Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Poem Draft of 2008

First off, three poems in the new issue of Oranges & Sardines. Enjoy!


I Resolve

to shut the door and steer our house from drafts, ruddered
and shifting in its hollow weight. I resolve to steer us clear of rocks.

I will man the crow’s nest and keep my eyes zeroed in
on the graying coast. I resolve to be attentive and not shirk

duty. I resolve to fold laundry, to clean the edges of the baseboards
with the vacuum’s pointed nozzle. I resolve to sparkle. To be

sonorous. To be hearty and heartfelt. I resolve to understand
the aches of everything—your sleeplessness, our dog

with his chattering jowl, the moss on the roof of the house. I swear
I’ll be more lovely. I’ll shine and clink. I’ll ring like a chapel bell’s peal.

I promise to know my chronic bogs more deeply, to be real
in the face of this common adversity lest I sink us

together. If so, may some paleontologist in a future new year
come upon our bones clustered in mud and find us beautiful

clutching each others hands, fetal and serene. May we be sequestered
by some museum as an example of this primitive love.

May we shine, wicked and straight like icicles
in our plastic display cases.
Dear, bring me back. I resolve

to hear your call. There are hungry flowers that tug at my mouth.
Their petals are like the softly furred lobes of a child.

I am not a resolute man and my collar is haphazard.
It swivels at every flash and beep. Keep me still.

My brain’s on a constant go. Put your hand here
on my heart and tell me to promise. Feel it pulse. Feel it slow.


Thanks to Erika Meitner for this prompt. Jotted this down quickly after the initial idea that I needed to repeat an idea/image.


My real New Years Resolutions:

1. To be a better husband and father.

2. Get more sleep.

3. Be a more "active" writer/poet--if I sliced up the usage of my hours when L. is asleep, I bet I'll find plenty of time to write, submit, and edit.

4. To eat better--I've been in a hurry lately and that's done damage to my diet.

5. To slow down in all things, but especially in the way that I relate to people.


Current Spins:

Eef Barzelay.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Placeholder Poem


The falcon is directed by an arm,
flies into the sky and does not return.
The falconer stands astonished,
dangling the leather hood. A little
wine, some mild laughing, and the king
forgets, but the falconer lies in bed
staring at the ceiling or the plate
of stars at the bare window.

Then in the dark there is a sound,
and the bird has returned to him,
knowing the way by night, flying in
to the falconer’s chamber. Proud
as a cat it drops the prey: a debt.
It looks at the man with one eye,
speaks in one of the falcon
dialects, unable to express
where it has been as it toured the sky.
Did it follow above the lake,
the village, forest and mountain?
Does it recall

By night a forgotten name
will rise to the unfortunate
who stood there silent and foolish
by day. The falcon knows the falconer
with both its eyes. Like memory, it
returned when it was expected.
Like memory it is a weight on the arm,
missed sorely when it is missing.

--Laura Jensen from Memory.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

RIP Eartha Kitt

Farewell and purr!

The de la Paz Ski Lodge: Dec. 24

The de la Paz Ski Lodge: Dec. 24
Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
This one's sort of a "before" picture. It's since snowed an additional 8 inches.

The stairway is now a bobsled chute

The de la Paz ski lodge: Dec. 25

The de la Paz ski lodge: Dec. 25
Originally uploaded by odelapaz.

The de la Paz ski lodge: Dec. 25

The de la Paz ski lodge: Dec. 25
Originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree!
Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
Happy Holidays, all!


A quiet Christmas eve and day. I spent time shoveling snow, running the dog, working on the shop/basement storage, and hanging out with the family.

We watched ¿QuĂ© he hecho yo para merecer esto?. I must admit I fell asleep during the movie, not because it was boring but because I had woken up early and lately I can't start a movie at 9PM without falling asleep.


It's been snowing the past 11 days which has created over 3 feet of accumulated snow. Photos later today.


Current spins: These Brooklyn Vegan MP3 Christmas Songs

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nerd Love

The new X-Men Origins: Wolverine trailer:


It could be really good or a load of crap.


Really, it doesn't matter. I'll still see it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
By Tina Roth Eisenberg


Happy Winter Solstice!


My poor parents are stuck in Sea-Tac airport. :-(


So glad I'm not traveling. So glad.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

iPod Divination: A Writing Prompt

Take your MP3 Player, put it on shuffle, and shuffle through the first five songs.

Now write a poem using something from two of the titles, something from three of the songs' lyrics, and one thematic concern from a song.

