Reading and Writing Archives

Three Just and Moving Tributes

I couldn't help but notice that the August issue of Scene4 contains three eloquent eulogies to artists from varying discliplines who could have not been more different, except for the consistent excellence of their work. I refer to Arthur Meiselman's article on Ingmar Bergman, Karren Alenier's on Beverly Sills, and Kathi Wolfe's on Doug Marlette. I was glad for those articles, because they paid just tribute to three great artists, and because they reminded us just how much great art improves and enriches our lives.

Miles Moore

Ugly Jesus

I went on over to Cafe Press and looked Ray Charles Istre up and followed the trail. Skipping around in his list of news articles opened my eyes some more. Being one that avoids news like an ostrich with my head in the sand trying to stay in a false sense of peace, that was a trip. I feel this book of his is timely. The facade of beautiful people, perfect lives, etc., etc., needs to be peeled away and the reality revealed. So what if Jesus was not beautiful on the outside, he was where it counted. Just as so many of the cast-aside people of this world are. Bravo to you Ray Charles Istre! I wish you well with your book! Bravo to you Les for once again bringing two very interesting people to us to keep us thinking and learning.
read Les Marcott's article

Ugly Jesus

You can add Kid Rock's Rock and Roll Jesus, the website Hollywood Jesus, and the film Wrong Eyed Jesus. All the same a very interesting article. If life were fair, Ugly Jesus would be a best seller and Scene4 would be on news stands and magazine racks everywhere.
T.J. McIntosh
read Les Marcott's article

Ugly Jesus

Actually, Ray Istre comes late to the notion of a less-than-photogenic Jesus. The BBC did a piece five years or so ago wherein they reconstructed a possible Jesus from many different visual sources and came up with a short, solid, swarthy man. It raised much uproar about the "proper" way to depict Jesus -- offenses and umbrage were taken. Take a look yourself:
Michael Bettencourt
read Les Marcott's article


Delightful writing makes for delightful reading and that is what Kathi Wolfe does. It is too bad and too sad that reading, and writing for that matter, is disappearing in the blizzard of email and text messaging. Is anyone even talking to anyone anymore?
read Kathi Wolfe's article

The Mystery of Thai Copyright Law

I'm not a lawyer, not even an expert in the area of mystery and detective novel literature, though I am fond of A. Christie's remarkable writing and her unique characters such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I too wonder what she might make out of this case of the missing copyright enforcement and wonder what Thai readers themselves, not to mention a few concerned authors from their motherland, might think of this "mystery". It seems more unravelled though, from Ms. Yasovant's account, than concealed. At least it would appear, beyond the confines of the judicial system, to be so. Or is this yet another case to be solved?

Shane McElroy

read Janine Yasovant's article

My Perfect Face - A love like this?

Love has no tangible definition, elucidated meaning or solid recognition. It is an inescapable feeling that can cause a series of emotions, be it unsought, in one's life. Modern day love cannot compare to Love in the past. Today, unfortunately, people have grown to be selfish, inconsiderate, and at many times oblivious to reality. "True Love" stays candid and ingenuous through hardships, misunderstandings, distance and time. Characteristics that we lack and all of which are rare in today's society. Society in whole has decreased their expectations in order to be able to adapt to what they think love is. We find ourselves settling for someone second best and having to compromise and disregard things that should not have to be dealt with in that manner. Additionally, many are just in love with being in love and have no true emotional connection to their "significant other." So how do we distinguish love from lust and infatuation?


read Eric Eberwein's play

The Terrorism of Books

It was an inspiring observation. The electronic screen is intruding in all human activities; that of performing arts, friendships, relationships especially family relations. The more we are conscious of this intrusion of technology, the better this globe for inhabitancy. Thanks for the article. I could read at this corner of the world, thanks to the devil of technology!!
Harikumar Padmanabhakurup

read Arthur Meiselman's article

Mr. Bobkoff's The Playwright

A "Lofty" article, Ned.
Chuck Cobb
read Ned Bobkoff's article

On Jody Thomas

I wonder if also that there were some who didn't want to have this indictment of the prison system at that time. I know that there have been a number of movies that were hard-hitting on the subject but I wonder if yours was just too hard. It sounds like the play-story is just too overwhelming and as you say too unrelieved. I hope we get to see it some day.
read Arthur Meiselman's article

The Story Of Jody Thomas

Arthur Meiselman carefully elicits the dilemnas a playwright goes through when he or she tries to get beyond the tried and true, or the acceptable "experimental play". How the playwright "sees" the world of his or her creation is essential to the truth and power of a work on stage. I also agree that dramaturgs, literary managers and the rest of the mess are calibrating, to some extent, what goes on in the regional theatre. Operation MFA is in full swing. As to whether these arbiters of what works have enough life experience under their belt is another story altogether. Being inside a theatre in an office all day long is frequently gratuitous to head on, knuckle down and do it experience. A pox on these mouse traps!
Ned Bobkoff
read Arthur Meiselman's article

Where Cedar Creek Falls

It's a pleasure to read this engrossing work. Mr. Challis' style is subtle and charming. I like serialized books very much. I wonder if, perhaps, it wouldn't be possible to post a chapter every week instead of taunting us with a month between "what will happen next"?

Anee S. Waterson

read Martin Challis' book

Rip Lives

I always wondered what happened to him. You're baaad Les.

Sleepy John

read Les Marcott's article

Rip Van Winkle

Thanks for an entertaining twist on this old story. It's funny, sad and true.


read Les Marcott's article

Fluffy Farts

Elliot you're driving me crazy! You're using my life story and I'm loving it. How could I be that hilarious. I must be crazy!

Old Hippy (Sam)

see Elliot Feldman's comic

When will Cedar Creek fall?

Dear Mr. Challis,
Do you think you might publish two or even three chapters at a time of your book so it can finally go to print and I can settle down in my comfy chair with a glass of wine and read the whole thing from cover to cover? I'm really enjoying it except for the torment of waiting a month between readings. I know your main character is a model of perseverence-I'm just an antzy reader.

Sidney B. (admiring but anzty reader)

read Martin Challis' book

When Will Cedar Creek Fall?!

Dear Sidney B.,
Gracious thanks for your interest in the story Sidney. I guess the short answer is you will know when I do. My intent here is to appease, not tease. Would that it were some other way.


ps. If my editor allows it and I get a burst of inspiration, I'll take your request on notice. Again thanks; your message heartens the closeted writer.

read Martin Challis' book

Rage v. Cabbage

I'll take Mr. Bettencourt's anger over Mr. Meiselman's doom. At worst, anger can remain positive and can be worked with, doom is just unforgiving gloom. It is an apparent difference in persepective. Both excellent writers, Bettencourt stands apace and surveys the scene, whilst Meiselman steps into the scene and calls forth. Though he writes prose as if it were poetry, he literally scares the "hell" out of me.

Anee S. Waterson

read Michael Bettencourt's article
read Arthur Meiselman's article

Andrea Dworkin

As you know, the 20th anniversary edition of Andrea's Intercourse was recently published. It's still a vital and devastating work. So thank you for "revisiting" Andrea's legacy and reminding us of the poetical-political side of her writing in First Love. The memory of her and the on-going impact of her life's work is triumphant.

Letty Becker Adler

read Arthur Meiselman's article

Terror of the Fading Book

For awhile there I was feeling really good that there was a champion of the "fading, dog-eared, much-read book" you could carry around, but the imaginary ending is really scary - all those giant pages flying around!

Ellen Miles

read Arthur Meiselman's article

Terror of the Fading Book

Reading Arthur Meiselman's column on the Terror of the Fading Book, with its tactile apprehensions fixed the issues squarely home. Having recently finished a book "1491" that brilliantly and thoroughly laid out the contributions of the indigenous people's of the Americas, particularly South America, in agriculture, landscaping and the infinite wisdom of protect the land, Meiselman's comments rang true. The experience of reading over time, flipping the pages back and forth, is not only tactile comprehension, but a private lasting pleasure. Highly personal and absorbing. Arthur put his finger on the page.

Ned Bobkoff

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Bright Star is Fabulous!

Bright Star is one of the best dramas I've seen all year! The cast was amazing, and the music haunting. Here's a great interview I found with Abbie Cornish talking about her character in the film, and how she turned to Keats' original poetry to answer questions during filming. You can find it here: Jane Campion is truly one of the most influential female voices in film today, and I don't think anyone else could have captured the essence of Keats' story like her!

Lana Larekin

read Miles David Moore's review

Another Tramp

Tomorrow it will be called "Cacophony".


read Nathan Thomas' article

Karren Alenier's Pearl Buck

As someone, as a child, who loved reading Pearl Buck, the resonance of history shining in this article makes me glad to live long enough to see the distance covered.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's article

Mein Kampf vs Notre Combat

I have not seen the exhibition but Renate Stendhal's story about it is very revealing and the pictures are mind-boggling and at the same time exasperating. I am not sure that this an answer to the problem of the legacy of the Nazis and that horrendous book. I don't know what the answer is. The book exists and in the spirit of "never again" it is very important that it is never forgotten, yet it is more than a ghost as we see today in the world around us. How do you smell and taste poison without drinking it? Maybe with comedy. But even Mel Brooks and others couldn't hide the awful taste. How to forget without remembering! Praise to Linda Ellia and Renate Stendhal and Scene4.

