Saturday, February 28, 2009
I'm blogging from a high-school cafeteria and Facebook/Youtube are blocked by the various web filters they have running--ruining my fun.
I've been on Whidbey Island since Friday morning. The weather's been gorgeous and I can see why people live on islands. I also know I'd go a little crazy.
My birthday was yesterday. Not a whole lot to say about it. I didn't exactly celebrate it and I didn't tell anyone 'cept Kelli Russell Agodon who's also participating in the conference.
Meredith, of course, knows and she wished me a happy birthday as she put the little rugrat on speakerphone.
I've never been overly keen on celebrating birthdays, but to those of you who've sent me well-wishes, thank you very much.
Just overheard saying "Word processing is the greatest invention in history." And then the same person started complaining about Microsoft Word.
New dictate heard spouting from Oliver's mouth: In order to shape a book manuscript, keep in mind three elements: Tone, Balance, and Inertia.
Suddenly I've become my teachers.
seventwentysix from Tyler Williams on Vimeo.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
So yeah . . . I was exaggerating about the illness bit, but I'm happy. Or maybe I should say content.
I've been reading everyone else's album memes and realizing how much I've left out.
How could I have forgotten Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos? Or OK Computer by Radiohead? Or even The Joshua Tree by U2?
I've got "B" listers too . . . I spent a whole summer listening to The Sundays:
I had a wee crush on Harriet.
And if you want a real heavy dose of sugar, here's Camera Obscura:
Happy poems? How about sublime poems?
REAL current spin:
Matt Ward, aka M. Ward. "Hold Time."
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Secondly, I've been seeing lots and lots of self-portrait poems from all stripes of writers. I was reading Sean Nevin's Oblivio Gate and he's got a sequence of Self-Portrait poems towards the end of the collection. Mind you, the poems are from the POV of a persona, but still.
Then there's this poem by Matthew Dickman.
Now, on the same site, there's this poem by Tracy K. Smith.
There are many others on the Fishouse site as well.
John Gallaher, earlier, talked about this collection: Self Portrait with Crayon
Needless to say, all this self-portraiture is making me feel less and less confident about all the self-portraits I've been writing. I've got over twelve poems with "Self-Portrait" in the title and I see them as central to the manuscript. Should I care about what other poets are doing? I shouldn't. It is, after all, a self-portrait of my speaker. I am not and do not inhabit the self-portraits of those other poets. But it makes me wonder if there's a tapping of the collective unconscious going on here--is there a broader gesture that demands an examination of the self?
Ultimately, this brings me to my own problems with this third manuscript. I am and am not the I in my poems. I am and am not the provocateur of the conflicts and the actions that happen in the poem. I too distrust the I. So perhaps I'm writing these self-portraits to pin the I down.
The I makes me self conscious. I profess that I am most comfortable wearing other selves, masks. My first book--mask. My second book--mask, the gaze outward, not inward. And here it is, the third manuscript--I all over the place.
Does the I need a foil? A counterbalance? A moment where the I says, "Enough about me. Tell me about yourself?"
Come see me at The Whidbey Island Writers Conference where I'll try not to be too self-referential.
This is another 20 something meme that I was hit with on Facebook--20 most influential albums.
