Saturday, April 30, 2005

You said you wanted me to show you my heart, my true inner self. Well . . . here I am. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 29, 2005

Mark Morris Dance Group to Burning Word

Had a great time at the UW World Dance Series with our friends Paul and Brandt this evening, seeing the Mark Morris Dance Group perform "Mosaic & United," and "Violet Cavern." The latter piece was simply amazing: live music performed by jazz trio The Bad Plus (drums piano bass); incredible lighting and costumes; and a series of dances that were high Mark Morris style. Loved it.
I'm off with good friend and fellow Floating Bridge editor Ted McMahon in the early AM tomorrow, to take the ferry to the Burning Word Poetry Festival on Whidbey Island. I hope it doesn't rain, or doesn't rain too much. We'll be manning a booth for Floating Bridge Press; and I'll be giving a short poetry reading in the afternoon. I'll also be passing out some fliers for the Port Townsend Writer's Conference, where I'll be leading a workshop this summer (more on that later).

The Human Face of Medicine

I am guest lecturing (actually more of a moderating role) at the UW Medical School again today, for an elective called The Human Face of Medicine. I think it is terrific that UW is offering a literature and medicine elective. The text for the class is A Life in Medicine, in addition to other selected readings. Several local writers including Emily Transue (author of On Call) and Audrey Young (author of What Patients Taught Me), and myself have been invited to present. It's especially fun for me to be invited to do this, as the UW is my alma mater. I went there for 13 years! (yes . . . really . . . 6 years undergrad, 4 years medical school, and 3 years residency), so it's definitely a homecoming of sorts.

For today I'll be talking about a few poems from Saying the World, as well as leading a discussion on the readings from the syllabus, which include a very intense poem about rape, "This Red Oozing," by Jeanne Bryner; as well as one of my favorite medical poems, "What the Doctor Said," by Raymond Carver:

What The Doctor Said

He said it doesn't look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I'm glad I wouldn't want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I'm real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who'd just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

- Raymond Carver

Thursday, April 28, 2005

What Gender is Your Brain?

Your Brain is 46.67% Female, 53.33% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female
You are both sensitive and savvy
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Found Poem

Use as Directed
— from the Physician’s Desk Reference for Non-Prescription Drugs

For external use only. Avoid contact with eyes.
Frequent and continued use may cause dependence.
Keep away from children.
Squeeze twice into each nostril as needed.
May cause birth defects.
Do not use this product if you are sensitive to mercury.
May cause itching, irritation and skin flaking.
Relieves itching, irritation and skin flaking.
In case of overdose, contact a poison-control center.
Do not use in or around the rectum except on the advice of a physician.
May have a laxative effect.
For best results use twice weekly.
Do not drive or operate machinery while taking this medication.
Contents under pressure. Intentional inhalation can be harmful or fatal.
Helps restore mental alertness.
Hold container upright when spraying.
Also contains D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Blue No.1.
Safe and gentle enough to use as often as you like.
Remove foil wrapper before inserting into rectum.
Do not use more than six.
It is a violation of Federal Law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.
One application provides rapid and long-lasting relief.
Do not use near flame or fire.
Harmful if swallowed.
Unsafe for children at any dose.
Try our one-gallon professional size.

Poetry Survivor?

Tonight we meet to choose the winner of this year's Floating Bridge Press chapbook award. The editor's committee is a group of seven people, with fairly diverse tastes, and we decide by consensus, so it can be a little like herding cats, if you know what I mean.
It's our tenth year of operation, and like most small non-profit poetry presses, it's a labor of love (we are entirely volunteer-run). The main benefit, in my experience, is getting to read manuscripts (it's incredibly educational), and then meeting the poets we publish: we host a gala reading event for the winner and finalists at Seattle's Richard Hugo House, as well as produce readings throughout the year for the poets whose poems are chosen for the Pontoon anthology.
I have about seven manuscripts I'd be happy for us to publish; and I need to pare it down to about four or five for tonight's voting. One thing I have learned doing this is that the top group of manuscripts are usually all fairly equally good and worthy of publication; and it is a bit of a "crap shoot" which one gets chosen, depending upon a lot of very subjective factors. I joked with one of the other editors that it feels a little like American Idol. She shot back that it was more like Poetry Survivor.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

At the Bookstore . . .

