Friday, December 31, 2004

I've been meaning to say for a few weeks now, Spaceship Tumblers is really cool (and very well-named, too). Today Laura Carter reads, and I think this is the first time someone there has read something also posted on their blog, which I for one liked. She really must sing, her voice is fantastically controlled. Lovely work.

Anyway, I think I'll try posting a poem read when I get around to it in the next week or so, a sort of tribute to that site. Great use of technology.

And also, Josh (Hanson), there's a shirtless poem in this week's New Yorker.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I thought the Poetry Daily pick yesterday, by Julianna Baggott, was very good. I have to admit, I began reading it prejudiced (warning: little-poet confession upcoming) because Tin House had held two poems of mine for over ten months, in close consideration, before rejecting them with a form note, so I was I suppose looking to read a poem I could feel mine would have been better-picked than. But the Baggot poem is so good, I only feel stupid for that instantaneous desire. Which'll pass, too.

Actually, this year has had a number of those instances (mixed in with the usual kind), and not coincidentally, beyond the poem in Mipoesias, I've had no poems accepted for publication this year. Which makes a certain sense, since I haven't sent out all that much, and have not had so much time for writing, so I can view it with a moderately calm mind. But not, really, satisfaction. Which is the result more of the underlying reason (that is, I'm so focused on recovering and taking care of my family, the singlemindedness of poeming has less priority than in past years). Which is temporary, and as my vigor returns I know so will my discretion in time.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The three headlines which greeted me logging on this morning (AP top stories, via Yahoo News):

"Tsunami kills 21,000 in Nine Countries"

"Govts. Scramble to Account for Citizens"

"Suicide Bomber Kills 15 People in Iraq"

I'm speechless, both ways.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Did anyone else who submitted an ms to the T.S. Eliot prize get the following note in the mail recently?:

"Last month we sent you the attached notice to confirm that we received your T.S. Eliot manuscript. However, we recently learned that some of our mail sent at that time was burned in a tragic accident involving a postal truck. We apologize for this late notice."

Does this hit in a comically direct fashion anyone else's submitted-material anxiety buttons? Or cause an unpleasant Seinfeld flashback?

The notice itself, incidentally, is merely a notification that they received the ms safely. For which I am currently grateful; to both the mail-gods, and Truman State U. Press.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Monday, December 20, 2004

& Josh, I couldn’t stop smiling reading your description of the campaign so far. I haven’t played in half a lifetime, but (or maybe I mean “and”?) it sounds like great fun. I’m actually thinking of getting Neverwinter Nights so I can play on my own & at my own pace, but I’m afraid of giving up what little free time I have for reading & writing to that. I may though, I may.

I did get Jonah a game called "Heroscape" for Hannukkah, a very simple miniatures-based fantasy wargame, and we've played a few times. For someone who can't read, he's caught on pretty quickly to the nuances of combat (like going for the high ground with his bowman and dragon, the better to shoot down on me), and I am enjoying playing more than I would have expected. I used to play wargames incessantly in latter-high-school. I even thought about becoming a 'military strategist', in some vague way, though how I squared this desire with my self-conception as a 'Hegelian Socialist' (whatever that meant to me, I don't really remember, I suppose because I remember not one thing Hegel wrote) I guess I can't really attest to. I think I gave the idea up when I realized I'd probably have to actually join the military.

So Dara & I've decided it is a good thing to teach Jonah how much fun fake violence can be (like, with plastic swordfighting), as a way of also saying how awful real violence can be. Kind of a homeopathic approach. And it's really working very well, actually. That is, he's very aware of the difference between thinking something and doing it. Which is a good portion of what growing up is, maybe, seen from one perspective.

Ok, short Jonah-is-so-great story. Today Jonah asked me "why W? Like, double-u? Why?" Which was a great question. So I explained to him, 'say u, then say it long, ok, now say it at the beginning of a word, see?' He got it. I thought that was pretty cool. Then I explained how 'U' used to be written 'V', and vice versa, and that's why 'w' looks like two 'v's. He said "That makes sense! That makes sense!" It was a great moment. I don't think I'd ever thought about the phonetics of 'W' before.

There’s actually an article interesting beyond the casual in the new Poets & Writers, on Cid Corman by Clayton Eshleman. (Q: Did somebody blog this already? Somebody may have, but my memory is so bad my impression to that effect is in no way indicative either way of reality.)