Here are my songs:

The Primitives, "Way Behind Me."
The Innocence Mission, "My Waltzing Days Are Over/Minta's Waltz"
Daft Punk, "Da Funk/Dadftendirekt" (WTF?!)
Billy Bragg & Wilco, "Christ For President"
Of Montreal, "Art Snob Solutions"


Ha! I'm in trouble!


Clearly, I should be writing instead of playing on the internet.

Through the Window

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
He can barely hold himself up to look out the window now and he was a bit startled by all the snow.


So I'm telling myself that I'm going to start a long poem . . . only problem is what the hell do I want to write about for several poetic pages?

Magic Time & Space Bending Balloon

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Nothing Much is New in the Snow

It is the first time that “poetry’s old-fashioned praise,” as Robert Frost called it, will be featured at the ceremony since Bill Clinton's second swearing in back in 1997.

Alexander, 45, would be only the fourth poet to read at a swearing in after Frost, who read at John F. Kennedy’s in 1961; Maya Angelou, who read at Clinton’s in 1993; and Miller Williams, who read in 1997, according to government officials.

Thrilled that Elizabeth will be reading.


My parents are driving up today. Our region's been blanketed by snow and there have been multiple accidents on the freeways, so I'm a little concerned. Anyway, I've been busy tending to their new house. Mostly, though, I've been living. I've been enjoying my vacation even though I have mountains of work to get to.


I'll get to my literary stuff soon. I just need a break. I promise. Another round of submissions must go out and I want to get the manuscript up and running for the January deadlines.

Current spin:

Chad Vangaalen not only plays instruments, he is also a visual artist and he animated this video himself. This bit is from an earlier album. I've been listening to Soft Airplane

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oliver's Top 5 Albums of 2008

I know there are lots of lists out in web-space that are doing the exact thing that I'm doing. That's okay. It was fun to puzzle over this small list. In doing so, I came to the realization that honestly, it wasn't a great year for albums. Mind you, there are some great albums out there, but I found that there are a lot of artists who put out a fantastic single but the rest of the album couldn't hold up.

I didn't consider genre when I came up with this list. It's merely a list of what I've been playing quite frequently. And I acknowledge that some albums came out earlier than others which might unfairly weight my choice. Yes, I took that into consideration.

So, without further delay, here are Oliver's top 5 albums from 2008 based on the play count on my iTunes:

5. Girl Talk Feed the Animals. The link is to Greg Gillis (Mr. Girl Talk himself) demonstrating his mash-up skills using a track by Elvis Costello. This album made the top 5 because I didn't get tired of listening to it. Listening was always a joyous endeavor--there'd be snippets of tracks from Journey, AC/DC, No Doubt, Nirvana . . . on and on. What happens when you throw a party and everyone comes? You get this album.

4. Shearwater Rook. Gorgeously depressing music that reminded me of another fine band, Talk Talk . . . at least Jonathan Meiburg sounds like Mark Hollis.

3. Okkervil River, The Stand-Ins. Funny, but Jonathan Meiburg used to be in Okkervil River. Anyway, I'm a big fan of "literate" rock albums. This one had a narrative arc that kept me listening.

2b. Juana Molina's Un Dia. Okay, so I was a little surprised that she moved to number two, but I checked the frequency of times played and . . . well this was the second highest played albums on my list. Lovely tapestries of sound, is how I describe this. Think Bjork if Bjork were Argentinian. I often listened to this album when commenting on my students work because of the trance-like state I need to be in in order to slog through the paperwork.

2a. TV on the Radio, Dear Science. Mixing harmonies with crunch guitars, these guys made one heck of an album. Dear Science beat out Un Dia by one album spin. I often listen to this album at the gym and I'm at the gym almost every day, it seems. I love the urgency of this album.

1. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes. Call it a Pacific Northwest bias. I was in love with this album before it was even released when "Winter Hymnal" was making the rounds in the Spring. They definitely sound like Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and that's a good thing.