My good friend R had to cancel this afternoon, as she was not feeling well. I was so disappointed! But I was at University Village anyway, so I went to the bookstore there and bought: The Orchard, by BP Kelly; Wedding Day, by Dan Levin; and Voluntary Servitude, by Mark Wunderlich.

I read the Wunderlich book this afternoon, and it is absolutely amazing. Its opening poem "Amaryllis" begins: "You've seen a cat consume a hummingbird,/scoop its beating body from the pyracantha bush/and break its wings in tufted paws . . ." And we know now that we are in the grip of the world in all its "survival of the fittest" mode.

One of the beams upon which this book is structured is the idea of "master & servant" (yes, imagine the Depeche Mode song of the 80's, and you've got the gist). It's a theme that pervades his examination of our dominance/servitude relationship with the animal world, with language, and with our more "human" pairings. In "Lamb," for instance, the narrator is called upon to help deliver a pair of lambs: "Inside the sheep's hot center, lambs tangle,/soft joints press a tender twin./. . . I will bring them forth, bleating into January./ . . . They will come when I call . . . even though I call them to the gleaming hook."

Later, in "I Too Am An Animal of Great Beauty," a prose poem in which the narrator is partnered with another man for a sexual liaison: "Hogtied and hemstitched, gag in my mouth, I want your damage, your tight strung racket batting me back."

In "It's Your Turn to Do the Milking, Father Said," he recalls a summer spent as an erotic dancer, and melds it to a memory of milking the goats as a child on the farm (the euphemism of an older man's semen being "goat's milk" is not lost upon this reader): "The poor goats. I brought them in and milked them, they were so uncomfortable."

The final poem, "The Meeting" is a wonderful explication of an encounter in the woods: "What was it like to touch him?/ . . . I recall only the weight of an arm,/trees crossing out the sun/and a path leading out into the open."

What a pleasure to discover this book! Thank you to Rebecca for "standing me up."

Spring garden gulag

Help: I am being held captive and forced to do hard labor at the evil and infamous Mount Virgin Garden Gulag, otherwise know as "spending the weekend at home doing yardwork with Dean." Send chocolate and/or lemon vodka.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

New Food Pyramid is Totally Gay

From our friends at Wonkette:
"Sure, the new USDA food pyramid may look harmless, or maybe even "healthy." But it doesn't take a professional sin-sniffer quivering with Christ-love to see what's going on here. Once again, homosexual activists have hijacked a trusted icon of sensible nutrition to brainwash schoolkids into thinking sodomy is a perfectly wholesome alternative to lunch at McDonald's." For full story click here.

Oulipo Poems: S+7

Oulipo stands for “Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle/Potential Literature Workshop.” Among the many interesting procedures developed by the Oulipo school is the “S+7” method, where each noun in a given text, such as a poem, is replaced by the noun to be found seven places away in a chosen dictionary. Here is an example of such a poem:

The extract, from Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

The transformed version, using S + 7:

To see a Worm in a Grampus of Sandblast
And a Hebe in a Wild Flu
Hold inflow in the palsy of your hangar
And Ethos in an housefly.

And here is a version of s+7, by Harryette Mullen, from her book Sleeping With The Dictionary. She has taken Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 130, and replaced the key words with phrases from, I dunno . . . perhaps, the ads section from a newspaper or telephone book? The resulting poem, I think, makes some interesting commentary on contemporary notions of race, beauty and consumerism; as well as being kinda funny.

