Michael Kutzin

APW Poet Blog

September, 2002

Michael Kutzin

Michael Kutzin is a practicing lawyer in New York City who spends far too much of his free time worried about the meaning of life and his part in the world. He lives in Scarsdale, New York with his wife and two children. He is an avid reader (often reading several books at the same time), and is known by family and friends as something of a Renaissance man.

So far, only one of his poems, Downsized, has been published (if you don’t include The Towers, which is on the special forum of this website regarding Poetry and Terror).

Please contact Michael Kutzin with your thoughts.

September 1, 2002

I feel honored, and somewhat intimidated, by Scott’s invitation to host the PoetLog this September. Honored, because he requested it personally. Intimidated, because a log has the feel of a diary, and I don’t know how open I want to be with complete strangers. I also feel some level of particular responsibility as the host this September, because of the significant feelings that are bound to arise as the anniversary of the September 11th attacks approach. I am a New Yorker, and I am not a New Yorker. I live in New York State – a suburb of New York City, but I work mostly in the City. So every night, I can separate myself from the organism known as the City. It was the City, much more than any other part of this area, that felt the dramtic effect of the attack. So part of me has grown very distant from the September 11th psychology, and yet part of me still feels an increased sense of vulnerability.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Sun Sep 1 12:50:34 2002

September 2, 2002

It’s interesting – since I wrote The Towers, I’ve only written one other poem. It was a poem featuring an angry guy with grandiose notions and dreams – only to be brought back to earth by the smiles of his children and loving caress of his wife. In many ways, although it clearly has a stylistic conceit to it, this is the real me. I guess the real problem I’ve been having with poetry since 9/11 (and not that it really has too much to do with 9/11 – it probably has a lot more to do with where I am in my life) is that it doesn’t sing to me. I love music so much, yet there are very few poets (or poems) that have an enduring quality to me. My all-time favorite poet is Edward Arlington Robinson (although I’m not sure what to make of his poem The Wandering Jew – as a Jew, should I find it to be offensive?), and I enjoy reading Rumi. My favorite modern poet is Louise Gluck. I probably would also enjoy Rilke because of the themes in his poetry, but I have not yet read more than snippets of his work.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Mon Sep 2 09:12:43 2002

September 3, 2002

Is the Trade Center site sacred ground? I used that term in The Towers, but distanced the concept of the site from what is sacred. I think its time to move on from it. I am getting disgusted with the hoopla about the anniversary of September 11th. I’m a trusts & estates lawyer, and I work with several families who were directly affected by the attack. They are just absolutely dreading the anniversary – the fanfare, the media attention, the memories. New York City is making a big production number out of it, with the “reading of the names” of the deceased, and family members walking to the “footprint” of the site to lay flowers there. There is no denying the enormity of the loss, and the dramatic impact of seeing the towers crumble and the center of U.S. defense attacked. But loss happens all the time, in big ways and in small. Enough already – let the dead rest in peace, and the living get on with living.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Tue Sep 3 04:37:23 2002

September 4, 2002

I think I need to discuss some of my thoughts re “sacred ground” more fully. The most remarkable aspect of the attack – and the aspect that, in my opinion, lent holiness to it, was the way complete strangers spontaneously converged to lend support to the victims, and their families, as well as the efforts to dig out from under the rubble. I never visit graveyards, even though I’ve had beloved family members pass away. Does that mean that they are out of my thoughts. Not a chance. But visiting a place with rotting remains is not my way of remembering people. I don’t want to be buried – I want to be remembered by my family and friends who survive me, and then, inevitably, be forgotten after they pass on. In the meantime, I want to try to make this world a better place.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Wed Sep 4 09:34:41 2002

September 5, 2002

Something that happened at work yesterday reminded me that, despite some people dwelling on the 9/11 attacks in a maudlin (or exploitive) way, there’s still a lot of pain out there. My client was the wife of a fireman who died in the towers. They were physically separated at the time, but they spoke regularly, and he periodically raised the possiblility of reconciling. A particular sore point for her was that they never had children, even though she wanted children badly. In any event, a DNA test proved that he was the father of a child born after 9/11. She has been an emotional wreck since I had to tell her the DNA result, and has had to take a leave of absence from work. What hurt her so badly wasn’t that he slept with another woman – they were separated, after all, but that this other woman, rather than her, mothered his child. On her behalf, I have been trying to concede a paternity suit brought against her late husband’s estate – but the court was demanding her presence at the court, along with the other woman. I was furious, and, indirectly (through the other woman’s attorney) told the judge that if she wanted, she could get an arrest warrant out for my client, but that under no circumstances would my client appear in court. The judge gave in. I was surprised at how angry I got about this – several of my colleagues came running into my office to see what was the matter. Even the cynic has some raw feelings.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Thu Sep 5 11:03:53 2002

