Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Steele in the Night: Flipping America the Bird

Several times in the past, I have criticized Republican Party Chairman and former Maryland Deputy Governor Michael Steele for the odd things he says and does (see link to my last blog post about Mr. Steele through the title above). Now Steele is back saying that the Democrats in Congress are "flipping America the bird" for the way they are trying to pass the health bill in the Senate before Christmas.

Of course Steele's remark is entirely in line with the policy of his fellow Republicans, to be obstructionists and to refuse to contribute to forming what will be, even in the watered down version of the bill as now conceived, landmark legislation concerning health care for all Americans, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, the young, the poor, men, women, Latinos, native Americans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. In short, All Americans.

The Republican strategy in fact flies in the face of history considering that Republicans such as Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon tried to pass health care, as did former Republican vice presidential candidate Bob Dole, although in the end ironically he helped kill the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy's bill to institute health care.

Universal health care is long due here in the United States and is something that Republicans should want to see brought about for their constituents.

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele's remarks are not helpful to the American people.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Christmas on the Moon

NASA has found water on the moon
and the intergalactic geeks exult
at the notion of a lunar space station.

Christmas has come early in Houston:
spangled gifts, the renewed dream
of intimacy with heavenly bodies,

intercourse at astronomic costs.

Christopher T. George

The Price of Poetry

Its worth?
Butterfly scales?
Beauty lacks any price.
We write masterpieces, demand
no wage.

Christopher T. George

At Desert Moon Review, Guy Kettelhack commented:

"well, we write, anyway! masterpieces? hmm: once every 164 yrs. maybe

"'beauty lacks any price' -- interesting twist on 'priceless' - sort of gives it a spin I hadn't thought of before - although it does perhaps imply that it 'lacks' a price because we haven't given it one yet. priceless (though cliche: wouldn't suggest you use the word here) implies we couldn't give it one.

I replied:

Yes, Guy, I do think "priceless" has two distinct meanings:

1) something is worth so much that you can put no price to it; and

2) the thing is so worthless that it has no price.

So two opposite meanings both with the same word, two meanings for the same price. Priceless!
Ha ha.

I wonder how many other words have definitions that mean the exact opposite? This proves once again, what we already knew:

What a strange language English is!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama Speaking in Front of the Turkey Eagle

President Obama is addressing the nation,
speaking to the cadets at West Point,
talking in front of a blue eagle flag,
the shield over the eagle chest, a target,
a barber's pole of blood and bandages.
(Franklin wanted the bird to be a turkey;
other Fathers chose the steel-talon eagle.
We savor Ben's passion each Thanksgiving.)
President Obama is counting the sacrifices:
all the letters he must write to each and
every family -- the families of the fallen,
all serving multiple tours, moving targets,
boots shuffling in the dust to their destiny.
President Obama is addressing the families
sitting with the corpses of their loved ones.

Christopher T. George

Chen-ou Liu at Wild Poetry Forum kindly pointed out that the following in regard to my statement, "Franklin wanted the bird to be a turkey":

"This is based on popular legend. In the letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin made a reference to the Bald Eagle and the Wild Turkey as a satirical comparison between the Society of the Cincinnati and Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. He never supported the Wild Turkey as a symbol of the United States.

"Chris, an engaging read. Your poem proves that the poetic is the political.


Of course just as John Keats was wrong in his sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" about Cortez seeing the Pacific, I think I can be allowed a bit of leeway here.

The following seems to be the truth about Ben Franklin, the eagle, and the turkey, as extracted from his writings:

Franklin was actually talking about the look of the eagle on the First Great Seal of the United States. See below:

"For my own part I wish the Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

"With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country...

"I am on this account not displeased that the figure is not known as a Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. [Emphasis mine.] For the truth the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on."

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Mystery of the Death of Edgar Allan Poe

The jury remains out on what exactly killed writer Edgar Allan Poe in early October 1849. He had been lecturing in Richmond and was on his way back to his home in Fordham, New York, where he lived with his aunt and mother-in-law Maria Clemm, his wife Virginia having died of consumption two years previously. It is thought that Poe had aspirations to remarry and that was one reason he was in Richmond, to renew his acquaintanceship with certain ladies. . . In any case a week after leaving Richmond he was found in bad straits on a Baltimore sidewalk. What had happened to him in the intervening week is a mystery.

His body was probably weakened from years of drinking and exhaustion although it's not clear whether alcoholism killed him. The local story that he was taken round the voting polls and voted as a repeater is probably not true. He was found by Baltimore Sun compositor Joseph W. Walker in a dying condition in a drumming rain on the afternoon of 3 October 1849 on the sidewalk outside of Ryan's Tavern on East Lombard Street, where the 4th Ward polls were located. This location is a block east of the existing Carroll Mansion near the corner President Street and Lombard. The fact that Poe was wearing poor and bedraggled clothes that were not his own is suspicious and might lead us to believe he was robbed. And yet his missing trunk was later recovered and is now in the Poe Museum in Richmond. Mystery upon mystery.

Poe murmured the name of a friend, Joseph E. Snodgrass, M.D., who lived a few streets away, and Snodgrass was duly sent for. A bit of a mystery pertains here as well, because the writer's cousin Henry Herring and his family lived closer to the location of the tavern, in a house opposite to the Carroll Mansion. The fact that Herring was not sent for might indicate that Poe had been drinking and he didn't want his cousin to see him in that condition. In 1833, Dr. Snodgrass had been editor of the Saturday Evening Visiter. The newspaper sponsored a literary competition in which Poe won first prize of $50.00 -- no small sum back then! -- for his story "Ms. Found in a Bottle." It was his first literary success. No doubt fond memories of his big break remained in Poe's memory bank, as well as the thought that perhaps Dr. Snodgrass might be more sympathetic to him than his relatives.

Unfortunately for Poe, Snodgrass later became a rampant teetotaler and lecturer on the evils of drink. In his firebrand talks he cited the example of Poe as an inebriate. He described the writer as disgusting looking when he found him slumped in a seat in Ryan's tavern. He bundled the writer into a carriage bound for Washington College Hospital on Broadway, some seven blocks to the east. The fact that Snodgrass, a physician, did not attend to the ailing writer himself might be significant. In any case, four days later on 7 October, Poe died in the hospital. He apparently spent much of his last four days delirious.