Dim Lady

My honeybunch's peepers are nothing like neon. Today's special at Red Lobster is redder than her kisser. If Liquid Paper is white, her racks are institutional beige. If her mop were Slinkys, dishwater Slinkys would grow on her noggin. I have seen tablecloths in Shakey's Pizza Parlors, red and white, but no such picnic colors do I see in her mug. And in some minty-fresh mouthwashes there is more sweetness than in the garlic breeze my main squeeze wheezes. I love to hear her rap, yet I'm aware that Muzak has a hipper beat. I don't know any Marilyn Monroes. My ball and chain is plain from head to toe. And yet, by gosh, my scrumptious twinkie has as much sex appeal for me as any lanky model or platinum movie idol who's hyped beyond belief.

Exercise: Choose an existing poem that interests you, and a standard dictionary (or other word text). Transform the poem using S+7, replacing every noun with the noun seven places below it in the dictionary.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English

10% Dixie

10% Midwestern

10% Upper Midwestern

5% Yankee

A quick look around the blog

Take the Haiku Quiz at Of Looking at a Blackbird.
Welcome Emily's wife to the blog-world at Melanie in Retrograde.
See Simon's aleatory poem (30 pages that can be shuffled and read in any order) at Rhubarb is Susan.
Check out some wild shape-shifting poems at As Is.
Rebecca struggles with understanding Mortal vs. Venial sin.
And C. Dale is Edna; who are you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Poem: Frank O'Hara

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up


"Urbane, ironic, sometimes genuinely celebratory and often wildly funny, O'Hara would allow a realm of material and associations alien to academic verse to pour into his poems: the camp icons of movie stars of the twenties and thirties, the daily landscape of social activity in Manhattan, jazz music, telephone calls from friends; anything seemed ready material for inclusion into the particular order that the moment of composition would call for. Dadaist even in his approach to his own work, O'Hara composed huge numbers of poems with apparent spontaneity and ease . . . " from Mark Doty's essay, Modern American Poetry site.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Spring tulips in the back yard . . . ahhhh. Posted by Hello


In transliteration, you take a poem written in a language that is foreign to you, translate the sounds of the words into your language, and shape it into a poem. In the example below, Josh Corey has taken an excerpt from Dante’s Fifth Canto of Inferno, written in Italian, and done a transliteration of the sounds of the words (not the meanings), into English. His transliterated poem is at times funny and at times incomprehensible, but always fun. It can be very surprising what you can come up with:

Here are a few of the lines in the Italian:

Si tosto come il vento a noi li piega,
Mossi la voce: “O anime affannate,
Venite a noi parlar, s’altri nol niega!”

Which in English means:

No sooner had the wind bent them toward us
That I urged on my voice: “Oh battered souls,
If One does not forbid it, speak with us.”

And here are the corresponding lines of Corey’s poem (which originally appeared in the Boston Review):

The Kitchen of Francesca and Paolo
Inferno, Canto V

See the toast? I come vending a vile pirogie
in mossy lavatory to overhear: "O animate fiancée,
a benison on your parlor. Alter no nearer!"

Alternatively, you can chose a text that is not from literature, as the basis of your transliteration. In the example below, I have taken “The Quadratic Equation:"

x = (-b +/- √(b2 - 4ac))/2a

(which, in English, reads: "x equals a negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4 a c all over 2 a") and transliterated it into a poem called “The New Math:”

The New Math

Thunk ward rat: “techy-crazed young!”
Sexy squalls, an agate if be. Pleasure, mine,
awes this choir, rude, of bisque wared,
mynahs far racing — a lover to egg.

Admittedly, it is pretty non-sensical. But it was so fun to do. And who knows, maybe "mynahs far racing" or "a lover to egg" may make it into a new poem?

