Saturday, December 25, 2010

High Praise for Bishop

"That she worked in one of our country's least popular fields, poetry, doesn't matter. That she was a woman doesn't matter. That she was gay doesn't matter. That she was an alcoholic, an expatriate and essentially an orphan -- none of this matters. What matters is that she left behind a body of work that teaches us, as Italo Calvino once said of literature generally, 'a method subtle and flexible enough to be the same thing as an absence of any method whatever.'" "

--David Biespiel, the Oregonian


Merry Merry Happy Happy !!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wow: I can't believe it actually passed! I am sure my friend GC will be happy with the news. We've come a long way baby . . .

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Check out this fun animated card--and make sure to have the volume on. It's so sweet.

CHRISTMAS CARD (click here)

Monday, December 13, 2010

From today's poem a day:

by Kwame Dawes

For August Wilson

No one quarrels here, no one has learned
the yell of discontent—instead, here in Sumter
we learn to grow silent, build a stone
of resolve, learn to nod, learn to close
in the flame of shame and anger
in our hearts, learn to petrify it so,
and the more we quiet our ire,
the heavier the stone; this alchemy
of concrete in the vein, the sludge
of affront, until even that will calcify
and the heart, at last, will stop,
unassailable, unmovable, adamant.

Find me a man who will stand
on a blasted hill and shout,
find me a woman who will break
into shouts, who will let loose
a river of lament, find the howl
of the spirit, teach us the tongues
of the angry so that our blood,
my pulse—our hearts flow
with the warm healing of anger.

You, August, have carried in your belly
every song of affront your characters
have spoken, and maybe you waited
too long to howl against the night,
but each evening on some wooden
stage, these men and women,
learn to sing songs lost for centuries,
learn the healing of talk, the calming
of quarrel, the music of contention,
and in this cacophonic chorus,
we find the ritual of living.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost

Just finished reading All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost. What a great read. I think Lan Samantha Chang has totally nailed it -- the lives and lot of poets. The four main characters, over the course of their lives, live out four related but very different life trajectories. Miranda is the stern distant demanding teacher, worshipped and feared by her students, who has an affair with one, and ends up choosing his first book for a prize, setting his career in motion, even while her own has peaked. Roman is the brilliant, petulant, lucky student, who grows to get the prizes, the university teaching gigs, the fame, but who ends up unhappy, unfulfilled, feels perhaps even a fraud. Bernard is the recluse, working all his life on one long unpublished poem, carrying on letter-writing correspondences with "the writers of our time," and who is jealous of Roman's successes, but remains committed to his own personal artistic vision-- he is perhaps the "true poet" of the four. Lucy is the poet who puts her career on hold to be wife and mother, supportive of her spouse's career, and only returns to her writing later in life, renewed. It's a fascinating study of the motivations and drives and desires of these four poets; the relationships between students and mentors, poetry friends, poetry marriages; how things change (or don't ever change) over time. How in many ways "all that matters is the work." Or is it: all that matters is the relationships? Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Had a great time at a new-ish restaurant on Capital Hill called Spinasse, for dinner last night. It was packed on a Monday, which is a good sign. Terrific food (I had the tagliatelle with pork shoulder poached in milk, Dean had the rabbit meatballs with turnip-horse radish puree), but it was very noisy! We could hardly hear each other speak. Still I think we would go back.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Still the One

24 years today. One year for each hour of a day. And honey, you are still the one. This song's for you, Dean.

They said, "I bet they'll never make it"
But just look at us holding on
We're still together still going strong

Ain't nothin' better
We beat the odds together
I'm glad we didn't listen
Look at what we would be missin'

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Are you looking for a new book of poems, for yourself or a friend? Then check out the suggestions from Ron Slate's On the Seawall. Some of these books are titles I have mentioned previously on this blog. Many others are new titles hot off the presses. Something here for everybody.

Nineteen Poets Recommend New and Recent Titles
November 29th, 2010

For holiday-time reading and gift-giving, here are 21 poetry collections recommended by 19 poets – Hank Lazer, Ange Mlinko, Tony Hoagland, Tara Betts, Lisa Russ Spaar, Philip Metres, Ken Chen, Julie Sheehan, Rusty Morrison, Joel Brouwer, Todd Boss, Robert Cording, Elaine Sexton, Leslie Harrison, Deborah Woodard, Aaron Belz, Don Bogen, Amanda Auchter, and Aaron Baker.


I've been reading the novel All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost. It takes place in the 1980's and onward, starting in a poetry MFA program that sounds oddly enough like Iowa. It's fascinating to read the representation of poetry workshop, the students hopes and dreams and ambitions for poetry, and a love affair that seems to be developing between one of the professors and a (soon to be former) student. It's amazing how this novelist (who apparently is a director at Iowa?) can make the whole poetry MFA world sound so dramatic and crucial and relevant. Check it out.

"From Booklist
*Starred Review* Chang is director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and here she weds her professional knowledge of writing-seminar dynamics to her lucent style, producing a stunning novel that more than fulfills the promise of her early work (Hunger, 1998; Inheritance, 2004). Miranda Sturgis is an exceptional poet, and though her critiques can be ruthless, graduate students at the renowned writing school where she teaches fight to gain admission to her seminars. She proves to be a tantalizing and enigmatic figure to her students, especially Bernard Blithe, one of the most serious poets in the class, and Roman Morris, who fairly burns with ambition. Chang shows the two men, one who regards poetry as an avocation, the other as a means to an end, to be essentially similar in one devastating way: their intense loneliness, which comes from sacrificing all personal relationships for the sake of work. Among the many threads Chang elegantly pursues—the fraught relationships between mentors and students, the value of poetry, the price of ambition—it is her indelible portrait of the loneliness of artistic endeavor that will haunt readers the most in this exquisitely written novel about the poet’s lot. --Joanne Wilkinson"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'll be doing a presentation of poems from the History of Medicine tonight at 7PM in Columbia City for SPLAB/Living Room. Come on down if you are in the neighborhood.