In regard to Poe's final hours, more controversy exists. Poe's attending physician Dr. John J. Moran later published A Defense of Edgar Allan Poe (Washington, D.C.: W. F. Boogher, 1885) in which he claimed that the writer did not die of alcholism. However, in his a letter to Poe's mother-in-law, Mrs. Maria Clemm, on 15 November 1849, five weeks after the writer's death, Moran hints darkly that Mrs. Clemm would know of what ailment he died ("Presuming you are already aware of the malady of which Mr. Poe died. . . .") -- which most scholars take to mean the writer had taken to drink while in the city and alcoholism played a part in his demise.

According to Moran, if he is to believed, Poe called out the name "Reynolds!" several times. There was an explorer named Jeremiah N. Reynolds whose accounts Poe used as source material for his sea novella The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Could a delirious Poe on his deathbed have thought he was on the high seas with Reynolds?

In my research, I found a more mundane and Poe-like reason why the dying writer might have called out the name. According to Baltimore City street directories, around the time of Poe's death, a "Washington Reynolds" was a gravedigger living on Greene Street. On 9 October, Poe was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in the Presbyterian graveyard at the corner of Fayette and Greene Streets. His cousins Henry Herring and Neilson Poe were among the smattering of mourners in attendance.

Follow the link through the title for a discussion of Edgar Allan Poe's life and death. The writer has a few things wrong and might overly emphasize Poe's drinking. . . but he or she covers a lot of aspects aboout Poe quite well and succinctly, and the accompanying cartoons are interesting as well. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lady Liberties

"Altar to Liberty", Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn

I tried to go up the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor some years ago, I think in the eighties, but since I was carrying a big briefcase I gave up on it as being a bit beyond me and a chore as well! Not sure I like such a claustrophobic feeling. Didn't enjoy the Catacombs in Paris for the same reason, and doubt I would like to try Williamson's Tunnels in Liverpool.

One of the most moving experiences I have had was a year ago when I was in New York City to give a talk on the War of 1812, which is my specialty besides Jack the Ripper! I had asked if any member of the New York Military Affairs Symposium would be willing to take me on a tour of New York City Revolutionary War sites, the city having been recaptured by the British in November 1776.

As it was, two members stepped forward one of them with a Lincoln town car with an Indian friend acting as chauffeur. We visited a number of sites in Brooklyn, one a fort right below the Verrazano Narrows Bridge close to where the British landed in a massive D-Day like landing.

It was misty out in the harbor and I could not see much as I clambered onto the damp, leaf-strewn wall of the fort. Later we visited Greenwood Cemetery where some of the fighting had taken place. They have there an "Altar to Liberty" much less well known compared with the Statue of Liberty but it looks out toward its more famous Sister. Just as we got there, the fog parted which gave us a view across the nearby rooftops of a sunlit Lady Liberty in the harbor through a parting in the mist! Magnificent!


Ghosting Through Brooklyn


Oh we are ghosting through Brooklyn
chauffered in a silver Lincoln town car.

We are a polyglot, ragtag pick-up
army, treking to sites in America's

fight for freedom, hosted by our Indian limo
driver, a husky dusky Ernest Borgnine

who mutters an ancient Hindi poem about
laughing while dying as we cruise through

Greenwood Cemetery with its plastic flowers,
its hillsides of monumental Victorian tombs

where in 1776 Yanks and Brits alike fell,
in inglorious stump-hole sacrifice.


Above our heads, traffic thunders over
the Verrazano Narrows Bridge; we look

from the damp, autumn-leaved ramparts
of Fort Hamilton out into blank white fog

toward where the British landed
in Gravesend Bay ready to trounce

the breakaway rebels; there's me
with my red Liverpool FC scarf,

my unkempt gray beard as one journalist said; Jeff,
spectacled, short with white beard, leather jacket, and

Russian winter hat, and Colonel Frank, gray-moustached
with the military maps and apology for the masking fog:

the Englishman, the Jew, the Italian, and the Indian
on a pilgrimage through modern-day Brooklyn.

We stop to tour the Old Stone House, by a playground,
kids yelling as they sweep down slides, moms with walkers.

Fortuitously saved from being swept away for Ebbets Field,
used until recently as a rest station; here perished

Maryland's four hundred saving George Washington's ass.
Stop at Chance Cuisine for miso soup, duck with plum sauce

near the site of Gowanus Creek and Corkscrew Hill where
Washington watched the ebb and flow, the touch and go.


I remember best still, how we drove the winding paths
of Greenwood Cemetery, our driver reciting the Hindi

about expecting to laugh as he dies, Colonel Frank
eating a banana (the peel of which he dropped

in the waste receptacle as we left the cemetery)
and how we climbed up Battle Hill to the "Altar

of Liberty" with its black helmeted apocryphal figure
as we gazed out into New York Harbor; luckily,

a hole had been burned in the fog at last:
Lady Liberty stood greenly shining just for us.

Christopher T. George

Monday, November 16, 2009

"He Knows Jack" - Chris George in the Baltimore City Paper

He Knows Jack | Baltimore City Paper
An old article, from 2002, but it may be of interest. Note that the Casebook Productions website www.casebook-productions.org is defunct. For more on the Whitechapel murders go instead to Casebook: Jack the Ripper at http://www.casebook.org or JtR Forums at http://www.jtrforums.com

Chris holding a Liston amputation knife of a type that might have been used by Jack the Ripper

Chris and Donna in the East End of London

A comment on trying to navigate the East End without a compass? Chris during his talk at the Jack the Ripper Conference, Widegate Street, 24 October, 2009. Photograph by Jeff Leahy.

First of all let me begin by saying that I have for some time felt a fake and a fraud in that although I have been an editor and a contributor to Ripper magazines for over a decade, I had not taken previously a tour of the murder sites. Not for want of trying, I might add: I was supposed to go on such a tour back in 2001 with the late great Adrian M. Phypers (aka Viper)... but for one reason or another it did not occur. I had been in the East End in 1969 and took some Super 8 movie film of Petticoat Lane Market but was not at that time interested in the Whitechapel murders.

