Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Looking forward to going to Hotlanta for AWP, though it seems like I just got back from ASU. Ah, the life of a jet-setting poet (haha). But seriously, I'm really looking forward to meeting up with several po-bloggers and others.


And now for a little shameless self-promotion:

If you are at AWP make sure to stop by the Bloom booth. Charles Flowers says the new issue is hot off the press (including my little poem "Twenty Years After His Passing My Father Appears to Us in Chicago, at Bobby Chin's Crab & Oyster House, in the Guise of Our Waiter, Ramon").


Also make sure to stop by the Copper Canyon Press table, and pick up a copy (or five! ~grin~) of my hot-off-the-press new book, What's Written on the Body. I'd love to sign one for you! (Other new titles include CD Wright's One Big Self, Dan Gerber's A Primer on Parallel Lives, Ellen Bass' The Human Line, and Marvin Bell's Mars Being Red).


And finally: please come to the off-site reading I am doing with Ann Fisher-Wirth (author of Blue Window, and a study of William Carlos Williams), at Collin Kelly's "Poetry at Portfolio Center" series, on Friday, March 2. It starts at 7:30, and there is an open-mic (sign up at 7pm). The Portfolio Center is located at 125 Bennett Street, Atlanta, GA 30309. Phone: 404.351.5055 or 800.255.3169. See you there!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Home now. And after a long nap, the xanax is worn off and I feel like a normal person again! We were going to go out for dinner. But I'm sick of eating out. Instead, we're staying home and I'm making martinis and steaks and vegetables, and Dean is making the salad, and we are gonna eat dinner & watch the Oscars (mostly to see Ellen Degeneris).

I'm in a playful mood. So I'm picking Little Miss Sunshine to win Best Picture. And Peter and Helen and Jennifer to win their categories.
Up early Sunday to get ready for the flight home. It has been a really fun conference. I finished classes with my small group, which was sad because it seemed we were just beginning to bond, and to warm up into working together. It's hard to just have three days, but still worth it, I think.

Terrific readings by Elizabeth Searle, who has written this wacky "Opera" about the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan-Jeff Galooley knee whacking story from the 1994(?) Olympics. What a hoot. Apparently she will be bringing it to Portland, and then to Bumbershoot. I can hardly wait to see it.

Also heard Tania Katan, who wrote My One Night Stand With Cancer, a book about getting breast cancer at age 21, and then again at age 31, and her adventures with that. It sounds really sad, but she is really very very funny, and poignant. I want to give this book to my sister, and to BK.

Also heard Cynthia Houge read. I just loved her story about being in France with her family and how she happened to look at her daughter-in-law's (?) hand at a restaurant, to read her palm in a very simple way (she is not a palm reader), but before she knew it, a crowd of French people had gathered around her, all of them wanting their palms read, too; for her to tell them when they would meet someone, when they would have a baby, etc etc. And how she just went along with it. And told them what she think they wanted to hear. Very funny. And she has a good poem from this. And I thought, it's sort of how it feels to be a doctor sometimes, when I really don't know what is going on with a patient, or it really is unexplainable, and it almost feels like palm reading, like sooth-saying. But important, in its own way, giving people hope. Hmmm.


Home soon. Back to work for a couple days, and then off to AWP. Can hardly wait to see Hotlanta! And, best of all, to pal around with Kathleen F.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

More Highlights/ASU

Carolyn Forche's new poems. Wow. I can hardly wait for a new book.


Claudia Rankine's cross-genre collaborative poetry. Amazing! She incorporates slow-motion video (one of them of the infamous head-butting episode at the last World Cup) while a narrator's voice drones a long poem about race, class, war, etc. Fascinating.


Sally Ball's class about the sentence in poetry.


The reading last night. A great turnout, maybe 150 people or more? I loved Laurie Nataro's funny-girl non-fiction about exploding pants and drunk-in-first-class airplane flights. She is just a hoot. I want to be her girl-friend.

Tony Hoagland's reading was terrific: his scathing and funny and smart takes on American popular culture and the media were just great.

