Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dear Long Poem,

Today it is sunny and the pitch of the light strikes my house plant just so. There is a typical sphere of silence in the office and the sleeping toddler clutching my chest breathes warm soft circles into my shirt.

The night was a wreck. There were far to many noises--the window is too close to the chimes. Today, though, is a gift.

I'm thinking about you, long poem. A steady cadence keeps time with my nose. Maybe. Today. Maybe.


Spent all morning playing baby "goalie":

Crawl to book case. Run to book case to stop baby. Crawl from book case to coffee table. Run to coffee table to stop baby from falling. Crawl from coffee table to kitchen. Run to kitchen to stop baby from opening cabinets. Etc..

He's finally asleep, so I can now steal away some quick blog time.


I did manage to get a fair bit of television in today. Managed to watch La Blogotheque's "Take-Away shows." Here's one that's haunting me:

Andrew Bird. "Spare-Oh's," filmed in Montemartre--one of my favorite places in the world.

Friday, January 30, 2009

When Bands Die

The band, The Silver Jews are calling it quits. D.C. Berman has decided that he wants to stop performing music in order to pursue his writing.

I suppose that's okay. As long as it's writing . . .

I, of course, don't feel the same about the Silver Jews like I did about Sleater-Kinney. I was quite sad when they broke up.

Anyway, here's a video of "Slow Education" by the Silver Jews:


Sunny day. Surprisingly sunny.


I've been eating like crap lately. Lots of carbs. Carbs, carbs, carbs. Must be winter. Ugh.


Current Spin: See above.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Work in Progress

So here it is, the first section of a long poem I'm working on:



It'll live here for a day and then it'll "poof."

I may post other sections, but for now here's the opening section. I'm not entirely sure where it'll go in the new manuscript, but it'll be there somewhere. . .


Currently watching tape-delayed coverage of the Australian Open while Lucas naps on my chest.


Gave my students a pop-quiz in my 200 level class. For the most part, everyone bombed the quiz which is proof to me that nobody's reading. So looks like there are more quizzes in their future.


Current Spin:

RZA. Soundtrack from Afro Samurai: Resurrection

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stimulate Me

Singers, actors and dancers can stimulate audiences, but can they stimulate the economy? The authors of the current stimulus package seem to think so — they have included $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $150 million for infrastructure repairs at the Smithsonian.

. . .

"There is absolutely no way this will stimulate the economy," argues Brian Riedl, a senior federal budget analyst for the Heritage Foundation. He believes funding for the NEA — like several other items in the stimulus package — will not grow the economy.


Here's the thing . . . you know a lot about a society by how much they value their art--the memory of its culture, if you will.

The monetary numbers are so bewildering to me, but I'll tell you this--$50 million doesn't scratch what the government's giving to banks, etc. And so many organizations that I care about are hurting.

I'm a little irked by Mr. Riedl's position, and it strikes me as "old thinking." Don't tell me that the Arts don't consist of small businesses that employ thousands/millions of people. And don't tell me that the arts won't stimulate the economy. Please. Value must be placed on those things which create ideas and not merely placed on the consumables. What's more, the arts foster metaphorical thinking--a means towards the connection of synapses. I'm tired of a government and a society that devalues creative thinking. A little love for the arts, please.


Current Spin:

School of Seven Bells. "White Elephant Coat."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike, RIP

John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist of such suburban realist works as “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest,” as well as numerous collections of short stories, poetry and essays, has died at age 76.

AWP Schedule--I'm a Madman

So my schedule is complete and utter madness for AWP.

Here it is:

Wednesday, Feb. 11:

Arrive at Chicago O'Hare--2:30 PM. Check-in--Chicago Hilton.

Thursday, Feb. 12:

Book Signing--SIU Press/Crab Orchard Review Booth--1:00-2:00PM

Friday, Feb. 13:

Pinch-hit moderator for panel, Kundiman Kindles the Flame. Lake Ontario, 8th FL. 12:00-1:15PM.

