Saturday, May 30, 2009

Finally finished my week of call, which was punctuated by my own visit to the ER. I burned my hand on a hot skillet handle cooking dinner Wednesday night, blistering parts of my palm and four fingers. Yow! And then I learned that Silvadene (a commonly prescribed burn cream) has a common side effect of causing "burning of the skin." Double yow. Things are healing nicely now, with plain old over the counter aloe vera thank you very much.


Two recent books that I have enjoyed reading are Angie Estes', Tryst, and Sherman Alexie's Face. (Hmmm . . . interesting, both are one-word titles . . . note to self).

Tryst is a delightful discovery. I picked it up blind off the shelf at Open Books in Seattle, and read one poem, and was hooked. I love Estes' inventive use of language, her humor, her erudition, and her always fascinating historical references. These are some really well made and entertaining poems, that stand up well to repeated readings. Here is a sample:


Mistaken, taken for
granted: her hips rose, rose
hips. The top note, that initial overpowering
scent can be mistaken
before it fades into the heart
note, which is the final,
true scent that lingers when the purple
finches have flown away. Granted: a song is a verbal
fence, and so Delilah sings Mon coeur
s'ouvre à to voix
, My heart opens
at your voice
, but then must cut
Samson's hair because he prefers
God to her, Miss Taken
for Granted. In Fra Angelico's painting, even the flames
of cypress flare up
along the road where the gold-haloed
heads of the martyred Saints Cosme and Damien
roll like rocks with notes
bound over their eyes. It is a splash
of black in a sunny landscape
van Gogh said of the cypress,
but it is one of the most interesting
black notes, and the most difficult
to hit off that I can
. Mistaken for granite—the skyline
of San Gimignano fallen
on its side, lines grazing out
and back like the lines of
this poem, like cows coming
home, where Italo Svevo swore
to his new wife, Livia: I will love you
forever, as far as the fin de siècle
will allow
. He meant to be
diagonal like agony, to outlast
the flat leaves of the hollyhock, which hasten
to lace. Mistaken: the closed burgundy
whorls of the hibiscus fallen
on the path, soft and damp
as the bodies of birds. "Chicken in half-
mourning," poulet demi-deuil, has so many black
truffle slices slid under
its skin that it appears to be
wearing black, just as the pearl-grey
waves of moiré in the Venetian lagoon
could be the waves
of the brain: Touch your hair
if you re going to the Ridotto. Nod
or shake your head
to tell me whether you plan to
go to the piazza
, Venetian
lovers once wrote in secret
notes that from the air
could be mistaken
for ruins along the canal where
they met: runes arching their backs
against the sea. Your plane taxis
out to the runway; in a moment it will
lift as you have so many times
beneath me.

Published in the Field Poetry Series, volume 24. Check it out! Highly recommended.


Alexie's new book Face has an interesting mix of traditional forms (sonnets, syllabics, villanelles) and more experimental forms. I prefer the latter. He has verse poems that break off into prose paragraphs, return to verse, followed by footnotes and/or multiple choice questions. It's really quite a hoot! I care a little less for all the father-son, piss fight stuff. But the Mount Rushmore poem, "Vilify," itself a villanelle followed by pages of hilarious footnotes, is worth the price of the book. Recommended.

An interview with Alexie here.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm really shocked by the California Prop 8 ruling.

Here's an email from Courage Campaign:

"Moments ago, the California Supreme Court announced its deeply disappointing decision to uphold Proposition 8.

While we are pleased that the court recognized the legal marriages of the 18,000 same-sex couples married in 2008, we are saddened by the Prop 8 decision.

But we don't have time to mourn the failure of the state court to restore marriage equality to California.

It's time to go on offense. To be fearless in our fight for equality. Starting right now:
It's such a relief to have a former constitutional law professor choosing our next Supreme Court Justice. I hope Sotomayor gets confirmed.


Oxford University's first female Professor of Poetry resigned Monday after acknowledging she had helped publicize charges that her rival for the post had sexually harassed a former student.


It's the end of an amazing Memorial Day Weekend. I can't remember the last time we had such great weather. We ate outside for lunch and dinner every day. A lovely BBQ at L & S's place yesterday afternoon. Seattle is heaven when the weather is like this. Who would want to live anywhere else?


