ed markowski | a poem and a note

11 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 255 | October 11, 2008

ed markowski

(a poem and a note)

Ed Markowski seems to be one of those writers who awakes, walks, eats, drinks, works, plays, loves, sleeps, dreams poems. I don’t know this for sure—but I suspect it. Like the old ad for Jay’s Potato Chips: “You (he)can’t stop eating (writing) them!”

I suspect ed markowski could easily write a poem a day–or more. Most of them pretty damn good poems. Keepers.

Often he’s playful, always thoughtful, occasionally political. I’m sure he prefers the long art of a short poem to the short life (politically) on things. Nevertheless, the poem is where you find it, feel it—at that moment. And put it down.

Granted, there is a ‘momentary’ zone some of us writers are fortunate to enter almost at will. A free zone, inner time zone…the kind of thing that happens when we are consumed by that which we discover to be writing in our heads—all the time, till it finally falls in place on paper.

You nourish that, court it, stay connected with that long enough…and you enter a state of what I compare to ‘zen awareness’ where everything you see becomes a poem. I suspect, here again (and finally), that ed markowski knows and religiously occupies that zen zone on a momentary/daily basis, honoring it all—feeling it flutter inside, alive in the place where words grow into telling images of revelation.

I’m not quite sure what ed does for a living—then again, it doesn’t matter. It’s pretty obvious. He lives to write poems. —Norbert Blei

an american dream

by ed markowski

the garden of eden featured
synchronized dolphins two
roller coasters & fire eating
vigilantes who fashioned each
rosary into a noose while we
pledged allegiance to a flag
that shed its skin & became
a snake beneath an oak where
the guilty women hung their
wombs at one time or another
every raisin used steroids
at the major league level &
bloomed into barry bonds the
baseball mirage who charged
an adoring autograph 15.00 for his
illegible boy before a windstorm
uprooted the virgin who was packing
apples into the pie she crushed
for christ at the church bake sale
last week in alaska every cherry blossom
that drifted down in washington d.c.
exploded while a man cried out the
box was always more nutritious than
the burger before a horse broke loose
from a carousel & won the kentucky
derby by a nose i walked eight years
in the president’s shoes only to

[Source: Author…new poem, first publication]


right now as far as print mags go, i’ve got…

8 short poems coming out in a magazine called “labor.” jim daniels, who is a native of detroit & is the chairman of the creative writing department at carnegie mellon in pittsburg is labor’s poetry editor.

this haiku…

[Editor’s note: Sorry, wish I could print it, it’s a beauty, but first rights are elsewhere]

is due out in a british print / haiku mag called presence. presence is a top flight mag in terms of content & production.

have these two poems…

[Ed’s note: Sorry again. Same excuse]

due out in a very tiny but well respected mag called the lilliput review.

have a large number of short poems due out in the next five bottle rockets. the editor, stan forrester has a backlog of my poems. bottle rockets is well done & a lot of fun. the mag comes out of windsor, connecticut.

have two haibun due out in the winter edition of simply haiku.

have a short story due out in the next smokebox. the story is basically a letter from charlie manson to his mother. i’ll forward the piece to you.

so, that’s what’s out there now. i’know this will seem contradictory considering the list above, but i’m not all that bent on sending things out.

it’s like in another life i was a chef & now i prefer to cook for family & friends.

as much as i like print mags, i think poems & stories travel much further on the internet. after all, the most visible magazines (the new yorker etc.) have online editions.

i get invitations all the time from fledgling e mags to send poems. i realized along time ago that it’s not necessary to be published everywhere.

over the weekend i received an invite from an ezine in india called the taj mahal review. turned it down.

stan forrester asked me to write a 10 part piece on my experiences at the naropa institute.

i turned that down too. told stan, “that was 30 years ago, anything i’d have to say would be totally inaccurate. i can’t quote alan ginsberg or gregory corso thirty years after the fact, besides the most interesting part of the trip was the 2 weeks i spent in jail in central city, nebraska. my girlfriend had to live in a pup tent the whole time. she’s the one with the story.”

so , the new yorker would be nice & maybe some day i’ll get there, but if not, that’s ok too. the small press really is the backbone of american arts & letters & that’s gotten me on a bill with billy collins at the national arts club & on a stage at chautauqua & i’ve been discovered by you who i have the utmost respect for. in my book, that’s pretty good. the small press has been very very good to me.