Full info here: Peter Pereira guest poet in the Living Room Nov 30

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Patti's Myth

I've been reading the Patti Smith memoir, Just Kids, about her coming of age with Robert Mapplethorpe in the 60's and 70's in New York. It's a fascinating peek into the desires and motivations of young artists, leaving home and coming to the city, living hand to mouth, sacrificing all for their work, all in the hopes of making it, becoming famous.

But some of it seems a little far-fetched, too casual in its name-dropping, too highly coincidental that she is in so many places at just the right time, and just happens to meet the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Sam Sheppard, etc, etc. And so I read the memoir as somewhat mythic, and that is OK.

Still, that aside, it is a wonderful read, in part, I think, because she writes like a poet. And it has driven me back to listen to all my Patti Smith albums again, and to go online to find recordings and videos on YouTube. She was the ultimate punk/rock poetess, and as a teenager I wanted to *be* like her--it's part of what made me want to write poems!

Here is a recent video of her reciting a few lines, then singing "Dancing Barefoot" live:

And here is another great find, a cover of her singing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teens Spirit." I think she and Curt would have found a soul mate in each other. This is an amazing cover, it's as if the song was written for her:

And for good measure: a 1976 live performance of "Land" from Horses, followed by a eerie cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe."


Sunday, November 21, 2010

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I *heart* Barbara Bush!

Asked what she thinks about Sarah Palin, the matriarch of the Bush family responded with characteristic diplomacy.

"I sat next to her once. Thought she was beautiful," Barbara Bush told CNN's Larry King. "And she's very happy in Alaska, and I hope she'll stay there."

The 85-year-old former first lady chuckled and smiled at her subtle sarcasm. Her comments come as Palin, former Alaska governor, revealed this week that she's considering a 2012 run for the White House, and said believes she could beat President Barack Obama.


I had a lovely time at the Crab Creek Review release reading. Wonderful poems from Erin Malone, Kevin Miller, Michael Schmeltzer and Martha Silano. I especially enjoyed Martha's poem about "Black Thursday," and the one about her baby learning to talk, "On the Cusp." (here's a taste)

On the Cusp

of language, of her first word. Something's
set to burst from her lips—bison? Bivalve?

Could be bye-bye; we're not sure.
There's a bushtit at the feeder,

so she turns to the news of hunger,
of hunger and buzzy chirps—

buh buh buh—wavers her hand,
and this could be the start . . .

read the rest of the poem here:


I read my ekphrastic poems from the issue, as well as a couple of others. I think they went over well. Had an interesting conversation afterwards with a woman from the audience, who enjoyed the poems, especially "Plague Doctor." She said her father was a doctor, and used to have a collection of old wood block prints from Europe, with caricatures of doctors, and she wondered if that is where I got the image ("Doktor Schnabel von Rom" ("Doctor Beak from Rome"). Now I have to go see if I can find this book of woodcuts!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Terrance Hayes' Lighthead wins National Book Award for Poetry!

"In his fourth collection, Terrance Hayes investigates how we construct experience. With one foot firmly grounded in the everyday and the other hovering in the air, his poems braid dream and reality into a poetry that is both dark and buoyant. Cultural icons as diverse as Fela Kuti, Harriet Tubman, and Wallace Stevens appear with meditations on desire and history. We see Hayes testing the line between story and song in a series of stunning poems inspired by the Pecha Kucha, a Japanese presenta­tion format." Full details here.

And Patti Smith (!!) wins in the Non-fiction category for her memoir Just Kids about coming of age with Robert Mapplethorpe. How touching.

I think I am going to have to read both.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Dean and I are totally into HBO's In Treatment again. What an amazing show! My favorite character so far is Sunil, the Bengali grandfather who is suspicious of his son's American wife. He is played by Irrfan Khan, who is a fascinating actor, and just riveting to watch. This is high quality psychological drama. Check it out.


Had a great time at the Band of Poets concert at Hugo House Thursday night. A great mix of poetry and music. I especially loved Jed Meyers on guitar and harmonica. Go see them the next time you get a chance.


I've been reading Timothy Donnelly's The Cloud Corporation. It was strongly recommended by several reviewers, including someone at the NY Times. I enjoyed his first book (27 Props . . .), but unfortunately I am just not getting this one. There's not a lot of there there. I'd call it "John Ashbery lite?" Is anyone else connecting with it?


Monday, November 08, 2010

Ekphrasis and Community

Had a wonderful time yesterday at the "Taboo Against Beauty" ekphrastic poetry presentation organized by Susan Rich at the Frye Art Museum. She and Allen Braden, Kelli Agodon, and Oliver de la Paz read new work, written in response to paintings in the permanent collection at the Frye. Terrific stuff about dogwood trees and the crucifixion, a poisoned Mozart in winter, and a Dutch washerwoman. My favorite: Kelli's poem about the family of monkeys and the tipped over vase a flowers:

It was a delightful Sunday afternoon, weatherwise, made even more delightful by being able to chat and mingle and catch up with so many of the local poetry community after the reading, over coffee and cookies. Seattle is a great place to live, and to write. (Welcome back JHG).