I think my first reading from the new book went over well. (I was so glad to have read first, so I could sit back and enjoy Tony and Laurie). Signed lots of copies of Body afterwards. They even ran out of books, and had to turn a couple people away empty-handed! (I hope it's a good omen.)

Chatted with some very nice local writers (including a lovely lesbian couple who will be visiting Seattle soon. More on that later), as well as some undergrads and some students in the MFA program here.


One more day of classes. And then home in the morning. I miss my honey. See you soon Dean.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Some highlights: Carolyn Forche gave a terrific talk about writing political poetry. Even after all these years she still rocks it. Richard Siken read one long poem from Crush, and then read his new stuff. And it is hot. (But he says it's not poetry but "television." Hahaha.) The students at my word play workshop were terrific, and all wrote great stuff. I love giving that workshop. And, oh yes, dinner with Eduardo! (his manuscript is great, and I have a feeling he will win a book award this year).


Tonight is my first reading from the new book. OMG. I am so nervous!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Having a good time at the ASU conference. The weather is sunny and warm (though a thunderstorm is forecast for Friday), the campus is lovely, the people are great, the hotel we are put up in is quite comfy. Charles and Jewel and all their staff have done an excellent job. I met an interesting novelist from Vancouver BC on the shuttle from the airport. She and George Witte (who has a new book from Third Rail Press in Seattle) gave the opening reading yesterday. Went to a good line-breaks workshop given by Terry Hummer. I've met a few of my students (my classes start today; a group of eight). Also had the pleasure of meeting our own Richard Siken (who has some fun Yale and LG stories) and the marvy Tony Hoagland (who is much shorter than I had imagined). Walked back to the hotel along Mill Street, watched hordes of starlings beginning to roost in the orange trees as the sun was setting. Though it is fun to meet people, I get overwhelmed after a while, and just have to run back to my room and hide out. I give a workshop on Word Play exercises at 8:15 this morning (yikes!). I hope it is well-received. I may need to bring shots of espresso to help get our heads in gear (mine especially). More later.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dean and I saw "The Lives of Others" last night at the Harvard Exit. What a terrific movie. It takes place in East Germany, in the years just before the Berlin Wall came down. Ulrich Muhe plays a Stazi agent, who is a bit of a nerd and a loner, but very loyal to the ideals of Socialism and his country. At the onset of the movie, you can see that he is tired, perhaps beginning to see through all the rhetoric to the deep corruption and evil at the heart of his government. He is placed in a stake-out in the attic of a theater director's and his actress-wife's apartment, secretly listening to all they do and say (including listening in on them having sex). Over the course of the movie he is drawn into the lives of the couple, and their circle of revolutionary friends, and begins to be won over by their honesty and their struggle. It's a fascinating analysis of how totalitarian authoritarian regimes crumble from within, mostly due to their own corruption and emptiness, and how simple human lives win out. It's amazing to think this kind of wide surveillance happened on such a large scale in East Germany, and that the people put up with it. And it makes me wonder about our own country, and what kind of surveillance is already happening under Bush and his evil cronies. This movie is a must see.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


I am enjoying my first day off in almost two weeks. How liberating it is to not wear that silly pager! And now I have a whole week off, including the President's Day holiday & a little trip to Arizona for the ASU Writer's Conference. I am really looking forward to some sunny warmer weather, and to meeting the students and other faculty, and seeing our own Charlie Jensen. Not to mention getting to read from the new book for the first time!


I want to go see the new movie Breach, with Chris Cooper. Also The Lives of Others, the German movie about Stasi spying on the private lives of an artist couple. It's fascinating to me that both of these movies look at the mid-1980's end-of-the-cold-war era. Which now seems so peaceful in comparison to the current hot-war era.


What I've been reading:

Domain of Perfect Affection, Robin Becker. My favorite poem so far is "Head of an Angel" where she meditates on a very androgynous-looking angel in an engraving by Durer, and sees a bit of herself.

No Sweeter Fat, by Nancy Pagh. I saw part of this book as a chapbook when Nancy was a finalist for the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award. The full-length collection won the Autumn House Prize, and it is a really brave and moving and funny book. Pagh takes the self-consciousness and self-loathing of being "a fat lady" and turns it into a joyous meditation on the self. Truly remarkable.