Ed. Note: Other small poems/haiku work by ed markowski to be found on my site devoted to the small poem: Basho’s Road

peter matthiessen | zen master

10 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 156 | October 9, 2008


(NPR Oct. 8, 2008)


If you have never read him, don’t leave the planet till you do.


If you’ve never read him; if it’s been a long time since you read him; if you’re surprised he’s still alive (83); if you have children and grandchildren and you feel it’s important that they be left with all the wonders of the natural world; if you think politics and nature are essential to man’s survival; if you think whoever is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this week, it won’t be Peter Matthiessen (but should be); if you have any interest whatsoever in the role of Zen in a man’s life and art; if you feel there is no one left to be trusted, given the culture, the politics of spokespeople and leadership in the world; if you would like to “meet” Matthiessen, the mind and soul of the man, “listen up” to one of the best interviews you will ever experience on NPR, the program “On Point” hosted, just yesterday, by Tom Ashbrook.

Here’s the link. Just click …


a pot of green tea. Have a beer. A snifter or brandy, a glass of Scotch (neat). Tune in….


world needs to listen “Zen Master” Matthiessen, while there’s still time. Norbert Blei

Peter Matthiessen (born May 22, 1927, in New York City) is an American novelist and nonfiction writer and an environmental activist. Matthiessen’s work is known for its meticulous approach to research. He frequently focuses on American Indian issues and history, as in his detailed study of the Leonard Peltier case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

Along with George Plimpton, Harold L. Humes, Thomas Guinzburg and Donald Hall, Matthiessen founded the literary magazine The Paris Review in 1953. At the time he was a young recruit for the CIA.

In 1965, Matthiessen wrote a novel about a group of American missionaries and a South American tribe. The book was later made into a major Hollywood film with the same title, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, in 1991. In 1979, Matthiessen’s nonfiction book The Snow Leopard won the Contemporary Thought category of the National Book Award. His work on oceanographic research, “Blue Meridian,” with photographer Peter A. Lake, documented the making of the film “Blue Water, White Death,” which was directed by Peter Gimbel and Jim Lipscomb. This is widely considered to have inspired Peter Benchley to write Jaws in 1974. Matthiessen has been the official State Author of New York, 1995-1997.

More recently, Matthiessen’s fiction trilogy Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man’s River and Bone by Bone was based on accounts of Florida planter Edgar J. Watson’s death shortly after the Southwest Florida Hurricane of 1910.

Shortly after the 1983 publication of In The Spirit of Crazy Horse, Matthiessen and his publisher Viking Penguin were sued for libel by FBI agent David Price and former South Dakota governor William J. Janklow. The plaintiffs sought over $49 million in damages; Janklow also successfully sued to have all copies of the book withdrawn from bookstores. After four years of litigation, Federal District Court Judge Diana E. Murphy dismissed Price’s lawsuit, upholding Matthiessen’s right “to publish an entirely one-sided view of people and events.” In the Janklow case, a South Dakota court also ruled for Matthiessen. Both cases were appealed. In 1990, the Supreme Court refused to hear Price’s arguments, effectively ending his appeal; the South Dakota Supreme Court dismissed Janklow’s case the same year. With the lawsuits settled, the paperback edition of the book was finally published in 1992.

In his book The Snow Leopard, Matthiessen reports having a somewhat tempestuous on-again off-again relationship with his wife Deborah, culminating in a deep commitment to each other made shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer. She died in New York City near the end of 1972. She and Matthiessen had four children; the youngest of them, Alex Matthiessen, was 7 or 8 years old at the time of her death. In September of the following year, Matthiessen went on an expedition to the Himalayas with field biologist George Schaller.

Matthiessen and Deborah practiced Zen Buddhism. Matthiessen later became a Buddhist priest of the White Plum Asanga. He lives in Sagaponack, New York.



  • * Race Rock (1954)
  • * Partisans (1955)
  • * Raditzer (1961)
  • * At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)
  • * Far Tortuga (1975)
  • * On the River Styx and Other Stories (1989)
  • * Killing Mister Watson (1990)
  • * Lost Man’s River (1997)
  • * Bone by Bone (1999)
  • * Shadow Country (2008) (a new rendering of the Watson trilogy)


