Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On the Air

Tonight, I'll be reading a poem for the Chuckanut Radio Hour. If you're in Bellingham, WA, you can tune in to FM 102.3.


Spent about three hours yesterday revising approximately 28 pages of a sequence for a chapbook entry. Fiddling with margins is tiring. The MS Word defaults drive me crazy. I keep turning them off, but somehow they magically get turned on again and again.


I've been renovating my parents' garage. They were in dire need of storage and for the past couple of days I've been installing cabinets, building shelving, and putting down a work bench counter top.

I love power tools.


I've been slow with the 32 books for the summer challenge. I blame The Wire.

It's my new addiction. I'm going to try to finish the novel I'm reading this week, before I head to The Kundiman Retreat.


These days I feel like I'm mostly done with my third book. Such thinking has afforded me the luxury of thinking about other projects. As I mentioned earlier, I did some touch-ups on a chapbook which I think I can convert into a manuscript with a few more poems and pieces that work as counterpoints to the chapbook's main obsession.


Wow. The quarry is blowing up parts of the mountain. I felt a really big explosion just now, after the whine of machinery.


Current Spins:

The Innocence Mission. Calm. Summery.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Writers Group Stuff Day 6

Write a poem that somehow incorporates the idea of the DOCUMENTARY.
You could use a shaky, hand-held camera as your point of view, or you
might employ an element of documentary poetics in the piece (or
attempt some kind of hybrid thereof). Try to include the following, if

1. A quote, either real or invented.

2. A moment of unexpected humor or comic relief.

3. An object found in a place where that object is not typically

4. At least one proper noun.

You might also try using the word "documentary" in the title, and then
writing a poem that doesn't announce itself as connected to a
documentary of any sort, but somehow distills the idea.

Extra credit: after your poem, share the name of your favorite
documentary or documentary-ish film.


God, this was hard. Being funny is hard. Sort of lost the film idea of the POV.

Favorite documentary film--Trekkies.




If you follow me on Facebook, you'll know that I'm addicted to The Wire. After much praise about the show, Meredith and I decided to see what all the hype was about. Oh my goodness, we devoured Season 1.


Favorite characters--Freamon, Bubbles, and Omar.

Where the hell did they get these fantastic actors for this show?


Prefuse 73.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Writing Group Stuff Day 5

The Prompt:

Write a poem that incorporates a city or town in the state you grew up
in, but make it a city you've never been to before.

Include a reference to either religious iconography or a national

Finally, use your favorite brand name laundry detergent.

I cheated with the monument and the detergent. I sort of referred to 'em, but didn't give any names.


The Poem:



I have to say that I'm not surprised about Michael Jackson's death, really. After all his surgical procedures, I imagined that he was on a number of addictive pain killers. The EMT in me saw the tell tale signs, just by watching him move around in public. Still, it's definitely a tragedy. There were quite a number of tragedies with celebrities this week--Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and now Michael Jackson. Rough week.



Thursday, June 25, 2009

2 of 32

2 of 32, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

I'm still reading Almanac of the Dead, but I'm also reading Joel Brouwer's Exactly What Happened.

Almost done with the Silko and I'm about half way through Brouwer. My summer is long, so I think I can still meet my goal! 32 books for a summer!

Writing Group Day 4


Write a poem entitled:
Fragments Addressing ________________

You (obviously) can put anything in the blank, and use the title as a
call to form, or not.

Here's the other thing you have to do:
Use Google Image search and plug in whatever word (or words) you
inserted into the blank. Pick the 5th image that comes up and
incorporate it into your poem somehow. (For extra fun, feel free to
include a link to your image in your post.)



Yeah, they're fragments. I think I'm going to blow this up. Here's the picture:

Na Pali Coast.

Why I chose this topic is beyond me. I had a National Geographic on my desk and figured I'd "topic-dive" for this prompt.

The hour time limit was actually a welcomed thing. This was a hard one for me.


Currently editing a chapbook. . . my "Dear Empire" pieces are getting reworked into something.


