Monday, April 30, 2007


I have, somehow, caught a cold. It's really weird. I don't usually get sick around this time of year, and I usually don't get sick this frequently. My throat got that scratchy/tickly feeling 'round Thursday and it went on from there. Come Saturday evening, I've got a full blown chest congestion. I woke up this morning and I sounded like Barry White . . . or maybe Tom Waits.


That said, I stupidly mowed the lawn this morning, even though I felt like crap. Whenever I see a lawn that's wild with dandelions, I feel the urge to cut them back. Our lawn was covered! COVERED!!


More springy things. We're getting these tiny yellow birds to visit our feeders after a long season of sparrows, sparrows, and more sparrows. It's good to see a bit more variety. I haven't looked up the names for the birds yet. We've also got lots and lots of woodpeckers visiting our suet. Golden Flickers, Hairy Woodpeckers, etc., all come down to visit. For awhile, we had a Golden Flicker pecking our house until I made a mobile out of blank CD's which I strung from a beam near the pecking site.

Also, our Japanese Maple has now taken to leaf as have our apple trees.

What's more, sun. We've had a succession of sunny days which has been glorious. Only problem is it's been hard to do work and, as I've complained earlier, we've still got 5-6 weeks of school left over here.


AWP Panel proposals are due Tuesday. Get 'em in. Remember, you can only be on two panels and three proposals. I had forgotten that fact and had to back out of one.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I am addicted to magazines

So, I now subscribe to several periodicals: Rollingstone, Paste,The New Yorker, Poets & Writers . . . and I'm not counting the journals. Meredith gets Vanity Fair which I browse, and we jointly get Budget Travel, a gift from my parents. I can't keep up! I swear, Paste sends me a magazine a week! The cool thing about Paste, though, is that each issue includes a sampler CD. 11 issues, 11 CD's, $24 . . . that's not bad. Anyway, thought I'd let you in on my mania.


My English 460 Class: The Historic Collection, is shaping up with some good ideas. It's a multi-genre class, so I need a sample of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction . . . maybe even plays. I'll be teaching this class in the Fall which, as I stated earlier, I came up with on the spur of the moment when I was surrounded by four of my colleagues who wanted to know immediately what I was teaching next year (you know who you are if you're reading this).

Here's what I've got so far:

Nicole Cooley The Afflicted Girls
Davis McCoombs Ultima Thule
Claudia Rankine Plot
Martha Collins Blue Front


Annie Proulx Accordian Crimes
Bharati Mukherji Holder of the World
Julian Barnes Flaubert's Parrot

Anyway, I know there's lots of historical novels, but are there specifically collections of short stories that use a historical point as a unifying device? How about a book of sustained short essays about a historical event?


As I mentioned earlier, I'll be heading down to Whidbey Island to read for Burning Word. Fellow bloggers Peter and Shin Yu will be there.

I'll be here:

Paul Gillie Stage, Main Barn
Session 1: 10:00 am - 11:10 am

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
I just finished week 4 of the quarter . . . and I'm already beat. I sort of feel like . . . like a goat in a tree . . .

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Four Adirondack Chairs

. . . were in our carport yesterday. I assembled all of 'em last night while watching NBA Playoff basketball. They were made out of cedar, so the whole living room smelled like cedar trees. There's something special about an Adirondack chair--they make me want to sit and do nothing for hours on end.


It's the end of the fourth week of the quarter . . . six more weeks to go. Oh. My. God.


I've been reading a bunch of poems lately, like Paige's book. I'm also reading Julianna's new book.


I had to blurt out what I'll be teaching for next year. Off the top of my head: "The Historical Collection." So . . . help. Got any poetry/short story/ non-fiction pieces that deal with a historical event? I've got Nicole Cooley's The Afflicted Girls in mind. Got any others? Anyway, this sort of syncs up with my own current poetry project.


My students hate writing in iambic pentameter.

Cue: Ghoulish chortle.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mowing the Lawn to Poetry

I received my iPod filled with poems From the Fishouse. A few statements:

1) There needs to be a volume control on two-cycle engines.