In no order, here they are:
Paul's Boutique The Beastie Boys
Songs to Learn and Sing Echo and the Bunnymen
Speak and Spell Depeche Mode
The Soft Bulletin The Flaming Lips
Nebraska Bruce Springsteen
Trinity Session The Cowboy Junkies
Simon & Garfunkle's Greatist Hits Simon & Garfunkle
Raw Power The Stooges
Zen Arcade Hüsker Dü
The White Album The Beatles
Phrenology The Roots
White Chocolate Space Egg Liz Phair
Blood on the Tracks Bob Dylan
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere Neil Young
Grace Jeff Buckley
Brighten the Corners Pavement
For CDY, my current spin:
Monday, February 23, 2009
1. The Book of Nightmares--Galway Kinnell
2. Ariel--Sylvia Plath
3. Winter Stars--Larry Levis
4. The World Doesn't End--Charles Simic
5. Dream of the Unified Field--Jorie Graham
6. Rose--Li-Young Lee
7. Teodora Luna's Two Kisses--Alberto Rios
8. The Groom Falconer--Norman Dubie
9. The Badlands of Desire--Beckian Fritz Goldberg
10. The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz--Octavio Paz
11. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair--Pablo Neruda
12. The Branch Will Not Break--James Wright
13. The Wasteland--T.S. Eliot
14. What Work Is--Phillip Levine
15. The Redshifting Web--Arthur Sze
16. The Colors of Desire--David Mura
17. Models of the Universe--Ed. Stuart Friebert & David Young
18. The Open Boat--Ed. Garret Hongo
19. El Grupo McDonalds--Nick Carbo
20. For the Union Dead--Robert Lowell
Again, these are in no hierarchy--just the order I thought of 'em. I added two anthologies 'cause they really did influence me greatly.
I'll post another list later for the 20 albums--another Facebook meme I was tagged with.
And right now, my current spin:
Bowerbirds. "In Our Talons."
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I feel like I'm sputtering . . . like some kid dumped a bag of sugar into my gas tank.
I've got a gig over at the Whidbey Island Writers' Conference this Friday and Saturday. If you're in the area, mosey on over.
No poems in me these days. That's okay. I haven't had any real time to read and I'm usually most productive when I've got some spare time to kick up my feet and crack open a book or two. No such luck these days now that the rugrat is trying to walk. Yes, he's trying to walk. We've been holding him up by one arm and he's been walking along side us. He doesn't take naps like he used to, so I've been on constant alert--sort of explains the not-writing bit.
More later. Right now I'm trying to quietly click the keys on a very new and very loud PC (gasp). I'm at my parents' house. They just left for O-town and won't be back for another two weeks. When they come back in March, it'll be for good for my mother. She's a bit sad and I feel bad, but I totally understand. And anyway, she'll be closer to the grinning grandbaby.
J. Tillman. "Firstborn." Simplest video ever, but lovely.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Additionally, while I thought having my parents here would save me time, it's turned out to be quite the opposite. I'm finding myself over at their house fixing this and that. Hours have been spent setting up their computer network and other things. They bought HP's which broke my heart. I couldn't convince them to buy Macintoshes. Lucky for them I can handle both platforms, but still . . . they bought these two Vista OS-using machines and the OS is a little clunky, IMO.
Nerd mode off.
I've been having reasonably good fortune with journal publications recently, but my well is running dry. I haven't written a stitch for a couple of weeks. Yes, I'm crafting a long poem, but I haven't had the willpower to go back to it. Long poems--hard to get back into the "flow" of writing.
By the way, I hate that word, "flow." My workshop students use it so often. "The poem flows well" or "I like the flow from the first line to the next." I tell them that whenever they use that kind of language, I think of urination or diarrhea.
Sorry, I'm digressing. We're talking about me, right?
Pushcart nomination time. Thanks to all those who nominated me. I feel like such a tremendous disappointment to you. I get nominated every year and I come up short every year. Maybe this time, eh?
I bought quite a few books at AWP this year. I can't tell you how many 'cause Meredith sometimes reads this blog and I may get into trouble. The number of purchases I've made, however, has been dropping since I first started going (AWP Portland in 97 I believe). I just don't want to haul all those books in my suitcases, now that I'm traveling primarily with just carry-on luggage. When checking bags was free, oh boy, I took full advantage.
Grizzly Bear. "Knife." Funny the type of life this particular track has lived. It's been covered by tons of people and if you glance at the other Youtube videos, you'll see quite a variety of styles. There's even a video of Zach from Beirut covering the song.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Really, though, I want to talk about the two I participated in as a panelist.
The first was called "Where Yearning Meets Epiphany." It was . . . a bit erratic.