Exercise: choose a poem or story in a foreign language, and transliterate the sounds of the words into English. Alternatively, take a mathematical equation, or a technical paragraph, or a phrase from elsewhere in the Arts & Sciences, and transliterate it into a poem.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I *Heart* Tommy Lee Jones

That first night, I wasn't sure whether you asked me to dine with you, or to die with you. Still, I answered, yes.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

From the Walls of Open Books

From the walls of Open Books: A Poem Emporium, Seattle; one of only two poetry-only book stores in the country, now celebrating their Tenth Anniversary (Yay John & Christine!):

For me, everything in poetry should be out of place. Anna Akhmatova

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. Emily Dickinson

One reads poetry with one's nerves. Wallace Stevens

A poem is untoward. Heather McHugh

Successions of words are so agreeable. Gertrude Stein

Art is about experience (in the same sense that a cat indoors is "about" the house). Allen Grossman

The HEAD, by way of the EAR, to the SYLLABLE / The HEART, by way of the BREATH, to the LINE. Charles Olson

Unscrew the locks from the doors / Unscrew the doors themselves from their jams! Walt Whitman

Friday, April 15, 2005

What's Written on the Body

What’s Written on the Body

He will not light long enough
for the interpreter to gather
the tatters of his speech.
But the longer we listen
the calmer he becomes.
He shows me the place where his daughter
has rubbed with a coin, violaceous streaks
raising a skeletal pattern on his chest.
He thinks he’s been hit by the wind.
He’s worried it will become pneumonia.

In Cambodia, he’d be given
a special tea, a prescriptive sacrifice,
the right chants to say. But I
know nothing of Chi, of Karma,
and ask him to lift the back of his shirt,
so I may listen to his breathing.
Holding the stethoscope’s bell I’m stunned
by the whirl of icons and script
tattooed across his back, their teal green color
the outline of a map which looks
like Cambodia, perhaps his village, a lake,
then a scroll of letters in a watery signature.
I ask the interpreter what it means.
It’s a spell, asking his ancestors
to protect him from evil spirits

she is tracing the lines with her fingers —
and those who meet him for kindness.
The old man waves his arms and a staccato
of diphthongs and nasals fills the room.
He believes these words will lead his spirit
back to Cambodia after he dies.
I see
, I say, and rest my hand on his shoulder.
He takes full deep breaths and I listen,
touching down with the stethoscope
from his back to his front. He watches me
with anticipation — as if awaiting a verdict.
His lungs are clear. You’ll be fine,
I tell him. It’s not your time to die.

His shoulders relax and he folds his hands
above his head as if in blessing.
Ahh khun, he says. All better now.

— appeared in Journal of the American Medical Association, August 2003

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pornographic Poetry?

I thought this was fitting for National Poetry Month, in America, where sometimes you can’t even give poetry away, as people seem so repulsed by it. Eric Selinger (via an epigraph of Emily Lloyd's) at WomPo, takes Marrianne Moore’s famous poem, and uses a universal Search & Replace of “poetry” with “pornography” (sorry I don't remember how to keep the formatting of the lines intact when posting). It's interesting to see what happens:


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
wolf under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse
that feels a flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against "business documents and

school-books"; all these phenomena are important. One must make
a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half pornographers, the
result is not pornography,
nor till the pornographers among us can be
"literalists of
the imagination"--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them,"
shall we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of pornography in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in pornography.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Genesis/Gin Sees

More fun with anagrams:

Gin Sees

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
In the benign gin, God the servant threatened headache.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Now the self-weary mad sportsman, draws snakes over the perfect deaf house, and the frigid stoop was sovereign over the wrath.

And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
And God said, The tiger! The bell! Dawn’s later height.

God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.
God, aghast, saw hot wild ghetto, and He spared the deathless king from threat.

God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.
God gladly ate the child, and the scathing hells darkened. And hate wins revenge, and hot warm sneering, the day’s rift.


Dead and/or Famous Poet Anagrams

I obviously have too much time on my hands. Or a nifty-hifty anagram program (or both, hehehe). My favorites are William Blake and Osip Mandelstam.

