Weather Eye

It’s not that we’re fat (tho many are), or a little less sharp of movement than East Coasters, or more uptight than West Coasters (tho many are), or more racist than either (tho many are) — it’s that we’re obsessed with weather. We go to Istanbul and talk about the weather.

In CUNY’s  Lost & Found collection of poets writing on poetry or to each other, Baraka and Dorn exchange notes mostly on getting poems published and Baraka’s young journal off the ground. I can tell Dorn is the Midwesterner in this dialogue. No matter where he is, the letters include long sections on the weather, remarks on the snow, dryness, the oppression or lifting of conditions, season. Dorn, it turns out, is from Illinois. He watches his atmosphere minutely, with some love but mostly a kind of background trepidation.

Midwesterners think inside a farming culture. MW hipsters will deny this, but their false consciousness is another post. Our cities, surrounded by 100s of miles of crop & herd. Eastern cities are surrounded by other cities, US NightLightsand Western ones by wildland of myth and monster (to hear them tell it — it’s just wolves and indigenous people they’re freaking out about).

Weather is not conversational filler, it’s vital gossip about a bad cop. If you live in a town whose name starts with a J (Jarrell, Joplin) you are in trouble from go. The Ring of Fire Derecho of 2012 was born in Iowa at 9:30 in the morning, and was pounding Virginia, DC, and Maryland ELEVEN HOURS later. It moved 2 days worth country in half a day.

Michael Stipe is a MW’er & complained about our serious small talk in “Pop Song 89“, but he was really on about a flat kind of interchangeable human insufficiently engaged in their world while Reagan & Co. burned the 20th Century down to wee green shoots. He had a point.

In LatinX and African American cultures, polite conversation gets quickly to asking after family, everyone’s grandparents, cousins. In the MW, we call long-distance to ask after the weather there, guessing whether a storm will break N or S or just smash thru everything with all of Canada behind it. I live in the East now, so when Mamma calls we compare weather in every conversation while we both have apps & know perfectly well what’s up with the atmosphere.

Little House on the Prairie? The whole plot of those novels turn on a hail storm leveling the Engel’s wheat crop. So, I’m in grad school in the early 1990s, this is before the flood of ’93, with my dad who’s helping me move into my first apartment. We get the mattress in (this is all true) and sit on the trailer with a couple of beers, it’s late June, we are made of sweat at this point and chatting about the homegoods I need to score at the Goodwill, when the sky goes gunmetal and green and the sirens wind up

that cats-fucking-in-the-alley wail, and I realize this apt has. no. basement. 20 min later, it’s over, sunny, shiney streets and glittering oaks rise & shake their crowns in the after-breeze. “Sky turned over,” Papa says,”not seen that in a few years.” Radio that night reported a tornado on the edge of town — yes, that edge of town, always. This was a sunny day.

We’re like sailors this way. Not for nought it’s called a sea of wheat. That swath of Mississippi Watershed is the size of an ocean & builds up heat and damp like the Tropics do. It teaches us how the old gods still dance at their children’s weddings.



Never Made Sense / No Sense to Make

Neoliberalism has, by many accounts, come home to shit on the eggs. We’ve lived with it for decades now, and “things getting better” only deepens the fecund pile as the years drivel on. You are out of your job, future, house, sense-of-self because of it.

The fitzy little idea that countries can be run like corporations and presidents or prime ministers should act like — or better, by replaced by — CEOs is a central tenet of neoliberalism. Somehow, if we run government like business, all our woes will be kissed well.

I am not the only writer to point out that this, this is some buzzard shit. Here’s why, in an eggshell.

Corporations don’t participate in history.
Governments are only history.

What I mean by this is: corporations don’t deal much with the consequences of their actions for their employees, or the people who live around them, or the people their frequent malfeasance destroys. They might be forced to rectify a bad act by a lawsuit, but that happens almost never. They exist to profit. They pursue efficiency, and that’s why the replace US workers with cheaper foreign ones or (more often and even better) robots which don’t eat, sleep, get sick or old, or have children to worry about. Robots are efficient, and they make oodles of the profits.

