NaPoWriMo Day 4: Chance

I didn’t “write any poems” yesterday, so I used chance to generate one. Some people write entire poems with chance operations, but I use them to generate material for collage/sculptural poems.

So I was trying to remember a quote that I had only part of in my head. I remembered that it said, “with all its… intact.” Turns out, I was thinking about Juliana Spahr’s kind blurb from Organic Furniture Cellar.

Smith’s ORGANIC FURNITURE CELLAR takes on big issues, such as how to write about the place where you live with all its distractions, beauties, and limitations intact.

Ok, so, I finally brought that up out of the haze of my memory. But in the meantime I got some pretty awesome stuff out of the Google search for “with all its” + intact. The first results I got weren’t usable; I had to revise the search string to “with all its” intact -FISA -problems. The results generated by that search struck a chord with me, as they relate to many of the things I’m interested in (rebirth, biological life and its limitations/diversity, damage and loss). Each of the resulting phrases is haunted by loss: by what could have been if the endangered subject had not been preserved intact, and the hint that what survived intact is only a part of what did not survive.

With all its goodness intact
With all its genetic potential intact
With all its wacky charm intact
With all its flaws intact
With all its treasures intact
With all its attendant horrors and monstrosities intact
With all its photons intact
With all its glass intact
With all its interlocking, working parts intact
With all its kidneys intact
With all its contents intact
With all its fittings intact
With all its traditions, orthodoxy and culture intact
With all its species and their habitats intact
With all its difficulties of thought intact
With all its strength intact
With all its grace and discipline intact
With all its epicardial fat intact
With all its standards and artillery pieces intact
With all its vibrational energy intact
With all its layers still intact
With all its contents intact
With all its burial artefacts miraculously intact
With all its ventral organs intact
With all its native birdlife intact
With all its original members intact
With all its accessories intact
With all its flesh and skin and hair intact
With all its territory intact
With all its dimensions intact
With all its variants intact
With all its monounsaturated fats intact
With all its rods, chains and locks intact
With all its nutrients intact
With all its industrial base (light and heavy industry and repair shipyard) intact
With all its original contents intact
With all its interlocking components fully formed and intact
With all its wrinkles still intact
With all its interiors and finishes intact
With all its connections intact
With all its intimate emotions intact
With all its graphic sex intact
With all its aspects intact
With all its teeth intact
With all its blemishes and beauty intact
With all its delicate flavor intact
With all its incredible health benefits intact
With all its items intact
With all its facilities intact
With all its powers intact
With all its grandeur intact
With all its vibration energy intact
With all its characteristic entire dynamic range intact
With all its child-like exuberance intact
With all its roots intact
With all its celestial sweetness intact
With all its buildings intact
With all its inherent power intact
With all its original divinity intact
With all its articular cartilage intact
With all its reputation intact
With all its bloodshed intact
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams intact
With all its attendant dignity intact
With all its furnishings intact
With all its geometrical features intact
With all its organoleptic characteristics intact
With all its idols, embellishments and sculptures intact
With all its functionality and performance intact
With all its charm intact
With all its natural beauty intact
With all its fleshy parts intact
With all its hilarity intact
With all its finger bones intact
With all its cuticle intact
With all its files and subfolders intact
With all its information intact
With all its original markings intact
With all its parts intact and unassailed

As you can tell if you do your own Google search for this string, I skipped, revised, or moved some of the entries to make the poem sound better or make more sense. I skipped search results that were too far afield, too long, or that sounded grating to my ear.  I also decided not to repeat entries. The hardest part was deciding when to stop because there were so many interesting results.

What makes a chance-operational poem a “poem”? I think of poetry as an artistic arrangement of words that brings about an optimal ambiguity of language, which then makes us think about the world around us in a new way. A poet is the one who creates this arrangement, and poetry is a “craft.” So “generating” content “randomly” through a search engine seems kind of like cheating, especially when compared to the stereotype of the “solitary genius” who is inspired (by a deity, alien, etc.) to write a poem. However, the generation of poetry by chance operation relies on a lot of “craftiness” from the poet, who determines the mode of chance operation (for instance, the composer John Cage used the I-Ching), filters and revises the results, and is ultimately in control of how the chance-generated materials are both generated and used.  If you want to read a really great book of poetry that uses similar methods, check out Christian Bök’s Eunoia.

Posted in Contemporary Poetry, NaPoWriMo

What the Heck is NaPoWriMo

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NaPoWriMo Day 3: Ekphrasis

Untitled3 copyI wrote four partial poems today. Here’s one. It’s from a new “project” (I think of poems in terms of groups of them, usually chapbook-sized groups, rather than individual poems) of ekphrastic poems.

When I was first thinking about Plasticity in poetry and tried to explain it to people, I frequently heard, “oh, you mean ekphrasis!” And I wanted to say, “It’s not ekfuckingphrasis!” Then I was talking to Elisa Gabbert about ekphrasis last year and then Molly Brodak came to the Indian Springs School Visiting Writers Series and read some awesome ekphrastic poems and I was like, “hm, maybe I should just write some ekphrastic poems, and then the plastic poetry will also be ekphrastic.” Sculpture all the way down, right? Anyway, the project is called EKFUCKINGPHRASIS.

This poem is from a small series (currently 7 poems) about Nazca art, because Meghan Tierney came to the Birmingham Museum of Art and gave a killer talk about “avian imagery in Nazca effigy vessels.” This poem is about ancient Peruvian instruments.

Also, the title is at the bottom because of Ken Price.

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NaPoWriMo Day 2: Collages

NaPoWriMo: Collages

Here’s an example of a poem that still needs to be built. So far we have some birds, some Wordsworth, and a Mayan myth about where hummingbirds got their color. I should probably add more information about migration, because I started writing this poem because I saw some birds I don’t usually see.

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NaPoWriMo Day 1: Drafting

NaPoWriMo: Drafting

I’m still revising/adding to a manuscript that, long story short, I wrote half of in 2001, and half in the past year. It was a finalist for the Nightboat Book Prize a few months ago; before that, back in 2001-03 in its first life, parts of it were published in various magazines and as a chapbook (bird-book).

ANYWAY, it might be called mnemotechnics and it’s about birds, or it’s “about” how life-lists (the list that a bird watcher keeps to remember what birds she’s seen and in what context) become mnemonic devices for one’s own personal memories.

So here’s the poem I wrote Monday about goldfinches. It’s not “done”– I feel like it’s too dense on the page.

Typically, when I start writing I will do one of two things: 1. Put a few scant images on the page and research to fill out the image with myth and science and other materials. [Note: everything qualifies as material.] 2. Put everything on the page and whittle down, sometimes moving lines or images into other poems that don’t have as much. [Poetry as socialism.]

I think of poetry as sculptural (cf. my essay, “The Plasticity of Poetry”) and some poems are like collages that I add to, stealing images and lines and stories from elsewhere, while other poems are like carvings, where I whittle away and maybe save some of the shavings for the collages.

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Editors and Poets

A few years ago, I tried to be an Editor. Mostly, I was bad at it. I accepted more manuscripts than I had the time or financing to publish. I made a really awesome magazine called Foursquare, but publishing it depended on whether I had enough money for print cartridges, card stock, and shipping; whether both my computer and printer worked (which they never seemed to, at least not at the same time); whether I had time, after working a FT and a PT job, to solicit and read submissions and format the issues.

Every follow-up email from an author who submitted work was like a pinprick– annoying and slightly hurtful. Didn’t they know that my editorial efforts were completely idealistic? That I wanted to publish their work, but I lived paycheck to paycheck, not always able to pay my utility bills or buy gas for my commute? That I worked 60+ hours a week to make these paltry paychecks and every hour I could steal to work on publishing projects was hard-won?

Talking to some of my other editor friends about this, we joked, “every writer should be an editor.” If every writer is an editor, maybe they’ll understand how hard it is to balance life, work, and financial problems when editing a small magazine or press, most of which do not receive outside funding and are operated by one or a small handful of people who volunteer their time and invest their own money to publish poetry. Maybe the diva emails would be humbler, the complaints less whiney, if they only knew.