Go see play: The Seafarer at 7:30PM.

Saturday, Feb. 14:

Present at Panel: Where Yearning Meets Epiphany. Continental A, Lobby Level. 10:30-11:45AM.

Lunch w/AWP Officials. 12PM-?

Present at Panel: More Than a Collection. Juliet 3rd FL. 1:30-2:45PM.

Sunday, Feb. 15:

Depart for Home: Chicago O'Hare--8:30AM

As Promised . . .

. . . the first and last poem of the manuscript in progress.

They're going to live on the blog for half the day and then they'll "poof." One of the poems is being considered and one of the poems is forthcoming.

A lot of the poems are of the same tone and subject matter, hence my decision to title it after the first poem:



Once again, Blogger is killing my line breaks. They're both in couplets, FYI.

The first poem appears before the first section, sort of like the epigraph to the book.

Again, the order of the manuscript is tentative and I may just wind up blowing the whole thing up as I write more pieces, but for now this is what I'm settling on as the two framing poems for the beginning and the ending. The middle's the problem. It's got tonal holes.


Snow again. Light confectioner's sugar dusting, but still annoying and still cold.


My students in my large 70-person lecture class aren't reading. They stare and they glare and they fall asleep. Drastic measures may need to be taken.


Current Spin:

The Tallest Man on Earth. "It Will Follow the Rain."

Monday, January 26, 2009

e-mail cake

e-mail cake
Originally uploaded by allocate1.
Ha ha! Don't order your birthday cakes online, or this will happen.

Manuscript 3 "Wordled"

Wordle: Untitled

Clearly I use too many similes. Something I'll need to fix.

Cold January Days

Of course, I shouldn't complain. The teens as a low is nowhere near negative temperatures, and believe me, I know negative temperatures, having lived in Utica, NY for four years. There's that breaking point where you breathe in and your nostrils freeze together, for example.

I'm just plain tired of the cold and our house is a bit drafty, needing new insulation, windows, etc.. Afterall, it was built in 1977, so it's seen its fair share of winters.

Poor Jake's been hurting his paws on frozen ground, and I think I need to get some doggie shoes for him.


Happy Chinese New Year! I'm a Rat, but I must say, the Year of the Rat wasn't so good. Hail to the Year of the Ox!


So, I'm pretty sure I have the first poem of my manuscript and the last poem of my manuscript down pat. The problem parts are everything in between, but at least I know I've got something.

Here's the dilemma--the voice shifts, and shifts quite profoundly. I have poem after poem of longer narratives that are triggered by a memory and meander into some moment of epiphany.

I wouldn't say, "in opposition to," but seemingly in opposition to those narrative poems are these little lyrical pieces that are roughly a page in length.

How are they unified? Well, they're all fairly autobiographical.

The trick for me, then, is to find a poem that can fuse the styles, which is why I've been muttering about long poems. I think, a long poem would 1) allow for some lyrical and ecstatic language play and 2) unify the narrative through a long meditation.

But how to start. On my trip to St. Louis/Carbondale, I drafted what looks like a first section. I'll tinker a bit more and I may post bits here and there.

I'm interested in G.C. Waldrep's Disclamor and what seems to be a long poem that he's chopped into bits and distributed throughout the collection. He's got this sequence of "Battery" poems which, are pretty blatant stylistic shifts when placed next to the other poems. But he has so many that, collectively, they "right" the momentum of the book.

Ultimately, my concerns are about momentum . . . I've talked so much about the idea of tone and balancing tone, but there also has to be enough significant movement in the tone of a book to move a reader's eyes forward and onward.


In other news, I'm a finalist in something. Which is what it is.


The sun god is up. He's peering over the firs and making large shadows of my house.


Current spin:

Neko Case. "Furnace Room Lullaby." She's got a new album coming.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back from the Midwest

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I feel like I've been on an eating tour of the Midwest.

