Thursday, October 29, 2009


It's my last teaching day of the week. I've been sleeping very little the past few days, partially because I've been having odd anxiety dreams about money and other things.

I woke up this morning at 1:40AM after having a very vivid, post-apocalyptic dream. I was carrying my son, piggyback, while a tremendous pair of tidal waves was about to engulf the entire continent, caused by, of all things, a nuclear warhead. Much of the dream was me running through a runway strip of land as the curl of some breakers was about to crash into that small dry spot.

After, I couldn't get back to sleep. I was jacked up on adrenaline. I swear, I am my mother's son. She is the same way. A light sleeper. And like her, once I wake up from sleep, I have a hard time getting back to sleep. I contemplated grading but instead I read the 2009 Best American Short Stories--a story about a boy who was half human and half horse, and his parents who had gotten into an argument about his "deformity." Not exactly a good thing to read after bad dreams about parenting (if it was in fact a dream about parenting).


And the truth is I worry about my future. For the longest time, I worried about my own writing and what will happen to my work. Not so much anymore. Most of my fears are financial and family-related. I suppose it's a sign that I'm growing up, yeah?


Speaking of growing, my little guy, whom I dream about at night, is now saying "no" to things as he shakes his head. This is a development. At first, it was an event. It was something that was "cute." Sometimes it still is cute, but more and more he's asserting his displeasure. A myriad of things seem to displease him.


One thing that displeases me greatly is this accursed 8AM teaching schedule. Thankfully it's a two-day-a-week schedule, but the commute is what kills. I have to be up by 5:45AM if I want to shower, eat, and prepare for my day. I've been counting the number of days left in the quarter. Thankfully that number is getting smaller and smaller: 6.


Today, not so in love with the prose poem. Especially since I have to provide annotations for 20ish pieces.


Current Spin:

Keren Ann. For Joseph.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gaining Yardage

I think I've mentioned that we're doing some major excavation on our property. Two months ago we hired a local lumberjack to cut down and sell several large trees that were on the verge of falling on our house. It seems the previous owner of our property had clear cut swathes of trees, thus damaging the root system of the very precarious Douglas Firs and hemlocks throughout our land. The thing about the root systems of these trees--they grow laterally as opposed to downward, so they rely on other trees to support them. So with all the damage done from the previous lumber harvest, we had a lot of very tall trees that were in danger of falling on us.

Anyway, we cut down a lot of trees. We had a lot of tree stumps. We hired an excavator to dig up the stumps. Our property looks completely different. I'll give you folks the before and after pictures later, but the excavator has been working on the land for the past few days and it looks like a completely different house. We actually get sunlight shining down on us. That means we can build our vegetable garden and we're quite excited about that, given the price of produce these days.

Now, don't worry . . . we intend to replant over 100 trees (we get them at a cheap rate--a dollar per sapling) in places where we want to build a screen.


Other things--I'm in a teaching groove now. It's week 6 of the quarter which means we're past the halfway mark, and I've got my lesson plans as well as my teaching schedule well in hand. I still hate the 8AM schedule, but I've adjusted.

The prose poem class that I teach as my multigenre class is quite interesting. I've got a number of students who are particularly resistant to assignments which drives me crazy. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why it drove me crazy, but recently, I think I managed to articulate my displeasure with such resistance during class time. I basically said that they as artists should never be afraid to try things even though they may not get the best writing.

There are always students who are resistant to being taught. That's just a given. And I suppose I should endeavor to take such things less personally.


I haven't written a damn thing for quite some time. That's okay. I've been busy with this killer schedule and a little boy who likes to say "Clock" and play with large Legos. A little boy who's also learning to say "no." Ruh roh.


Current Spin:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reunions, Readings, Rest

I had a wonderful, albeit brief visit to Los Angeles this past week. I really wanted to drive up and down the I-5/I-405 corridors to revisit my past haunts, but sadly I got in late in the evening on Wednesday and left relatively early on Friday.

Things I did manage to do--I did manage to drive down to my favorite lunch-time hang-out from my undergrad days: the unfortunately named Soupplantation. Yes, I realize this is an ugly corporate franchise, but I missed having a salad buffet around. ALL YOU CAN EAT ROUGHAGE!

The other wonderful thing was that I knew my way back quickly to the hotel.


So, what changed? Well, my alma mater was almost unrecognizable. Where once there was a single entrance and a single strip of buildings, now the place was a megaplex full of adobe, steel, and glass. It was quite strange to walk down the pathways of what was once a small 5000 student university to what was now double, perhaps triple the student population.


I also realize that I can't stand the heat as much as I did in my undergrad and grad days. 81 degrees killed me. I was so uncomfortable.


