Close Reading

poetry shelf


Until a year ago

I had either never heard

Or at least noticed the phrase

“Close Reading”

Or if I did, I didn’t understand


Which is not to say I understand

Anything more than I did then


When the professor, a kindly man

Who patiently chaired











Giving each panelist a word or a phrase

To look at intently

For intent

For the way the wine

Set on the back of the palette

Does this phrase

Have woody aftertones

Is there a hint of raspberry?


And as an aside

Do raspberries cut your tongue, and if not

Why are they ‘rasp’ berries?

rasp is a tool used for shaping wood or other material’

(apparently aftertone is not a word, except it has to be, because I can write it, spell it correctly, and you can understand EXACTLY what I mean!)


But this is not a poem about aftertones, or raspberries

But if I tell you what I mean

Who will ever want to do a close reading


this Poem?


But when dear Prof Al

Spoke of close readings,

even as they were sitting there

in the most sacred

Kelly Writers House

And giving us a perfect

Or near perfect example,

I imagined myself

about ten years old

Sitting at the antique sloping desks with storage bins under a lift up top

that the private Christian school I attended must have gotten for nearly nothing,

sitting there,

leaned in

on a book

of early American romantic poetry,

magnifying glass in hand,

looking at every letter,

at the curlicues of the font,

for clues.


Clues to what?

No one knows until they look.


At fifty-five

I knew that was not the way

to do a close reading

I still don’t know how.


But I am still looking

for clues


(dedicated to the mind opening experience of Professor Al Filreis’ Modern Poetry class at University of Pennsylvania on Coursera)

Two Kinds of Poets

Don’t you hate statements that divide the world into two types of anything? I do, almost as much as a I hate rhyming poetry and those poems that spell Mother or Success, or the letters of the alphabet, or the poem about footsteps in the sand or a Thomas Kincaid painting. Having said that, and having been a poet since age 5, (which means I have been writing for over 50 years), I think it is safe to say most poets are either primarily visual or spoken word. Some of us do both, but for the most part, when we compose a poem it is more to be read or heard.

I am not the most educated poet, but I have had the great good fortune to speak to, listen to, and read after some very bright lights. Somewhere I have heard more than once that poetry is a spoken art. Yet so many poets and poems are about the way the poem lies on a page. I understand punctuation, and even to some degree capitalization can be inferred or inflected when spoken, but what of the Acrostic poem, or the Mesostic, and other poems which speak to the eye at least as much as the ear, in fact, the “joke” of the above types would be completely lost to the ear.

As would Lewis Carrol’s great piece:

cutting the tale

My apologies to the purists. I had to clip the tail and lose the great follow up exchange due to the limits of my understanding of the Print Screen button.

In truth I compose almost all my poems to a more or less tuneless version all the old gospel songs I ever heard in the Sanctified Church of Christ as a little boy (they objected to musical instruments, so all the songs were sang by country folks in the rural Arkansas community where my father preached.)

An off-the-cuff example might be:

Leave Me in the Late Summer Evening

When you must leave me,

Lay me down by the river,

Where the breeze blows

Gentle over the ground,

And spiders jump in the tall grass

While Crickets play vi-o-lin.

For when you leave me

I shall die in the soft grass

Growing on that shore

As the heat takes my breath

And my sacred mosquitoes

Drain my broken hearted blood.

Of course, I would probably never publish such a piece of tripe, but it lies so near the surface as to pop right up. My point is, it is composed orally, but maybe never heard as a spoken word, and I would be a bit horrified if it was written as Gertrude might have penned, though godknows she never would have written this:

Leave me in the late summer evening. When you must leave me, lay me down by the river, where the breeze blows gentle over the ground, and spiders jump in the tall grass while Crickets play vi-o-lin. For when you leave me I shall die in the soft grass growing on that shore as the heat takes my breath and my sacred mosquitoes drain my broken hearted blood.

So the question remains, is poetry truly for the spoken word? For the written word, or what gives?

                           no maTter

                        the questIon


                                  will tEll me

                            that time Answers

                       any maN’s


                   though I knoW time

                            only makEs us old

                              and wRinkled

                in spirit and Skin

               and nobody waNts that

                  truth tells Only

  truth and who wants That?

People Backed Securities

china debt

As so often happens when I read posts by smart and successful people, I am startled to realize I have an idea or an opinion I didn’t even realize I had.

My friend Hussain Abdullah Al-Dagher posted a graph with a comment about China’s private debt being leveraged. We explored the impact this has on China (and the global economy) through a series of responses to the original post.

Hussain’s comment: “Average Chinese is OK, their stock market is up 40% , hot money don’t know where to go.” led someone to respond:

“Hot money, don’t know where to go? How about saving people from famine and disease?”

After jokingly replying that China could send its hot money to me, I had one of those thoughts:

If there was an investment package (and there certainly ought to be) that allowed someone to invest in the well being of others, and profit from the success of their well being, I bet a lot of hot money would go there. If you figure the loss of value to the economy of sick and dying people, vs their value as alive and healthy and employable, there has to be a way to earn a profit on that increase in value, but I am not smart enough to design such a package. of course, if you are saving “marginal people” (economic wise, not humanity wise), people who do not produce any wealth by being alive, it is much harder to profit from the intrinsic value of them not being sick or dead.

But if one could figure out how, not only to “heal the sick and save the dying” in populations where productivity is historically almost too low to measure, or as I call them “Economically marginal people”, but how to use these low demand populations even in small ways to contribute to the overall economy, enriching themselves at least to a point of self sustaining security (of course, great success might lead to massive consumer demand and create a disastrously higher carbon foot print, though, if we do not create a more greenhouse friendly way of powering the “developed world” we are all doomed to extinction in our grand childrens’ lifetime.).