Governments, of the sort we imagine we have in the US, are humongous non-profit organizations, primarily concerned with people and their well-being and the consequences of many actions, and are therefore wholly embedded in history. Governments don’t profit. Everything about governing from its supply to its demand is inefficient and cannot become efficient in the way the corporations imagine they are.

CEOs would make, and may make for real if we commit the self-immolation presented to us by a Trump presidency, horrible and destructive presidents because the whole set of assumptions, goals, and processes of corporations are just about the opposite of those of governments. Their philosophies don’t jibe.

Don’t get me wrong. Corporations to things that affect history, but they are not in the history business — they are not nations, or peoples, or even decently loyal clubs. They are profit making machines that make profit out of the planet’s resources and many of the years of many human lives. They are not concerned with anything like well-being, literacy rates, national health and contentment levels, cultural literacies, life-spans, or even defense (not even defense corporations are particularly interested in OUR defence).

We live in the fragile and uncertain consequences of 40 years of neoliberalism. A tiny group of friends and acquaintances own nearly everything (and most of us with it), and a few of us are still eking by on the skills the current economy hungers for, and the vast rest of us are tired and hungry and totally fucked.

History demands a stronger nation of us.
History will not reward a more businessy nation.


#nevertrump  #neoliberalism  #fakeeconomy  #americandream  #thegreatturning  #peaceeconomy #governmentisnotbusiness  #cantcheathistory  #goodluckwiththat



On the Abolition of Political Parties

Organizations of scale: multinationals, trading houses, banks, political parties, maybe bigness itself is the problem?

Simone Weil, On the Abolition of Political Parties, trans. Simon Leys, with essays by Czesław Miłosz (“The Importance of Simone Weil”) and Simon Leys (“In the Light of Simone Weil: Miłosz and the Friendship of Camus”) (New York: New York Review of Books, 2013), 71 pp.

— from Common Knowledge, 21.3 (Fall 2015), 516-17.

“Political parties are a marvelous mechanism, which, on the national scale, ensures that not a single mind can attend to the effort of perceiving, in public affairs, what is good, what is just, what is true. As a result—barring a very small number of fortuitous coincidences—nothing is decided, nothing is executed, except measures that run contrary to the public interest, to justice and to truth.”

The relevance of these remarks of Weil’s, published in 1942, to contemporary political mischief is galvanizing. Her arguments are worthy of everyone’s serious consideration, in particular her philosophical account of those characteristics of a political party that lead to its becoming totalitarian—to the inevitable reversal, that is, from its being a means to its becoming an end. Since “a good tree can never bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree beautiful fruits” is for her a trustworthy biblical text, she focuses on whether political parties contain enough good to compensate for their evils. The only legitimate reason to conserve anything is, Common Knowledge Published by Duke University Press Little Reviews 517 for Weil, its goodness. Given that her criteria for goodness are truth, justice, and public interest, she concludes that the “institution of political parties appears to be an almost unmixed evil” and that its abolition “would prove almost wholly beneficial.” Today, the quantity of “bad fruit” produced by our political parties makes one yearn for ways to nourish a “good tree.” One propitious means of preparing the ground could be to cultivate a wide readership for this essay by Simone Weil, together with the related pieces by Czesław Miłosz and Simon Leys that accompany it in this succinct volume.

— E. Jane Doering is a professor and the executive coordinator of the Teachers as Scholars Program in the College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame. She is the co-editor of The Christian Platonism of Simone Weil (University of Notre Dame Press, 2004).

doi 10.1215/0961754X-3131207

Normal Here

We eat a lot of Round-UP. We don’t see much of the fighting in Kobane, Iraq, Syria — neither the fighters. 21 US military veterans kill themselves every day. 10trans women, most of color, have been killed this month.

I saw a picture of a dead child — car bomb — the other day and was stunned twice. Once at the tiny crumple of that life, and once that I haven’t seen more such pictures.

A video making its way around shows 4 1/2 minutes of police losing it and beating the hell out of people who seem mostly confused and afraid.