Also saw the new copies of Crab Creek Review, in which Susan edited a special section on Ekphrasis. I am lucky to have a couple poems in there, and I LOVE how they turned out, printed side by side with the artworks that inspired them, or that they are responding to. Get your copy here. Or come to the Crab Creek Review group reading at Elliott Bay November 20th 7PM.


Saturday, November 06, 2010

Some recent poetry

I have been reading Peter Balakian's Ziggurat, Barbara Ras' The Last Skin, and Matt Zapruder's Come On All You Ghosts, enjoying them all, but in different ways.

Balakian's book has this enormous, encyclopedic long poem, 45 sections long, in fact, titled "A-Train/Ziggurat/Elegy" which is a pastiche including: growing up and coming of age in New York as the twin towers are being built, and the art scene there, working as a mail runner, etc; archaeological explorations of Babylon, through layers of history to the cradle of civilization, and what is found there; all mixed with more contemporary memories of 9-11 and the Iraq war. I'm not sure exactly what he is trying to do with it all, except perhaps to come to terms with his own life, and his relationship to the events, to the loss, to the history. He also has a long poem, "Sarajevo" about visiting the ruins of the Bosnian National Library. It's all pretty heady stuff, well written, but I am not sure yet how it all adds up (towers and ziggurats and libraries fall? their histories sink or turn to ash?). Still, I am intrigued enough to read again.


The Ras book is simpler, more direct. Much of it is concerned with the recent death of her mother, and her grieving process, and what it all means to her now, their relationship, the memory of her. I particularly enjoyed "Once the Ocean Takes You," and "Impossible Dance," in which she brings together the images of a radio playing in an empty house, and the shell of her mother's body taken away by the undertaker, and a translucent floating jellyfish:

Impossible Dance

Standing at the window, at a loss,
I listened to the radio left playing next door
in the house long vacant, the music vacant, too,
so hollow I could supply my own song,
but what came instead was a vision,
clear balloons of jellyfish
sailing through the airiest water,
transparency held aloft in transparency,
tender animate emptiness propelled
by tentacles and sighs.

After they took my mother's shell
to the place it would burn,
I remade her bed and lay there,
wild, pinning
myself to the her last place.
Her air--all I wanted was her air.

Five years later to the day, again I go
through the stations of grief, death's awful
offices, a dance that is never learned, or ever done,
only sorrow, my invisible partner, yanking me
in tune to an orchestra always out of earshot,
somewhere beyond belief.

pg 60

PS: looks like there is a YouTube video of Ras reading this poem at AWP here.


I love the cover of Matthew Zapruder's new book, with the scrawled chalk title, over the black embossed city-scape. The poems are delightful as well, a mix of humor and pathos, philosophical meanderings, dream notes, bon mots and asides. There are also some moving elegiac poems for his father. Here is a taste, I think it is perhaps a kind of ars poetica? It's interesting to me how this poem also begins with overheard music (as in the Ras poem above):

The New Lustration

Last night I heard faint music moving
up through the floor. The thought
I could be one who falls asleep and dreams
some brave act and wakes to actually
do it flapped through me, brief breeze
through a somnolent flag. Across
the room my cell phone periodically
shone a red light indicating someone
was failing to reach me. Your body
kept barely lifting the sheet. I think
my late night thoughts and feelings
about my life are composed
of fine particles that drift far from me
to periodically settle on apartment
or office buildings. Feel the heat
and pulsation within. A man sits
in the Institute of National Memory
examining files. They contain accounts
of what certain people believed other
more powerful people would want
to permit themselves to believe
regular people were choosing to do
all through the years that like terrible
ordinary babies one after another
crawled, grasping daily acts and placing
them into these files anyone now
can hold. Read about the life
of the great ordinary Citizen Z. How
he attended funerals and horrible boring
literary parties, aging and thinking
of his anonymity and writing journals
he later felt he must destroy, and calmly
against his will periodically meeting
in hotel bars with the sad men who asked
questions that along with the answers
they all knew would end in these yellow files.
Each has a label marked with three
or four obscure numbers followed by
a dash followed by three initials.
Europe you had your time. Now
it is ours to drag everyone into a totally
ghost free 21st century whiteness.

pg 25


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Please remember to

if you haven't already. It's your chance to restore sanity. :)

And, in case you are interested: the likely Senate Map, per Real Clear Politics (looks like we will likely be back to roughly the same distribution as 2006):

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Project Runway Finale tonight. I am so hoping Mondo wins. He is the most original and interesting. Plus he was a good non-back-stabbing contestant, with a touching life story. Andy would be my second choice. I cannot stand Gretchen, and have no idea how she got this far. She has been awfully mean-spirited, and a boring designer to boot.


Bellevue Art Museum has a great show right now. Dean and I saw it last weekend. But it is not the Ginny Ruffner exhibit, which was sort of ho-hum in my opinion. Sure, the idea of DNA from plants and animals mixing is interesting, but the pieces were kind of repetitive and amorphous blobs, and blah blah blah. They left me cold. And not in a good way. :)

Instead, go up one floor to the 2010 Biennial Clay Throwdown. Over 30 regional sculptors submitted work, and it is a diverse and energizing show. Plus, you get to vote for the winner! My favorite pieces: the amazing trabecular wall by Nathan Craven; the outrageous and witty girls' gossip circle by Patti Warashina (see how the string-can telephone turns into two sticks of dynamite); and the detailed porcelain "Dangerous Liaisons" type Renaissance tea-party orgy by Chris Antemann (all those little erections like fifth fingers pointing out).