2) Contemporary poetry is alive, well, and kicking ass.


Saturday, I made my way down to Seattle to see a few of the Cave Canem poets read at the Seattle Poetry Festival. The wonderful Lauri Conner, Gloria Burgess, Camille Dungy, and Adrian Matejka were in the house.

They gave a splendid reading and after, Lauri was kind enough to invite us over to here wonderful house. I did take pictures, but they didn't come out very well.

Also alas, I couldn't be two places at once, so I had to choose between Bruce Beasley and Suzanne Paola, my WWU colleagues, and the CC poets. Bruce, Suzanne, if you're reading this, I'm sorry!

Also alas alas, I missed hearing Peter and Jeannine.


Heading over to Whidbey Island on the 28th to read at the Burning Word poetry festival:

Paul Gillie Stage, Main Barn
Session 1: 10:00 am - 11:10 am
Karen Bonaudi, MC
Toni Bajado
Bruce Beasley
A Pair of Pearls from Portland:
Cindy Williams Gutierrez
Willa Schneberg
Oliver de la Paz

Yeah, I know. Pretty damn early.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Kazim Ali is Dangerous

Here's a forwarded e-mail note from Kazim:

Hi all,

Please read the below and forward widely to whomever
you think should read:

Poetry is Dangerous
by Kazim Ali

On April 19, after a day of teaching classes at
Shippensburg University, I went out to my car and
grabbed a box of old poetry manuscripts from the front
seat of my little white beetle and carried it across
the street and put it next to the trashcan outside
Wright Hall. The poems were from poetry contests I had
been judging and the box was heavy. I had previously
left my recycling boxes there and they were always
picked up and taken away by the trash department.

A young man from ROTC was watching me as I got into my
car and drove away. I thought he was looking at my car
which has black flower decals and sometimes inspires
strange looks. I later discovered that I, in my dark
skin, am sometimes not even a person to the people who
look at me. Instead, in spite of my peacefulness, my
committed opposition to all aggression and war, I am a
threat by my very existence, a threat just living in
the world as a Muslim body.

Upon my departure, he called the local police
department and told them a man of Middle Eastern
descent driving a heavily decaled white beetle with
out of state plates and no campus parking sticker had
just placed a box next to the trash can. My car has
NY plates, but he got the rest of it wrong. I have two
stickers on my car. One is my highly visible faculty
parking sticker and the other, which I just don’t have
the heart to take off these days, says “Kerry/Edwards:
For a Stronger America.”

Because of my recycling the bomb squad came, the state
police came. Because of my recycling buildings were
evacuated, classes were canceled, campus was closed.
No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark
body. No. Not because of my dark body. Because of his
fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the
culture of fear, mistrust, hatred, and suspicion that
is carefully cultivated in the media, by the
government, by people who claim to want to keep us

These are the days of orange alert, school lock-downs,
and endless war. We are preparing for it, training for
it, looking for it, and so of course, in the most
innocuous of places—a professor wanting to hurry home,
hefting his box of discarded poetry—we find it.

That man in the parking lot didn’t even see me. He saw
my darkness. He saw my Middle Eastern descent. Ironic
because though my grandfathers came from Egypt, I am
Indian, a South Asian, and could never be mistaken for
a Middle Eastern man by anyone who’d ever met one.

One of my colleagues was in the gathering crowd,
trying to figure out what had happened. She heard my
description—a Middle Eastern man driving a white
beetle with out of state plates—and knew immediately
they were talking about me and realized that the box
must have been manuscripts I was discarding. She
approached them and told them I was a professor on the
faculty there. Immediately the campus police officer
said, “What country is he from?”

“What country is he from?!” she yelled, indignant.

“Ma’am, you are associated with the suspect. You need
to step away and lower your voice,” he told her.

At some length several of my faculty colleagues were
able to get through to the police and get me on a cell
phone where I explained to the university president
and then to the state police that the box contained
old poetry manuscripts that needed to be recycled. The
police officer told me that in the current climate I
needed to be more careful about how I behaved. “When I
recycle?” I asked.