As for the reading, there were 9 readers and I was near the end. The reading itself was lovely and each of the readers stuck to their allotted time, including myself (which is always something to be grateful for). My mentors Gail Wronsky and Chuck Rosenthal presided over the affair and beamed like proud parents. I wound up selling very few books but trading many, which I do like to do. And after, many of the alumni readers stayed a bit chatting, gossiping, drinking wine. Alas, I really do wish that I had had more time, or at least that my family had come with me so we could've stayed a bit longer, but the responsibilities of work and of parenting always bring me back.


Oh, and I also listened to a lot of good radio:

White Denim. Heard this on KXLU 88.9, the indie/college radio station of LMU.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heading Down South

I'll be heading down to Los Angeles for a reading at Loyola Marymount University, my undergraduate alma mater. The reading will take place at the Marymount Institute at 7:30PM on Thursday, October 22nd.

This is going to be weird . . . I haven't been back to LA since 1995. The place has changed. My school has changed. I know there's a whole new section of campus that wasn't there when I attended in the early 90's.

What's more, for most of my time at LMU, I was a Biology major and many of my old biology professors have retired.

Still, I suppose this trip back down to Los Angeles will be like a social anthropology experiment.


I decided to rent a car because I have pretty much the whole day to myself on Thursday. I think I'll go revisit my old haunts . . . maybe take a drive down to Santa Monica. Who knows. Maybe I'll write a new poem.


I'm having lunch here on Thursday: Aunt Kizzy's.


Other things that I may do--there's an old record store along Sepulveda that I used to frequent. I want to see if it's still there. I also want to get some KXLU swag.


Current Spin:

Headbanging Flamenco.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

One for the Weekend

St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and Andrew Bird in an apartment in Paris. Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bad Cover Revisited

virginheat, originally uploaded by odelapaz.

I'm in the midst of finding art for my new book and its proven to be very difficult for this particular book.

Part of the problem with finding cover art for it is the book is pretty "literal." And what I mean by that is it's heavily steeped in long narrative poems. I could very well put up pictures of orchards and apples, but I don't want the cover to be as literal as the poems in the book. We'll see.

But I also don't want to have a cover like Mr. Shames's classic, Virgin Heat.

Oh dear lord.

Yes,I've posted this image before. It's too good to be forgotten. And let it be a lesson to all of you. . .

Congrats to Kelli!

Give a hearty congratulations to Kelli for winning the White Pine Press Award!



Sorry I've been adrift. Trying to catch up with paperwork, a sprinting 1 1/2 year-old, and lots of departmental responsibility.

I'm glad I sent out my poems in September because I don't know how I could possibly do it in the middle of this very busy quarter.

Additionally, I'm not liking teaching at 8AM. Oh, it's brutal. Especially commuting with the whole family. We've been leaving our house at 6:40AM. Not fun.


Ugly weather today. Really ugly. No walks in the park today, for sure.


My dog is so old. He's not long for the world, I think. Currently he's lying on the carpet in my parents' house snoring. What this has to do with anything is beyond me. Really, I'm procrastinating before I get my @$$ to they gym.

C'mon, Jake old buddy. Get up and nudge me towards the door.


Current Spin:

Got the new Flaming Lips album. Definitely darker than their previous two or three albums. Hard to believe this band has been around for 20 years.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"My How You've Changed!"

The other day, someone mentioned that my newer work is much different than my previous work. Not much to say about that, other than "thank you," and "I hope so." I mean, heavenforbid all my books now and until the duration of my writing life wind up being inter-related, character-driven prose poem collections.

Really, to be honest, I get bored. I get bored of a particular style. I get bored of "doing what I'm doing." So I wind up doing something differently from project to project.


My students are so concerned about sounding like themselves. And that's okay. I was concerned about sounding like myself for such a long time. And then I changed. My interests changed. Stuff happened.

I like to think that the assignments and exercises that I give the students who take my workshop allow them to find their own "voices" on their own terms. Sometimes, though, there's just no telling. I get e-mails from concerned students who ask whether they're "doing the assignment right." This weird desire to "get it right" so often occludes the real progress that should be occurring in a workshop--experimentation, risk, discomfort . . . So often my students look for immediate praise. And sometimes I do praise them. And sometimes I tease them. Sometimes I shrug. Sometimes I scold. Mind you, I'm never mean and I don't intend any meanness. I just believe in being direct, but doing so in a tone that's effective for an individual. I think I'm pretty good at perceiving who can handle what type of response.


You know, if you include when I was an organic chemistry TA during my undergraduate days, I've been teaching at the college level for 16 years. Wow.


Current Spin:

My Brightest Diamond. A song for my Sunday chill-out.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Teaching with Two Brains

One brain is entirely into prose poems. The other in prosody.

I always find it difficult to run workshops in a prosody course because the students are so intimidated by forms that they wind up spending so much time on the forms themselves during discussions, and so little time on the content. SO this quarter, I'm working to break that pattern by actually spending less time on critiquing the form missteps and focusing more on whether the poem is effective in the form. They're still quiet. It might just be that I've got a quiet batch.