September 6, 2002

Here’s a poem, in raw form (although perhaps final form) – a poem about what’s going on now (and what happened over the past year):


It wasn’t Rwanda or Babi Yar.
Where the death tolls were larger, and countless

It wasn’t the Congo or Somalia
Where death became a way — the way
of life.

There’ll be no flowers for those victims of war
No day-long salutes, no moments of silence
to remember

the eternal silence of their souls

long gone from those places of death.
The stench, diffused in the air.
The places are just places – lacking
of silver black giants falling
on reality TV.

But their dead are just as dead.

Mourn we must, to purge images,
from reality TV
of people and places we knew
being pulverized
again and again
in collapsing heaps of rubble.

And to purge the images
from reality TV,
of silver birds made missles
gutting the familiar Towers that
marked the skyline from afar;
from silver birds,
just plain silver birds,
they marked the skyline as home.

So let us mourn, as we must do,
remembering, so we can let go.
And then let it go.
Let them go.
Post your plaque if you must,
but the holy spot is your heart.
Not Ground Zero.
Not Rwanda.
Not Babi Yar.
Not the Congo.
Not Somalia.
Nor any other blood-drenched landmark.

Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Fri Sep 6 04:38:01 2002

September 8, 2002

I don’t like poetry that’s super abstract, or has little imagery. I guess that’s a contradiction, since the incredibly abstract is all imagery. But I like poetry that tells a story, or has a point of view. This is why I like Edward Arlington Robinson – his poems have both memorable imagery AND tell a story. You don’t forget either of them. There’s also too much emphasis on “simple” – which I read is what Louise Gluck likes. Yet she makes up for her lack of word imagination with amazing imagery. There’s a poem she wrote about God praying for forgiveness to us – which is a shocking, yet remarkable image. On the other hand, I find most modern poetry to be too plain or too obtuse. It’s OK if not to hit the reader over the head with your ideas — some subtelty is OK – but if it’s too obscure, you’ve written a poem that is equally doomed for obscurity.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Sun Sep 8 19:11:21 2002

September 9, 2002

Am clicking way on my laptop on my way into work. This week is the crescendo of the anniversay hype for 9/11. It’s just one spin around the sun since that awful day – but I guess that’s the way we measure things. Just like I got testy earlier this year when I turned 40. When you have a purpose in life, things to do, a reason for living, you don’t have time to cogitate. I certainly believe in introspection – I probably do far too much thinking about the best way to lead my life and what my obligations are to my friends, family, and community – but I still try, as best I can, not to dwell on the bad things that have happened to me in my life. Maybe after the hoopla of the anniversary passes, this particular client, as well as everyone else who is still in pain, can begin the healing process in earnest.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Mon Sep 9 08:14:40 2002

September 10, 2002

One day before the anniversary. I almost gave in to the hype, and also the urge for self-gratification, by submitting my poem, The Towers, for publication in my local newspaper. I have been published, as an Op-Ed contributor, numerous times in my local paper, and I am sure that, had I sent them The Towers, it would have been published. Like any writer, I love seeing my work in print, and I love receiving favorable comments (as long as the comments aren’t complete fluff). In other words, I like attention. But I did not submit the poem. Why? Because I don’t want to add to the hype about the anniversary, and because there is a line in the poem about the “five thousand souls with no place to go …” that would hurt someone in my community. At least one person from Scarsdale died in the 9/11 attack – and from what I understand, the person has children still living in the community. The local paper comes out once a week, and is widely read. I don’t want children (even teenagers or young adults) to read a line like that about their loved one, especially at such an emotionally trying time. I don’t regret writing the line, or the poem, as it truly expressed the deep pain and sympathy that I felt for the victims (as well as the rest of us who were indirectly made to feel highly vulnerable). But I just don’t want to hurt anyone with my writing. John Gardiner wrote that writers must take responsibilit for the content of their writing, and I agree. I have no apologies for what I wrote when I wrote it – but the timing for its republication in a local paper might cause pain.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Tue Sep 10 11:47:11 2002

September 11th.

