Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back from Spokane

I returned from my trip to Whitworth College intact and in good spirits. The students there were fabulous, a clear reflection of their superb mentoring.


Actually, I guess I didn't come back intact. I had left my cell phone in the hotel room as well as a pair of pants and a t-shirt (Ramada was kind enough to ship those to me). I also caught a cold.

Gah. I hate being sick. What's more, I have to go to Atlanta tomorrow for AWP. I DO NOT want to be sick at AWP. Period.


We're talking about aesthetics in my graduate seminar. Students were up in arms about Alice Notley's "Descent of Alette" because her use of quotation marks at intervals between phrases:

"sort of" "like this" "throughout" "the book"

I showed them an essay by Garcia Villa taken from the "Anchored Angel" and they were outraged by his seeming arrogance. Additionally, I showed them excerpts of Chelsey Minnis's "Zirconia." Again, outrage.

Look folks, that's art. Sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes it's irascible. Sometimes it's flawed.

Artists are difficult, irascible, and flawed. They're also very human and what we as readers try to do is negotiate. Dialogue dialogue dialogue.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Bathroom Renovation: How Oliver de la Paz Became a Master Electrician

That's right. I've decided to stop writing poetry so that I can pursue my bond, license, and certification as a master electrician. Why? Because I rewired my bathroom all by myself and established my awesomeness.

First, I crawled around in the attic and moved the wiring from a flourescent box over to a wall. Then, I moved an electrical outlet from one wall to another wall. I upgraded and installed a new box for two light switches and the newly moved outlet. I also installed a new box for an over-the-vanity light (where the wiring for old flourescent light box went). Nothing blew up. The light swiitches work. The outlet works and is grounded. I rock.


The poet Truong Tran will be reading at Western Washhington University on Thursday. I've met Truong on a number of occasions, but we've never had a chance to talk. Maybe this time I'll be able to chat with him.


I'll be heading over to Whitworth College to give a reading. If you're in Spokane, WA, do come over and say hello.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Workshop Methodology

So here's a question to all of you who've either taken a poetry workshop or conduct poetry workshops. How do you run a poetry workshop or how was your poetry workshop conducted?

Here's one example:

1. Students receive specific writing assignments beforehand.
2. Students come to class with multiple copies of poems from said writing assignment.
3. The poems are distributed throughout the class.
4. The writer of a poem reads the poem. The rest of the class including the instructor discusses the poem while the writer remains silent, listening to the feedback.
5. At the end of the discussion, the writer whose poem was up for discussion, addresses the workshop, asking questions about the feedback.

Here's another example:

1. Students prepare a poem for class that is not from a specific writing assignment.
2. The student distributes the poem ahead of time so that both the instructor and the students have an opportunity to read the piece before workshop.
3. The writer of a poem reads the poem. The rest of the class including the instructor discusses the poem while the writer remains silent, listening to the feedback.
4. At the end of the discussion, the writer whose poem was up for discussion, addresses the workshop, asking questions about the feedback.

And another example:

1. Any variation of #'s 1-2 from the above examples.
2. The students are then put into small groups (3-5 students per group).
3. They then discuss the poems within the group.
4. The instructor does not see the poems until the end of the class period when the students hand them in.

There are, of course, many other methodologies, but these are ways I've handled workshop. I prefer having the poems "cold." Lots of my peers like to have the poems ahead of time so that they can provide prepared feedback. My take is that if I misread something in the moment, that's feedback. Anyway, I'm always interested in what y'all do.


Week 6 of a 10 week quarter and I'm loopy. It's been a quarter of lots and lots of meetings, a pre-tenure review, manuscript copy-editing, and chemotherapy. I'm ready for the Spring.


Meredith and I have been singing Kate Bush's "Babushka" to each other. I don't know why.


I'm going to buy four sheets of drywall, some drywall screws, some seam tape, and some electrical boxes. Yes, more bathroom demolition this week. I've got to move the wiring for the old, nasty flourescent ceiling light over to the wall for a new light fixture. Check me out, trying to define a "new" Asian American masculinity. *wink*

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Man and a Fish

A man had fallen on his back and dreamt a long time. There were dreams of foxes. There were dreams of blue eggs and cats licking batter off their paws. When a man comes to dream a long time, he sees things accutely.

The ice hums. The auroras yawn and unfurl. The waxy bills of seabirds drip into the sky. The world ribbons.

Seeing the man on his back, dreaming, a fish had jumped from the lake. They stared and stared.

"Who are you that would stare at my dreaming?" asked the man.
"Who are you that would question my looking?" replied the fish.

Thus the man thought the fish was his dream and the fish likewise. They stared in their dreaming. Icebergs calved into the ocean.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bad Pedagogy at Home Depot

After a two-hour workout, I decided to meet Meredith at the Home Depot so we could learn how to tile our bathroom. I was tired, sore, and hungry, so my brain was translating the aluminum bleacher's texture at the talk site as doubly uncomfortable.

Anyway, Home-Depot-Tile-Guy arrived and removed two largish plastic soda bottles from a grocery bag. I got worried after he had done that because that meant he was going to teach for a long time. He then basically asked the twelve of us seated on the benches if we had any questions.

