Wednesday, August 30, 2006

From an Assignment

Here was the assignment: Untruth

Here's the poem I attempted, since some of you were curious (and some of you doubted whether I was honestly doing the assignments myself . . . you know who you are):


We were half baked in the filaments of light bulbs
and conveyors spitting potatoes past our hands
when Jose said the most bald-faced bullshit I’ve ever heard

starting with him taking the McGregor girl out
for a spin in a set of borrowed wheels with a bottle
filled with mash, the harshest the brewers in the canyon

ever dredged up, and he took this girl and this whiskey
and drove past the shift boss’s house, past the railroad
where the vagabonds wait to jump the next train,

past all those row houses along the farms near the back side
of town, where the old church judges all, and he took this girl
up the canyon to the bluff overlooking the city

and Jose leaned in real close while the tubers sped by,
telling me that the McGregor girl smelled like sampaguitas,
that her eyes could break men’s knees the way a mallet

strikes a spike, and that she was “familiar” with men, whiskey
and other worldly pursuits, and I wanted it to be
true as the potatoes in the factory were true, as the noise

crackling through our ears was real, and I wanted
the McGregor girl to be all freckle and corporeal
like my hands, reddened by the speed of work—I wanted

to believe that a few hours of rest could be spent
driving nowhere with a girl and a bottle, and how some roads
open into vistas and some roads lead the hell out of here,

that you could see the half-mile over the shacks in the valley,
standing next to a beauty who’s crazy about you or maybe
crazy about your danger, and that you could crack a smile or

laugh at youth and the shift boss’s stupid dog
somewhere away from the ball-bearing noise on a dusty,
wheat-colored road as far away as the truth.


I had a hard time chopping out prepositions. Making the poem one sentence was tough!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Painting Again

Yes, I've been painting again. We finally took on the ceiling of our den. So far we've painted half of the ceiling. We'll conquer the other half tomorrow. Ceilings are no fun to paint. Period.


Has your summer been a productive one? The jury's still out on mine, since I'm still on summer vacation until the 27th of September, though technically I start doing school work much earlier.

It's hard for me to measure what's productive for me nowadays. In grad school, I remember I was banging out poems weekly. Nowadays, it's taken a lot more prodding to get me to come to the writing desk. August was a productive month, but mainly because I've been forcing myself to write.

I suppose my mantra should be "You can't revise a blank page." I've written lots of stuff this month that definitely needs revision.


Rick's writing fabulous stuff about the sentence on his blog. Check it out.

It's made me think about my process with the prose poem vs. my lineated stuff. I tend to write in longer independent clauses with my verse. In my prose poems I mix and match a lot more. In a sense, I'm more economical with my prose poems which may make them a bit more abstract, language-wise.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

House Cleaning

I cleaned up some of the broken links. I've also added a few new blogs to the list. Enjoy!


Just finished re-reading BJ's Poeta En San Francisco. It changed quite a bit from the copy I saw in 2005.


Why is it that I tend to write narratives with my poems and I'm much more episodic with my prose poems?


"Haulin' Ash" came to fix our chimneys today. They were here for several hours. They drilled holes. They left soot-marks in the carpet. They mixed cement. They cussed and spat. They jiggered the mirrors and the thingies.

We now have a fireplace that is "up to code." Who are these mysterious code people? Why do they keep on making me spend money?

Friday, August 25, 2006

On the fly . . .

I've been revising poems. This one started with line breaks which I completely obliterated like the Death Star:


As in rope. A filament, thick or frayed.


Frame the neck of the lynched. Hold—bare. Hang and snare. Drag lace against pavement. Hear fiber split, the pith of the hemp long since dried. Hear the noose crackle.


The staccato of a jump rope’s skit-skit-skit. Shoes up, then down, then up again. O stutter my heart. The fibers spin, touch, and spin again.

Hum and arc.


How do you say it? Open your mouth as one receiving water. Then explode, the mouth filled with air, then released. Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Exhale.

How do you say it? Open your mouth. Pull the breath by each syllable.


I am a decadent boat. That I should succumb to you, wavelet, I fear. Tie me to the dock. Tether me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Feeling My Age

Here's a news article my buddy, Joseph L. forwarded. Zounds. . .

Beloit College's Mindset List
By The Associated Press Wed Aug 23, 12:27 AM ET
Every year, Beloit College releases its Mindset List to give a snapshot of the world view of the incoming freshmen class. The list for the Class of 2010:

1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.