John Ashbery: Her shy banjo.
Wystan Hugh Auden: Unwashed naughty. Hush! Unwanted gay.
Charles Baudelaire: His laudable career.
William Blake: Lamblike wail.
Emily Dickinson: Skinny domicile. Dom inks icy line.
Rita Dove: I adore TV.
T. S. Eliot: Toilets. Ole tits.
Allen Ginsberg: Balling greens.
Albert Goldbarth: That bold garbler.
Jorie Graham: Major Hegira. I harm a Jr. ego.
Marilyn Hacker: Real inky charm.
Robert Hass: Sober trash. Robs hearts.
Donald Justice: Lost, jaundiced.
Denise Levertov: Evident resolve. Note: verse lived.
Osip Mandelstam: Optimal madness.
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Small indecent vanity. Calmly invented saint. Silly 'n' manic vendetta.
Pablo Neruda: Proud an’ able.
Sharon Olds: Hard on loss.
Sylvia Plath: A vital sylph. Lavishly apt.
Gertrude Stein: Registered nut. Urgent re-edits.
Walt Whitman: What man wilt.
William Carlos Williams: A warm ill will: socialism.
William Butler Yeats: A really sublime twit. Ability matures well. Weary Bill mutilates.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Poetry is Better for the Brain than Prose

A friend on the WomPo list forwarded me this article.

Verse Broadens the Mind, Scientists Find

"IF LITERATURE is food for the mind, then a poem is a banquet, according to research by Scottish scientists which shows poetry is better for the brain than prose. Psychologists at Dundee and St Andrews universities claim the work of poets such as Lord Byron exercise the mind more than a novel by Jane Austen. By monitoring the way different forms of text are read, they found poetry generated far more eye movement which is associated with deeper thought.
Subjects were found to read poems slowly, concentrating and re-reading individual lines more than they did with prose.

" . . . Dr Jane Stabler, a literature expert at St Andrews University and a member of the research group, believes poetry may stir latent preferences in the brain for rhythm and rhymes that develop during childhood. She claims the intense imagery woven through poems, and techniques used by poets to unsettle their readers, force them to think more carefully about each line. "

For full article click here.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Bent to the Earth

Received my copy of Bent to the Earth in the mail today. It’s a wonderful book, and I am happy to know Floating Bridge published the title poem several years ago in the Pontoon anthology (it originally appeared in Poetry Northwest). The first section has poems arising from De Luna’s past as a migrant farm worker; the hard toil, the abuse at the hands of the INS, the deaths and exposure to chemicals: it’s all there. The other sections look at photography, a love relationship, the loss of a brother. And perhaps the most poignant poems in the book explore De Luna’s relationship with his father: the most touching being “My Father, Reading Neruda.” The “Bent to the Earth” of the title comes to represent not only the physical labor of migrant farm workers, but the way light bends to the earth, the way death and memory cause us to bend to the earth, as demonstrated in the final poem “Flowers for Your Grave,” where the narrator is bent to his brother's grave. Here’s a quote from “Windows Reflecting Other Windows:”

Death is the mother of beauty
said Stevens, and he was right.
But there was more. Beauty is
the child of death: he has
her ears and mouth, her eyes.”

I never had the pleasure of meeting Blas Manuel De Luna when he was in Seattle getting his MFA at UW. But I have really enjoyed this book.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Which Greek God/Goddess Are You?

I think this fits for me. The picture below reminds me of the cover of Greg Orr's wonderful book Poetry as Survival. I found the link at A Bird's Nest

Which Greek God/Goddess Are You? Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Into Perfect Spheres . . .