So it was with particular interest I signed up for the London conference to be held at Kings Stores, Widegate Street, on 23-25 October, organized by Adam Wood. My wife Donna and I signed up to stay at the Ibis Hotel, Commercial Street and rented a sporty black Vauxhaull Invicta from Auto Europe (aka National) at Heathrow Airport for our whole 2-week trip, arriving on Friday, 16 October, the week before the conference. What we didn't have though was satellite navigation which would have helped greatly since the directions from Ibis were next to useless -- take the A13 from the M25 in toward the City and look for Aldgate. We spent around an hour driving round the East End trying to find the hotel in the dark on Friday night. This included an unwanted impromptu tour of the murder sites since I looked up at one point and noticed the street sign for Durward Street (formerly Buck's Row), site of the murder of Mary Ann ("Polly") Nichols on 31 August 1888.

We were even stopped by the police at one point ... they noticed we were driving haphazardly. The female constable gave us directions that supposedly would take us to the Ibis but she had directed us to Commercial Road not Commercial Street! Eventually I bought a spiral bound AA Street by Street Guide to Greater London from a Muslim newsagent on Whitechapel Road with a white knit cap. We eventually found the Ibis and I realized we had driven past it at least once because I recognized the lit-up sign of Toynbee Hall across the road. The hotel as it turned out was partly obscured from passing vehicles by a construction hoarding for whatever the building is that's going up at the corner of Commercial Street and Whitechapel High Street.

The Ibis is French run and I was directed by the French mademoiselle behind the desk to the nearest public parking facility, which turned out to the White's Row Parking Garage. We had purposely arrived late at night to avoid the "congestion charge" that is levied by the City of London, eight pounds a day, if you are on the streets between 7 am and 6 pm. Of course with the snafu of being lost I was way too late and too exhausted to take part in any of the conference activities on Friday evening. I was though curious to find the King's Stores so determined to seek out the convention site the following morning first thing.

One would have thought that the precious spiral bound AA Street by Street Guide to Greater London would be an aid here, wouldn't one. Well it wasn't, not unaided by outside internet help. Widegate Street although in the Index for the series of maps was not as such marked where it should have been. I eventually, through the aid of the conference website, determined that the Kings Stores is at the corner of Widegate Street and Sandy's Row, and I saw that the AA in their maps had Widegate Street, being a narrow and short road, marked as "W.S."!!! It wasn't the only such small road marked in the AA Street by Street Guide to Greater London with initials either. So much for authority!

So I discovered I could walk the following morning down the side of the White's Row Parking Garage to make my way toward the conference venue. As I neared the western end of the parking garage, I was astonished to see the stately pile of the Providence Row Night Refuge on Crispin Street right in front of me. I therefore realised that the murder site of Mary Jane Kelly at what was 13 Miller's Court, off what was on the morning of 9 November 1888 Dorset Street (now demolished) was only a few hundred yards away from me, on the opposite side of the parking garage. And this gave me what has remained an enduring impression of my visit to Spitalfields: how close together all the sites are. I had a real spooky feeling, and it impressed me how the killer was able to get away with it time and time again.

The below map by Jane Coram shows some of the sites. The Crossingham's lodging house at 35 Dorset Street is now gone, swept away to make way for the same circa 1920's warehouse built in Duval Street that replaced the site of Miller's Court, as was another Crossingham's at 16-19 Dorset Street, now under the site of the parking garage.

The Providence Row Night Refuge, since 2006 known as Lilian Knowles House and used as accommodation for students of the London School of Economics, is built in the sort of sickly looking yellow brick which is characteristic of a number of London buildings. I don't know whether it is something to do with the chalk in the London area that the brick is often yellow and not red. I am used to the red brick and red sandstone of Liverpool, blood red, like Gladstone's birthplace on Rodney Street in my home town!

I made my way up Artillery Passage, along the southern side of the former night refuge, a narrow medieval-like passage, which gives you the idea of age, and is a remainder of the old East End. There was a New Age bistro and a frou-frou store or two in the passage but otherwise, it could have been a century or more earlier. Thankfully such remainders still remind of how the area once looked even if, disappointingly, most of the murder sites are changed absolutely from what they once were. I found the Kings Stores and started on the way back to the hotel. I was serenaded on the walk back to the Ibis by two men in suits, one with a guitar, who claimed to be out-of-work bankers. I kid you not. They were singing something about Blackheath and accompanied me almost all the way to the Ibis before I eventually outdistanced them and one "banker" sang to the other that they had lost me and I was not going to fork out some money to them as they hoped. This trip was costing too damned much as it was! I did feel somewhat threatened by the experience but as a regular commuter from Baltimore to Washington D.C. on the Marc Train I am used to panhandlers at Union Station and don't usually "fold" when solicited.

To say I felt threatened while walking in Whitechapel/Spitalfields in early morning or at night and other times as well is probably an understatement. The area had a run-down look, not helped perhaps by the fact that the shops on Commercial Street all had metal shutters or grills pulled down and locked.

When walking from the Ibis Hotel, it was better to walk in a group than walking alone. Donna said she did not enjoy staying at the hotel because of the depressed feel of the area.

The Ten Bells looked from the outside paint-peeled and unattractive. I saw a prostitute or two hanging around in the area as I walked the streets.

In short, Spitalfields in October 2009 appeared to me not that different in atmosphere to what I would imagine the atmosphere was in same area in 1888.

I believe part of my unease of being in the East End was racial. That is, I knew of course that the East End now had a large Asian population, mostly immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, many of them Muslims from Pakistan. Was the feeling of being on the streets with people that were "other" than me part of the problem. During the walking tour with Philip Hutchinson on the morning of Sunday, 25 October, we went through Petticoat Lane Market on Wentworth Street. As per tradition, the market consisted of close together stalls on both sides of the street with clothing and other goods for sale, old CDs, records, bric-a-brac, people milling in the middle of the the street and on the sidewalks shoulder-to- shoulder, trying to get through or examining goods on tables or racks of clothing. Unlike the way I remembered the market from the Sixties when I was last there, the merchants in the market and the customers too almost all had an Asian background.

I thought that Philip's intent was to make for the site of the Goulston Street graffito, but that wasn't his idea. As a result, in the melee, part of the tour party got separated from the rest. To go through the area on market day with a tour party was probably not the brightest idea. Sorry, Philip!!!