2. They have known only two presidents.

3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.

4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.

5. They have grown up getting lost in giant retail stores known as "big boxes."

6. There has always been one Germany.

7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.

8. They are wireless, yet always connected.

9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.

10. Thanks to pervasive head phones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.

11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.

12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.

13. Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.

14. The Moral Majority has never needed an organization.

15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.

16. DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.

17. They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.

18. They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.

19. "Google" has always been a verb.

20. Text messaging is their e-mail.

21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.

22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America.

23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.

24. Madden has always been a game, not a Super Bowl-winning coach.

25. Phantom of the Opera has always been on Broadway.

26. "Boogers" candy has always been a favorite for grossing out parents.

27. There has never been a "sky hook" in the NBA.

28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents' attics.

29. Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby.

30. Non-denominational mega-churches have always been the fastest growing religious organizations in the U.S.

31. They grew up in minivans.

32. Reality shows have always been on television.

33. They have no idea why we needed to ask "... Can we all get along?"

34. They have always known that "In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups."

35. Young women's fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.

36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.

37. Brides have always worn white for a first, second, or third wedding.

38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.

39. "So" as in "Sooooo New York," has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else.

40. Affluent troubled teens in Southern California have always been the subjects of television series.

41. They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.

42. Ken Burns has always been producing very long documentaries on PBS.

43. They are not aware that "flock of seagulls hair" has nothing to do with birds flying into it.

44. Retin-A has always made America look less wrinkled.

45. Green tea has always been marketed for health purposes.

46. Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.

47. Small, white holiday lights have always been in style.

48. Most of them have never had the chance to eat bad airline food.

49. They have always been searching for "Waldo."

50. The really rich have regularly expressed exuberance with outlandish birthday parties.

51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.

52. They never played the game of state license plates in the car.

53. They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.

54. There have always been live organ donors.

55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.

56. They have never put their money in a "Savings & Loan."

57. Sara Lee has always made underwear.

58. Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.

59. Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.

60. They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.

61. Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport.

62. Acura, Lexus and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.

63. Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.

64. LoJack transmitters have always been finding lost cars.

65. Diane Sawyer has always been live in Prime Time.

66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.

67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.

68. "Outing" has always been a threat.

69. "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss has always been the perfect graduation gift.

70. They have always "dissed" what they don't like.

71. The U.S. has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.

72. Richard M. Daley has always been the Mayor of Chicago.

73. They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water, and play games with, lest they die.

74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.

75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Empire of the Dandelion

Our lawn has been overrun. Their imperial helmets jut out all over the yard. It's been two weeks since I've mowed. If we hadn't had that very brief rainfall, I could've lasted a third week. Alas. :-(

To be clear, though, the majority of the lawn is moss and broad-leafed weeds. I'm going to have to kill the lawn and re-seed everything later. It's a total bummer.


I have a card for a Bikram Yoga center. I've never taken a yoga class, so Bikram Yoga is probably out. I can't imagine attempting 26 postures (I only know one or two) in a super-heated room.


Deadlines this week:

5 prose poems, 3 regular poems, a revised manuscript for contests. Additionally, a new syllabus for Introduction to Poetry and some changes to my Asian American Literature course.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dear Machine

I've loved you by accident.

There are happenstances and there are happenstances.

Once, there was a sea and it saddened me with its shells and its starfish.

The starfish were tiny hands, each a gradual transition into empty.

Empty story. Empty galaxy. The sand torn away by the tide.

Then, like a piston, the hard teeth of you.

If I were a vestibule I would remain silent. I would let you in. I would ajar.

Meanwhile the sand grit hushes the floorboards even though

I am a hallway. I am the gasp of a match on a heel.

Dear silica, shine on. Grind the oak to powder.

Buff the skin, the last erotic fever

And be the buzz of the engine, gassed up on rocket fuel.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Freakin' Hot

It's still quite hot in Eastern Oregon. Yesterday, we were sitting on the patio in 90 degree weather. Why, I don't know. It seems it would make a bit more sense if we chose a cooler place to sit and read.


We basically bummed around the house all day yesterday. I didn't feel inspired to drive to Boise, ID. I mean, after ten hours in a car, the last thing I want to do is spend an hour driving to watch a movie. Besides, as I mentioned it was quite hot yesterday and there's not going to be any let up.


