Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

In the coming year I wish you all the things The World offers.
Have fun and drive carefully. Or, better yet, don't drive at all. Just take a walk under the midnight stars.

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From the Seattle Stranger

from "We Regret Poetry" by Charles Mudede and James Latteier

"Something has to be done about this. Something final has to be said. We regret the contemporary poetry spewing out of this city, this region, this nation. It goes without saying, in all ages, there are too many poetasters—poetic disasters, people who believe that the whole substance of the form is a sort of confessional or a way to commemorate some moment of epiphany. However, no age can match this one in the amount of phony profundities that are strewn about us everywhere: in the broken stem of a flower, a cherished hurt, an act of forgiveness. Fathers, as we have noted before, come in for a lot of this." Full article here.

Sounds like somebody needs a hug.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


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Please love me
and I will play for you
this poem
upon the guitar
I myself made
out of cardboard and black threads
when I was ten years old.
Love me or else.

— Franz Wright
from The Beforelife (Knopf 2001)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Jane: A Murder

I just finished reading the most amazing book of poems, Jane {a murder}, by Maggie Nelson. It's a 221 page poem sequence/documentary/nonfiction novel/memoir, in which Nelson explores the story of her aunt Jane, who was a law student at the University of Michigan in the 1960's, and who was murdered by a serial killer four years before the author was born (a case that was never completely solved, and left many lingering questions unanswered). The book is a pastiche of brief lyric poems, dreams, prose poems, quotes from Jane's diaries, interviews with Jane's boyfriend of the time and other friends and family members, and excerpts from newspaper articles. It's quite a mish-mash of genres, yet it all holds together beautifully and the narrative arc is simply riveting. I could not put it down (which is something to say for a book of poems of this length).

Here's an excerpt, from a poem that I think captures the sense of genre crossing from lyric to memoir to non-fiction documentary:

The Gap

does not appear to itself
chopped up in bits,

William James
once said.
It appears to itself as continuous.

But there can be
holes in time
the mind tries

to ignore, holes
that perforate
the felt of

the night sky.
An aching gap
James said, trying

to describe
the space made
by a lost word.

To fill it up
is the destiny
of our thoughts.

What transpired
for five and
a half hours

between Jane
and her murderer
is a gap so black

it could eat
an entire sun
without leaving

a trace. Listen
hard enough,
James said.

You can hear
the rhythm
of the ache.

Poetry for Your Table

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My mother gave me this fun little word game for Christmas. She said "maybe it will help you write your poems." Each of the eight blocks has a different word on each of its six sides. You re-arrange them to make a sentence or phrase. My first try: "I am everything wicked in your naked love." Thanks mom. Luv ya.

Dean's Fry Pan

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Note the Metaxa Sidecar on the coffee table, half-finished.

Little Claire's Tiara

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Men's Chorus Tonight

Dean and I are going with old friends Paul and Brandt to see the Seattle Men's Chorus tonight. We've had season tickets forever. Last year they did a silly rendition of this song by Bob Rivers, to the tune of "Winter Wonderland." It truly made my season bright.

Walking Around in Women's Underwear

Lacy things, the wife is missin'
Didn't ask, her permission
I'm wearin' her clothes
Her silk pantyhose
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear

In the store, there's a teddy
Little straps, like spaghetti
It holds me so tight
Like handcuffs at night
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear

In the office there's a guy named Melvin,
He pretends that I am Murphy Brown
He'll say, "Are you ready?" I'll say, "Whoa Man!"
"Let's wait until our wives are out of town!"

Later on, if you wanna
We can dress, like Madonna
Put on some eyeshade
And join the parade
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear

Lacy things- missin'
Didn't ask- permission
Wearin' her clothes
Her silk pantyhose
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear


Back Yard, Wenatchee, 1962

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Can you guess which one is me?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

What I Want for Christmas

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Vacation Sex

from Poetry Daily. This poem made me smile:

Vacation Sex

We've been at it all summer, from the Canadian border
to the edge of Mexico, just barely keeping it American
but doing okay just the same, in hotels under overpasses
or rooms next to ice machines, friends' fold-out couches,
in-laws' guest quarters — wallpaper and bedspreads festooned
with nautical rigging, tiny life rings and coiled tow ropes —

even one night in the car, the plush backseat not plush
enough, the door handle giving me an impromptu
sacro-cranial chiropractic adjustment, the underside
of the front seat strafing the perfect arches of his feet.
And one long glorious night in a cabin tucked in the woods
where our crooning and whooping started the coyotes

singing. But the best was when we got home, our luggage
cuddled in the vestibule — really just a hallway
but because we were home it seemed like a vestibule —
and we threw off our vestments, which were really
just our clothes but they seemed like garments, like raiment,
like habits because we felt sorely religious, dropping them

one by one on the stairs: white shirts, black bra, blue jeans,
red socks, then stood naked in our own bedroom, our bed
with its drab spread, our pillows that smelled like us:
a little shampoo-y, maybe a little like myrrh, the gooseberry
candle we light sometimes when we're in the mood for mood,
our own music and books and cap off the toothpaste and cat

on the window seat. Our window looks over a parking lot —
a dental group — and at night we can hear the cars whisper past
the 24-hour Albertson's where the homeless couple
buys their bag of wine before they walk across the street
to sit on the dentist's bench under a tree and swap it
and guzzle it and argue loudly until we all fall asleep.

Dorianne Laux
Facts about the Moon
W. W. Norton & Company

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Hanged Man

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The Hanged Man

I was wandering the forest, lost
in the song of the woodfinch, when
something snagged my ankle, the air

huffed from my chest, and I was hoisted
up. Upended like this, all the world seems
strange and new — I think I’ll cross

both arms and watch a while. A high
thin sound rushing in my ears,
as the coins fall from my purse.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Brokeback Ennis

Saw Brokeback Mountain with Dean tonight. What a terrific movie. Really sad, in a happy way, if that makes sense, the story of these star-crossed cowboy lovers. I like what the screenwriters added to the original short story, to flesh out the characters more. And I think the movie serves the original story well. It works on so many levels: as historical drama, as rural gay cautionary tale, as anti-hate documentary, as gay love story, as bi-straight love story, as human love story. (And the music is terrific. Willie Nelson's "He Was a Friend of Mine" playing as the credits rolled almost had me in tears all over again.)

But ultimately Brokeback is Ennis Del Mar's story. Heath Ledger plays him with great subtlety: he is a character whose emotional life is so internal, so inward, that every little twitch of a facial muscle, or wink of an eye, or silence, speaks volumes. He is, on the surface, so withdrawn not because he is without feelings, but because he is so full of feeling, and so easily overwhelmed by them. And it is only in the secluded, safe environment of Brokeback, or on the several times a year "fishing trips," that he can let down enough to be with Jack. It's sad, and tragic, but by the end of the movie I think Ennis has evolved, and learned to love more openly. (The scene with his daughter, where he agrees to go to her wedding, is totally key to this).

There were a few annoying people giggling at inappropriate times in the audience, and an older woman sitting behind us who kept saying "this is disgusting" (I finally turned around and said "Shh!" and she shut up for the rest of the movie). Otherwise the audience seemed rapt, and there was a round of applause at the end.

I recommend Brokeback Mountain. I *heart* Heath Ledger. I think he deserves an Oscar or Golden Globe or whatever. But go and see it and decide for yourself. I dare you not to be moved.

If Two Men Make Love in the Woods, Does Anybody Care?

The Biggest Small Poems Going . . .

A review of Kay Ryan's The Niagra River in the NY Times Book Review.

"A Kay Ryan poem is maybe an inch wide, rarely wanders onto a second page, and works in one or two muted colors at most. Rather than raise a righteous old hullabaloo, a Ryan poem sticks the reader with a little jab of smarts and then pulls back as fast as a doctor's hypodermic."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

National Champions!

Congrats to Husky Women's Volleyball. You rule!

UW beats Nebraska 3-0: 30-25, 30-26, 30-25

Which Peanuts Character are You?

It was a tossup: Snoopy or the little birdy . . .

You are Woodstock!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

From Lorna

left brain
You're left brain oriented! Some characteristics
that might describe you are: logical,
sequential, rational, analytical, objective,
and you look at parts and pay attention to
detail rather than the thing as a whole.
Memorizing numbers and the specifics is not so
difficult for you. When remembering someone,
you think of their name and traits, rather than
their physical appearance. You work better with
routine and learn best with oral or verbal
lessons. You prefer the male family members
over the female (may not pertain to all). You
don't like to feel smothered and often blame
yourself for others discomforts. Tip: relax,
learn to trust others and don't dwell on
mishaps or successes of the past. Please rate
if you liked it!

