#216 v15,08:089

MERCEDES WEBB-PULLMAN: #13 Revolution as Export
LEANNE HANSON : Seeking the real Fidel vs I am the real Fidel
NORMAN J. OLSON : A Rant on Poetry Publishing

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#13 Revolution as Export

My first trip as Leader of the Revolution is to USA to address the Press Club – long before the missiles etcetera. I go from New York to Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, making contacts, meeting and greeting, all the usual press the flesh while I plant my seeds. Keeping our borders overseas relieves some internal pressures. War unites us, keeps us focused, explains why there's never enough of anything. Except for special occasions like the million Chinese bicycles. A revolution is built on its past. I face constant challenges and where none exist I invent them. The past is never finished. I set up secret training camps, plant networks of operatives everywhere, bring the youth of the world to be part of Cuba's Revolution. I spread an international subversive apparatus through Africa, Asia and Latin America. My advice is keenly sought. Soon we're busy in Angola; the greatest military intervention we ever stage. The experience of war there helps in Ethiopia, where my troops go next, and force the withdrawal of the Somali President's forces. I coordinate their efforts from Havana, set up my Special Ops Command Post; from there I direct the Sandinista NLF against Somoza's National Guard in Nicaragua, victoriously. Nasser loves me, so does Mugabe. Havana becomes the capital of world revolution. Raul goes to Moscow – we're being abandoned to our fate. I step up supplies to Angola, direct a tank campaign from Havana. South Africa attacks – we stop them in their tracks. Apartheid starts to end. The last military victory of my life. I am the glory of the Revolution. My last international political victory is a young kid named Elian Gonzalez. He's one of a group of dissidents trying to reach Florida. It's actually easier to keep an eye on dissidents in Miami than it is in Havana. The rest of them die including his mother. I make the USA send him back, to his father, to me, to my beautiful Cuban revolution.

from poetryrepairs.com #199 14.04 The Fidel Suite an ebook by MERCEDES WEBB-PULLMAN
POETRYREPAIRS #216 v15,08:089

Leanne Hanson
Seeking the real Fidel versus I am the real Fidel

The Fidel suite of poems by Mercedes Webb-Pullman presents a fascinating insight into both the character of Fidel and the choices of the poet in her portrayal.

The most substantial change is from third to first person perspective – this is not the angst-ridden confessional I, but a return to the expository I of Browning et al, through which we are invited into a private showing of the naked persona. I am the real Fidel brings deeper character insights, but with this comes the danger of imposing too many of the writer’s assumptions – very occasionally, Webb-Pullman lapses into the “tell” that becomes the confessionist’s trap (“I admit Che is a brilliant guerrilla/commander, men adore him” – The Argentine), although far less in the revised version than the original. To balance this, much of I am the real Fidel is economical, employing sonic techniques, analogy and a strong command of meter to enhance the bare details.

First love, first loss

I understand later that
my father has her too
and my mother finds out;
there can’t be secrets
in a house of echoes.
Soon she vanishes
like cane into the mills
mechanically, and though
I look for her in every brothel
I visit for the rest of my life, I never see
her again.	

Love, then loss

I understand my father has her too; there can’t be secrets in a house of echoes. Soon the girl vanishes. I look for her in every brothel for the rest of my life.

The removal of extraneous detail (a self-indulgent habit of the biographer as omniscient narrator) not only gives more credit to the reader, but also rids the poem of the ambiguity I found in the first version, that of the “she” – in Seeking the real Fidel, the shift between maid and mother makes the “she who vanishes” unclear. In I am the real Fidel, we are left in no doubt.