Highly recommended. Ends January 16, 2011. Check it out!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Some recent poetry

Now and then I like to mention a few of the new books of poems I have been reading. Usually from authors I don't know, or have never met.

10 Mississippi, by Steve Healy. This one was recommended to be by John Marshall at Open Books, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The central poems series, "10 Mississippi" explores the phenomenon of river drownings, and language (poetry is a river of language, perhaps?), and of course has the lovely conceit of "1 Mississippi" "2 Mississippi" . . . and so on. Here's a taste:

5 Mississippi

Foul play was not suspected, police did not
release further details including whether there
were signs of foul play, the cause of death
will not be known until the autopsy is completed
but foul play is not suspected, it's too early to say
how she died or whether foul play was involved,
authorities do not suspect foul play in her death,
we don't have any information to indicate
that foul play was involved but we haven't
completely ruled that out until we complete
our investigation said the sheriff, foul play
was not suspected in the death, all authorities
have been able to determine is that the body
is believed to be that of an adult.

Though the poem falls a little flat at the end, I love the flow of language, how it is almost like an NPR radio story gurgling in the background, haunting and riveting, and slowly submerging us.


Selected Poems, Mary Ruefle. She has been writing for a long time, but I was not that familiar with her work. This selected is from Wave Books, and the cover is a plain white wrapper, sort of like the Beatles's White Album, I thought. She has many short lyrics, that explore ideas, experience, in a very universal way. Sort of like Kay Ryan poems, but wider, more expansive. Here's a taste:

The Last Supper

It made a dazzling display:
the table set with meat
from half a walnut, a fly
on a purple grape, the grape
lit from within and the fly
bearing small black eggs.
We gathered round the oval table
with our knives, starved
for some inner feast.
We were not allowed to eat,
as we had been hired as models
by the man at our head.
Days passed
in which we grew faint with hunger.
Later we were told
that although we did not appear
on the canvas
our eyes devouring these things
provided the infinite light.

I love how the situation in this poem, of being a human model for a still life painting, one in which you do not appear, but for which you "provided the infinite light." Wonderful!


The Lightning that Strikes the Neighbors' House, Nick Lantz. This is the second of the two books that came out together (the other was the amazing We Don't Know, We Don't Know). I don't think it is a strong as the latter, but there are a lot of good poems here. My faves so far: "The Marian Apparitions" which explores the phenomenon of people seeing the face of the Virgin Mary in everything: a grilled cheese, a peach pit, the water stains on a highway pillar. And what it all might mean -- "We are/hardwired to recognize faces--the unresponsive infant/is abandoned, or so the logic goes." The long poem "The History of Fire" is pretty wonderful, too.


Pleasure, Brian Teare. Though my friend Jeff Crandall was horrified by the bright red cover, with a photo of two men, one with his face obliterated, I thought the cover was beautiful and mysterious, and was part of why I picked up the book off the shelf. The poems explore the loss of a husband-lover (his "Adam") in modes varying from lyric meditation to prose poem to elliptical fragments to abstract word salad. My favorite part was the long sequence of "Used Books & Records" poems. Here is a taste(excerpted, with formating/spacing not exact--sorry):

XI. Used Books & Records : Elegiac Action : To Listen

"When I was your age
I thought about death

constantly New York
I had just moved I lived alone

My job was difficult

and I would sleep on the subway
to and from work Sometimes

I would miss my stop

and wake up as if in the middle
of a dream somewhere I had no

name for I thought about death
the way people do at your age

. . . .


from where my body
sat a woman slowly

flickered her handbag
her flats expressionless

when she disappeared

I knew she had died

and the same thing
would happen to each passenger

and the car would keep going

. . . .

I was not surprised
when my own body

began to flicker

I was not surprised

I was not



Happy reading!!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Political Theater at its best:

I can *totally* see a Saturday Night Live spoof on this.


Generation Homeless: the young victims of the economic crash: so sad . . .

SEATTLE (Oct. 19) -- Twenty-two-year-old Tony Torres sags, exhausted, onto the pavement just beyond a skate park where kids from this affluent Seattle suburb, Bellevue, flip tricks off ramps to the beat of a boombox. This is a safe place to hang out until he knows whether he'll get a bed on this night at the nearby YMCA, which donates its rec room as a shelter for young adults at night.

Check out the video and give what you can.

Generation Homeless: Voices from the Street from Mike Kane on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Head and the Heart

A great new local folk-rock band that is about to hit the big-time, and for good reason. Check 'em out:


PS: A gorgeous sunny fall day in Seattle today. I almost missed Kelli Agodon's reading this afternoon. But not because of the wonderful weather--I went to Elliott Bay by mistake! I walked down the stairs to the reading room at about 5 minutes to three, and thought it looked kind of dark. There was a theater group doing a rehearsal reading, and I realized, Ooops! The reading must be at Open Books!

I hustled back to my car and made good time in light traffic to Wallingford. Only missed the intros! It was a lovely reading. Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room has a lot of good poems, and I loved hearing the back story for some of them. But what is this thing with doing door prizes and giveaways and pictures and throwing balls and handing out chocolates and other gimmicks? I have seen it at several readings lately, and it is a bit gimmicky and kind of distracting. I want to hear the POEMS.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

I *heart* Dan Savage!

His new YouTube site "It Gets Better" sounds like a much-welcome affirming and encouraging spot for gay youth. (PS: it's true. Being a gay teen sucks. But life does get better! Mos def.)


Dean and I went to the opening night of the Picasso Exhibit at SAM last night. It's a huge show, taking a chronological approach to his work. The early pieces are amazing: you see the genius. He seemed to have become a caricature of himself in middle to late life though (or maybe I was just saturated by the show at that time). I also like the Dora Maar group. Wow.