In any case, the article is very worth reading. Eshleman has an admirably clear-eyed view of his mentor-disciple relationship with Corman, getting to the vital part of what was obviously difficult, years-long, and full of silences and misunderstood motivations along the way, on both sides of the relationship. There’s something grim & heartbreaking in the anecdote of him pretending to be a female poet just to test his suspicion that Corman is biased against him, Eshleman, as part of the dynamic of their relationship; carrying on a correspondence with Corman and sending him poems (which get warmly accepted at Corman’s journal, origin, more than proving his suspicion) before letting the matter drop, though in a way which lends itself, over time, to detection (he publishes the poems in a book under his own name, eventually). I have had a relationship like this with an elder poet, though its peculiarities are/were its own, distinct from the strangenesses of intimacy and isolation Eshleman describes. Not that I’d ever actually even think of something so devious as the above subplot, but I can absolutely sympathize. It can be uncomfortable, trying to figure out what someone thinks of you, to be always mentally solving for the varying variable of their ‘true’ evaluation.

And check out these two poems by Corman (who sounds like an interesting guy, separate from the drama touched on above) Eshleman quotes:

The cicada
singing isn’t:
that sound’s its life.


What brought
you here will
take you hence.

I really like the way each relies on its own inferred meaning for punch. The referents are, strangely, the most forceful words. And isn't there something in the way the possessive & apostrophisation rules play out in the final line of the cicada poem ("sound's its") truly weird? The momentary puzzlement of my/the eye over that contributes to the blunt strangeness of the point it's making.

I’ll read more Corman (such as Alexander Library &/or the internet provide), because of these. I may even break down and actually use one of these as an epigraph for my ms, they’re both so good. But that may be the beerlike-excerpt-goggles speaking. We’ll see.

Friday, December 17, 2004

New Poker, only browsing. First, the Spicer poems, which are gorgeous; they show him entirely willing to be beautiful; especially the first, [the third man], which motions are--I'm trying to avoid cliche superlatives here, failing--lets just say breathtakingly intimate. Fun, lovely. I'm not succeeding in avoiding cliche superlatives. At least I didn't say 'rollercoaster hairpin,' i.e. unexpected juxtaposition & simultaneous continuity. Ugh, I'm all verbal thumbs tonite, ugly. I suggest you just read the poems yourself, enjoy.

Question: is it just my biased ear, or is Spicer obsessed with Stevens? I find myself doubletaking frequently when reading Spicer, at echoes of Stevens coming out of some direction the poem takes, moreso than with very many poets. Maybe because I don't expect the two to meet, though maybe I shouldn't be so surprised, Spicer has his Platonist preoccupations too. Strangely enough, I also find Creeley, sometimes, maybe most so when he hazards images, fairly Stevens-esque.

And the first Kaia Sand poem is funny, like laugh-out-loud funny.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Interesting article about fantasy (the genre that is) meeting reality, so to speak. This really was a great series. Interesting how consciously politics played a part of so much sci-fi/fantasy I used to love--from Narnia to the Dragonsong books, to these, to Dhalgren or Foundation or the Riverworld series or the tyrant of Jupiter one, or Dune or Xanth or the Crystalsinger ones--without me knowing it--it just made for interesting stories. Each in their own way, highly political.

I used to think (like once I became invested in literature proper, following my 16-years-old revelation of what language and plot could do that is ^Crime and Punishment^ which I've described previously) I'd've been better off reading classics; now i'm farther away, enough, to wonder. Language wasn't much an issue in most sci-fi/fantasy, that's for sure (though it is made a character of sorts in the Xanth series).

Now that does sound like fun . I'm glad Josh is writing more about his ongoing D & D delving, though I hope he gives some actual gaming blow-by-blows. I haven't played since I was sixteen or maybe seventeen, but I think I'd join in again with some poets, just to see.

I used to play endlessly--I started in fourth grade, and me and my friends played for three or four years straight, when we diversified into Car Wars, Traveller, Runequest, Champions, some spy game, and god some amazing rpg called Paranoia. And Gamma World, too. Eventually I began playing with some people who got stoned and that kind of supplanted the rpg experience. I can't begin to explain how important these games were to me, and my friends, though I can say I understand completely what Josh is going through with this nostalgia thing. I still have almost all my stuff in the attic, including a complete set of the original original rules Gygax & friends developed in college (Blackmoor etc.), though I've given my Monster Manual to a friend's son whose beginning to play now, on the promise he gives it back in 5 - 10 years, whenever Jonah becomes interested.

Fun stuff; again, Josh, if you're reading, my vote is for occasional updates on your campaign as it develops. I'd love to read it.

Monday, December 13, 2004

On page 170 of the new New Yorker, the Iowa Review has an ad. That's pretty gutsy; I wonder how much it'll help their circulation.

Strange propensity to not post. It may have to do with cooking latkes all week. But I'm reading others' posts as they arrive.