This coming week the prosody students will be workshopping their literary ballads. I'm having them write six quatrains in iambic quatrameter/trimeter. We'll see how it goes.


The prose poem group . . . they're the talkative ones. Again, I think it's subject-related. They're not as intimidated by the prose poem as a form. The last piece they wrote was an imitation of excerpts from Stein's "Lifting Belly." I was really quite impressed by some of the pieces I've read. What I'm hoping is that the syntactical twists and turns in that particular assignment translate into some of their later prose pieces. I find in the prose poem class that often, students get lazy with their sentences. Also, there's a lot of over-narration. So, I'm working to confound them a little. Maybe I should have them write in anapests.


Current Spin:

Recently released Nirvana concert footage.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I think I'm adjusting to this wicked Fall schedule, finally. I had a mini bout of insomnia last night which really took its toll on me all day. But, after something like three cups of coffee, I think my morning workshops went fine. Whoosh!


I'll be teaching for Raven Chronicles & Jackstraw this Saturday. Details are here:


Currently catching up on my backlog of DVR recordings. Wow. So many shows.


Since the start of the quarter, my relationship with my own writing has been put on hold. It happens every year and I'm okay with it. I always justify such occurrences with the acknowledgment that I write so much in the summer. But still . . . I left a few projects at stages that I feel are uncomfortably incomplete. I may revisit a thing or two in the coming months, but for now as I mentioned earlier in this post, I'm just getting accustomed to my schedule now. I haven't been blogging as much as I usually do. Oh well.


Current Spin:

Laura Gibson.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Submit or Rue: A Face to Meet the Faces

The editors are pleased to announce a call for submissions for A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry.

We are seeking poems that work within the literary tradition of persona poetry: poems written as dramatic monologues, whose speakers employ masks, or whose character and voice are different from the poet's own.

Please submit up to 5 unpublished poems. We will also consider poems whose rights have reverted back to the author.

All submissions will be accepted electronically. Please send an email to the editors at with the poet's name and "Submission for Persona Anthology" as the subject line, with the poems as an attachment.

Submissions will be accepted October 1, 2009 through January 1, 2010.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Something New

New stuff up on a new online journal here: Connotations Press.

Some of the newer work that I had been wrestling with this past August.


It's 11PM and I'm tired and hungry. I spent the better part of two hours catching up on paperwork. I think I'm caught up with most of the non-teaching stuff. The teaching stuff will have to wait till tomorrow and Sunday.

I pretty much spent the whole day taking care of a teething child who wanted to run outside in the rain. Not fun, but I can't blame him. There ain't a whole lot to do over here.


Heard from our lumberjack. Was that last sentence startling for you? Yes, we have a lumberjack we've hired to do some cutting around our property. He's pretty much clear-cut the trees from the front of our house, the sides of our house, and the back of our house. Well, clear-cut is a bit extreme. He's selectively cut the trees that were a danger to our well-being. It's amazing how fast they grow here in the NW. When we first moved into our house three years ago, there was a fir that was about waist high. Now it's three feet taller than me. Stuff that's too close to the house has to go, what with the crazy winds that we get between Fall and Winter.

Anyway, the lumberjack . . . he called. Seems he tore his MCL and will be out for two months. Meanwhile, the clean-up job in his aftermath is quite daunting. We'll definitely have to hire an excavator.

All this boring rural talk amounts to something--I'm clearing land for a vegetable garden and a poetry shed/office. I've had dreams of a little poetry shed, complete with a window or two, electricity, and big enough for an overstuffed easy chair, a few bookshelves, and a desk. The vegetable garden would be neat, too.


Current Spin:

The Postmarks. Saccharine is good in small doses.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Catching a Moment

Right now I'm wearing sweatpants, a hoodie, and wool socks, and I'm typing in bed next to a just-now-sleeping-toddler. It's getting harder and harder to find time to fill the blog, and frankly my mind's been more about trying to stay on top of my ever-growing work load while maintaining a balanced life of parenting, teaching, and being a spouse.

L. is now 18 months, though he seems like he's going through the terrible two's. He's curious, ambitious, brave, and definitely headstrong. He's also extremely outgoing and he's definitely an animal lover. Because he's super ambulatory now, climbing, running, pulling, pushing, opening, and closing, Meredith, myself, and my parents have had to keep constant vigilance. So there are some things in my life that I've had to let go.

The yard looks like crap.


I'm in the process of filling out my questionnaire and part of the questionnaire includes spots for people to tap for blurbs. I always feel awkward about this part of the process. I know the Mr. Espada has already provided a blurb, but I've got five people I need to contact. I've already gotten a thumb's up from one. And I sent a note to one other, but I'm looking for three more. Any ideas? *sigh*


I haven't written a poem since August. :D


Current Spin:

Dead Man's Bones. Ryan Gosling's music project (Yes, the actor). Should be a fun album to own for Halloween.