Saw the new Star Trek movie last night. What a hoot of a movie! It pays homage to the old TV show (with lots of inside jokes you would get only if you had watched the original). I loved the new Scotty, Chekov, Sulu and Uhura. Nero, the evil bad guy, is well played by some guy with Mike Tyson-like tattoos all over his face. My only question: why does the bad guy's space ship always have to look so ugly, dark, complicated and twisted on the inside?

Went with old friends from college days, and went out to Brasserie Margeaux after. So fun!


On the Back Porch

The cat calls for her dinner.
On the porch I bend and pour
brown soy stars into her bowl,
stroke her dark fur.
It's not quite night.
Pinpricks of light in the eastern sky.
Above my neighbor's roof, a transparent
moon, a pink rag of cloud.
Inside my house are those who love me.
My daughter dusts biscuit dough.
And there's a man who will lift my hair
in his hands, brush it
until it throws sparks.
Everything is just as I've left it.
Dinner simmers on the stove.
Glass bowls wait to be filled
with gold broth. Sprigs of parsley
on the cutting board.
I want to smell this rich soup, the air
around me going dark, as stars press
their simple shapes into the sky.
I want to stay on the back porch
while the world tilts
toward sleep, until what I love
misses me, and calls me in.

-- Dorianne Laux, from Awake.
© Eastern Washington University Press, 2007

(thanks to V for sending this)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So, the plot thickens (sickens):

Ruth Padel, Oxford's first female professor of poetry, attempted to fend off calls for her resignation today, just a week after she was elected to the post. The demands came over claims she alerted journalists to allegations that Derek Walcott, her rival for the post, had sexually harassed students. She had previously denied involvement in the so-called smear campaign.

In an email to the Guardian today, Padel defended her actions, claiming she had no idea that it would become such a furore.

Walcott, a Nobel laureate, was believed to be edging ahead of Padel in the campaign until the accusations of sexual harassment made against him by former students at Harvard and Boston universities were aired again in the national press. The weekend before the election was due to take place, dossiers containing information about the allegations, and photocopied pages from a book on the subject, The Lecherous Professor, were posted anonymously from London to Oxford academics. Three days later, Walcott withdrew from the race, saying that it had "degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination" and "I do not want to be part of it."

Padel, who is just over a week into her tenure, has consistently maintained that she played no part in the smear campaign, saying at the time that "neither [my campaign managers] nor I mentioned Walcott's harassment record and had nothing to do with any behind-doors operation", and claims "to revere his work"." I had absolutely no wish to see him humiliated, and I'm very, very sorry he pulled out."

Interesting choice of words.

I'm sure the folks over at WOMPO will be in a tizzy over this.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's supposed to be a gorgeous sunny Memorial Day Weekend here in the Seattle area. Unfortunately, I am on call for the week (Friday 5pm to Friday 5pm). Arrrghh.

Ah well . . . hope it's quiet and that people are out enjoying the sun, rather than getting sick (or going into labor).


Our garden is pretty much all planted now and growing like gangbusters: lettuce, broccoli, walla walla sweets, garlic, tomatoes of all sorts, sweet peppers, eggplant, beans, yellow squash, zucchini, corn and on and on. Really, I love growing this stuff, and eating fresh grilled veggies al fresco all summer long.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The God Helmet (I want one of these)

The term God Helmet refers to a controversial experimental apparatus in neurotheology. The apparatus, placed on the head of an experimental subject, stimulates the brain with magnetic fields. Some subjects reported experiences similar to spiritual experiences. The leading researcher in this area is Michael Persinger. Persinger uses a modified snowmobile helmet or a head-circlet device nicknamed the Octopus that contain solenoids which create a weak but complex magnetic field over the brain's right-hemisphere parietal and temporal lobes. Persinger reports that at least 80 percent of his participants experience a presence beside them in the room, which they variously say feels like God, or someone they knew who had died.


Yoko Ono to Judge First-Ever Twitterku Contest

Micro-blogging phenomena Twitter is to host the first ever real-time haiku poetry competition, with judges Yoko Ono and British poet Jackie Kay deciding the best verses from various entries posted live on the digital billboard at London’s King’s Cross Station.

The competition, which started on Monday 18th May and will run until Friday 22nd May, invites commuters to tweet their three line haiku-style verses to Twitter, prefixing with @kingsplace for it to be picked up by the Kings Palace Twitter account.

The initiative has been introduced by Kings Place, a cultural and conference centre, with all the entries will be collected by Kings Place Twitter account.

Judges will select three haikus at the close of the competition, with winners receiving free entry for two to the "Words on Monday" weekly poetry event at Kings Place for the rest of the year.

