3 Ways You Can Help #njpoet

1.) First and foremost, if you enjoy reading my writing and/or following me on social media, and you can afford to do so, please consider making a donation to help us cover our hosting fees and other website expenses. No donation is too small. Every dollar helps. Every dollar is deeply appreciated.

2) Or you could buy some njpoet stuff, become a human billboard for the Internet arts! (Pardon my exclamation point.) In the end, purchasing most of our merchandise amounts to a $2 donation or less, but it is very cool when people email us pics for our Facebook Page.

Erica Manni

3a.) However, if you’re as broke as an adjunct professor, then the best way to help is to browse our 800+ posts and share your favorites on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIN, Tumblr, Digg, and StumbleUpon. Also, if you troll #njpoet on Twitter, retweeting to your hearts content, we really won’t mind.

3b.) And then tell others! Tell your friends, tell your family members, tell your co-workers—but maybe not your corporate bosses—to visit njpoet.com, read a few posts, retweet, like, share, and please do leave a comment. I love comments.

Thank you!

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog posting.



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Do you ever write fiction?: notes on reading #njpoet

A lot of the people I write about, ex-girlfriends, or random lovers, or former employers are often, are usually fictional mash-ups of several real-life people. Indeed, some situations, even relationships, are also amalgamations—fictional literary representations of several experiences that share a common, unifying theme.

This is how I’ve learned to avoid angry phone calls and emails from old friends, especially ex-girlfriends and random lovers, who insist—usually while screaming—that I delete a story about our shared memories, right now! Or how I’ve learned to avoid being called in for meetings with University Provosts, Deans of Students, or Directors of Writing Departments.

“The students are reading your writing. This is not good.”

“Tell all the truth,” advised Emily Dickinson, “but tell it slant.” Word.

So, often I write about a character, or as a character, named Sammy—a more compassionate, relaxed, often heart-achingly perplexed version of my real-life self. He is my Buddha-Nature, if you will, adrift in a rising ocean of American Samsara. I make Sammy do what I wish I’d done in the past, what I hope I’ll do in the future.

I also write about, or as a character named Tom, or Tommy. He doesn’t come around often, but he’s still there, channeling the worst of me, amplified and influenced by Vonnegut, Bukowski, and meditations about what my father would do.

Please do remember that this is a literary website, and not a strict diary. My aim as a poet is to polish and present the important themes, the relevant social and political issues that have shaped my past, and therefore my life. And my ultimate goal, following what I learned from Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams, is always to produce a narrative that is interesting, easily digested, emotionally memorable, and worthy of sharing with others.

So, as you read, analyze, and obsessively pick through my writing, keep the astute literary analysis of my working-class mother in mind. After she read my poem about her miscarriage, about my childhood memories of the still birth of my first sister, my mom remarked:

“That was beautiful, Charlie, but that’s not exactly how it happened.”


3 Ways You Can Help #njpoet

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On the Phone w/ #njpoet

At a lecture, presentation, orientation, whatever, quietly speed tapping notes into a word-processing app on my phone. The speaker, or doctor, or professor mentions a book, an author, a seminal work, that heavily influenced whatever. Google search the title and bookmark for review, just as the powerpoint changes to a quote, some long dead genius gushing over the value of education, or art, or poetry, or whatever—not a bad quote. So, tweet, and back to notes, to the next slide, to bullet-points, but a text interrupts—a Twitter DM:

“Hi! I want to make a donation to your blog. I love it! Is there a donation link you can send me?”

Copy link. Paste. Reply:

 ”Thank you so much! And thank you for reading along!”


Bullet-points copied, another book mentioned, another author even more groundbreaking in the study of whatever.

Google search, book found, and, what’s this?—a lecture series given by the author, recorded at Yale, uploaded to YouTube, and bookmarked for after dinner. Word.

Three more slides. One more quote. Not as good. Not worth a tweet.

“And we’re done.” Exhale. “Thank you for coming. Enjoy your lunch. Thank you. Thank  you.”

On the way to the buffet table, a text from gmail—Paypal donation received. Notes synched, bookmarks synched—saved to my computer at home. Thank you, cloud.

And when I finally sit down with my colleagues, ready to relax, ready to eat my complimentary lunch, someone almost always blurts out something like this:

“I know this is none of my business,” they start off so strong, “but I think it was very rude of you to spend that entire presentation playing on your phone.”


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Not Writing: the intellectual approach

I’d rather spend my days reading Plato and Aristotle, Shakespeare and Dante, than recording what I see and feel in public. I don’t want to capture images of dead-eyed customers, offended faces complaining about a long list of first world problems. I’d rather read and read and pretend that it’s the same as writing, the same as translating the mood of my shitty age into vividly foul language.

She said she understands our species is dying, and she’s very sad about that, sincerely, but right now we have to get this Christmas shopping done.