This is a shot of Hodak's chicken platter which was crispy and tender, but a little under-seasoned for my taste.


Taught my first pair of classes since my reading tour. The students seemed more unprepared than usual. A lot of kids didn't read, so I'm thinking of giving 'em a quiz on the first 220 pages of China Men. If you're reading this, students, you've been warned.


Been thinking about long poems and the problem with 'em. I've been writing these narrative poems where the epiphany or the epiphanic moment happens towards the end and is partially the result of time and distance. The trouble I'm encountering is that the long poem seems to be a long meandering quest for an epiphany and that one can't just launch into an epiphany in a long poem, otherwise what's the point?


Backtracking a bit. Hung out with Rodney Jones, the dude who selected my first book for the Crab Orchard Prize. My god, he's funny. Anyway, it was good reading the newer poems to his class. I'm not the same point I was.

It's funny, but I wrote prose poems, I think, to figure out lineation. Now I think I've figured out my lines and the way I want to use the line.

Current Spins:

Andrew Bird. This isn't from his new album, Noble Beast, but I've provided a link to a streaming broadcast from NPR.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.


I was listening to President Obama take the oath of office as I crossed the Mississippi River from Missouri into Illinois.


Someone mentioned that his speech was in some type of accentual syllabic meter, but it's not scanning that way for me.


I feel like I've been on an eating tour of the Midwest. Whew.

I had fried pickles. Yes, Stacey. I had them. What's scary is that I liked them.


Current Spin:

Cloud Cult--"Everybody Here is a Cloud"

Monday, January 19, 2009


I was tagged by Lee Herrick and Aimee Nezhukumatathil to write 25 Random Things About Myself on Facebook, but was having trouble posting it in my notes so here it goes:

1. I have been to a Whitesnake concert.
2. I own a ninja suit.
3. My favorite ice cream flavor is coffee.
4. I took piano lessons for five years but hardly ever practiced.
5. I used to play tennis everyday but now I haven't played tennis for four years.
6. I used to think "Richard Stands" was an actual person and not the mispronunciation of "For which it stands."
7. I have almost 170 days of music on my iPod.
8. My 4-Runner is almost at 100,000 miles.
9. I still miss my little pug Rosie on occasion.
10. I want a new laptop.
11. I think I'm really good at installing tile and plumbing.
12. My favorite game on the Xbox is currently Fallout 3, but I haven't played for awhile.
13. I wrestled in High School at the 135lb weight class.
14. I once applied for a job working at a corn mill.
15. When I was 10, I spent all my hard-earned summer orchard money on Star Wars figurines.
16. I once drove from LA to Ontario, Oregon in one day.
17. I get a little nauseous before I read in front of an audience.
18. I had a small comic book collection which I've since given away.
19. During little league, I crawled to home and scored the game-winning run.
20. I was an EMT for 2 1/2 years in LA County.
21. I have never given anything up for Lent.
22. It's horrible, but I love corn beef hash for breakfast (I, of course, don't eat it all the time).
23. I got into a couple of fights on the playground in Catholic school.
24. I have the first few lines of the Canterbury Tales memorized in Old English.
25. I helped conduct NASA research on lab rats. It was horrible.


Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
Nap time . . . but this is what I saw today with Adrian Matejka, Stacey Brown, and Marley.


Up on Harriet:

Art is not entertainment, and it is not decor. It is one of the rude fallacies of our time to want to reduce all art forms, and in particular literary arts, to their most facile and elemental role, and so deny their potential to awaken, provoke and elicit our glee at being agents in the construction of meaning. As Martha Nussbaum points out, "We are accustomed by now to think of literature as optional: as great, valuable, entertaining, excellent, but something that exists off to one side of political and economic and legal thought, in another university department, ancillary rather than competitive." We have, she adds, "narrowly hedonistic theories of literary value." Our world---late twentieth century America --- is relentless in its desire to dictate to us what we desire; it wants to assign and to determine how we construct and construe meaning in our lives, it wants to tell us from where our pleasures come. It wants us to believe that only Wealth, Fame and Power (WFP), in some combination or another, are worthwhile goals, because only WFP can confer ---what?--- celebrity.


