SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Friday, October 19, 2012


Among my many great presents this year was the opportunity to photograph and attend a talk by HH the Dalai Lama at Hunter College on October 19. HH the Dalai Lama is a renowned peacemaker and scholar, who, until recently was Tibet's political leader in exile. He has turned over that role to a notable Harvard scholar, but remains the undisputed spiritual leader of Tibet and an inspiration to millions around the globe. Addressing a special congregation of Chinese artists, activists, scholars and friends, he posed the following challenge in his own inimitably diplomatic and direct way: "It is time for 1.3 billion Chinese to see the realities. Let them see the realities and decide for themselves what is right and wrong." By realities, he was of course referring to the oppression within China by its own government and the Chinese government's ongoing persecution of Tibetans and imposition of oppressive policies in Tibet.

The discussion with HH the Dalai Lama involved scholars in a panel as well as members of the audience. HH the Dalai Lama reiterated the importance of Tibet's maintaining a middle way approach with China, one in which the neighboring countries see themselves as interdependent rather than separate from one another. But he also challenged all people to practice ethics and humanity, stating what he has said often--that he respects those of all religions and even those who have no religion. Religions are institutions that are fallible and often corrupt, he said. Even so, we can all be warm-hearted with one another. "Even animals appreciate warm-heartedness," he noted.

An audience member asked: "How can we practice compassion in our society, which is so cutthroat and competitive?" HH the Dalai Lama was quick to answer, "I don't see millions of Americans as being cutthroat."

In his usual warm, positive and all-inclusive fashion, HH the Dalai Lama embraced panel members and artists and warmed up to the audience with his incisive remarks and humor. A Chinese artist gave him a painting at the end of the panel, and afterward, HH the Dalai Lama received an honorary degree from Hunter College, adding to his collection of honors from around the world.

Monday, October 8, 2012


My idea of a great weekend is driving to Cold Spring, New York, walking along Main Street, enjoying a meal at Cathyrn's Tuscan Grill and an espresso afterwards at Cup-o-ccino's. At the end of Main Street is a grand view of the Hudson.

Main Street, Cold Spring, is chock full of great antique shops and galleries. One of the coolest galleries and a recent find is Marina Gallery at 153 Main Street. It's small and intimate, and the current exhibit, "Drawn Together," features dramatic and original works in charcoal by several of those who belong to the cooperative space. The show runs until the end of October.

Maria Pia Marrella, one of the artists and designers whose work is being featured at the gallery, is a member of the cooperative, which includes artists Flavia Bacarella, Monica Bernier, Abby Goldstein, Lynn Kotula, Martee Levi and Maria. Maria works in a wide range of styles and in various media. Her oils on linen in an exhibit titled "Pentimenti" that ran last year at the gallery, recalled the work of Giorgio de Chirico's. In another exhibit titled "{mis} appropriation, the artist played with religious symbols and allegory, for example, creating her own version of the "Visitation."

If you feel like taking a drive and enjoying the gorgeous fall foliage in the Hudson Valley, check out Cold Spring. To get there from Fort Lee, take  9W to the Bear Mountain Bridge, make a left on 9A and follow to Main Street, Cold Spring.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Ani Drubgyudma, a Western Buddhist nun who has been a contemplative practitioner since 1973, has written a beautiful, bold and necessary book, Wake Up in the Forest, that is a gem for those wanting to or already practicing contemplation or meditation in nature. And it offers hope for those who long for more than what daily life has to offer.

How many of us, bogged down by routine in suburbia or cities, do not dream of escaping into nature for peace and serenity? I often find when I'm alone in nature that the sight and scent of flowers, trees and earth, the sound of streams and rivers, the view of lakes, hold profound and special significance, particularly because those experiences are so rare.

My experience is also that nature not only enlivens the senses and refreshes the mind, but takes me deeper into myself, to who I really am. It is increasingly a brave venture--to go into the woods, to find one's inner way in silence--not unlike the way Thoreau and even Jack Kerouac did--because it is increasingly hard to do.

Ani is a poet, writer, photographer and artist, and the images, poems, reflections and deep insight that comprise Wake Up in the Forest make for both important and compelling reading.