20%  of American women have been sexually assaulted. The 2 deadliest factors in an American woman’s life are the man she partners with and the car she drives, in that order. It seems raping the night-shift cleaning woman is a thing.

A few years ago, banking magicians disappeared a generation’s wealth.

Nearly all my friends of color have posted this : #IfIDieInJailIDidNotCommitSuicide. 649 people have been Killed By Police so far this year.

More than 4 American children die from child abuse and neglect every day. Most  are below the age of 3. They come from all backgrounds.

Everything’s normal here, the rule, the way, not the exception. We trick ourselves. We respond with the rhetoric of surprise, but these are not surprises. This is as normal as a lunch break, or wishing you could feed your children.

NASA tells me we found an Earth-like planet 1400 light years away. I wonder, what’s normal there on Other Earth?

Kill the Feminist

The Trouble with Millennials Isn’t What You Think

You know the game. It’s popular on college campuses across the Republic. Young women organize to demand that colleges address rape culture, and social media lights up with calls to rape and murder the women who simply want to be safe from the random but intimate violence of rape.

Julia Michels, the incoming president of Feminists United, said the anonymous threats were especially troubling.” There was no way of telling if these people were serious, if they had a history of violence,” said Michels, a rising senior from Fairfax. “I didn’t know if they were living across the hall or sitting next to me in class.”
(WJLA ABC7 News)

On April 17, 2015 the previous president of Feminists United (affiliate of Feminist Majority), Grace Mann was murdered by her housemate in charming Fredericksburg, VA at the liberal arts college, University of Mary Washington. The housemate was a former member of the rugby team. What’s happening is a kind perfect-storm of structural social oppression. It’s long been part of “sports culture” like “frat culture” to take women for toys or enemies. In this case, that friction went to its natural endgame.

But, more than being a woman, Grace Mann was killed for acting on her feminist principles – for being a feminist who called out bad behavior. For being a feminist.

Feminists United members, including Mann, were targeted by name on Yik Yak after speaking out against incidences of sexual violence involving fraternities, and after word spread—incorrectly—that the group had called for the suspension of UMW’s men’s rugby team over sexually violent chants by some members. (

The feminist called for behavior adjustments and education, and one of the men critiqued allegedly murdered her. Men are afraid women will judge them, and women are afraid men will kill us. Quit killing us, and we’re a lot less likely to scorn you.

This is the dark truth about Millennials that we are not facing. We hear so often about their acceptance of LGBTQIA+ culture and rights, their relative comfort interacting across lines of race and ethnicity, their bad luck to be graduating to a crap economy, and their insistence that their way to doing business in the world – one entirely informed by information technology and interconnectivity – be respected and accepted. Their pathologically encouraged need for compliments and kudos. All of that social progressivism and general good nature falls apart when push comes to women.

I want to join the chorus of cheer and relief that finally, here, thanks to the magic of the Internet and all that self-esteem building, here is a generation that might actually change the system and set the world to rights. I’m told their generational aura is amethyst – they were just born vibrating on a higher frequency, we should all be so happy. But, nope, not buying it.

The first of all structural othering and oppression is that of men over women, masculine over feminine. We call this patriarchy, or male privilege, or street harassment, we call it rape culture, gendered wage gap, domestic violence, we call it TRAP regulations …. We call it lots of names, but it is one thing: the foundation of all other senseless bigotry, distrust, and personal destruction. Until Millennials swing their amethyst colored acceptance around to this issue of male power creating a permanent state of social and physical danger for women, all that other lauded social bigheartedness is complete bullshit built on a foundation of damp cardboard.