I brought back about 50 lbs worth of books from AWP, and am only now getting started into reading them. My favorites so far: Interglacial: New and Selected Poems and Aphorisms, by James Richardson, published by Ausable Press. My favorite part are the aphorisms. He can do in one sentence what some poets do in whole long poems. Here are a few that have grabbed me:
"The road you do not take you will have to cross."
"Solitude takes time. One becomes alone, like a towel drying, a stone warming."
"Indecision is excess of decision."
They are almost zen koans; I find I can turn them over and over in my head, and not tire of them.

The second favorite so far is Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes are Pierced, by Catherine Barnett, which won the 2003 Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books. I have always admired the work Alice James does, and their independent cooperative small press spirit. And this is a truly stunning book. I could not put it down and read the entire thing in one sitting; which matters because there is a bit of a narrative arc and a story to the poems. In brief, the poet's sister lost two young daughters in a plane crash off the California coast a few years ago (Dean and I also knew a couple on that plane, who gardened in the pea-patch across the street from us). These short, direct, personal lyric poems explore the anguish and grief and coming to terms and remembering of this devastating loss. And it works, I think, because the poet is one small step removed from it, being the sister of the mother. The distance allows her to bear looking closely at the events (hearing the news, the funeral, memorials, visiting the crash site, the things left behind, anniversaries, etc.) and to make art out of the experience; to make something beautiful, that we can all potentially learn from, and appreciate, as grief and loss touch us all at one time or another. These are riveting poems:

from "After Trying to Calculate the Weight of a Six-Year Old"

. . . They say the plane disappeared into the ocean--
they don't say anything about the ocean

how the ocean was changed


. . . For example, if you keep halving the distance
from sky to water
you should never get to water.


eighty-three passengers,
five crew,
negative three g's,
250 miles per hour,
700 fathoms down,


quiet field --


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Close Readings with CP

I've been enjoying the Camile Paglia book, and found a link to this interview on on the Dumbfoundry site. I can just hear CP saying "explication de texte" in this nasal French accent, and it makes my head spin

Here's how it starts:

BS: I love these close readings -- they bring back memories of my classes at NYU with Denis Donoghue, one of the last giants of the New Critics. Paying attention to the meaning of every word in the poems, all the reverberations and etymology, it’s like reading 43 A+ papers from my students. Tell me more about your attraction to close readings.

CP: I was in college around the time when the New Criticism, which adores explication de texte and all this close reading, was in decline. I would say it was in its height in its founding in the 30s and 40s; but by the 50s, it had become very derivative. It was practiced by these sort of third-raters, people without the real talent and erudition and prose style of the ones who had founded it in North America. And so I was in revolt, I thought, against it in my college years. For example, I found Cleanth Brooks’s The Well Wrought Urn absolutely stifling. I found it Protestant. I came from an Italian immigrant family, I thought it was repressive in its exclusion of anything about sex or aggression; its whole idea about the creative process I found sentimental.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Johnny Depp & Gwen Stefani at AWP

Saturday at AWP included a few celebrity sightings (see below).

In the morning, I met an interesting poet and fiction writer named Siobahn (sp?) over breakfast; I admire writers who can cross genres and do it well, such as Nance Van Winckel (whose reading I unfortunately missed; though I did get to say hi to her on the elevator). Saw Sharon Hashimoto and Michael Spence, a handsome long-term literary couple in Seattle. Ran into Kelly Agodon at the “Seven Deadly Sins” panel, and laughed about how popular all the panels were that had “taboo” “transgression” “vice” “sex” “sin” or “gay” in their titles. (Mental note: make sure to include all those words in a panel proposal for next year). Sharon Dolin had some interesting ideas about how a “curse can become an ode.” Peter Covine (who is a real hottie) read a fascinating, moving essay about his own personal “sins” of indulgence. I have to get his chapbook Straight Boyfriend, or perhaps his new book Cut Off the Ears of Winter. I nearly died when Kim Addonizzio, in the middle of her talk about “exorcising vs. exercising vice” whipped out a little metal flask and took a swig, saying “is this water? is this vodka? you’d really like to know, wouldn’t you?” Hahaha.