Super XX Man.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Writing Group Stuff Day 3

Here's the prompt:

Compound and portmanteau words.
Such as watermelon, suitcase, lipstick, icebox, tree lawn, honeydew,
hairdresser, overcoat, typewriter, whale road, mantelpiece, T.V. tray,
pigtail, ladyfinger, copperhead, newsprint, etc. For some reason, I’m
finding this interesting lately. I’m not sure if it’s the putting
together of two things or their exact relationship or the metaphoric-
ness or the echo of kennings??? Use at least 8 compound words in a
poem. They can be either the compound word itself or the compound
taken apart into the two separate words. Quick source:




This was fun and I could've kept going but I've got other projects on my plate for today. I'm pretty sure I'll come back to this poem.


Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. I am seriously thinking about getting a ukelele and here's a master for you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Writing Group Stuff Day 2

OMG. Why did I try a pantoum? I did adhere to the one-hour writing quota, but I fear I didn't have as much time to revise as I'd like. And I kept screwing up the pattern so I kept having to go back and redo things.


Look at the Junk Drawers by Paho Mann. Assemble your own junk drawer
and create a poem influenced by its contents.


This is a prompt directly taken from my friend Papatya Bucak.



Lisa Hannigan with a very cool hat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Writing Group Stuff

My writers' group is kick-starting again for a mini-session. As usual, I'm posting the poems here for a brief time and then I'll take 'em off the site at the end of the day.

We're using prompts this time. The prompt for this day was to grab a random non-poetry book and find a word from a few random pages. I drew the following words:

1. Myself. 2. Speechlessness. 3. Mythologies. 4. Vacuum. 5. Idleness.

I give my students similar assignments. There's something about putting together puzzles that I truly enjoy.

Anyway, I know Blogger is going to kill my linebreaks. The poem's in couplets, so when there's a staggered third line it's because the line was too long.

Also, I have to say, I'm still in love with the couplet. You can't hide in a couplet.




The Poem's Origins:

The story about my father asking a Japanese soldier for a cigarette is true, from what I understand. My dad was probably five years old when he asked for a cigarette.

My grandfather was a heavy smoker and it wouldn't surprise me that he would tell my father to get smokes from the soldier.

I'm a little unsure about the correct name for the flower. I know it's a lily and I know it's orange with some darker orange stippling. The flower's on a thin stem and there can be clumps of five or six flowers per stem. Our house is along a logging road that's U-shaped. We're adjacent to some DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) property, and they recently cut back a swathe of about 40 acres, leaving a naked, scarified empty lot. We take daily walks on this road with our stroller.


Current Spin:

More Summer-ish music.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My 2nd Father's Day

IMG_0534.JPG, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

This is the photo Meredith took while she and Lucas were still in the hospital. It's still my favorite picture.


Heading down to Seattle for Dim Sum to celebrate!


My summer writing "program" starts on Monday. Wish me luck!

I'm still in bed. Summer is awesome.


Current spin:

Riveted خرداد

20 June - 30 خرداد, originally uploaded by mousavi1388.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

At Last, the Rain

We've had 28 rainless days during the end of spring. I've avoided watering everything--the lawn, the rhododendrons, the heather. Everything's crispy and yellowed. But yesterday, it rained. I'm beginning to really like the rain. It's writerly weather.


Today I'm going to buy some lumber. The plan is to build planter boxes for a vegetable garden. I'm sick of spending all that cash on things like kale and tomatoes. Plus, since we're living on a budget and we have 6 acres, we may as well use some of our land, no?

I'm not sure what to plant, since I'm a newbie at all this. I'm thinking lettuce would be good, since I like salads in the summer. Squash perhaps? Cucumbers? Tomatoes?


Now half way through Almanac of the Dead. I'm thinking I should've started with a "thinner" book for this 32 book marathon. My initial judgment about the book is mildly revised. The pace is picking up and I'm glad the focus of the narrative has turned to Lecha, the medium (or whatever her ability is). Still, it's a slow read. Lots and lots of back story. Character development. Not a bad thing, necessarily. Like I said, I'm only half way through.