As a writer, I haven’t been very interested in “sending out” work. I usually wait till an editor solicits my work, because then I know that the editor is interested and will be responsible when formatting my poems for print (which is less difficult now with the ease of .pdf conversion than it was the last time I saw a poem of mine mutilated in print). Last year, I was talking to a friend of mine about the submission process and I thought, “I need to submit work so that I know what it’s like to be a poet today.” Poets seem to spend a lot of time submitting work to editors, and I’d skipped that part of the process. I decided to try it.  I sent some poems and manuscripts out, and some of them have been out for more than 6 months. I check Submittable every day because I’m a masochist like that, and luckily my experience as an editor keeps me from emailing any of the editors and annoying them.

But it’s really different on the other side. As an editor who worked 1.5 jobs to barely survive day-to-day, who had no real time or money to spend making poetry books/magazines, I couldn’t understand why poets were so impatient and selfish. As a writer submitting work and waiting for months to hear anything, I wonder what the editors are doing other than reading my (clearly amazing) poems.*

To maintain a healthy balance, everyone in PoBiz needs to do a little bit of everything. Don’t be such an arrogant poet that you only send work out to magazines and never give back.  Volunteer to help edit a magazine you like, buy books/chapbooks/magazines, and make financial contributions to presses if you can afford it. Try not to openly complain about how long a press or magazine takes to get back to you on your brilliant masterpiece– if it’s been a long time, contact the editor before you lambast them on social media. (And don’t think that other editors don’t see the lambasting and judge you as someone they don’t want to work with in the future.) On the flip side, maybe it’s good for editors to experience the pain of the poet-in-submission — feeling the frustration of waiting for an editor to get back to you when you submit work could help you feel more compassionate with poets you publish.

* If you don’t understand sarcasm, you probably shouldn’t be reading my blog.

Posted in Contemporary Poetry, small press publishing

2003-2013: Ten years of nostalgia

Organic Furniture Cellar

I’m in Boston for AWP– I’m moderating a panel tomorrow at 1:30 on Poetry and Librarianship. In the Spring of 2003, another early March if I remember correctly, I was in Cambridge for the NEMLA conference, giving a paper on plastic poetry. The paper was to become the preface of Organic Furniture Cellar, an essay in Swedish in OEI, a chapbook from No Press, and, edited for scholarly consumption, an academic paper. But at the time, it was a set of loose ideas about the poetry of Susan Howe, Steve McCaffery, and other Language/visual poets.

It was bitterly cold in Boston. The Charles, about which I was to write a poem for OFC, was frozen solid, and the wind blew off of it. I was improperly dressed for the weather. I’d driven the 13 hours from Buffalo expecting it to be warmer– who wouldn’t expect Boston to be warmer than Buffalo? But the wind was impossible. I walked around Cambridge, exploring, eyes squinted in the wind but inner eyes open, explorative.

I came upon the Organic Furniture Cellar on Pearl Street with its vivid mural. They were closed, so I couldn’t go in, and I didn’t know what “organic furniture” was. The three words together, the open O and rusty Rs, the meter, the way the meaning shifted in and out of focus (what is an organic furniture cellar?) echoed my concerns in the poems I was working on. I wanted the reader to warily enter meaning, to come upon it as a new reader comes to sound out the meaning of a word, to be surprised, to detach again from the meaning. To be alienated and to rejoice in the pleasure of understanding what she reads, again and again, oscillating between opacity and transparency, finding pleasure in the textures of the sounds and patterns of words on the page. Thus I named my first book.

Posted in Organic Furniture Cellar, Travel

Transient Views of Western New York

Transient Views of Western New York

Screen shots from Terry Cuddy’s film Transient Views of Western New York (2002) treating my chapbook bird-book (2001), now in this Flickr photo set.

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Terry Cuddy’s Transient Views of Western New York (2002)

Terry Cuddy made this amazing video featuring Buffalo “transient” poets (mostly Poetics Program graduate students) writing about their favorite local WNY places. Featuring poetry by Mona Niculescu, Sandra Guerreiro, Kyle Schlesinger, Linda Russo, Christopher Alexander, Alejandro Rutty, Amela Kazazovic, Kristen Gallagher, Ric Royer, Eun-Gwi Chung, and Susanna Paju. Thanks to Linda Russo for alerting me that Transient Views is now online.

Terry’s piece is one of a handful of artistic interpretations of my chapbook bird-book (2001). The video for bird-book starts at 18:56. I still find this video to be a very moving, sensitive, beautiful interpretation of the poems.  There’s some great footage of the poems on the page and blue herons and the sounds of the environment around Ellicott Trail.

bird-book is now part of the mnemotechnics manuscript described in posts below.

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Traumatic romantic

I have a poem in the new Word For/ Word. Thanks Adam and Jon!

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The Next Big Thing

Thanks to my colleague Douglas Ray for tagging me to do the following interview; Douglas co-curates the Indian Springs School Visiting Writers Series with me. I am answering the following questions for what I hope will be my second book; my first book, Organic Furniture Cellar, came out in 2006.

What is the title of your book?

It’s not a book yet, just a manuscript, so its title might be mnemotechnics, or it might not be. mnemotechnics was a finalist in the 2012 Nightboat Poetry Prize, but it has been entered elsewhere with the title island of iridescent tree.

Who is the publisher of your book?

Who would like to be?

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry… what we might call experimental, visual, and/or open field poetry. Ecopoetic lyric visual poetry.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

mnemotechnics explores the mental craft of assigning meaning to objects in order to retrieve memories.

What inspired you to write this book/where did the idea for the book come from?

The problems of how we read, recognize words, and retrieve meaning has been of interest to me for a long time, and was a theme of my first book, Organic Furniture Cellar.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

11 years, but I’m still working on it. mnemotechnics comprises two sections, one of which is an edited version of my chapbook bird-book (2001). When it was in print, bird-book sold a lot of copies and was taught in at least one MFA program. I wanted to “complete” bird-book and make it a book-length manuscript– I felt like I owed it to the chapbook– but I never knew how to extend it. Last year, I decided that instead of trying to get back to the place where I was when I wrote bird-book, I would write from my current perspective, which is less visually experimental and objective and more narrative, personal, diaristic. I have started using objects (in this case, birds) as prompts to revisit and write about personal memories, and the second half of mnemotechnics allowed me to practice that method. Thus the first part of the manuscript is “about birds” and the second half is “not about birds,” not really, but birds are a theme that link them together.

What are your influences for this book / what other books would you compare this book to within your genre?

Hoa Nguyen, Lorine Niedecker, Louis Zukofsky, Joseph Massey, Paul Celan, Stephen Ratcliffe… American Objectivists, Canadian visual poets… I’m a writer of short, sometimes intensely personal poems with short lines that sprawl across the page.  I also like visual art: collage, huge bare installation works, pieces with organic repetition (Tara Donovan, Katie Sehr). I spend more time looking at art and book arts on Pinterest and Tumblr than I do reading poetry, and I think my poetry is influenced as much by the visual arts as by the literary.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Tippi Hedren?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

bird-book, the chapbook that spawned the manuscript, has been set to music and dance. I think it’s a cross-genre artist’s book of poetry: you can lose yourself in it, like listening to a long piece of instrumental music, and let your imagination find its own nesting places.

Posted in personal

Feb. 13, 2013

There are only
two ways:
create the situation
(and this is love)
or avoid it.
This also can be
Love.

– Charles Olson

(With thanks to Alex Porco.)

Posted in personal

Aug. 6, 2010

He could not think another
thing that evening
simply a life
had stepped in in place of theory (LZ, A-15)

Posted in family, gender, health | 2 Comments

Ugly Duckling’s Digital Library

If you’re left without anything “good” to read now that Ron’s sophisticated and brilliant comment box conversation has been shut down, I’d suggest these four books from Leslie Scalapino. I came to Leslie’s work as an undergraduate at Buffalo, and I remember staying up late one night reading Considering How Exaggerated Music Is voraciously, with a driven intensity. A few years later I met her at Buffalo (not an intense meeting– not the kind of meeting where the poet you admire will remember you afterward) and witnessed an interesting discussion between her and Susan Howe about being a female writer. I found this discussion dissatisfying but eye-opening, because Leslie and Susan were in a different generation than I am and had very different feelings about being a female writer than I do.  (Emma and Nona’s interview with Marjorie Perloff stages almost the same dynamic I felt during that discussion.)