Take the time to read, reflect, and review this work of words and images that are like a vast and profound blessing.


Friday, August 17, 2012


I listened to seven songs from Patti Smith's new Banga CD tonight, all of them on YouTube, so I had the full experience of imagery, along with the sounds of the album. The songs are every bit as interesting, thoughtful, original, intelligent and gutsy as you would expect, and more. As is true with jazz, Patti Smith moves me to think in different ways. And to view music and even the world in different ways.

Here's the order of songs I listened to: "Amerigo," "This is the Girl," "After the Gold Rush," "Constantine's Dream," "Nine," "Seneca," and "Banga," the latter on none other than The David Letterman Show. A sign of Patti Smith's genius is that she can rock 'n roll her originality on a show like David Letterman's and treats him and everyone with respect. This is a very beautiful and rare quality. To this day I am struck with the utter lack of malice in Just Kids, her fine memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, in which she relates stories about so many people--and not once does she say a nasty thing about anyone. That's amazing, very hard to do. She can roar about a cause, but behind what she does is always kindness.

I could say a lot about each of the Patti Smith songs I listened to on this rainy night, but I'm going to be brief because I'd rather keep the experience of these songs to myself. My only real point in sharing these few words is to get you to listen to the songs as well, really listen, because they are worth it. You will be in art. And you will learn something new.

I like getting lost in the world of a song and Patti Smith makes this easy. I loved "Amerigo," about the discovery of America, and "This is the Girl," a song poem about Amy Winehouse. "After the Gold Rush," is the Neil Young song, whose poetry Patti Smith makes fresh in her inimitable way. She and Young have been friends a long time and I believe they are or will be touring. "Banga," which is a town in the Punjab district of India," is a very cool and wild song in the way "Horses" is.

Banga is very international, covers time and space, poetry, spirituality and art. Another punk original from the master herself. Check it out.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Jerry Jazz Musician, a jazz website founded by Joe Maita, was praised by
critic Nat Hentoff of The Wall Street Journal and nominated by the Jazz
Journalists Association for "Best Website Concentrating on Jazz," 2006
and 2007. It recently selected my jazz short story, "So What," out of more
than 100 entries for top prize in a contest. The story, which actually won
$100-dollars, can be read at www.jerryjazz.com.

In this era of painfully few literary outlets for jazz fiction, I am sincerely
grateful for the presence of Jerry Jazz Musician and its gallery of readers.
As everyone knows who knows me or my writing on this site or
beboptimes.blogspot.com, I am a diehard fan of jazz, particularly
hard bop. And I support jazz poetry and fiction. My sister Marcela
Breton edited a lovely compilation of the latter, titled, Hot and Cool,
published by Plume, in which you can read stories by, among others,
the great James Baldwin.

Today's breaking news is that I intend to continue listening to and
appreciating bebop, searching out themes related to the music and
breathing it into language.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Make no mistake about it, we are in the year, no, the decade of the woman.  

I know many facts do not speak to this. In the last two years of our economic meltdown, young men gained 178,000 jobs while young women lost  255,000. I know we are still considered second class citizens, given less credence, less pay, less credit and less attention. Still, everywhere I look and everywhere I go, I finally see women supporting one another, giving one another more credence, more credit, more attention, and in the cases where they have the power, more pay. It’s about time for that.

As recently as the last presidential elections, we were all made painfully aware of how far we are from where we should be. Not only did Hillary Clinton, daring to run for President of the U.S., have to deal with abuse from men -- constant references to her style and appearance, her “pimping out Chelsea” and “her chipmunk cheeks,” statements and criticisms that never would have been leveled at her male counterparts -- but even worse, abuse from women, women in power who could have been there for her. Women in the media, for example, who made mincemeat of her intentions and her efforts every chance they got. Hello Maureen Dowd, who should be restricted from all events that celebrate women for the sheer level of nastiness of her attacks against Hillary.

But significant events have happened recently to demonstrate what many of us have known for a long time: women are changing the world, slowly but surely, and finally coming together, celebrating their accomplishments, taking power, and empowering one another.