Aaron Wildau

read Renate Stendhal's article

Mein Kampf vs. Notre Combat (Our Struggle)

Thank you for your comment! It's much appreciated. I fully agree with you that there is no answer but I would add that this is because there are a zillion answers to a question as large and complex as this one!

Renate Stendhal

read Renate Stendhal's article

Manipulating the Language

Les Marcott's article on the manipulation of phrases in everyday vernacular hit a nerve. I cringe when I hear or see the words "pre-owned," knowing it is simply a high-falutin way of saying "used" for those refurbished vehicles grinning brightly from car lots. At the cosmetics counter in the larger department stores, there are often white-coated sales associates ("epidermal consultants?") who will wield pamphlets and products with the assurance of a lab assistant. The professional position of "Life Coach" is cropping up (do they use whistles while training clients for more productive lives?) and it is another neat way of encapsulating complex concepts in a compact, promising moniker. We are not too far off from Roseanne Barr's exotic notion of "Domestic Goddess" for "Housewife," but don't tell that to the television executives at ABC.

Mindy Kronenberg

read Les Marcott's column


I felt enlightened, progressive, and modern. Thank you for a very good interview.

Janine Yasovant

read Griselda Steiner's article

Eeyores Existentially Speaking

You are a bit of an Eeyore with a touch of Heffalump thrown in. Very enjoyable essay. Looking forward to part 2.


read Michael Bettencourt's column

Existential Eeyore

Now that we possess the complete essay, and now that your revelations illuminate it, I too must conclude that you are indeed an Eeyore and rightfully so. From one "thistle" to another: wonderful essay, wonderfully written.

Anee S. Waterson

read Michael Bettencourt's essay

About "Shadows"

What a beautiful piece of prose this is. Or is it poetry? Or a song? How mysterious. One doesn't know whether it is a clip from a longer work or a lead-in to another one. Whatever it is, it evokes music in its words, emotional music. It's simply beautiful.

Louis Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's article

Reply to Reed Harrison - re: "Contrasts"

Dear Mr. Harrison,
Thanks so much for your extremely kind words about my review of "I Am Love." In reply to your query about a possible book of my reviews, all I can say is, "From your lips to God's ear!" (Or, more to the point, a publisher's ear.)
Best always,

Miles David Moore

Paul Bowles

Thanks for the excellent research. Bowles was a beautiful writer but I do love his music. Your article is very well researched.

Shela Xoregos

read Karren Alenier's article

End without an ending?

As an admirer of Gertrude Stein I feel I have to come to her aid by pointing out a few misunderstandings in my estimated colleague's interesting article. There is no indication anywhere that Stein didn't finish her murder mystery. The story ends very nicely, in fact, with a little "Thank you"-bow, an ironic finishing arabesque, and the word "Finis.", True, in his afterword to the 1982 reedition of the book, John Herbert Gill states, "'Blood on the Dining-Room Floor' comes to an end, but, as Gertrude Stein herself said of it, is has no ending." What that means, however, is, no ending in the traditional sense of what is expected in a murder mystery: the mystery solved, the murderer found. None of this, of course, in Stein's detective novel. The mystery of "Blood on the Dining-Room Floor" is that of Stein's identity. Who was she, now that she was suddenly famous? "I am I because my little dog knows me."  And here we come to  another   misunderstanding. I believe nobody and nothing ever "forced" Gertrude Stein into writing anything. She was not the kind. What she wanted at all cost was being famous, a "lion." If there were suggestions, from a publisher, for example, they were only stating the obvious: a compulsive author nearing age 60 would necessarily think of autobiographical writing. Doing it in the voice of her lover, as the pretend "Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas," is such a sly, playful move - even Stein couldn't have been that brilliant under any kind of pressure!

Renate Stendhal

read Karren Alenier's article  

Re: End without an ending?

Gertrude Stein would love that 65 years after her death, she can still stir people about her accomplishments. I respect what Renate Stendhal has to say about Stein's Blood on the Dining Room Floor and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Lots of scholars argue over what Stein meant and did. Diana Souhami in Gertrude and Alice, her biography of the famous pair wrote this: "Gertrude tried, but failed, to write about the strange events of the summer in a book called Blood on the Dining Room Floor. 'It was very bothersome. I thought I would try but to try is to die and so I did not really try. I was not doing any writing.'" Stein based Blood on the Dining Room Floor on some events local to her summer home in Bilignin. There was a dead woman but what happened was unclear as is whether Stein left Blood on the Dining Room Floor a cliffhanger or a neatly tied up literary package.
As for The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, there is no doubt that the writing of this work caused Stein incredible stress. Some people argue (not convincingly to my way of thinking however) that Alice Toklas wrote the work.

Karren Alenier

North American Badger

This is a wierd and wonderful play. Has it been produced somewhere? If not, I hope it will be. David Alpaugh is "not" a wierd but "is" a wonderful poet.

Marjorie Thome-Luntz

read David Alpaugh's play

Two things about the May issue

First, I feel incredibly pleased and gratified by Renate Stendhal's kind and generous letter about my reviews. To receive such praise from a writer of her stature is an honor indeed. Second, I loved Nathan Thomas' appreciation of the great Sir Derek Jacobi. I hope Mr. Thomas enjoyed Sir Derek's performance as Lear (I can't imagine otherwise). I myself have been fortunate enough to see Sir Derek four times in the flesh: on stage in "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Breaking the Code," and "A Voyage Round My Father," and as himself at a speaking engagement at The National Press Club. Sir Derek was as charming, witty and self-deprecating as one could wish. He spoke of just barely losing the role of Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs" to Anthony Hopkins: "Tony was brilliant, damn him, but I should have liked to have a go at it!" He also told the tale of being approached meanicngly by an extremely intimidating U.S. Customs official. The official's demand? "Show us your limp!"

Miles David Moore

read Nathan Thomas' article

Copy Rights and Epubs

Okay... let me ask you this. Can I rewrite some of your dialogue, here and there? Can I delete some of your dialogue and add mine instead? Can I rewrite most of the play and put my name on it, maybe with a tinge-of-guilt disclaimer that this is " based in part on a play by M. Bettencourt"? Can I copy your website and substitute my name for yours?

Arthur Meiselman

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Copy Rights and Epubs

You still have controls over your work and permissions to others to use it.  As it says on CC website about this license:
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to "copyleft" free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
A Creative Commons license is based on copyright. CC licenses apply to works that are protected by copyright law. The kinds of works that are protected by copyright law are books, websites, blogs, photographs, films, videos, songs and other audio & visual recordings, for example. Software programs are also protected by copyright but, as explained below, we do not recommend that you apply a Creative Commons license to software code.
Creative Commons licenses give you the ability to dictate how others may exercise your copyright rights--such as the right of others to copy your work, make derivative works or adaptations of your work, to distribute your work and/or make money from your work. They do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright--including, importantly, fair use or fair dealing--nor do they give you the ability to control anything that is not protected by copyright law, such as facts and ideas.
We'll see how it works.

Michael Bettencourt

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Copy Rights and Epubs

The commanding operative is: "We'll see how it works."

As I'm sure you're well aware... put it on the internet, make it downloadable, and there is no license!

The mechanics of all of this doesn't trouble me. Disrespect, misuse, and outright stealing has been a fact of publishing since before Gutenberg. It's the principle... it's the implication of "work by committee". And in the theatre, it's the 'facebook' of workshopping and the rise of the chief 'tweeter", the Dramaturg.

My pre-luddite stride is--I write for readers and the actors and their audience. Change not a word without me. I'd rather burn it.

Arthur Meiselman

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Copy Rights and Epubs

You had me at the "chief tweeter, the dramaturg" -- I was at a reading the other night at the Public Theatre, and the literary manager came out to introduce the piece -- she had to be older than 18, but not by much, and all I could think was, "I'm screwed."  She and I live in different universes, she of the Facebook workshop, which is not for me.  I understand the Luddite feeling completely.

Michael Bettencourt

read Michael Bettencourt's article

Copy Rights and Epubs

I understand the necessity and depth of your feeling regarding copyrights of your work, yet your offer to let people use your work whenever they want to without financial remittance, is a giveaway that works against your own best interests. Passing around your work to theater people you know, or even those you don't know out of trust or admiration is one thing. Yet an open door policy for all comers sets you up as either a flunky or a desperate writer without credibility. I wish you the best in your efforts for recognition.