Another treasure trove you could explore is Ugly Duckling’s digital library. I recommend Maureen Thorson’s Novelty Act and Jen Bervin’s a non-breaking space.

Posted in Contemporary Poetry, gender | 4 Comments

The Silenced Generation

I want to comment briefly on a special phenomenon I’ve seen and experienced with regard to Ron Silliman‘s blog. It seems that to some degree, poetry’s youth is being trampled, discouraged and undermined with a potential long-term detrimental effect on Poetry.

First I want to point out that Silliman’s blog is not, in and of itself, the problem. Silliman does the Good Work of discussing, reviewing, pointing to, and otherwise engaging with some three generations of living poets– everyone from the the last remaining elders (over 70) to Language and Post-Language poets to us more fledgling poets (in our 30s) and our juniors (those just emerging from college).  He can’t write about everything, but he does try to assemble and disperse information about poetry and he comments in depth when he can. One can disagree on a scholarly level with the way he engages with poetry– everyone has their own interests and ways of engaging, and Silliman has been criticized, for instance, for inventing names for “movements” and “groups” of poets that don’t necessarily exist or accurately describe poems. But overall, Silliman’s blog is undeniably a major and constant source of information about experimental poetry.

The problems with Silliman’s blog and its effect on contemporary poetry are in the comment boxes. Now, as we all know, comment boxes are notorious for being a place where a few self-appointed “experts” on any subject can whack off listening to their own voices. Comment boxes are more often frequented by men, and they’re usually angry, aggressive men looking for an argument. This is true everywhere on the internet, not just on poetry blogs. A few years ago, Silliman’s comment boxes were especially poisonous; I’m not entirely sure what changed, but they seem to be less active now. However, when active, they are still poisonous.

To be reviewed or simply mentioned by Silliman is double-edged. On the one hand, even a mention can increase web traffic and sales. On the other hand, a positive mention brings furious backlash, both in the comments box and in other venues. I experienced this when Silliman reviewed Organic Furniture Cellar. On the one hand, Silliman was probably single-handedly responsible for selling about 200 copies of the book in a short period after the review came out. On the other hand, in both his comment stream and in other reviews, people seemed irrationally angry about Silliman’s review and turned their fury on me instead of on the book.  I know it sounds wimpy and whiny (to such people) to say this, but the experience has made me disengage with the poetry community (not write, not publish, not participate actively in a wider conversation). When newbies to the blog/poetry scene show up fresh-faced, craving a few words of positive feedback or attention, I want to warn them about just how awful people can be. If you succeed at all, even in one person’s eyes, you’ve unwittingly set yourself up as an object of cruelty. It’s like the cyber-bullying one reads about high schoolers enacting upon each other, but in the case of poetry and Silliman’s blog specifically, the bullies are grown people who, through some lack of ability to empathize, will lash out at anyone who receives attention they think they themselves should be getting.

I am not, of course, the only person who has experienced this with Silliman’s blog, and although I am not in any way “authorized” to defend two other objects of comment box wrath, I will. The less recent example regards Amish Trivedi’s Museum of Vandals, published by Cannibal Books. The gist of the criticism was that the format of Museum, a folio designed by Cannibal Books, was an inadequate way of showcasing the work. Like most small press publishers, especially chapbook publishers, the Cannibal Books editors spend an inordinate amount of their own time and money designing and hand-making their wares. Like most young publishers, these editors do not publish because they have scads of money and time to spend on pet projects; they do it out of a love and need to publish poetry. (I cannot stress enough how important chapbook and zine publishers are to the growth of experimental writing and how much time, money, and effort go into publishing a single issue or single chapbook. If you are not such a publisher, you have no right to complain about anything related to publishing. If you think something ought to be done differently, do it yourself– with your own time, money and sweat.)

Like most publishers, Cannibal Books has faced its share of diva poets and criticism, the kind of whiny self-indulgent bullshit that poets seem particularly likely to inflict upon their editors. So I cannot say that the negative public commentary on Silliman’s comment box was the last straw. But I imagine that it was probably a contributing factor to the message that now, sadly, heads their blog:

Cannibal no longer takes submissions of any kind and will complete the books it has in its catalog before disbanding at the end of 2010.

Although the Cannibal editors will probably continue to be active on other projects, the death of Cannibal as a publishing platform is a substantial loss for poetry. Besides celebrating the work of their elders, the publishers have printed the works of many fledgling poets and have been at the forefront of introducing the world to these younger voices.

The more recent example of the negative effect of Silliman’s blog stems from his recent review of Joseph Massey’s work. Silliman’s attempt to favorably review Massey’s poetry and place it in a larger critical context is admirable; even if one disagrees with the critical commentary, one cannot fault Silliman for reading and thinking critically about the poetry (one can only hope for such a reader). But some of the comments, which are largely from Silliman’s usual suspects, are positively putrid, and reflect very poorly on their authors.

Let’s keep in mind, however, that most of Silliman’s usual suspects are simply (and possibly clinically) narcissistic sociopaths and that there’s no real point in engaging with them or acknowledging their (usually insipid and underinformed) claims. The real problem is how their commentaries affect their object, who in this case is Massey. Good poets are a sensitive, melancholic people– not to reinforce a stereotype, but we have to be sensitive in order to be observant in new, interesting ways. To be the object of unmerited scorn and immature but hurtful comments (that are evidently made by those with little experience with the work itself) is psychologically detrimental to a poet, as it would be to anyone with a modicum of respect for other human beings. I’m not saying that Massey’s reaction to such commentary would be as extreme as mine, but I do think that no one escapes unscathed from these brutal and inhumane comment box wars. If a talented young poet like Massey is turned off of writing for even a few days or weeks as a result of being skewered by a few robotic-hearted cyberbullies, even that brief interlude is a loss for Poetry.

Something that Massey, Cannibal and I have in common is that we are all fairly young, relatively unknown operatives in the poetry world. Like all young poets, we need and deserve the occasional positive or constructive feedback, and we are discouraged from doing our work by such floods of negative feedback. Although an apocalyptic statement such as “Silliman’s comment boxes may silence an otherwise important group of upcoming young poets” may seem hyperbolic, I worry that it isn’t.

Posted in Contemporary Poetry | 100 Comments

Why I Use Twitter

I have multiple Twitter accounts and I use them for different purposes.  When people whine that they don’t know why people use Twitter, I’m shocked at how little creativity goes into that statement. Why wouldn’t you use Twitter? There are so many ways to use it! I feel similar affection for Tumblr, which is like a happy medium between Twitter and WordPress. Twitter is like a conversation and mostly text-based (for pictures you have to click on links), where Tumblr is like a tumbled heap of media and words– there’s a bit more content but it feels like there’s less “face to face” interaction.

The Twitter accounts that I have serve different purposes. I have three major accounts:

@crocus is my oldest account and it’s private (no, seriously, very private, so unless you like rejection don’t request to follow it). With this account I communicate regularly with about 20 friends. By “regularly” I mean that I have had the account for three years and have over 17,500 tweets, which means I tweet about once every two hours. This Twitter feed is like a delayed group chat, where my friends (who are also poets and predominately female) and I talk about poetry and other things, worry, blow off steam, etc.  It’s a great support system.

@looktouch is my public, personal account for engaging in poetry discussions.

@subclassz On this feed I talk to other librarians including fledgling librarians from my MLS program.

And then I have smaller, project-oriented accounts, which have fallen by the wayside. Two are:

@minilibrary was an idea I had while I was bored during class one day and thinking about small poems. I wanted to make a library of poems that would fit in a single tweet. But then I got caught up with other ideas and it didn’t get very far.

