Sunday, November 30, 2008

New raised beds for our "Victory Garden." We went from 2x6x16 to 2x10x16 tight knot cedar. Had the boards special ordered from Lowe's and brought them home in Dean's truck:

From this:

to this:

Chicken with bacon! Who would have thought?! Isn't it mouth-watering lovely to look at?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I am luvin' this long Thanksgiving Holiday. Had a great time with family Thursday. And now the second of three days off in a row! Dean and I debated going to see "Twilight" last night, but resisted. I think True Blood is more our style. Tonight we might go see "Synecdoche, New York." I got a little more writing done on the Expedition series. One more day of work Monday, and then we are off to PV for a little beach vacation. I can hardly wait.


leisure sickness
selective ignorance

WOTY UPDATES It was the turn of the editors of Webster's New World College Dictionary to announce its candidates for its 2008 Word of the Year last week. The five words on the short list are "leisure sickness", in which some people are more likely to report feeling ill outside work hours; "overshare", to divulge too much personal information; "cyberchondriac", a hypochondriac who gets his medical information from the Internet; "selective ignorance", ignoring any distracting or irrelevant information; and "youthanasia", a word best known from the 2004 Megadeth lyric and the film of 2005, which I've never seen in the wild but which was said by Armand Limnander in the New York Times in April 2007 to refer to the "controversial practice of performing a battery of age-defying medical procedures to end lifeless skin and wrinkles; advocated by some as a last-resort measure to put the chronically youth-obsessed out of their misery". It's an eclectic and slightly strange bunch of words, but as the Editor in Chief, Michael Agnes, said, "The choice does not reflect an opinion that the term will eventually be found in the dictionary. In short, it's merely one that made us chuckle, think, reflect, or just shake our heads." Add your vote to those of the dictionary's editors and researchers via

(from today's Poetry Foundation)
A Hundred Bolts of Satin
By Kay Ryan

All you
have to lose
is one
and the mind
all the way back.
It seems
to have been
a train.
There seems
to have been
a track.
The things
that you
from the
abandoned cars
cannot sustain
life: a crate of
tractor axles,
for example,
a dozen dozen
clasp knives,
a hundred
bolts of satin—
perhaps you
more than
you imagined.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dean and I joined our friends Ian and David for a lovely dinner at Olivar's last night (I had a yummy roast duck with papardelle), followed by Alonzo Lines & company at the UW World Dance series. It was an interesting show, with nine Buddhist monks joining the company, as acrobatic Kung Fu dancers. All decked out in the orange and saffron colored robes, they did some amazing stuff, though it was a little repetitive at times.


I've been working like a dog lately: too much call and clinic and administrative stuff. Looking forward to a day off today. Maybe I'll get some writing done. Wouldn't that be a change?

My old laptop is dying: it just doesn't hold it's battery power very well, and it is really beat up from being dropped at various coffee shops and airports and hotels. So, I decided to do my part to stimulate the economy and bought a new one. Nothing too extravagant, but with enough bells and whistles to last for 5-10 years.


I found this while googling the other day: An essay about a poem of mine for sale at one of those Term Paper websites. For $70! Can you believe it? I was tempted to buy it just to see what was written, but resisted. It's a bit steep, and I don't really care that much! HAHAHAHA.


And in other news: Teen Kills Himself on Internet.
So sad. So sad.
But aren't we all just killing ourselves on the internet?


And in still further news: This is the first I had heard of this juicy bit-- New England College Poetry-Only MFA Program Suing its Former Director. Honestly. It reads like a soap opera or insider-trading scandal!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I've been reading Maureen McLane's debut book of poems, Same Life, published by FSG (no less). At first I wasn't that in to it, but the book has really grown on me. I especially like her balancing of the personal & the political, the elliptical & the narrative, the offhand image with biting social commentary. This poem gave me chills:


We heard of the massacres
far away in the interior
of that country an ocean
and a vast inland lake
away. The game was set
for Sunday, a special
program; children were going
to swimming lessons
and the homeless congregated
as usual over the steaming
grates. Those who wished
read the paper, others switched
on their TV's at 11. Dead birds
were the first sign; drowned
cows the second; children banging
their heads against walls
the next and no one
could stop them. In this country
those who could took care
of their pets. The year before
they'd concluded the study
so when the great ash fell
and dusted everyone who looked
unknowing to the sky
it fell on the heaps
of plastic rubbish we had learned
it wasn't safe to burn.