Throughout both versions we see Fidel grow from self-centred (child, adolescent) to an adult with an expansive world view. This is demonstrated well through the shifts in perspective, from early person-first (“Ignorant land owners/ act superior to me, a bastard”, Slowly I learn about war; “Before the Revolution in Cuba they lurk/ in murky depths around Havana”, La Sia). As the suite progresses, there are fewer differences between the texts, as if Fidel is becoming more reflective and concentrating more on his nation than himself. This is consistent with the portrayal of his character and the heavy emphasis on injustice that expands from applying to Fidel and his family to Cuba and its place in the world. This is foreshadowed perfectly here:

The first one is the hardest

Still it takes years of hanging around
on the outside ready to do anything
for the cause; I’m living on a sand bar
eaten by mosquitoes, huddled
before a bonfire each night
for two months, training to be ready
before I realise
I already am the Revolution.
huddled by a bonfire each night
for two months, training

First one is the hardest

Still for years I’m hanging on the outside doing anything for the cause; I’m on a sand bar eaten by mosquitoes, hungry, before I realise I already am the Revolution.

Although the ultimate line in both versions is the same, the modality is increased in the second version by one simple change: “ready to do anything” becomes “doing anything”. The shift to active places control in Fidel’s hands and makes his realisation more natural. At this point he knows he needs only himself.

I am the real Fidel is the realisation of Mercedes Webb-Pullman’s vision of Castro and his impact on the world. By shifting to the I, it allows Fidel to be his own censor. His reminiscences in reveal a man who is confident that he is Cuba, but knows that he has become something other than himself to his people (“Even the house I grew up in/ on the sugar plantation is reconstructed,/ perfect in every detail, but fake. Except the crib.”) Only the first home he occupied, his crib, remains unaltered. He retains innocence, despite feeling that “I’m uneasy/ in my soul”. The circle completes with:

I am ordained in my mother’s womb.
My mission is to save the Cuban people.
The crib was always the truth. For the bastard that is the real Fidel, the story could end no other way.

POETRYREPAIRS #216 v15,08:089

NORMAN J. OLSON A Rant on Poetry Publishing

all of us who write poetry know that nobody reads it… poets publish poetry, get a free copy of the journal in the mail or more commonly nowadays, get to see their work blinking upon the flat screen of their computer… and that is publishing poetry in journals… the poets scan through the journals to see their own work in print and then get the next submission ready to go…

the submission process has gotten to be purely mechanical in that even the most prestigious journals now accept only electronic submissions so, you send an e-mail with your poems off into cyberspace and get a form letter back from cyberspace, usually rejecting but sometimes accepting your poems… either way, the process can be so entirely impersonal, that you feel that not only has nobody read the piece but that the whole process is communication with a robot… I suppose that some grad student someplace took a glance at the submission to Crazyhorse but it still is a really really impersonal process…

but then in the greater sense, the whole thing is such a monumental exercise in futility that it leaves me beating my head against the wall… do people want or need poetry of any kind? hell no, they want Survivor on television or basketball… they want porn shots on the computer… (usually horribly unsexy photos of bored prostitutes with breasts inflated like basketballs being fucked by pistoning viagra cocks with about as much love and tenderness as a poetry submission…) and Kim Kardashian or some other Hollywood bimbo driving up to her mansion in a fancy car… people in America want political bullshit, junk food and gas guzzling cars… well, I am not sure what they want but they don’t want poetry… or if they do want it, they don’t want it enough to pay for it…

. the closest we come to poetry is the jingle fest of pop music, which is sort of “poetry light…” although some of the songs do have some intellectual substance, the majority are just catchy beats and courtship background noise, i. e. love songs… or country music which is mostly patriotic tripe about how the Iraqis caused 911 or how great it is to be a gomer in a pickup truck…

well, in some degree, we, the poets, are responsible for this sad state of affairs… the poetry we write and publish tends to be obsessively introspective or painfully confessional and often enough precious and banal at the same time… the mode is prose broken into lines and in the best of the poetry, there are striking images and turns of phrase buried in the obscure prosy word run… so, in short, much of the poetry that I see published is so lame that it barely deserves to be read and the poet writing drivel can hardly complain that the audience is a bit sparse…

do I have a solution to the problem of poetry or a prescription of how poetry should be written so that it would appeal to a broader audience and become more than a cultural afterthought?

