Moss Bluff. — KPLC-TV headline, July 7.
— Irene (Carole Lombard): I went to Venice, and one night I went for a ride in one of those rowboats that the man pushes with a stick. Not a matador. That was in Spain. But something like a matador. Godfrey (William Powell): Do you, by any chance, mean a gondolier? Irene: That was the name of the boat! — Irene: Can you buttle? Godfrey: Buttle? Irene: Yes, we’re fresh out of butlers. The one we had left this morning. — Irene (looking over Godfrey’s new restaurant): Oh, it’s a lovely view — the view of the bridge. Is it always there? Godfrey: Most always. Irene: Oh, you have a kitchen! I’m gonna like this place very much. — All from My Man Godfrey, 1936, dir. Gregory La Cava