Maureen N. McLane from Same Life (FSG 2008)


In the book, there is a page break just before the line "so when the great ash fell" which I think adds to this image's surprise and apocalyptic menace.

Check it out: it's her first full-length collection. Though it appears (from her bio) that she has been writing criticism and essays on poetry for years.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In case you missed it, Kathleen Flenniken was reading on NPR KUOW yesterday: three of her Hanford poems, from her manuscript-in-progress Atomic City.


Saw this on Emily's blog:
No Gays for a Day planned. Patterned after the 2006 Great American Boycott organized by Latino immigrants, on that Friday, gays should stay home from work, school and do no shopping, to prove how crucial they are to American society.

It's an interesting idea for a protest. It might be very hard to get a perm or health care or high school PE class that day, if we all called in sick.


Got this from Christopher's blog. A great essay by Jeanette Winterson about TS Eliot:

When Eliot says, in Four Quartets,"We had the experience but missed the meaning", he is closing in on the problem of modern life - too fast, too surface, void of the emotional understanding that balances our dependence on practical reality and rational thought. We need our emotions as a navigation towards meaning, and that is what poetry allows.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From today's NY Times Book Review:

Like many writers, I keep a few books on a shelf to unclog my brain for those times when the right combination of words refuses to muster for service (currently in rotation are “Blood Meridian,” “Beneath the Underdog,” “Mumbo Jumbo” and “1001 Afternoons in Chicago”). To that pantheon I add “Alphabet Juice” for its erudition, its grand fun and its contrary view on what constitutes good writing.
. . .
The mind-mouth conspiracy to which Blount refers leads him to meditate on the pleasure of saying “polyurethane foam.” The surplus of vowels, the “fluidity” of its meter and “the conjunction of that ‘y’ pronounced like a long ‘e’ and that ‘ur’ like ‘yoor’ ” get primary credit for bliss. Feeling “ ‘polyurethane foam’ . . . running around in my mind’s ear and mouth is like watching otters play in the water,” he says. The scientist in him holds and measures words; the poet tickles them and begs to be tickled back. At one moment he has you beholding the most exquisitely balanced word in English (“level”), and at an­other he’s schooling you in the frequency with which “t” evokes disapproval, as in “tut-tut,” “too-too,” “tittle-tattle,” “tacky tacky tacky,” “fat,” “rat,” “catty,” “tatty,” “twit” and “all hat and no cattle.”

I have to get my hands on this book ASAP. It sounds *fabulous*!

Friday, November 14, 2008

High Water Mark

We've had more rain in the first 12 days of November than in all of September and October combined. The hillsides are saturated. The rivers are running dark and high and fast. Be careful my dearies. Be very careful out there.


I want to go to Barak Obama's inauguration. And I want Natasha Tretheway to read a poem.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back from Nashville. What a conference! A lot of sessions to attend. Electronic medical records are really coming of age, and I come away much more optimistic about our organization and the upgrades we are facing. Great fun over dinner and drinks with colleagues. The Gaylord Opryland is like a huge snowglobe or terrarium. Completely enclosed by glass ceilings, it seemed to have its own weather.

A group of us had a terrific jaunt to Broadway one night, to have dinner and check out the live bands play at the clubs downtown, the night before the CMA's. We stayed to listen to a set by Broadband, an all-women group, sort of like the Dixie Chicks, but without the glamour: more rough-edged and real.

To top things off (in a way) NextGen had Huey Lewis and KC & the Sunshine band give a concert at the hotel ballroom the last night (Hmmm . . .so this is where all that money we pay for our EMR is going?). A lot of the people who lived (and partied) through the 70's and 80's were having a gas, dancing around and reliving (relieving) their heyday in a big way. But it was not quite my cup of tea. Ah well.


