Thursday, July 31, 2008

I've been reading Alistair McCartney's The End of the World Book very slowly, just a few entries at a time, usually before bed. It's really hard to classify: it's sort of a memoir, but it's also sort of like prose-poems or flash fiction. All arranged in alphabetical order. He has hilarious and quirky stories about his family, his life, gay boys, popular culture, politics, dreams, death, etc etc. Here is a sample, that I read to Dean last night, from the Chapter "H":

Holes, Black

As some point humans will no longer use the word boy. Instead, we'll refer to young men as black holes. I love black holes, those stars that can't bear being stars, like a boy who can't bear the weight of being a boy, and so collapses in on himself, sucking everyone and everything that is around him in, all objects. Surely everyone has known a boy like this, a boy from whom nothing, not even light, can escape. Surely everyone has gotten dangerously close to such a boy.


Now, imagine a couple dozen or so of these little pieces -- some only a sentence or a paragraph long, some one or two pages long at most -- for each letter of the alphabet. And that in their accumulation, you begin to get the faint framework of a memoir, a story, a point of view. It's really pretty amazing. And the perfect bedtime book. Not because it puts you to sleep, but because it sends you off to dreams, and/or other interesting places.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dean and I think there is a 40-50yo woman sleeping in the park across the street. We've run into her several times now on our after-dinner walks. She is dressed well enough, and is holding some plastic folders in her arm, as if she is just coming home from work. But then you notice the couple bags of belongings stuffed under the bench, where Dean found her napping one afternoon. We talked to her briefly, and she was very vague, a little anxious, possibly chronically mentally ill. We feel sorry for her, and wonder why she isn't connected to resources downtown, or if perhaps she is fleeing those resources. One of our neighbors has chatted with her, too, and brought her some fried chicken and some toiletries (there is a nice public bathroom with a heated air hand-dryer in the park, where one could wash up and change clothes). We brought her some bread and cheese last night. Dean asked her her name, and suggested to her that it might not be safe to be sleeping in the park at night. But who knows, maybe it is safer than the shelters downtown. We both feel sort of odd about it. Perhaps a little middle class guilt? Perhaps not knowing if helping (food, toiletries) is really just enabling? Dean half-joked that he would think of her as the Buddha, and treat her with kindness. And see what he could learn from her. Who knows, she will probably be gone tomorrow.


PS: Did you know Obama published some poems as an undergraduate?


Monday, July 28, 2008

From A Word a Day:


noun: Somone who indulges in vain and empty chatter.

Via French and Spanish from Arabic babbaga (parrot). The last syllable changed to jay because some thought the word referred to that bird instead of a parrot.


From my friend Jeff: a link to a fascinating "Ambigram" site, where computerized typography can be used to make a word like "Poet" read the same right side up and upside down. Or you can take a word like "Love" and have it read "Hate" upside down. Or you could take two names, like "Peter" and "Dean" and have it read as one or the other depending on how it is flipped. Check it out. It's fun to play around with different words and to see what you get. But I am not sure I'd buy one ($19.95 per image). I believe they are intended to be used for tattoo patterns. And based on the look of some of the fonts, ahem, prison tattoos.


And another amazing Goldbarth poem in the recent issue of Poetry. The language and idioms from science that he uses are just delightful:

Marble-Sized Song

Does she love you? She says yes, but really
how do you know unless you undress that easy assertion,
undoing its petals and laminae, and going in
below all trace of consciousness, into the neuroelectrical
coffer where self-understanding is storaged away,
and then lifting its uttermost molecule out, to study
in its nakedness as it spins
in a clinical light?—the way
we all, in our various individual versions
of this common human urge, go in,
and in, and in, the physicist down
to the string-vibration underlying matter, and
the Appalachia fiddler getting so
(as she puts it) "into my music," sound becomes
a flesh for her to intimately ("in"-timately)
enter, "its thick and its sweetbreads."
Is he cheating on you? He says no, and feigns
that he's insulted, but for certainty
you'll need to delicately strip the bark away
and drill, and tweeze, until you can smear a microscope slide
of the pith and can augur the chitterlings
—the way the philosopher can't accept a surface
assumption of truth, but needs to peel back
the fatty sheen of the dermis, soak the cambium layer
into a blow-away foam, and then with pick
and lightbeam helmet, inch by inch begin
spelunking through those splayed-out caverns
under the crust, where gems of cogitation are buried
—the way the diver descends for the pearl,
the miner: in, the archaeologist: in, the therapist: down
the snakier roots of us and in, and in, the way
the lone, leg-pretzeled yogi makes
a glowing bathysphere of worldliness and sends it in,
and further in, tinier and heavier and ever in,
the way the man in the opium den is floating forever,
toward a horizon positioned in the center of the center
of his head.... If we could stand beyond the border
of our species and consider us objectively, it might seem
that our purpose in existing is to be a living agency
that balances, or maybe even slows, the universe's
irreversible expansion out, and out ... and each
of us, a contribution to that task.
My friend John's wife received the news: a "growth,"
a "mass," on her pituitary, marble-sized, mysterious.
And the primary-care physician said: Yes,
we must go in and in. That couldn't be the final word!
And the second-opinion physician said: Yes,
my sweet-and-shivering-one,
my fingerprint-and-irisprint-uniqueness,
someone's-dearest, you
who said the prayers at Juliette's grave, who drove
all night from Switzerland with your daughter, you
on this irreplaceable day in your irreplaceable skin
in the scumbled light as it crosses the bay in Corpus Christi,
yes in the shadows, yes in the radiance,
yes we must go in and in.

-- Albert Goldbarth

July/August 2008


Sunday, July 27, 2008


Check out an audio of "Fugue" at the Poetry Foundation website. Perhaps I "over-explained" a bit at the outset. But I'm happy with how it turned out.


And while you are at it, also check out this mildly horrifying but funny in its own way blog and You Tube video, of Christian Missionaries using "Anagrammer." My oh my.


Had a lovely dinner with B & E outside in the garden last night, grilled lamb and orzo and salad and bread and wine, and little raspberry tarts made with freshly picked berries. Sat up late talking outside on deck chairs. Bob (who recently turned 80) is going to teach English in Russia for a semester this winter. (I hope I am still that active when I am that age.) We said goodnight not long before the rain and thunderstorms came.


A poem accepted by Prairie Schooner, "Lingua Franca," will appear in a special Portuguese-American section, sometime next year. Yay! And thank you to David Oliveira.


Friday, July 25, 2008

I picked up this hilarious book in the airport: The Daily Candy Lexicon: Words That Don't Exist but Should. It was written/compiled by a group of office workers, and is a list of funny invented words for things about Work, Love, Food, Shopping, Nightlife, Travel, etc. It's very Sex in the City. Here are a few examples from the Technology section:

E-mnesia: n. the condition of having sent or received an email and having no recollection of it whatsoever.

Laptopless: adj. Working on one's home computer while semi-clothed.

Mouse Potato: n. The wired generation's answer to the couch potato.

Phony Call: n. The call you make when you pray you'll get some one's voicemail.

Yellular: n. The loudness one adopts in response to a bad cellphone connection, in the misguided hope that talking louder will improve it.


I listened to Obama's amazing speech in Berlin while waiting for my flight. Pretty amazing stuff. Just hearing the German people cheer. It gave me chills. And made me proud to be an American for the first time in a long time.


Had a pretty easy flight home. The low clouds began evaporating around the north end of Vancouver Island, and so there was just gorgeous scenery the whole way down the coast and into Seattle: blue ocean, miles and miles of mountainous islands covered in forest, a maze of shimmering inlets and and rivers and streams, sailboats and ferries, the snow-capped Olympics in the distance. It really is a beautiful part of the country this time of year.


Now back to work in clinic today. I love getting away to poetry conferences and readings and such. But I always come back looking forward to seeing my patients again.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

I've had a great time at the UAA Low-Res MFA. What a fun group of people! It looks like the inaugural residency went off without any major glitches (which is no small feat!). I was a little late to the party (arriving on day 10 of a 12-day residency) but everybody made me feel completely at home. I joked that it was a little like being the marathoner who sneaks in at the last mile, all full of energy, while the rest of the pack is at their max and feeling the burn (wasn't there a Seinfeld episode with that?).