  • * Wildlife in America (1959)
  • * The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961)
  • * Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962)
  • * “The Atlantic Coast”, a chapter in The American Heritage Book of Natural Wonders (1963)
  • * The Shorebirds of North America (1967)
  • * Oomingmak (1967)
  • * Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (1969)
  • * Blue Meridian. The Search for the Great White Shark (1971).
  • * The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972)
  • * The Snow Leopard (1978)
  • * Sand Rivers (1981)
  • * In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983) ISBN 0-14-014456-0
  • * Indian Country (1984)
  • * Nine-headed Dragon River: Zen Journals 1969-1982 (1986)
  • * Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Bayen of the South Fork (1986)
  • * African Silences(1991)
  • * Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992)
  • * East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang (1995)
  • * The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959-1961 (2000)
  • * Tigers in the Snow (2000)
  • * The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes (2001)
  • * End of the Earth: Voyage to Antarctica (2003)

Peter Matthiessen (né le 22 mai 1927 à New York) est un naturaliste et écrivain américain, auteur d’œuvres de non-fiction et de fiction.

Les œuvres de Matthiessen sont connues pour être extrêmement bien documentées. Il s’est souvent focalisé sur les problèmes touchant les Indiens d’Amérique et leur histoire, comme par exemple dans son étude détaillée du cas de Leonard Peltier, In the Spirit of the Crazy Horse.

Avec George Plimpton, Harold Humes, Thomas Guinzburg et Donald Hall, il fonda en 1953 le magazine littéraire The Paris Review. À l’époque, c’était une jeune recrue de la CIA, et il utilisa le magazine pour se couvrir.

Dans son livre Le léopard des neiges, Matthiessen parle de sa relation tumultueuse avec sa femme Deborah et de leurs séparations récurrentes, relation qui culmina dans un profond engagement de l’un vers l’autre, après qu’elle a été diagnostiqué d’un cancer. Elle mourut à New-York vers la fin de 1972. Ils eurent 4 enfants, le plus jeune, Alex, ayant 7 ou 8 ans au moment de la mort de sa mère. L’année suivante, en septembre, Matthiessen participa à une expédition en Himalaya avec le biologiste George Schaller, expédition qu’il narra dans le livre Le léopard des neiges.

En 1979, ce livre reçut le prix National Book Award dans la catégorie “Pensée contemporaine”. Son roman En liberté dans les champs du Seigneur, narrant l’histoire d’un missionnaire américain dans une tribu sud-américaine, servit en 1991 de base au scénario d’un film hollywoodien réalisé par Hector Babenco. Blue Meridian, son livre sur la recherche océanographique, présente le tournage du film de Peter Gimbel et de Jim Lipscomb, Blue Water, White Death, qui est généralement considéré comme étant la source d’inspiration de Peter Benchley lorsqu’il écrivit son roman Les dents de la mer en 1974. Matthiessen a été l’auteur officiel de l’État de New York de 1995 à 1997.

Plus récemment, la trilogie de Matthiessen Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man’s River et Bone by Bone a été basée sur les récits de la mort d’Edgar Watson, un planteur de Floride décédé peu de temps après l’ouragan qui déferla sur le Sud-Est de la Floride en 1910.

Peter Matthiessen et sa femme Deborah étaient des pratiquants du bouddhisme zen. Matthiessen devint plus tard moine bouddhiste. Il vit à Sagaponack, dans l’État de New York.



  • * Race Rock (1954)
  • * Partisans (1955)
  • * Raditzer (1961)
  • * At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)
  • * Far Tortuga (1975)
  • * On the River Styx and Other Stories (1989)
  • * Killing Mister Watson (1990)
  • * Lost Man’s River (1997)
  • * Bone by Bone (1999)


  • * Wildlife in America (1959)
  • * The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961)
  • * Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962)
  • * “The Atlantic Coast”, a chapter in The American Heritage Book of Natural Wonders (1963)
  • * The Shorebirds of North America (1967)
  • * Oomingmak (1967)
  • * Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (1969)
  • * Blue Meridian. The Search for the Great White Shark (1971).
  • * The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972)
  • * The Snow Leopard (1978)
  • * Sand Rivers (1981)
  • * In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983)
  • * Indian Country (1984)
  • * Nine-headed Dragon River: Zen Journals 1969-1982 (1986)
  • * Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Bayen of the South Fork (1986)
  • * African Silences(1991)
  • * Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992)
  • * East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang (1995)
  • * The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959-1961 (2000)
  • * Tigers in the Snow (2000)
  • * The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes (2001)
  • * End of the Earth: Voyage to Antarctica (2003)

hayden carruth | silence & prepare

4 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 254 | October 4, 2008


(Another chapter of “THE WRITING LIFE”)