Great news from a dear poetry friend, that her second book was just accepted. So exciting! More on that later.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Fascinating article in the NY times today, regarding the Muslim Mosque controversy, and how this has happened all before, 200 years ago in New York . . .

Many New Yorkers were suspicious of the newcomers’ plans to build a house of worship in Manhattan. Some feared the project was being underwritten by foreigners. Others said the strangers’ beliefs were incompatible with democratic principles.

Concerned residents staged demonstrations, some of which turned bitter.

But cooler heads eventually prevailed; the project proceeded to completion. And this week, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Lower Manhattan — the locus of all that controversy two centuries ago and now the oldest Catholic church in New York State — is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone.


I received Kelli Agodon's new book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, a week or so ago and have been enjoying it very much. Her poems have a wonderful mix of word play, humor, pathos, and philosophical musing. Strongly recommended!

Here's a taste:


It's impossible to see a black bra
directly as no light can escape from it,
still there are supernovas, dark matter,

meteorites in its path. The black bra
understands its usefulness is overrated.
It's problematic under a white

shirt of a white woman, unprofessional
peeking out of a blazer. To see
observational evidence of black bras

you do not need to borrow
the Hubble Telescope to view the Hourglass
Nebula, their existence is well-supported,

a gravitational field so strong
nothing can escape. Black bras
can be found in the back of a Vega

between the vinyl seats. It is the star
the boy wishes on -- he is never the master
of the unhook, Orion unfastening

his constellation belt. Let it remain
a mystery, something almost seen,
almost touched in a Galaxy. I'd call it

rocketworthy, but there is cosmic
censorship, naked singularities
to consider. The black bra has electric

charge, too close to the event horizon,
a man disappears in its loophole, escape
velocity equal to the speed of light.

pg 82


I wonder if this poem started out as a word play exercise, replacing every instance of "black hole" with "black bra" in a science article, and then just took on a life of its own? It is just delightful the mix of science, sex, humor, and cosmology. I just love it. Kudos Kelli Russell Agodon!

PS: I believe Kelli has a book release reading coming up, Sunday, October 17th at Open Books. 3 PM. Be there.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Friday, October 01, 2010

This is just so sad, so sad. And interesting how they use the word "torn."

Gay Rutgers violin student torn in chat-site postings

The man writing on the gay chat site was torn: He had discovered his college roommate had spied on him from another room with a webcam as he kissed a male friend. Should he complain to the school? Would officials assign him someone worse? Or would he simply anger the roommate?

After all, the man wrote Sept. 21, aside from some occasional bad behavior, "he's a pretty decent roommate."

The next night, Tyler Clementi, 18, a Rutgers University freshman, walked onto the George Washington Bridge and jumped over the edge; authorities said his roommate had streamed a live Internet feed of Clementi's encounter with another man in their dormitory room. Clementi's body was identified Thursday.

The messages on the chat site by a man calling himself cit2mo appear to have come from Clementi, a talented violinist from Ridgewood, N.J.

The postings show a student wrestling with his rising indignation over a breach of privacy and trying to figure out how best to respond. In one of his last messages, at 4:38 a.m. the day he took his life, he wrote that the roommate had tried again to catch him on camera the previous night, and had messaged friends to watch online.

He decided to act.

"I ran to the nearest R.A. and set this thing in motion," he wrote. "We'll see what happens."

At the Rutgers campus in Piscataway, N.J., where Clementi shared a room with Dharun Ravi, students mourned their classmate Thursday, and some questioned the accusations against Ravi and another freshman, Molly Wei. The two, both 18 and from New Jersey, have each been charged with invasion of privacy for using "the camera to view and transmit a live image" of Clementi.

I hope the roomate and his girl-friend get put away for a few years. From the looks of it, they were minority students as well. You would think they would have a little more compassion for someone who was different.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nic Sebastian has an audio recording of my WCW mash-up poem "Fugue" posted up at Whale Sound.

It's very different from how I hear the poem in my head, but I like it! Check it out.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

There's a Moon in the Sky Called the Moon

Apparently there is a HUGE full moon tonight, to welcome in Autumn. (I love how the "Au" in Autumn echoes the "Au" of the atomic symbol for Gold). Unfortunately, Seattle is socked in with the worst late summer weather in the last million years, so we won't see it. Alas.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've been reading the new Best American Poetry, edited by Amy Gerstler. I actually pre-ordered it this year as a Kindle download, which made sense to me, because I usually don't keep these anthologies very long, and they don't usually resell for much. And so I decided to go with the e-version, and it arrived on my iPad the day it was released. Not bad.

It took a little bit of adjusting to read on the iPad, though, and I think some of the formatting was messed up, but there were several advantages to the e-BAP, in that some people had hyperlinks in their bios to their blogs, or websites, and you could go there with one click (see Dennis Cooper, for instance). I just wish the poems each had a hyperlink to the poet's bio/statement (I always love reading those, and it would be great to be able to toggle back and forth between them.)

I skipped Lehman's intro, and went straight to Gerstler's. She has some good insights, and admits that BAP isn't so much about "best" as it is about the particular editor's "taste." But I wish she would have kept it a little shorter. (I kept hearing Tim Gunn screaming, "Edit! Edit!").

My favorite poems so far are Catherine Wing's lovely "er" poem, "The Darker Sooner," and David Trindad's "The Black Telephone." But why no Rebecca Loudon? After Gerstler had so admiringly blurbed Rebecca's last book, I thought for sure she would be in this year's BAP. Ah well. . . .