Writerly things to do:

1. Revise/edit some of my NaPo poems for a chapbook.

2. Send more work out.

3. Write more stuff.

4. Dust off some older projects.

5. Write more stuff.


It's so good to have the summer in front of me. Ah!


Current Spin:

Telekinesis. It's just the right amount of summer sugar to get me started.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Done! Done! Done!

I just entered the grades for my classes this morning. While I do say that I'm "Done! Done! Done!" I'm not completely out of the woods yet. I still have a few comments to make on my grad portfolios. Shouldn't be bad, since I'll mostly be writing to them about what to do next with their long poems.


I've got a number of projects on my plate for the summer, which is great. I've now got time to assemble version 3.0 of In Defense of Small Towns. I've been sending out version 2.5 to publishers and contests, but 3.0 is looking to be a leaner more focused collection. I had been quibbling with myself over the inclusion of poems about illness in the earlier versions . . . those poems are out of 3.0 which, I think, is a smart decision, but in omitting those poems the manuscript now has a lot of gaps which need to be filled.


First off, it's interesting how Stephen Burt brings up Ronald Johnson's ARK. I could NOT get through that Johnson book. I tried, but I failed.

Secondly, I somewhat agree with Burt's "disagreement" with Tony Hoagland's assertion that the "narrative" will be the next successor to "Third Way." But I think, also, that there are some really spectacular historical narratives that are being written in contemporary poetry, particularly by minority writers, many of whom are not mentioned in Burt's article.


Currently reading: Almanac of the Dead. I'm a third of the way through it and I'm finding it really difficult to "like" the protagonist, Seese. It seems like it's the worst possible telenovela. So far, it's far flatter than Ceremony. Mind you, like I said I'm only 1/3rd through it. Maybe the pacing will pick up, but so far no payoff. . . and it's the first book of my 32 books.


Current Spin:

Dinosaur Jr. From their new album "Farm."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What the New Kids Are Doing

For much of the past decade, the most imitated new American poets were slippery, digressive, polyvocalic, creators of overlapping, colorful fragments. Their poems were avowedly personal, although they never retold the poets’ life stories (they did not tell stories at all); the poets used, or at least mentioned, difficult ideas, especially from continental philosophy, although they never laid out philosophical arguments (they did not lay out arguments at all). Nor did they describe concrete objects at length. Full of illogic, of associative leaps, their poems resembled dreams, performances, speeches, or pieces of music, and they were, in M.H. Abrams’s famous formulation, less mirror than lamp: the poets sought to project their own experiences, in sparkling bursts of voluble utterance. Their models, among older authors, were Emily Dickinson, John Berryman, John Ashbery, perhaps Frank O’Hara; some had studied (or studied with) Jorie Graham, and many had picked up devices from the Language writers of the West Coast. These poets were what I, eleven years ago, called “elliptical,” what other (sometimes hostile) observers called “New Lyric,” or “post-avant,” or “Third Way.” Their emblematic first book was Mark Levine’s Debt (1993), their emblematic magazine probably Fence (founded 1998); their bad poems were bad surrealism, random-seeming improvisations, or comic turns hoping only to hold an audience, whether or not they had something to say.

Thanks to Carol for pointing this article out to me.


My thoughts on it when I've had a chance to digest. At the moment, recovering from four hours of brush-cutting.


Random thought: Thinking about film, particularly the old celluloid stuff. How each cell was a picture, and how such a concept influenced book making--namely poetry book making.

Now wondering how digital media will reconstitute the art.

I, unfortunately, wasn't wearing my iPod as I cut brush, so I thought of very random things as I waved the cutter from side to side.


Current spin:

Fanfarlo. They're selling their new album for $1 here and it's quite good. Worth way more than a buck.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

And so it begins . . .

After my 3PM meeting this afternoon, I will officially start my summer.


As I said in posts below, it is not my intent to read all those books in the list. I just posted it to show you/see what everyone recommends. The tastes, I see, are wide-ranging.


