Monday, March 28, 2005

Taxes, taxes, taxes . . .

I got my refund the other day. Big smile!

The sad thing about this refund . . . it's not really my money. It's going straight to debt-payment. Big frown.

I've learned a number of things from my tax accountant, though. I've learned that I'm not declaring enough of my purchases and I clearly need to be more meticulous in my record-keeping. In one instance, I had forgotten that I had bought bookshelves in the Fall. Lucky for me, the accountant asked me if I bought books and whether I had purchased shelves to house those books.

Hell of an accountant, I must say.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Easter weekend

Meredith received a basket filled with Easter chocolates from her mother the other day. The basket was lined with green plastic faux-grass that sparkled when you tilted it under our dining room lights. The basket's smartly situated on the table that's between the entrance to the hallway and the entrance to the living room. We have to pass by and dip our hands into the shiny faux-grass for the foil-wrapped chocolate eggs.

My parents never gave me Easter baskets. Instead, Easter was about church and going to three-hour-long masses. It was definitely not one of my favorite holidays. Mass was presided over by a humorless man who was Scottish. His booming criticisms of modernity shook the panes of stain glass. I hated going to mass. I hated it even more on Easter Sunday because of the length of the mass and the knowledge that after mass I would participate in the town's annual "Easter Eggstravaganza."

The one semblance of a "traditional" Easter in my household would arrive wheen my parents allowed me to participate in the annual "Easter Egg Hunt." Other kids got baskets and pet bunnies, and all that, but my parents were pragmatists. "What do Easter baskets have to do with god?" they asked. I never answered back because I could never think of a viable reason. And anyway, Easter baskets and Easter candies were never a part of their culture. A few blocks down, Ontario High School football field would be transformed into a mass of agitated five to ten-year-old bodies. Sprawled out before us were several thousand plastic eggs. This was no hunt . . . this was gladitorial combat. In October, I had witnessed one young football player's arm break and hang at his side after getting tackled. Teeth were knocked out on this field. Shoulders were dislocated. Now we were all young boys and girls on this same field, prepared to show the other boys and girls no mercy. High up above the lawn, parents would sit and gossip. Our payoff would be a sugar-induced high that would last for five hours. The payoff for the parents? A free viewing of the carnage.

The officials for the event lined us up at the edge of the track. The plastic eggs looked like they were melting in the sun. Once the starter gun fired, we were off, scooping the pastel-colored plastics from out of the grass and into our faux-wicker baskets. They were hot to the touch, but we could all tell that something was inside of each of them. Each of us had our individualized dream of wealth and power. Perhaps they weren't filled with chocolates. . . perhaps they were filled with cash?One girl had fallen and scrapped her knee in the grass. She was still in her church-going Easter clothes and her once-white dress was now a series of grassy smears and soil. The contents of her basket spilled all over the grass as swarms of children dove for the eggs tumbling in every direction. They looked like little piranhas we had seen on film during a biology class, tearing into a wild boar who tried to cross the Amazon. Bits of bone and the boar's snout would bob to the surface, then sink into the dark waters.

I was never one of the kids who grabbed the most eggs. Additionally, I was never the kid who was too slow, leaving the field empty-handed. I always had just enough eggs to take home. Invariably, the chocolate inside of the eggs would be soft, melting right out of their foil.

Easter weekend's coming and I'm helping myself to Meredith's basket. There's a pile of unpeeled chocolate egg wrappings making their tinny sounds as I set them down. I'll probably have to refill her basket at some point . . . Maybe I'll get her another basket.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Judging books by their covers

I do this, and I know Eduardo had a post about this awhile back.

Anyway, since AWP is just around the bend, I've been thinking about the book selling industry and how poetry is marketed. I had an interesting discussion with Karl Kageff, over at Southern Illinois University Press, and he said poetry books are very expensive to make with little return in profit. He spoke with me about the artwork and the imagery on the covers . . . he also mentioned the paper and the very unique editing needs that a collection of poetry has, as opposed to an academic book (what SIUP is used to publishing).

He's right, of course. We as poets are the top consumers of poetry books and there aren't that many of us (although it might seem like it come book-contest season). We also produce gorgeous books compared to these: Clicky!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

AWP is dangerous for the pocketbook.