Ned Bobkoff

read Michael Bettencourt's article

The paradox of two Steins

The problem is that Edith Stein died and Gertrude Stein hasn't. Edith Stein was a "saint" before the Poppa in Rome made her one. She was a special woman who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her "specialness" is what makes her amazing and perplexing life and what she did with it so important, so meaningful. She has been an influence to women everywhere even though so many of them are unaware of it.
Gertrude Stein was in the right place at the right time. She was a mean, self-indulgent keeper and user of other artists work, an accomplished self-promoter who sold her clumsy, deconstructed writing as if she were the scribe of the gods. Today generations of buyers revel in her self-made image and keep her alive. It's a paradox.

Stephanie Anschel

read Renate Stendhal's article and Celine Nally's play

Copy Rights and Epubs

Luddites unite! All you have to lose is your place in a digitized world!


read Michael Bettencourt's article

Gertrude Stein

Renate, I love to read your analysis of the whole period. You are such a wonderful and exciting writer. Your articles give me thought and more perspective.Thank you.

Jeanne Stark

read Renate Stendhal's article 

Lingua Franca

There's nothing wrong with English, except that it is really not designed for an international role. I'd like to see wider use of Esperanto for unambiguous communication between people of different mother tongues. Am I asking too much?

Bill Chapman

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Bonjour Kandinsky!

Wonderful article, both erudite and personal, and how beautiful these luminous paintings look (at long-distance) on Scene4's excellent screen. Pictures and text brought back a whole European era for me, with the memory of exhibitions in Hamburg, Munich, Paris, and early Kandinsky paintings that inspired my first serious poems as a schoolgirl. A marvelous surprise to find Lissa Tyler Renaud here.

Renate Stendhal

read Lissa Tyler Renaud's article

Gotterdammerung For American Poetry

As usual, David Alpaugh articulates with absolutely unfailing accuracy the problems facing poetry in America. Someday, everyone writing PhDs about the history of American poetry will be referencing his beautifully-written essays.

Judith Offer

read David Alpaugh's article


Thanks, David, for your thoughtful article.

Allegra Silberstein

read David Alpaugh's article

Götterdämmerung for American Poetry

Loved this article. Thought provoking and vigorous in its bite! I love the idea of a poetry revolution. Perhaps it will be the poets who help us navigate the complicated world in which we find ourselves. This isn't the first time that the end of poetry has been announced. I'm writing a biography about Ina Coolbrith, California's first poet laureate (and America's first state laureate). In the book is a scene (built on a newspaper article) where a group of California poets are discussing the state of poetry at the end of the 19th century. Writer Adeline Knapp says that all the great poems have already been written. "Our poets strive after the weird, the grotesque, the uncouth in their agonies at what they are wont to call their self-revelations, but which are rarely more than painful exposures of their cranial caverns." The rest of the group branded her a heretic, but she continued anyway. Referring to the revolution of free verse, she said, "Look over the field of modern poetry and say what sane man can tell what our poets are driving at. They talk about 'lewd stars' and 'mounting waves.' They tear the language from limb to limb in their efforts to express what is inexpressible, unexistent. They give us words, words, words, wrenched from their natural meanings, and arranged in all sorts of unnatural forms." She believed that prose would better serve the new century. Poet Edwin Markham countered, ""Poetry will exist so long as the world exists. Prose cannot express all that there is to be expressed. We need poetry to express that fleeting, elusive song of life that is as real as anything in life." He also said something else that I love: "Like some airy and invisible architect, [poetry] shapes character. The poet in his highest aspect may be considered a seer." Could that be the face of a new revolution? According to Alpaugh, we may soon find out.

Aleta George

read David Alpaugh's article

Poetry on Stage--No End of the World Opera

I love the trouble David Alpaugh is stirring up for the future of American poetry and how he frames this discussion with opera. I was pretty disturbed this past week when I started reading my copy of Poet & Writers magazine which is focused on MFA programs. And, yes, this is not a new subject about how too many people are being churned through these programs with degrees that for the most part are meaningless. Just for the record, the Steiny Road Poet does not have an MFA and has never seriously considered getting one. Supposedly these degrees are for people who want to teach or scale that rickety ladder of publishing success. This poet has done and led her share of poetry workshops on the inside and outside of universities to know they can be done anywhere and some have good value but at the end of a university program, what does the degree get -- a certified poet? What does this mean? However, what bothers me about Mr. Alpaugh's fine essay is what is missing. He has the older end of the poets' world covered but not the younger side which includes the controversial language poets led by such older poets as John Ashberry. Like the work of Gertrude Stein, too many people discount the work of language poets. Sure, there is a lot of so-called language poetry that is uninteresting, and this poet thinks that the MFA programs contribute to that, but just like any art form, the more you immerse yourself, the better you can judge the new stuff. So bring on the poetry theater -- there is no end of the world coming for poetry as long as we keep those sharp pencils moving.

Karren Alenier

read David Alpaugh's article

David Alpaugh

This is a wonderful look BACK at poetry lane. And the points made on mass production of poets is a common one these days. What is not accounted for is the POETRY REVOLUTION from the CULTURAL REVOLUTION (STILL GOING ON) that not only gave us the BEATS but women, blacks, gays, minorities -- those whose voices had been oppressed for so long they were like diamonds coming from the earth. These voices still vitalize the American scene. We should check out the work of MFA poets and separate the good ones from the mediocre, for having gone to writing college does not necessarily make one an awful poet. Rita Dove came out of Iowa. Not mentioned also is the way publishers curried poets in the mid century. Not so much today. This is a very interesting article and read with respect. Grace Cavalieri: Producer "The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress." (check out the stunning poets on our website.) Thanks!

Grace Cavalieri

read David Alpaugh's article
A clarification: As I said above - "Going to a writing college does not
necessarily make one an awful poet."
QUITE THE OPPOSITE: "Rita Dove came out of Iowa." Some of our most important contributors to poetry have education from writing programs. In fairness, this should be said.

Gotterdammerung for American Poetry?

David Alpaugh's article sniffs at the heels of the Poetry Dilemma. Because the Poetry Machine in the United States has become so huge, it has become outrageously controlling. Only poets approved by the Poetry Machine receive any national coverage. The issue of actual quality in poetry is ignored or unknown.

Marvin R. Hiemstra

read David Alpaugh's article

It's all about Song!

Kudos to you for publishing another commentary by David Alpaugh. I admire his insightful assessment of the situation of contemporary poetry, and his examples. His essay addresses young, current writers (even writing program survivors) as well as those unschooled who ply their art from a long love of the pleasure of sound put to meaning. His comments are not meant just for "old" writers. The point he makes is all inclusive: age-free, gender-free, race-free, class-free. Timeless. This morning I heard a bright & funny young woman on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" (NPR) explain what it means to speak in "abreves", ie: abbreviations. Her phrase sounded close to code - a code dictated by the character LIMITATIONS of Twitter messaging and texting. (Ah corporate domination...!) I'm sure it gets the job done, like being able to decipher the dits and dahs of Morse code. It's functional, in a weirdly atavistic way. But does it sing? Inspire? Soothe. Teach? No. It blood out of language, music out of winds, birds out of trees. How's that for corny... will there be a place for "corny" in "abreves"?

Kathleen Lynch

read David Alpaugh's article

What Poets Can Learn From Songwriters

I'm not so sure of even this: And music is something poets do not have in their arsenal. Or do they? To be sure, poets cannot rely on actual musical tones. It may seem like musical tones are out of bounds, but this, I think, often has to do with the fact that many poets reading voices modulate between about four tones. Developing a wider away of notes, inflections, intonations can make a reading sound every bit as musical as the musical phrase in a song.

Tim Kahl

read David Alpaugh's article

Mr. Alpaugh's Article on Poetry & Lyrics

Wonderful article! I like how Mr. Alpaugh directs us to learn from lyrics as well. Although melodies can add to the meaning of songs, I love song-writers' lyrics that beg to be repeated in my memory. Likewise, poetry that calls for the same.

Jan Olszewski

read David Alpaugh's article

What poets can learn from songwriters

Right on, David! Well put. I heartily agree. However, Frost in introducing a book of New England ballads noted this difference between poems and songs: "The voice and ear are left at a loss what to do with the ballad till supplied with the tune it was written to go with. That might be the definition of a true ballad [or song?] to distinguish it from a true poem. A ballad does not or should not supply its own way of being uttered. For tune it depends on the music of music--a good set score. Unsung it stays half lacking..."

John Ridland

read David Alpaugh's article

In Full Harmony

This is something I can chime in on wholeheartedly. I've written on the topic and try, as a teacher, to bring the tools of metrics, parallelism, repetition, enjambment, musicality in language itself to poetry learners. Most people are never taught these skills. To write music, one must learn the symbolic system of notes, rests, rhythm. Many poets neglect the analogous training for writing verse that "sings" and bears reading time and again. Free verse includes many musical attributes but so much of what I hear is musically numb. Thank you to Mr. Alpaugh for raising this topic. I like a lot of the points made.