I am writing this from the relative safety of my firm’s White Plains, New York office. My firm’s main office is in the Empire State Building. While I am sure that, given all of the extra security precautions, the Empire State Building is probably the safest place in the world to be today, my wife insisted that I work out of our office outside of New York City.

I was actually in White Plains last year when the attack occurred. I was at a conference of Estate Planning attorneys when someone from the local bank that was sponsoring the program interrupted to tell us that the World Trade Center had been attacked. The information was very sktechy at first, because he had gotten the information off of the Internet. In fact, the first report indicated that a “small plane” had crashed into one of the Towers. Later, the same person again interrupted the program to tell us that a plane had also crashed into the Pentagon. I remember the collective gasp that went up, and I muttered, “We’re at war.” THe program ended at about 10:30 or so — I had already cancelled an appointment in NYC — and was walking to the train, when my wife got through to me on my cell phone. I couldn’t get through to her, because every cell phone in the region was being used at that time. I assured my wife that I was NOT going into the City, and that I would head home immediately. I couldn’t even get home at first — the trains weren’t running. SO I walked over to my in-laws apartment in White Plains, where we wathced TV for another hour or two before they gave me a lift home.

I watched one program last night — it was about the firefighters. It made me misty eyed, as I am feeling now. I’m not going to watch any television today, nor listen to the radio. I will call my old law school roommate today, though. Other than my wife, he’s my best friend. His building was directly across the street from Two World Trade, and he saw a ball of flame come right at him when the second plane hit. He also saw people, or pieces of people, flying out of the building, some in desperation to escape the flames, others thrown out by the force of the explosions. My usually unflappable friend screamed at everyone to “Get the hell out of here,” and ran down 40 plus flights of stairs.

A month later, he told me that he lost about 15 lbs. I told him that was great. He told me that it wasn’t. He lost that weight because he couldn’t eat or sleep because of what he had seen.

I am mulling over my next poem — which I think will deal with warfare and the tough decisions that we need to make about Iraq. The pain that we will inflict if we go to war won’t be any less than the pain we are feeling about 9/11. But I also fear that if we don’t stop him now, we may be writing poems (if we’re still alive) about a far greater horror. Sometimes war, as horrible as it is, is just and necessary.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Wed Sep 11 08:03:12 2002

September 11, 2002 (supplemental)

I had been feeling very uneasy today, especially since I’ve been assiduously avoiding the radio to avoid 9/11 tributes today. No radio means no music in this office, since I’ve got my tapes and CDs in my NYC office.

I tried listening to a CD of poetry that I borrowed from the library, but it didn’t give me any comfort. I don’t like T.S. Eliot, and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s voice was grating.

So at lunch, I ran to a music store to pick up CDs. The salesman tried to steer me towards Bruce Springteen’s latest, but I didn’t want a CD with nothing but 9/11 songs on it.

I wound up buying two CDs — the Black Crowes Live, and Creed’s 1st CD (on the recommendation of the salesman). THe Black Crowes music is lightening my mood — but I still want to go home and be with my family as soon as I can.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Wed Sep 11 12:24:33 2002

September 12, 2002

Well, in the words of the old Maureen McGovern son, “There’s Got to Be a Morning After.” I’m back in my Empire State Building office today, and glad to be back. I feel far less morose today, as the constant reminders of the 9/11 anniversary were ubiquitous yesterday. My wife reminded me last night that, had circumstances been a little different, she might have been in Two World Trade that day. Her old firm had merged into another law firm that had been located there — but in the merger there was no position for her. Of course, I told my wife that, since she was not a morning person, she would have inevitably been late to work, and the attacks took place early, so she would have been fine.

Still …

On a different tact, I started a new poem this morning about the terrible decision that a moral leader must make when deciding whether or not to go to war. I am having trouble with some of the imagery right now — particularly the imagery that I want of the leader being able to unleash the Angel of Death.

Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Thu Sep 12 07:37:57 2002

September 13, 2002

A very hard day because of work. Was at a client at 8AM, for which I had to start traveling at 6:30AM, and then was in court all day. And that wasn’t fun. Am exhausted, and I haven’t eaten, so nothing terribly profound, or, for that matter, even remotely coherent, will be forthcoming today. Regrets and regards.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Fri Sep 13 14:32:55 2002

It’s Saturday night here in the ‘burbs. Just got my son off to sleep, and my wife is watching Raiders of the Lost Arc on cable TV. Was just looking at the first bit of my new poem, and realize I still have a long way to go.

While running errands this afternoon, I was listening to the Poetry CD I borrowed from the library. I very much liked Allen Ginsburg, as I did Anne Sexton (although I almost wretched from her incredibly graphic descriptions of her cancer operation). But both were powerful and memorable. The poems reflected the strong feelings of the authors, rather than tepid, austere detachment or self-indulgent whining.

I hope my new poem has that same aesthic value.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Sat Sep 14 19:17:36 2002

September 15, 2002

Well, it’s 9PM New York time, which makes it Yom Kippur. In other words, I’m not being a terribly observant Jewish person by going on the Internet to add to my PoetLog rather than just fasting, praying and going to synagogue. Am no feeling terribly guilty about that right now — we’ll see whether I have any feelings of remorse later.

I meditated today — and basically used it a chance to pray that my writing will in some manner change the world for the better. I’m not feeling very inspired today, though, so my frustration level is building. I can’t think of what to say or how to say it. Which means, I guess, that I either have writer’s block or that I just don’t have any compelling reason to write at the moment.

I guess I’m also feeling a little frustrated with this whole PoetLog obligation. I feel obligated to write something at least remotely profound or interesting — yet I don’t feel like anyone is actually reading this. So, other than a cheap form of therapy, what’s the point of this? So that, maybe one day, when I’m famous, someone will look back on these entries to write my psychobiography?
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Sun Sep 15 18:15:01 2002

September 17, 2002

What is it that I really want from my writing? Like I said before, all of us writers crave attention. I know that in the scheme of things, nothing is permanent (the sun is going to supernova one day too). But, at least to some degree, it is the most permanent thing I can give to the world. It has the chance of lasting the longest. I hope that, one day, I become better known for my writing than for anything else that I do. But for now, it’s just a distant wish.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Tue Sep 17 19:29:37 2002

September 18, 2002

Today is going to be too crazy a day to write a really introspective or even remotely thoughtful log entry. I have an afternoon conference call, then two meetings (overlapping! — I’ll have to jump from one conference room to another), followed by a meeting of a local twon civic club tonight. Do you think that I have one or two things going on in my life?
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Wed Sep 18 08:20:59 2002

September 20, 2002

Dear Diary,

Did not speak to you yesterday. Was too busy with depositions and real life. Have a few spare moments at work now, so will write what is supposed to be my daily piece.

Have I touched my poem in the past few days? No. Perhaps on the train home tonight, although I might be tempted to do the easy thing and have a beer on the train and relax with the newspaper or one of the number of books I’m reading. Am feeling a little unfocused. There are times when you just don’t think that what you do matters. I wish that I could ingore my need for attention — it’s imbecilic if you think about it, but unfortunately, it’s a big part of the human condition.

Well, to quote John Maynard Keynes, “In the long run, we’ll all be dead.” So what does that attention really do for us? Does anything we do matter? Well, the last statement probably takes things too far.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Fri Sep 20 12:46:37 2002

September 22, 2002

Home in the ‘burbs again. My wife and I are watching the Emmy awards — TV’s self congratulatory exercise. It’s fluff for a Sunday night. This afternoon, though, I was able to make some significant progress on my poem about the enormity of a moral leader’s responsibilities before leading a nation into war. So far, I’ve decided to use a rhyming scheme (2nd & 4th lines of each stanza — although the rhyiming has not been precise for several stanzas). I’m trying to create cohesion with a building tension. I was debating (internally, of course) whether to really let the emotions rip open at some point — but I think that I’m going to just maintain the tension. I want this poem to reflect, in a stylized manner, the decision-making process that we as a nation are going through in determining whether to go to war with Iraq.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
New York, NY USA – Sun Sep 22 18:38:02 2002

September 23, 2002

It was terrible. I was sitting on the couch last night, watching the Emmys with my wife, and I read aloud the portion of the poem that I had finished. It just SOUNDED so bad. The light rhyming scheme did not go along at all with the poem’s heavy theme. I was really annoyed with myself for writing a peom that, audibly, sounded so trite when I’m trying to reflect deep soul-searching.