Anyway, one of the bonuses of being a guest speaker/presenter is that I get to go to all the other presentations, which included an amazing master class with Linda McCarriston on the Lyric-Bardic dialectic, and an equally superb fiction class with Rich Chiappone on "Reading Like a Writer." I was sad to have missed other faculty presentations, but got to chat with many of them. Good to see old friend Judith Barrington, and meet David Stevenson (the new res dir), Valerie M, Derek B, Zack R, Eva S, and others. A smart, dedicated group!

I think my Narrative Medicine and Line Breaks/Line Endings workshop went over well. It was the very last session of the residency, but energy still seemed high. And the students did really good work with the exercise (including the prose writers!). In fact, one prose student said to me something like, "OMG, I finally understand what free verse poets are doing!"

The reading Tuesday night was really fun. There was a fairly good turnout, with a good number of people from the community there. Including a few health care professionals (and closet writers), who introduced themselves to me afterwards. Also an old friend, MT, who I hadn't seen in over ten years, who lives in Anchorage now, saw the reading in the paper and came. We went out for a drink and a snack afterwards at Captain Cooks (?) in a swanky hotel downtown. Fun fun!

A nice dinner and reception at the end of the residency last night (Wednesday). So fun to see everybody, faculty and students, up and dancing to B-52's and Aretha Franklin and Nirvana and etc. I hadn't danced in years and just had a hoot.

Breakfast now, and then a flight home.



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Northern Exposure

On my way to Anchorage. A reading tonight with Nancy Lord, and a class tomorrow (Narrative Medicine & Line Endings/Line Breaks). Looking forward to meeting the all the UAA Low-Res MFA folks!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's still cool in the mornings, but the afternoons and evenings have been perfect summer weather. I worked most of the morning yesterday on the sonnet series. I guess it is not really a crown, per se, but a sonnet redouble, or "heroic crown." But they really aren't sonnets in any strict sense. In fact one of the poems is a prose poem, another is a list, another is a letter. But each of the 14 poems will have a line that repeats, and that is used to make the 15th. That's all I know for sure at this point. And even that may change. HAHAHAHA.

Still, it is fascinating to be working on a series of persona poems, and to see how the different characters speak to each other. Or how a bit of one person's story ends up as a sideline in another person' story. Sort of like Master's Spoon River Anthology (which Gary Lilly lectured on a few days ago at Centrum).


K & B were in town last night, and called to invite us to go out to dinner. Instead, we had them over here to grill. Very spur of the moment, which I love. They are the kind of best friends we feel comfortable not having to plan and schedule with, but just going with the flow. We had grilled mussels as the appetizer, with Metaxa sidecars. And then some vegetable coos coos served with seafood kabobs made with prawns, scallops and ahi tuna, seasoned with chili spices and garlic and butter. The ahi came out a little overcooked for my taste, but all in all it was quite a nice combo.

After dinner we took a walk around the park across the street. Then came back and had wine and shortbread cookies and sat in lawn chairs on the deck talking as the sun was going down. Such a fine evening.


Tonight Dean and I plan to grill some lamb chops (I know, it not very politically correct right now to eat lamb, and other red meats, but I love it). Then we will indulge in some inane pop culture and go see Mama Mia! I hear Meryl Streep is great in the lead role. I can hardly wait. My feet are dancing and tapping already.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kay Ryan named US poet laureate. Yippee!! You GO girl!


And in other news: a past poet laureate, Ted Kooser, still carries on, featuring a poem a week (or so) in the nation's newspapers. I really enjoyed the one featured this week, from Patrick Phillips' new book, The Boy:


Touched by your goodness, I am like
that grand piano we found one night on Willoughby
that someone had smashed and somehow
heaved through an open window.