It’s thanks to women that the Arab Spring was launched. It was their incentive on the streets that ignited a revolution in Egypt and elsewhere. Last weekend’s three-day symposium at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, Women in the World, paid tribute to women from all walks of life who are have made an impact and are bettering the world. Among those featured in this amazing and exhilarating event, hosted by The Daily Beast and moderated by its editor, Tina Brown, were: a Burmese activist who had spent 11 years in prison for passing a pamphlet to democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, then imprisoned under house arrest; Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent Lyndsey Addario, who spoke of the recent loss of foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and the need to bear witness in times of war and conflict; two young women who invented Socket, a soccer ball that carries electricity to underprivileged villages around the globe; Meryl Streep, Oscar winning actor and supporter of the cause of women; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is as much to be admired for what she has accomplished as a politician as for what she has endured as a human being in the face of attacks from media and public over the course of her career. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was there, and Margaret Albright, whose hair-trigger response to the question, "What is the single biggest reason women have not been able to pierce the glass ceiling?" was one word, "Men."

Although there is no woman running for President of the United States, the spirit of woman and her presence is everywhere in politics. Currently, we have the highest ever total record of female leaders serving in top positions around the globe, among them, 36-year old Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga, who also attended the recent New York City symposium. These leaders speak openly of the need to network and harness female power on a local, regional and global level, and to end war and worldwide conflicts.

In the literary realm, women’s creative power is gaining momentum. The winners of this year's National Book Critics Circle Awards, announced last week in New York City, were Edith Pearlman, for her fourth collection of stories, Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories (Lookout Books) ; poet Laura Kasischke, for her collection Space, in Chains (Copper Canyon Press), and Mira Bartok, for her memoir, The Memory Palace (Free Press). Kathyrn Schulz also received the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. See the video of Pearlman reading from her award-winning collection on the Poets and Writers website.
Read women’s writing. Listen to their words. Support them. As an Egyptian activist at the women’s symposium said, “There is no spring without flowers, just as there is no Arab spring without women.”  The Arab spring is a women’s revolution. Help make way for a better, kinder world. Join the revolution.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I read Noah Cicero's fifth novel, The Insurgent, with great interest, as I am a fan of his work. I read his first book, The Human War, while still residing in Youngstown, Ohio, the place that Noah is from and that he writes about with such eloquence, sadness and truth.

He's a young man still, and it's painful to realize in this day of dissappearing bookstores and interest in fine things, such as literature, that Noah still struggles to make a living, given the calibre of his work and his achievements to date. This includes The Insurgent, which is about disenchantment, oppression, and death of many sorts.

Noah's work, written with enormous intensity, is presented usually line by line in his texts, so the reader can feel the full impact of meaning in the language. It's a minimalist style that works. The result is a breathless pace, dialogue that often resonates like the script of some amazing existentialist theatre work, and characters that impale the reader with their suffering and authenticity. Noah's characters are desperate loners who rant about injustices and rarely muster the courage to set themselves free.

As was true with The Human War, which was published in 2003, and recently made into a film, The Insurgent is set in Youngstown, which is, the narrator Vasily notes, "a small third-world country located inside of America." Vasily is a Russian dishwasher, and his best friend Chang, an obsessive compulsive, who can't seem to get rid of the need to wash himself; the two of them drink, pine for women, lust for better lives and, through an accident of fate, wind up with enough  money to "get out of Dodge" and head west.

It's not a trip like Kerouac and his pals made, but a desperate escape out of the mire of tedium in poverty-riddled mundanity into the silence of nature and the vast expanses of untamed America, which hold still the power to reawaken hope and dreams. Despite the encounters that turn out to be fiascos on this journey, the dream of hope prevails.

The Insurgent has some of the most gorgeous rants on the nature of death and being that I've read in literature in recent years. The characters and their lives are described in aching detail, and what I find most amazing about this read -- it was also true about The Human War -- is that instead of being depressingly dark, it lifts up, illuminates because it is true.

When The Human War, the film, comes out, see it, if that's what it takes to read Noah's books. But if you are a reader and care about the art of literature and where it purports to take us as human beings, for god's sake pick up his books too. The Insurgent, published in 2010, is available from Blatt Books. You can find out more about Noah Cicero and his writing via his blog, at http://noah-cicero.blogspot.com/