Sunday, August 29, 2010

The pornography of suffering : I See Invisible People

The media loves a tragedy. They got one in living and dying color yesterday morning when Comair Flight 5191 crashed on take-off in Lexington, KY. Of 50 passengers and crew, 49 died. CNN lost no time in intruding upon the families’ grief. Note these quotes from their article Honeymooners among crash victims

Mike Finley, 52, who lived in Corbin and owned the Finley Fun Centers, was headed to Reno, Nevada, for a rollerskating convention, said his son, David Taylor.

Not me, another Mike Finley. Owner of the Finley Fun Centers, in Corbin.

Poetic Dreams -- Others Poetic Dreams - Poems By Michael Finley

Check out this website I found at

Hey I found another poet with my name. I hope it wasn't me anyway.

Paper Darts Literary Arts Magazine - Poetry - Mike Finley

May Sarton to Mike Finley

Interviewed in The World in 1987, Sarton told Michael Finley, "My father and mother believed that, though Jesus was not God, he was a mighty leader, and the spirit of Jesus, the logos of him, is the worship of God and the spirit of man."

Crisis Chronicles Press: Fuck Poetry published by Crisis Chronicles Press (CC#7)

Do me a favor and send John Burroughs some money! he carries on a worthy tradition in the belly of northeast Ohio.

BAP Quarterly

I woke up to my sister dying in one room,
My mother sobbing in the next,
My father snoring drunk in the third.
The atoms of the universe coming apart,

And my job, repairing the crack.

Cervena Barva Press Poetry Interview with Barry Casselman

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Describe the room you write in.

I write my first drafts of poems in many rooms and spaces. These first drafts are often written in restaurants, or on trains. Sometimes they are written during concerts. Or outdoors. Music is very nurturing to me when I write. I usually write first drafts in longhand on pads of paper. In recent years, I do final drafts on my computer located in an office in my apartment. This office is filled with books and files, but has a large window which face the street. I can look out this window when I write.

What are you working on now?

I am trying to finish a novel I began many years ago. It is a saga something like those novels written in the 19th and early 20th century by European novelists who had many generations behind them who lived in one place. My novel takes place in Erie, Pennsylvania, where I was born and grew up. My family settled there in the late 1800s, but the place was also the home of a now extinct tribe of Native Americans called the Eries (after which the lake and the city were named). The remarkable, and probably unique, geography of Erie has much to do with the form of this book. In my generation, virtually everyone I knew left Erie, as I did, to live elsewhere. This broke the pattern of generations remaining in the place where they were born. So it is a fictional memoir and saga of a kind of American life that probably no longer exists.

You write political articles. How has this affected your poetry? How long have you been involved in writing about politics. Talk about it some.

I have not ever taken a course in journalism. I received my graduate degree from the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, and then took a job as an editor at Harcourt Brace in New York City. After a year, I moved to Minnesota, which I had visited to see my brother who lived there during the time I lived in Iowa. I planned to start a book publishing company, rented an office and bought an IBM typesetter. The problem was that I did not have enough capital. So, to pay my bills, I started a small newspaper in a Minneapolis new town suburb where I lived. Another new town development began soon afterwards in downtown Minneapolis, so I started another newspaper there. This grew and became successful, but after 12 years, I was worn out from selling ads, layout, editing and publishing it. It was a great experience, and in many ways, my truest education. Among other matters, I wrote about local, state and national politics for this newspaper. We had always talked politics at my family dinner table. My father was a physician, but he loved to talk about politics. As I wrote articles and editorials about politics, I realized my role as a journalist which, to me, is about fair and accurate reporting. I strongly disagree with those who say that journalism and journalists should be propagandistic and ideologically partisan. Like good poetry, the best journalism reveals truths, not imposes them. After closing down my newspaper, I became a freelance writer about national politics. Today, I write a regular op ed column, and frequent articles in various national publications on presidential politics, congressional races and international affairs. I am perhaps the only full-time American poet who makes his living as a journalist. I try to keep them separate, and I don¹t know that my journalism has affected my poetry. I do think it has affected my fiction in that my writing style, over the years, has become more economical. I suspect, however, that my poetry has affected my journalism style in that I write about politics now with perhaps more with a sense of the inherent drama of history and language.

Have you always lived in Minneapolis? What is the writing scene like there?