I've got some time away from home, so I'm going to take this opportunity to patch up the manuscript.


Meredith put me on speaker phone and apparently L. smiled.


I am currently very full. The B & B served a very large hot breakfast. I may need to nap.


Current Spins:

Animal Collective. Love how the digital noise joins up early in the track. The video is just bizarre.

Here in the Gateway to the West

Landed safe and sound in St. Louis. Had two rather uneventful flights--I flew on Frontier Airlines, which I had never heard of until this trip.

I'm at this very cute B & B a few blocks from the Annheuser Busch plant.

I also have this in the freezer of the B & B: Frozen Chocolate Custard. Never had one, but my host, Richard Newman, says it's the bomb.

I'll try it tomorrow. Right now I'm quite stuffed on Thai carbs.


The reading is tomorrow night and I feel unprepared.


I can't believe the Cardinals will be in the Super Bowl. They were actually the first pro football team I had ever seen live. I went to see them play the Redskins and it was bloody awful--this was, of course, pre Jake Plummer as a Cardinal, so this is way back.


Current Spin:

M. Ward's new album "drops" soon, but until then . . .

Saturday, January 17, 2009

MLK Day and Inauguration Day Readings

Currently getting ready to pack for a trip to St. Louis, MO, and Carbondale, IL, where I'll be reading at two venues.

The first venue is River Styx at Duff's, where I'll be reading with local St. Louis poet, Virginia Slachman.

Duff's is on 392 North Euclid in St. Louis, MO. The reading will take place on January 19th and starts at 7:30PM. Hope to see some familiar faces!

I don't have any information on the SIU Carbondale Reading other than the fact that it'll take place on the 20th, inauguration day, but I'll be bringing my laptop.


Reformatted manuscript three this morning and found out some crucial things.

The first thing is that with all the section breaks included as well as some other formatting considerations, the manuscript is 65 pages in length. It's longer than I had originally thought.

The second thing is that I'm going to lose a lot of those pages because I don't think they are in the "style" of most of the work.

The third thing is I think my title may change to In Defense of Small Towns, rather than Grace Equations.

The syllogism poems aren't speaking to the Self-Portrait poems. They're too elevated in diction, and it may be too great a leap for me to find a transitional poem or a transitional series to bridge that gap.

More later.


Watched BSG this morning (recorded by my DVR). Oh. My. God. Good to see it back on the air. Who knew? Still confused about the Thrace issue and the final five "revelation" at the end. Hmmmm . . .


Current spins:

I've been singing this all morning.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Star Wars: Retold


Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Favorite things

The very excellent writer and my colleague, Carol Guess, has a playlist on one of my favorite music and culture blogs, Largehearted Boy.

Not only is she an excellent writer, but she has great taste in music.


Among my most favorite things is my around-ear noise cancelling headphones. Now, this isn't the model I have, but it's the model I'd love. Anyway, they're fabulous to have when either grading or writing.


I love Lumpia.


And I love it when a writing project is going well . . . unfortunately, here's where my love-fest ends. I'm totally stuck.

While putting out that table of contents was a useful exercise, I see gaping holes that need to be addressed--such pursuits require time (which I don't have). Two weeks is all I ask . . .


Meredith is encouraging me to apply to Breadloaf and Sewanee.

I've been applying to Breadloaf for some time, lost my eligibility for fellowships 'cause my first book had been out too long, and now I can reapply with my second book. I've never applied to Sewanee. Anyway, I'm feeling guilty about leaving the family for such a long stretch, but if Meredith is giving me the thumbs up, then I better apply.