HAYDEN CARRUTH 1921 – 2008


by Hayden Carruth

Sometimes we don’t say anything. Sometimes
we sit on the deck and stare at the masses of
goldenrod where the garden used to be
and watch the color change form day to day,
the high yellow turning to mustard and at last
to tarnish. Starlings flitter in the branches
of the dead hornbeam by the fence. And are these
therefore the procedures of defeat? Why am I
saying all this to you anyway since you already
know it? But of course we always tell
each other what we already know. What else?
It’s the way love is in a late stage of the world.

from “Collected Shorter Poems” Copper Canyon Press, 1992

Hayden Carruth, 87; Poems Reflected Struggles of Life
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 1, 2008; B05

Hayden Carruth, whose forceful observations of nature, hard work and mental illness brought him late acclaim as one of the most important poets of his generation, died Sept. 29 at his home in Munnsville, N.Y., after a series of strokes. He was 87.

Mr. Carruth (pronounced kuh-RUTH) lived for many years in rural Vermont and New York, where manual labor and an unforgiving climate became part of his daily life and, ultimately, his poetic voice.

Through years of isolation and neglect, he doggedly continued to write, gaining belated recognition for his more than 30 books. A 1996 Virginia Quarterly Review article described him as “certainly one of the most important poets working in this country today.”

His “Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991″ received the 1992 National Book Critics Circle award for poetry, and he won the National Book Award for the collection “Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey” in 1996. After decades of living hand to mouth, he won two prestigious awards, the $25,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 1990 and the $50,000 Lannan Foundation literary award in 1995.

Mr. Carruth began writing at 6 and became a master of poetic diction, from the grandly formal to the bluntly vernacular. He wrote in a deceptively simple style that often evoked nature as he explored philosophical themes of sorrow, loneliness and human dignity.

“His poems take on a variety of voices: the farmers he lived among in Vermont, the jazzmen whose music he reveres, the ancient Chinese poets who taught him,” author Lynne Sharon Schwartz wrote in the Chicago Tribune in 2005. “He has written in the voice of lover, war protester, mental patient, grieving son and father.”

In 1953 and ’54, Mr. Carruth was treated in a New York mental hospital for 18 months for alcoholism and a nervous breakdown. He received electroshock therapy and emerged, he said, “in worse shape” than when he went in. But his prolonged stay gave him a chance to study existential philosophy, which influenced his later writing.
Seldom overtly political in his writing, Mr. Carruth nonetheless had strong views, which he expressed in an angry letter to the New York Times in 1971, after the newspaper’s editorial about the Attica prison riot appeared on the same page as “my stupid poem about the flowers of summer.”

“I think it will be a long time before our civilization will have much use for flowers or poems again,” he concluded.

Hayden Carruth was born Aug. 3, 1921, in Waterbury, Conn. His father and grandfather were journalists, and he learned to write at his grandfather’s knee. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1943 and served in the Army Air Forces in Italy during World War II.

Mr. Carruth received a master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1948. He was the editor of Poetry magazine in Chicago and worked for the University of Chicago Press before his nervous collapse.

Seeking solitude after his hospitalization, Mr. Carruth moved to northern Vermont and worked as a farm laborer, mechanic, freelance writer and editor.

“I had to live a very secluded life, but I’m not sorry that’s the way it turned out,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. “The main disadvantage was poverty.”

In 1966, he had received a $10,000 federal grant, but three years later his gross income was only $600. At times, he had to steal corn intended for cattle. But he was drawn to “the honest country people, the laborers, and people who had real folk habits in their speech. I loved to listen to them, and tried to imitate them in my poems.”

He was also strongly influenced by his love of jazz and tried to imitate its improvisational qualities in his poetry.

Mr. Carruth published his first book of poetry in 1959, but his major critical breakthrough didn’t come until the 1970s. His only novel, a tale of adultery called “Appendix A,” appeared in 1963 to dismissive reviews.

After teaching in Vermont for a few years, Mr. Carruth joined the faculty at Syracuse University in Upstate New York in 1979. He was poetry editor of Harper’s magazine from 1977 to 1982.

Despite his newfound professional security, he suffered another mental setback in 1988 and nearly died after swallowing every pill in his home. He recovered and wrote that his suicide attempt helped “unify my sense of self, the sense which had formerly been so refracted and broken up.”

His marriages to Sara Anderson, Eleanor Ray and Rose Marie Dorn ended in divorce.

Survivors include his fourth wife, poet Joe-Anne McLaughlin of Munnsville; and a son from his third marriage.