Philip was actually heading down a side street, Castle Alley, to show us the Alice MacKenzie murder site (appropriate for the 1889 theme of the convention and my particular talk on police activity between the murder of Mary Jane Kelly and MacKenzie in July 1889). The two parts of the tour party managed to get patched back up together.

So in Petticoat Lane Market today most of the traders today are Indian or Pakistani. One of the party on the tour characterized what is sold today in the market to me as "tat" or cheap and shoddy merchandise. Perhaps so. We could have been in Cairo or Islamabad not the East End of London. Is it the language barrier or the spectre of Islamic terror that heightens the unease, or both?

During the Jack the Ripper tour: Chris George with Philip Hutchinson and his newly found photograph of Dutfield's Yard circa 1900. Photograph by Jeff Leahy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chris and Donna in Liverpool and Northern Ireland

Donna and I have just returned from a trip to the United Kingdom. We were there October 16 through October 30.

After landing at Heathrow on Friday morning, Oct 16, we drove up to Liverpool where I was part of Poetry Kit's World Poetry Night at the Fly in the Loaf, Hardman Street.

The evening was arranged by Merseyside poet Jim Bennett.

At the Fly in the Loaf, Liverpool, Saturday, 17 October 2009

Nervous, you cross the fancy mosaic threshold of an ex-baker's shop,
nudge past garrulous and muscular young guzzlers, ascend
to the upstairs quiet hushed aerie where the poets gather.

No, it's no longer your city, though the street sign "Baltimore"
hard by the Fly in the Loaf at Hardman and Baltimore Streets
recalls your "other city" all those three thousand miles away. . .

"The Liverpool of America's East Coast" and how Adrian intro'ed
you as "a poet from Philadelphia" ha! and he told of streets
near his Mount Street home: Baltimore and Maryland,

testimony to Liverpool's slavery past. It's no longer Ade's
Liverpool or the slaver's Liverpool. Discursive as ever! Wrap
your mind round that. . . wrap your words round that, Poet!

Muscular words to tell of that evening, arc lamps burning,
sweating, drops of perspiration dot the paper. Now!
Squeeze the words out. Let the people hear. You're here.

Christopher T. George

On Monday, October 19, we left Liverpool for Lancaster, to stay at the Royal Arms on Market Street just down the hill from Lancaster Castle. We dined that night in a restaurant set in the vaults of an old merchant's house dating to 1688. The following morning we caught the car ferry from Heysham to Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland. The passage with rough with high winds and we laughed at each other trying to negotiate the rolling floor of the passengers lounge. Pretty wild.

That night we stayed at the Whistledown Hotel on the seafront at Warrenpoint. My friend and colleague Rostrevor historian Dr. John McCavitt arranged for us to stay in the bridal suite. The room had a magnificent view of Carlingford Lough looking over toward the Mountains of Mourne and General Ross's monument.

The following day, Wednesday, October 21, I gave a talk in Rostrevor, the home village of Major General Robert Ross, the man who captured Washington, D.C., on August 24, 1814, and burned the Capitol and White House and other public buildings. The 100-foot granite monument to Ross on the shoreline of Carlingford Lough has been recently restored by the District Council of Newry and Mourne. Chris is working with Dr. John McCavitt on a biography of General Ross.

Chris in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland, with Mayor John Feehan, showing the Ross Monument in the background near the shoreline of Carlingford Lough. You can access the entire news cutting from the Newry Reporter through the title above.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

U.S. Military Cemetery, Normandy

They did their duty: the wild kid
from Nebraska with the Lucky on
his raspberry lip, the sodajerk
from Teaneck with the violet pressed
in Katy's letter. The markers stand
to attention, row by row, above
the foam on the ragged beaches where
each of them drew their final breath.

Christopher T. George

A hero of Barack Obama, the 44th President of these United States, was Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the 16th President of these United States. It was Abraham Lincoln who said:

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history."

This is what Abraham Lincoln said:

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility."

Lincoln was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, and lived in Illinois. He died as the result of an assassin's bullet in Washington, D.C., April 15th, 1865.

At his inauguration 144 years later, Barack Obama, 44th president of these United States, born in Hawaii, rose to power in the United States Senate representing Illinois, said on January 20th, 2009:

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, . . . . For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn."

Barack Obama, the 44th President, stood on the battleground at Normandy on June 6th, 2009, 64 years after the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy, and this is what he said:

"As we face down the hardships and struggles of our time and arrive at that hour for which we were born, we cannot help but draw strength from those moments in history when the best among us were somehow able to swallow their fears and secure a beachhead on an unforgiving shore."

(In composing the foregoing narrative with quotes from Lincoln and Obama, I owe a debt to composer Aaron Copeland's outstanding "A Lincoln Portrait" which quotes the words of Abraham Lincoln and those of Lincoln's biographer, poet Carl Sandburg.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Man of Steele II

Back in November 2006, I criticized the weak campaign of then-U.S. Maryland senatorial candidate Michael Steele (see link to my blog post through the title above).

Mr. Steele has now risen to the vaunted heights of Chairman of the national Republican Party and he is the first African American to achieve that position. I give him every credit for being chosen by his fellow Republicans to lead the party, undoubtedly a great opportunity for him.

Indeed, Michael Steele has been appointed to this important position at a time when the "Grand Old Party" (G.O.P.) is at its lowest point in recent history. The November election results favoring the Democrats can be partly attributed to the unpopularity of the Republican administration of former President George W. Bush, characterized by sky-high spending and grave mistakes in regard to the war in Iraq and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Bush's unpopularity and the surprising political skill of the young and charismatic Democratic Party candidate, Barack Obama, led to Mr. Obama's clear victory... and the election of a man who is himself of course an African American.

Of most consequence to the future of the G.O.P., the success of the Democratic presidential bid also led to Republican defeats for seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. With the recent defection of moderate Republican Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania to the Democratic Party and the likely seating of comedian and Democrat Al Franken (for better or worse!) as the second Senator for Minnesota, the Democrats will control both houses of Congress at a time when President Obama is proposing major legislation.