And you might think by this I mean I'm broken
or abandoned, or unloved. Truth is, I don't
know exactly what I am, any more
than the wreckage in the alley knows
it's a piano, filling with trash and yellow leaves.

Maybe I'm all that's left of what I was.
But touching me, I know, you are the good
breeze blowing across its rusted strings.

What would you call that feeling when the wood,
even with its cracked harp, starts to sing?

c 2008 by Patrick Phillips. Reprinted from his most recent book of poetry, Boy, University of Georgia Press, 2008

PS: I *love* how this poem is a broken/sprung sonnet of sorts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anne Waldman gave a terrific performance last night. I especially enjoyed her reading of "Stereo" from Marriage, A Sentence. Her John Cage stuff was a little out there for my taste. But it was fascinating to hear all the singing. Sort of like when a priest sings the words at a mass, except she was more like a priestess or a witch, singing spells.


Joan Larkin gave a reading the night before, from her new and selected My Body. Also some new work, a novel written in sonnets, which was really very funny, not at all what I was expecting from high-fallutin sonnets. I stayed after to have her sign a book, and thank her again for taking a poem of mine for Bloom a while back. It was good to finally meet her in person.


I am getting a ton of drafting done on my "Expedition" poems. I was totally on a roll yesterday. I got something written for all 14 poems. Some more than others, but still. Very raw, very wild, but I see the whole series taking shape, and I like where it is going, what I am discovering, what the character are revealing to me. Maybe because I am so close to the sea here -- ships sailing, gulls crying, salt air and tides -- and there is that connection?


I think my first line breaks lecture/workshop went over well. Several people who missed it have asked for the handout. I hope today's goes as well. It is a different lecture/workshop, and perhaps a bit more "academic" than the first, looking at the "kinetics" and "emotion/affect" of line breaks/line endings. We'll see . . .


Met a fellow blogger at the Anne Waldman after-party: Saint Nobody from NY. What a hoot, Amy! We gossiped about all of you out there in the blogosphere. Especially RK.


PS: went to Jeannine's Haiku and Haibun workshop and had a gas. Wrote my first Haibun. Thanks Jeannine!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The weather in Port Townsend is awesome. Sunny and blue with a light breeze blowing in from the sound. Everybody seems to be in great spirits and glad to be here. I am all checked in and getting ready for my first workshop session. Hope it goes well . . .

Dinner tonight with friends, and then all day tomorrow to hang out and write. My goal is to get a few poems (two or three if I am lucky and the muse is in) from the "Expedition" series done. We'll see . . .

Sunday, July 13, 2008

High Summer

This is the best time of year in the garden. I am just lovin' it.
Some pics to give you an idea:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Busy weekend so far. Went to Mother Courage last night at Youngstown Arts in Delridge. What an amazing play! The older woman who played Mother Courage was terrific. She just chewed up every scene. What great lines BB has written for her character. A cynic, a Cassandra, a pain in the butt, but you love her.

Worked Saturday clinic: saw 16 patients from 8:30-1:30. Not too busy. Our clinic is really the United Nations of Healthcare. I saw people from Cambodia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Somalia, Philippines, Mexico, Albania, and, of course, all variety of Americans. Babies, middle-age, teens, elderly, and in-between. Such fun. It is what I love most about my job.

Then went with Dean to a birthday party in Greenwood for my friend Leroy, who just turned 60. Leroy and I have been friends since I was a medical student at UW in the mid-80's. We met on the bus riding back and forth from UW to Capitol Hill. Good times.

Then Dean and I attended our neighbors Dana & Jim's wedding in the Bradner Gardens across the street. Such a lovely ceremony. So simple and so beautiful. With all the plants and flowers in bloom. Friends and neighbors. So hot! Almost 90 degrees I think. We all had little fans to shade our heads with. In the middle of the vows, a hummingbird lit on the bridal bouquet for a few seconds, hovered, tweeted twice, then flew away.

Need to get ready for Centrum. Looking forward to hanging out with other writers, and perhaps getting some work done on the "sonnet" sequence.

more later . . .