A daughter from his first marriage, Martha, died in 1997, prompting him to write a heartfelt elegy published in his 2001 collection, “Doctor Jazz.”

One of Mr. Carruth’s final books, “Letters to Jane” (2004), was a volume of his correspondence with poet Jane Kenyon, who died of cancer in 1995 at 47.
“He wrote her a letter every week,” Kenyon’s husband, poet Donald Hall, said yesterday. “He did not talk to her about her disease. He wrote looking out his window at a bird, at a leaf falling. They were absolutely marvelous.”


By Hayden Carruth

“Why don’t you write me a poem that will prepare me for your death? “you said.
It was a rare day here in our climate, bright and sunny. I didn’t feel like dying that
I didn’t even want to think about it – my lovely knees and bold shoulders’ broken
Crawling with maggots. Good Christ! I stood at the window and I saw a strange dog
Running in the field with its nose down, sniffing the snow, zigging and zagging,
And whose dog is that? I asked myself. As if I didn’t know. The limbs of the apple
Were lined with snow, making a bright calligraphy against the world, messages to me
From an enigmatic source in an obscure language. Tell me, how shall I decipher
And a jay slanted down to the feeder and looked at me behind my glass and
Prepare, prepare. Fuck you, I said, come back tomorrow. And here he
is in this new gray and gloomy morning.
We’re back to our normal weather. Death in the air, the idea of death
settling around us like mist,
And I am thinking again in despair, in desperation, how will it happen?
Will you wake up
Some morning and find me lying stiff and cold beside you in our bed?
How atrocious!
Or will I fall asleep in the car, as I nearly did a couple of weeks ago,
and drive off the road
Into a tree? The possibilities are endless and not at all fascinating,
except that I can’t stop
Thinking about them, can’t stop envisioning that moment of hideous violence.
Hideous and indescribable as well, because it won’t happen until it’s

over. But not for you.
For you it will go on and on, thirty years or more, since that’s the distance
between us
In our ages. The loss will be a great chasm with no bridge across it
(for we both know
Our life together, so unexpected, is entirely loving and rare). Living on your
own –
Where will you go? what will you do? And the continuing sense of
From what we’ve had in this little house, our refuge on our green or
Hill. Life is not easy and you will be alive. Experience reduces itself to
platitudes always,
Including the one which says that I’ll be with you forever in your
memories and dreams.
I will. And also in hundreds of keepsakes, such as this scrap of a poem
you are reading now.

from SCRAMBLED EGGS & WHISKEY, Poems 1991-1995, Copper Canyon Press

much more on Hayden Carruth on his web site here…

william shakespeare | sonnet XXX

2 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 253 | October 2, 2008

Sonnet XXX

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear times’ waste;
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanéd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

–William Shakespeare

norbert blei | notes on the publishing life…continued

2 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 155 | October 1, 2008

“Notes on The Publishing Life” …Continued

I guess it would be in my best interest to put a WARNING LABEL on this one, as the language gets a little rough in places. So those of you who may be uncomfortable with ‘street language’ in print—take a pass on this one. (Or re-read yesterday’s dispatched Underground Notes, #154).

But for readers appreciative of style and cogent content–and writers, especially, who have ever (or too often ) been at the mercy of questionable editing—this little exchange between a writer and his sub-editors is beyond priceless.

Bear in mind as well, that this appeared in the esteemed English publication, the Guardian. And you have to admire the English and their way with words. Norbert Blei



From two letters published, in July in the Guardian. The first, from Giles Coren restaurant critic for the London Times Magazine on Saturdays since 2001 to his subeditors at the Times, was leaked to the Guardian. The second is a letter to Coren from Times subeditors Mia Aimaro Ogden and Joanna Duckworth.


I am mightily pissed off. I have addressed this to Owen, Amanda, and Ben because I don’t know who I am supposed to be pissed off with (I’m assuming Owen, but I filed to Amanda and Ben, so it’s only fair), and also to Tony, who wasn’t here if he had been, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have happened.

I don’t really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. Owen, we discussed your turning three of my long sentences into six short ones in a single piece, and how that wasn’t going to happen anymore, so I’m really hoping it wasn’t you that fucked up my review on Saturday. It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. They are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.

I wrote: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rose and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh.” It appeared as: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rose and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh.” There is no length issue. This is someone thinking, “I’ll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and I know best.” Well, you fucking don’t. This was shit, shit subediting for three reasons.