I’m not sure whether to start something new, or whether to try to salvage the couple of “good” ideas in it.

Sin on top of sin — I was using allusions to “genies” and “letting it out of the bottle. Yeccch. Bad poet, bad poetry. Oh well, as I tell the young attorneys in my office, you have to make mistakes in order to learn.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Mon Sep 23 09:12:11 2002

September 24, 2002

Well, at some point, I need to get back into sync and to start writing again. Am still feeling angry with myself, though, for writing such a lousy poem (or portion thereof).

I may have bitten off more than I can chew (pardon the cliche) with the theme of the poem. It may be too much as a poem topic — more an essay than a poem.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Tue Sep 24 18:43:13 2002

September 26, 2002

Bang Bang Bang. That’s what’s happenning inside my head right now. Have a massive headache. Have been in court in AM three days in a row, and just finished a multi-hour meeting with clients. I am tired, a bit frustrated, and have the proverbial splitting headache.

Well, in any event, my partner told me that, when I left the conference room for a few minutes, the clients told him how great a lawyer I am. That’s nice, but it doesn’t relieve the headache, fatigue, or stress right now. It would also be nice if there were money in the till for us partners to be able to take some for ourselves, but alas, things have been difficult in this respect.

There is no direct correlation between hard work and making money.

But, I have great law partners and colleagues, and a wonderful and loving family. So, to continue my recent torturings of cliches, I’m rich in the ways that matter. If only …
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Thu Sep 26 14:21:58 2002

September 27, 2002

I find myself procrastinating (again). I feel highly alert today — and extremely tense — while still feeling heavy of heart. I know that I have so much to be thankful for, yet I feel both bored and disappointed. I so want positive attention, yet I am feeling rather crusty and hostile today.

I’m on a listserv for people who want to shut down the Indian Point power plant, and someone sent an e-mail with a New York Times editorial cartoon that was squarely against invading Iraq. The person sent it on the assumption that anyone who is against the Indian Point plant must be a like-minded person on all so-called “liberal” causes. I rather testily reminded them that this is not the case, and the only unifying aspect of this particular listserv is everyone’s commitment to have a particular power plant shut down.

I had to remember to smile at a very friendly associate in my office today. I very consciously avoid taking out my problems and/or bad moods out on others — so I rorced myself to smile. It actually did make me feel better to force myself to be friendly and to engage in the life and concern of others.

A theme for a poem???
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Fri Sep 27 07:47:59 2002

September 29, 2002

Well, this is my penultimate entry as the PoetLog person of the month. Inspiration has been in very short supply recently — as, unfortunately, has been time. Life moves so quickly. The other day, I was reading about an attorney who is being considered for confirmation to the D.C. Court of Appeals. He’s 40 years old, and is considered a potential Supreme Court nominee. Here I am, at the same age, and I feel like I’m just struggling to eke out a living.

So many stresses, so little focus or time. Maybe, just maybe, between today and tomorrow, the muses will give me a break, and at least let me communicate something of worth to the world.

I hope that someone, other than Scott, eventually reads this PoetLog. This is a hard exercise to engage in on a regular basis, but is useful in the sense that it forces me to put into real sentences and in something resembling a coherent manner what is on my mind.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Sun Sep 29 18:14:08 2002

September 30, 2002

I feel like “Pomp and Circumstance” should be playing in the background. Today is my final day as the Poet Laureate of the PoetLog site.

Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with any breathtaking ideas between last night and today for new poetry. I guess one of the big problems with inspiration is that it doesn’t just appear when you want it to do so.

Future plans vis a vis poetry — I am trying to organize a poetry group in my home town. I am doing so through the Scarsdale Arts Council, of which I happen to be an “at large” member. Maybe being around others with this interest will give me some needed inspiration, as well as my being able to inspire others.

I am glad that Scott asked me to write for September, and I am hopeful that someone, other than Scott, has read some of these entries. If you have, let me know via e-mail, as it is lonely out in cyber-author land.

All the best.
Michael Kutzin <kutzin@seniorlaw.com>
Scarsdale, NY USA – Mon Sep 30 08:36:24 2002

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