Friday, July 11, 2008

This sounds like a very timely play:

When Betty Campbell, in the role of Mother Courage, sits with her knees apart and opines, "In a proper society, there's no need for virtue," it rings as the self-defense that it is. There is little virtue in this crabbed and gaunt figure that feeds on the misery of war.

Her assertion that soldiers need to be brave only when the generals are incompetent especially resonates against current blunders in Iraq.

"What is courage," asks Courage, "but a failure of planning?"

It's those parallels that director Dorothy Cosby Atkinson would like us to draw in Edge Theatre Ensemble's production of Bertolt Brecht's famed condemnation of war. Written in the wake of his native Germany's invasion of Poland, Brecht pilloried those who profit from war as it brutalizes everyone else. In 1939, the culprits included armaments manufacturer Krupp; Atkinson wants us to think of Halliburton.


This is such a sad story. There is no excuse for anyone to fight over something like this:

Man critically hurt in fight over traffic circle.

James Paroline, 60, had put out traffic cones Wednesday to re-direct traffic at 61st Avenue S. and S. Cooper Street while he was watering.

Neighbors say three young women approached in a car and told Paroline to move his cones. When he refused, they tried to move them and he sprayed water on one of the girls.

"They approached him and was just yelling at him, telling him to unblock the road so they could get through," said neighbor Stedman Tauala. "He said no, the (expletive) out of here,"

Tauala says the argument got quite heated.

"I just saw the girl got in his face and he just pushed her and smacked her in the face," said Tauala.

At that point, a man in his 20's, also in a car at the intersection, punched Paroline, knocking him down and cracking open his head. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Update: the news today is that James Paroline died at Harborview. So sad. So sad.


Monday, July 07, 2008

This is just too silly for words:

American Family Association Launches Boycott Against McDonald’s For ‘Promoting The Homosexual Agenda’

Today, the right-wing American Family Association (AFA) announced a boycott of McDonald’s. According to AFA, Ronald McDonald and his gang are part of giant gay agenda:

What the boycott of McDonald’s IS about

It is about McDonald’s, as a corporation, refusing to remain neutral in the culture wars. McDonald’s has chosen not to remain neutral but to give the full weight of their corporation to promoting the homosexual agenda, including homosexual marriage.

AFA is upset at McDonald’s for refusing to condemn Vice President of Communications Richard Ellis’s decision to serve on the Board of Directors of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). AFA President Donald Wildmon said the situation is “strange” because “it’s the family that McDonald’s appeals to — children’s playland, you know, all the little toys, all of that. And they are promoting a lifestyle that would utterly destroy the traditional family.”

So far, McDonald’s is holding strong, writing a letter to Wildmon on May 29 and rebuffing his attacks:

We treat our employees and our customers with respect and dignity, regardless of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or other factors. We support our employees’ personal involvement in organizations of their choice.

Although AFA tries to make clear that it is NOT protesting McDonald’s “hiring homosexuals” or “homosexuals eating at McDonald’s,” as Good As You notes, “Whether it’s a direct attack on gay customer or employees or an attack on particular employees role in a pro-gay capacity, this situation is still about the company supporting diversity (something the AFA resists at every turn).”

AFA has a long history of silly, offensive boycotts against, among others, Wal-Mart (for selling “Brokeback Mountain” DVDs), Ford Motor Company (for advertising in gay-friendly publications), and the American Girl dolls (because the maker contributed to a youth organization that was pro-choice and supported the acceptance of lesbians). In 2005, it called off its unsuccessful nine-year boycott of Disney (for its “embrace of the homosexual lifestyle“).

McDonald’s should follow Disney’s lead and ignore the right-wing protests. After all, during the nine years AFA was boycotting Disney, the company saw record profits.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Wow. 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-7 9-7! Talk about epic matches. All the rain delays diluted the drama a little (or added to the drama, depending on your perspective). I am so glad Raffa won. This was one for the ages. (Now, perhaps, he can ditch the capris?)


In other news: my friend Susan gave me this lovely cutting from her "Rex begonia." I just love the colors of these leaves. Hopefully I can get it to root (it is just sitting in a glass of water right now) and to pot soon.


