Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yay Serena!

Serena Williams routed Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 Saturday to win the Australian Open — her 10th Grand Slam title — and return to the No. 1 ranking.

It was total domination for second-seeded Williams, who looked at ease in winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles and was moving fluidly on the court.

That was a sharp contrast to No. 3 Safina, who was tight from the start. Later apologizing to the crowd for her performance, she said Williams was just too good, leaving her feeling like a ballboy.


The woman who just gave birth to octuplets (using fertility drugs, of course) already had six kids. Six kids! Age 2-7. And she is a single mom, raising them on her own, living with her parents. And, get this: she recently declared bankruptcy!

Now, I usually try to respect everybody's decisions about what they do with their lives. But this has me a little perturbed. The fertility doctor should have his head examined. She says she just likes having kids. But it's not about her. What about being one of those 14 kids? Do you really think she is going to be able to love and care for each one? That each one will feel special and wanted? I really doubt it. Coming from a really large family myself, I have some experience in this. I think these kids are gonna feel like they are growing up in an orphanage. Or, worse yet, a kennel.

Also, there is the significant chance that these 8 newborns, all premature, are going to have special needs, grow up with disabilities of some kind, require a lot of medical care, which all of us, through medicaid, special ed, etc, are going to be paying for. In the end I think it is pretty selfish, to go through with this multiple pregnancy, primarily to satisfy her fetish to make a lot of babies. When she already had six.

end of rant . . .


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A great poetry presentation last night on KUOW. I love what Elizabeth Austen says about poetry, how reading it is essential to her, that it connects her to the deeper parts of herself, her soul, and that she reads poetry because she doesn't know any other way to pray.

And then two great poems and commentary, from Marie Howe and Kathleen Flenniken, about the ideas of Hurry, Addiction, Mindless Consumption, and War, and how they are all interlinked. Check it out on the audio archive here:

1. Poems for What Ails Us
Elizabeth Austen presents two poems that contemplate the ills of modern society. Marie Howe's poem "Hurry" considers the innate violence of constant rushing. Kathleen Flenniken's "News Item" connects personal overconsumption with the larger state of our world.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dean and I saw Slumdog Millionaire last night at our neighborhood theater in Columbia City. Wow. What a great movie! The gist of the story: two brothers and a girl are orphaned in India, survive countless trials, and later become separated, only to have theirs lives come together again as adults. I loved the cinematography. All the great shots in the slums of Mumbai, on the railrods of old India, on location at the Taj Mahal, and in the call centers and the condos of the new India. The plot device of the game show is riveting. The game show host, a sort of Indian version of Robin Williams, is just a hoot, especially when he draws out the phrase, "twenty million ruuuuuupeees!" Jamal, the game show contestant and goat/hero of the story, is very cute, and amazingly calm in the center of the storm. And the love story at the heart of it all, though a little schmaltzy, is so sweet. Highly recommended!


Earlier in the day I did some reading & writing, and a little clinic work from my laptop, as well as some touch-up painiting in the bathroom, all while watching the UW-UCLA men's basketball game out of the corner of my eye (it was too intense and stressful to watch directly!). It was a great game. After spotting UCLA a 9-1 lead early, UW came back and pulled away late to win 86-75. Wow. It's the fifth year in a row we have beaten UCLA: who else in the nation can say that? And now we are alone in first place of the Pac 10. But it's too soon to celebrate: our next four games are on the road in Arizona and in the Bay Area. Tough tough road trip. We will be lucky to go 2-2.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Praise Song for the Day
--by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.
Hope (254)

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Martin Luther King Day, and Happy Obamanauguration!

In the spirit of "a day of service" please consider giving a loan through Kiva, an international micro-lending organization. For as little as $25 you can help somebody start or improve a business in Cambodia, India, Guatemala, Afghanistan. And when the money is paid back to you, you can just re-lend it to someone else. Really, it's that simple. And a gift that keeps on giving.

Check out the website here. It's a totally legit organization, with very low overhead, that has won awards for the work they do. Every $25 (or whatever amount) you give is like $250 or $2500 to someone in the developing world.

Thanks to Kelli, for turning me on to Kiva a while back.