I have lived in the Twin Cities and environs or more than thirty years. I came here in my late 20s from Erie, PA via Philadelphia, New York, Iowa City, Madrid, Barcelona, London and Paris. It took me five years to learn to wear a hat in the winter. I kept getting bronchitis. It shows perhaps that being a doctor¹s son doesn¹t make you smart about your own health. I was drawn here from the first time I came here. When I began publishing my newspaper, I nicknamed the area the biomagnetic center. That was because there was so much innovation and culture and entrepreneurial spirit here in the 1970s that people were drawn here, even in spite of the notorious cold and isolation from the coasts. I have always traveled 2-4 months in most years for my work, and that would include Florida and California in the winter where I have family. Other cities have become biomagnetic centers now, and Minneapolis no longer has as much originality as it once had, but I have many friends here. Good friends, as you grow older, become very important. There is, and has been, a writing scene here, but I am not really part of it. I know many of the writers, but my work does not fit the predominant Minnesota style. Poets are also not necessarily good company, and I find that I have more friends who are chefs, musicians and actors.

What writers make you tick?

I feel sad that there are not more living or contemporary authors who make me want to read their work. The writers who I read and reread include Lady Murasaki, Rilke, Musil, Gertrude Stein, the authors of the Chasidic tales, Tomas Transtromer, the seven sages of the Bamboo Grove from 3rd century China, Rolf Jacobson, Kafka, Calvino, Buzzati, Turgenev, Octavio Paz, Hawthorne, Melville, Donald Barthelme, Ortega y Gasset and Abraham Lincoln. I can't imagine what ties that group together other than my odd brain.

Do you write poetry everyday?

I THINK about poetry every day. In recent years, I have been writing so much prose that I need to discipline myself to sit down and write poetry. But the same kind of phenomena which stir me and inspire me to poetry are always at work on me.

Talk about some of your publications.

My first published work was a short story that appeared in Portuguese in Brazil. A Brazilian writer, Sergio Sant'Anna, who I knew from the International Writers Workshop in Iowa City, had, without telling me in advance, translated the story and had it published in a major Brazilian literary review. Soon after that, it was published in English. My first book of poems, The Rippling Water Sleeve, was published in a very limited edition. Then my second book of poems, Equilibrium Fingers, was published by Kraken Press in 1978. The great experimental American composer Kenneth Gaburo was also fascinated by language, and after we met in the 1970s, he took an interest in my work. His Lingua Press published a small book on language that I wrote called Language, A Magical Enterprise, The Body. This was later translated into Bengali by the Indian troubador poet Deepak Majumdar. Gaburo then published a sequel Language Is Not Words and some of my poems. He was very supportive of my ideas and experiments, as he was of many other composers and writers. His passing was a huge loss. I began collaborating with the composer Randall Davidson in a performance work entitled Among Dreams, and my friend Mike Finley at Kraken Press brought that out as a book of short stories. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, my poems were published in magazines all over the United States, including American Poetry Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Boston Literary Review, Kansas Quarterly and many others. Some of my work was translated into Portuguese, French and Bengali and published abroad. I have a book of poems from that period called "The Boat of the Blue Rose" which is waiting for a publisher. I suppose I could have been published more often if my style fit into a neat category, but my work is very idiosyncratic and some editors perhaps have not been willing to publish my poems. Other editors have, however, and I am very grateful to them.

Copyright © 2005  ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS LLC - All Rights Reserved

Story: Things I Meant to Notice by Mike Finley

I MEANT FOR THE LONGEST TIME to think about the little tasks, about tying the shoes, and fitting the hands into gloves, I saw my big hands negotiating the laces and trying sleeve after sleeve over finger and thumb.

MPR: Word of Mouth


August 1
Fringe Festival
Strange Places
Park Square Theatre: The Mystery of Irma Vep
Newton Hills State Park: Folk Festival
Center for Independent Artists: Salamat
Kellie Rae Theiss Gallery: Girls with Guns
Greysolon Plaza: Bridget Riversmith
Poetry by Mike Finley
Listen to the show (G2)

August 8
Fringe Festival
Voice Coach
Theatre in the Round: Mikado
3 Legged Race: Summer Blizzard
Theatre de la Juene Lune: Kubla Khan
Greysolon Plaza: Bridget Riversmith
Poetry by Mike Finley
Listen to the show (G2)

August 15
Nickel and Dimed
Songs from Tallgrass Prairie
Bassoon Quartet
Western Sculpture Park: Hmong Art Festival
Intermedia Arts: Hip Hop Celebration
Theatre de la Jeune Lune: Festival of Appropriation
Minnesota Center for Photography: Civil Rights in Minnesota
Poetry by Mike Finley
Listen to the show (G2)

