Thursday, April 9, 2009

Contest Results Prove it. I am Insane.

April 9, 2009

Some good news today. My poem "Hanford" won 1st place in a regional contest and publication in "Verseweavers." I won the prestigious "Poet's Choice" category. In a couple of weeks at their spring conference, the Oregon State Poetry Association will present me with a certificate and a check for a few shekels. I also get to read my poem to the attendees. This is the first contest I've entered since winning the Willamette Week "Smokin' Word" contest a few years ago. This is a very humbling and satisfying result.

What I really look forward to is meeting the other poets at the conference. Poetry in Oregon is a serious business. I've read the work of many local poets and the level of talent in this state is off the chart. It makes sense when you remember that Oregon poetry is the house that William Stafford built. I started writing seriously in June of last year. It's been very solitary. I realized a few months ago that to grow as a poet, I need to cultivate relationships with other poets and learn from them. Makes sense, no?

For those of you that don't know, I do most of my writing in dialysis. It's taken being pinned to a chair three times a week for four hours at a shot to eliminate the excuses for "not" writing. The process has been slow going. Dialysis isn't exactly gentle and every single minute the treatment progresses my mind slows, dulls, and finally thuds like a dove hitting a window. Let's just say I spend a lot of time in revisions. Honestly, I haven't been able to gauge if my work is any good. I'm often suspicious that I've accidentally hit my head on the diving board while jumping off the deep end. I took me until late February of this year to get the courage to submit my poems to contests and publications. I've asked myself on more than one occasion, "am I completely fucking insane?"

Just so you don't think I'm getting too full of myself, the news of the win came on a day that I received yet another rejection (one of many) from a publication I admire. I was very down, wondering if my words were just spinning in air, breaking up in the tornado. They probably are, but this is confirmation that at least I'm being blown in the right direction.

Click the pictures above to see comedy genius Marty Feldman's Myspace tribute page. It'll cheer you up.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Why Natalie Cole Sucks!

April 3, 2009

Natalie Cole was on Larry King Live this week discussing her kidney failure and pitching the general public for an organ donation. I was very eager to hear what she had to say. As you know, celebrities can help raise public awareness and build understanding for important social issues. Michael J. Fox has done a superior job for Parkinson's. Lance Armstrong has done an amazing job for Cancer. Natalie had a rare and important opportunity on LKL. Unfortunately, she blew it.

My expectations for the interview were fairly modest; educate folks about kidney disease and explain the need for organ donors. Instead, what we saw was a very narrow personal perspective, a misrepresentation of many facts, and a minimization of the struggle people face on a daily basis when in kidney failure. Here's a little snippet. There's more of the interview in associated clips.

Statements that pissed me off:
  • "If I don't get a kidney, I will be fine." WRONG. Dialysis patients live an average of 7 years. Dialysis patients 60+ years live 4 years. She's 59, BTW. Also, 20% of dialysis patients die every year. Dialysis patients are hospitalized an average of twice a year. Dialysis patients are at risk of heart disease, bone disease, anemia, neurological disorders, infection, blood clots etc. Through the interview, she downplays the difficulties of dialysis and ignores the very real risks.

  • "Dialysis interrupts your life, but other than that...You read, you eat, watch TV, and nap."" Oh yeah, what a party. It's one of the biggest myths. People think we bound from the dialysis chair feeling like Superman. BULLSHIT. I've seen people puke, get vicious cramps, pass out, scream in pain, code (go into cardiac arrest), and get carted off in an ambulance. I've seen a senile old lady pull the needles from her arm and spurt blood all over the floor. She could have bled out. Fun for everyone. You are stuck in a chair and cannot move for four hours. Most people can only watch t.v. because their brain completely fogs out. The people I see look like zombies, not like vacationing debutantes. BTW, food is forbidden at my clinic because they're worried we could choke to death.

  • "Dialysis takes 3 hours and 15 minutes." FOR HER. The time spent on the dialysis machine varies based on remaining function of the kidney, blood volume, body weight etc. The average dialysis time is 4 hours. Many people are on the machine even longer. Often times you have to wait for a machine. It can take 20 minutes to get on the machine and 20 minutes to get disconnected (sometimes more). There's also travel time to and from the center. So most people are looking at a 6 hour + experience three times a week. This is the part time job you never wanted. It's not merely inconvenient. In fact, it's so difficult that only 23% of people on dialysis work regular jobs.