How I make latkes: for each pound of (russet) potatoes, a decent-sized onion. Grate with the large-holed grating option. Squeeze a little, to get water out, and leave for a little time, in a deepish pot, with the grated potatoes and onions in a mound to one side, so the water can collect to the other. Pour off the water, careful to reserve the potato starch collected on the bottom. Crack in an egg or two or three, depending on how many potatoes you have, add some flour or matzoh meal (I use garbanzo bean flour, nice and nutty), salt, mix together with your hands. In wide nonstick pans, heat oil (depth your choice, the deeper (up to ~ 1/3 inch) the tastier) on pretty high, form latkes with your hands, slip them in. Don't worry if they're loose, they'll firm up. Cook to a crispy niceness, flip with a spatula, press down w/ spatula on cooked side, salt a little immediately, leave a few more minutes until done. Drain on paper towels/bags, eat with applesauce &/or sour cream as soon as possible, repeat. For even more richness (as well as historicity) use olive oil, maybe cut with some canola if it gets too smoky.

No one else in my extended family makes them anymore, so I am the go-to guy.

In other hanukkah cooking news, yesterday my brother & his fiancee gave us The French Laundry Cookbook. If cooking were a religion, it wouldn't be a bible (I think cooking would rely predominantly on oral tradition, were it a religion), but it would be a devotional of the first order, like the Book of Kells. Have you seen this thing? It is minute and unreasonably obsessive. I may never cook a single recipe from it. I love it.

We've given Jonah a bunch of toys, like lego Knights' Kingdom knights, a big legos Tie Bomber, a video game (Pangea Soft's "Nanosaur II"), Lincoln Logs, some little transformers, a spider-man bopping bag. His face gets so happy and his body. Then he goes downstairs and listens to Harry Potter book tapes and plays with his stuff. Being five has an entire consumer vocabulary that, really, is fun. And overpriced. But fun. I'm teaching him Go, a little here and there. And Chess, via mostly checkers. And backgammon. That will be fun, when he can play those games with skill.

Interesting post at HCE this week. Evocative, I'm only noting one or two random thoughts here, because of the many I had reading it, they are what I remember.

One: I'd think of poetry less as where you play chess with yourself than as (one of the places) where the chess you play with yourself becomes manifest. But nice thought, especially in context of his unashamedly long replies to the questions.

Two: his views of cancer and genetics are interesting and, from what I understand of the topic, worth some research and pursuit. It's a shame medicine has its orthodoxies like any other religion does, though it only seems so (a shame, that is), I guess, because we are supposed to believe that medicine is not a religion.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Preliminary Clasp

Gold in the eye, gold born every day. Worth.
What a water so fire to touch it
is to be drunk in called noble can’t,
with its pure appetite, touch, or
what dug from the earth is refined,
grows nothing, is soft, is reflective—
in the vague way waking is
sleeping, only backwards—of the partial
hope. Either one, I think, is why
worth. That is, that it lasts, that
we would imagine it, ourselves,
buy ourselves some time, lose
ourselves in time

though not as the alchemists
are always just claiming
to have taught you, spent

as if peace, like a tendon tensed against
the eventual past out of mind
long enough to elongate
back into itself,
were a species of thought,
as if gold were the gold
of a mango
served under a terebinth tree.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

One direction for my question last post would be these lovely Jackson Mac Low lines, at Unquiet Grave.

Update: Actually, Tony wrote those lines, not Jackson. Wow.

Friday, December 03, 2004

If one has a poem about the difficulty of true simplicity, should that poem be difficult or simple?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Maybe mysticism is the soul of theology, and the ghost of philosophy (or philosophy is the ghost of mysticism, depending on how you want to mean with the word 'ghost', haunter within or shade of).

Line saved from waking: "His naked popularity of the conjured vowel."

Interesting post here. I wasn't aware this was the case for either of these men.

Meandering thoughts, I slept so little last night. I just feel like pecking at the board, please don't expect too much of me here. I know so little, really, about the avant motions. Anyway:

Another thing about difficulty is, that something is only difficult if you want/expect it to be something other than it is. So some people want to make things seem difficult to certain people as a way of drawing those persons' attention to those expectations thay have so assumed as to be unaware of them as they are (like 'meaning,' or narrative, for easy example). Like language poets, I think, though I think that most poets strain this play to some greater or lesser degree as part of their craft. In a way, Barthes talks about this in "Mythologies."

Funny, to recontextualize the word "difficult" this way makes Billy Collins a 'difficult' poet to plenty of poets (probably you, if you're reading this). Difficult to swallow, I mean.

What does the word difficult mean, anyway? I think for different groups it means different things. I don't mean the manner in which it offers bonding of some and exclusion of most, that seems pretty constant and the sociology here is the boring part anyway--I mean the variant terms by which the inclusionary work itself is made difficult. The ways the word was used by, say, the '80's language guys as opposed to the way, say, Josh Corey uses it. Not to mention, that how Josh uses it is demonstrably different from how, say, Mike Snyder uses it, even when talking about the same poetries. They are different difficulties, but the same word. How has it changed, and what does its changing mean?

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