August 22
The Saxophonist
Martin Dewitt
Le Cirque Rouge de Gus
Lee's Liquor Lounge: Mike Gunther
Loring Playhouse: Falsettos
Kiehle Gallery: Carol Emmons
Cedar Riverside People's Center: The House of Yes
Poetry by Mike Finley
Listen to the show (G2)

August 29
Digital Access
Jean Rochard
Fargo Theatre: Fargo Folk Festival
Brilliant Corners: Kelly Rossum Quintet
The Minneapolis Institue of Arts: Art That's Really Moving
Southern Theater: Body and Soul
Poetry by Mike Finley
Listen to the show (G2)

August 1, MPR, look for Mike Finley on the list

FolkWorld Article: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

When `Phaudrig Crohoore' appeared in the Dublin University Magazine, my brother, under his nom de plume, wrote a preface to it, in which he said that it had been composed by a poor Irish minstrel, Michael Finley, who could neither read nor write, but used to recite it, with others of his songs and ballads, at fairs and markets.

Many years afterwards, one evening, after I had recited it at Lord Spencer's, who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the late primate, Beresford, said to Lady Spencer, who was sitting near me, `I can tell you a curious fact, Lady Spencer; that poem was composed by a poor Irish peasant, one Michael Finley, who could neither read nor write.' Then turning to me, `Were you aware of that, Mr. Le Fanu?' `I was, your Grace,' said I; `and you may be surprised to hear that I knew the Michael Finley who wrote the ballad intimately - he was, in fact, my brother. But in one particular your Grace is mistaken; he could read and write a little.' The primate took it very well, and was much amused [...]

What Light: This Week's Poem: Mike Finley

Is there NASCAR in heaven?

Porchlight: A Literary Magazine

Inside the Canine Head. by Mike Finley

Sleet Interview

Check out this website I found at

An interview with Jim Moore

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jesus Fused with the Cross

I saw several friends post ecstatic praise to Jesus tonight. They are people I am very fond of, but they remind me that, at my most exalted, I was never very good at that. I was terrible at lifting ,my arms and shouting 'Hallelujiah.' I felt self-conscious. I felt wrong.

I think the reason is that the "personal relationship with Jesus" is different from person to person and with me it had a definite gruesome aspect.

I only "saw" Jesus once in my life.  I was hiking in a snowstorm down by the Minnesota River, alone, and I was distraught about my kids, and about money. Suddenly, there is this figure -- this hallucination lasts all of three seconds -- and I know in an instant it is Jesus. It's freezing, and Jesus is traipsing through the wetlands, his cross grown into him.

I mean, the wood and his body have fused, and he is totally enchained in his martyrdom. He thrashes in the cattails and burdock -- and then he's gone. He was the son of God, but he was imprisoned in the cross and other vegetation. And that three seconds is my personal relationship with Jesus -- a horror story, of a God trapped in myth, loving, sacrificing, but still trapped.

And it was foreboding because I knew that this monstergod was watching me every second of every day -- in a kind of mute agony. I had all the obligations of Christianity -- being good -- but none of the sweet stuff that my Christian friends all seemed to have. It never seemed fair to me. But, I have stopped looking for "fair."

I “encountered" Jesus many other times, reading and thinking. I know he's not a monster, really. But this was the only time I actually “saw” him.  

I also appreciate that he atoned with God the father for the sins of the world -- but that doesn't mean your life isn't still hell/ And he didn't save everybody -- just the people able to clap and sing. The snide people get set aside, 

  I wonder why it's so different for other people.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Julio Ojeda-Zapata — A father, a daughter, a book

Julio Ojeda-Zapata was a colleague of mine when I covered the future at the Pioneer Press. He was kind enough to write this blog entry about YUKON GOLD.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Facebook (99) | Photos of You

Hi Mike,

I am so glad your e-mail and YUKON GOLD landed during this quiet time before the post-Labor Day frenzy begins. I got lost in your rhythmic pulsing voice for two hours. There's an energy here -- a specificity and a rare kind of grace and wisdom. I'm looking forward to going back into the book and printing out a chunk to read on the train. My only comment is that the comparison to Leaves of Grass might seem too forbidding to readers. Yes, your writing is earthy and part of this world like Whitman's, but it is also intimate and approachable and very much of our times.

I'm sure you're getting a very good response.


Hurricane Danielle swirls far out over Atlantic - Yahoo! News

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I am experimenting with Posterous, a way to link all one's social networking efforts under a single umbrella. Using Posterous, I can post to Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, Picasa, Blogger -- anything I want. We shall see!