@BuffaloArtsDL was the Twitter feed for a digital library we made last semester, but in the end we had severe problems with the server and couldn’t upload everything for public consumption. We still have plans to work on it (and by “we” I mean one of the team members, artist Donna White) but not any time soon– I think the project burned everybody out.

Posted in personal | 13 Comments

Planned Obsolescence

An ongoing problem with getting Foursquare out for the past few months (besides it not being as high a priority for me as school, job, family, etc.) is that I’ve been waiting until I had enough disposable income ( = student loans) to upgrade my Adobe CS2 to CS4. I use Photoshop and Illustrator to lay out Foursquare. Continue reading

Posted in personal | 3 Comments

Elisa’s Atelier: Hermes Ambre Narguile

After trying the Accord Parfait Fourgère this morning, I found it so overwhelmingly smelly and unsubtle that I gave up and washed it off. (If anyone’s itching to try it, let me know. I think it’s a good guy scent.) It didn’t wash off entirely, so I did dishes, took a nap, and took a shower. Then I felt like I was ready to try something different, so I went to the Hermessence sampler and chose Hermes Ambre Narguile, which I’d chosen for its amber rather than for its lavender qualities.

I think Elisa and Jean Claude Ellena must be in cahoots to break my piggy bank, because like the Brin de Réglisse for which he is also responsible, Ellena’s pricey Ambre Narguile is pretty amazing. Unlike the take-no-prisoners Brin de Réglisse, the Ambre Narguile starts off sweet (“musk, vanilla, caramel, honey“) although to me this doesn’t signal “foody,” but rather “vanilla cigar.” Its initial scent reminds me a bit of the Kiss My Face Vanilla Honey lip balm, which reminds my boyfriend of vanilla cigars, so I think he would like this. (Studies show that men prefer foody scents like vanilla and cinnamon, and lavender and licorice for that matter, so the Hermessences would seem to be uncompromising aphrodisiacs… perhaps to be expected from an Aries with Scorp rising.)

Unlike the NST reviewer, I do sense floral in the drydown, but I agree that it’s subtle and that this is, by and large, a caramel-vanilla amber and would be most appropriate in fall and winter. I also don’t get “fruity” — I think that’s what I’m smelling as “floral.”

Unlike Brin de Règlisse, there are no exciting trips through the market going on in Ambre Narguile, but it’s a subtle and complex scent that smells rich and warm on my skin and makes me want to smell myself. I’ll try it again tomorrow when N. returns home from a trip and see whether it passes the boyfriend test.

*

Although it is probably not quite fair to test a perfume on a man who’s been away from his woman for a few days, this one did seem to be a hit.

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How To Seduce a Scorpio Woman

I was looking over some of the search terms that lead people to my post “How to Win (and Lose) a Scorpio Woman,” and I wanted to do a little Q&A session based on the search strings.  I think the original post and this description of the Scorpio Woman will be of use to most people searching for information, but here are some 1-to-1 answers:

Q: How to seduce a scorpio woman

A: You do not seduce a Scorpio woman. She seduces you.

Q: How to conquer a Scorpio woman

A: You do not “conquer” a Scorpio woman– or any woman. Love is not a war. Continue reading

Posted in love, zodiac | 12 Comments

Elisa’s Atelier: A Straightforward Amber-Lavender

With the last, palest whiffs of the Hermes on my wrists, I decided to stay in a similar group and try Ambre & Lavande (Fougere) by Accord Parfait today.

A very straightforward and “smelly” scent, it immediately smells like what it says it smells like: amber and lavender. There’s amber. And there’s lavender. It’s very masculine, with its olfactory shades of indigo and deep brown. No bustling market stalls, no come-hither drydown, no mysterious basement sex. If Hermes Brin de Reglisse is a Scorpio with its femme fatale wiles and dimly lit corners, Ambre and Lavande is an earth sign: there’s no mystery, just dependable delivery.  At $2.72/mL, its price is about half the Brin de Reglisse.  It smells really good, but it’s not quite inspiring.  I think it would work better as a cologne (which technically it is– it’s “unisex” but seems to often be described as “masculine”). I would love to smell this on a man, but I want a more complex scent for myself.

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Statistics

14,600,000 Unemployed *

3,200,000 Jobs Available

11,400,000 Unemployed if all available jobs were filled *

11,200,000 Combined urban populations of NYC and Chicago

14,500,000 Population of Mali

11,300,000 Population of Greece

8,600,000 People working PT who would prefer to work FT (not “unemployed”)

8,300,000 Population of NYC

23,200,000 Unemployed + Underemployed

23,000,000 Population of Australia

27,000,000 All the unemployed people *

26,900,000 Add the population of Norway to Australia

1:4.6 Potential employment (3.2M) to unemployed (14.6M)

1:7.25 Potential FT employed when underemployed (8.6M) are included

13.8 Your % chance of getting a job against other un(der)employed applicants

13.8 Your overachieving teenager’s % chance of getting into Brown

24.75 Percent unemployed during the Great Depression

12,830,000 How many people 24.75% was in 1933

9.3 Percent current unemployment rate

14,600,000 How many people 9.3% is in 2010

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Elisa’s Atelier: Lavender’s Dirty Little Secret

Because the Caldey Island Lavender wore off so quickly, I was able to get up this morning and try a new perfume right away without showering (yes, it’s summer, but I have an AC and am unemployed so I don’t have to shower till about an hour before my boyfriend gets out of work).  I decided to try Hermes Brin de Reglisse, not remembering what it was supposed to smell like. I received three Hermessence samples, and I knew only that this was one of them.

When I first sprayed it on my wrists, I thought… “ew, what is this smell?” It smelled familiar but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. I decided it smelled like curry and baked goods, like some kind of curry danish. Ew. After a few minutes this ugly smell faded into the all-consuming smell of pipe tobacco. At this point I looked up the perfume again, wondering what the hell was going on (curried pipe tobacco? Did I really choose this? Did they label it wrong?).

Lee over at Perfume Posse described Brin de Réglisse as “a series of diaphanous veils, one lifted or completely removed to reveal more fully the next transparent layer”, and that is perfectly apt; it doesn’t seem to follow the typical pyramid structure so much as it seems to change course entirely several times over the course of its development.

I wouldn’t describe this as a “series of diaphanous veils” (“diaphanous”? hardly) but more like going to an open-air market where each stall has a different scent. Luckily, by about a half hour in, I reached the lavender stall.

The lavender of this perfume is a deep, smoky, sultry lavender, like you’ve been dragged into lavender’s poorly lit basement to engage in some kind of sex scandal. Depending on how long it lasts on my skin and whether it goes through any more olfactory shape-shifts (I’ll update later tonight), this may be the one. I can stand a few minutes of preliminary shop-talk for a trip to the basement.

*

Although this perfume required a second application later in the day, it grew on me– and not only did it grow on me, it overtook me with its complexity and made me passionately desire it. It’s unaffordable, but may be a “special perfume” to purchase a larger sample of for special occasions (when I was younger, my “special occasion” perfume was Oscar de la Renta’s Oscar, inherited as a small amount left in my mother’s discarded bottle… maybe I should try that again, too).

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Elisa’s Atelier: Caldey Island Lavender

I received the Hermessence and Caldey samples today and decided to try out the Caldey Island Lavender, since my initial intention was to find a good blue lavender scent. I’m open to finding a replacement for Obsession, or at least trying the nicer, more expensive orientals to see the difference, but the original objective was to find a good “blue” scent, cool but not too “clean.” My normal summer scent is kind of a snappy pink/yellow and Obsession is a deep amber-brown, and I want something earthy but light to split the difference.

I got out of the shower and used my Kiss My Face lavender body lotion and put on my relatively unscented deodorant, then spritzed the Caldey Island Lavender on my wrists and neck. I couldn’t differentiate the smell from the lotion I’d just rubbed on.  I put the vial in my purse and went with N. to a new local restaurant to meet some friends for drinks.  Smelling my wrists about an hour after applying the perfume, I still couldn’t really detect a smell. Am I just immune to lavender?