If this balance of investment, not only in healthcare and but also in opportunities for education and to create meaningful work, in some form, could be sorted out, the profit potential for the investor, for those invested in, and for the global economic stability are almost limitless!

Most forward thinking people recognize that in a given community, say, mine, in South Florida USA, if we, as taxpayers chose to pay as little taxes as possible, close the schools, prevent poor people from having access to decent health care, fail to invest in infrastructure, that in the end, we will pay more in policing, courts, jails, loss economic opportunities due to bad roads, and digital highways and lack of skilled workers. so as a society, we invest in public schools, we struggle to expand decent healthcare and higher education to as many people as we can, because investing a few extra tax dollars today, pays huge dividends in the future. Of course there are backwards populations in every society, people like the Tea Party and our current corrupt Governor, Rick Scott, who will take the short term savings in lieu of investing in our future. But this does not change the fact, that investing in “people backed securities” has, for as long as progressive societies have done it, has been a proven road to wealth, for the rich, the poor, and the middle class.

Is there not a way to monetize and expand these opportunities for wealth creation into private instruments? There are nearly 3 Billion people on this planet who live on less than $2.00 USD per day. Obviously, if a person is near starvation, and their babies are starving and sick, and there is little in the way of the first layer ofMaslow’s Pyramid, much less those things most of us consider a requirement for our lives. If there was a way to invest, not through charity, not an endless “giving away” but an honest investment?

I know there are very successful businesses in the micro loan business. most of them are Non Profits, but if one cared to, a for profit (with proper international guidelines and regulations) could do well and make a profit. What I propose is beyond micro loans for tiny entrepreneurial efforts. An investment in communities on the brink of collapse, food, clean water, basic healthcare, as well as the economic opportunities, micro loans, some education, some digital interconnectedness.I wonder what a million dollars, invested with a expectation of a 10 yr return could offer to not only the community invested in, but to the investor? How much money could today’s “hot money” make over ten years? and what is the risk of loss? Obviously the risk would be minimized by doing the research, of which plenty is certainly out there through the work of non profits, as to what is the best path to use in creating successful communities out of todays “societies on the brink.”

Linkedin Comments:

your point about hot money is well taken, these would have to be long term, fairly high risk (so would have to generate very nice returns), but a moderately well off person age 30-50 who has an interest in long term economic sustainability might want just such an investment as say 5-10% of their portfolio?

Anthony Watkins AUTHOR YOU

Thank you! Yes, it just seems like a win-win opportunity, a good investment can also be a good deed, if only I knew how to do it:)

Hussain Abdullah Al-Dagher 1st

Private Trader & Family Office Mandate

“Hot Money” sounds crazy ha! 🙂 Well basically it means fast speculative money looking for short term profit “quick and fast” , you can’t count on these type of funds they move fast not stable looking for quickie and fast return. What you are trying to say is actually in the make, there are people now working on such aka “Alternative finance”, more creative and direct to the economy and take the risk. The problem with banking these days they risk averse and want the “sure thing” .. Crowd Finance is on the rise, i.e they are creating mini shareholding companies, projects JV , even individual real estate, why not do the same to public schools instead of closing it ? and getting the community as shareholders ? instead of investing in 401K stock funds .. just a thought. All in all I agree, and I see what you see, a clear deficit in finance that need or actually in the process of restructuring. Good Post Anthony . Thanks!

Contract Software Developer at HGBS

“…though, if we do not create a more greenhouse friendly way of powering the “developed world” we are all doomed to extinction in our grand childrens’ lifetime” only if you’re taking big city newspapers and ‘mainstream media’ at face value. There are, of course, other things that could finish us off. Every few days I do a keyword search on ‘solar cell 1000 piece’, and browse the industrial goods websites that come up. It’s been interesting to watch the steady decline in prices – right now I’m seeing multiple vendors offering solar cells at 5 cents per watt. I’m seeing multiple vendors offering solar panels at 40 cents per watt. I’ve seen ‘laminates’, which are the next step from cells to panels, at less than a penny a watt, however I’m guessing there is either a quality issue or a limited supply. The average citizen knew about computers from the 1950s onwards, however it wasn’t until they 1980s that anyone could afford to buy one. Once it was economically viable, the transformation was rapid, and ultimately, close to total. From 1980 to 1995 computer penetration in households went from .1% to easily over 80%. Given the hypothetical 2030, one would expect most of the human population to be running off solar power, under the assumption that solar prices today remained relatively stable. Continued declines simply accelerates the process.

Anthony Watkins AUTHOR YOU

one can hope. and one can hope that the various alternatives to carbon based energy will be clean and safe and help reverse the tide. one can hope. but either way, it seems like the 22,000 children who die every year to starvation are worth saving.

Anthony Watkins AUTHOR YOU

It seems like an investment in a community that is almost surviving on $2.00 per day, or less, could offer a huge return. The human equivalent of “penny stocks” but like penny stocks, unless you really knew what you were doing, as both an investment, and as a social good, you could just be wasting your money. If we could tap into the for profit capital market, it is a much bigger market than philanthropy. Somebody, somewhere, smarter than me, and richer than me, could figure out a system that was pretty much a sure thing and make a fortune on the business of ending poverty!

  • CT Processing Technician | Customer Service Rep | University of Phoenix Alumni

Great insight. I agree if something like this were in place, the world economy would improve tremendously.