groundhog day

3 posts

The Groundhog Pandemic Sees Its Shadow


Friday. On the Internet, it’s historically a slow day. Why? A lot of folks have already started the weekend. Some take it off with regularity. Others leave for home early.

But now, people who used to work but no longer do because of the pandemic say things like, “I don’t even know what day it is anymore.”

OK, then. Call it Friday. A historically slow day.

One acquaintance told me she has dispensed with days of the week altogether. She says it’s Groundhog Day every day.

Bill Murray and Punxsutawney Phil would be pleased, as would the Buddhists, who are wondering if you are taking this “every day feels the same” opportunity to make yourself a better person.

Are you?

If your house is not chaotic with close-quartered family, you may be reading a lot. Trouble is, a lot of readers are concluding that books they read are “probably not the best choice, given present circumstances.”

I’ve seen this conclusion for most every type of book out there. My conclusion, then? It’s not the book. It’s the reader.

Man, does the first cup of coffee (black) satisfy the most. The second doesn’t quite match it, taste-wise. You can’t go home again. Thus spake Thomas Wolfe, forgotten author.

Speaking of, another friend of political bent emailed yet another “Who’s afraid of Thomas Wolfe” fear: maybe the United States can’t go home again, either.  Or any country after this.

Seems thuggish autocrats (as he calls them) are using Covid-19 as cover to advance their agendas and consolidate their powers. It may be, by the time the virus lets up, that democracy (in so-called “democratic” countries) will be the biggest casualty. All while no one was looking. Or while everyone was distracted.

“Wisconsin is the harbinger in the U.S. That and the Supreme Court blessing, 5-4, for risking people’s lives to run a pandemic election that suppressed voter turnout and worked to the advantage of the powers-that-be. That’s Wisconsin-speak for ‘Republicans’.”

Then he said, “If you don’t know what that means for the country as a whole, then your wallet’s being picked while you’re smiling.”

Great. As if the pandemic weren’t bad enough, spider webs in my wallet are being picked while I’m trying to remember how to smile. Cue the Artful Dodger.

Shall I sum this up with a “Happy weekend, friends”? Nah. I can no longer summon the enthusiasm.

Rather, in honor of yet another Groundhog Day, the movie and the Buddhist metaphor, I’ll contemplate the Zen koan: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

Questions are so much sweeter than answers, aren’t they?

What Groundhog Day Means to Poets

phil connors

When the movie Groundhog Day was released in 1993, it received mixed reviews. Since then, however, the film has been embraced by many as a dark-horse (woodchuck?) comedy with serious undertones.

It’s even been embraced by Buddhists, who see TV weatherman Phil Connors’s repeating day as a metaphor for reincarnation and striving to try, try, try again until you reach enlightenment.

But I come not to praise born again (and again, and again) weathermen, I come to show how Phil’s inability to escape February 2nd echoes the life of a poet.

How shall I compare thee to a winter’s day, then, one that starts with Sonny & Cher on a clock radio singing, “I’ve Got You, Babe” at 6 a.m.? Like so:

  • a poet writes every day
  • a poet wakes to see the same poems every day, and the more he tries to change them, the more stubborn they become against transformation
  • a poet calls on pick-a-Muse-any-Muse and gets Sonny & Cher (the 10th and 11th Muses) instead
  • a poet knows the drill because he’s been there before (note the hard hat)
  • a poet sends “finished” poems into the world
  • the world sends “unfinished” poems back to the poet
  • a poet recognizes each day as yet another “No Reply At All Day” from markets
  • a poet reads good poetry
  • a poet says of good poetry, “Looks easy. I can do that!”
  • a poet writes good “finished” poetry, sends it into the world, waits through months of “No Reply At All Days,” and receives “unfinished” poetry back from the world
  • without comment
  • a poet writes a line he considers brilliant only to stumble upon the same idea in a poem he’s never read before
  • until he reads it
  • and thinks, “Great minds think alike, you lousy thief!”
  • a poet builds “I Got You, Babe” habits:
  • like black coffee
  • like riffs upon riffs of background Bach
  • like byzantine marketing systems
  • a poet, realizing reader-fee markets won’t go away unless you boycott them, only sends work to non-fee markets (if he can still find them)
  • a poet, realizing poetry markets will dry up without resources, ponies up reading fees until he realizes he is a poetry market, too, drying up slowly
  • a poet rationalizes
  • every day
  • again
  • and again
  • and again
  • else he’s no poet
  • finally, and most importantly, a poet believes, with persistence, that his day will come
  • it’s called February 3rd
  • and when it comes, he will seize the day
  • as his own.