I applied some more perfume and now, 4 hours later and after 2 hand-washings, cannot smell it.  This may be because it’s a lighter scent (than the MPG) or because lavender has become such a familiar scent to me that I don’t detect it anymore, or because it doesn’t last as long, or because it washes off more easily.  Whatever the reason, it doesn’t stay the course, which makes me reluctant to commit to a bottle.

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Elisa’s Atelier: MPG’s Ambre Précieux

I knew nothing about it, but I put a drop on my skin, breathed it in, and said, “Oh, my god” aloud, though I was alone in the room. I was intoxicated by it, possessed, consumed.*

I received the first sample perfume I ordered from The Perfumed Court today. At $6 a mL, MPG’s Ambre Précieux was the most expensive sample I ordered, and twice the price of Obsession, but according to reviews it will last a long time on my skin. Luca Turin gives it 4 stars (he gives Obsession 3 stars and my summer fragrance, which I’m not going to publicly admit to wearing, 5 stars). Its notes are supposedly “myrtle, lavender, amber, vanilla, nutmeg, ambergris, peru balsam, [and]  tolu,” but online reviewers smell a radical spectrum of things from cinnamon to powder.

My first reaction upon smelling the open container was that it was heavily amber and vanilla. It’s not as spicy? as Obsession, but feels “lived in” very quickly. (There is no first rush of alcohol, and I disagree with reviewers who smell cinnamon– it’s more “heavy” than “spicy” to me.)  It smells great on my skin. I just want to sit around smelling my wrists.  It is indeed “intoxicating” and “swoon-inducing.”

*

The second reaction was my boyfriend’s, as I stuck my wrist under his nose and said “smell this,” and in classic boy form he drew away and I said, “no, it’s perfume.” He said it smelled good, but I don’t think he can tell the difference between it and my normal perfume. Also, as someone who doesn’t wear cologne, I’m not sure he cares.  Thus I am not sure MPG is worth $120/bottle.

*

I cleaned the bathroom, did laundry, and washed my hands my typical borderline-OCD number of times (I don’t like suspecting that I have cleaner on my hands, even though the cleaners I use are organic) and could still smell the perfume on my own wrists (I can’t smell the dabs I put behind my ears) by the time we went out for ice cream in the evening (I had freshly made toffee custard). Then I slept on it, and I can still smell it faintly on my wrists (the amber and vanilla remain the dominant notes to my nose… maybe tolu too?). It may be an expensive perfume, but it certainly lasts. I only used small dabs of it in the first place!

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12 or 20 Questions

In which I participate in rob mclennan’s long-running interview series. Although rob has been prodding me to do this for awhile, I didn’t feel inspired to until Dottie did it. What can I say, peer pressure works.

Posted in My Poetry, Organic Furniture Cellar, Outside Voices, poetics, poetry readings, small press publishing, visual poetry | Leave a comment

Elisa’s Atelier: : Lavender’s Blue


Checking into the Twitter hive this morning, I listened to Gillian talking to Elisa about cherry scents and mentioned that I have a fetish for lavender. All of my cleaning products are lavender: Seventh Generation‘s lavender and mint dish soap and their lavender-eucalyptus dryer sheets; Method’s lavender cleaning spray; Febreeze’s lavender-vanilla linen spray and lavender room spray; Swiffer’s lavender sheets and lavender wet sheets. I also use Kiss My Face’s lavender shea lotion and mix lavender essential oil into my witch hazel,* and when I’m feeling particularly lavender-y I just use lavender essential oil instead of perfume. So, I’m committed.

Elisa’s knowledge of perfume has made us all interested in finding the perfect scent, and as I’ve watched, Michelle, Gillian, Katy and Maureen have tried a slew of scents under her guidance. The conversation about lavender turned into a search for a more complex lavender perfume (that is, more complex than the essential oil). The trick with lavender is to find a scent that’s a blue lavender– there’s a chemical lavender smell that’s fine for some cleaners but not as a perfume. Elisa’s first suggestion, Caldey Island Lavender, has been described as a “blue lavender,” so apparently my olfactory synesthesia is accurate (or at least not alone) in picking out color shades of lavender scents.

Reading reviews of Caldey Island Lavender led to Hermes Brin de Reglisse. I don’t know how I feel about licorice as a scent– I dislike it as a flavor, but I don’t usually rub candy on my skin. So I decided to try the sample pack of 3 Hermes scents from The Perfumed Court (which Maureen has mentioned on her blog**). To round out the three, I chose Ambre Narguile and Vetiver Tonka, because when I’m not interested in lavender I’m interested in woodsy, sultry scents– my favorite perfume for almost two decades has been CK’s Obsession (I get compliments on this all the time– it may be a clichéd department store scent but it works for me).

Continuing to search through the Perfumed Court by scent with Elisa’s tweeted real-time input, I found Ambre & Lavande by Accord Parfait (for which I could find no English reviews) and MPG’s Ambre Precieux. I ordered sample 1.5ml spray bottles of all six scents for under $50 and will report my findings here after the samples arrive.


* Witch hazel is a mild natural astringent and is actually available in a lavender scent but it’s cheaper to make your own by adding essential oil to the drugstore brand. Far be it from me to drag anyone away from her rose witch hazel, though– I’m not sure adding rose oil would produce the same effect.
** Maureen, I told Elisa to ask you about the lavender fields/pinky story.

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An evaluation of the last 10 months

I’ve finished my coursework for my Library Science degree (the MLS). Continue reading

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Corresponding Juvenilia: 1993-1995

Poems from 8th and 9th grade– because I think it’s interesting to see how what one reads affects what one writes. During these Junior High years I liked Emily Dickinson, and I numbered my poems, feeling that if the title revealed more about the content of the poem than the poem did within itself, that was a failure of the poem. Other pillars of my poetics were: 1. write what you know– knowing I was young and relatively inexperienced, but also knowing the value of keeping/recording my experiences before they were “mature,” I strove to write my world as it appeared to me. 2. Most of the poetry is narrative and has a clear arc, often with a traditional three-part strophe signature (even if the poem isn’t divided into strophes).

I wrote every day, often many poems a day, in Mead 1-subject notebooks. I also wrote in my journal almost every day, but more about boys than about poetry. Although I wrote a lot, and began sending out poems to contests and journals (I often placed in contests and was published in surprisingly many journals, for a child), I was a relatively rigid critic of my own work, and few of the poems I wrote made it into the word processor or got sent out. Still, I long for the way I must have felt then, that I could “just write” and choose later– when now, I feel like whenever I write, what I produce needs to be publishable. So I write very seldom. I still think most poets should be a lot harder on themselves with regard to sending out work that is actually not publishable (or shouldn’t be). This desire curtails my production even more.

1993-1994

Political Discussion

A Conservative
(a poor excuse to be mean)
is only afraid.

Could be a writer;
But when he describes, he
doesn’t think deeply.

Flowers in her hair;
and in a gun’s heartless aim
(he doesn’t see them).

Even when he sees
He can’t understand
Other people’s lives.

A Conservative
(a poor excuse to dismiss)
is afraid of change.

Funny thing about this poem is that the subject, a boy I had a crush on for many years and who I still know, is still like this. Well, so am I.  This is (obviously) a set of haiku. The rule (I’m not sure if this is a real rule or only one that I follow) for a good haiku is that the first and third lines can be read together without the middle line.

Nature’s Own

Albatross hunting
Glides over fearsome sea
his powerful beak
catches the tide’s provisions
the bird hides it stingily.

I’m not sure what this is. It’s something. There’s a metrical scheme. What is it?

1994-1995

Animosity is a Puffin

Animosity is a Puffin
with a flaming red beak he chews and tears
up seagrasses,
instinctively; were they not meant for his
salvation? He knows no other civilization,
no higher calibur of life
naturally he eats his fill, not bothering
to salvage a shred for
Rebirth; Renaissance
He hardly notices his own emotions
Not conceiving the charity of
Live and Let Live
Animosity is a Puffin.
When the land is dead and barren
he searches through cold, troubled waters
crying for company–
his rock-nest,
his ancient, neglected home is locked
and empty–
Can it be that he has only lost his way?
He awaits the end not having
understood the beginning
of the entire vicious circle–
Animosity is a Puffin.