Commenting upon this innovative form of competition, Jackie Kay said in a statement, “I liked the idea of doing something that combined an old form with a very new form. People could do a haiku on the way to work and it’s a good way to exercise the brain”.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Touched by Evil."

A great article about Flannery O'Connor in the latest issue of The Atlantic Monthly. She had such an interesting life: a gifted writer, set up financially, highly religious, and medically challenged (lupus, which also affected her father).

Friday, May 15, 2009

Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am signaling you through the flames.

The North Pole is not where it used to be.

Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.

Civilization self-destructs.

Nemesis is knocking at the door.

What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.

If you would be a poet, create works capable of answering the challenge of apocalyptic times, even if this meaning sounds apocalyptic.

You are Whitman, you are Poe, you are Mark Twain, you are Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay, you are Neruda and Mayakovsky and Pasolini, you are an American or a non-American, you can conquer the conquerors with words....


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Songs I Would Love to Hear Adam Lambert Perform for the AI Final:

Small Town Boy, Bronski Beat
I Kissed a Girl, Katy Perry
Heart of Glass, Blondie
Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood

The Bronski Beat song would be a great chance for Adam to finally come out for good on Live TV, and to feature his stunning glass-shattering heart-breaking falsetto.
The Perry song would allow him to be *so* ironic: "I kissed a girl and I liked it/Hope my boyfriend don't mind it."
"Heart of Glass" would be the least risky, but fun.
"Relax" could be a total raging fabulous freak-out, with Adam in tight leather pants doing pelvic grinds and winking in Simon's general direction.

So, Adam, whaddaya say?


Small Town Boy (Lyrics)

You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face

Mother will never understand
Why you had to leave
But the answers you seek
Will never be found at home
The love that you need
Will never be found at home

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Pushed around and kicked around
Always a lonely boy
You were the one
That they'd talk about around town
As they put you down

And as hard as they would try
They'd hurt to make you cry
But you never cried to them
Just to your soul
No you never cried to them
Just to your soul

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Cry , boy, cry...

You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I love this poem from poem-a-day.

deer & salt block
by Joshua Marie Wilkinson

One boy is a liar & says there's a block of salt under his bed to draw deer in from the orchard. One boy says the pantry wall will open if you say an untold anagram of his name. One boy is already dressed when he wakes up for his young father's wedding. One boy hides a turtle from his brothers in a dresser drawer. One boy is mute & sluggish from the hurricane sirens. One boy took a long time in the bathtub reading the comics. One boy loops a tractor chain to the ceiling fan & tears the whole roof down. One boy speaks through a keyhole to the others about a shortstop's hex. One boy can't stand the scent of elevators. One boy gives different spellings for his name each week at school. That same boy stole his teacher's shoe. Another boy listens to a radio inside his pillowcase. One boy drinks coffee alone in the zookeeper's shed. The last boy casts a purple stone to the bottom of a pond & follows it down with his church clothes on.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

High Spring in the garden . . .

Happy Mother's Day! Hope you and yours have had a lovely day.


Have you voted in this week's Poetry Project? Some really good poems this week. I especially liked Kim Addonizios's.


Friday, May 08, 2009

So sad . . .

UW Poet and Professor Believed to Have Died after Fall
May 8, 2009 -- The family of missing University of Wyoming professor and poet Craig Arnold has learned from the private search group it hired that Arnold likely fell from a high and dangerous cliff, and there is virtually no possibility he could have survived the fall.
The Publishing Triangle Awards have been announced:

Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction
WINNER! Kai Wright, Drifting Toward Love (Beacon Press)
Linas Alsenas, Gay America (Amulet Books / Abrams)
Bob Morris, Assisted Loving (Harper)

Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction
WINNER! Andrea Weiss, In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain (University of Chicago Press)
Regina Kunzel, Criminal Intimacy (University of Chicago Press)
Nancy D. Polikoff, Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage (Beacon Press)

The Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
WINNER! Evan Fallenberg, Light Fell (Soho Press)
Alistair McCartney, The End of the World Book (University of Wisconsin Press)
Shawn Stewart Ruff, Finlater (Quote Editions)

Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry
WINNER! Elizabeth Bradfield, Interpretive Work (Red Hen Press)
Maureen McLane, Same Life (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Elaine Sexton, Causeway (New Issues)

The Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry
WINNER! Ely Shipley, Boy with Flowers (Barrow Street Press)
Jericho Brown, Please (New Issues)
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire (Harper)

The Ferro-Grumley Awards for LGBT Fiction
WINNER! Alison Bechdel, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
David Ebershoff, The 19th Wife (Random House)
Andrew Sean Greer, The Story of a Marriage (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Blair Mastbaum, Us Ones in Between (Running Press)
Benjamin Taylor, The Book of Getting Even (Steerforth)
Ellen Wittlinger, Love & Lies (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)


I don't know the Ely Shipley book, and will have to check it out. And I would have chosen Alistair McCartney's End of the World Book in fiction, and maureen McLane's Same Life in poetry.