The G.O.P. appears divided, hung up on issues such as opposition to abortion, stem cell research, and the environmental movement. Verily, the party is sundered, calling out for new leadership.

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh and ex-V.P. Dick Cheney have become the G.O.P's loudest voices. While the demogogic Limbaugh and the driven Cheney have supporters on the far right, I believe, along with more moderate Americans, that they are for the most part not popular with the electorate. They are preaching mostly to the choir. Oh, dear. The G.O.P's lack of unity is particularly disappointing when the nation faces dire economic times. I do believe a two-party or multi-party system, and it would be nice to see the Republicans get their act together and propose workable solutions to the ills that face us instead of just being the party of "No" opposing Obama's agenda.

Back in 2006, Steele, then Maryland lieutenant governor, ran against and was defeated by popular Democrat 35-year veteran Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin to fill retiring Senator Paul S. Sarbanes' seat. As I wrote then, while Mr. Steele dissed Democrats for dirty tricks, the candidate portrayed himself as honest and clean cut, his candidacy characterized most by his statement in a TV ad that he had a "liking for puppies"! I noted that he came across as "a nice guy but a politician with no substance."

Now it seems as if this Man of Steele is unfortunately acting in much the same way in the role of Republican Chairman. Man of Steele? More like feet of clay and, worse, an out-of-control off-topic opinion machine that makes Obama's gaffe-prone VP Joe Biden look like a neophyte.

Kathleen Parker, in an op-ed piece about the Republican Chairman in yesterday's Washington Post wrote that Biden must begin each morning with a prayer, "Please, God, let Michael Steele go on TV today."

Here's more from Ms. Parker's opinion article, "Steele but No Magnet":

"The running joke is that Republicans have 'tragic' where Democrats have 'magic.' The emerging consensus is that Steele, though he means well, has the wrong personality for the job.

"'He's goofy and light in heavy times,' as one insider put it.'"

So, Michael, he's your chance to live up to your name, and provide the inspiration that your ailing party needs. It would be nice to see a Marylander do that. Good luck, Michael!

Dramatic sky at the Columbus Statue, Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Union Station, D.C., 3:48 P.M.

Congressman Bluetooth berates
an intern, hands flapping,
guarding Samsonite luggage
like a mother barracuda.

Homeless man with ebony skin
touches each granite block.
Pencil-thin-moustache guy with
Stars and Striped tie pulls

a screwed-up ball of dollars
from deep within a pocket
of his baggy pants, scrutinizes
each bill, Marlboro on lip.

Christopher T. George

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chris's World War I Presentation at Fort Mifflin

Luckily the weather over the weekend was brilliant compared to the dire English-style rain of the days before. So I had a good drive up and found the correct exit to find Fort Mifflin on the outskirts of Philadelphia National Airport. One of the jokes about the fort, which was begun in the 1770's, is that a visitor asked "Why did they build the fort by the airport?" Akin to one I was told while at Mifflin, that a visitor at Gettysburg asked, "How did they fight around all the monuments?"

So despite getting a bit lost, speeding past the entrance to the fort itself and ending up down a long road past the UPS facility and oil refinery facilities I doubled back and found the right road. If I had read the instructions more closely I would have seen that I had been told to take the immediate left after I went through a tunnel. It didn't help that the Fort sign was not on the road itself but set back a bit by a woodline parallel to the road I was on. Excuses. Excuses.

So I arrived in time for coffee and doughnuts, though I stuck just with a cup of Joe, and I was able to meet the organizer of the seminar, Jeff LaMonica of the East Coast Chapter of the Western Front Association, and to get ready to set up for my talk. There were about thirty interested persons of all ages in attendance.

I had been preparing my presention for several weeks, and was able to get information on my grandfather, George Thompson Matchett's war service through researcher Mark Andrew Pardoe as well as a Liverpool contact, John Robertson. My grandfather had two brothers, William Charles Matchett or Billy Matchett, born 1892, who became a well-known Liverpool comedian (he is in a book called Mersey Stars by Michael Smout, 2000, next to Paul McCartney who ironically was once his paperboy... Uncle Bill would shout at him for climbing over the fence between the houses), and Henry or Harry Matchett, born 1896, who later was a greengrocer with a business supplying the ships with produce. Mr. Robertson was able to tell me, based on information on the general war medals they received, that they were both in the Liverpool Regiment, but that their actual full war records do not survive. In fact, about 60% of British World War I records were destroyed in a German World War II air raid on London. Incredibly, my grandad's records did survive though those of his two brothers did not.

I'll post some excerpts from my talk:

Grandad told me he was educated with his two brothers, elder brother Billy, born 1889, and younger brother Harry, at the Harrington Board School in Toxteth Park, Liverpool. The school and the family house was just up the street from the city’s southern line of docks. As a boy he remembered watching a Highland regiment march down the street toward the docked troopships bound for the Boer War.

Before the First World War, he went to Canada in 1912 with his friend from Liverpool, George Naylor. During the ocean passage on board the liner that brought them to Canada, Naylor and my grandfather met a girl. She wrote down her address in Montreal, and they decided to look her up when they got there. When they finally located her house, it appeared too grand a mansion for the two young men to make an appearance, and they went away without calling on her. The two friends parted ways and my Grandad answered an advertisement for a farmhand to work for a farmer in Yorkton in Saskatchewan on the Canadian prairies. He told me that he was mistreated by the “old German farmer” and yearned to get away. One day, in the distance, he saw a horseman approaching. He was pleasantly surprised to find that it was his friend from home, George Naylor. Between them, they hatched a scheme for my grandfather to run away from the farmer and for them to both seek work as cowboys on a ranch. My grandfather said that he always had a liking of horses and wanted to work “among them”, as he told me. He also informed me that Naylor later was a member of a “horse-stealing gang” across the border into the United States. An old leather wallet that Naylor gave to my grandfather as a gift is one of my mementos of my Grandad. It has an Indian in full headdress on the front.

My Grandad decided to return to England with the idea of later returning to Canada. Remarkably, although he had told no one that he was returning from Canada, his grandmother was waiting for him at the landing stage at the Pier Head in Liverpool when his ship arrived. With events in Europe escalating toward war and the fact that he met and married my grandmother, the former Sarah Elizabeth Potts (born Gateshead, County Durham on August 4, 1897), the opportunity to return to Canada evaporated. A year before war was declared, he volunteered for the Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry Regiment. Given his liking for horses, it made sense for him to join a cavalry unit.

Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914. At the beginning of the conflict, my grandfather found himself in training camp at Rufford Park near Ormskirk and Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire.

The Lancashire Hussars were a Territorial army unit, the counterpart of a U.S. National Guard unit, called up for national service in the emergency. The cap badge for the unit shows the red rose of Lancashire. It can be seen in the handout. I also do have the Lancashire Hussars dogtag for my grandfather, erroneously stamped “T. G. [sic] Matchett 782 Lancs. Hrs. Y.”

My grandfather related to me a number of anecdotes about camp life. He said that because of a shortage of toilet paper, the Sergeant Major barked out to the enlisted men that they would only be allowed [I]three sheets of toilet paper[/I] each, or as the Sergeant Major put it, “One [sheet] up, one down, and one for polishing off!”

He also talked about the way some of his fellow soldiers would pronounce their surnames. One soldier bore the stout Northern English last name of “Sidebottom”—but called himself “Siddy-Butt-Em.” Yet another soldier’s name was “Death”—certainly a most unfortunate name for any serviceman who would be going into harm’s way, not to mention possibly being felt to be unlucky by his fellow soldiers; the man adopted the name instead of “De Ath” to get round that problem.

In 1916, George T. Matchett was transferred to a regular infantry regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers, again as a private. The Fusiliers are a storied regiment, the descendant of the East Devonshire or 20th Regiment, which is of interest to me as a War of 1812 historian, because it was the regiment for which Major General Robert Ross, killed outside of Baltimore on September 12, 1814, served as commanding colonel until the time of his death.

In September 1992, as part of my research into Ross’s career and role in the 1812–1815 war in the Chesapeake Bay, I visited the regimental museum of the Lancashire Fusiliers in Bury, outside of Manchester. At that time I made an enquiry with the regimental secretary about my grandfather’s service during the Great War. But of course the major reason for my visit was to gather information on General Ross, not on Private George Matchett.

The emblem of the Lancashire Fusiliers, as seen on the regiment’s cap badge worn by my grandfather, is the Sphinx seated above the word “Egypt” in honor of the regiment’s service against Napoleon in Egypt in 1801—operations in which General Robert Ross was involved as a young officer.

My Grandad was mobilised on August 5, 1914, and transferred from the Hussars to the Lancashire Fusiliers on September 8, 1916. G. T. Matchett was a private in the Fusiliers’ 12th battalion as part of the British–French Expeditionary Force sent to Greece. Specifically, the 12th battalion of the Lancs. Fusiliers were part of the 22nd Division, 65th Brigade, based in Salonika, present-day Thessalonika, capital of the Greek province of Macedonia. The first elements of the Lancashire Fusiliers had arrived in Salonika in November 1915 and the regiment would be based there until July 2, 1918. The British force in Salonika were under the overall command of Lt. Gen. George Francis Milne.

As noted in the web biography of General Milne at FirstWorldWar.com:

"From January 1916 Milne was placed in command of all British forces serving in Salonika; but his scope for command was severely limited by the determination of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir William Robertson, to prevent offensive operations in Salonika—in his opinion a pointless theatre for operations."

Indeed, the Salonika or Macedonian front was regarded as a less important arena by Field Marshal Sir William Robert Robertson, and presumably by others in the British high command in London as well. Because of the view at the time of its lack of importance, and subsequent agreement by historians that it was not a major front, what occurred there in 1916–1918 is one of the lesser known episodes of the Great War. Originally the British and French forces were sent out to help Serbia in fighting Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria but the Serbs were defeated before the Allies got there. It was decided to keep them there anyway. One area north of Salonika was so laden with barbed wire that it was known as the "Bird's Nest". The following image shows French troops laying some of that wire.

My grandfather told me during his time in Greece, he was involved guarding troop transports travelling north into Macedonia during battles against the Bulgarians and Germans. In a somewhat self-deprecatory and low-key statement he told me that in ferrying these supplies to the front, “Some horses were killed, a few men as well.”

In total, the records show that my grandfather served in Salonika from September 19, 1916 to January 25, 1919. He transferred to the Western Command Labour Company (WCLC) Labour Corps on March 12, 1918. A year later, the war having been brought to a close by the defeat of Germany and the Central Powers, he was judged to be “surplus to Military requirements” and discharged on March 12, 1919. His character was deemed to be “Very Good” and he subsequently received a pension.

As did so many other Allied troops serving on the Macedonian front, Private George T. Matchett contracted malaria, symptoms of which would recur later in life, as is characteristic of this mosquito-borne disease. Malaria proved to be a serious drain on manpower on the Allied effort during the Salonika campaign. British forces suffered 162,517 cases of the disease and in total 505,024 non-battle casualties. Because the campaign had been given low priority by the War Office, the assistance rendered by voluntary medical organisations, such as the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, proved invaluable.

My grandfather’s medical records show that not only did he have recurrent malaria, but also internal complications in his left knee. The knee trouble started in 1915 and is attributed to a kick from a horse while he was still serving with the Lancs Hussars. Remember I said that he said he wanted to work “among horses”?

After my talk I along with the other speaker for the day were able to enjoy a nice sandwich lunch at a local eatery paid for my Mr LaMonica and we returned for a tour of Fort Mifflin in brilliant sunshine. The tour of the fort was interesting. In November 1777, it withstood a 6-week seige by British Royal Navy forces under Admiral William Howe which were trying to force their way up to Philadelphia, where the British Army had already chased out General George Washington's troops which then went into camp in Valley Forge.

The tour guide did a good job at emphasizing the pivotal role of Fort Mifflin in ensuring Washington's survival and the ultimate American victory. He did though I thought miss an important part of the American story in that he didn't mention Pennsylvania-born Colonel Samuel Smith, the acting commander of Fort Mifflin during the seige of 1777, later on commander-in-chief at Baltimore in 1814, that withstood the British bombardment and attempted British Army invasion that led to the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner. I am going to write to the fort to get them to focus on that part of the story.