This poem was based on a writing experiment that was something like, “x is a y” where x=some kind of emotion and y=some kind of animal. I always thought both the experiment and the results were kind of bullshit, especially with this poem, because puffins are cute. That said, it won some prize or another, because the “x is a y” thing was a popular form in the Birmingham youth poetry circuit at the time. The original has some non-left-aligned formatting on some of the lines, but I’m too lazy to reproduce that here. I still think, in my Laura Riding way, that this poem is kinda bullshit because puffins don’t seem very evil. An albatross may have been a better choice to pin “animosity” on. But even so, anthropomorphisation is boring. And finally….

On Red Mountain– October 8, 1994 (Birmingham, Alabama)

On Red Mountain
I walk along the road cut:
the air smells wet and dark–
of rain on the fallen leaves
the sky intoxicated with
thick winter fog…
Throughout this day
I’ve worried about a friend,
but now I am amid history
and
I crawl through the
boundary fence
to walk alone on the sharp rocks.

Gradually,
my fingers turn raspberry
with the powder of
scattered iron ore;
my bare feet are black
from the shale
and fossilized stones
and when I finally
stand still,
surrounded by
morning glories and golden rod,
I can visualize all
that happened long ago.

And the Mountain roars
with the hoarse cries
of hundreds of miners
and the clinks
of their picks
against the limestone
and conglomerate
And though I know
that it is only an illusion,
the smoke from a long-deserted furnace
again fills the air–
fills my lungs
my heart and mind.

On Red Mountain
I stand spread eagle,
my feet melted into the ground;
Here I can feel
the wind and
smog-polluted
but beautifully purified
Rain.

This poem is kind of my coming-of-age poem. Red Mountain is the dividing line between urban and suburban Birmingham, and I volunteered at Red Mountain Museum for much of my 7-12 grade life, so I spent a lot of time on the Mountain. Historically, Red Mountain is the division between the working poor (miners and steel factory workers) and the landed gentry, blacks and whites, urban death and suburban sprawl.  I was up there, wandering along the road cut (the Mountain is split by a highway and you used to be able to walk along the cut and see the sedimentary layers– this is no longer possible), thinking about a boy I liked (who ended up, sweetly and memorably, being my first kiss, at sunset on this road cut).

Formally, the poem the culminating moment of my entire Junior High poetics. I still think it’s a good poem, although there are things I would change if I edited it now. It won a bunch of awards, both locally and regionally, and was published in some magazine, probably the local The Imaginary Club which was a great, thoroughly conceived and edited little magazine full of ephemera and poetry from the local 7-12th grade populations. Again, “On Red Mountain” has some alignment formatting that’s not visible here but can be viewed, if you get really curious, in my juvenilia.

Posted in Childhood, juvenilia, poetics | 1 Comment

My favorite poem in 9th grade

She Had Some Horses
by Joy Harjo

She had some horses.
She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses.

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made
them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, “horse”.
She had horses who called themselves, “spirit”, and kept
their voices secret and to themselves.
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who
carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her
bed at night and prayed as they raped her.

She had some horses.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.
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My favorite poem in 8th grade

This Alice Notley poem, available in Grave of Light, was in our Scholastic reader in 8th grade and I identified strongly with it.

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My favorite poem in 7th Grade

My rebellion poem, from Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems. Via Bartleby.

The Red Son

I love your faces I saw the many years
I drank your milk and filled my mouth
With your home talk, slept in your house
And was one of you.
But a fire burns in my heart.
Under the ribs where pulses thud
And flitting between bones of skull
Is the push, the endless mysterious command,
Saying:
“I leave you behind–
You for the little hills and the years all alike,
You with your patient cows and old houses
Protected from the rain,
I am going away and I never come back to you;
Crags and high rough places call me,
Great places of death
Where men go empty handed
And pass over smiling
To the star-drift on the horizon rim.
My last whisper shall be alone, unknown;
I shall go to the city and fight against it,
And make it give me passwords
Of luck and love, women worth dying for,
And money.
I go where you wist not of
Nor I nor any man nor woman.
I only know I go to storms
Grappling against things wet and naked.”
There is no pity of it and no blame.
None of us is in the wrong.
After all it is only this:
You for the little hills and I go away.

I was also fond of this one, from the same textbook we used to learn about archetypes.

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A poem I wrote in 7th Grade

The Callow Heart

Inside of anyone you see
There is s heart of candle-wax
and a slender string
That is lighted
by trivial fires
of orange…
So that when
A heartbreaking incident
Occurs
The wick burns crimson
and after a time
Your heart
Callow and soft
Is melted hard
and nothing, now,
will light it
Because it is wiser
than it once was
when faint orange glows
set it afire.

Thx NB for typing this up.

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My favorite poem in 6th Grade

As far as I remember, this was my favorite poem in 6th grade. My grandfather bought me Minou Drouet’s First Poems at a library sale. (Thanks to this blogger for typing it up.) (Academics may cf. Barthes’ “Myth Today”)

“Tree that I Love”
by Minou Drouet

Tree that I love,
tree in my likeness,
so heavy with music
under the wind’s fingers
that turn your pages
like a fairy tale,
tree
knowing like me
the voices of silence
that sways
the depth of your green locks
the quiver of your living hands
tree
that I love
my all alone
lost like me
lost in the sky
lost in the mud
lacquered in the dancing light
by the rain
tree
echo of wind’s grief
and birds’ joy
tree undressed by winter
for the first time I watch you.

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Happy Bloomsday!

In the spirit of the Twitter trends #booksthatchangedmylife and #happybloomsday, 217 words that changed my life:

INELUCTABLE MODALITY OF THE VISIBLE: AT LEAST THAT IF NO MORE, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it, it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.

Stephen closed his eyes to hear his boots crush crackling wrack and shells. You are walking through it howsomever. I am, a stride at a time. A very short space of time through very short times of space. Five, six: the nacheinander. Exactly: and that is the ineluctable modality of the audible. Open your eyes. No. Jesus! If I fell over a cliff that beetles o’er his base, fell through the nebeneinander ineluctably. I am getting on nicely in the dark. My ash sword hangs at my side. Tap with it: they do. My two feet in his boots are at the end of his legs, nebeneinander. (Proteus)

Posted in Literature, Modernism, Organic Furniture Cellar | 2 Comments

Reading Lists

The last time I had time to “read for pleasure” was 2005, in the short summer months between finishing my MA and beginning the PhD. I was in Sweden and few books were available there in English, so I worked my way through Jane Austen and  a few Henry James novels (DM, WMK, WS, TB) with the occasional Woolf, Kafka, Duras (my three favorite authors who I’d brought along) for good measure.

This week I read The Handmaid’s Tale and I’m now reading The Bell Jar.  How did I get to be 30 years old without reading these books? Continue reading

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I am not here

There are too many things going on in real life (remember “real life”? the one where people have to do things like make money, have families and not write/make poetry all day?) for me to be here. I may be back in July.

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Hiroshima Mon Amour

Today I learned of Arakawa’s death.

With his partner Madeline Gins, Arakawa created many gorgeous pieces of experimental architecture and wrote a number of interesting, challenging books. I have written on their work a few times, and mention it in my one published article on architecture, poetry and ethics. I encountered Arakawa and Gins in a specific moment in Poetics Program history, in the late 90s or early 2000s when they came to visit, lecture and read for a few days. At first, we were all in love with their work.

However, we were surprised at how tenaciously A&G believed that mortal life is inherently immoral, and that to be ethical, one has to at the same time pursue immortality– and how absolutely, how literally they believed that ethicality and immortality could be achieved by living in certain kinds of architectural spaces.