Reading around online this afternoon I found a link to this interesting Camile Paglia essay from Arion, about the writing of her anthology of close readings, Break, Blow, Burn, and the poets/poems that did not quite make the final cut--and the ones who/that were not even close. It's a fascinating read:

. . . I was puzzled and repelled by the stratospheric elevation in the critical canon given to John Ashbery in recent decades. “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” (1974), Ashbery’s most famous poem, is a florid exercise in strained significance that could and should have been compressed and radically reduced by two-thirds. Can there be any wonder that poetry has lost the cultural status it once enjoyed in the United States when an ingrown, overwrought, and pseudo-philosophical style such as Ashbery’s is so universally praised and promoted?

Given my distaste for Ashbery’s affectations, it would come as no surprise how much I detest the precious grandiloquence of marquee poets like Jorie Graham, who mirrors back to elite academics their own pedantic preoccupations and inflated sense of self. That Graham, with her fey locutions and tedious self-interrogations, is considered a “difficult” or intellectual poet is simply preposterous. Anointing by the Ivy League, of course, may be the kiss of death: Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, another academic star, enjoys an exaggerated reputation for energetically well-crafted but middling poems that strike me as second- or third-hand Yeats. As for the so-called language poets, with their postmodernist game-playing, they are co-conspirators in the murder and marginalization of poetry in the United States.

She's tough. But I have to admit I agree with most of what she has to say.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I am about to head to Nashville for a medical conference. I've never been there before. Maybe I'll visit some Elvis sites?


Hopefully I can get some of my own writing done in the evenings. I'd love to be able to finish the Expedition series. At least final first drafts for everything.


Got my "unfortunately, your application was not" letter from the NEA yesterday. I am not too bummed. Try again in two years. Does anyone know any of the 42 who *were* chosen? Just curious . . .


Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama-Palin 2012?

Imagine taking our politics to a daring new, more "entertaining" level. Instead of debates . . . let's have a dance-off:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What an election!
Dean and I are both exhausted -- happy, but exhausted. We stayed up late last night watching results, then had to go to work early this morning. It was a busy day in clinic for me, but easier because patients were happy, ecstatic, thrilled. The fact that Obama had won made all of their problems -- the back pain, the depression, the diabetes, the broken leg -- a bit easier to cope with, a bit more hopeful. My favorite visit of the day was a Somali family: the mom all dressed in burka/veil and corralling her three kids into the exam room. The youngest was just 4 mos old and there for a Well Child Check, and the oldest was a 4 yr old boy who gave me a high five and said with a big toothy smile: "Obama!"


I am so bummed out about Prop 8 in California. And the initiatives in AZ and FLA. What is going on with the world. How can people on the one hand be voting in the most dynamic and forward thinking president in a generation, and on the other hand be voting the most backward hateful, discrimination? It boggles the mind. It simply boggles the mind. And makes me feel so sad. And socked in the gut.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Poetry, Language, and Propositions

The sort of truth that is effected in poetry and literature is not reducible to the register of truth that is captured in propositions and syllogisms. Poetry does something different than an argument; but that doesn't mean it isn't "true." Only a kind of propositional imperialism would reduce truth to the mode of assertion. . . . With this in mind, see poem below:


Anything Warm

Anything warm is warm.
Anything red has something to say.
Anything that drifts also smudges,
like secrets. That intense.
Anything loose is a message,
endless, and endlessly enticing.
Anything narrow gets there first.
Especially anger. Anything watery
pleads, though the story stays
buried under its layers, obscuring
whatever it is we've done
to deserve this. In the eternal life
of regret, Sunday looks back.
Monday is certainty,
with a mystery inside out.
Anything two days in a row
sings the same song I do
without repeating the first verse.
Because there is no return.
That seems dramatic, but likely.
Just look at the waves,
all moving in one direction.
It made Noah crazy!
Another day — hell, another
hour — he'd be ready
to wring that dove's neck.
What right did she have
to exhaustion, to twittery musings?
One declarative sentence
would be a relief.

--Wendy Mnookin

from The Moon Makes Its Own Plea
BOA Editions