I've been watching a lot of "Homeowner Porn" lately. HGTV is either on the screen or it's the show that's queued up on my recall button for the remote.


There are cowboys out here with big hats, big belt buckles, and hay-scented cologne. I've seen them. They walk up and down my street in their tight Wranglers. They water their horses at my hoses. They talk in honky-tonk. They lie to me. They sit in the dirt and watch the sunset with their pointy boots before them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Headin' Out

. . . to see the parents tomorrow. I'll be on much more sporadically until Sunday.

They still live in Ontario, OR. Yes, Oregon. Not Canada. Not California.

Anyway, Mere and I will be heading to the land of the Chukars. We may stop off at Burger West or Brewsky's Broiler for some famous Ontario, OR, pink sauce for fries.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Canadian Radio

We don't get NPR up here, but we do get 93.1FM.

Punjabi radio at its finest. We listen to this station all the time and it comes in quite clearly, unlike most of the American stations.

In fact, many of our radio selections are in French as part of the CBC radio networks.

Forestry Day

I did more forestry work today, cutting up a felled Douglas Fir and clearing some bramble for a set of trails Meredith and I are working on. We could hear an owl somewhere in the wilderness. It was quite cool. As for the trails, they're coming along. We've managed to link two trails together. They just need to be raked back. We ran into a bit of a snag, since the newer trail skirts the edge of our property. That edge goes up a steep incline and it'll be tough clearing a walkable path. There's a set of trails above the incline, but they're a ways off, and there's some serious debris/bramble in the way. I expect lots of thicket.

We spent a good deal of time moving the cut sections on to our cement basketball court to let 'em dry in the sun. We were a bit fried, so we went out for Thai food.


The bird feeders are getting savagely attacked by the Stellar's Jays. We've seen other birdies, though. This morning a Chimney Swift had made it's way from our chimney to our sliding glass door. I helped it back outdoors.

We've also seen Pileated Woodpeckers jumping from a dead tree. There are other woodpeckers, though . . . we had a Hairy Woodpecker climbing up our elderberry tree. That elderberry tree has been attracting a bunch of Western tanager and Evening grosbeaks. I thought the grosbeaks looked at parrots at first.

Anyway, things are getting interesting, bird-wise around here.


Currently listening to The Dirty Three


Thicket is my new favorite word. Thicket, thicket, thicket.


Conversation re: chainsaw:

John: Yer gettin' powdery bits now.

Oliver: Huh?

John: Powdery bits. Yer chain's strugglin' a bit.

Oliver: Is that what that smoke's all about?

John: Ya.

Oliver: Oh.

John: 'shouldn't cut them logs that close to the ground.

Oliver: Oh.

John: Ya. 'cause there's rocks or somethin' down there and it'll dull yer chain right up.

Oliver: Oh.

John: (singing) "tea, no thanks I'll have a beer"

Oliver: What's that you're singing?

John: Oh, it's somethin' from the Simpsons. Ya'know the episode where Homer's singing to "Do-re-mi?"

Oliver: No.

John: Ol' buddy o'mine, when we went on our raftin' trip was humming it.

Oliver: Oh.

John: So now you've got a dose of yer pop culture for today!

Monday, August 14, 2006

I have an attraction . . .

. . . to messy poems. This is a recent thing, and by recent I mean two or three years. Akin to an obsession with Sodoku, I call it my Rube-Goldberg sensibility. Remember playing Mousetrap? I wanted that game for the longest time, and yet I never ever really played the thing. There's something about poets who can reconcile disparate images . . . I really admire that ability.

Anyway, years ago, I was a science major. I think my scientific brain tickles my poetic sensibilities at times.



Write a poem with the following items:

1. A freezer car on a train.

2. Use a lyric by Marvin Gaye

3. There must be the plumage of a bird somewhere in the poem

4. There must be a flashback to a foreign city.


Still uploading songs to iTunes. I'm at 6794 songs, 18.8 days worth of music.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Oh my iPod . . .

Currently updating the songs in my library . . .

I've got 6714 items listed in iTunes and I'm all over the map. I've got some Portishead, some Vic Chestnut, some Lyle Lovett, some Yo Yo Ma . . . some Dirty Three, some OMD, some PJ Harvey, some My Morning Jacket, some Seu Jorge . . .

And the thing is, I really only listen to my iPod when I'm working out or on long road trips. I do, however, listen to iTunes quite frequently, so I suppose my big library makes sense.