The university president appreciated my distress about
the situation but denied that the call had anything to
do with my race or ethnic background. The spokesperson
of the university called it an “honest mistake,” not
referring to the young man from ROTC giving in to his
worst instincts and calling the police but referring
to me who made the mistake of being dark-skinned and
putting my recycling next to the trashcan.

The university’s bizarrely minimal statement lets
everyone know that the “suspicious package” beside the
trashcan ended up being, indeed, trash. It goes on to
say, “We appreciate your cooperation during the
incident and remind everyone that safety is a joint
effort by all members of the campus community.”

What does that community mean to me, a person who has
to walk by the ROTC offices every day on my way to my
own office just down the hall—who was watched, noted,
and reported, all in a day’s work? Today we gave in
willingly and whole-heartedly to a culture of fear and
blaming and profiling. It is deemed perfectly
appropriate behavior to spy on one another and police
one another and report on one another. Such behaviors
exist most strongly in closed and undemocratic and
fascist societies.

The university report does not mention the root cause
of the alarm. That package became “suspicious” because
of who was holding it, who put it down, who drove
away. Me.

It was poetry, I kept insisting to the state policeman
who was questioning me on the phone. It was poetry I
was putting out to be recycled.

My body exists politically in a way I can not prevent.
For a moment today, without even knowing it, driving
away from campus in my little beetle, exhausted after
a day of teaching, listening to Justin Timberlake on
the radio, I ceased to be a person when a man I had
never met looked straight through me and saw the
violence in his own heart.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back from SF

I'm back from San Francisco where I had a wonderful time at USF. It was so good to see Barbara Jane and Oscar there.

I also met fellow participants Paige Ackerson-Kiely, Daniel Alarcon, Ann Joslin Williams, and my old friend Michael Meija.

It was a great conference. I didn't get a chance to sniff around San Francisco, but Paige, Mike, and myself wandered around Haight and Ashbury a bit.

Later, we met up with Meredith's sister and her partner.

All told, it was a good but extremely brief visit. I need to go back sometime in the summer and have a real vacation.


I'm still recovering from the sorrow of losing a friend and the madness of the news from Blacksburg. The world's a strange place.


Thelonious Sphere Monk is looping in iTunes.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pulitzer Prizes

This was sent courtesy of Joseph Legaspi:


Columbia University today announced the 2007 Pulitzer Prizes,
awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board


Public Service --
The Wall Street Journal

Breaking News Reporting --
Staff of The Oregonian, Portland

Investigative Reporting --
Brett Blackledge of The Birmingham (Ala.) News

Explanatory Reporting --
Kenneth R. Weiss, Usha Lee McFarling and Rick Loomis of the Los Angeles Times

Local Reporting --
Debbie Cenziper of The Miami Herald

National Reporting --
Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe

International Reporting --
The Wall Street Journal Staff

Feature Writing --
Andrea Elliott of The New York Times

Commentary --
Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Criticism --
Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly

Editorial Writing --
Editorial Board of the New York Daily News

Editorial Cartooning --
Walt Handelsman of Newsday, Long Island, N.Y.

Breaking News Photography --
Oded Balilty of The Associated Press

Feature Photography --
Renée C. Byer of The Sacramento Bee


Fiction --
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf)

Drama --
Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire

History --
The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff (Alfred A. Knopf)

Biography --
The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate (Doubleday)

Poetry --
Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin)

General Nonfiction --
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (Alfred A. Knopf)

Sound Grammar by Ornette Coleman, recording released September 12, 2006.


Ray Bradbury and John Coltrane

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Phebus Etienne: 1966-2007

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you, friends, about the passing of a beautiful person. I met Phebus in New York through our friend Joseph Legaspi. It was clear that she was all aura. All sparrow. If her name were a place, the sun at every hour in this country, would beam just so, and the bodies touched by those beams would shimmer.