Are You More Left or Right Brain Oriented?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ice Trees

It is SO COLD outside! Brrrrrrr.

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Born in the Year of the Pig

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January 30, 1911 to February 127, 1912 (metal)
February 16, 1923 to February 4, 1924 (water)
February 4, 1935 to January 23, 1936 (wood)
January 22, 1947 to February 9, 1948 (fire)
February 8, 1959 to January 27, 1960 (earth)**
January 27, 1971 to February 14, 1972 (metal)
February 13, 1983 to February 1, 1984 (water)
January 31, 1994 to February 18, 1996 (wood)

Celebrities include:
Woody Allen - Julie Andrews - Alfred Hitchcock - Steven Spielberg

"You are a splendid companion, an intellectual with a very strong need to set difficult goals and carry them out. You are sincere, tolerant, and honest but by expecting the same from others, you are incredibly naive. Your quest for material goods could be your downfall. The Pig would be best in the arts as an entertainer, or possibly a lawyer."

Unlike the animal that Americans think of when they consider a Pig, the Chinese consider the Pig as one of the most pleasant and productive animals. They are home-lovers who put a lot of attention toward family matters. Pigs are models of sincerity, purity, tolerance, and honor.

Pigs simply want to do everything right, and have an unrelenting optimistic attitude. Pigs are industrious in business as well as home life. They finish the projects that they begin, and do so with great enthusiasm. In business, they can become extremely successful and usually reap the financial benefits of such accomplishments.

Pigs get along well with almost everyone, and they typically have a large and varied collection of good friends. Like the Monkey, the Pig is intellectual — a character with a great thirst for knowledge.

The Pig was such an integral part of the home in China that the Chinese character for "family" consists of the sign for a roof, under which is the character for a Pig.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Poetry Group Holiday Meeting

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Kathleen Flenniken, Jared Leising, Beth Kruse, and Rebecca Loudon's hand (holding another stunning poem). KF and myself (below). Ron Starr in Santa Hat, sipping a festive Peppermintini (below below).
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I *Heart* Nick V.

Love his personality, loved the Barbie dress he made with his niece in mind: what a hunky Uncle. He's my frontrunner on Project Runway. (Otherwise known as Project RunGay: 7 of the 16 contestants are totally fa-fa-fah-bulous.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Seven of Swords

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Seven of Swords

Tip-toeing from the battlefield
with your bouquet of swords,
your garland of hurts.
Why do you care
what the others think?

Why do you carry
their thoughts with you,
points down in your palms,
making your fingers bleed?

Seven black crosses
reel across the evening sky,
squawking their accusations.

What have you taken
that isn’t yours?

Why this bitterness that
doesn’t belong to you?

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Played Scrabble this afternoon with my good friend Jeff Crandall. We are very evenly matched, which makes it so fun to play against each other. (Plus we just gossip and squeal like flaming queens the whole time).

Jeff won 2-1 in games. The scores:

Jeff: 329-433-358: 1120
Peter: 375-385-339: 1099

Only 21 points difference over three games. One turn. So close.

Some of our bingos (a 7+ letter word, earning a 50-point bonus): PERIGEE, SWEATIER, JUDGMENT, RETINAE, BURSTED, VERDANT, LUSTIER, LUMINES (oops! a phoney), STRENGTH, VENERABLE. Unfortunately, my play of "SLOSHER" was challenged, and ruled as unacceptable. Why isn't slosher a word? One *sloshes* a drink. One who sloshes a drink is a *slosher*. It seems perfectly logical to me. ~grin~

Saturday, December 10, 2005

On Disjunction

A fascinating essay, “Forms of Disjunction,” in The Resistance to Poetry, by James Logenbach, a book recommended by Kevin at The Slant Truth. The gist of the essay (or at least my reading of it) is that disjunction — an unexpected leap of association, image, argument, tone — is crucial, even essential, to poetry. As readers, we want to be astonished, bewitched, confused for a moment, and to have to work a little to fill in what’s missing, to make our own connections. This is one of the great pleasures of poetry. The problem is when a poem is all disjunction. You know the kind of poem I am talking about. Where you can’t make heads or tails of anything in it. Instead of a sense of surprise or wonder or mystery, all you feel reading it is weariness, boredom. Logenbach quotes Auden on this:

“The danger, as Auden admitted more openly in a letter to Frank O’Hara, was that of ‘confusing authentic non-logical relations which arouse wonder with accidental ones which arouse mere surprise and in the end fatigue.’ . . . There is always a risk involved in disjunction; that’s part of its wonder. And we need to feel, in our pleasure, the threat of the accident impinging slightly on the authentic.” pg 36.