I get it, this is hard, this is the deepest depth of the revolution. But we Gen Xers and our Baby Boomer parents, the grandparents of these charming Millennials, we need to step up and set them right. We forgot to teach our boys that their sisters are people. Secretly, that’s because our two generations were and are Much More Conservative than our stories about the Summer of Love and slackers with McJobs would have us think. And it shows. Millennials, this where we let you down, again. You’re growing up into a ravaged environment, but you are still ravaging each other – men against women – as if it’s 1973 and that confounded Equal Rights Amendment is being quickly, but never completely, ratified. Believe me, you will not solve the environment without solving sexism, and vice versa. The cultural premise that woman is an infinite and compliant resource for the needs and pleasure of men and that the planet is an infinite and complaint resource for the needs and pleasure of men are the same idea. They both sit so deep down at the base of our whole Western cultural history that changing them, even just a wee bit, sets whole political parties into action to restrict and repeal women’s rights, and turns roommates into murders.

Here’s what’s amazing about you, Millennials, what all that amethyst, misty-eyed hype boils down to: You Are Good At Friendship. Befriend each other, men and women among you. That’s your superpower, and the only way you’re going to make good on your press and clean up your dirty little secret. It’s likely that the very survival of human culture rides on your shoulders.


Reginald Dwayne Betts’ Letter to Howard University on E. Ethelbert Miller’s Termination After 40 Years


The blog of Split This Rock

Dear Dr. Frederick:

A few days ago I was devastated to learn that Howard University is letting Ethelbert Miller go after a career and commitment to the institution that has lasted longer than the thirty-four years I’ve been alive.

It would be simple to just recount the impact that Ethelbert has had on Howard University graduates. Many of my friends recall Ethelbert changing their lives. Friends who graduated from Howard as recently as five years ago and as long as twenty. But such a recitation of honors would not suffice. Instead I will tell you a story. When I got out of prison just over ten years ago, I met Yao Glover. I had just been hired at Karibu Books, an African-American institution that started as a book cart near Howard University. Yao knew that I was a poet. He also knew that prison is a troubling place and that coming home a young man like myself would need support. Yao would send me to a man who had a huge influence on his development as a poet and man of the community: Ethelbert Miller.

I knew who Ethelbert Miller was. I’d been writing poetry for sometime and reading poetry for longer. Still, I did not know Ethelbert worked at Howard University. I’d been out of prison a little more than two months and had no sense of how the world of academia and arts worked. What I did know is the name Ethelbert. Years before he’d published my very first poem, a poem I typed on a prison type writer and mailed to Poet Lore with a stamp that bore the red mark of incarceration. I’ll never forget the day I received the acceptance letter and will never forget the day I went to meet Ethelbert.

Let me be frank, my affinity for Howard University as an institution begins with Ethelbert Miller. When I received a full tuition academic scholarship to attend Howard University, I wanted to go because I’d read Ethelbert’s memoir. And when the university rescinded my scholarship because I checked a box admitting that I have three felony convictions and spent time in prison, it crushed me. Not just because I wanted to be a Bison – but because the institution fundamentally seemed to respond to me in the exact opposite way that Ethelbert did. And I had always believed that Ethelbert represented all that was great about Howard University. In fact, in the face of that huge personal disappointment, it has only been Ethelbert’s connection to the institution that led to my continued support.

Probably, I should be able to think about this in a way that is not so personal. Probably, I should not think about the disservice that has been done to Ethelbert in a way that makes me talk about myself. But I can’t. At two very important moments of my life Ethelbert Miller was, in very real ways, the voice of the Black community that helped me understand and believe in my own worth. He did this with his presence. And I am fortunate that he did. Because as I have gone on to be accepted by a number largely white institutions, receiving a full tuition scholarship at the University of Maryland, a Radcliffe Fellowship at the Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, and being admitted into the Yale Law School – as I have gone on to do these things, I do them remembering Ethelbert’s voice asking me if I’ve talked to my dad lately. I remember Ethelbert’s voice talking to me about fatherhood. Helping me to develop myself in a way that I once believed Howard was dedicated to as an institution.

Sadly, it seems that I was mistaken about Howard.  There is a bitter irony that I write this letter from the Yale Law School, a legal institution that accepted me with all of my past failures and flaws. Here, they value their icons. The walls are littered with their faces. It saddens me that Howard does not do the same. I cannot bring myself to believe that financial concerns justify such a disservice.

Reginald Dwayne Betts
J.D. Candidate, 2016
Yale Law School