Jannie Dresser

read David Alpaugh's article

What Poets Can Learn from Songwriters

Please lock every practicing poet in Solitary Confinement with a copy of What Poets Can Learn from Songwriters and a bottle of champagne. Alpaugh's resplendent perception shines again!

Marvin R. Hiemstra

read David Alpaugh's article

Kathi Wolfe

As usual, Kathi draws from her own experiences to illuminate the world we live in. It is not always ideal, but, through Kathi's eyes, it is clear, warm, filled with good humor and seen for what it is. A great gift given us.

Grace Cavalieri

read Kathi Wolfe's column

David Alpaugh

Many thanks to Scene4 for bringing us the eminently sensible, wise and salutary poetry columns of David Alpaugh. I find myself in almost total agreement with everything he says about poetry and the current poetry scene. Above all I agree with what he says in his current column: that poetry is an art, not identical but closely allied to song, that is meant to enchant and enlighten us. It is not supposed to be a credit on a resume, or a sacred mystery to be guarded zealously by the few hundred keepers of the flame.

Alpaugh's latest column reminded me of an argument I had a few years ago with two poet friends. I argued that a poem should reveal something of itself, but not all, on first reading; they insisted that a poem must be absolutely opaque the first five or six times you read it, and that anything less was a sacrilege.

Needless to say, these same friends regard the name "Billy Collins" as being in the same class as "Paris Hilton." The real tragedy is that my friends--whatever our differences in esthetics--are no more of the academy than I am. How deeply the poets have drunk of the Kool-Aid!

Miles David Moore

read David Alpaugh's column

Stein's Tea Party

No matter what convoluted political and cultural leanings and swayings, this is important information which is crucial to know. All sides. All angles.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's article

Another Layer to Richard Cory

Thank you for giving a whole new meaning to this poem and to writing the story behind the
story. Fascinating!

Liz Koehler-Pentacoff

read David Alpaugh's article

Dickie Cory

Once again, Alpaugh fires his comedic genius across our bow to awaken creative insight into the cannon balls of his poetry and essays.  A brave new look a poor Richard's legacy.  (Although, it always seemed to me that Cory was a "wannabe" defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team.)

C. O. Mccauley

read David Alpaugh's article

The Obscene Critic

Karren Alenier's article on the Washington Post's obscene review of Gertrude Stein and the exhibition Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. brilliantly analyzes one particular case of openly declared "hatred" for Stein. This sort of hatred has followed Stein from the moment she began to publish, in the early twentieth century, but it is worth noting the context that gave rise to this "indecent exposure" in a serious newspaper like the Washington Post. Stein's present renaissance with two epochal traveling exhibitions has brought out people like critic Phil Kennicott who, as Alenier reminds us, assigns himself, a "seat in the corner with the Stein haters that include 'the worst sort of critics--anti-Semites, misogynists, homophobes and philistines.'" It is worth noticing that Stein's old enemies found new fodder and an academic seal of approval for their attacks in Barbara Will's book, Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ and the Vichy Dilemma (2011). The inflammatory book fed into the Stein controversy that was triggered by the exhibition Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, linked to the question how Stein and Toklas had managed to survive in Nazi-occupied France. Will's speculations about the "true Stein" and her alleged "collaboration" with a fascist friend and fascist regime unleashed a cultural hysteria, a sort of license to kill that took over the media and blogosphere. I have no doubt that this cultural atmosphere provided the justification for the Washington Post to publish the infamous article. Will camouflages the fact that her book is in fact about Bernard Faÿ, an intellectual friend of Steins's from the twenties, a once respected historian and author who during the war became a Gestapo informer and persecutor of the Freemasons in France. Hardly anybody today would care about Bernard Faÿ and his twisted fate as a condemned collaborator who was ultimately pardoned by French President Mitterand. Gertrude Stein is being used to create a story that pretends to be sensationalist news when the facts and allegations have already been published and rehashed numerous times, most recently by Janet Malcolm in Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice (2007).

Continue reading "The Obscene Critic" »

The Will to Find Steinian Truth

With all due respect to Renate Stendhal, who I cherish as a person Steinian, I find the work that Barbara Will published in Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma refreshing for its non sensationalization of a tough Stein scenario. 

I am on the record and urge you to read what I said in my recent Scene4 article An Invitation to Gertrude Stein's Tea Party.

As noted Stein scholar Catharine Stimpson said recently at a conference held partially at the National Portrait Gallery where the exhibition "Seeing Gertrude Stein" just closed, "Gertrude Stein was stupid about politics."

I consider Gertrude Stein, Renate Stendhal, and Barbara Will part of my Steinian family. I won't stop loving any of them.

Karren Alenier

Comments on Gertrude Stein Continued

Karren Alenier is a much cherished part of the Steinista tribe, indeed, and we agree quite happily to disagree. We all have a blind eye somewhere and Stein herself was the first to admit her political stupidity and inexperience: "Writers are not really interested in politics..." etc. To be on the record, this was the point of my detailed article in the Los Angles Review of Books, Was Gertrude Stein A Collaborator? (In a shorter version - Exclusive: Was Gertrude Stein A Hitler Fan?

An academic like Catharine R. Stimpson has begun to see Will's book with different eyes, as I was privileged to hear from herself. Others, like the great Stein expert Marjorie Perloff, have never been taken in. If you want a non-sensationalist account of Stein's war years, I refer you to the book by Dominique Saint Pierre, "Gertrude Stein, le Bugey, la guerre" -- an impeccable study by an historian, devoid of the inflated speculations in Barbara Will's book.

Renate Stendhal


What a good expansion of the magazine. Jon Rendell's photography is beautiful both technically and in its composition. He captures the spirit of my favorite city. And Arthur's little trio is a teasing provocation to say the least. And the "writings" are worth the price. Thanks for all of that.


see the Perspectives

Mika Oklop

Oklop was a beautiful writer and a tenacious one.


read Lissa Renaud's article


It's amazing how "gone" that American experience is and how forgotten Kerouac is. It's as if the Beats never existed. I miss 'em.

Bruce Turin

read Griselda Steiner's article

Dead Dog

Hilarious ain't the word, Les. I couldn't stop laughing, man. It's like right out of a Reality Show. And can I relate to it. Hey, I wish I had this speech a couple of years ago in Spokane. Same deal, same situation, same crazy. You nailed it, brother!

T.J. Michael

read Les Marcott's monologue


What I miss most about Jack Kerouac and the Beats is that he and they wrote at a time before the Kindle and the Internet and Amazon Books and 'Facegook'. You had to be a writer to write, not just a word processor.


read Griselda Steiner's article

Kopal's Illusions

I don't know if this is drama or poetry or as Kopal calls it: a self-dispossessed illusion (great phrase!). What I do know is it kept me up last night!


read Iri Kopal's writing


That's why there isn't anybody like him writing today, on a roll of paper wasn't it? And there probably won't ever be another Beat-like writer again.


read Griselda Steiner's article


The last thing I ever thought was that Kerouac was a writer. A scribbler, yes, but hardly a writer. And goodbye to all the Beat so-called writers and the whole time. It's long gone and should stay that way-one of the greyest, dullest periods in recent history.


read Griselda Steiner's article

Marco Millions

It's almost as if O'Neill wrote this play last year. His indictment of the military-industrial complex and corporate politics is scathing and so very timely. It would make a blockbuster movie today. I also agree with the writer's opening indictments of our "dumb" presidents but I love Bob Dylan. He is the great poet of the 20th century.

Maria Einhorn (truthsayer)

read Arthur Meiselman's column


Who was Jack Kerouac then and who is Jack Kerouac now? That's the question. And does it matter?


read Gloria Steiner's article

With some grace

Many thanks to Kathi Wolfe for her remembrance of Adrienne Rich and for her own sensory-provoking poetry. She's a wonderful writer.

Naomi Rubenstein

read Kathi Wolfe's column and
read her poetry in this issue

The Man Who Came to Dinner

I believe Christopher Blake's advice to young people, should apply to the Steiny Poet, as well. Read the play, and review it. It can't hurt a 91 year old, underappreciated American playwright to have his work critiqued, especially on the Internet. Best of luck, Citizen Blake!

Robert Wrynn

read the Steiny Poet's column

Christopher Blake/Gertrude Stein

Dear Karren Alenier, it was a pleasure to read your interview with Christopher Blake. I've known Chris for 25 years, he is such an original. He has written a great deal over the years and is an amazing story teller. It's true that Chris had an eye for the extravagant. It is his way. He cooks, entertains, and lives life through the prism of a romantic.  He is truly one of a kind.