Honorable Mentions in no order:

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
The Walkmen, You & Me
Brian Eno & David Byrne, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Thanks for the reminder, JG).
Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
Lyrics Born, Everywhere at Once
The Roots, Rising Down
Thao, We Brave Bee Stings
Blind Pilot, 3 Rounds and a Sound
Sigur Ros, Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust
She & Him, Volume One
Santogold, Santogold
Ra Ra Riot, The Rhumb Line
Madlib, WLIB AM - King of the Wigflip
Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue
Cat Power, Jukebox (WAY back at the start of the year)
Beck, Modern Guilt
The Airborne Toxic Event, The Airborne Toxic Event
Black Keys, Attack & Release
Hot Chip, Made in the Dark
Blitzen Trapper, Furr
R.E.M., Accelerate


It was a lean year for Hip-Hop. I can usually think of more Hip-Hop albums that warrant multiple re-spins, but like I said earlier, there were a lot of good Hip-Hop singles, but then the rest of the album would be full of . . . well, crap.


My grading is done! Yay! I'm freed up to . . . well, to write lists of my favorite albums of 2008.


New To Do list:

1. Finish a pedagogy essay
2. Submit poems to three journals
3. Complete grant application
4. Create syllabus for Asian American Lit. class
5. Organize new manuscript and prepare it for submission
6. Caulk the soffit-gap on the underside of my parents' new house
7. Apply poly-seal to parents' garage
8. Install rubber flashing in parents' attic opening
9. Write poems?

*10. Be a dad (#10 trumps all of the above)


Current Spins: Ha! While I was coming up with that list, I was listening to Neil Young's Chrome Dreams

Current Reads: The new Rolling Stone, Native Speaker, and Kimiko Hahn's Earshot.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow days in the country

Yes, it has snowed in the Foothills. Foolishly, I left the hummingbird feeders out and now the sugar water is frozen inside them, making them look, very much, like rubies.


The snow makes it difficult to go to town, though the good people of the county services do plow the road, the snowboarders start heading to the mountain, making the driving slow and treacherous.

We've been having to go to town for the past couple of days to take care of the last bits of school business and dealing with things for my parents' new house. I'll be glad for a break.


Speaking of breaks, it's almost officially the holiday vacation for me. I just have to do my grade calculations.


Larghearted Boy, one of the music blogs I follow (it's listed in the column on the right), is displaying its best of 2008 lists. I love these best of lists because I get introduced to things I wasn't aware of, but I also like the conversations it sparks. So in a post or two I'll make my top five albums of 2008 list, just for show.


I still owe y'all a post on my manuscript thoughts, but I've been dealing with other people's poems for awhile--


Current Spins:

AND . . . The Roots. Talk about disparate . . .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To All My Teacher Comrades Out There

Good to see the prof was a sport.

Get your grading done! You can REACH!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Balance & Balancing

First, this creepy Christmas video:


I'm in the home stretch as far as the quarter goes. Poetry portfolios are piling up, but I can grade them fairly quickly. All in all, a great pair of classes and a solid bunch of students.


I booked my flight to St. Louis, MO for the River Styx at Duffy's reading. I'll also be reading at SIU Carbondale. I'll be in that part of the world from January 19th to the 21st.

Then it's off again to the Midwest for AWP.

Then AGAIN in March for the Good Thunder Reading Series.

I'm glad I'm staying put for the holidays.


So about my manuscript-making commentary. I'm so glad a lot of you have chimed in and have sent me e-mails.

I've forgotten to mention that I'm a big fan of balance. It's a principle that relies not only on my intuition but on the poems I've written. It also may determine whether I'll be writing more poems for a collection.

Anchors, to me, are poems that I use to force balance in a collection. I've already talked about long poems or multi-sectioned poems in previous posts. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention titles as anchors. A title can suggest a context, linkage, a chronology. Kingdom, Phyla, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species . . .

So looking at my tentative titles in the previous post, I've got a lot of poems with similar titles. Now, I could certainly section 'em off, but what I'm leaning towards doing is distributing them. I don't think I'd be interested in reading a book that has a section where every poem starts with "Self Portrait. . . " All those "Self Portrait" poems are narratives, too, while the Childhood poems are pretty lyrical. There's no way I could pull off having those poems cordoned off in separate sections because the transition from one section to the next would be too jarring. So I'll be using the Childhood poems as chronological anchors, placing them at specific intervals in the manuscript--beginning, middle, and ending.

But there's a part of me that wants to disrupt the notion of a chronology, so I think I'll use the fatherhood and self-portrait poems as counter-anchors. I don't want the collection to merely move forward through time.

I'll play with my manuscript order a bit and I'll post my tentative Table of Contents later.


Current Spins: R.E.M., all their I.R.S. records catalog.

Current Reads: Student Portfolios and Thesis Projects. Yay!

It's a Bear Market.

