Saturday, June 29, 2013

Missing John Haines

Today would have been John Haines' (1924-2011) 89th birthday.  John, who passed away in Alaska in March 2011, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of a naval officer. As a boy, Haines attended school here in Washington, D.C., while his father was stationed at the Washington Navy Yard.

After serving on a navy destroyer in the South Pacific during World War II, Haines studied at American University and the National Art School, both in Washington, and the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Art in New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

In 1947, Haines left Washington and eventually homesteaded acreage along the Richardson Highway approximately 68 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.  It was here that he spent much of the next four decades running his trap lines and living off the land while trying to realize his artistic talents.  It was here that he moved from the visual to the literary arts, and his experiences in the Alaskan wilderness were the inspiration for his early poetry collections - Winter News (1966) and The Stone Harp (1971), the essay collection Living Off the Country (1981), and the memoir The Stars, the Snow, the Fire (1989).

Haines came back to Washington in 1991-92 as Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence at the George Washington University, and visited Washington frequently during the last two decades of his life. He also taught at several other colleges and universities; his last academic appointment was as an instructor in the Honors Program at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

His later books included New Poems 1980-88 (1990), The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer (1993), Where the Twilight Never Ends (1994), Fables and Distances (1996), A Guide to the Four-Chambered Heart (1997), For the Century’s End: Poems 1990-1999 (2001), and Descent (2010).

Haines was honored for his writing, receiving the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the Western States Book Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Bellagio Fellowship, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Congress, and the Alaska Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, among others. He was also named a fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1997.

I met John as a Jenny McKean Moore fellow at George Washington University in 1991 and we remained good friends during the final two decades of his life.  He was a guest in my home during his visits to Washington, and I look back with particular fondness on the days he and I spent together in Big  Sky, Montana in the autumn of 2004 following the release of A Gradual Twilight: An Appreciation of John Haines which I edited and which was published by CavanKerry Press.

So Happy Birthday, John!  I miss you.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let the Turkish Government Come After Me!!

The government of Turkey is threatening to investigate social media postings that allegedly insult Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials. 

According to the Turkish newspaper Aksam, the police have provided Istanbul prosecutors with a list of 35 names of people who allegedly insulted Erdogan or other officials on Twitter or Facebook.  It did not indicate whether blog postings are included.  So I guess I am safe although I said nothing insulting.  I merely spoke the truth when I condemned the Turkish government's crackdown on peaceful demonstrators who are concerned with the erosion of their personal freedoms in a country that calls itself a democracy.  Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag acknowledged the probe, but would not confirm the list of those under investigation. I am presuming they are all Turkish citizens.  Bozdag singled out those social media users who allegedly used "profanities and insults conducted electronically" which is, according to him, against the law.  "No one has the right to commit crimes under the rule of law."  So much for the freedom of speech in Turkey!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Celebrating 100,000 Hits!!

Wow!!!!   !00,000 hits as of today.  Once again I want to sincerely thank everyone worldwide who has visited Looking Toward Portugal since December 2008. This endeavor has been more successful than I could have ever imagined when I first started out.  I hope you will continue to look in from time to time for more random notes from the edge of America.  Better yet, become a follower.  I always enjoys your comments, suggestions and your e-mails.  Please feel to to contact me at

Friday, June 21, 2013

Zwei Smarte Boys Redux

Robert O Goebel, Max Dufner, and Steve Rogers taken in Richmond, Virginia, Christmas 1993
Today I am thinking of my mentor, the late Professor Max Dufner (1920-1999), who shepherded me through my MA program in the Department of German at the University of Arizona back in the early 1970s.  June 17th would have been his 93rd birthday. He was a great influence on my life and professional career and a dear friend whom I miss very much. He took good care of his "Zwei Smarte Boys."
See my original tribute to Max back in June 2009:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Standing Tall in Taksim Square

Support the people of Turkey as they stand tall against the erosion of their personal freedoms!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Let Turkey Sing!

We should stand up and show our solidarity with the good people of Turkey who in recent days have been striving to regain the freedoms which the current authoritarian government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been slowly stripping away, including the right to peaceful assembly and to a free media. What started as a small sit-down protest in Istanbul's Taksim Square to question the government's plan to destroy one of the few remaining parks in a city of over twelve million people, has now become nationwide effort to safeguard this country's fragile secular democracy.

Image of Young Turks
Thousands of Turks flooding across the bridge over the Bosphorus linking Europe and Asia
The mainstream media is barely covering this story, but it is of utmost importance. What began as a quiet protest last week in Taksim Square against the razing of one of the last green parks in Istanbul turned horribly violent as police fired tear gas and aimed water cannons against peaceful protestors. One death and a number of blindings were reported.
What followed was a nationwide uprising against the anti-democratic rule of Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan as police brutality became a symbol and rallying point against an increasingly unpopular government. This regime has, bit by bit, stripped away the rights and liberties of its people. Despite promising respect for democratic principles, Erdogan has held a tight grip on media and clamped down on the opposition. During the protests over the past five days, state-run media instead ran story after story on Miss Turkey and “the world’s ugliest cat.”

Social media was said to have been the galvanizing force behind the uprisings in places like Iran and Egypt, and so it is no surprise that the Turkish government is now seeking to silence platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. After protests began, the authorities severed access to these popular social media sites, hoping that word of what had transpired would not get out. Even the Western media, which appears to have fallen well short of its obligation to report the truth, remains curiously silent, as if dependent on social media to gauge newsworthiness.

While any political uprising carries with it complex issues, and any “people’s revolution” could have various unknown factions involved, as we’ve seen in other regions and countries, one thing remains clear: The use of violent suppression can only lead to greater unrest and instability. So to Prime Minister Erdogan, I say this: The world is watching.  We call upon your government to stop the violence and engage in peaceful dialogue with the Turkish people.

–George Takei

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ghost on the Top Shelf

Self portrait taken at the Cafe Saint-Ex.  Washington, DC   May 31, 2013.