Baby is teething, big time. Lower right bicuspids. He was in some real pain last night and refused to eat. We've got all the gels and the fix-it medications. Sleep seemed to do the trick.


My creative writing students want to be creative writing teachers. There is nothing inherently bad about wanting to pursue this particular line of work. There is, though, a divergent array of obstacles that are in their way. My job as their teacher and adviser is to teach them not only about art, literature, and a life of reading, but to teach them how to navigate the very difficult terrain that comes with my line of work. I also have to stress to them that what I do is not for everyone. Therein lies the crux of the problem--on the one hand, creative writers in academia can thrive and be effective teachers. On the other hand, by becoming a model for students as an artist in an academic environment, (depending on the teachers and the students) you're providing students with a limited world view of the life of an artist. I want to stress that all of these thoughts are my thoughts and are subjective. I can say that I had the benefit of learning from very effective creative writing teachers. They were not perfect teachers, but they did instill in me a passion for writing and especially for reading.

I've been teaching college-level courses since 1994 when I was a biology TA. I did take some breaks in between, but that's almost 15 years of teaching at the college level. I wasn't a great biology TA. I wasn't a great creative writing TA either, but over the years I've gained some insight into how to work in a classroom. I personally was motivated to become a better teacher at the sacrifice of some of my art. Ah yes, so there. I said it . . . at the sacrifice of my art. I'm okay with making these sacrifices because that's how I'm wired. I know that I can't write when I'm teaching during the year because it takes quite a deal of creative energy to prepare for classes, and I'm okay with that. I just love being with students who want to learn about literature. I love filling out my book order forms for the next quarter's classes. I love discussing the books with students who may be encountering an artist's work for the first time.

Not every artist can or will thrive under such circumstances and not every academic environment will allow the artists housed in their towers to make such sacrifices. I like to think about the poet Robert Hayden when I think about writers who teach. Brilliant writer whose own poetic output, it is suggested, was greatly affected by his teaching. I've also had classes with well-respected writers who didn't care about their teaching. It definitely showed and it did illicit some distaste for the course, but there are always teachers who greatly care about their own teaching.

How do you learn to navigate the academic world as an artist? How did I learn to navigate the academic world as an artist? I had good models and I'm still learning.

I really like this article by my friend, Papatya, on the whole tenure process: Papatya's article.


Current Spin:

Still listening to Eulogies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer Prompt: Watch this, then write a poem

Suggested Summer Reading

So, these are the suggestions from people via Facebook, this blog, and elsewhere. Mind you, I may not get to all of these books, but I'll certainly see if I can get a hold of a copy somewhere. Here it is:

Leslie Marmon Silko: Almanac of the Dead--currently reading.
Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Jeffery Eugenides: Middlesex
Haruki Murakami: After Dark
Kelly Link: Stranger Things Happen
Ed. Michael Chabon: Best American Short Stories of 2005
Michael Ondaatje: Coming Through Slaughter
Ed Pavlic: Winners Have Yet To Be Announced
Adrian Matejka: Mixology
Daniel Chacon: Unending Rooms
Alice Sebold: Lovely Bones
Denise Duhamel: Ka-Chang!
Laure-Anne Bosselaar: Garage Sale
Beth Glylys: Bodies that Hum
Arundahti Roy: The God of Small Things
Peter McCabe: Butcher Boy
Karen Russell: St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
Roberto Bolano: 2666
JG Ballard: Empire of the Sun
Alison Bechdel: Fun Home
Elias Canetti: Auto-da-Fe
Thom Gunn: Thom Gunn: Selected Poems
David Markson: The Last Novel
Richard Price: Lush Life
Jay Wright: Transfigurations
Laurie Sheck: Captivity
Felix Feneon: Novels in Three Lines
Haruki Marukami: Kafka on the Shore
Antonio Munoz Molina: Sepharad
Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961-1993
Jerzy Kosinski: Steps
Charles Johnson: Dreamer
David Markson: Wittgenstein's Mistress
Joe LeSueur: Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara
Ahron Appelfeld: Badenheim 1939
Nathaniel Mackey: Bass Cathedral
Janet Malcolm: In the Freud Archives
Nick Tosches: The Devil and Sonny Liston
Nick Tosches: Where Dead Voices Gather
bell hooks: Wounds of Passion
Raymon Queneau: Exercises in Style
Jacob Riis: How the Other Half Lives
Alan Dugan: Poems Seven
Kazuo Ohno: World from Without and Within
Rutu Modan: Exit Wounds
Paul Metcalf: Both
Ben Marcus: Notable American Women
W.G. Sebald: Austerlitz
Louise Erdrich: Master Butchers Singing Club
Douglas Coupland: JPod
LJ Davis: A Meaningful Life
Claire Hero: Sing, Mongrel
Attila Bartis: Tranquility
Catherine Bowman: The Plath Cabinet
Liz Waldner: Trust
Barbara Maloutas: The Whole Marie
Sheila Heti: Ticknor
Carmen Gimenez Smith: Odalisque in Pieces
Katherine Dunn: Geek Love
Craig Lesley: Burning Fence
Tom Philips: A Humument
Mahmoud Darwish: Memory for Forgetfulness
Yasunari Kawabata: Beauty and Sadness
Michael Ondaatje: In the Skin of a Lion
George Stewart: Names on the Land
Lawrence Weschler: Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees
Elfreide Jelinek: Anything by her *Thanks E.*
James Harms: After West
Fatima Mernissi: Dreams of Trespass
Jane Hirshfield: Nine Gates
Hayden Carruth: Collected Shorter Poems
Bert Meyers: In a Dybbuk's Raincoat
Patricia Smith: Blood Dazzler
Steve Lopez: The Soloist
Terry Tempest Williams: Finding Beauty in a Broken World
Tobias Wolff: Our Story Begins
James Conrad: Making Love to the Minor Poets of Chicago
Yannick Murphy: In a Bear's Eye
Roberto Bolano: Last Evenings on Earth
Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis: Suspended in Language: Niels Bohr's Life, Discoveries, and the Century He Shaped
Michael Connely: City of Bones
Octavia Butler: Kindred


Whew. Lots of books. We'll see which ones I get to. 32 books is an awful lot.


Sent the manuscript out this afternoon. Decided not to release version 3.0 this round. I think 3.0 still lacks crucial content.


Current Spin:

Eulogies. There ya go, Lee. ;-)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Waning Confidence

I felt good this morning. Really good. So good that I decided to tackle a task so Herculean that I'd been putting it off for so long.

I decided to chop several poems out of my manuscript and slice up my eight-section long poem. All this makes manuscript version 3.0.

I've taken out stuff that seemed unrelated to the collection's strongest narrative. The long poem, which appears in manuscript version 2.0's first section now has sections sprinkled over three sections. I felt the long poem was too loud with all of its sections together and that by distributing the pieces over the course of the manuscript, a reader can build up a relationship with the themes and ideas contained in each long poem section.

But . . . now that I see how short the sections have become, I'm a little worried. Prior to my cuts, the first section was about twenty-one pages. It's now thirteen pages. I haven't complete all my cuts, but for reference, the page total of 2.0 is 75 pages which is too long. I'm trying to get the manuscript to 55-65 pages.


The good news is that those poems that were cut could fit into another project that I'm working on, thereby boosting the numbers of poems for that particular collection.


Finals week. I'm collecting my first batch of portfolios tomorrow. I'm so ready for the summer. I'll be done with everything, including grading, by Thursday.


Current Spin:

Iron and Wine has a new CD out with a bunch of B-sides and covers. This gem is on the newest CD.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Palpable Heat

It's so close . . . summer. I can feel it. We had a minor heat wave in the Northwest, topping out at roughly 88 degrees at the homestead. Which means my teaching season is almost at a close.