Mark Vancour

read Karren Alenier's column

Christopher Blake/Gertrude Stein

Wonderful to bring living history into the present like this.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's column

Article About Christopher Blake

Thanks for the cogent article on Christopher Blake. Very well done. I am in the process of getting ready to mount a reading of Mr. Blake's "5 Rue Christine" with a full production scheduled for a later date. I am also writing a play about Ms. Stein called "Willing Shadows". Both plays will be read October 5 & 6th. Barbara Will, author of "Unlikely Collaboration", put me in touch with Mr. Blake and he has been an invaluable resource. Your interview with him also helps me a great deal, thank you!

Michael H. Arve

read Karren Alenier's column

Les Marcott on Madison Cooper

Les Marcott's article on Madison Cooper captures perfectly the flaws and the genius of Waco's most colorful son. Cooper, a remarkably unique individual, skillfully created characters so alive that Waco's residents were convinced they knew the actual people he described. This earned Cooper disdain and dislike. Whether this mattered much to Cooper is unknown; what is known is that Cooper lived his life according to his own rules. His philanthropy to Waco is well-known, but his legacy is much greater than that. Why Sironia, Texas has not been turned into a successful TV mini-series is a mystery. Bravo, Les, for a fine job!

Rosemary Petzold

read Les Marcott's article

Momentous Indeed

How fitting that Arthur's citing (sighting) is one of a number of astounding and significant occurrences that are hidden and lost in the daily news churn. They print the news, they regurgitate the news, nobody reads unless it has pretty pictures. Literacy for the illiterate.

Louis Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's column

La Marquise du Chatalet

Outstanding review of an outstanding woman. Thanks for encapsulating the facts and giving us a view.

Marti Bensinger

read Catherine Conway Honig's review

Arthur Meiselman

One of Arthur Meiselman's funny, brilliant cultural commentaries. The "aenglish elbow" says it all and the examples are hilarious.  Aenglish uber alles, "girdling" the world with LOL eloquence. Added edge of perhaps intentional irony: the pretty Asian Talk Girls that partly girdle the article, blinking at the reader with their online readiness to what? Aenglish, for sure. 

Renate Stendhal

read Arthur Meiselman's commentary

What's in the bag?

What's in the bag? That's the million-dog question. People want what they cannot see. I remember on "Let's Make a Deal" you could pick a door, or maybe, a bag on a stand sitting beside you. What do you do? Pick the big door, or the little bag. Like I said, it's the million-dollar question. I love articles that make me think and this is a doozy. 


read Les Marcott's monologue

What's in the Bag~Les Marcott

Les, I guess you'd have to say, "It's all in the bag", right?

Kenneth Sibbett

read Les Marcott's monologue


A Winner! It put me right there, feeling wretched all the way. May they both rest in Peace!
Joan Blum

Spellbinding story with such vivid descriptions -- I enjoyed following the what-comes-next train. Thank you for such an interesting article. Just great!
Jude Hebert

This excerpt from Elizabeth Appell's "Turnings" is excellence in writing skill. I read too much, love to read, and rarely find anything written this creatively, with the imagination and perceptive depth of her work.
Carol Hehmeyer

read Elizabeth Appell's story

The Night Was Full of Rainbows

This piece captures the humility, desperation, love, sorrow and soul of a simple man facing the imaginable. Kudos to this talented writer.

Lezlie Bishop

read Kenneth Sibbett's story

The Lonesome Death of Janis Joplin

This is a hard-nosed and at the same time a moving piece. Almost begging to be a film which it should be. Has it been staged anywhere? The playwright knows his craft and he uses language like paint. Janis would be proud.

Michael Aptrow

read Atar Hadari's play

Heather Arneson

Another writer who uses language like paint, and music. Beautiful words beautifully played.

Michael Aptrow

read Heather Arneson's poems

Heather Arneson's Poems

I call myself a writer/poet. I think I may have to take the poet section off after reading the fantastic poetry of Heather Arneson. I have only been writing poetry for 4 years, but it would take a lifetime to even see her tail lights. Congrats on a job well done.

Kenneth Sibbett

read Heather Arneson's poems

Bottles, Jugs & Jars

I love the little "Notes" section and I believe them even with an author attached. My only problem is I want to know more, I want to know if anything happened, if any contact was made. How's the monkey?

Louis Laird

read Notes In A Bottle

Christopher Blake

History unfolding HERE and NOW!

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's column

Owless of Santa Clara

I like this play. The playwright has an ear for language and her characters are strong in a broad poster-stroke sort of way. But I have a couple of problems. The story, the flow of action is unnecessarily twisted. I understand the idea of a "discarga" but I don't quite get the push of it as it unfolds, as it discharges. The other thing is I can't find the playwright. In every good play, the playwright is there somewhere even if she is a chair or an emotional moment. Here, I can't find Rosebud Ben-Oni anywhere. I want to find her but she hides from the characters and the audience. She is uncommitted.

Michael Aptrow

read Rosebud Ben-Oni's play

A Special Day for the Birthday Girl

Bittersweet, poignant tale, told masterfully.

Mathew Paust

What an amazing transformation of a person due to the calamities of their life. How strangely sad and yet it was interesting how the 'birthday" girl/woman held onto some of the things which still made her smile.

Sheila Luecht

I enjoyed reading this story. It makes you believe there is always hope and to never give up. Hope Mr. Sibbett has more stories for us to read.

Terri Porter

read Kenneth Sibbett's story

Things About Things

Nice writing. Good story. But why the tease? We all know what the "thing" is. And we all know what the "thing" isn't. You tell us "imagine that". We do. What you don't tell us is what you imagine. It must be mindblowing. Imagine that.

Bill Appledorf

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Stein Thriving

Karren Alenier's review of ModPo is great and important support for important work. What an opportunity to immerse oneself, to learn and grow. I love the photo of Gertrude. She made a beautiful Gibson Girl.

Mary Scott

read Karren Alenier's column

Life Among the Heffalumps

I too have had conversations with Mr. Grim Reaper. I've spoken to the old guy in almost every novel, play, screenplay, or short story I've written. I rant, flail, castigate, and even sometimes cajole, but never does he acknowledge me. But you're right. Because he's on my shoulder almost every moment, I do continue to attempt to leave something, not only on pages, paper or virtual, performances, and my over-burdened hard drive, but to my family and friends.  So I say here's to you, G.R.. Thank you for your continual poking and prodding. I don't look forward to the day we finally shake hands, but I'm grateful for the interim reminders.

Elizabeth Appell

read Kathi Wolfe's column

Bettencourt reads... and writes

Enjoying Mr. Bettencourt's video and audio broadcasts. I have always enjoyed his column so very much, he is such a perceptive writer. I hope these broadcasts make their way around the internet. They deserve a very wide audience.

Marjorie Paverness

read Michael Bettencourt's column
view the contents page to link to his broadcasts

The Muse

What a marvelous woman she was, Marie Laurencin. She began 100 years ago what is in full flower today. Karren LaLonde Alenier's exploratory of her is excellent and lovingly written.

Phyllis Mazik

read Karren Lalonde Alenier's column - The Steiny Road to Operadom

Revisionist History

History belongs to the people in charge of the world in any given century. I remember when I first read Howard Zinn, and he blew away my whole conception of all history, period. I still can't get over the "fact" that the newly arrived settlers and soldiers who killed and raped as a sport, used the stronger Indians as Taxi's, riding one until he fell with exhaustion and then jumping on another. How sick was that? History is filled with lies and bullshit, and it always will be. I really think, one day, we will find out who really killed Kennedy, and it will blow us all away. I happen to think Nixon, while not in the conspiracy, knew of it. But it is what it is and while your son is young, There is a tooth fairy and a Santa Claus.

Kenneth Sibbett

read Les Marcott's column

Stein's 'America'

Nice analysis. I wonder how she would have treated WWII and Vietnam and 9/11? I wonder if she were alive today, where she would live? I don't think in the U.S.

Phyllis Mazik

read Karren LaLonde Alenier's column

Jew In the Box

A fascinating story. The sense of futility is almost overwhelming, depressing until the end: the last line is shattering. How do we live with this? We probably don't.


read Arthur Meiselman's column

The Jew In The Box

Your take is an opportunistic reference to the current exhibit in Germany, but in a way it damns it. It says it's hopeless. I don't agree. The old diseased Germany is dying out and the new Germany has a new "immune" system that is ridding that culture of what you call the "poison." It's the children, man, the children, the young people who grow the hope.

Michael Aptrow

read Arthur Meiselman's column


Memorial? is very powerful women's writing. Like Richard Cory, it hits one between the eyes.

Adriana Quintero

read Harriet Halliday Renaud's story

Gertrude Stein Poem

Wonderful explication. Should be in the back of every Stein book for the classroom.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren LaLonde Alenier's column

Jew In the Box

What makes this story so disarming is its Salteresque style. The words flow and the images flow inside of them and around them. It seems to be a simple, passing story-image that's reminiscent of an espisode from Rod Serling's "Night Gallery." It's beautifully disarming and yet it contains, as I said in an earlier letter, a sense of futility that is almost overwhelming if it weren't for the ending and its shattering last line. I don't know if 'Bravo' is an appropriate kudo.

L. Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's column


Masterfully written. Very moving.

Richard Wells


Selena Guerrero

read Harriet Halliday Renaud's story

Ars Poetica

Though I'm not a fan of metre-less free verse, Alenier draws a telling parallel between Stein and Bashaw. Worthy of operatic treatment? I don't think so. Bashaw's language is rather unlyrical but so is a lot of libretto being written today. Thanks for the insight into her work.

Louis Laird

read Karren LaLonde Alenier's column

Beautiful Photography

I can't more enthusiastically agree with the previous commenter's appraisal and praise of Scene4. Coming from someone with his reputation, it's noteworthy praise indeed. The photography and graphics combined with the magazine's idiosyncratic mix of writers and articles, design, and fine writing makes it, as I've posted many times before in this blog, one of the best kept secrets on the internet, unique and unlike anything else being published. The magazine is in itself a collaborative work of art. I for one enjoy the privilege of roaming through the treasures in its archives as a kind of geographic place to spend my time. And as the commenter said, it's also entertaining.

Louis Laird

Beautiful Photography

A hearty hear,hear! Add to the qualties mentioned - class, real class. The shame is that the publisher has to come out with a hat-in-hand appeal for charity to keep going. Shouldn't be. This book should be supported by paid subscriptions. Why don't they do that?

Michael Aptrow

It was tested on two occasions with $1/issue subscriptions or $5 for a full year of 12 issues. The immediate result was a 50% drop in readership. Evidently, our readers, whose demographic skews toward "mature, literate, educated, with disposable income" are willling to pay for a paper-print publication but consider a web 'print' version to be strictly a part of the free-for-all of the internet.
-- The Editors

re: Rather, Midnight of the Gods

Apropos - Walter Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz."

Lou Laird

Mika Oklop

Thank you for continuing to publish the writings of Mika Oklop. He was/is such an exhilirating writer. He should never be forgotten.

Peter Amslik

Mika Oklop is a gem, polished and unpolished.

P. Noonan

Thanks. I really enjoy reading his stories. He's funny and sad.


read Lissa Tyler Renaud's article

George Orwell

Thanks to Patrick Walsh for this exposition of one of the most honest, and inspiring writers in the English language. Sadly, too many people, especially the "bloggers" and so-called "journalists" don't realize what a major influence he was and still is.

Borsin Neumith

read Patrick Walsh's column


Thank you Karren for breathing life into an important literary occasion in American Letters which may have gone unnoticed and certainly benefited from your verve and passion for the arts.

Grace Cavalieri

read Karren Alenier's article

On Scene4 in Print

It was sad when I realized that there is no print edition of the magazine. It's way too beautiful to be confined to the digital dustbin.

Sasha Merkay

That's a shame, because it is beautiful art.

Ann Hart

On Lawrence

Thank you Mr. Walsh. Yours is a very perceptive and informative view of the brilliance of Lawrence. Well written. And mixed with your military experiences it offers a clear and present view of the danger and mess we have gotten ourselves into. You should be in the Pentagon hammering your treatise on the wall. They need voices like yours.

Thomas M. Donaldson

read Patrick Walsh's column

A Writer's Writer

Dear Arthur, I would like the name of your "ghost" writer. Anyone who can pour out the kind of prose that waves under your banner belongs on my side of the media fence. We'll pay him double and then some. Lay you odds he's not from this planet just like your "bard" Will.

Lou Laird

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Monsieur Ambivalence

Pascal and Fuller - what a combination and (Ms) Stendhal once again puts her keen eye and vibrant pen to full force. She could sell me anything. P.S. to Scene4: You sold me (Ms) Stendhal why don't you sell the book too?

Judy Moritz

read Renate Stendhal's article

What's In A Name?

Your January Special Issue, Arts&Politics, was a great bit of timely and absorbing publishing. You should have have titled this issue: "Arts&Politics-2". Maybe you should change the name of the magazine to "Arts&Politics - Scene 4" and then Scene 5 and Scene 6, etc. It's what's happening isn't it?

Michael Aptrow

A true writer speaking

Beautiful and archetypal, your story of how writing started early in life, and stayed with you. Mine started just like that, with a poem at age 6 that stated (in German and in rhymes) "I want to see everything, everything, and never be against." Against what? Mystery... All of writing is a mystery. Mine ran into a nasty teacher at age 10 who detested my passion of seeing and saying everything. It went underground, surfacing again over early paintings of Kandinsky. Maybe that's part of the reason why Scene4 is my magazine of choice: writing paired with art and exquisite design. Yours is a unique vision of bringing writing into the world -- and keeping it there. A labor of love for all of us to enjoy.

Renate Stendhal

read Arthur Meiselman's column

Bettencourt and Thomas

Try as I may and try as I might, I can't get over the feeling that both Mr. Bettencourt and Mr. Thomas are 'sweet' cynics. Cynics after their years in the theater and sweet to be in Scene4. It's a refreshing encore but only when you're in the mood.

Stanley Bergas

read Michael Bettencourt's column
read Nathan Thomas' column

Ms Renaud, Ms Welty, Ms McCullers & Mr. Capote on a Summer Day

After reading the first few sentences of Ms Renaud's evocative story "Summer Day," I was transported to a white veranda where I was joined by the author, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers and Truman Capote. The magical word choices, the descriptive passages, the names of the characters, and the setting all carry on in such a genuine way, the story-telling tradition of the guests on that veranda.

Thank you for this beautiful, poetic story, which through its simplicity, is truly epic!

Hans Gallas

read Harriet Halliday Renaud's story

Monsieur Ambivalence

A rare treat, Judy Moritz, to read your comment. I thank you for making me laugh as I am the type of writer who would rather do anything than be selling anything! But as you so kindly suggest, I'll give it a try. How about a peek at my brand-new Scene4 Archive? 10 years of blissful and sometimes hilarious collaboration with the excellent Arthur Meiselman. All now in neat categories, with dates and easy one-click access... You'll find it at the bottom of my March article, Monsieur Ambivalence. There, I've done it. Are you buying it?

Renate Stendhal

read Renate Stendhal's review

Monsieur Bivalence

I buy it. Nicely done. What a body of work. 10 years you say? More like a lifetime. I hope you'll keep adding to it for another 10 years. Now for that book that Scene4 should publish and you should sell. I'll buy it.

Judy Moritz

see Renate Stendhal's archive

Renate Stendhal/Monsieur Ambivalence

Every writer needs at least one intelligent reader, and as the publisher of 'Monsieur Ambivalence' by Thomas Fuller, I was overjoyed how thoroughly you 'got' the book, a book that requires some pretty special equipment to get. I'm trying to reach Tom Fuller, a recluse, with the news...I'm sure he'll be extremely pleased.

Brooks Roddan

read Renate Stendhal's article

re: Yeats and Politics

I think that, today, W.B. Yeats would finally follow in the footsteps of Shaw and Joyce and head over the not-so emerald hills of the Irish republic to a more "sober" place to rest.

Everett Brody

read the prior letter
read Patrick Walsh's article

A Writer's Life

I love this cartoon. It's the story of my life, funny, insane, depressing, reality. The artist (Elliot Feldman) makes us all brothers, and sisters, if you will.

Sasha Lauren

view Elliot Feldman's cartoon

Neuroself or is it Selfneurosis?

As the writer (Michael Bettencourt) says: " thanks for finding a way to win the losing battle against my demons". That's the ticket isn't it? His poignant and initimately self-perceptive look at himself is an often blocked way for all of us to look at ourselves. Thanks for opening the window and letting us see with our eyes open.

Sasha Lauren

read Michael Bettencourt's column

On this Stein, you have built

Karren, Once again you have done your excellent poet's synthesis of Stein facts and Stein words! Another just tribute in this centenary year of TENDER BUTTONS.

Hans Gallas

read Karren Alenier's article

Gertrude Stein, right-wing intellectual...

Artist and precursor to the Heideggerian, post modern fascination for identity politics, she hated FDR's 'New Deal' and praised Marshall Petain's  Vichy government. Pound was of her ilk, politics and talent. Perhaps, this is what is meant by the title:  "Gertrude Stein and Moral Rightness".

Mike Ballard

read Karren Alenier's article

Sometimes Moral Rightness Can Kill You

I appreciate Mike Ballard's factual framing (Stein hated FDR's 'New Deal' and praised Marshall Petain's  Vichy government) around the provocative title "Gertrude Stein and Moral Rightness."

As to Pound and Stein being of the same ilk--yes they were both Modernist poets and geniuses with right-wing views and you could say both were cock sure of themselves like willful children. However, Stein was a Jew living in Nazi occupied France trying to survive. Initially the French people supported Petain because he was a World War I hero. Stein participated in WWI and was given a medal for her service. By the end of WWII, Stein and her right-winged neighbors no longer supported Petain and they were all participating in the resistance.