Of Groundhogs, Super Bowls, and Sappho

Thank-God-It’s-Friday Musings…

  • It’s Groundhog Day! Only I wonder, is Groundhog Day only an American event? I suspect yes, though anyone in any nation can enjoy the movie, which is Buddhist in nature, though there’s not a monk or mantra in sight. If you haven’t seen it, do. If you have, see it again. And again. And again.
  • Issue Two of The Well Review (just rhymin’, folks), out of Ireland, just released this week and is available for purchase. Check this line-up of poets out! That’s right–that’s me in the alphabetical C’s, keeping company with Sappho (in the alphabetical S’s), Dorianne Laux, Gregory Orr, and Anne Carson. I always wanted to appear somewhere with Sappho, so I guess I can pluck that from my bucket list. As for you, I hope you click “Add to Cart” and enjoy the art (of poetry).
  • Let’s see. Sappho. Fragmentary poems. Themes of love. Isle of Lesbos. Yep. That’s all I’d be good for on  Jeopardy!
  • Just finished Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic. In it, Professor Daniel regales us with the story of his 80-something-old dad sitting in on one of  his Bard College classes on The Odyssey. It’s a memoir and an analysis of The Odyssey combined, but what strikes me is how different Homer’s epics are (read on).
  • How many witty sayings start with this line: “There are two kinds of people in the world…”? I’ll add one: “There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who love The Iliad and those who prefer The Odyssey. Which are you? Me, I’m an Odyssey guy. Unlike The Iliad, it moves. And unlike the The Iliad, it’s less violent. Uh. Until the massacre of the suitors, anyway, at which point a mini-Iliad breaks out in Ithaca.
  • There are two kinds of poetry lovers in the world: Those who love rhyming poems and those who don’t.
  • Foxes and hedgehogs.
  • Chocolate lovers and vanilla sorts.
  • Ginger and Mary Ann (Gilligan’s Island), Betty and Veronica (Archie comics).
  • Those who like “There are two kinds of…” statements, those who tire of them.
  • Ever have trouble when someone asks who your favorite poet is? Why is that such a task? Robert Frost is a safe bet, but many of the poetically-inclined abhor “safe.” It’s just not cool to like what a lot of other people like. Ask any hipster.
  • Super Bowl weekend! Another drinking holiday! (Oh, yeah. And some football.)
  • Which, as was true with Groundhog Day, leads one to wonder: Do any other countries really care?
  • Extension of favorite poet exercise: Who is the greatest poet of each country in the world? Making the list should take you until Valentine’s Day at least.
  • Ugh. Valentine’s Day. Why prove your love one day a year when you’re proving it the other 364 days a year? (By the way, that line does not work with my wife.)
  • Chocolates and flowers = overrated. I would add diamonds, but the ladies in the audience would laugh.
  • Have any Twitter people ever wanted to use the hashtag “Who Cares?” to about a million tweets they read? How about Facebook posts?  Thank God this blog isn’t on Twitter (#whocares) or Facebook (#whocares).
  • My pick for the Super Bowl? Being a Green Bay fan living in New England, I have no horse in the race. I’m also not the biggest fan of Tom Brady the Self-Marketer, though he’s earned his keep as Tom Brady the Quarterback. My pick is whoever wins. The over-under is a number. Take it to the bank and…
  • Happy Friday, friends.