Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Right now, I'm awaiting the departure of my husband and son to Colorado. They're flying there today and leaving me here to my own devices for a few days-- I'm looking forward to some concentrated study time for sure. I haven't read a thing in almost a week and a half. I haven't been alone like that for years, though, and sit here wondering what it will be like. Hmm. I'm excited.

I've been thinking a lot lately about a distinction that I tend to make in poetry, dismissing poetry that is traditional and boring as being "bad" poetry. Poetry not often worth reading. I think this is a misstep on my part, and I feel the need, mostly for myself, to clarify something. This internal struggle began when I made a comment about Mary Oliver a few weeks ago and many people commented that thay appreciate her poetry for various and different reasons. For me, this was a valuable exchange. I personally find Oliver's work to be redundant and boring, but there was a time in my life when I appreciated her poetry for the things it does well. Her poems do some work on some level and therefore may be interesting to some people at some times in their lives. Right now, I find her work un-interesting. For me, this is the most important quality of a poet's project-- or, even in some cases, do they have a project? Is their project just to tell a story? Or is there something about the disruption of the narrative or rearrangement of time or something about the telling of that story that makes it into something I would call interesting? By all means, I am not the authority on interesting or uninteresting poetry, but a poem should do new work, be taking a step in one direction or another. I'm a firm believer in the poet's role to innovate, even on the smallest level. I feel like a lot of contemporary poets are in a rut, stuck in the same lyric patterns we've been in for 20 years, writing the same uninteresting poem about the same uninteresting things over and over, and because the poetry world is comfortable living in this paradigm, these are the totem voices of contemporary poetry. Meanwhile, I'm excited about poets of my generation who are embracing even the slightest bit of innovation and living it, saying it. The wonderful women in my poetry group are a testament to this fact.

I feel like I should be more specific, while at the same time I am reluctant to hold someone up as "my ideal of interesting" and the antithesis. Maybe I'll rhuminate some more and post again later. I do have four days to think about poetry! Such an exciting prospect!

Monday, December 05, 2005


Eliot has entered the information age at only 14 months old. He looks like a 15 year old here, and yes, he really was listening to music on my ipod, though he's only now learning how to program. We have to hide our digital comera, laptops, cell phones and ipods because he's addicted. So bizarre. What did kids do before the computer age? Play with twigs? I remember playing with ants in the dirt. And that was in the early 80's.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Check this out!

Check out Scott Glassman's podcast on 30 days. Awesome. I definitely would do some dancing if Eliot wasn't sleeping in the next room. My favorite part is what he does with "makeup line (abyss edit)"-- funky and obsessive, as every good poem-jam should be :). I definitely enjoyed this. Where does he find the time?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


I misread “enzyme” for “analyze” without going back. You should care where it started, where my bones began to spur and flower into cunning disruptions. Against a taupe wall? In the unparalleled red dress? You too would snow bone if you lived here. The wind would bring it to you; no thoughts of snapdragon or peapods to comfort. The vapors are wrong about you. I am wrong about you. You are wrong about bones, their ability to liquefy and drown you, flood each alveoli like an upside-down tree. I can see through you like a bizarre scissor, stand you against any landscape and conjure your sockets, filaments, crystals. You look like a wind chime against ocean spray, limbs skewed but always parallel as you sleep. This is what I see, aside from your proteins, their tidy assembly, their march through the kingdom.

Monday, November 28, 2005

If you've got it, flaunt it. . .

Well, since it's fairly rare that I get any kind of props from the outside world of poetry, I thought I'd brag about my recent accomplishment. I got word from the Chaffin Journal that they found my poem, "Reaching into the Same Pockets," worthy of a Pushcart Prize nomination. I metnioned the Chaffin Journal a few months ago because of how amazed I was by their professionalism and attention to detail, which so many journals these days neglect (as someone who has edited many a journal in my day, I mean this not as a criticism to other journals, but as a complement to Chaffin, which is doing an exceptional job at something that is very difficult). I am definitely honored by this nomination-- who wouldn't be? To me, it's a big deal that someone respects my work enough to send it forward, to say, "there's something here that I think someone would like to read as well." This for me as a poet, is the biggest accomplishment of all. I guess we'll just wait and see what the pushcart people think of it :)

Otherwise, my life consists of a lot of reading (I mean a lot) and continued collaboration with Scott on our Helixes project and another soon-to-be-done semester of classes. A lot of meeting and discussion with my exam faculty committee members. I have a fifth reader (someone who does not do a list or question with me but reads the exams and is part of the deferse process) who is a wonderful man named Dr. Michael Lieb- he does some really cutting-edge research on Jewish Mysticism as well as Milton (separately). Not a lot of sending poems out, with the exception of my book manuscript to numerous contests. Let's home I have some more good Karma coming my way.