Pound, an anti-Semite exercising his American right to free speech, had a radio show in Italy where he lived all during the war. He promoted the authoritarian regime of Mussolini and was paid for these broadcasts by the Italian Ministry of Popular Culture. People who knew Pound said the payment didn't matter to him, he would have said the same thing without the money. 

Let's put it this way, sometimes moral rightness can get you killed. In wartime, people tend to bend the rules. Did Pound's behavior look like a survival tactic?  And Stein, bending the rules was always an agenda with her. I believe she was politically naïve. A lot of geniuses, including Stein and Pound, have done things that do not sit well with ordinary folks.

Karren Alenier

read Karren Alenier's article

San Francisco

This story excerpt beautifully evokes the sad nostalgia of the decline of the City-by-the-Bay. Though it is a 'romantic-mystery-thriller' (if I may tag it as such), the evocation of a city and its spirit that is fast disappearing into the low-hanging fog of Google-land is both heart-rendering and eye opening. It's a compelling read and choicely written. Now to wait for the rest of it. When do you think that will be?

Michael Aptrow

read Arthur Meiselman's story

Gay Photography Book Review Shines

After reading Renate Stendhal's review on Kathryn Hamm's books replete with some sex wedding photographs, I was shocked at how far we have come. From the traditional poses to traditional ceremonies, today our community strongly embraces public displays of affection as well as thinking "outside the box" when planning a wedding. Renate has a very strong voice and makes it easy to see the fruits of our community's labor. It is incredibly encouraging to see couples not only in love but proudly professing their love for all to see. Both, The Invisibles and The New Art of Capturing Love give a unique look into the old world and the new. Tales of love set in the mysterious and erotic underground of the first half of the 20th century to today's modern world above-the-surface visibility shed light on a love that has always existed but is becoming more prominent as the years (and laws) continue to pass. Renate makes clear that times are changing (as shown in her own books and works, namely Love & Marriage: A Love & Sex Forever Kit, a guide book to all married and soon-to-be married couples), and the LGBT community is at the forefront of celebrating love and unity. 

Bella Granados

read Renate Stendhal's article

Critical Junction

This is a fine story. The writing seems deceptively effortless and laden as it is with equally deceptive wry humour. Mr. Bhatnagar is obviously an up and coming maker of literature and his biographical note, "Professional Seafarer", is intriguing. Please tell us more. I also hope you will publish more of his work.

Anee S. Waterson

read Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar's story

How Now Copyright?

I read, with interest, Arthur Meiselman's piece on copyright. My response to the writer, since I am cited by him as a spur to his article is this:

I am not against copyright, that is, not against having some form of protection for created work, for the "property" of the creator.  I would just dial back the protections to the original terms of the Copyright Act of 1790, which gave a creator 14 years of protection, with an additional term of 14 years if he or she was alive at the time of the renewal.  (The original law only protected books, maps, and charts; other items, like music and paintings, were added later.)

I also don't have a problem with copyrights being treated as commodities and passed along/sold to other parties, as long as the time limits don't reset during the exchange: If my father in his will passes along to me the copyright to his wildly successful book, and thus its profits, in the 27th year of its copyright (renewed after 14 years), I get the profits for one more year only, and that's it.  Then the book goes into the public domain.  (Whatever publishing rights companies have do not trump the copyright term limit -- once the property passed into the public domain, they no longer have exclusive access to it.)

I would also support a provision that doesn't make copyright automatic once a work is created.  Copyrights would have to registered, with a small fee to do this, in order to start the clock ticking on the first 14 years.  If a copyright is not registered, then that work does not have copyright protection and is automatically added to the public domain.  (We'd have to work out some window during which a creator can register so that the created work has a provisional or contingent protection, a "pre-copyright" protection, in case they're on walkabout in Australia when the inspiration comes.)  This would also allow people to forego copyright if they didn't want it (today known as "copyleft") without having to go through the hoops of the Creative Commons licensing procedures (but this would also mean that the creator would have no say in how the work gets used in the public domain).

The logistics of this are too complicated for this limited space, but they are mostly legalistic in nature once the umbrella concept of a time-limit for a registered copyright is established (e.g., can someone "own" something in the public domain, such as a Picasso painting hanging in the Metropolitan Museum, or "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in its new Japanese manga version?).  This doesn't make them easy but it does make them doable and possible.

My desire is to get as much material, actual and virtual, into the public domain as possible as quickly as possible without too much interference from the dead hand of the past or the greed of corporations and creators -- as the original act said, in order "to encourage learning."  Twenty-eight years seems enough time for a creator to make his or her money.  My desire is to cut back all the kudzu that has smothered copyright to the point where, now, anything after 1923 is out of bounds, with absurd restrictions like a book not going into the public domain until 70 years after the death of its author.  To me, that's racketeering.

Of course I will not win this argument -- there is too much money at stake.  But it's an argument that still needs to be made.

Michael Bettencourt

I agree with most of Michael Bettencourt's arguments. But the implication of his strong desire toward "public domain" is what concerns me. I don't care about the financial provisos of copyright: protect the creator and the creator's heirs, all for a reasonable time, and then the hell with it... let the bucks be made by the buck-makers. What I do care about is the content, the creation as the creator conceived it. Within most current copyright protection, while the creator is alive, his/her permission is required to change one comma, one note, one choreographic movement, one anything. Once the creator has been de-created, my admonition is that the permission is no longer available. Nothing should be changed. If a creation is to be adapted, write a new version based on the original, but do not, do not use the original words or notes or strokes. If you want to do "Rome&Juliet" Mr. Luhrman (after you find actors who can speak English), write your own. I cite George Bernard Shaw who sent a sheriff with a cease&desist court order at the Broadway opening of one of his plays: do it the way he wrote it or don't do it. If you want to do a Balanchine ballet, do it as he conceived it, or choreograph your own. The argument against my argument is: hey, that's not the way show business works. My answer: Tough shite! Shaw understood the business of show better than almost anyone alive today. Of course, he's dead and his creations? Unprotected.

As I calm down here, I'm fully aware that it is the Internet which has unleashed an irrevocable shattering of copyright protection. The "mashup" is the worse thing that has happened to artistic creation since the invention of television and free agency in baseball. And, as Rebecca Solnit noted in Harper's: The Internet will also "create elaborate justifications for never paying artists or writers." She also notes: "...2014 has turned out quite a bit like [Orwell's] 1984."

Arthur Meiselman

Michael Bettencourt's earlier column: "Dear Mr. Beckett"

Arthur Meiselman's current column: "On Copyright And Cats"

How Now Copyright? - A Response To A Response

Response to Arthur's Response

Citing the "mashup" as "the worst thing that has happened to artistic creation since the invention of television and free agency in baseball" is to forget that the "mashup" is how any art gets made.  No inventor creates something in the way that Athena burst forth from the head of Zeus when Hephaestus cracked open his skull, that is, something without antecedent, without an origin story, without some debt to (dare I say it?) to the "public domain."

This is precisely the point Nina Paley made in stripping her wonderful work, Sita Sings The Blues, of all copyright restrictions: "From the shared culture it came, and back into the shared culture it goes."

For me, the more things there are to mash up into new forms, the better off everyone will be, not just in the arts but in all aspects of intellectual study -- "mashup" is just a synonym for "the free market of ideas," and the public domain, where everybody has a library card to borrow the materials, is where this market can play out the trading that results in new ideas, new practices, new directions.

This fertility -- its power to nourish and propel -- is why we can't follow my colleague's advice and do only "archival performances" (my term, not his) of past work.  Shaw had every right to issue his cease-and-desist then, but I don't think anyone can make a defensible aesthetic argument that his work is well-served by issuing one now on his behalf, and there's certainly no legal basis for it either.

Perhaps Shakespeare is more to the point here, since competing versions of some of his plays defy citing any one manuscript as definitive, Arthur's "the original words."  (Kenneth Branagh, for his film version of Hamlet, simply mashed together every version he could find into one script, which is why the film runs for four hours with an intermission.)  There is no ur-Shakespeare text, and certainly no ur-Shakespeare performance (we have no settled picture of what happened on an Elizabethan stage), and thus no ur-Shakespeare to which we must always remain faithful.  

And even if such a thing did exist, doing R&J in 2014, even following every jot and tittle, will not be the same as a production done in 1614: we can mimic the practice but we can't access the spirit and mind-set of that time.  We are different people living in a different world, and our R&J will be an automatic betrayal of the original.

Rebecca Solnit's point about "the Internet" is a good one in terms of its effects on artists' livelihoods.  However, it's not "the Internet's" fault but the way people use and abuse this vast infrastructure for sharing information -- a subject too large to parse here but one which touches upon the ethic of the public domain and a regulated commons.

But it certainly has thrown into disarray old notions of ownership and control and property and contract, which, to me, is a very good thing since many of these notions were restrictive, exploitative, and rent-seeking, and needed to be challenged.  Going back to a situation where "the permission [to change things] is no longer available" is to go back to the very practices that "the Internet" has up-ended.