Happy reading!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I LOVE Lady Gaga. Listen to her tell it like it is about Don't Ask Don't Tell.


Also check out what is likely one of the new songs on her next album, "Out of Control."


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

And speaking of words, it looks like Abby Hagler at Hugo House is doing her own version of "Word a Day" at the Hugo House Blog, by choosing interesting words from the books she is reading. This week she is featuring words from Mary Jo Bang's "Louise in Love."

Last week she chose these five words from my book of poems, What's Written on the Body:







Thanks Abby. Hope you enjoyed the book, and these "unusual" words.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Looks like Palin can add one more thing to her resume: Neologist

from World Wide Words: "On Wednesday, the US dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster announced its "Word of the Summer", the word that had been searched for more often than any other in its online dictionary. The one that came top by a big margin wasn't there, or indeed in any other dictionary - it was Sarah Palin's confused blending of "refute" and "repudiate" in a news show and a Twitter message back in July: REFUDIATE. Merriam-Webster says they think searchers had worked out what Sarah Palin was groping for, since "refute" and "repudiate" were also looked up a lot."


Friday, September 03, 2010

Had a great time being part of the reading extravaganza at Elliott Bay last night, for the New Poets of the American West anthology, edited by Lowell Jaeger. What a fun night! It was sort of like a homecoming or reunion of sorts, having so many Washington poets in one room. Each person read one poem, so it was also sort of a greatest hits parade. We had poems about Mt St Helen's, 9/11, fishing, Hanford, palouse fires, Native American museum artifacts (or are they holocaust reminders?). Great fun all around. Thank you again to Lowell for editing this huge anthology. And to Kathleen Flenniken for hosting the bash.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

An interesting essay by Tony Hoagland up on the Poetry Foundations site:

What do we, as readers, want from a poem? On the one hand, plenty of poetry readers are alive and well who want to experience a kind of clarification; to feel and see deeply into the world that they inhabit, to make or read poetry that “helps you to live,” that characterizes and clarifies human nature. To scoff at this motivation for poetry because it is “unsophisticated” or because it seems sentimental—well, you might as well scoff at oxygen.

Similarly, to dismiss the poetry of “dis-arrangement,” the poetry that aims to disrupt or rearrange consciousness—to dismiss poems that attract (and abstract) by their resistance, thus drawing the reader into a condition of not-entirely-understanding—such a dismissal also seems to foreclose some powerful dimensions of poetry as an alternate language, a language expressive of certain things otherwise unreachable. Perhaps language as a study of itself has ends which are otherwise unforeseeable.

In our time, this bifurcation of motives among poets has become so pronounced as to be tribal.

And from later in the essay:

"One might extrapolate from these several examples the features of a period style. Here are the characteristics I observe:

1. A heavy reliance on authoritative declaration.
2. A love of the fragmentary, the interrupted, the choppy rhythm.
3. An overall preference for the conceptual over the corporeal, the sensual, the emotional, the narrative, or the discursive.
4. A talent for aphorism.
5. Asides which articulate the poem’s own aesthetic procedures, premises, and ideas.

Surely I am over-generalizing and omitting some things. But it is curious how much contemporary poetry bears some combination of these stylistic features . . . ."

Hmmmm . . . I might add "a heavy reliance on irony as the predominant tone." Or "a marked lack of interest in human emotional connection, almost to the point of being autistic."


Oh, yeah. And in case you missed it, there was a war that ended. In commemoration, I'd like to play this song, "War is Over: Merry Christmas":

War is over. If you want it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dean and I have been enjoying the new season of True Blood. I suppose you could think of it as a more "mature" version of Twilight. Vampires, Werewolves, and the Humans who love them.

The latest episodes have been terrific.
Sookie is a Fairy?! I never saw that coming!

Check out the video on YouTube:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Missed this live, looks like it was a hoot. Glee, Project Runway, Dancing with the Stars, Betty White, Lost, Mad Men, everybody has a cameo.


Had a great time in PT with the writing group. Good poems all around, salmon bisque for lunch, an hilarious word game led by George (who knew a Hootchie MAMA cold be so fun?). I only wish the sun had come out. This has got to be the most bizarre summer I have ever seen. The weather has been so cool. Kathryn's witchhazel is already setting flowers. It thinks it is next Spring.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Twinkie De-Fence

This looks like an interesting photo exhibit: a guy took a photo of each of the 37 "or so" ingredients in a Twinkie. Each one was posed on its own clear glass petrie dish. Does looking at these make you hungry for a Twinkie? Or just simply mild-to-moderately nauseated?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Just finished reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (on Kindle for iPad), and I have to say I just LOVED IT! I realize I am probably the last person in America to read it -- but what a sophisticated page turner. Enough plots and characters for ten books. And the character of Lisbeth is just so endearing. How can you not just love her? I hear Daniel Craig might play Blomkvist in the American version of the movie. Perfect.. I can hardly wait to see all his naughty bits!

I have already ordered the second book. Wheee!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A sweet-sad poem from Peter Everwine, from a recent ALP article in the Lake County News. It really fits this year's Northwest summer, where the rains and mists have been everpresent, and fall seems to be coming early.


Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind.
Sixty years ago, lying beside my father,
half asleep, on a bed of pine boughs as rain
drummed against our tent, I heard
for the first time a loon’s sudden wail
drifting across that remote lake—
a loneliness like no other,
though what I heard as inconsolable
may have been only the sound of something
untamed and nameless
singing itself to the wilderness around it
and to us until we slept. And thinking of my father
and of good companions gone
into oblivion, I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.