PS: It looks like there has been a huge response the past week to funding at Kiva, and all the existing loans have been funded (almost a million dollars in a week!). You might have to try back in a few days, or just purchase a gift certificate to use later. I've logged on several times, and new loans seem to get posted and filled in a matter of minutes right now. Pretty amazing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I've been reading David Trinidad's The Late Show and Yusef Komunyakaa's Warhorses, and have enjoyed them both immensely, but for different reasons.

Komunyakaa's Warhorses seems very timely given current national and international events, with an African American man about to be inaugurated president, and several senseless wars going on. It has three sections:

The first, Love in the Time of War, is a sonnet sequence exploring the crossroads of love and violence, betrayal and virtue. The next to last sonnet tells of a prisoner being tortured:

The one he loves, her name
died last night on his tongue.
To revive it, to take his mind off
the electric wire, he almost said,
There's a parrot in a blue house
that knows the password, a woman's name.

Heavy Metal, the second section has a mish-mash of poems about war in general, from the clay army unearthed in China, to Guernica to the Twin Towers. All of them very good.

But my favorite section was the last, Autobiography of My Alter Ego. It's a terrific long narrative sequence about a child growing up the "son of a cover artist." All written in broken cascading lines, the mix of love, sex, music, and redemption is a great tonic to the horrors of the first two sections.


The Late Show is the first book I have read of Trinidad's. I think he is definitely in the line of Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch and Allen Ginsberg, with his long rambling, confessional, chatty poems. I love his fascination with old movies and stars of the screen (very "Ave Maria"). There is a terrific pantoum about the rivalry between Betty Davis and Joan Crawford, and a poignant poem about staying up late to watch movies with his mother. "A Poet's Death" is a sonnet sequence (does *everybody* have to write at least one of these?) in honor of his friend Rachel Sherwood, who died in a car accident in 1979. There is also a fair amount of Barbie Doll fetish and famous poet gossip, especially in the long poem that ends the book, "A Poem Under the Influence" which is about 35 pages, with lines that run over the right margin and fill every page, and reads like an extended meditation on all the major themes of his life, including the color pink, collecting things, and a brutal rape that occurred when he was just coming out at the age of 18. It's heavy, but fascinating stuff, and I couldn't put it down until I was finished (though admit I had to skim some of the parts).

Ultimately, I think, both books are about memory. The Late Show relishes the highly personal recollections of one person, while Warhorses attempts to record a collective (in the case of the war poems) or imagined (as in the case of the Alter Ego poems) kind of memory. Either way you slice it, both books are trying to communicate something we all can relate to, that is, in the end, universal.

I highly recommend BOTH books.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bush gave his farewell to the nation speech tonight. Yeah. Whatever. He said something about being full of gratitude, but all I heard was "full of attitude." Don't let the screen door hit you on the way out.

Dick-head Cheney has been spending the week swearing in new senators, with the oath to "uphold the constitution." I am sure he does this with his fingers crossed behind his back and that sneer smeared like bad lipstick across his face.

A plane crash-landed in the Hudson river this afternoon after a "double bird strike" disabled both its engines. Thank the goddess everybody made it out safe. Albeit following a frigid dip in winter river water.

Dean and I spent part of the afternoon applying grout sealer to our new basement bathroom floor. I know, ho-hum.

We are *so* looking forward to the upcoming holiday weekend, and celebrating our new Prez!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Odes to Obama?

10 American poets accepted the Associated Press's invitation to come up with a little something to mark Barack Obama's ascension to the presidency.

According to the article, poems were solicited from an "eclectic assortment of American wordsmiths, ranging from a former poet laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner to a self-described cowboy poet." The list included: Billy Collins, Gary Soto, Julia Alvarez, Yusef Komunyakaa, Alice Walker, Nathaniel Mackey, Sandra Cisneros, Charles Simic, Andrei Codrescu, Christopher Funkhouser, Bob Holman, Ted Newman, Amiri Baraka, and Elizabeth Alexander (who declined the offer because she was going to be reciting an original poem at the inauguration, anyway). Apparently not everybody came up with something. But I'm dying to see what did come from this.


I'll be posting my own "Disinauguration" poem later this week. A kind of kick-in-the-butt ode to the departing soon-to-be ex-prez. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sad news that Kay Ryan's partner Carol Adair has passed away.

from the obituary:
" . . . She met her life partner, Kay Ryan, in 1977 while both were working in the academics department at San Quentin. Carol was a teacher by nature. Teaching was her consuming art and genius. She understood how to bring out the best in her students and in all who knew her."