1) “Nosh,” as I’m sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardization of the German naschen. It is a verb, and can be con¬strued into two distinct nouns. One, “nosh,” means simply “food.” You have decided that this is what I meant and removed the “a.” I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun “nosh” means “a session of eating” in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of “scoff.” You can go for a scoff. Or you can buy some scoff. The sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what I meant. Why would you change a sentence .so that it meant something I didn’t mean? I don’t know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck-up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? It’s easy. Not; A. Word. Ever.

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, I was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as “sexually-charged.” I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y. I have used the word “gaily” as a gentle nudge. And “looking for a nosh” has a secondary meaning of looking for a blow job. Not specifically gay, for this is Soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. “Looking for nosh” does not have that ambiguity. The joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you’ve fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a Renaissance fresco and thinking Jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking Christ, don’t you read the copy?

3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittiest of all, you have removed the unstressed “a” so that the stress that should have fallen on “nosh” is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you’re winding up a piece of prose, meter is crucial. Can’t you hear? Can’t you hear that it is wrong? It’s not fucking rocket science. It’s fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for the Times, and I have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

I am sorry if this looks petty (last time I mailed a Times sub about the change of a single word I got in all sorts of trouble), but I care deeply about my work and I hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing. I have been away, you’ve been subbing Joe and Hugo, and maybe they just file and fuck off and think, “Hey ho, it’s tomorrow’s fish and chips”— well, not me. I woke up at three in the morning on Sunday and fucking lay there, furious, for two hours. Weird, maybe. But that’s how it is.

It strips me of all confidence in writing for the magazine. No exaggeration. I’ve got a review to write this morning, and I really don’t feel like doing it, for fear that some nuance is going to be removed from the final line, the payoff, and I’m going to have another weekend ruined for me.

I’ve been writing for the Times for fifteen years, and I have never asked this before I have never asked it of anyone I have written for but I must insist, from now on, that I am sent a proof of every review I do, so I can check it for fuck-ups. And I must be sent it in good time in case changes are needed. It is the only way I can carry on in the job.

And, just out of interest, I’d like whoever made that change to email me and tell me why. Tell me the exact reasoning which led you to remove that word from my copy.

Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger, can make a man verbose.

Dear Giles,

Subediting is a noble profession. It is also a thankless one particularly when your writers call you a “useless cunt.”

There was a sharp intake of breath when your email hit the inbox of subs throughout the in dustry this week that was after we’d stopped laughing. Not that we didn’t think you had a point. Yes, tinkering with copy just for the sake of it and without consultation is wrong. It is disrespectful and arrogant. And we can see why you’d be furious at the loss even of an indefinite article.

There is nothing more irritating than a subeditor who thinks he knows better than a writer, particularly one who cares deeply about his work. But did you really have to be so rude?

If you could only see the state of some of the raw copy we have to knock into shape. It’s badly structured, poorly spelt, appallingly punctuated, lazily researched. We’re not saying your writing falls into that category on the contrary, your journalism is highly accomplished. Never having worked on your copy, we can only take your word for it that it is beyond improvement in its pre-published state. Strange as it may seem, many writers do not possess your grasp of language; indeed, it is sometimes difficult to believe that English is their mother tongue, and they don’t give a damn about what they produce because they know that a good, often highly educated subeditor will correct it, check it, and turn it into readable prose.

None of this can excuse your nasty, bullying, “know your place, you insignificant little fuckwit” email. Yes, it’s funny, in a way that pieces that use “fuck,” “shit,” and “cunt” so liberally often can be, but, please someone made a mistake. He surely had no intention of sabotaging your deathless prose. So you don’t like what happened to your piece have a word with your editor. The hapless sub will no doubt already have been soundly thrashed and had his dictionary privileges removed.

Some years ago, a colleague of ours had a T-shirt printed up with the legend XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX IS A CUNT, which he wore every week when having to deal with the writer to whom it referred, because he, like you, became so disproportionately abusive when his use of language was questioned. We’d hate that to happen to you, because you can actually write, and having GILES COREN IS A SANCTIMONIOUS LITTLE TWAT WHO NEEDS TO GET OVER HIMSELF could be quite costly in T-shirt lettering. Subs are no more infallible than writers. So let’s all try a little mutual respect, shall we?

All the best, Mia Aimaro Ogden, Joanna Duckworth

from HARPER’S MAGAZINE October, 2008

paulson | dear american…

26 09 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No.153 | September 27, 2008

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully, Minister of Treasury Paulson


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