In all a most satisfying day. I slid out from the group touring the fort as a black powder demonstration began since I have seen such demonstrations so many times before. I climbed up on the battlements for a nice view over the river and relax while smoking a cigar. I able to see swallows landing on birds nests round the moat and a large turtle basking on a log in the sunlight. Had a good drive back to Baltimore, as good as the journey up.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Great War Presentation by Chris George at Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, Saturday, May 9

This coming weekend I will be making a presentation on my grandfather's World War I military service in the British Army. It is going to be at a meeting of the East Coast Chapter of the Western Front Association at historic Fort Mifflin near Philadelphia Airport. For information on Fort Mifflin, hit the title above. The presentation is entitled "A British 'Grunt' in the Great War: The Service of Private George T. Matchett." Complete details on the day's program below.

My maternal grandfather, George T. Matchett, was born April 15, 1892, to a father of the same name, George Thompson Matchett, a dock labourer, and mother Margaret K. Rowlands Matchett of 177 Beaufort Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. My Grandad told the story that he was so weak and puny when he was born that the doctor hesitated to make out a birth certificate immediately. Therefore, his birth was not recorded for a whole month; his birth certificate reads that he was born May 15, 1892. My grandfather would live to age 94, eventually dying January 18, 1987.

In 1914, he volunteered for the Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry Regiment: given his liking of horses, it made sense for him to join a cavalry unit. At the beginning of the war in 1914, my grandfather was in the Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry regiment and he spent time in camp in the first year of the war at Rufford Park near Ormskirk and Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire. I have a dogtag marked somewhat erroneously "T. G. Matchett 782 Lancs. Hrs. Y."

A year into the war, my grandfather was issued with a bicycle instead of a horse. The substitution was due to the fact that the slaughter of horses was so immense that all the agricultural horses had been rounded up, enforcing the total mechanization of British farming. Even this was not sufficient, so when no more than a tiny residue of horses remained, which were necessary to draw heavy munitions, bicycles were issued for the cavalrymen’s use.

Horseman, Passed By

Before the war, my English grandfather went
to Canada and became a cowboy on the prairie;
as war loomed, he returned home, enlisted
in the Yeomanry, ready to cry out "Hussar!"
as he waved his sabre, riding over the Huns
in their Pickelhaubes. I see him fresh and
bright-eyed with the cavalryman's leather
halter, neat pockets packed with brass bullets.
But it was, after all, the new, twentieth century,
horsepower on the way out. The high command
reconsidered, horses being shredded just as men,
and they issued the cavalry boys bicycles instead.
Later, Grandad ferried supplies to the Macedonian
front. I never got clear: did he ride a bike then?

Christopher T. George

For the rest of the war, he served in the Lancashire Fusiliers infantry, as a private. His Great War medals show on the rim that he was service no. 209450. G. T. Matchett was in the Lancashire Fusiliers 12th batallion as part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to Greece and based in Salonika (present-day Thessalonika). He told me he was involved in troop transports and supply into Macedonia while fighting the Bulgarians. In a somewhat self-deprecatory and low-key statement he told me that in ferrying these supplies to the front, "Some horses were killed, a few men as well."

He contracted malaria while in Salonika, symptoms of which would recur during his life from thence forward, as is characteristic of this mosquito-borne disease. His elder brother Billy Matchett (1889-1974) was a music hall comedian who entertained the troops, while his younger brother Harry Matchett served with a rifle company during the war.

WFA East Coast Chapter Spring Seminar
Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, PA
9 May 2009

9 AM – Registration, Coffee and Doughnuts

10 AM – Christopher George, A British 'Grunt' in the Great War: The Service of Private George T. Matchett

11 AM – Tim Mulligan, World War I German Naval Records at the National
Archives: Access and Research Possibilities

Noon – Lunch On Your Own

1:30 PM – Tour of Fort Mifflin and Eighteenth Century Weapons Demonstration

3:00 PM – Program Ends

Registration Fee – $25 Per Person

Mail Checks Payable To: WFA East Coast Chapter
3116 S. 17th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19145

Directions from North: South on I-95, take Exit 15 Island Avenue/Enterprise Avenue. At end of exit ramp, you will be on Enterprise Avenue. At stop sign turn left onto Fort Mifflin Road. Follow road, through short tunnel, to the first left turn. See sign on right. After left hand turn, follow signs straight into the Fort. Free Parking is on left.

Directions from South: North on I-95, take Exit 13 - Valley Forge/West 291. Bear right and follow sign for Island Avenue. At traffic light (Hilton Hotel on left corner), turn left onto Island Avenue. At stop sign turn left onto Enterprise Avenue. At stop sign, turn right onto Fort Mifflin Road. Follow road, through short tunnel, to the first left turn. See sign on right. After left hand turn, follow signs straight into the Fort. Free Parking is on left.

Information Contact: JLaMonica@DCCC.edu or (610)355-7147

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Presidential Libraries

Now that President Obama has achieved his One Hundredth Day and had his "Hallmark Holiday"--or was it his "Kodak Klap on the Back"? Or his "Kutsie Klap on the Barack"? I could go on if you don't stop me.

Seriously now, readers, the following was originally written as a letter to the editor at the Washington Post but was not picked up by them, so instead you have the chance to read my words of wisdom on the vexing topic of Presidential Libraries. Get ready.

Back on December 5, in that unearthly twilight zone between Barack Obama's November 4 election night victory, George W. and Laura Bush packing their stuff up and vacating the White House, and Obama's historic inauguration back on January 20, the Post ran an editorial entitled "President Got-a-Buck? Bill Clinton's secret fundraising for his presidential library was wrong--and so is George W. Bush's."

So (big intake of breath). . . let us ask the hard question, "Why should every single new U.S. President get a Presidential Library?"

President George W. Bush was our 43rd President and Obama is our 44th President. All presidents in the modern era have had a library built in their name, beginning with the 31st President, Herbert Hoover (per the National Archives website on such libraries; hit the title above to go there. . .). But imagine if a new library was to be built for the next 44 United States presidents? Isn't this getting a bit absurd? Each time a new presidential library is built it exponentially increases the number of staff needed, not to mention equipment and other requirements, at today's spiralling costs.