First off, there are a myriad of things that I'd like to say about the junction between short-shorts and prose poems. Personally, I don't think the distinctions are as strictly defined as one of my cohorts suggested. Of course, I really didn't have time to defend any position on the matter because . . . well, I really shouldn't say out of my own politeness. Let's just say some people like to talk.
Now, here's what I would've said if given the proper forum:
I wrote Names Above Houses originally as a long poem broken into verse. I had prescribed to it the traits of what could traditionally be found in an Epic poem: a hero, a quest, and peril. What I ended up writing was 48 pages of didactic poetry where the only interesting artifact was the name of the protagonist--Fidelito.
I scrapped the verse incarnation and wrote many many pages in the prose poem form because I wanted to do the opposite of what I had done in the verse piece. So I wrote the first prose poem which lead to the second and third. They all had the character, Fidelito, from the previous draft, but something had changed in the tone of the piece. It was easier for me to write in a magical realist style--perhaps that's because of the trajectory a prose paragraph takes the reader. Rather than having a line break which forces a pause, the lines in a prose poem take a winding descent down the page. Such movement could enforce the unity of sense-making so that the improbable makes perfect sense in a prose paragraph. In the verse form, such properties may collapse due to the line break--the abrupt discontinuity from a line or sense-making unit to the next line/sense-making unit.
Here's section 2 of the first prose poem from Names Above Houses
The macaws found the tooth first. It could have been worse. His tooth might have been found by ants. Fidelito would have grown antennae and that would have presented the problem of appearances. At least you could hide wings under a shirt.
Medium clause, period. Medium clause, period. Medium clause, period. Long clause, period. Medium clause, period.
I intentionally created a movement there that would be similar to someone explaining, very matter-of-factly, a cause and effect relationship.
Now, if I were to break it into lines, here's how I would do it:
The macaws found the tooth
first. It could have been worse.
His tooth might have been
found by ants. Fidelito
would have grown antennae
and that would have prsented
the problem of appearances.
At least you could hide
wings under a shirt.
The pace is far too halting. The line break slows the sense-making down so that by the time the poem ends, for me, the inertia of the improbable first line fades.
Mind you, I understand that my line-breaks here are personal decisions and that you may choose to break the lines differently. Regardless, the line breaks and perhaps the enjambment forces, for this reader, too much of a stutter in this particular case.
Anyway, after I had written the manuscript in the prose poem form, Alberto Rios suggested that I switch the whole thing back into verse. What ended up happening is that I would up condensing the lines even further, taking out articles and short prepositions. But as I mentioned above, something was tonally off. The pop of the playful prose poems was gone. I switched the whole thing back to prose poems and there it stayed.
Ultimately what does this tell me about the form? Nothing except that the work found its way into the form. There's nothing exceptional or earth shattering that I can reveal about prose poems here because, to some extent, I don't believe in such labels. A piece will find the shape it's meant to. More or less, this is what Ron Carlson said and I agreed with him and would've defended his position against the rebuttal that ensued but . . . as I mentioned, some people like to talk.
Additionally, another point by *cough* a particular panelist was made about Ron Carlson's prose poem (yes I'm calling it a prose poem) about doors. I think that the idea that character and the yearning of a character is what creates the distinction between a prose poem and a short-short is a bit dismissive. What about music? What about rhythm? Meh.
Now, the other panel, "More Than a Collection," was great. Not much to say about it except we all spoke the appropriate amount. We all were prepared and passionate about what we had to talk about.
It was quite interesting to hear the manuscript-making processes of the other panelists and it was good to see that my own methodologies weren't so strange.
Glad to be back home.
We're transitioning L. from co-sleeping to the crib. Brutal.
Clem Snide. "Find Love."
Monday, February 16, 2009
The first time we went for deep dish pizza. There would be a second time. And of course, later, I would eat leftover deep dish pizza, so I had deep dish pizza three times during the conference.