It may be true that architecture bears upon mortality and morality to a degree. A concentration camp supports neither. Tightly enclosed spaces (“the projects,” refugee camps, and other conditions of poverty) lower quality of life and are perhaps partly responsible for people living in such conditions acting unethically toward one another. Architecture that makes one aware of how one’s body moves through space and time may also lead one to think more critically about existence and one’s impact on others’ existence.

But architecture creates neither morality nor immortality, because at the end of the day, bodies and architecture are extricable and one lasts longer than the other. Bodies are mortal; they wear out. Most architecture lasts longer. Sometimes the life of a body can be elongated or curtailed by architecture, but bodies are not designed to last (with our increasing ability to make them last longer, we face increasing diseases of old age). Similarly, the short-circuiting of bodies– chemicals acting in certain ways in certain minds– makes morality really impossible for some people. Bodies matter. The chemicals running through them matter. Bodies are their own complex architectural systems and cannot simply be reworked with new blueprints.

Moreover, the mortality of bodies is the basis for morality. As someone who rarely feels violent, I am probably never going to kill anyone. But if I wanted to kill someone, I would be stopped not by the the threat of reprisal or of consequence (punishment in this or another life), but by my feeling of the absoluteness of that action. If I kill someone, that person is absolutely dead. I am responsible for their absolute death. It is the absoluteness of mortal life that underlines morality. If we were all going to live forever, it wouldn’t matter if I killed someone– they would not die. Similarly, it would not matter if I merely hurt someone, because their memory (bodily or mentally) of the pain would subside in the flow of constant time. There is no need for memory in immortal life.

My impression of Arakawa and Gins is that their work exists in a kind of post-Frankfurt School world where “rational” thought shows the marks of deep trauma. Born in Japan in 1936, Arakawa would have been nine when the bomb fell on Hiroshima (Gins was four). The resulting interest in curtailing mass destruction and violence is certainly understandable (I imagine that anyone reading this would like to avoid such horrible events), and to dedicate one’s creative and intellectual life to increasing ethical awareness and curbing death is admirable. But to deny the value of death is to deny the value of life. We would like to prevent violence because we can be hurt, because we can die. We would like to prevent untimely death; we would like to prevent murder, war, rape, suicide. But if we were not inherently mortal, we would have no need to try to prevent death or to base systems of morality on the prevention of it. Mortality is not immoral; immortality is amoral.

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A successful failure

Yesterday afternoon I made a giant list of almost 300 contemporary female poets compiled from three lists I’d previously made. And I asked for more.

By 11pm there were over 400. By midnight there were over 500. I woke up this morning to over 200 more.

I know there are poets who aren’t on the list yet, who are on Pussipo or Wompo or in editors’ TOCs or catalogs. I know there are poets writing in English who are not American (this list is heavily American with a smattering of Canadians so far). I know there are poets who are so famous we don’t even think about them anymore, like I didn’t think about pouring my coffee this morning.  Is the goal to collect everybody?  Is that even possible? … Of course it’s not possible. There are just too many women writing poetry for a list of them, even a long list, to represent all of them.  The moral of this story is that women in poetry are ubiquitous. There are so many women writing poetry today, in English, and publishing it, that it’s impossible to record them all.

I will continue to take names because I know there are people who do not believe me.  There are people who think that there aren’t many women writing poetry.  But there are a lot of them. Or who think that female poets are hard to find.  But they are not hard to find.  Whatever blindness, ignorance, or simple innocence one has regarding the sheer massive numbers of women currently writing poetry can be cured by clicking here.

Posted in Contemporary Poetry, gender | 5 Comments

FOURSQUARE’s Last Issues

I’m wrapping up Foursquare, a project I started in 2006. As my obligations to other things expand and my desire to work on my own poetry grows, issues of 4SQ come out less frequently, such that the year of 2009 issues is now in its second year of production/distribution. In total, there have been three “years” of issues (36 issues, with 7 still to be released) as well as 9 Special Editions (there will be three more). The full list of contributors, poets and artists, can be found on the Foursquare blog.

The last few issues of Foursquare are still in development; I’m seeking work from women whose work has not previously been published in the magazine. Please familiarize yourself with the magazine before submitting work. I know every magazine says this, and it is indeed good practice (and simply polite), but with Foursquare it cannot be overstressed. The magazine does not look like other magazines. Although it is hard to find a physical copy of Foursquare unless you know someone who has been in it or have access to the SUNY Buffalo or U Wisc-Madison special collections, the first two volumes (24 issues) of Foursquare are online and you can look over them at the archive.

Once you know what you’re getting into, please send 3-4 poems in .doc, .jpg, .tiff, or .pdf format to me. Please do not include poems in the body of the email. Please accompany your submission with a brief bio.

Now, a little story about Foursquare:

When I started thinking about Foursquare in 2006, I sat down and brainstormed a list of all the female poets I could think of off the top of my head. Here is the list (I think some may be spelled wrong, but that’s what happens when you’re brainstorming):

Aase Berg
Alicia Cohen
Alli Warren
Amy King
Andrea Baker
Andrea Brady
Andrea Strudensky
Ange Mlinko
Angela Rawlings
Anna Bell
Anna Reckin
Anne Boyer
Aya Karpinska
Barbara Cole
Bernadette Mayer
Bonnie Jones
Brenda Iijima
Camille Martin
Camille Roy
Carla Billiteri
Carly Sachs
Carra Stratton
Catherine Daly
Catriona Strang
Cecilia Vicuna
Chris Turnbull
Cia Rinne
Cole Swenson
Corrine Fitzpatrick
Cynthia Sailers
Daisy Levy
Diane Ward
Eileen Tabios
Eleni Stecapolis
Elizabeth Robinson
Elizabeth Treadwell
Emily Critchley
Emily Lloyd
Erica van Horn
Geraldine Monk
Gina Franco
Holly Johnson
Jackie Milan
Jen Scappetone
Jen Tynes
Jena Osman
Jenni Russell
Joan Retallack
Joanne Kyger
Johanna Drucker
Jorie Graham
Joy Harjo
Joyce Carol Oates
Juliana Spahr
K. Lorraine Graham
Karen MacCormick
Katarina Frostensson
Katie Webb
Kristin Gallagher
Lauren Bender
Lauren Shufran
Linda V. Russo
Lisa Jarnot
Louise Erdrich
Louise Glück
Lyn Hejinian
Madeline Gins
Maria Damon
Marianne Monk
Marianne Morris
Mary Oliver
Maureen Thorson
Mel Nichols
Meredith Quartermain
Michelle Cross
Monica de la Torre
Myung Mi Kim
Nada Fader
Nada Gordon
Natalie Basinski
Natalie Illium
Natalie Stephens
Nicole Brossard
Olive Demetrius
Pam Lu
Phyllis Rosenzweig
Rachel Blau Du Plessis
Reb Livingston
Rebecca Stigge
Rita Dove
Robin Brox
Rosa Alcala
Rosmarie Waldrop
Sabrina Calle
Sandra Beasley
Sandra Guerreiro
Sandy Baldwin
Sarah Campbell
Sarah Veglan
Sasha Steensen
Shanna Compton
Sharon Olds
Sheila E. Murphy
Stephanie Young
Susan Howe
Susan Schultz
Suzanne Zelazo
T.A. Noonan
Tammy McGovern
Thalia Field
Tina Darragh
Wanda O’Connor
Wendy Kramer
Yoko Ono