The "mashup" is how stuff gets made.  The source material for the mashup is both the universe of all created artifacts and the cultural "air" we all breathe as citizens of some collective.  Given the capitalistic way we have chosen to arrange our current collective, it makes sense to define creation as "property" and afford it some of its protections.

The debate is over the extent and power of those protections, and my contention is to give them a statute of limitations that balances inventors' abilities to make some money off their efforts and the public domain's need for new stuff to mash up.  I believe this is a fair trade, given how the public domain seeds everything of value created by anyone who lives in its midst.

Michael Bettencourt

Ode to A

I like this kind of teaching best. No preaching, no saintliness, a bit of cynical fun, and a lot of knowledge to take us on a snappy, fabulous tour de monde réligieux. Ode to Arthur Meiselman, also known as Arteur Editfleur, the writer and the maker and shaker of Scene4. Happily riding on his coat-tails as a contributor, I can't even imagine how much work it must be to bring out this sumptuous magazine (sans ads) every month. We owe you a lot, Arthur, and gratefully wish you a prosperous, poetic new year. Sing, pray, love for the continued charmed ride of this magazine!

Renate Stendhal

Arthur Meiselman's column: "Heaven"

The man with the hammer

Michael Bettencourt hits the nail squarely on the head. Because the entire damned internet has become an entire pool of "clickbait." It's a disgusting use of the dumbing down of information for the sake of, well, dumbing down. Also, I would suggest that since we are coded entities as he suggests, we need to start offering up our dna to the highest bidders in one great catalog like shoes and dresses. That would be like selling our souls, right?

Everett Bradesly

Michael Bettencourt's column: "Viral"

Hanging Out With Chekhov

It's amazing and wonderful how Chekov the man and his writing has endured for so long and is yet so influential. There are problems with translating some of his work, but isn't that true of many writers, great and small? Mr. Thomas gives us a thorough and resounding view of what that all entails. Thank you for that.

Pierre Benedette

Nathan Thomas' column: "Vanya"

Stein, Jenner and Vanity Fair

Now that Caitlyn Jenner has debuted on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, there is yet another link to Stein who was featured in the magazine off and on for almost 30 years!

Hans Gallas

Karren Alenier's column: "The Genderqueerness of Bruce Jenner and Gertrude Stein"

Link 'Tween Stein Jenner Vanity Fair

Thanks Hans Gallas for making that connection between two gender puzzling icons and the magazine Vanity Fair. Both people really want/ed the 'gloire' of being recognized. This really puts a lot of weight on the word 'Vanity'!

Karren Alenier

See prior letter

The Four Seasons of Love

What a fascinating bristling article with insight and nuance--facts we'd never have reason to know. I maintain. Once again, Karren Alenier is America's foremost Gertrude Stein authority, and scholar, and I'll testify to that in court!

Grace Cavalieri

Karren Alenier's column: "Seasons of Illicit Loves"

Pebbles and Potatoes

"With the torrential downgrading to the lowest common denominator, so-called 'elitist' pursuits as cursive handwriting and elocution have disappeared from American public education. We're inundated with children who cannot write with their prehensile thumbs and mumble through their numbed noses." This cultural commentary by Arthur Meiselman made me laugh with the recognition of a non-American who's forever puzzled by young or youngish people writing with their fists and mumbling to the point where nobody could ever accuse them of a commitment to speech.

Renate Stendhal

Arthur Meiselman's column: "Pebbles and Potatoes"

Harriet Renaud

Very well written. The sense of foreboding, the change from cruelty to kindness, the surprising change in Ms Peskin, the house falling metaphor, all signs of accomplished craft.

Ormond Otvos

Harriet Halliday Renaud's Story: "Summer Day"

Warfare Indeed

Nathan Thomas lays bare his inner and outer lives with honesty, temperance and courage.He speaks to all of us, all of our secret wishes and he invites us to join him in not only the good life, but the good life well lived. His essay in this issue of Scene4 should be posted and pasted in every classroom, everywhere.

Hans Stefner

Nathan Thomas' column: "Trench Warfare"

The Promise of Mont Saint Michel

A lovely, lovely story. Heart-rendering and at the same time uplifting. Ms Verdino-Süllwold's writing is deceptively simple at first and then embraces the reader and remains in the mind long after the story ends.

Leah Dupre Simmons

Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold's story: "The Promise of Mont Saint Michel"

Passing Stones, Passing Thoughts

With his usual clarity and style, Mr. Bettencourt draws me in for good conversation and some precipitate thought. This sentence: "But the body is the only thing that matters - without it, nothing else happens, and without it in good form, nothing good will happen." is a tattoo for the mind. Thank you for that.

Maurice Blanc

Michael Bettencourt's column: Passing Stones, Passing Thoughts

Inbox Zero

Though both disturbing and thought-provoking, Mr. Bettencourt masterfully leads to a vexing question in his column this month (Scene4 June 2016): "What exactly does recollection do for us?" The answers to that question would fill an inbox to bursting.

Nelda Mandel-Rizick

Michael Bettencourt's column: "Inbox Zero"

A New Opera on Stein's First Love Affair

This article has much to recommend it: a young composer to follow, news of a chamber opera on Stein which can be viewed on YouTube, mention of an Aaron Copland song cycle set on Dickinson poems, which was unknown to me. Catnip for lover of Stein, opera, song and poetry!

Teri Rife

Karren LaLonde Alenier's column: A New Opera on Stein's First Love Affair

Balled Feet

The adventures and memories of Claudine Jones are a continuing source of inspiration for me. She makes life in San Francisco seem glorious which it isn't any more, but she sure makes it seem so. Ms Jones writes with a joie de vivre and a frisky style and that's how I read her.

Erica Stolzer.

Claudine Jones' column: Balled Feet

Why I Love My Wife

This is a rare thing. A love letter to a wife of 16 years. Beautifully written and beautifully felt. The truth is in the adoration.
Marisa Perotti

Touching, revealing but not saccharin in any way. Mr. Bettencourt writes so privately in so public a way in a revelation to those who go crazy struggling with relationships.
Peter Genot

Mr. Bettencourt has the uncommon skill to turn an essay into poetry, an ode to be read often down through the years.
Oriana Salzez

Michael Bettencourt's column: Why I love My Wife

About Scene4

Your magazine is slick, as elegant as they come. It's a delight to the senses to page through it. But it's the photos, and artworks, and especially the writing that makes this journal a collectible. Since it's on the Internet it will be there forever, and that's a good thing. My preference of course would be a print edition as well. It would be beautiful in that format. But this wish and the reality of publishing don't mix. Thank you for this edition.

Ben Gefflen


A simple story enhanced and heightened by the clarity of Mr. Bhatnagar's writing. The mystery that shrouds it is the writer's doing as a master puppeteer. I look forward to more of his work.

Tara-Ann Nguyen

Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar's story: Autumn

Gertrude and the Critics

Dear Ms Alenier, you are a blessed avatar for dear Gertrude. She would love you for all the attention and scholariness you pay to her. Keep it going, please.

Marcus Goldberg

Karren Alenier's column: Critics

Kiss Me Again, Paris

Wow! With the speed of light I am at the Opera in Paris and cannot wait to know what happens between the two women. The writing is breathtaking and marvelous. Bring on the next tasting.

alvin hirshen

Memoirs can be such troubled things. From the excerpts, however, it seems that Ms Stendhal has a strong hold on her past and a deep strength from her present. Beautifully written.

Kinda Pellicer

Rich, lively and worth sharing. Thanks for taste.

Michael Aptrow

If the Met were anything like Ms Stendhal's Paris Opera, I would haunt its corridors nightly despite its exorbitant ticket prices.

Ginnie Goldman

Excerpts from Renate Stendhal's memoir: "Kiss Me Again, Paris"

Poor Sylvia

Ms Alenier offers a pleasant review of what is apparently another insightful exhibit of the life and times and perceptions of the woe-begone Sylvia Plath. More insights, more commentary, more banderole. She was an interesting writer and led what some think was an interesting life before she ended it. Deeper into the dust the literary archaeologists go, long after the mummy has been removed, searching for another trinket. Sylvia be damned; she had no idea this was going to happen but she would have enjoyed it. Perhaps.

Malcolm Prinz

Karren Alenier's column: Sylvia Plath


Karren Alenier's analysis of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's groundbreaking book is illuminating. (Mary's maiden name was Mary Godwin.) The parallels with historical aberrations and today's political nightmare together present us with a new kind of Monster.but Alenier allows us to understand this better.And through understanding, and only that, can come change to the good.

Grace Cavalieri

Karren Alenier's column: "Gertrude Stein: Meet Frankenstein"

About Reading and Writing

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to RECENT LETTERS in the Reading and Writing category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Politics and Issues is the previous category.

Theatre is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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