Current Spins:

Jeff Hanson. At first, I thought this was sung by a woman. My goodness, that voice.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fully Wired

All the technology at my parents' house makes me really envious. This past weekend while we were escaping the flood plains, the cable guy hooked up the house (I feel like we have two houses which is kind of nice--one in the city, one in the country). Oh, what a joy HDTV is. You can see blackheads on the news anchors.

And the internet connection we enjoy at their house is substantially faster than what we've had to work with in our country house (Hughes Satellite ISP--no cable or DSL available at our house).

So I've been looking forward to the excursions into town because of the connectivity.


Currently blogging with a kid sleeping on my chest.


So school has started, as I've mentioned in other posts. I'm again teaching my ENG 453 class which I always teach as a poetic forms course. I'm using Robin Skelton's book The Shapes of Our Singing and a very smart WWU student pointed out that she thought all of the poems in the book were written by Skelton. I think she's right. Eek.

For my Asian American Literature course, I'm teaching fairly "canonized" AsAm stuff--China Men, No No Boy, Native Speaker. But I'm also teaching my friend Joseph Legaspi's poetry collection, IMAGO, and I'm teaching a graphic novel, American Born Chinese. The course is framed around the idea of Asian American masculinity--its historical portrayals, etc.. I'm using lots of film too. We're starting with Wayne Wang's Chan is Missing. We'll also watch The Debut, American Sons, and Better Luck Tomorrow.

*I'm to lazy to link right now, plus the kid makes such multi-tasking difficult*


My writing has taken a back seat to preparing my pre-tenure file. I go up for tenure/promotion next year and this is the first screening round. I filled two five-inch-thick binders with materials. Fingers crossed.


I'm still trying to get a grasp on my new quarterly schedule. Today feels like I've adjusted a wee bit.


Current Spins:

Grizzly Bear. More beard-rock.

Another REALLY Bad Book Cover

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
I have actually held this book in my hands. It exists.

Avalanche blocks SR 542

This is the continuation of the road North East of my house blocked by an avalanche. So as you can see . . . winter has been pretty lousy.

Mudslide on SR 542

I won't show the photo of the house, but just know that a cedar busted through this poor family's bedroom window.

Mudslide on SR 542

So, as you can see, I was trapped at home for a couple of days. It wasn't until later that I found a detour.

More SR 542 mudslide

SR 542 mudslide

For those of you who are curious, these are WA DOT photos of the road up by my house.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I know I'm juvenile, but . . .

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
This book cover made me laugh for a very very long time.

Off the Deep End

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
Munchkin is surveying the waters.


The beginning of the Winter quarter has kicked my ass. I foolishly decided to revamp my Asian American literature course, putting in books I hadn't read and including a lot more PowerPoint and visual rhetoric which, of course, is super time-consuming. And of course there's the time I need to spend with the little guy pictured above. Soon, I'll get into a comfortable routine. Right now, though, I feel like I'm running around blindly.


I'm beginning to feel that all I ever do on my blog is complain.


And another thing about my parents' house . . . they have no storage space. They've got all these semi-read books with no space to put 'em. It always depresses me to go to their office because I feel the compulsion to organize the whole place.

I may secretly go to Henderson's Used Book Store and get rid of all of my parents' trashy true-crime paperbacks. They are SO into Ann Rule. What's with that? And how the hell did I become a poet if all my parents read are true crime potboilers?!


I have not played my XBOX 360 for five days and it has made me cranky.


Current spins:

Kid Koala

Friday, January 09, 2009

A Bit Drenched

Sorry I haven't been blogging lately, but . . . well, if you've been watching the news, Western Washington has been hit with a ton of floods. My family and I are fine . . . perfectly safe, but our roads into town have been hit by mudslides, so I've been having extra long commutes to get to work. Luckily my parents have a house in B'ham where we've been staying, but that house is currently filled with boxes.

On top of that, the quarter has just started, so I've been prepping and teaching.