I was a little nervous for my reading with the other Copper Canyon/Hayden Carruth winners. Thanks to everybody who came: especially Chris Forhan, Charles and Woody, Rebecca: it was nice to have some familiar faces in the audience. It was a fun reading, and so good to finally meet Rebecca Wee and Jenny Factor, and to share the stage with them. I joked that we are like siblings separated at birth. I enjoyed reading Hayden Carruth’s poem “Life at 74.” I just love how he has approached aging with vim and vigor and cantankerousness.

After the reading several people came up to chat, or have a book signed. One guy looked exactly like Johnny Depp, and when I told him this he blushed and said people tell him this all the time. He said he was a high school English teacher somewhere in Pennsylvania (?) and he just wanted to tell me he loved my poem “Anagrammer” and has been teaching it in his writing classes, and that the students really dig it. It was sweet of him to go out of his way to tell me this; and I don’t know about you, but I really like the idea that high school kids could like my poems. Not to mention that their teacher looks like Johnny Depp. (Maybe it really was Johnny Depp?)

After the reading I went with Woody and his friend Rebecca for a cocktail. It was really busy in the bar at the Hyatt, either because all the AWP-ers were through with "conferencing" for the day and were getting ready to tie one on, or because the Illinois-Michigan State game had just started (probably both). It took forever to get served, but when our waitress finally arrived she looked exactly like Gwen Stefani. I am not kidding! I told her this, and I couldn’t tell if she took it as a compliment, or a come-on, or was just too freaking busy to want to deal. But she just rolled her eyes. Anyway; our drinks were really really strong: perhaps their way to appease us for the slow service? And the French fries with garlic were just yummy.

I got to briefly meet a few other bloggers, including Paul Guest. And to touch bases with Claudia Mauro of Whit Press, and one of my former teachers from undergrad at UW, Colleen McElroy (was it really 1979? OMG I feel old now). But I never did get to meet Aimee Nezhukumatathil (though I think I’ve finally learned how to spell her name).

It was a fun conference. But after a three hour drive in the pouring rain, with the freeway frequently turning to a white-out mist with visibility of about three inches, I am glad to be home, safe and warm.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Transgressive linebreaks

I went to several interesting sessions yesterday. The first was about the role of poet-critics; I especially enjoyed Linda Gregerson's eight requirements of the poet-critic (and wish I had taken notes!). Then I went to "Recreating Our Forebears: Queer History, Queer Poetry" a panel with Mark Doty, Robin Becker, Kay Murphy, Robert Jiron, Jeff Mann. Great panel: and the whole question of how to reclaim our gay literary "ancestors" when most of their life stories where hidden, encoded, or erased; when are we reading in too much, our own wish fulfillment. Then I went to a panel on "Trangressive Poetry and Post-Confessional Narrative." It started off with Brian Teare telling the story of being in a workshop as a graduate student, and having the word "cock" in his poem; and one of the other students saying she thought cock was too strong, and that he should take it out, and him saying "But I like cock; I want to keep it in . . . ." You had to be there, it was very funny. And then Olena K Davis, who instead of giving a talk, read a wonderful long "post-confessional narrative poem" that was really funny, and insightful, where the "I" of the poem keeps repeating how she "gives good head." OMG, I was in stitches. Then I went to a presentation on linebreaks, where the first speaker didn't really even talk about line breaks at all! But it sort of worked. Bruce Beasely gave a great talk: a few quotes and paraphrases: "Begin and cease, and the again begin" (Matthew Arnold). "What's most interesting about poetry is line breaks; poets do it all the time, but to explain it is elusive." "Lines lead to non-linearity." "A severing of language." Re: poems that are regular (such as syllabics) often have "lack of energy, lack of suspense; lack of disturbance; a squandering of possibility, of the unpredictable." And then he read an interesting short poem (or a quote from a poem) "Particle Accelerator" that he thinks has his shortest fastest line, not even a syllable: "phth." Very fun.