Sarah doesn't want to be recognized here, but I spotted her.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
1. You need a digital camera
2. A blog
3. No shame
Find and take a photo of the following:
1. Very old but famous poet dirty dancing with younger poet.
2. An unsolicited manuscript proposal at a press booth.
3. Grad students wandering the bookfair aimlessly with more free journals than they know what to do with.
4. Badge switching.
5. A poet playing a fiddle in the middle of the bookfair.
6. Unattended book signing event (come find me on Thursday)
7. A poet wandering the bookfair eating a Chicago-Style hot dog.
8. Graduate student with an unnatural hair tint.
9. A poetry reading panel where one of the panelists goes over his/her allotted time by 10 minutes.
10. The best free swag item.
11. A writer subscribing to a literary journal.
12. Writers working out in the hotel gym.
13. A writer wearing a bolo tie.
I'll think of more, but that's a lot of snapshots so far. I've got my digital camera . . .
July 8 - 12, 2009
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
In order to help mentor the next generation of Asian American poets, Kundiman, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Asian American poets, is sponsoring its 6th annual poetry retreat where nationally renowned Asian American poets will conduct workshops and provide one-on-one mentorship sessions with participants. Kundiman hopes to provide a safe and instructive environment that identifies and addresses the unique challenges faced by emerging Asian American poets.
* Myung Mi Kim (author of Commons, DURA and Under Flag)
* Rick Barot (author of The Darker Fall and Want)
* Staceyann Chin (author of The Other Side of Paradise and pioneering spoken word artist)
To keep the cost of the retreat low, participants are not charged fees for workshops. Room and Board for the retreat is $325.
Send five to seven (5-7) paginated, stapled pages of poetry, with your name included on each page. Include a cover letter with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and a brief paragraph describing what you would like to accomplish at the Kundiman Asian American Poets’ Retreat. Include a SAS postcard if you want an application receipt. Manuscripts will not be returned. No electronic submissions, please.
Mail application to:
245 Eighth Avenue #151
New York, NY 10011
Submissions must be postmarked by March 2, 2009
We'll be at the book fair sharing a booth with Bloom. Come find us at AWP or check out our website: www.kundiman.org.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Don't think I'll be reading at an off-site venue for AWP which is just as well since I'm doing so much on-site. I'll be free to wander and snap photos of you guys reading.
Looks like I'm freeish on Thursday after my book signing. I'm going to try to go to a couple of panels. Any suggestions? Anyway, here's my AWP schedule:
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
Going to see Juana Molina tonight! She'll be playing at the Nightlight Lounge. Doors open at 8PM.
Juana Molina. "La Verdad.""
Thinking about getting rid of the numbers. There's no real order or hierarchy. The sections are pretty self-contained, I think.
My immediate goal is to work this into the first section which is the shortest section of the manuscript. I need a foregrounding poem for what comes later in the manuscript, I believe.
Priscilla Ahn. "Dream."
Sunday, February 08, 2009
My own personal goal is to have it sent out by Tuesday--Sending out to this. What the heck, eh?
Secondly, I need to get my classes in order. Mind you, I'm not saying that my teaching's a secondary thing . . .
I've got to prep the notes for my substitute and post a few things on Blackboard. Not a whole lot to be done here, but enough to keep me occupied.
Thirdly, I need to pack. I need to find out what the weather's going to be like and I need to prepare. Also, I need to print out all my hotel junk, ticket stuff, etc..
And should I bring copies of my books since SIU Press'll be there?
I suppose a handful of copies is a good thing for trades. . .
My laptop is heavy. :-( I want a new one. I'm currently using an 17" Apple G4 Powerbook. It's 1st gen . . . one of the first ones at that size. It's seen better days. I could, of course, buy more physical RAM, but why? I don't plan on using it for much longer. I've been restraining myself from buying one of these: Clicky. So cute.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Thursday, February 05, 2009
I've got a Apple G5 Tower and my noise canceling headphones are on straddled across the top of the cpu. To the right is my 1Tb external hard drive. I always back up my stuff.
To the right is a moleskin notebook which I occasionally scribble notes in, but never poems. Underneath that is my "cool lines" notebook where I write down lines that come to me or that I read.
The dog painting is a gift from my sister-in-law, Suzanne, who is a groovy metalsmith/jeweler and artist.