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

R.I.P. Odetta

Odetta's rendition of "Water Boy."


Had a big party at the homestead. I "brewed" my homemade chili and my mother fried her famous eggrolls. Other folks brought a variety of foods. All told, I think we had over 40 people over at our place. Good times.


My family was very excited about the de la Hoya vs. Pacquiao fight.

And while I was interested in the fight for mostly cultural reasons, I could not bring myself to shell out the $55 needed for the cable package. Still, I've been getting text messages from friends and some family about the fight.

He is the first Filipino and Asian boxer to win four world titles in different weight divisions. He took over as the Ring Magazine pound for pound number one ranked boxer in the world on June 9, 2008 after Floyd Mayweather, Jr. announced his retirement from boxing.


I'll post more on my manuscript structuring philosophies/thoughts. It's the weekend and I need a break.


Current spins: Blackstar f. Common.

Current reads: Jack Gilbert's The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992.


Ha! WV=scangon

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Kermit Rocks

Sorry. Couldn't resist this moment of levity:


More thoughts about the 3rd manuscript. Sandra beat me to my next topic which is the use of a long poem to anchor or serve as the fulcrum of a book.

I did this in both my books: Names had two longer poems, one at the opening and one in the middle. Furious Lullaby had two as well, with "Aporia" serving as the spine/fulcrum for the book and "The Devil's Book" serving as the poem that moves the book like a pendulum, pivoting at the fulcrum.

I'm in the middle of writing, what I think will be a long poem. A student in my 460 class challenged me to follow through with one of my infamous Rube Goldberg poems. So I had to write this poem that reconciled all these disparate elements--an indigenous bird, the word "alphabet," a neighborhood cat, the word "condom," the use of twine as a psychological image. Anyway, I wrote a many-sectioned poem which I may expand because it touches on all the things I had been writing about.


Sue's requested that I post some poems here, but many of them are either out or forthcoming. I can, however, give you the titles of poems I think fit manuscript 3 arranged according to thematic lumps:

Self Portrait Poems
"Self Portrait Besides a Dead Chestnut Horse"
"Self Portrait with Taxidermy"
"Self Portrait in My Mother's Shoes"
"Self Portrait as a Small Town"
"Self Portrait with What Remains"
"Self Portrait on Good Friday"
"Self Portrait with Schlitz, a Pickup, and the Snake River"
"Self Portrait Descending Slowly into the Atlantic Ocean"

Syllogism Poems
"The Surgical Theater as Spirit Cabinet"
"Ablation as the Creation of Adam"
"Insomnia as Transfiguration"
"Ghost Hunting at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium as Physiography"
"Autumn Scene as Lullaby"
"Colony Collapse Disorder in Honey Bees as Eschatology"

End of the World Poems
"Eschatology Through a Confluence of Trees"
"Eschatology on Interstate 84 at 70mph"
"Eschatology in Five Acres"

Fatherhood Poems
"The Boy with the Fiddle in a Crowded Square"
"Prayer for What Won't Happen"
"No One Sleeps Through the Night"
"In Defense of Small Towns"
"Autumn Song in Four Variations"

Childhood Poems
"When I was Born"
"At the Time of My Youth"
"And When I Grew Up"
"At the Time of My Death"
"How I Learned Quiet"
"Sticks and Stones"
"The Poet at Ten"
"Cussing in the Playground"

That's 31 poems in various states of completion. I've got a few I've left out for now because I'm still trying to figure out how to integrate them.

My first thought would be to look at the "How I Learned Quiet" poem and maybe take my cues from that.

Sorry, gears are clicking and I'm thinking aloud. If this bores you, I can talk about video games. ;-)


Speaking of video games, a few that I've recently played incorporate a moral component. I've been playing Fable II and the way your character is perceived determines courses in the game. The same is true for my latest obsession, Fallout 3.

Pop culture, yes, is still culture and it does say something about the society that generates it.


Current Spin: Bon Iver

Current Read: Still Chang Rae Lee's Native Speaker




The list of the NEA Poetry Fellows

Link here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Strays and Straying

A few folks have sent me messages, backchannel, about my manuscript organizing principles. I have a few general ideas that guide me through the assembly of the process, but for the most part I use my gut.

One of the main principles I think about, though, is the tone of the overall manuscript once poems are placed side by side by side. For me, it's great to have a uniform tone because it helps me recognize whether a set of poems belongs to one manuscript or is what I'd consider a stray or something for another book.

