Friday, March 27, 2009

Elvis Poem Auction Update

March 27, 2009

It turns out that my $5,000 estimate on the Elvis poem was terribly naive. It sold at auction for over $20,000! Who'd have thought that crushing the skull of an innocent bird would inspire investment.

Sigh, if only it was about the content. I suspect the purchase has more to do with worship of the famous author than the quality of the poem. The rumor is that the new owner plans leach the ink, fingerprint oil, and stray tears from the paper, brew a tea from the remaining sludge, and suck it down with expectations of eternal life.

I digress, back to quality; here is a bit of context for you. One of the top prizes for an individual poem in 2009 is from the Atlanta Review. For winning the contest with the best poem, you'd get, appropriately enough, $2009. However, there's a distinct qualitative difference between Elvis's charmless work and the contest winner. See for yourself. Here's the 2008 winner, "Flower Bomb" by Vivan Quoc Vu. Please, I beg you, click and read it. It's a war poem and your investment of 2 minutes could change the way you see the world.

Best of all, it is free.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


March 26, 2009

Around this time last year, I returned home from the hospital after living through kidney failure. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. In 1987, the nephrologists told me I had 20% function in each kidney and estimated 2 years until kidney failure. I was 19 years old then and the diagnosis did a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot punch to my skull. The news knocked my concept of "self" into a mist that floated outside my body. I felt very temporary about this world and my prospects on it.

It took 10 years to regain some semblance of consciousness. Thankfully, I have good friends and a supportive family. I avoided any truly destructive behavior, was smart enough to always take my high blood pressure meds and stayed away from known kidney killers. I learned to cope with or ignore the exhaustion, headaches, and gout attacks. I directed my limited energy into work and avoided thinking about the future because keeping busy and good old-fashioned denial seemed to be my best coping strategies. 2 years stretched to 22.

Denial is a mule that can pack a lot of weight. A few years ago, I noticed that I wasn't performing as well at work. I had a hard time having the impact and driving the kind of change that had been so satisfying. I chalked it up to burnout. I contemplated changing careers. I thought that maybe I was depressed and considered anti-depressants and counseling. I decided I was far too fat and got in shape and lost a ton of weight. I went on a half-hearted search for an artistic outlet to replace acting and writing that were so important to me when I was young. Finally, I broke my vow never to marry and even invested in a dog. That's a ton of good positive weight for the mule. It felt good. It still feels good. I was living.

Unfortunately, my ass continued to drag (so to speak). I could barely get out bed. Honestly, I thought it was mental. It seems ridiculous now, but I refused to believe or acknowledge it could be kidney disease. It wasn't until my hands swelled to size of surgical balloons and my face was yellow and puffy with fluid that I looked in the mirror and realized, "oh shit, I'm in kidney failure."

So, a year ago after an emergency doctor appointment, I was hospitalized. Just in time, by the way. My blood pressure was something like 60/40 when I was admitted. Today, I have been on life saving dialysis for one year. I'm not celebrating with a cake and candles, but perhaps I should. Anniversaries are about counting stuff, so here are the numbers: 1 year, that's 156 dialysis treatments @ 4 hours a pop on the machine for a total of 624 hours, or 26 full days. I have also been on the kidney transplant list for six months with probably another 2 years to go.

You know what? I have never been happier. Being stuck in a chair has given me the time to write that I could never seem to find. It's slow going because my brain fuzzes out, but I already have 75 poems to my name and a finished book manuscript. I also know what truly matters to me. I have wonderful friends, a loving wife and an insane dog.

Best of all, I no longer feel temporary about myself.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shocking Discovery on the Value of Poetry

March 18, 2009

In my last installment, I made a pretty long-winded and lofty argument about the value of poetry and how you could find it for free everywhere. I now refute my entire argument. I am now forced to admit: Poetry is not free. In fact, poetry can set you back a pretty penny. How?

I now present to you the poetry of one Elvis Aaron Presley.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for the estimated auction price of $4,000-$5,000 dollars, this little gem can be yours. See for yourself at While we may debate the "quality" and "maturity" of Mr. Presley's literary offering, there's no doubt this light verse from Elvis will inspire the financial investment of a lifetime.

Why would someone be willing to invest hard earned dollars for these specific poetic words?

Many people think "The King" may have been the embodiment and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the very least, Jesus and Elvis share startling parallels. Now before you send me angry emails, click here for compelling evidence of this truth.

Some of you may be disturbed by the graphic nature of Elvis's poem and find it cruel and contradictory to the teachings of Christ. It is my assertion that hidden in the subtext of the poem, or perhaps even water-marked into the edges of the paper, only visible under ultraviolet light, there is an additional verse where Elvis's next act is to:

"tenderly touch a peanut butter and banana

smeared finger to the sweet birdie's head

and raise the feathered fucker from the dead."

Sadly, I will never be able to test this assertion, because I don't have $5,000 to purchase the original work. My apologies for leading you astray. Alas, I will never doubt the monetary value of poetry again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Words thus Worlds: A Brief Case for Poetry

March 5, 2009

I finished up and mailed off a blizzard of journal submissions and contest entries for my poetry last month. It was an annoying amount of effort that interfered with time usually spent writing this blog, my newsletter, and even (gasp) poems. I sent off everything from a single poem to complete book length collections. I was very busy. You can check out the poem titles by clicking on the "Word Clouds." Pretty cool? You can make your own at See, I'm already giving you great value for investing a couple of minutes reading my blog.

Now, I'm going to give you even more amazing bang for your buck and perhaps even change your life. Bold claim, I know. Just bear me out. Here's my thesis: For the investment of 1 minute a week, you can save time, money and enrich your life. Sound too good to be true? How is this possible?

Simply read a poem a week. It's really cheap and easy to do. 99% of the world's poetry is absolutely free. In fact, you don't even have to do anything special to see it. You will see poems pop up on busses, billboards, in newspapers, magazines, blogs, at church, in programs, novel introductions and an infinite number of unexpected places. You don't have to do a darn thing, except open your eyes and read.

Why you should read poetry? I'm going to answer that question for you right now. I'm so serious about this subject that I'm going to break out the Billy Collins. Please take 20 seconds to click on Billy and read...are you back? Did that poem nail your feelings about poetry, amuse you, make you nod, or even transport you back in time to an unfortunate highschool English class? Amazing, isn't it. A complete adventure in 20 seconds. What's great is that your mind supplied the images that accompanied the words. You co-authored the poem in your head while reading it. What's even better is that because you participated, the images are completely relevent to you and your life. You were the director of the movie that played in your head. You didn't have to suffer the vision or punches of a clod like Uwe Boll.

Here's another example, a wonderful poem called "Prodigy" by Charles Simic. This takes, at most, 60 seconds to read. Not convinced? What's in it for you? For the investment of 1 minute, you will receive the riches of an entire World War Two movie without sacrificing a scintilla of depth or meaning. You don't have to invest a butt-numbing 2 hours and 44 minutes. Just a single minute. What's even better is that this investment can permanently alter the way you see the world. After reading "Prodigy," perhaps the next time you see someone playing chess you'll remember the kindness of others in terrible times. Perhaps when you see a boy at the store clinging to his mother's coat, you'll wonder what you would do to protect a child's fragile innocence. This is the stuff that enriches one's life experience and touches one's bare humanity.

To summarize: poetry is everywhere and it's free. For just a few seconds a week, you can immerse yourself in an entire world that you help co-create. Poetry combined with your imagination can change your perception of the world. All I'm asking for is your commitment to read one poem a week. Please try it. It's a good value. And once you start, I bet you find that poetry is like Lay's potato chips. You can't stop at just one.