She passed away at home on March 31, 2007, at the young age of 41 due to a heart attack.

Funeral Arrangements

Wake: Andrew Torregrossa & Sons (funeral home)
2265 Flatbush Avenue (between Filmore & Avenue "R")
Brooklyn , NY 11234
Friday , April 13th, 4pm thru 9pm

Mass: St. Gregory's Catholic Church
St. Johns Place & Brooklyn Ave.
Brooklyn, New York
Saturday April 14th, 9:15 am

Internment:Rosedale & Rosehill Cemetary, 355 East Linden Avenue, Linden, NJ 07036, 908.862.4990.

Visit January, Tayari, Tara, Amanda, John, Mendi, and Reggie for more about Phebus.

I leave for you the title poem from her manuscript:


After I buried my mother, I would see her often,
standing at the foot of my bed
in a handmade nightgown she trimmed with lace
whenever I was restless with fever or menstrual cramps.
I was not afraid, and if her appearance was a delusion,
it only confirmed my heritage.
Haitians always have relationships with the dead.
Each Sabbath, I lit a candle that burned for seven days.
I created an altar on the top shelf of an old television cart.
It was decorated with her Bible, a copy of The Three Musketeers,
freesia, delphinium or lilies if they were in season.
My offering of her favorite things didn’t conjure
conversations with her spirit as I had hoped.
But there was a dream or two where she was happy,
garnets dangling from her ears,
and one night she shuffled some papers,
which could have been history of my difficult luck
because she said, “We have to do something about this.”

She hasn’t visited me for months.
I worry that my life is an insult to her memory,
that she looks in and turns away
because I didn’t remain a virgin until I married,
because my debts will remain unforgiven.

Lightning tattoos the elms as florists make
corsages to honor living mothers.
I think of going to mass at St. Anne, where she was startled
by the fire of wine when she received her first communion.
But I remember that first Mother’s Day without her,
how it pissed me off to watch a seventy year-old daughter
escort her mom to sip from the chalice.

Yesterday, as the rain fell warm on the azaleas,
I planted creeping phlox on my mother’s grace,
urging the miniature flowers to bloom larger next year
like the velvet petals of bougainvillea that covered our neighbor’s gate.
I crave a yard to plant lemon and mango trees as she did.
Tonight I mold dumplings for pumpkin stew,
add a dash of vinegar for spice as she taught me,
sprinkle my palms with flour before rolling the dough between them.
I will thread my needle and embroider a coconut tree on a place mat,
keep stitching her presence in my life.

Phebus Etienne

Saturday, April 07, 2007

White Noise and the Sound of Key Clicks

Much of my spare change gets spent on books and CD's (even if I don't have that much change to spare). Recently acquired CD's include the new Yeah Yeah Yeah's album, the new Modest Mouse, Tom Waits's "Orphans" triple album, and Kristen Hersh's new album. I guess I'm looking for a spark. Something that'll permit me to park my ass in front of my monitor and endure a full dosage of my own personality. Sometimes I can't stand my mind.

When I wrote "Furious Lullaby" I listened almost exclusively to instrumental music. And I'm not talking about the usual Jazz or Classical selections. I listened to weird things, collections of noises, unconventional instrumental groups. I listened to stuff from The Rachel's, The Dirty Three, Japancake, and Godspeed You Black Emperor. I couldn't listen to music that had discernible lyrics because they somehow end up in what I was writing at the moment. Melody, however, I'd allow into my writing, even if it's a borrowed melody from a musical piece. But it's not like I'm conscious of the melody when it comes as I'm writing. It's just there. It's background. It's something that allows me to keep moving.

Coffeehouses were great for some of my earlier stuff. Thinking back on it, I think the coffeehouse setting was useful because my first book was populated. There were actual people in the collection. It was a work that was about people. The second book . . . very few people. Mostly the speaker and "you." Which makes sense as I sit here, trying to figure out how to move on to the next project.