I love how many different small presses are represented here!


Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Definition (from Wikipedia)
A form of poetry using the 140 character limitation of Twitter, with a four-line, AABB rhyme scheme, with at least one internal rhyme and some use of alliteration, written in one line with a forward-slash to indicate line breaks. Twitterku is a combination of Twitter, the micro-blogging site, and Haiku, the traditional short-form Japanese poetry.

Intimately, beneath a digital moon, / fractal flowers, in full bloom / sway back and forth as one, / infinitely, dreaming of the analog sun. -K.I.A.


And here is a blog where you can read more: after Basho, Buddha, and Japan: An Other Road into the Heartland, such as this one:

Stuck in traffic
on the freeway in Santa Barbara.
With apologies to Kurt Vonnegut:
there’s no damn free and no damn way.
Just here and now.

~Kokoro Sonzai 2009 (trans. Son Rivers)
reformatted from original twitter for twitterku


I find this use of twitter really fascinating. Would it be too weird to start writing Twitterku and/or Twitter sonnets (14 lines, 10 characters a line), without using a cellphone?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Religious conservatives across the state are divided over a new campaign to repeal legislation extending all the benefits of marriage — except the name — to gay and lesbian couples.

Conservative faith leaders on Monday followed through on an earlier pledge, filing a referendum to overturn Senate Bill 5688, which extends to same-sex couples all the state-given benefits of marriage previously reserved for opposite-sex couples.

Funny, I thought the work of true Christians was to care for the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned, etc. I don't remember hate the gays being on the list.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!


Publication of first book, $5,000 cash prize, residency at the Vermont Studio Center

The Academy of American Poets announced today that J. Michael Martinez has been selected as the recipient of the 2009 Walt Whitman Award. The Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets, is one of the most prestigious first book prizes in the country, as it publishes a first collection by an American poet who has never before published a book of poetry and distributes the book to thousands of members of the Academy. The Whitman Award also includes a $5,000 cash prize and a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center.

J. Michael Martinez received the Award for his book-length collection of poems, Heredities, which will be published in the spring of 2010 by Louisiana State University Press. The winning manuscript was chosen by the poet Juan Felipe Herrera from nearly 1,000 anonymous entries. In an unprecedented concurrence, the judge of the 2008 Award, Linda Bierds, selected Martinez's manuscript as last year's sole finalist. The two finalists for this year's Award were Keith Ekiss's Pima Road Notebook and Sarah Elaine Smith's I Live in a Hut.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Having a great relaxing time in LV. Saw Love last night at the Mirage. It's a good show. I mean, how can you go wrong with all those Beatles songs? But the production was a bit unfocused. No clear narrative line. And a bit frantic at times, with too many things going on at once, for no apparent reason. Still, some of the pieces were incredible: Octopuses Garden, Something, and A Day in the Life, for instance. The image of the red trapezist crashing into the little car, as it explodes into all of its pieces -- the hood, a door, a windshield, a bumper -- each one then held in the air by another dancer, as they swirl around her. Just great visual effect.


But the highlight so far has been a day trip out to the Springs Reserve Desert Living Center. It's an amazing, gorgeous, demonstration garden and museum and community center, with great xeriscape design. It's amazing what they've done with solar panels for shade and lighting, low water plantings, rain barrels and grey water collectors for irrigation. They use very little resources, and waste nothing, and it is a beautiful environment to live in (demo house was wonderful). Check out the website here, and visit if you ever get down to Las Vegas. And the best thing: it's free! Donation only.

We also took a road trip with our friends P & B out to see Red Rock Canyon. Also some incredible desert landscape there. I could see living here (if it weren't so darn hot and dry . . . hahahaha).


Today we hope to see a Warhol/Lichtenstein exhibit at the museum here. And then tonight we go to see Zumanity. An "adult" version of Cirque de Soleil. Wheee!