My blog is down to like 15 hits per week. I suppose that's to be expected since I've been writing so infrequently.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm on a roll

apparently, writing only on Wednesdays. Not really interesting at all, is it.

I'm in the thick of reading a lot about Susan Howe, which means reading a lot of feminist theories and thinking a lot about "feminist poetry," whatever that means. I've also been re-reading the introduction th Elizabeth A. Frost's new book, which focuses on the Avant Garde women's tradition and how it has been marginalized. Some really interesting and compelling stuff, and completely on topic for the list, which seems to have turned into a discussion on exactly this subject. It brings up a lot of unresolved issues for me, like what kind of work is a poem doing if the reader hasn't a clue what it means? For me, this relates to Howe specifically, and rightfully so. Howe seems to be resisting a "common" reading of her poetry at every turn, masking and remasking, unbuilding and further unbuilding, in an effort to completely obliderate meaning and trajectory. In the book I'm reading of hers, Singularities, she does provide a context, but that's the only framework she allows besides the page itself, the material object on which the text is written. I laughed while I was reading the E. Frost essay about Howe's work, and she tries to do a line-by-line reading of Howe, which completely falls apart by the end of the essay. Why? Not because Frost doesn't know what she's talking about but because Howe's work exists in order to resist such a reading, to elude anything relating to communication or narration and exists instead as fragmented collections of language that creep up through the cracks in history that most of us didn't even know were/are there. This is to say that Howe seems to be doing some admirable work in "Feminist poetry," whatever that is.

On the other hand, I recieved a copy of Calyx: a Journal of Art and Literature by Women which at first glance is doing great things for women in literature by publishing us, but upon closer inspection, like in an actual reading of the journal, I was extremely disappointed (in the poetry, at least, on which I am going to comment). They do a great job, as usual, of representing diverse voices, blah blah blah. Good for them. There are women of all different shaes, sizes, ages, and colors in there. That's admirable, of course. The problem lies in the fact that regardless of color, shape, age, etc. all of these voices sound exactly the same. Every poem has the exact same tone, almost every poem has the same subject. Seven of the seventeen poems open with an image of the sky. There's not a single prose poem, not a single poem that is even close to being experimental at all. The titles tell it all: "Winter Stars," "Under the Sun," "My Angel," you get the picture. A few saving graces include "Ants" and "The Swifts" (the ending, anyway). Otherwise, the poetry in this journal might as well have been written by the same faceless woman with the same timeless experience, writing the same poem that starts with the sky. I'm disappointed, so I wrote this poem in response to this journal, asking for something more in terms of "diversity":

Yet another poem that begins with the sky

Because opening a poem with the sky is the easiest way to open, the interior blank distance mirrored into memory as if time unfolds outward from a vanishing point, which is usually a specific tree or an unnamed star. And then, as to be expected, the sky somehow reminds her of her mother, of a still interior moment that relates only to clouds and porcelain plates, dining room moments that broke too soon. A ridge draws itself as we approach a face, moons are eyes, and so on. By now, I do not care about the sky, how tangled up in memory we all are, how many mothers lie in hospitals and weep because the trees click like maracas when they shake in the breeze in the darkness in the night against the sky. Give me bathrooms and soap-scum, ants, an interlinear palimpsest. Give me a gargantuan zest, something indelicate and phallic, towering over us like Jack’s beanstalk. If it must be a moment, show me how you mount it, how you take it all inside until it shows itself as a filmstrip running through your eyes. The sky, the sky has been done. Give me the red smear glide of every month and tell me why, this time, this very immaculate time, this month is different.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

While eating a tuna fish sandwich. . .

I thought I'd update. Why not? Tuna fish is so good.

I went to a stellar poetry reading last night through Columbia College: poet Rick Barot read some stellar poems. While he purports to be all about form, his poems presented themselves in graceful flow, as fluid and un-figid as possible. This seems to be quite an accomplishment, really- to embrace form so fully yet still maintain a grace and elegance. The poem that was most memorable for me is "Magnolia": it has Abraham Lincoln, a magnolia, and a laundromat in it. Not to mention the fact that it is one long, very elaborate sentence written, no joke, in couplets. It is extremely elegant. And if you get a chance, check out Roger Pao's discussion of it from this summer. I'm obviously not the only fan.