He goes on to differentiate between “dry disjunction” and “wet disjunction,” the former being more sensory, dream-like, image-based, and spoken; and the latter being more abstract, philosophical, idea-based, and thought.

I think of the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense. Sometimes it’s exactly what a poem needs: to stop making so much sense, to have a dash of disjunction added to it: a little wet, a little dry. But a poem that is all disjunction is like fishing without a bicycle.

Thinking in Palindromes

I like to read the last page of a book first . . .

Friday, December 09, 2005

Red Coffee Cup

I was driving home from the gym this morning, when I noticed the car behind me had a tall red to-go coffee cup on its roof. When we were stopped at the light, I poked my head out the window and waved to the driver, a handsome young asian man, and pointed to his roof. He promptly hopped out of his car and ran up to my window with a piece of paper in his hands as if he were lost and needed to ask directions, leaving his coffee cup on top. The light was about to change, but I rolled my window back down, and he said: "Congratulations. You just stopped a Starbuck's Red Coffee Cup Car. Because you were so nice you get a free Starbuck's Card." And he handed me an envelope with a Starbuck's card for $5. Then he drove off, weaving through traffic, the tall red to-go cup obviously glued to his roof.

How strange. Has this happened to anybody else?


In other news, some recent acceptances/appearances:

I discovered recently that a review of Saying the World by Jim Foy appeared in the summer issue of Poet Lore.

Four poems from Saying the World will be appearing in the 4th Edition of Behavior & Medicine (Hogrefe & Huber), a medical school/behavioral health text book, put out by University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine, and edited by Danny Wedding.

My poem "Turning Straw Into Gold" (VQR Summer 2003) will be appearing in the writing textbook, Spinning Words Into Gold, edited by Maureen Ryan Griffin.

And a new poem is forthcoming in New England Review. Thank you C Dale.

Not a bad week.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

What Kind of Pie are You?

You Are Apple Pie

You're the perfect combo of comforting and traditional
Those who like you crave security


I remember the day the music died. I miss you John.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

International Night Out


A group of us from work, at Maneki for Japanese food: Dean & I; Lanea & Elham; Marta and a cup of saki; Gene and Sean; Sam and Lynn. Such a fun group. Thank you, Elham, for setting it up. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Living in the Past

From Charles, via Artichoke, via ???.

I went to old journals to see exactly what was happening on this same day, in the past 20 years:

20 Years Ago Today: I am a third year medical student doing a clerkship in Pocatello, Idaho. There are a lot of Mormons everywhere. I deliver a baby for the first time. It's part of what makes me want to go in to Family Medicine.

15 Years Ago Today: "On NPR this AM — a cowboy poet reading — 'Love's a big word, and covers a lot of territory.'" Dean and I have been together 4 years, and living together for 4 months. I'm doing locum tenens work at Group Health, Burien, and writing my first poems. On this day I send off these poems to magazines: "Saint Genet," "Kafka's Grave," "Ravenna at Dusk," "Fetus Papyraceous," "First Crash Cesarean." Some of them actually get published.

10 Years Ago Today: Dean and I are in Hawaii. I have a scruffy beard. "Spent all morning lying back in a lounge chair, watching and listening to the ocean, reading in Louise Gluck's Proofs and Theories. . . . later we walked along a beach of black volcanic rock mixed with white coral shell." The highlight of the trip: going to Waikiloa, a very Fantasy-Island-like mega resort, full of pavilions and outdoor art. Heaven on earth.

5 Years Ago Today: "Wednesday early afternoon, SBC Broadway. Another bright sunny day; it has been an amazing fall. Having a latte and a piece of Verde Primo pizza from Pagliacci. I worked the morning at High Point, and Dean is doing his Wednesday shift at WSMH. And today is our anniversary! Number 14. I didn't even think of it this morning, when we kissed good bye. But while I was at work, writing 12-6-00 on each lab slip or chart I was signing, I remembered."