I've been playing a lot of Alt-Country lately. I think it has something to do with summer.


I'm drifting aimlessly - - the way bad monks think.

A busy weekend

First off, I totally want to go to The Subdued String Stringband Jam. That's taking place this weekend just a few miles from my house.

Secondly, there are a number of cool events taking place in Bellingham and the surrounding area this week.

The music festival's taking place so there's a bunch of musicians popping up in town.

This afternoon we went to La Bella Strada and walked on a chalk drawing entitled "OMG, Fish With Legs!!!" Indeed, the fish did have legs.


I had too much pizza this afternoon.


All told, I love where I live.

Friday, August 11, 2006


This past week's activities have caught up with me. I'm sore all over. Of course, after lifting weights, I went on ahead and did forestry projects. I could barely get out of bed this morning.


It's surprisingly cold this morning. The dog was shivering. I could hear his teeth chattering in the other room so I put a blanket on him.


Been reading manuscripts this morning. I enjoy reading collections in nascent forms. Only trouble is, I hate looking at my own work in the early stages. Revision isn't my favorite thing, but I don't mind making suggestions to other folks. It's very weird. I sent "Furious Lullaby" off to various people to read. Truth be told, I'm sick of revising the thing, but I know there are some holes that need to be patched.

One of my former undergraduate students starts her MFA this month and another one of my former grad students starts his MFA. I'm so jealous. I loved being a graduate student. Those lucky ducks.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Zen of the Chainsaw

Mind you, I don't like the idea of cutting down trees. In fact, part of the reason we bought the place we did was because it was surrounded by Hemlock, Western Cedar, Douglas Fir, Spruce . . .

A wind storm had blown down several large hemlocks. The trees are about seventy-feet tall, if they were upright. They're basically an eyesore now, cutting across several deer paths. We also need wood for our stove; it gets quite cold up here, so I've been told. Normally, I'd let nature take its course and I'd let the forest floor munch up all that good fertilizer but this time, I decided to cut the trees into 16" chunks.

While using the chainsaw yesterday, I tuned all the extra stuff out. Usually I walk around with a load of verbal baggage in my head, whether it's a new poem, a new project, a to-do list . . . but when you're using a dangerous machine, you really can't be distracted.

With the help of my friend/colleague/neighbor, John, we managed to cut two seventy-foot trees into several chunks that I'll dry over the Summer and chop later for fire wood.


Latest obsession:

I've been obsessed with Filipino migrant workers from the 30's to the 50's. There was a lot of labor unionism up in this neck of the woods and I've been fiddling with some poems. The trick--making politics soluable in art.


Meredith's friend Matthieu is scheduled to fly in from New York. With all the crap that's taking place with air travel today, I don't expect him to arrive on schedule. Messy messy travel day. . .


Another 1:

Write a poem with the following elements--

1. The poem must take place inclement weather.

2. The poem must contain the word, "loomery"

3. The poem must have a steel object.

4. The narrative must go in reverse.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

In case you were wondering

I've stopped posting exercises because . . . I've stopped doing them and found a personal topic sufficient enough to obsess me for some time.

Anyway, if you want an assignment, here's one for the road:

Write a poem that takes place from your current global quadrant (parallel), and follow that parallel using images from places along that line all the way around the globe, ending back at the original starting quadrant.

See Steve Scafidi's poem, The Latitudes of Desire for a hint on this one.


By the way, I'm busting out my 20" Poulan Pro chainsaw today. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Farewell to . . .

Sleater-Kinney. They've officially broken up. I'm sad. :-(

Friday, August 04, 2006


Write a poem based on a painting/picture/sculpture that has haunted you for a long time.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Write a poem based on a lie, lies, liars, or half-truths.

The poem needs to be one long sentence.

The poem has a minimum line-length of 20.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Now that you've written Poem #1, place it on a timeline.

Have that poem be the middle point of your timeline.

Assignment #2 requires you to write a poem based on a moment that comes before what took place in Poem #1.

Good luck!

While you weren't looking . . .

Rick Barot and David Dodd Lee snuck in.

Howdy, guys!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Write a poem with the following elements:

1. A car, which is the subject of the poem
2. An unpredictable "Fall" scent
3. The name of a boy from childhood
4. An agricultural tool
5. A lyric of a song from a past era
6. The color "perse"
7. The number "twelve"

Good luck.