Sunday, August 08, 2010

I have been reading A History of Clouds by Hans Magnus Enzeberger (translated from the German by Martin Chalmers and Esther Kinsky). I picked it up off the poetry table at Elliott Bay the other day. It has a gorgeous cover, a photo collage of a street scene with buildings and clouds, and a bicyclist with angel's wings. I liked the first few poems I opened, so bought it, and it has been quite a delight to read. I don't know if it is just this poet, or if it is a particularly German sensibility, but I love how these poems are so philosophical, how they ask deep questions, yet still keep a sense of the joy and absurdity and sacredness of life.

The title poem is a long sequence,ostensibly about clouds, but really about the ineffable, the spiritual, life after death, etc etc.

"Appearing as they do,
overnight, or out of the blue,
they can hardly be considered
as being born.
Passing away imperceptibly
they have no notion of dying.
And anyway, nobody
can match their transience. (from part one)


I love the poem "The Instruments," about medical instruments, and the doctors who use them, perhaps at times too coolly. And the poem "An Earth-Coloured Ditty," in which every other line ends with the word "potato," is beautifully done:

An Earth-Coloured Ditty

Another poem about death, etc. —
certainly, but what about the potato?
For obvious reasons it's not mentioned
by Horace or Homer, the potato.
But what about Rilke and Mallarme?
Did it not speak to them, the potato?
Do too few words rhyme
with it, the earth-coloured potato?
It's not too concerned with heaven.
It waits patiently, the potato,
until we drag it out into the light
and throw it onto the fire. The potato
doesn't mind, but it could be
that it's too hot for poets, the potato?
Well, so we'll wait a little while
until we eat it, the potato,
sing about it then forget it again.


Highly recommended!


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Musical Mondegreens

Just finished a week of on call. Driving back and forth between hospital and clinic and home, I kept hearing this hypnotic song on the radio — a dreamy woman's voice singing "eight six six oh, eight six six oh." I thought it was a secret keyboard or cellphone text message to a friend or lover, but the letters didn't add up to anything. I googled and came up with nothing. Finally one day, when the announcer said it was a new song by MIA, I found it.

Not 8660, but XXXO. Duh! But give it a listen. Don't you hear "8660?"

Anyway, it is now Dean's and my special goodbye-tag in the morning, or on the phone. "Bye dear, love you, 8660."


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The new season of Project Runway starts tonight. I can hardly f-ing wait!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Interesting brief article over at Huffington Post:

Poetry and Medicine: Keats Was an Apothecary


What a weekend! Seattle finally has some summer weather. Spent a lovely Saturday on Vashon Island with old friends: dinner, fellowship, the garden, nature. Ahhhhhhh . . . . it's so good to get life's priorities in order. To discover again what is most important, what really matters.


Poetry group tonight at Sylvia P's. Not that Sylvia, of course, but a living Sylvia P. *wink*


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Some recent poetry I've been reading. . .

Romey's Order, by Atsuro Riley. I'd seen his poems the last few years in Poetry, and liked them. And this book is a delight. His poems are dense and sonically packed with scrumptious thick hyphenations like "gloam-knelling," "spawn-floss" and "ditch-jellies". There is definitely a bit of Gerald Manley Hopkins here. There is also a fascinating family history in the background, with Riley (and the semi-autobiographical poems' speaker: Romey) being a child of an American soldier and a Japanese woman, who make their family home in the South (South Carolina, in fact). The mix of Southern Gothic images, and Japanese sensibility (he spies images of Mt Fuji one day in a book of his mother's) are wonderful. Highly recommended.


Bar Book: poems and otherwise, by Julie Sheehan. I picked this book up blind off the shelf at Elliott Bay a few weeks ago. What a hoot! It's the story of a marriage, the birth of a child, and a bitter divorce, told through drink recipes and bar tending stories. There are prose poems, poem poems, poem recipes, a bit of a scene from a play-poem, numerous footnotes and asides. It's really a fun and varied collection. Here's a taste:

How to Make a Slow Comfortable Screw

This cheap date of a cocktail wears too much makeup. Even the name is fake. What masquerades as sexual innuendo turns out to be the recipe for the drink: "Slow" is for slow gin, "Comfortable" is for Southern Comfort -- tell me if I am speaking too shrewdly, too lewd-ish -- and "Screw" is for screwdriver, that most common of beverages. . . . . (pg 62)

The divorce poems are a bit spiteful, vindictive, and painful to read -- and her ex sounds like he deserved every bit of it. Still, I would not want to ever be the next person to cross this woman.

Read the Bar Book if you dare . . .


My Kill Adore Him, by Paul Martinez Pompa. Chosen by Martin Espada for the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. This was a really good read. I liked the Chicano-identity displayed here. These were assertive poems, that pulled no punches, whether it was about homophobia in grade school or the NBA locker room; sexism, racism, transvestism (a fun poem about a bar where straight men dance with chicks with dicks), or police brutality. Here is a taste:

Exclamation Point

Exclamation Point -- a punctuation mark that indicates strong feeling in connection with what is being said. It serves as a signpost to a reader that a sentence expresses intense feelings. An exclamation point may end a declaratory statement (Put your fuckin hands up!), a question (Do you want me to put a cap in your Mexakin ass!), or a fragment (Now asshole!). It may express an exclamation (Your ass is going to jail!), a wish (If you move, I'll shoot your fuckin ass!), or a cry (Okay, okay, take it easy, officer!). As these examples show, exclamation points are commonest in written dialogue. They should be used carefully in any writing and very seldom in formal writing. (pg 43)

Recommended, yes.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New compost bins, virtual garden tour

Here is Dean, smiling beside our new compost bins, built by Johnny Guerrero. Nice job Johnny! If you want info for him to build some bins for you, just let me know. We're pretty happy with the job he did, and how they turned out.