We were both embarrassed to have forgotten, but more than made up for it with some hot & heavy.
. . .
"Poetry group last night was good. Told them about the Columbia City reading. Read a funny rejection from Iowa Review, that used the WCW "This is just to say" poem as a rejection, saying the poems weren't cold enough, or bold enough, or whatever . . . funny."

1 Year Ago Today: "Sunday night we we went out to dinner at Il Fornaio upstairs for our anniversary. By coincidence we had gotten to Pacific Place in time to see it "snow." It's a new thing they are doing there. At 6PM on the dot, some secret snow machine starts up, and music plays, and these artificial flakes fall from the highest level, like you see on a theater set. It's lovely, but fake."
. . .
"Received a copy of Bloom that I ordered the other day online. . . I really enjoyed DA Powell's interview and poems. Especially the one with the naughty Santa images in it. Where he says something like "I left you toll house cookies, you left me with bloody shorts . . ." and then goes into a list of HIV/AIDS symptoms he has had. Funny and sad and disturbing and uplifting all at once. Lovely."

Today: we'll see . . . I am off work, hoping to get some new writing done, and we have dinner tonight at Mona's on Latona. It's been 19 years now, Dean and I are "older than we once were, and younger than we'll be. But that's not unusual."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Techniques for Surviving Auto-Submersion

As your vehicle splashes down, take a moment to appreciate its
buoyancy — . . .

Saturday, December 03, 2005

from Ginsberg in the 50's

In San Francisco Ginsberg saw a psychiatrist, Philip Hicks, who asked him what he would like to do with his life.

"Doctor," as Ginsberg recalls his answer, "I don't think you're going to find this very healthy and clear, but I really would like to stop working forever — never work again, never do anything like the kind of work I'm doing now — and do nothing but write poetry and have leisure to spend the day outdoors and go to museums and see friends. And I'd like to keep living with someone — maybe even a man — and explore relationships that way. And cultivate my perceptions, cultivate the visionary thing in me. Just a literary and quiet city-hermit existence."

Then Hicks said, "Well, why don't you?"

Sometimes I feel this way, too.

Amazon Concordance

Amazon recently posted its concordance for Saying the World. It came out a little differently than the one I ran myself from an online program last June. It's interesting that "now" is the most commonly used word. Hmmm . . .

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Friday, December 02, 2005

From Woody, via Gary via Stephanie

Go to google, type in "(your name) needs" and collect the first lines from the first page of hits:

Peter needs Jesus to rehabilitate him, to forgive him, to make him new ...
Peter needs to be swift with his knife and other weapons
Peter needs to save Dumbledore
Peter Needs an Impressive Stoppage Over Williams
PETER NEEDS OUR HELP. Hard as it may be to believe —
Peter needs all the funds he can get to pay for his attorney.
What Peter needs to know to "grow up"

hehehe . . .

Rare Bird

— for Susan R.

Look: a pair!
I thought they were extinct.

Lovely creatures that read
poetry but don’t write it.

Shhh. Don’t startle them.
We’re hoping they’ll mate.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

From Ted Genoways' email at VQR

Dear VQR Readers,

As many of you already know, today is World AIDS Day . At VQR, we want to mark this important day by offering you a sneak preview of our upcoming Winter issue--a full month before it hits newsstands. The special portfolio focuses on AIDS in Africa. We have commissioned essays by epidemiologist Philip Alcabes, noted AIDS reporter Helen Epstein, award-winning South African journalist Jann Turner, and photographer Charter Weeks.

To view the essays, please CLICK HERE .


We felt that now was an especially important time to focus attention on this problem. To say we have forgotten the problems of Africa since we began our "war on terror" would be an understatement. Our government has suspended many of the programs that allow for resettlement of political refugees. We have turned away from enforcing UN demands on African dictators. Worst of all, the Bush administration has made promises for political gain, then broken them for political expediency. In March 2002, for example, President Bush proposed the Millennium Challenge Account, a program by which the United States would increase aid by 50% over the next three years, resulting in an annual increase of $5 billion by fiscal year 2006. Yet, in January 2005, as FY06 approached, Bush requested only $3 billion to fund Millennium Challenge, and Congress cut that amount to $1.75 billion without a struggle from the White House--leaving barely a third of what was originally promised. Little notice has been paid to this broken promise or what it means for Africa. (more in original email).