Needless to say, I've been busy. Once everything dries up a bit, I'll post a bit more regularly.

Until then, cheers!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009

iPod Divination--The Result

From a couple of weeks ago:

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"


I had promised a poem, so here it is:

From a Car Way Behind Me, “Da Funk” Shook My Windows

The streets glare back at the headlights as the unpeopled
city winds around my head like ribbon, and I had hoped

the bass from the other car didn’t know any names or principles . . . that it could thaw
the built up civilization out of its one collective dream—the voice of the drum

guns behind me rich in its violence, and the pavement wet with rain
shimmers with the speaker’s thud, a sort of pulse like a fly

in a glass, its wing-flits rippling the water outward to the mouth,
and I could feel in my stomach the shift of gears as I accelerate to leave

the sound, and the moon out now, from behind clouds turns everything blue,
and the aquarium light tells a kind of truth—that I don’t want

to slow the car to let the other driver pass, that all the new light from his high-beams
and mine would set the night on fire, that our breaths

were vapor, phosphor . . . our breaths were leaving our bodies
in waves, redundant and slow—


So, obviously the title borrows from two of the songs. Thematically, I went with the Daft Punk. Buried somewhere are lyrics from "My Waltzing Days Are Over," "Art Snob Solutions," and "Christ as President."


Ack! My margins are all messed up. Well, just imagine the lines are staggered with a space between couplets . . .

Friday, January 02, 2009

Since I'm a Man of My Word

I'm posting a tentative Table of Contents for a manuscript I'm currently tweaking. I spent some time this afternoon culling pages. All in all, as I've posted on Twitter, I've culled 30 pages and am left with 55 pages. Here's what I've got:

Tentative Title: Grace Equations

In Defense of Small Towns

Section I

At the Time of My Birth . . .
Ablation as the Creation of Adam
Self-Portrait as a Cowboy in Second Grade
Sticks and Stones
The Poet at Ten
Self-Portrait with Taxidermy
How I Learned Quiet
Insomnia as Transfiguration
Cussing on the Playground
Self-Portrait in My Mother's Shoes
Eschatology Through a Confluence of Trees
No One Sleeps Through the Night

Section II

At the Time of My Young Adulthood
Self-Portrait Beside a Dead Chestnut Horse
Self-Portrait with Schlitz, a Pick-Up, and the Snake River
Last Days
Eschatology on Interstate 84 at 70 mph
Eschatology as Cinema Verite
Self-Portrait on Good Friday as an Altar Boy
Once, Love, I Broke a Window
Self-Portrait Descending Slowly into the Atlantic Ocean
Instead, I'm Here to Tell You Very Softly
How You Came About in the World Bewilders Me as a Cherry Tree Flowering
Autumn Scene as Lullaby
If, Given

Section III

And When I Grew Up
Television as a Tool for Remission
Self-Portrait with a Car Crash
The Obvious
Ghost Hunting as Physiography
Eschatology in Five Acres
Self-Portrait as a Series of Non-Sequential Lessons
Self-Portrait as a Small Town
The Boy With the Fiddle in a Crowded Square
Colony Collapse Disorder in Honey Bees as Eschatology
Prayer for What Won't Happen
The Surgical Theater as Spirit Cabinet
Self-Portrait with What Remains


I'm fully aware of the fact that this version will change. Already I want to move the Self-Portaits away from each other a bit more. I also see that the transition between the syllogism poems and the Self-Portraits might be too dramatic.

I'm also not sure about the number of sections that I want to create. I have in mind a long poem for the collection, somewhere in the middle, so that may "blow-up" the order even further.

As it is, the collection is clearly a Bildungsroman and I'm not sure I like the simplicity of that fact.

Changes to come. You'll hear about them.


The quarter starts next Tuesday and I am NOT prepared. I had a Summer to prep for the Fall. For the Winter, three weeks. At least one of my preps is a repeat from the Fall.


Current spins:

Little Joy.