In other big and exciting news, my friend Simone Muench's new book, Lampblack and Ash, has made the transition from word into flesh and, in bodily book form, is hitting shelves and amazon.com in the very near future. I was lucky enough to get a sneak-peek last night. . . and it's awesome. The poem called "window," hidden innocuously in the middle of the collection, is a knockout. The first poem as well, though I can't remember the title, is fabulous. Check it out.

I continue to trudge on, now reading Susan Howe and trying to make some sort of sense of it all without getting too frustrated. I mean, she's amazing, but sometimes I'm just like, "what? What the hell is she talking about?" Which I suppose is exactly the point. And she's half Irish, which makes her all the more cool. I feel like her poetry is all about context- like she works very hard to present us with a context and then disrupts it by disregarding and semblance of language as social function. I have a feeling that she's darker than I think she is, like down in the core. I feel like she masks this too much- she doesn't let the darkness assume its own power and it just downright makes me nervous. Timebomb style.

I finally got my rejection from Conduit, nine months in the making. That lays to rest the first batch of poems I sent out after the baby was born, sometime back in February. It's probably time for one more big submission push, though I'm not sure I have the energy for it. It definitely feels like I have a lot of better things to worry about.

Friday, November 04, 2005

writing little but reading a lot

I'm embarrassed to say that I just finished reading Wordsworth's "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" for the first time in my life, and all of a sudden, feminist experimental poetry makes all the more sense to me. For starters, I tried my damndest not to be offended every single time he spoke of how poetry = man, the soul of man, manhood, mankind, etc. But it got to be too much after a while, and it became clear that he really was talking not about "man" the species but "man" the gender. Lines like this really got me: "But various causes might be pointed out why, when the style is manly, and the subject of some importance, words metrically arranged will long continue to impart such a pleasure to mankind as he who proves the extent of that pleasure will be desirous to impart." I forgive him, of course-- he lived in a different era. At the same time, it's not like there weren't women writing poetry when he was writing- there was Charlotte Smith, Anne Finch, even his own sister, Dorothy, was a writer and poet. I find it more ironic than anything- that this piece of writing is aimed at making poetry more accessible through its language structure, aiming "to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible in a selection of language really used by men." But no, really I'm over it. . .I think. . .

Anyway, I'm embarassed because this really is a pivotal piece of writing from which a majority of contemporary poetry gains its authenticity and power-- I should have read it by now. (I've also yet to read Moby Dick- don't tell anyone. They're lible to hold my PhD hostage!) Not to say that we would still be writing in verse if it were not for Wordsworth, but things would surely look different. As far as my focus on the lyric poem as a form, this piece is also crucial in the movement from a stress on meter to a stress on emotion, which carries a lot of contemporary still today and seems to be a component in poetry that is "cherished." This often tends to be the type of poetry that bores me to tears- poetry whose sole purpose is to make the reader "feel" something specific and profound without really even thinking about it. You want an example, you say? I stumbled across this Mary Oliver poem on poetry daily- aside from containing the most blatant and forceful pathetic fallacy I've seen in years, its just plain sappy and melodramatic.
See for yourself:

Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way

Yuck. It's plain-spoken, alright. But to a fault if you ask me. That's my 10 cents, not that anyone asked.

I also had a meeting with my advisor on Tuesday and we talked about how I need to work on focusing my prose writing and following my train of thought all the way through to some sort of conclusion that ties things together. From the paragraphs above, it's obvious that she is right on the money with this critique. I think this blog will be a good place to practice this skill, as I don't want my exams to be a random smattering of ideas with no connective tissue or some strange wandering path through the thick brush. Though if this was something that was considered a skill, I would be in luck cause I do have some mad skilz.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

on ahead

walk. so far behind. in always light of copper spoons. ending slips past my iris-rim. slips in because I let it. slips in because you are so far behind. slips in because the spoon is only a vehicle. why aren’t you. catching me. walk. a casual meander. ending walks in light. my wake is copper light. too far behind. twice removed from orange. the light asleep but on me. finds you already dreaming. what do I do. but shine. too awake to reach you.

A sigh of relief

I was excited to finally meet with my professor who is the missing link to my exam completion. My final list. This particular professor is extremely busy- she was actually carrying on three meetings simultaneously while I was there, and doing so in quite a graceful manner. I was impressed. I also get a kick out of professors who recommend that you read their book- I mean, it only makes sense, really, but she seemed most excited about this prospect as she handed me a tattered but free copy of the latest edition of the book. Hey, it's one less book I have to locate and track down through our useless library.