  • "I have the healthiest blood on the planet." WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Dialysis, at its best, is a substitute for 15% of normal kidney function. She also didn't adequately explain that dialysis not only filters toxins from the blood, but also removes excess fluid from the body that your kidneys can no longer get get rid of. For example, in each dialysis treatment they remove over 6 pounds of fluid from my body in the dialysis process. Imagine losing six pounds in such a short span. Most people feel like dog shit after dialysis. All Ms Cole would have to do to understand this is look around the freaking room the next time she's in dialysis.

  • "All dialysis facilities are the same." Wrong again. Here's just one example of a hundred of how they can be different. The facility that I go to discards dialyzers (the blood filter) after use. Other facilities clean their dialyzers with bleach and reuse them when the patient comes back for the next treatment.

  • "I have been on dialysis in Istanbul, Milan..." Good for her, but Medicare and most insurance companies will not pay your dialysis costs if you go out of the U.S. BTW, dialysis costs close to 12K a week, or nearly 500k a year. She made no mention of the costs.

  • She poo-pooed the National Kidney Foundation for focusing on "prevention." That's just stupid. Prevention can keep most of the 26 million people with kidney disease from progressing to kidney failure.

  • "They really don't know what causes kidney failure or how kidneys work." That's absolute nonsense. The kidneys are one one of the best understood organs.

I apologize. I realize this has been a rant. I don't condemn Natalie Cole for how she got kidney failure, many would and do. I don't have an issue with her using celebrity to solicit an organ donor. I don't begrudge her that. Larry King held up a sheaf of people who sent email that they were willing to get tested. I think that's wonderful.

What I don't like is that she was poorly informed and a poor advocate for the rest of us. And that's why Natalie Cole sucks.

If you are interested in learning more about organ donation, please click the graphic above or visit

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wergle Flomp

April 1, 2009

My good friend Kevin made a suggestion for today's blog. He suggested that instead of focusing on bringing you good poetry, that it would be fun to bring you bad poetry, very bad poetry, poetry so bad that it should be spanked and sent to bed without supper. My pleasure! Normally, I try not to crush anyone's literary dreams (at least in public), but I found a way around this that leaves my conscience unblemished.

So my friends, without further ado, I introduce to you "Wergle Flomp." Just a little background, because jokes are always better with some context.

In your web walkabouts, perhaps you have bumped into, a "vanity" contest site where quality is not a consideration. If you enter this contest, prepare for heaps o' praise for your work. The best part is that everyone who submits is guaranteed to be a "semi-finalist." Congratulations! Now, wouldn't it be great to share your success with friends and family? All you have to do is buy a shitload of expensive, ego stroking junk like poorly produced anthologies, personalized plaques, medallions, silver bowls, coffee mugs, commemorative plates, license plate holders, t-shirts, posters, panties, condoms, tattoos, bible addendums - you name it. Open those wallets and purses! It's a celebration of your genius.

So here's the game: Wergle Flomp is a contest offered by to reward the person who gets the most outrageous, laugh out loud, ridiculous poem accepted by one of these vanity contests. Here's a "fair use" excerpt from the poem by last year's contest winner, Benjamin Taylor Lally. This work would do Stephen Colbert proud. Click the picture to see the whole poem. It gets funnier as it goes along. If you're a poetry geek like me, there's another whole layer of hilarity as the poem is a spot on parody of Walt Whitman.

Here's another winner for your entertainment. Click the picture to see the whole poem.

There are some poems so unbelievable and outrageous that I could not actually show you them on my little blog, but will happily provide these links for your entertainment. Pure Comedy gold.

  • Notice the praise that lavishes on this poem by Rick Lupert that is so disgusting, I couldn't excerpt it here.

  • Here's a past winner, "The Craven", that takes Poe's "The Raven" to new lewd heights.

  • Finally, here are the poems "Flubblebop" and "Yew Gotta Larf" by David Taub, the genius that started everything. Be sure to scroll down to see what sent him back.
    • There are many more past winners that will blow your mind. Just cruise around the site to check them out. Enjoy! Let me know your favorite.