Saturday, August 16, 2003

Mitch Luckett

A fellow recently asked me if being a good writer was anything like being a good liar. I shot from the hip and told him that I hadn't thought about the topic too much, but conceded that I considered myself a good writer and an adequate liar.

I've been ruminating on his question and all its ramifications ever since.

An essential aspect about being a good writer and an adequate liar is that you hope your hindsight is better than 20-20, and if you have doubts, you ruminate until it is.

I had to consider the fact that my questioner was, after all, an attorney, so where did he get off asking me if I was a good liar? I judiciously and perhaps generously decided that being a good attorney was not necessarily synonymous with being a good liar, even though I have seen Johnny Cochran in action. I finally concluded that being a good attorney had more to do with concocting a version of the facts that was more favorable towards a particular point of view. Which turned out to be a bad idea, because that made me think of politicians.

More ruminating, and I realized politicians concoct versions of something in their line of work, but don't rely on all the facts, the use-ratio at best one or two out of a hundred. They call this spin. Politicians are, I must admit, much better liars than writers or lawyers, but when you get right down to it, I'd rather read a good book or hear a good yarn than be harangued by a politician or cross-examined by an attorney, and if the writer, who in this case is an adequate liar and can also sing and play blue grass banjo and harmonica and has written a very strange and humorous book called To Kill a Common Loon, I think the best thing to do is just introduce him and sit down.

Please welcome Mitch Luckett

Alice Derry

If there is one thing you can say about the experience of civilization and being human, there is no shortage of trouble.

Sometimes it seems as if the collective recognition of history is only a generalized distillation of banal and often inaccurate information about what has gone on in different times and places for the purpose of boring high school students or providing demagogues, politicians and pundits with enough information to skew facts sufficiently so they may sway us to applaud or vote for them. Afterwards, we the people are often left scratching our heads, if indeed, we are lucky enough to still have one, and ask ourselves what the hell just happened. Often this generalizing influence leads us to smug conclusions and arbitrary bias that are more revealing about our own self-protecting insecurities than they are accurate about the cause and effect of history.

Thus, we concoct notions that Blacks and Native Americans are inferior, the indigent bring poverty upon themselves, various Supreme Beings have various Chosen People, arbitrary lines drawn on a map dictate the character of those living within them, terrorists attacked World Trade Center Towers because they hate freedom, and the United States holds the moral high ground in the arena of world politics. On the strength of these poorly constructed ideas we condemn ourselves to repeat the worst moments of history. It is only through the ex

All of Alice Derry's work is an intensely personal look at individual lives. From her initial manuscript, Stages of Twilight, through chapbooks Getting Used to the Body and Not as You Once Imagined, and a second book, Clearwater, she chronicles the lives and truths of ordinary people, including her own. But it is in her seminal third volume, Strangers to Their Courage, that Derry unsparingly uses the crucible of poetry to dispel the myths and generalizing of history surrounding postwar Germany.amination of the lives of individuals may we divine the truth of a moment or an era.

In the words of reviewer Li-Young Lee: "This book asks us to surrender our simplistic ideas about race and prejudice, memory and forgetfulness, and to begin to uncover a new paradigm for 'human.'