Out of Silence, Selected Poems, Muriel Rukeyser. I've been focusing on her long poem "The Book of the Dead" from her book US 1 (1938). It's a non-fiction poem way ahead of its time, about the cover-up of unsafe working conditions in a silica mine in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia in 1936. It's a pastiche of lyric narrative, interviews with patients, doctors & families, excerpts of court testimony, newspaper articles, statistics, and more. I read it years ago, but am really appreciating it now.

Collected Poems, Stevie Smith. Lovely poems, with little pen & ink illustrations by the author.

Teahouse of the Almighty, Patricia Smith. Winner of the NPS. Def performance poetry that works on the page as well.

All Clear, John Mifsud. A memoir of his family's life in Malta during WWII, and their life after immigrating to the US.

Men in the Off Hours, Anne Carson. I am not getting into it as much as I did Decreation. Hmmmm.

Latest issues of Poetry and Field.


Would love to get to work on some of my own projects over the next week. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Talk About Glued to the Television

This is just so sad. How could nobody have missed this poor old man for over a year?
And the TV still playing in front of him as he sat there all that time?
It's really spooky.

Body Found in Home a Year After Death
HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (Feb. 17) - The partially mummified body of a man dead for more than a year has been found in a chair in front of his television, which was still on, authorities said.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tim Hardaway Says He Hates Gays?

Sounds like somebody has "issues?"
You know, it is usually the most homophobic who have something to hide, something they are personally ashamed of, or resisting. Poor Tim.
Funny, I always thought he was one of us.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What They Said

I think this picture and poem go together nicely. Can you guess who wrote the poem? A special prize to the first who can (no googling, though I am not sure it will help).

What They Said

: After I am dead, darling,
my seventeen senses gone,
I shall love you as you wish,
no sex, no mouth, but bone —
in the way you long for now,
with my soul alone.

: When we are neither woman nor man
but bleached to skeleton —
when you have changed, my darling,
and all your senses gone,
it is not me that you will love:
you will love everyone.


Monday, February 12, 2007

What'cha Doin' Tuesday Night?

I'll be here:

Open Books:
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 07:30 PM

from the OB website:
"We are happy to host two poets with books recently published by Edmonds-based Ravenna Press. Radish King ($13.95) is Rebecca Loudon's deliciously dark and darkly hilarious collection. Things domestic go seriously wrong -- "She's ready to go it alone, more than ready / having tired of and tidied her family, / having sewed her daughter, her son, into waterproof coats." The poems are dreamily menacing, permeated with a sort of courtship of threat and sex. "I want to hurt you in a Rock Hudson Doris Day kind of way." And where else will you find a poem like "Everyone's Favorite Holiday Suicide: A Letter in which Violet Bick Addresses George Bailey for the Last Time," ending (we're sorry to give it away, but we're compelled), "I hope more than anything you just have the courage to jump." She is also the author of the fever-dreamish book Navigate, Amelia Earhart's Letters Home, mentioned in our December 2006 newsletter.

Ron Starr's inventive book, A Map by a Dim Lamp ($12.95), flows from the belief held by Oulipo, the French experimental writing group, that form is freeing, and that new forms must constantly be created. Mr. Starr, in "Luther's Narrow Road," replaces some of the words in Basho's classic haiku with those from a Martin Luther essay, resulting in poems such as, "An offense / has settled on a bare Christ -- / autumn evening." Sharp intelligence, humor, close attention to the details of rhythm and sense, and a fascination with religious texts allow his writing to spark on various levels, including the baroque/modern oddness of its structures. Another example: one section of his "Creation Myths of the Latter Urbanites" starts, "In the beginning green grass created happiness and envy. The expressways were without Fords and Volvos, and dusk was upon the fences of the domiciles...." This promises to be a quirky and dynamic evening.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Devil’s Dictionary of Poetic Schools & Movements

. . . or, my afternoon with the anagram machine:

Beat Poetry: A Petty Bore
Black Mountain Poets: I’m Ant on a Slop-Bucket
Cavalier Poetry: Procreative Lay
Concrete Poetry: Type One Correct
Confessional Poetry: So Openly Fornicates
Dada Poem: A Mad Dope
Deep Image Poet: Emptied Apogee
Dramatic Poem: Riot Made Camp
Epic Poetry: Type Copier
Feminist Poetry: I’m Fine, So Pretty
Georgian Poets: Sage on Ego-Trip
Harlem Renaissance: Charmless Inane Era
Imagist Poetry: A Grey Optimist
Language Poetry: Ugly, Ornate Page
Lost Generation: Intolerant Egos
Magical Realism: Lacrimal Images. Liar’s Mega Claims
Medieval Poetry: Morality Peeved
Metaphysical Poetry: Hypocrite’s Playmate
Modernism: More Minds
Narrative Poem: Private Moaner
Nature Poetry: No Rapture Yet
New York School: Clowny Hookers
Oulipo Poetry: Lie to Your Pop. Pool Your Tripe
Parnassian Poetry: Noisy Rants Appear
Pastoral Poem: Tame Proposal
Post-Avant Poetry: A Vast, Petty Porno
Post-Modern Poetry: Dopey Rotten Romps. Soppy or Tormented?
Romantic Poetry: Impotency or Art?
School of Quietude: O! Foul Discotheque
Spiritual Poetry: Popularity Tires
Surrealism: Murals Rise
Surrealist: Surest Liar
Symbolist Poetry: Pity, Mostly Sober
Transcendentalism: Star-Sent Mind Lance

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Form of Prozac approved for anxious dogs
BLOOMBERG NEWS, WASHINGTON -- A variation on Eli Lilly & Co.'s depression pill Prozac can now be used to help dogs cope with the anxiety of being separated from their owners.
The product, to be sold under the name Reconcile, is designed to help quell panic attacks and bad behavior that separation anxiety can cause. The chewable drug should be used in conjunction with behavior modification, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday in a notice on the agency's Web site.

And let the record show that Anna Nicole Smith is believed to be the first person to prescribe doggy prozac, when she fed her dog a pill during her 2002 reality TV show.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I'm reading Justin Chin's Gutted and enjoying it a lot. The greater part of the book is a long poem titled "Gutted" (about 100 pages) that is based on the Japanese zuihitsu, a kind of "formless form" that uses diary entries, lists, quotations, observations, commentaries, fragments. It covers a lot of territory: a father's illness, airplane travel, SARS and other epidemics, childhood music lessons, the number 12, all possible ways of dying, to name a few things. I think the "gutted" of the title can be read as a gutted fish, spilling one's guts, but also gutting it out, surviving.

Here's a couple poems (sorry I can't get the formatting quite right, some of the lines in "portamento" cascade nicely):


Her piano teacher, she said, told her to keep playing
even if mistakes were made.

Mine, however, kept
a half-foot wooden dressmaker’s ruler hovering
above the hands on the keys, ready to strike
miscues, wrong notes,
unmusic. Fingers
being as fingers are,
mistakes were made.

We learned portamento;

just as our violin cousins in adjoining studios
learned vibrato;
under the crushing threat
imposed by needlenose pliers.

The music continued.


(Petit mal)

A little evil, a small illness.
Why does it sound like pastry?

And vaguely remembered incorrectly,
a euphemism for orgasm,
which is neither evil nor ill.

Is any evil so little, illness so small
that it ceases to be wicked and ill?

Oh, now I see what it does to a body.

Yes, it is evil. Small is relative.
Illness all.

I see Gutted has been nominated for a Lammy. Good news. I think it's a wonderful book.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Really fun poetry group last night. We toasted the new book, and laughed and talked and ate and carried on. Good poems all around: hungry hearts, anagrams, visitations by foxes and birds, lying photographs, and a dog blissfully chasing his own tail. It's such a good group: I am so thankful for them all.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

from today's AWAD:

umbrage (UHM-brij) noun

1. Offense or annoyance arising from some insult.

2. Shade, as from a tree.

3. A vague suggestion or a feeling of suspicion.

[From Latin umbra (shade, shadow), which also gave us the words
umbrella, adumbrate, and somber.]