Worked a long time today mapping out a crown of sonnets. I am not much into form at all, so these are not going to be typical sonnets, in any way, but I love the idea. The 15th sonnet will take a line from each of the 14 (but it may not be the first line) and will be a kind of chorus of sorts. Who knows if I have a snowball's chance in hell completing this. At least for now, I am really intrigued to try.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Jesse Helms 86'd

Jesse Helms, that evil racist North Carolinian homophobe, finally kicked the dust on July 4th. Amen!


Up early watching Venus and Serena battle it out on the grass. 5-5 in the first set so far.


Hope to get some writing done this holiday weekend.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth! My hope is that our country can get back on the right track, and soon. Otherwise, I swear, I am moving to Canada, or Ireland. Maybe Mexico? Argentina?

See for more.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

From today's American Life in Poetry column:

Planting the Sand Cherry

Today I planted the sand cherry with red leaves--
and hope that I can go on digging in this yard,
pruning the grape vine, twisting the silver lace
on its trellis, the one that bloomed
just before the frost flowered over all the garden.
Next spring I will plant more zinnias, marigolds,
straw flowers, pearly everlasting, and bleeding heart.
I plant that for you, old love, old friend,
and lilacs for remembering. The lily-of-the-valley
with cream-colored bells, bent over slightly, bowing
to the inevitable, flowers for a few days, a week.
Now its broad blade leaves are streaked with brown
and the stem dried to a pale hair.
In place of the silent bells, red berries
like rose hips blaze close to the ground.
It is important for me to be down on my knees,
my fingers sifting the black earth,
making those things grow which will grow.
Sometimes I save a weed if its leaves
are spread fern-like, hand-like,
or if it grows with a certain impertinence.
I let the goldenrod stay and the wild asters.
I save the violets in spring. People who kill violets
will do anything.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2004 by Ann Struthers, whose most recent book of poetry is "What You Try To Tame," The Coe Review Press, 2004.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Crysta E. Casey

From the Seattle PI:

Crysta E CASEY May 27, 1952 - June 24, 2008 The Seattle poetry community mourns the loss of one of its most unpretentious poets. After a fifteen year battle with cancer, Crysta Casey, died on Mon. June 24th at the VA hospital in Seattle. Crysta Casey was born in Pasadena, CA to the late Buford Abner Casey and the late Vera Esther Casey. She graduated from Berkeley High in 1970 and from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1976, where she earned a Liberal Arts Degree. Although diagnosed with schizophrenia, she managed to get a waiver to enlist in the Marine Corps and served from June 1978, first as a journalist, then as a self-declared "Resident Poet", until honorably discharged under medical conditions on September 12, 1980. Crysta arrived in Seattle, up from Berkeley, in the early 1980s, when she began taking poetry classes with the late University of Washington professor, Nelson Bentley. Crysta often cited the professional and emotional support of Pesha Gertler, Sherry Reniker, Deborah Woodard, Esther Helfgott, and others far too numerous to mention here. Crysta married the late Stephen A Dial in 1983. Her first book, Heart Clinic, was published by Bellowing Ark Press in 1993. She won the Hugo Prize in 2004 and was a Seattle Poet Populist Finalist in 2006. She is survived by her two brothers, Daniel A. and David W. Casey, her sister, Cameale Casey Johnson, and her niece, Kara L Casey. Thanks to the flexibility and support of the VA hospice team, Dr. Marcus Nemuth and Chris Storey, the dedication of Irene Leyson and Cody, and a host of loving friends, Crysta remained productive throughout the final months of her life. She worked with her editors to revise poetry manuscripts for publication, read poetry late into the night, and even managed to leave the hospice to give her final two public readings. Crysta will be buried at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, at 2:00p.m. Wednesday, July 2nd with flag ceremony and gun salute. We will miss you Crysta - your sense of humor, your smile and intellect, and that wonderful laugh. Thank you for leaving us your poems, journals, paintings and, most of all, your spirit. Donate to something you believe in, Crysta's preference was Richard Hugo House.