True the building of yet another such library creates jobs but surely the money for building and staffing the library could be put to better use if in future the papers of presidents were to be consolidated in one location. Doesn't that sound a more reasonable solution? So in these straitened financial times, will President Obama be public spirited and be the first modern era president to found a generic United States Presidential Library that will henceforth hold his papers and the papers of all succeeding presidents?

How about if former President George W. Bush, instead of founding his own library, agree to share the library of his father, past President George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st president, in College Station, Texas? Actually, in those circumstances, the library could remain the "George Bush Presidential Library and Museum", could it not? Or would Hillary Rodham Clinton, if she should become president, agree to share a library with her husband? Something to think about.

In this perilous world economy when we citizens of the United States and people worldwide have to tighten their belts, how about if U.S. Presidents were to be reasonable about the need to build future presidential libraries each in their name? And one other thing, concerning the mere matter of bucks, to get back to the theme of the Post editorial, "President Got-a-Buck?", couldn't the donors who are donating to build yet another presidential library put their funds to much better use giving it to humanitarian charities or other worthy causes.

Dad Never Read Novels

He was more of a Newsweek-
Huntley-Brinkley-Cronkite man,
but before he died when ill he read
steamy big gamehunter type novels,
on the scent of rhino and cougar.

Dad would rage about the plots
just like he'd rage at the news and
the folk who "climb on the taxpayer's
back." I found a couple of saucy
paperbacks hidden in his closet,
checked the well-thumbed bits.

He read my would-be novel,
offered persnickety edits,
always missed the big picture,
complained that I was being mildly
porno (tho' it was more pun-
ography). He had begun in the UK as

an English socialist, grousing
about Harold Macmillan and
people who "never had it so good."
Argued about America's need for
socialized medicine. But latterly

he'd developed a passion for
talk radio. I feel certain
he'd long forgotten Labour.
I have the notion that today
he'd love Rush Limbaugh.

Christopher T. George

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Softly, Softly, April Morning

Softly Softly, April Morning

Ah! I'll settle for tulips, after
being told off last evening by
a fellow rider on the Marc train
for allegedly trying to photograph
passengers. The blooms won't object!
Won't sue or make me feel blue: I
just stand in the D.C. rain and snap
away in the Smithsonian Gardens,
just me and my cellphone cam
under my umbrella with the raindrops
pit-patter above my head, whoah whoah.

Christopher T. George

Poe's Statue, University of Baltimore

Newly out in The New Yorker is a fine essay, "The Humbug: Edgar Allan Poe and the economy of horror" by Jill Lepore in which Lepore provides a good perspective on the writer. The essay might anger some Poe fans since it paints him as a habitual liar and con artist. What else is new? Access Ms. Lepore's article through the link in the title to this post. Do NOT throw ripe tomatoes at your computer screen!!!! And don't forget my upcoming talk and tour on "The Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe" in Baltimore. I am depending on you to sign up for the talk and tour. If I don't get enough people to sign up, I might just have to do it in cyberspace. Ha ha.

Don't Go Quite As Far

I don't drive quite as far, in the Spring air,
--travel north of Bel Air, to the old Booth
mansion, where John Wilkes dreamed his
dreams. At B and N, to promote my Poe talk
(coming class I hope to teach, signups low),
I hand out all my flyers, to each and each.

Deliver my fervent promo, keep dreaming
my dream. Then, seeing I am at B and N,
I pull my punches on that Larkin poem
(the one about parents who "eff" us up),
read the milder "Annus Mirabilis" instead.

But then, up springs a young pup, borrows
my yellowed High Windows, and, surprise!
thank God, bowdlerizes it for all it's worth!

Christopher T. George

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring Issue of Loch Raven Review Is Published!

The Spring 2009 issue of Loch Raven Review is now live. To visit us go through the link in the title above. The issue features:

Poetry by Bob Bradshaw, Dan Cuddy, Dawn Dupler, Liz Gallagher, Bernard Henrie, Guy Kettelhack, Larry Kimmel, Andrea Potos, Casey Quinn, Doug Ramspeck, Paula Ray, Oliver Rice, Michael Salcman, Arthur Seeley, KH Solomon, and Ray Templeton.

Fiction by Stephanie King and John Riebow.

Five poems by Ernest Bryll translated from the Polish by Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka and a story by Al Mahmud translated from the Bengali by Ahmede Hussain.

Christopher T. George interviews C.E. Chaffin and reviews Chaffin's Unexpected Light: Selected Poems and Love Poems 1998-2008, while Dan Cuddy weighs in on Stranger At Home, An Anthology: American Poetry With An Accent, edited by Andrey Gritsman, Roger Weingarten, Kurt Brown, and Carmen Firan.

Here is a powerful little poem by C.E. Chaffin:


It’s 4:30 AM, pitch-black and cold.
I spoon against your body
wishing there were no cotton
to separate us, not even skin.

I want to crawl up your tunnel
and hide deep in your belly
before the sun exposes me.
Let me re-gestate, please.

Maybe this time it will be better,
maybe this time I won’t end up
clinging to you like a life raft
in the shipwrecked night,
forty and terrified.

If you should wake
and want to make love
I may stay inside forever.

C.E. Chaffin

C.E. Chaffin with his dog, J. Alfred Prufrock, whom he describes as “my little English butler with a Japanese provenance.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Upcoming Events Featuring Christopher T. George

Barnes and Noble Poetry Book Fair, Bel Air, Maryland, Sunday, April 19 at 2-6 p.m.

A smorgasbord of featured readers, open mic, and music hosted by Harford Poetry Society. Readers include Christopher T. George, Clarinda Harriss, Leslie F. Miller, Dr. Michael Salcman, and Colleen Webster. Barnes and Noble, Tollgate Marketplace, 620 Marketplace Drive, Bel Air, MD 21014. Tel. 410-638-7023.

Edgar Allan Poe in 1848

Also poet and historian Christopher T. George will be teaching a one-evening class with a day tour of sites associated with Poe in the Kaleidoscope program at Roland Park Country School on "The Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe." The class will discuss the mystery of Poe's death here in Baltimore in October 1849 as well as his many connections to the city.

Class night Thursday, April 30, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, with field trip, Saturday, May 2, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Download the Kaleidoscope program in pdf form through the title to this blog listing or call (410) 323-5500 x 3045 with any inquiries.