And please join me on a virtual tour of our garden: how it looks today, July 13th, 2010.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Colton Harris-Moore Caught?

Oh no! Say it isn't so . . .

"Harris-Moore, who has been running from American law enforcement since escaping from a Washington state halfway house in 2008, gained fame and thousands of fans who admired his ability to evade arrest. He is suspected of stealing cars, boats and at least five planes - including the aircraft he allegedly lifted in Indiana and flew more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to the islands off Florida's coast, despite a lack of formal flight training."

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

From The Whitman Archive: a recording of Walt Whitman Reading "America." Apparently only the first four lines are captured. And there is some controversy whether the voice is truly Whitman's.


Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair'd in the adamant of Time.


And, personally, I prefer Simon and Garfunkle's song "America:"

"Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together"
"I've got some real estate here in my bag"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful his bowtie is really a camera"

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat"
"We smoked the last one an hour ago"
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America


And while we are at it, here's something of mine from a long long time ago . . .

On First Hearing a Newly-Discovered Recording Believed To Be of Walt Whitman Reading “America”

Six lines, six long breaths:
could this be your ripe tenor
seething beneath the rhythmic thunking

of a chipped wax cylinder,
emerging from the radio's static
like a phone call from the dead?

Grandfather of American poetry,
lover-nurse of fallen soldiers,
tree hugger, imp — is it you?

We may never know
for sure, but goose-bumps
covered my flesh as I listened,

imagined your beautiful blue
eyes, your white beard, your mouth
making love to each word.

Chiron Review Winter 1992

Thursday, July 01, 2010

This looks like an interesting book — from an English teacher turned Nurse:

In the new book, 'Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between' (2010, HarperCollins Publishers), Theresa Brown examines life as a first-year nurse in medical oncology after leaving her life in academia to become a registered nurse (RN) in a field that she describes as "just feeling right."


Great reading at Hugo House Tuesday night. Standing room only! For Elizabeth Austen's new book The Girl Who Goes Alone, from Floating Bridge Press. The title poem is a long (3 page or so) narrative piece about what it means for a woman to hike alone. It's pretty moving stuff. Check it out here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Check out this poem from Richard Jones' new book The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning. I think it is pretty terrific. I love the way this poem interrogates the language we use; and, at a deeper level, leads us to wonder about our various and conflicting motivations for writing poems in the first place:


In the dictionary one finds the word
lucubrate, meaning “to study
by artificial light late at night
that one might express oneself
in writing,” on the heels of luciferous
“bringing sorrow” — and this immediately
preceded by lucrous, which, of course, is
“pertaining to lucre” and suggests “avaricious.”

To the right of lucubrate is ludibrious
“subject of mockery” —
and the familiar ludicrous
all that which is “laughably absurd.”

And in the far-right column, variations
on two small words, luff and lug,
“to bring the head of a ship
nearer the wind,”
and “to pull and tug heavily and slowly,”
two tiny words that describe
what I am doing
writing at my desk late at night,
turning the pages of the dictionary to find
the correct spelling and exact meaning
of lugubrious.

— Richard Jones


Saturday, June 26, 2010

This is the kookiest acceptance speech ever. I just love it. So much I think I'll buy the book!

Rakesh Satyal Goes Gaga @ Lambda Literary Awards from Lambda Literary on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oh I'm an outsider outside of everything
Oh I'm an outsider outside of everything
Oh I'm an outsider outside of everything
Everything you know
Everything you know
It disturbs me so
Oh I'm an outsider outside of everything
Oh I'm an outsider outside of everything
Oh I'm an outsider outside of everything
Everything you know
Everything you know
It disturbs me so . . .


Love this song from the old days. But most people who say they are "outsiders" usually aren't.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I received my copy of Diane Martin's new book Conjugated Visits the other day, fresh out from Dream Horse Press. I saw this book in manuscript, and love how it has turned out. Some favorite poems: "Sonhar," "Was You Ever Bit By a Dead Bee," "Two Bad Books," "Gal Friday." And this last poem in the book, just wonderful:

As It Never Was

The orange moon watching the fields
augurs a good harvest. Small children
unfurl ribbons and clap away crows.
The sky is painted lapis lazuli.
Evening: white-throated swifts cut the air
with their tails. They mate, fall,
uncouple right before they would
crash to earth. We drink apple beer
and sleep. In the distance
bell's toll. Summers, we journey
to the mainland. Once, on our return,
pink and silver dolphins leapt
among the long oars as we rowed.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Seattle Cop Punches Woman in Face

I live not far from the intersection where this occurred. Kids are always jaywalking there and making it very dangerous for drivers to pass. There is a pedestrian overpass built so that people can walk over the street without problem. But there are certain characters who seem to get off on jaywalking into traffic anyway, and trying to cause a ruckus. Both of these young women deserved all they got, in my opinion (if you read the papers, they both have prior criminal records, anyway). This is NOT about racism. I am so tired of out-of-control, poorly-parented teens acting out. If you are breaking the law, and doing so brazenly, provocatively -- I'm sorry -- you deserve to get punched in the face.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Story of Stuff

This is an amazing video. Every high school student should have to watch it. All of us should have to watch it. Believe me, it will motivate you to change your life.

Thanks to KF for forwarding me the link.