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I Stopped Telling Myself I Wasn’t Smart Enough

I stopped telling myself I wasn’t smart enough to read the foundational philosophers of my civilization, the deep thinkers who first spoke about, and attempted to organize, this unusual experience we casually refer to as human life. I started with Plato, because so many others I’ve already studied were always wrestling with Plato. I started reading The Republic, slowly, reading like a meditation, reading for understanding. And, for understanding, I also started watching online video lectures and documentaries about Plato, Socrates, and Ancient Athens, which led me to a wider field of study known as Political Philosophy. I easily found two online course, introductions to Political Philosophy—one at Yale, the other at U.Penn. Both contained free online video lectures, both included a syllabus with links to free online readings. I’ve been working through these two courses of study, and obsessively following current events on Twitter, all Fall. I gave up TV shows and movies in August. Instead, I skim hundreds of global and national news sources for several hours every day, seven days a week, and read my political philosophy assignments. I watch several lectures each day, and listen to the spin shows on the radio, and meditate. I exercise when I can muster it. Sleep. Repeat. I scribble into a small collection of ongoing journals when I can’t sleep, or to keep myself from crying. And I’m always cleaning my apartment. Sleep. Repeat. Sleep. While our species is dying faster and faster. Sleep. Repeat. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Human civilization is in hospice, the scientist said—his data was explicit, detailed, graphic—and I have no idea what to write about anymore.


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Climate Changing Writer’s Blockage

Climate change keeps me from writing some days, more like the news about global warming makes me feel so hopeless about the future—crippled, unable to spark change—that some days I don’t think I’ll get back to writing ever again.

Why not just listen to great music, read the classics, have a lot more sex, and get drunk? I mean, if there’s no hope…

The IPCC and the Pentagon have been weaving horror stories about a half-uninhabitable planet in the next fifty years. Hell on Earth. Coming Soon! Unless we stop our civilization cold, reverse course! Pardigm shift on the count of three!

Meanwhile, the conspiratorial people still insist the whole thing is a massive plot, a scam to grab government funding. Everyone’s in on it, they tell me. Trust no one. They always have links to shady websites, videos and articles, shaky proof. Good guys. Bad guys. It’s a small small Hollywood world after all.

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My rich landlord hired a construction team to build a huge concrete planter to house a row of decorative shrubbery—half a city block long, three feet high.

Meanwhile, most of the bridges and roads in New Jersey are crumbling.


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All day, every day, on Facebook, on Twitter, people say poor people choose to be poor, homeless people deserve to be homeless, all women secretly want to be raped, and people who threaten the interests of American corporations must die. They say these things in thousands of original and creative ways. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s getting worse.

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Those People

I mentioned to an acquaintance, a few weeks back, that I wanted to write more about the homeless people of New Jersey. She said she had no sympathy for the homeless because a few homeless men used to harass her and her girlfriends on campus during college. When I called her out on that absolute bullshit stance, she said:

“That’s a very white male thing of you to say.”

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A polemic is a contentious argument intended to establish the truth.

In every context, in every situation, there’s always the danger that I will say exactly what’s on my mind. Since my best friend died, and my grandma followed one month after, I have a very low tolerance for meaningless bullshit. The climate is about to flood out huge portions of the planet, creating millions of displaced refugees with no food, no shelter, no fresh water. We’re a few degrees away from a literal Hell on Earth, and rising, while almost every scientist is saying it might be, it’s already too late to avoid the worst of it. And yet people still ask me what TV shows I like to watch, or what I think about two famous strangers getting married? Seriously? Other people actually tell me they don’t believe in science. What? How dare you cling to such stark raving ignorance when there’s so much at stake for all of us. 

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@YouTube Mash Ups of Doom! : a game

I spend a huge portion of my time paying attention to both climate scientists and social activists. So, sometimes, often, just for fun, I mash the two up.

First, I watch a YouTube interview or lecture from some leading climate scientist.

“We must stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow!” he or she insists. “This is urgent! Everybody, please  listen! We need radical change right now!”

And I follow that with a leading scholar of social change, or the latest professor activist on the television.

“Try to understand,” he or she says, with gentle, somewhat detached compassion. “The kinds of radical changes required come slowly, with struggle, over time. We must be patient.”

Then back to the climate scientists:

“We are almost out of time!”

“A deluge of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere just last year!”

“And if these are methane explosions, we’re fucked. We’re so fucked.”

CAUTION: This game will end a dinner party fast.

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Writing Paragraphs

My current assignment is to draft, revise, and try to publish new poetry pulled from my old journals, while I also brainstorm and write articles to submit to Truthout.org—because I love @TruthOut.

“And stop thinking you have to be an expert before you start writing,” Luz said, during this morning’s hour long meeting about my writing goals.

And while I work on all of that—including the above-mentioned attitude adjustment—she wants me to write paragraph length blog posts about current events, kinda like notes from the belly of the industrial war beast I was born into by no choice of my own.

Come to think of it, this should be fun. Heh.

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To Sue My Debt Collectors

If I suddenly had the resources, or a shark-like activist lawyer offered to work for free—just to make a point—I would aggressively sue every single one of the bottom-feeding debt collectors who have called my phone, my wife’s phone, my mother’s and my aunt’s phone, since I lost my steady adjunct professor job in 2009. 

I would gladly spend my entire waking day, for as long as it took, writing about the veiled threats, always made with a smile, and the deep and lasting emotional trauma this grinning-voiced  aggression has caused me and my family over the past few years.

Just one of many examples: my heart nearly pounds out my chest with panic and anxiety whenever my phone rings. That’s a conditioned emotional response. My debt collectors did that to me, and that’s a fact. Am I supposed to just let that go? Really?

No. No. No. I think I need a few judges to explain this one to me.

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