The reading at the library was very well-attended. Thanks again to Rachel Rose for making it all possible. Her new book is terrific: Notes on Arrival and Departure. I enjoyed meeting all the other readers, and chit-chatting with the audience afterwards: there were a lot of regular Vancouverite non-AWPers who came, yay! It was great to meet Canadian poet Lorna Crozier (who was wearing these really hot knee-high zip-up leather boots) and Annie Finch (of Wom-Po fame). Afterwards I joined Judith Barrington and Ruth and the wonderful Ursula Le Guin for dinner. Ursula will be giving one of the Keynote readings Saturday night, and she is witty and and bright and sharp as a pin.

Nice to run into some other bloggers: Charles, Woody, Jennifer, Dill of Vowel Movements, Jeannine, and others. Need to get some breakfast now. I think I'll swing by the bookfair again before my afternoon reading.

Friday, April 01, 2005


This conference is a trip! I drove up from Seattle, settled in my room (very nice hotel, btw), and hopped over to the Hyatt across the street to "register" (basically they hand you a name tag and a black book bag with the AWP logo and a program the size of a small city's telephone book inside) and to check out the book fair. Ran in to an old friend, Allen Braden (wonderful poet, he got an NEA this year) and wandered the "miles of aisles" of books. Chatted with AJ Rathbun of LitRag, Ted Genoways of VQR, Chase Twichell at Ausable, Kelly at Prairie Schooner, and the wonderful folks at Alice James and Lyric, and so many others I can't remember. Spent way too much money on books, but what the heck. I like to read. Ran into a few fellow bloggers: Laurel Snyder (very nice) and Anthony Robinson (who looked exactly like his picture).
Then I went on to Copper Canyon's booth, and said hi to Michael Wiegers & Kirsten, and put out some fliers for tonight's library reading (as it is "off-site" and not in the program). And by then I was maxed out, and needing to decompress, and went back to my room and had a very relaxing shower. Ahhh . . .
Went to the PLU Rainier Low-Residency program open house for a few minutes, where I saw Kelli Agodon, and Holly Hughes, and Stan Ruben and Judith Kitchen, and others. Then met up with C Dale and Jacob in the "Club Lounge" upstairs for delightful little hors d'houvres and cocktails. C Dale you make a great Cosmo! He and Jacob are so sweet and funny: we just laughed and laughed. I wish Dean had been there to meet them.
Went to dinner with Susan Rich, after the two of us missing connections several times. I was just about to give up and head off with Allen B. and Derek Sheffield and a large group, when I turned around: and there she was holding her umbrella into the wind on the corner of Georgia and Burrard (it was really windy and rainy last night). We went to see the Central Library where we'll be reading tonight (it's only 5 blocks from the Fairmont, at 350 W. Georgia). It is an amazing beautiful and spacious modern building, sort of shaped like two apostrophes hugging each other, with lots of glass in-between the two wings. Even if you don't go to the reading, make sure to check out this building. It's not as daring as the new Seattle Public Library, but it is very cool-looking.
Susan and I had dinner at Aria, and talked about how it was all going at the conference so far. We both are a little daunted by the buzzing din of it all. She has enjoyed several presentations: but you can only sit through so much before needing to move on. We shared a yummy caesar salad, she had prawns I had scallops; but the pasta was a little over cooked and I left most of it behind (who needs all the carbs anyway). Finished the evening back at the hotel in the lobby bar (which was just packed with AWP-ers) having Spanish coffees.

Today my plan is to actually go to some presentations (hehehe). There are 15 (Fifteen!) concurrent sessions every 2 hours or so. So much to choose from; how can one decide? Hopefully I'll find something inspiring. I'd love to get some new ideas, some new writing done.
Other bloggers: if you're here, say hi. And come to my reading at 5PM at the library tonite.