well, no, not really… to me, my poetry seems great and compelling, and frankly, I can’t imagine why people are not flocking to the book store and demanding volume after volume of my verse… but, see artists of every kind are very self centered and concerned with their own art to the exclusion of almost everything else, a bunch of ego maniacs actually in my experience… but not in fact the best judges of the actual merit of their own work… but, dear poet, just because you think your shit does not stink, you should not be surprised when you get a complaint for making a pile in the middle of the living room…

so, the journals limp on and a few of us who are amused by the stringing together of words in ways that we find interesting, call ourselves “poets” and keep the whole house of cards propped up… I guess we can do any kind of foolishness we have a mind to because writing poetry does not really hurt anybody and publishing it in some online venue that receives 5 hits a year, is about as harmless as navel lint picking…

but really, if you are a poet, please try to give your ego a reality check… your poetry is probably not all that great, and even if it is of a quality to rival Shakespeare, it will never make you either rich or famous… except in your own eyes… even if you do make it onto the pages of Crazyhorse or Poetry

the other end of poetry publishing is book publishing… most poetry books are published by University presses and so, not surprisingly, the best way to get a poetry book published is to be on the faculty of the creative writing program at a university… the press may invite you to submit your book length poetry ms to them, knowing that your peers will assign your book to be read by their creative writing students, guaranteeing sales of a few hundred copies and maybe even making the press some money…

the other way that poetry book publishers make money is by contests that they have for first books of poetry… usually, you enter these contests by sending a manuscript and a “reading fee” of like $15 to $25…. they then pick out the “best” ms and publish it… again, it is best if you are a professor so that your peers will assign the book to their students etc. etc… but the press puts the $25 in their bank account whether they select your manuscript or not… most professors have money for professional development at their university, so they do not have to pay these fees out of their own pocket… and if you enter often enough, presumably sooner or later, you will get a book published… however, a hundred entries at $25 each is $2500 which is enough to self publish a few hundred copies of your ms on heavy stock paper with a nice embossed cover, so it is obviously the prestige of having an editor or jury select you that drives people to submit to these contests… well that and the fact that the professors have to publish books to keep their jobs and for them, self publishing does not count…

well, I never enter the poetry contests… I feel that being not affiliated with a university, I am a long shot to be accepted in the first place and in the second place, the money would have to come straight out of my not very deep pockets… thirdly, I don’t need to have a book published to keep my job (I am retired and do not have or want a job)… and fourthly, well, I just frankly cannot stand the idea that my poetry is so bad that I have to pay somebody to read it… if it is that fucking lame, why on earth would I want it to be published in a book…

so, I publish poems in the journals when they will have one and self publish a few chapbooks that I give away to anybody who caOoot live without owning a collection of my poems… god knows why I keep writing poetry but, historically, I wrote and submitted poetry from 1967 to 1984 without a single acceptance, so I guess that I am a bit compulsive about writing and submitting poetry… which is better I guess than having a compulsive need to eat Big Macs, for example… which would have me by now weighing 500 pounds, or a compulsive taste for heroin which would have rendered me more or less dead, many years ago…. one does not o-d on poetry submissions or even on rejections… in fact, over all these many years of submitting and being rejected (with nowadays maybe one in 20 poems accepted) is that I am no longer hurt by rejection… my only reaction is an angry “fucking idiots” as I toss the rejection slip in among the orange peels and coffee grounds, or more commonly these days, hit “delete…” and well, actually, it has come to be my opinion that most of my fellow citizens and not just poetry editors, are fucking idiots --

take a look at the evening news if you don’t believe me, or read a newspaper -- quickly before the newspapers too like print books and journals are finally flushed down the sewer of illiteracy and televised computer ignorance that passes for rational discourse and/or art in contemporary America…

POETRYREPAIRS #216 v15,08:089

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from poetryrepairs.com #199 14.04 The Fidel Suiteby MERCEDES WEBB-PULLMAN

the critique helps poets and readers understand how a poem may be read; thus critical observations are precious at poetryrepairs, becasue they help us 'repair' or revisit the poem with deeper understanding. We also publish timely reviews.

the rant is a popular approach to writing about a serious issue, written from a personal point of view with some wit and vitriol thrown in.

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