Ah yes, the next project. I know what it is and what it's becoming. That may be part of the problem. When intent overwhelms the creative process, can there be no room for spontaneity? Say I want to go in one direction with a piece, will my intent forbid me from taking alternate routes?

All this leads me back to music. I suppose listening to music allows me the possibility of a change in direction. At this juncture in the project, I don't have a great deal of perspective. I'm 20 something poems into it. And the poems are all clearly part of the same "orchestral sequence," but I'm unsure of the transitions between pieces. Maybe a tune will present the bridges between pieces. Maybe I should stop thinking about my process and start writing . . .

Currently, Tom Waits is howling. Tom Waits, are you my angel?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Quote of the day

--Everything written symbols can say has already passed by. They are like tracks left by animals. That is why the masters of meditation refuse to accept that writings are final. The aim is to reach true being by means of those tracks, those letters, those signs--but reality itself is not a sign, and it leaves no tracks. It doesn't come to us by way of letters or words. We can go toward it, by following those words and letters back to what they came from. But so long as we are preoccupied with symbols, theories and opinions, we fail to reach the principle.
--But when we give up symbols and opinions, arent we left in the utter nothingness of being?

KIMURA KYUHO, Kenjutsu Fushigi Hen [On the Mysteries of Swordsmanship] 1768

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cover Image Redux

Thanks for all your feedback, dear readers. At first glance, my number one choice was image #3. I liked the classical look. It did, however, remind me of a textbook, so I was a little worried about it. As I said earlier, the press preferred image #2. I've sent an e-mail to the press asking them if they could transfer the typeface and by-line formatting from #3 and transpose it to the darker boarder of #2. The project manager liked the idea and sent it over to the design folks, so if and when I get some new images, I'll post 'em here.


Just finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Yes, I know it's an Oprah selection. I had it in my shelves before it was picked. Anyway, I have to say that I couldn't put it down. I finished it in two days (I had to eat and exercise so I couldn't finish it in a day).


The first day of the Spring Quarter is now.


I'll be in San Francisco next week, reading for the USF Emerging Writers' Festival. Most of my events will be on the 12th. My reading's at 7:30PM in the Maraschi Room, Fromm Hall. There's also a panel earlier that day at 12:00PM, also in the Maraschi Room, Fromm Hall.

The full schedule is as follows:

SCHEDULE: EMERGING WRITERS' FESTIVAL, APRIL 11-13 On the campus of the University of San Francisco

Wednesday, 11 April, 7:30 p.m., McLaren 252--Reading by poet Paige
Ackerson-Kiely, novelist Michael Mejia and short story writer Daniel

Thursday, 12 April, 12 p.m., Maraschi Room, Fromm Hall--Panel
discussion: "Becoming a Writer." All 5 writers are asked to discuss
their path to writing, publishing, etc. Structure is Q & A format.

Thursday, 12 April, 7:30 p.m., Maraschi Room, Fromm Hall--Reading by
poet Oliver de la Paz and short story writer Ann Joslin Williams.


Concerning the Final Four, I had three of the teams in my bracket (Kansas beat UCLA in my bracket, so I was off by one team). I had G-Town winning the whole thing. Shows you what I know . . . and apologies to Cornshake . . . yes, I had G-Town beating your Luckeyes. I thought they were too young.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My Favorite Feature

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
I love the tile near the toilet. It's got all kinds of colors and swirls.

Anyway, now that I'm done with this project, I can go back to my regular reading/writing schedule. Remodelling used some valuable brain cells, let me tell you. . .

Groovy Pedestal Sink

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.

No more flourescent lighting

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
This is the cavernous space where our ugly flourescent light box used to hang. I moved the wiring from that box over to those lights you see in the lower left hand corner of the picture.

No Storage

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
The problem with pedestal sinks: no storage. We used to have a humongous cabinet, but now we had to resort to buying a little storage box for some of our things. I'm not a fan of the little box between the toilet and the sink, but . . .

By the way, the outlet where my toothbrush is plugged in used to be over where the new side cabinet is.

Our New Bathroom

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
Ta da!