However, the uniformity of tone can also be a problem. If you've got a whole bunch of poems that are basically doing the same thing, then the inertia of the book isn't going to take the reader forward. Hell, if I read a book of poems where the tone of the book is "one note," then I know I'll be bored and I'll put the thing down.

Therein lies the problem with my third manuscript. I'm at the juncture where I've identified that I indeed have enough poems for a third book. I am, however, aware of the fact that the poems I've currently got are all in the "minor keys." While I can see this as an opportunity to generate newer and perhaps more tonally diverse poems, I'm already weary of the process it took to generate work.

Another principle I think about is point of view, which ties in fairly closely with my idea about tone. Currently, the point of view of the manuscript is 1st person with an occasional foray into 3rd limited. The 3rd limited moments are to be understood as the same character as the 1st person pov. At no time does the manuscript's pov waiver from the subject which, I believe, is creating some problems--the character is not advancing the narrative because he is not changing. A big F'ing problem, since as I stated earlier, the narrative's loosely biographical. So perhaps I should take up skydiving, bungee jumping, or take up water polo.

As for my principles on a narrative--while it worked to have a fairly traditional/linear organization for Names that ain't gonna work for this new project. And you could also argue that Furious Lullaby had a linear narrative. The first section of Furious Lullaby built up to the middle section which was a "dark night of the soul" section, followed by a section of clarity (not resolution). So what's the narrative of book three? Maybe this is the problem. I don't know. Here's what I do know: when I started the poems for this manuscript my life had undergone some major changes. I got a new job. I moved. I got married. I got cancer (minor cancer, mind you, but still), and I had a child. Somewhere in the chaos of my life change, there's a story I as writer have a responsibility to craft.

And speaking of responsibility, my baby's sleeping close to my stomach under my hoodie sweatshirt. Fatherhood has added urgency to my art.


It's the end of the quarter and my students are spent. I am spent. I taught two very unique classes--one on short prose (prose poems, short-shorts, and lyric essays), and one on traditional forms.

This past quarter was quite taxing on me as a reader because on the one hand, I taught a class which asked the writer to eschew the principle of the line (but not the sentence) as musical, temporal, visual, and narrative guide, and on the other hand, the other class celebrated lineation as a musical, temporal, visual, and narrative guide.

So I was of two brains when I commented on student work and found myself quite tired after marathon sessions of commentary.


The moving of my parents is in full effect. I got the keys to their house and checked it out. It's a cute little rambler. It's all one level with, perhaps, a step or two up from the garage. Nothing that would cause my parents' knees to give out. The former owners have left a lovely cedar play fortress in the backyard. The backyard still needs to be fenced off because there's a wee drop off into a green zone.

Lovely place for L. to spend his days, though. The house is in a clean, quiet neighborhood close to my work place and my gym.

Ah! Convenience! My parents are going to save my sanity and my pocketbook (no babysitter fees!).

Current Spin: Laura Marling--"Failure"

Current Read: Still reading Chang Rae Lee's Native Speaker

Current Xbox Game: Fallout 3 (I am an unapologetic gamer).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

I am here. I am here.

Juana Molina's song "La Verdad."


I've been thinking about this third book. Its mechanics. The way it ticks. There are high places and there are low places but there are few places in between.

And that's the problem with it at the moment. That at times it takes itself too seriously. That it's much too me. And I'm finding in my edits, that I'm saying "I am here and I am here and I am here" far too much. I suppose that's what happens when you write some moderately confessional long narrative poems.

Strategies for the other books were actually quite easy. In Names, I had a character who wasn't me. So naturally, I could have other characters who also weren't me describe or define the main character. There was distance.

In Furious Lullaby, I had the "you" address. And unlike the common practice in poems that use "you," "you" was not the poet but someone external to the poet. So naturally, it was easier to offer direction/instruction for readers.

But now I'm stuck with lots of these confessional narratives that are lightly veiled in fiction, but are certainly about me. Oh what to do?

Ever get tired of listening to yourself?


The academic quarter is drawing to a close and I'm beat. Juggling the teaching gig with the new parental duties is tough. Never mind that I also have to write as part of my "job." There is never enough time. There never was before I became a dad. I'm feeling mildly squeezed.

The kid's damn cute, though.


Mere's birthday is tomorrow. Happy birthday, love!


Current Spins: See the above Juana Molina track as well as all her albums. Great grading music.

Current Reads: Chang Rae Lee's Native Speaker for a class I'll be teaching.