Friday, January 09, 2009

Floods, landslides, earthquakes, resistant flu strains, ricin threats, escalating Mid-East conflicts, ponzi schemes, usury and economic doom. It does give one pause, doesn't it? (Or does it give one paws? . . . claws?)

Dean and I are trying to do our part to stimulate the economy. We have hired a tile installer to re-do the floor in our basement bathroom. No more crappy old vinyl. Welcome lovely Italian porcelain tiles! Also a flush toilet that uses less water and that sits a little higher off the ground, and a pedestal sink. I know, tres domestique. But that is what our life is now.

I received an Italian translation of my poem "Anagrammer" in the mail the other day. It was written by Stefano Bartezzaghi, who apparently is Billy Collins' translator, and was published in the Italian magazine HOPE, for their "Parola" (word) issue, Numero 14 Dicembre 2008. From what I understand, Stefano was given my poem as a challenge, as it was thought to be "untranslatable" because the anagrams depend so much on the letters, and not the sense of the word. I think Stefano did an amazing job with it. Check it out. I especially love the last pair, where the stained/sainted anagram becomes beota/beato ("fool/angel"):

(Im)possible translation/Traduzioni (im)possibili

di Peter Pereira (2003)

If you believe in the magic of language,
then Elvis really Lives
and Princess Diana foretold I end as car spin.

If you believe the letters themselves
contain a power within them,
then you understand
what makes outside tedious,
how desperation becomes a rope ends it.

The circular logic that allows senator to become treason,
and treason to become atoners.

That eleven plus two is twelve plus one,
and an admirer is also married.

That if you could just re-arrange things the right way
you’d find your true life,
the right path, the answer to your questions:
you’d understand how the Titanic
turns into that ice tin,
and debit card becomes bad credit.

How listen is the same as silent,
and not one letter separates stained from sainted.


traduzione di Stefano Bartezzaghi (2008)

Se credi nella magia del linguaggio
allora sveli che Elvis è ancora vivo
e Diana Spencer crepa di Senna.

Se credi che le lettere stesse
contengano in sé una forza
allora capisci
che cosa fa dire «io sono noioso»,
e come il rimedio per la disperazione sia di penzolare.

La logica circolare che consente al senatore di essere estraneo ai suoi doveri
e poi al Senato di ritrovare l'onestà.

Che diciotto più tre fa tredici più otto
e che il tuo ammiratore è il marito maturo di un’altra.

Che tu puoi davvero riordinare le cose nel giusto modo
per trovare la vera vita,
la retta via, la risposta alle tue domande:
capirai come l'Andrea Doria
si possa ridare a onda,
e le carte a debito siano tabe a credito.

Come «li senti» equivale a «silenti»,
e non c’è lettera che separi il beota dal beato.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

A lovely sad sweet poem by David Trinidad, up on Poetry Foundation today. I think I will have to buy this book.

A Regret

Kurt, early
twenties. Met
him after
an AA
meeting in
I remem-
ber standing
with him up-
stairs, in the
clubhouse, how
I checked his
body out.
But not who
approached whom.
Or what we
talked about
before we
leaned against
my car and
kissed, under
that tarnished
L.A. moon.
Drove to my
place and un-
dressed him in
the dark. He
was smaller
than me. I
couldn’t keep
my hands off
his ass. Next
morning, smoked
till he woke,
took him back.
He thanked me
sweetly. I
couldn’t have
said what I
wanted, though
must have known.
Drove home and
put him in
a poem
I was at
the end of.

Later that
day it rained
(I know from
the poem).


“A Regret” from The Late Show (Turtle Point Press, 2007). © 2007 by David Trinidad. Used by permission of author.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

It is not easy to be reborn as a human being. It is rarer than for a one-eyed turtle, who rises to the surface only once every hundred years, to push his neck through a wooden yoke with one hole that floats on the surface of the wide ocean.

Buddha Shakyamuni

Happy New Year!


PS: I just received this lovely poem by Sheenagh Pugh, by way of an email from my friend Claudia Mauro. It seems perfect for the moment we are living in (though it appears the poet has disowned this poem, for various reasons?):


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you.

© Sheenagh Pugh