Uh . . . yeah? Lots? Maybe you should direct the order of your talk a little better?

So then insane-million-question-lady-in-the-front-row starts asking questions about her house, how to build a shower, how to tile a jacuzzi, how to tile the underside of her car, how to tile her cat. I mean, SHUT UP!!!! Insane-million-question-lady-in-the-front-row kept going on and on. When people had their own questions, insane-million-question-lady-in-the-front-row would cut them off, throw in a question, REALIZE that it wasn't related to the topic at hand, and then proceed to rephrase a question so it would fit her problem. Half the time she didn't even know what topic we were on. The other people on the bleachers were rolling their eyes. If I had hair on my head, I'd have pulled it out.

We ended up leaving the session early, but the damage had been done. I'd been put in a foul mood.

This is for the insane-million-question-lady-in-the-front-row:

Do-it-yourself is not for people who need to work on life skills first.

And this is for the Home-Depot-Tile-Guy:

1. Have a planned trajectory for your talk
2. Allow for questions if they're on topic. If they're not, politely tell the questioner that you'd be happy to speak with them after the session.
3. Keep the session on time.
4. Actually DEMONSTRATE how to tile instead of giving us product pitches.

(pissy mode off)


Students wrote pantoums in my poetry class. Funny form. The danger of it is you've really really really got to have some damn fine lines worth hearing more than once.

They're writing ghazals now. I hope Agha Shahid approves wherever he is.

The last two forms will be the villanelle and the sestina. Please give me the strength.


The last of the job candidates comes on Monday. I hear somewhere some school's conducting six searches in the same department. Talk about cruelty! One's hard enough!


PJ Harvey is in heavy rotation on the iPod.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Since EVERYONE knows the secret already . . .

New Issues Press will be publishing Jon Pineda's second manuscript. It won the Green Rose prize and will be released in March, 2008.

Make sure to get Jon drunk on Gin and tonic when you see him. It's a hoot.

Congrats Bro!

RE: The News/Secret

Someone's already let the cat out of the bag . . . I'll still not divulge until I see an "official announcement," but if you already know, I'm sure you're smiling.


Jerry the plumber came by and told me a harrowing story about a dog he had given up for adoption after he could no longer take care of her. Turns out that the dog was a pit bull mix and was blind as a bat. Also turned out that after he had given her up, she had been adopted by a family with a little boy. One day the little boy was drowning in the pool. The dog heard the boy, dove into the pool, and saved him.

Meanwhile, I was writing a check for plumbing services . . .


I'm on the verge of writing again. I can feel it. I've been on break for a few months, which is my typical pattern. AWP usually recharges my batteries. Hopefully I can get stuff done before then.


I busted out my chainsaw again. Now that I'm about 95% at my normal strength and speed, I can pick up the machine and cut back some of the trees that fell in the previous wind storms. Yesterday I spent about an hour cleaning up the disaster in the front yard.

Did I mention that homeownership sucks?

Monday, February 05, 2007

I have some news

. . . which I wish I could share. I'll say this much: the news is good.

I suck. Believe me, you'll be happy when you hear about it.


We have completely gutted the master bathroom. I've learned a few new things 'bout plumbing, too. I've learned lots of things about wax toilet rings, toilet flanges, couplings, and L joints.

Meredith took great pleasure in tearing down the box for the flourescent light. She also rejoiced as she peeled back the nasty orange carpet. Like I said, we had carpet in our master bathroom. That issue has been remedied.

Now we've got to figure out why the shower's still leaking before we sand blast the shell. Sorry to be boring you with homeowner crap. It's been on my mind lately.


There's something about getting a manuscript picked up that stimulates new creativity. It's almost like you try to fill the void vacated by that previous obsession. This past year after hearing about my 2nd manuscript, I got fired up about a new project and wrote lots of newer pieces. I'm only talking 'bout this now 'cause I just did some paper work for a grant I'm applying for. Anyway, all told, this new project has 'bout twelve poems so far. More will come. I can feel them churning in the back of my brain.


I can't wait for AWP!

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I made an oopsie today. A clerical error, to be precise. It seems Furious Lullaby has moved along quite nicely in a particular contest held by a particular press and I neglected to inform them of the manuscript's latest status. I received a notification about this happening and I turned beet red upon hearing the news.

I'm very embarassed by the whole thing and I profusely apologized to the press. I'm usually quite good about things of this nature, but somehow this one slipped by me.

I hope they don't hold it against me in the future. They're a great press publishing poets whom I admire.


Many job candidates have come and are coming by campus. They're all so good and all so hireable. I've been so preoccupied with these searches . . . clocking in longer hours on campus than normal.

We've got two searches running, and let me tell you, there are so many talented scholars out there these days. I'm so very glad I'm not in the job search this year. More power to my friends who are on the hunt.


Super Bowl prediction: the Bears and the Colts will score an equal number of points by half time, prompting Prince to perform an extra hour and a half, thus allowing Peyton Manning and Rex Grossman to collaborate on a razor blade endorsement for Mach 6 Razor Blades--the most advanced shaving system consisting of six blades for the closest shave ever, after which several consumers of the new razor will cut arteries and die from severe blood loss.