As I've mentioned in previous blog entries, I'll be spending the summer reading and writing. It is in fact my honest and earnest goal to read 32 books this summer while maintaining a writing schedule.

I've been getting a ton of book recommendations on Facebook. I'll consolidate those recommendations and put them here on the blog.

The intent is not necessarily to "review" the books, but to 1) see if I can keep my attention focused on all things literary, 2) lessen the impact of losing cable TV, and 3) modeling good behavior for my son who, in fact, seems to read a lot more than me these days. Of course, I also want to fill up my head with good art, so there's the REAL goal of this exercise.

Now, I do intend to blog about my progress, not that you care.


Currently, shoulder to shoulder with L. in bed. He didn't get his full nap today, so we're taking a make-up nap.


I have to pee, but I don't want to get up, lest I wake him.


We managed to refinance our mortgage this past Friday. Yay! When we first bought our house, our APR was 6.5%. We locked in 4.5% for our refinancing which cuts out about $400 from the monthly mortgage payment. That'll give us a little more breathing room.


Meredith got into the Speech Pathology program at WWU. She'll be great. I know her first love is teaching French. She's a brilliant teacher and I for one know that she's done her part to build the French major. The French department is making a big mistake by replacing a brilliant and talented teacher like her.


So now, because of all of these life changes, we've been budgeting ourselves. It's good to do.


Here's my current spin:

Zee Avi. Because it's Summer! Yay!

Why I love Isabella Rossellini

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Heat Wave

I haven't had much to say since Monday. I've basically been feverishly grading . . . trying to clear my desk before the mad rush of student portfolios arrives.

What have YOU been up to?


Looks like we got the refinancing on our house approved. That should definitely lighten our debts. We also just paid off one of our cars (with the money from another sold vehicle), so we're slowly paying down things we owe and cutting back our expenditures. Unlike much of America, we have no credit card debt, so in that regard we're fiscally healthy, apart from the loss of one income.


I'm planning on starting a garden . . . not this summer, but perchance I'll build the beds in the Fall (Raised beds are the way to go with our acidic soil out here).

Kale is a biggie on my list. Maybe lettuce too. A student brought bags and bags of the stuff to class one day, saying that she had far too much of it. I want too much lettuce, too.


The nice people at Artist Trust have accommodated my schedule. So now I can enjoy the Camano Island Residency for a month any time between July and November. I'm looking at my calendar and planning around August. August seems to be my most productive months. I don't have any other travel plans (July = Kundiman).

Got into Breadloaf, but didn't get any financial assistance this time and 'cause we're tightening our belts, I just can't spend the cash to pay for the trip or the tuition. Thank you to those who nominated me. I'll try again next year.


I also missed attending the ASLE Conference. I was all ready to go and then discovered that the ferry times weren't working the way I had assumed they would. Apparently from Anacortes there's only one ferry to and from Victoria, BC.

And the ferry from Seattle was triple the price. If I wasn't teaching today, I would've happily stayed overnight, but alas. I'm sorry Camille!.


I brought goodies for my classes today.


Current Spin:

Regina Spektor. New album, June 23rd.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dancing a Jig

I'm dancing a jig because of this: Ta Da!

Came at a good time, too, because of the recent stuff I've been blogging about.

Also, the Camano Island residency will be great. I'll use that time to put some finishing touches on a couple of projects that have languished while I've been working on this third book.


I"m also dancing because the end of the academic year is upon me. It's the last week of classes and there's not much left to teach. I'm looking forward to getting back to the writing desk.


I saw UP this past weekend with Meredith. If you haven't already, you must see this movie because I firmly believe that it's a masterpiece of animation. It's also intelligently written. The 30 minute montage at the beginning of the film is emotional but not overwrought. To be honest, there are parts of that montage that are devastating and stay with me. But the early emotion of the film is so necessary to drive the action of the film.

I'm curious to see what the movie looks like in 3D. The director of the film was interviewed on Fresh Air. What's interesting is how Pete Docter says that one of his influences was Warner Herzog.


Current Spin:

Old School. Sonic Youth has a new album, too.