Every year that I have attended AWP (since 1997) I have left the conference with an armful of books and journals. It's deadly. It's dangerous. I have to admit that I go to very few of the readings and panels. Rather, I hang out with friends and dine at the various restaurants. I cruise the book fair at least twenty times, and I hang out at the hotel bar (I don't drink much, but it seems y'all do). This year I have been asked to be a bit more . . . careful with the finances. So . . . if I'm doing any one-stop shopping, where should I go? Any of you setting up tables at the book fair? Got any discounts? ;-)

Monday, March 21, 2005



Nothing is so beautiful as spring--

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush

With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?

A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning

In Eden garden.--Have, get, before it cloy,

Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,

Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Serenity Now!

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
Here's my happy place. I go there when I have to grade papers. It takes me much longer to get my grading done when I go there. . .

By the way, this is the beach in Nerja, Spain. It's gorgeous there. Go when you can!


Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
Yes friends. Spring Break is never really a break for college professors.

Alas, this has taken me away from blogging. Please understand.

By the way, this is a true example of some of the work I need to finish by Sunday. Spring Break ends on Monday. *sob*

Friday, March 11, 2005

When students analyze your poem . . .

So I went to Union College to give a reading last night. First of all, props to Professor Channette Romero for bringing me down. Channette, if you're reading, your students are fantastic and I had a great time.

Now, as far as the heading for this entry . . . her students used my book as one of their required books for the course. In fact, some students wrote papers on my book.

The sensation was flat-out bizarre. So then, when I sat down and started conversing with the students the following conversations started taking place:

/Hyperbole mode on

Student 1: So, can you tell me about your obsession with religious symbolism and religious terminology?

Me: Uhhhhh . . .

Student 1: Because, it seems that your defrocked Catholic thematic concerns are pervasive throughout this text. Care to comment?

Me: Uhhhhh . . .

Student 2: Yes, I noticed this too. Tell me about the halo symbols throughout? Are they really halos?

Me: Yes. I don't know. . . yes?

Student 3: And in another passage, your character, Fidelito, miraculously ascends . . . heavenward? How can that be because there's no direct mention of god in any of the pages.

Me: There's not?

Students 1-4: No.

Student 4: You also have your character return two poems later, after his ascencion. Is he a Christ symbol?

Me: Yes?

Student 4: Hmmmm. . . That's what I thought. But that's weird, because most of the religious gestures that your character makes are very . . . tribal? Is that correct? Maybe superstitious without the idea of a church organization would be a better way of putting it.

Student 2: Yes, because your character worships things like the wind and the rain, you know?

Me: Ok.

/Hyperbole mode off

Ok, in all seriousness, it was flattering and alarming to have had my work read so closely. I tell you, I discovered a lot about my poetic obsessions sitting in that class.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Evil ice

Saturday, Meredith and I opened up some windows to knock down several large icicles hanging precariously from our rain gutters. Before that, though, I attempted to knock them down from the street-level by hurling snow balls at them. That method only knocked down some of the smaller ones. Further, it severely damaged my ego. My pitching arm is definitely not as accurate or as strong as it used to be. The major culprit was an icicle that was roughly five-feet long and about as thick as a human torso. It was extremely dangerous. . . I had visions of walking under the thing and getting brained by it. I also imagined backing up my truck and having the thing pierce through my roof. What's more is that all the residue of the icicle was forming a mound of ice on the driveway, making it treacherous walking.

Anyway, I opened up the windows, grabbed a broom, and tried to whack the icicles off their ledges. It was more difficult than anticipated. I was literally winded after my efforts. Try balancing half your body outside a window while you're swinging away with a broom. It's not easy.

The forecast calls for more snow this week. *sigh*

In other news, I've got a reading at Union College this coming Thursday.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Thoughts of vacation

Originally uploaded by odelapaz.
*sigh* After all the snow that hit us last night, I've been having thoughts of my summer vacation. Last summer, Meredith and I went to Spain and Morrocco. We had a HELLUVA time.

Anyway, I shoveled a ton of snow (we got about five inches of snowfall last night), and while doing this work, my thoughts returned to Sevilla.

Ah! Sevilla! We drank Sangria and had Tapas while watching the other tourists. Several bands wandered by while we were soaking in the sun. Every once in awhile, the bells from La Giralda would boom.

*double sigh* One more week until Spring Break, Oliver. . . One more week.