Note that only a few of these 114 women have been in Foursquare. Here is the list of 124 women who have been in (or accepted to) Foursquare so far:
a.rawlings
Aby Cooperman
Ada Limon
Alixandra Bamford
Amelia Harman
Amy Berkowitz
Amy King
Ana Božičević-Bowling
Angela Szczepaniak
Angela Veronica Wong
Anne Boyer
Aya Karpinska
Becca Klaver
Bonnie Roy
Brandi Homan
Brenda Iijima
Bronwen Tate
Catherine Daly
Cathy Eisenhower
Christine Hamm
Claire Hero
Cynthia Arrieu-King
Danielle Pafunda
Deborah Poe
Diana Hamilton
Dianne Timblin
Dorothea Lasky
Eileen Tabios
Elisa Gabbert
Elizabeth Treadwell
Ellen Baxt
Erica Kaufman
Erin M. Bertram
Esther Lee
Evie Shockley
Farrah Field
Gillian Devereux
Grace Vajda
Hanna Andrews
Helen White
Hossannah Asuncion
Ivy Alvarez
Jane Sprague
Janna Plant
Jeannine Hall-Gailey
Jen Tynes
Jenn McCreary
Jenna Cardinale
Jennifer Chang
Jennifer Scappettone
Jenny Boully
Jenny Sampirisi
Jess Rowan
Jessea Perry
Jessica Barrett
Jessica Bozek
Jessica Smith
Jill Alexander Essbaum
Jo Cook
Judith S. Askew
Julia Drescher
Juliana Spahr
Julie Strand
K. Lorraine Graham
Kate Greenstreet
Kate Middleton
Kate Schapira
Kathleen Rooney
kathryn l. pringle
Katie Kemple
Kerri French
Kristen Orser
Kristy Bowen
Laura Elrick
Laura Goldstein
Laura Jaramillo
Lauren Shufran
Lee Ann Brown & Miranda Lee Torn
Linda Russo
Lindsay Tipping
Lisa Forrest
Magdalena Zurawski
Marci Nelligan
Marie Buck
Maureen Thorson
Megan Kaminski
Mel Nichols
Melissa Severin
Michaela Gabriel
Michalle Gould
Michelle Detorie
Michelle Morgan
Michelle Naka Pierce
Michelle Taransky
Mischa Erikson
Natalie Zina Walschots
Nava Fader
Nicole Zdeb
o. hunt
Pattie McCarthy
Phoebe Wayne
Reb Livingston
Rebecca Loudon
Robyn Art
Rona Luo
Sandra Beasley
Sandra Simonds
Sarah Campbell
Shanna Compton
Shannon Smith
Sharon Harris et al.
Sheila Murphy
Soham Patel
Stephanie Young
Sue Hammond West
Susana Gardner
Suzanne Frischkorn
Suzanne Stein
Suzanne Zelazo
T.A. Noonan
Tessa Joseph Nicholas
Tina Darragh
Wanda O’Connor
Wanda Phipps

(At some point, I will merge these lists with a couple of other lists of female poets and they will be easily locatable all in one place so that no one but Lacan has to bemoan the “lack” of female poets.)

In contrast to the first list, many of the poets in the second list are not poets I’d ever met before working on Foursquare. Most are young and were, at the time of publication, “emerging” — many now have multiple chapbooks, books, and awards to their credit. Foursquare, like all periodicals, is a slice of time. And like most small periodicals, since calls for work are mostly viral, Foursquare shows who knew who and who was working with whom during this slice of time. There are poets I simply never knew about– who I still don’t know about, might never know about– because I don’t run in every poetry circle.

What Foursquare further demonstrates is how many female poets are working today. Foursquare mostly publishes poets of the “experimental” persuasion and tends to favor visual poetry over narrative poetry (if those two things can be– not “opposed” but “contrasted”). The list above is not a list of everyone who ever submitted work to Foursquare or all the poets who ever could. I’m retiring as the editor of Foursquare, but there is still a great need for magazines who are willing to go out of their way to publish women and there are still hundreds of women who were not published in Foursquare (who never submitted, never heard of it, didn’t fit with an issue) who should be published. I do not mean that all magazines should be women-only like Foursquare is, but with such a plethora of female writers (and with this list and this older list of female vispoets) before you, there is no excuse for magazines to only publish men because they can’t find any women, or even to have disparity between the sexes in a table of contents. There are so many female poets working today, and many of them are amazing writers– you just have to open your eyes and see what’s right in front of you.

Please use the comment box to tell me about female poets you love and/or link to other lists of female poets. I’d like to gather all the lists and merge them (here’s a start).

Posted in Foursquare, gender | 12 Comments

The Poem In Your Pocket

It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day! Halloween for poetry. Carry a poem in your pocket to give to someone like a valentine or trade with someone like a baseball card. Or just hoard poems in your own pocket. Bonus points for poems that taste like candy.

I remember this day last year with nettle-like clarity.  It was a sunny spring day much like this one.  I walked to Gates Circle, up the Parkway with its tiny white flowers and yellow-green budding trees, and down Elmwood.  On Elmwood I stopped into Talking Leaves and obtained a poem from Tina Zigon (a Poetics student).  I thought I recalled getting a different poem from her than the one I am about to reproduce, but upon looking in my drawer of small special things, I found a new poem.  Perhaps the poem I received magically changed into this poem, as this poem now seems more appropriate than the one I remember (which was appropriate last year):

REMEMBER

Remember the sky that you were born under,
___know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is. I met her
_____in a bar once in Iowa City.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
__strongest point of time. Remember sundown
___and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
___her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
__Remember your father. He is your life also.
___Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
_____brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
__tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
___listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
__origin of this universe. I heard her singing Kiowa war
__dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.
Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.
Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is you.
___Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you.
_____Remember that language comes from this.
___Remember the dance that language is, that life is.
__________Remember.

- Joy Harjo

This seems to be a favorite poem for a lot of people. It’s recorded by multiple readers on YouTube (there’s also this filmic non-reading) and reproduced on many websites, often with pictures. Harjo’s work seems to beg to be illustrated with wide landscapes of the desert (like this).

My first experience with Harjo’s work was with one of her most famous poems, “She Had Some Horses.” I do not remember whether our ninth-grade English teacher assigned this reading or if it was merely via her suggestion that I read it.  Like “Remember,” “She Had Some Horses” employs repetition to establish both similarity and difference.  The plurality of “She” (femininity) is reinforced by a listing of attributes, but the rhetorical sameness of each line brings these disparate parts back into the fold of the subject.  This was one of the first “feminist” poems I read and provided encouragement to my ninth-grade psyche, whose sense of self was both rich and well-established at an early age (read: trouble).  “She Had Some Horses”: as text and as a sound recording.

Posted in Contemporary Poetry, gender, personal | 3 Comments

Let Us Cultivate Our Garden

Only two more days to vote for the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.

I voted the year that Amy King won (I voted for Amy) and I voted for rob mclennan last year, who came in second. This year the list of nominees is strange– I don’t know who most of these people are. For some, I knew they existed but I didn’t know they blogged.  I don’t really keep up with blogland anymore outside my own back yard, as I really hate getting into blog wars and it seems inevitable. Anyway, I think there are a handful of poetry bloggers not on the list who should be, but maybe they will be next year and maybe if I think they should be I should nominate them (the candidates are chosen by nomination).

I see the competition as between four people: rob mclennan, Sina Queyras, Geof Huth and Robert Lee Brewer. I say that knowing that 3/4 of the people I just picked are men. I say that knowing that most of the blogs I read are by women (whose blogs are not on the list).

I voted for rob again. He deserves to win it one of these years.  He does an incredible amount of work for poetry for both Canadian and American poets, but with regard to Canadian poets he’s kind of the Ron Silliman of the CanPo blogosphere.  I really don’t know how this guy does so much– how he creates so much work himself and manages to publish and promote others as well.  His blog is just one tool in his toolbox for promoting himself and others (especially Canadian poets).  I love Sina and Geof’s creative work, but I don’t think they have the same impact as rob. Sina may have a growing impact as she continues to blog for the Poetry Foundation, but I feel like blogging for Poetry also means that you have kind of an automatic audience.  My impression is that rob is a more grassroots, bootstrap, work-hard-with-your-xerox machine kinda guy and that his energy is constantly directed outward, toward helping other poets.

I think the Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere is kinda bullshit, but I also know that it will make the day of whoever wins. I decided to vote knowing that whoever wins will know that it’s kinda bullshit but will also feel that they’re making an impact larger than themselves and that will make them happy.  And all we can really hope for, as poets working in a largely irrelevant medium, is those moments of kinda happiness.

(Full disclosure: rob published a chapbook of mine, Shifting Landscapes, in 2006).

Posted in Contemporary Poetry, personal | Leave a comment

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