It gives new meaning to "giving shade" doesn't it?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cold and drizzly this morning. I need to get going to work. I just realized I am in clinic and/or on call for the next 13 days. Egads. How did this happen? Who can I fire? hahaha. But seriously, I often get a lot done when I am busy like this, and tend to waste my time when I really don't have much scheduled. So, go figure.

Reading Justin Chin's Gutted, which is fascinating and entertaining. More on that later.


Also reading In Posse submissions, and have found a number of lovely poems so far.


Looking forward to the ASU Desert Nights Rising Stars Writing Conference. I'll have a small group, a workshop on Word Play, a panel on balancing Writing and Work (haha), and a reading with Laurie Notaro and Tony Hoagland. I'm really excited to read as it will be the debut of the new book, which will make it out just in time for the conference. Looking foward to seeing Richard Siken and Carolyn Forche, as well. Yeehaw!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The "Publican Party"

In response to Bush repeatedly referring to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Party," Jim St. John of Kirkland, in the letters section of today's PI, has a great comeback: referring to the Republicans as the "Publican Party." It's a name that truly fits (see below).

"Years ago, as a retort I began referring to the "Publican Party," using a biblical term referring to privatized tax collection businesses contracted by the Romans to extract abusive amounts of money from their colonial victims. Publicans were widely reviled in Israel as cowardly traitorous tools of a wealthy conquering empire. Likewise, I regard our modern Publican Party as the traitorous tool of greedy corporatists and a military machine that has an insatiable lust for the money of average folks who pay the bills."


Had a great time on Whidbey, despite the gray rainy weather. A lovely house overlooking Useless Bay. The two cats Spencer and Gracie suitably curious about the guests. Great discussion over lunch about all things poetry: confessionalism, the use of the private vs. the personal, how best to read one's work (monotone, inflected, dramatic), Richard Howard and the color red, William Matthews and red wine, "reviews" vs "criticism," the non-fiction poem, the poem series, the book-length poem, research and poetry, the trials and tribulations of teaching/academia, MFA programs, new books, old favorite books, and more. A yummy chicken and white bean soup. Orange salad with red onion, olives, and balsamic viniagrette. Two kinds of dessert including birthday cake. Such fun. We should do this more often.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Finished doing my taxes today. It is always odd to have to consider, for IRS purposes, whether the poetry thing I do is a "profession" (meaning the income counts as self-employment) or just a "hobby." Though one hardly makes much money with poetry, I resent it being the primary measure by which it might be declared a "hobby." And not one of the most important things in my life.

Off to Whidbey Island today with a very good friend, to visit a dear old friend and teacher, and bring her a copy of the new book. I am sure she will be tickled pink to see it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Speaking of Pears/Pairs

Things have been coming in twos again. It seems to happen a lot in medicine. Has anyone else ever noticed this at work?
This week I've had two cases of 5th metatarsal fracture, two schizophrenic Samoans, two children with high fever reactions to immunizations (one required hospitalization), and two cases of BOOP, Bronchiolitis Obliterans Organizing Pneumonia (just the name sounds awful enough, doesn't it?).
BOOP is really uncommon (one patient thought the hospital told him he had "poop" in his lungs, haha), and so to have two patients with it at the same time is a little odd. And they were like dopplegangers of each other, each one arriving for his followup visit carrying the same style of portable oxygen case, wearing nasal prongs, and his face puffy from steroids.


From today's Poetry Daily.

Description of a Pear on a Pewter Dish

But pears prove to be impossible to describe.
—Czeslaw Milosz

See the blue there shadowed
beneath the yellow’s gloss.

That blue is the sky
within the cutis of the pear.

At night this sky grows dark
and unfolds a crust of distant stars.

It is these pale fires within its skin
that give the pear its taste of heaven.

Young Smith
Beloit Poetry Journal
Winter 2006-2007

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly Ivins: RIP

I loved reading her columns. She was so good at skewering politics and politicians. She was always such a breath of fresh air. ANd from the good state of Texas no less.

—"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other."

— "The poor man who is currently our president has reached such a point of befuddlement that he thinks stem cell research is the same as taking human lives, but that 40,000 dead Iraqi civilians are progress toward democracy."

— "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!' "