My lovely life partner and wife surprised me with the impressive office make-over last summer when I was away at Kundiman.
The books are mostly poetry in alphabetical order ('cause that's how I roll). The bottom two shelves are reference and books I'm using for the teaching quarter.
L. is laughing at foxes.
Mid point of the Winter quarter. I realize my compatriots in those schools with semestral systems are just getting started. I feel like I'm in the home stretch for this quarter.
I gave a quiz to my non-reading class and I was pleased that 3/4ths of them seem to have heeded my warnings about their inattentiveness. The scores weren't as bad as I had expected.
Anyway, I think we're in the mid-quarter doldrums right now. Students are wearing down . . . getting colds. There was actually one case of mumps on campus.
I've been trying to get some time with the manuscript, but now that L. is crawling, I've been ever-vigilant. My parents still haven't moved to the area, so I'm the morning and early evening shift. Unfortunately, I have the most energy for desk-work in the mornings, so I feel a bit harried when it comes to all things paper-oriented. At least I'm keeping up with my grading.
Ideally, I've got to get the manuscript in shape to send it to NPS at the very least. . .
Somewhat excited about AWP. Not fully excited, just somewhat excited.
The Dodos. "Fools." Check out the insane drummer. . . My forearms are tired.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
I feel a bit pressured to finish this third manuscript, but I know it's not done. I suppose I'm feeling the pressure because of uncertainty--I'm not sure if/when it'll find a home. These concerns, I know, are a bit goofy and unfounded, considering I still consider myself in the early stages of what I hope will be a lifetime of practicing art.
Still, I'm anxious and when I get anxious about writing, I write. My brain is telling me to get off of my can.
I'm excited about Juana Molina because she's an artist who's reinvented herself, moving from comedy to pretty serious music. Her transition wasn't a gradual one . . . it was somewhat abrupt. One day she's doing comedy and the next thing she's playing before small audiences.
If you don't know her stuff, she's giving a free MP3 of "Un Dia" on her website: www.juanamolina.com.
I suppose it's important to remake yourself as an artist to keep yourself interested (interesting?). I for one couldn't possibly write the same manuscript over and over again. And looking at the projects that I have on my plate, they're all so different from one another.
I'm excited about AWP's conference next week. I am, however, telling myself to slow down--I know, I know. I'm doing a gazillion things next week, but I also know that I'll be seeing friends I don't see that often and that I need to really "see" them. So I'm telling myself that I must chill out, have lunches, coffee, breakfast, etc., with my friends. I'm telling myself to listen and be present.
The Kooks. "Ooh La."
Funny because they suddenly happen upon a French all-girls school or something.
Monday, February 02, 2009
My students don't follow directions.
I, of course, am being very general. There are some who follow directions very well, but a large number of them do not.
My parents, thank goodness, are coming this Friday. They'll be staying in town to help Meredith out with the little guy while I'm away at AWP. I can't wait until they're here full time. But I understand the delay. Mom's giving up a professional medical practice she's held since 1977. There are lots of things that need to be settled.
Not a current spin, but I saw this video on CurrentTV and I just had to share:
The Arcade Fire. "Neon Bible" in an elevator.
Current spin: DJ Babu with a "sick juggle." I watched Scratch on Friday and I've been revisiting the turntablists of my youth.
Now, in my haste to switch templates, I fear I've lost some of your blog URL's. If you're missing, let me know and I'll put you back on my blogroll.
Disappointed that the Redbirds lost the Superbowl. Still, the last half was fabulous. What a heartbreaking way to lose and what heroics by Holmes. Couldn't believe he kept both feet in bounds.
Springsteen was okay. Prince from Superbowl 41 was WAY better.
Blind Pilot. "Go On Say It."
Sunday, February 01, 2009
As always, this poem in its current state, will live here for a day before it goes poof.
Yes, they're both 14 lines long. No, that wasn't intentional . . . but now it may be.
Stuck in my head:
Emily Jane White. "Liza."