The list I'm working on with her is more of a quest, really, and I was quite comforted to find that she actually already has my exam question in mind. I'm in search of an intersection point between creative Writing and composition, a way in which composition studies can inform the pedagogical approaches of creative writing teachers. Pretty exciting. She's quite an expert in composition, and I was nervous that she would be resistent to books that she has not read that relate more to Creative Writing than Comp. To my surprise, when she was looking at my rough-drafted list, when she came across books like Wendy Bishop's Released into Language and Lynn Z. Bloom's Composition Studies as a Creative Art she kept saying "more books like this, more books like this" so I was reassured that I have more freedom than I thought I did. She also encouraged me to find the top three Creative Writing Pedagogy books as well as the most up-to-date as possible. I'm having a little bit of trouble with this, so if anyone has any suggestions, I'm wide open. I've come across the following books but have yet to read them: Poets' Perspective: Reading, Writing and Teaching Poetry ed by Charles Duke, Creative Writing and the New Humanities by Paul Dawson (a brand-spankin new book-- I'll be interested to see what it has to say), (re)writing craft: composition, creative writing adn the future of english studies by Tim Mayers (also new this year!) and Creative Writing in America: Theory and Pedagogy ed by J. Moxley. I also came across an upcoming publication which speaks more to teaching poetry as literature than teaching creative writing, but it still looks interesting: Poetry and Pedagogy: The Challenge of the Contemporary b y Joan Retallak and Juliana Spahr. Not out till January, but with that dynamic duo, anything is possible. That's my life. These are the things I get excited about.

I've written very little lately and have been aginizing over a poem I'm trying to write about a wierd experience I once had in New Orleans, but it's just not really happening. I also wrote one kind of sad and depressing prose-type piece which I will post here separately. I was not in the best of moods the other night. Anyway, the collaborative project is full steam ahead, so I guess I shouldn't complain (as Scott pointed out last time I was whining about not writing!). We're doing some really interesting stuff, new directions, etc. We're both really pshyched about it.

So if anyone knows any pivotal and current Creative Writing pedagogy theory, let me know by comment or email me back-door style.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It's amazing

how reading large amounts of text from different realms of the literary world have turned me against my own writing-- not the writing itself but the ACT of writing. I'm unable to refocus my energy from consumption to production, and it's becoming increasingly frustrating. I wonder more and more about the concept of a PhD in Creative Writing and what the real point of such a degree is. For me, thus far, it has allowed me to bide time while I write and read, broadening my knowledge base while also using this knowledge to inform my poetry. Even with the unbelieveable faculty shortage in my department, I've managed so far so good (I think, anyway. . .) mostly because of the other students and our slight but necessary support system. But now as I mull over this process of reading 100 books and interacting with five faculty members, egos intact, it's all pretty much lost on me. On days like today when I have no class, no studying, very little time to really THINK because I'm hanging out with Eliot, I just wonder if it's all worth it in the end. The reality of the situation is that I can't even necessarily get a job with a PhD unless I have a book, so what's the point? Wouldn't I be better off writing all day and pouring my time ito getting my book published than reading Shelly and Keats next to Rosemary Waldrop and Bell Hooks? Can you imagine sitting down to write with this chorus of voices in your head? It gets better- Plato next to Lyn Hejinian and Baudelaire. Walter Banjamin next to Peter Elbow and Adrienne Rich. Stanley Fish next to Longinus and Luce Irigaray. The voices, the voices!

I'm also starting to question the process of "going on the job market." Several of my friends have managed to get jobs without having books, but these are amazingly bright and very well-published people with books on the brink of being discovered. It seems like it would make more sense to have creative writers complete our dissertation (creative) before taking our exams- this way we can be sending our manuscripts out after really working on them our professors and peers, getting as much feedback as possible, and then send it out for the next few years while we study for exams. If all goes well, exams would be done by the time the book gets picked up and THEN it's time to enter the job market.

I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. Mostly I wish I could write in the face of all this reading-- what an interesting sound that would be. I'm still working on the collaborative project, which is pretty amazing, but somehow that's easier b/c someone else is carrying some of the weight. I guess I'll just keep reading. . .I don't have a whole lot of choice in the matter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I did it!

Well, I surprised even myself in this marathon. I'm happy to report that I ran the whole thing, no stopping at all, in 3:53:50, well under my 4:00:00 goal. Best of all, I paced myself so well that I really picked up the pace at the end and ran my last 5 miles as my fastest miles, which is pretty unusual in a marathon. I'm really happy with how I did. I feel a sense of accomplishment that I haven't felt in a really long time, and it feels great. Here are some pictures in case you're interested.

I was also surprised by the fact that I didn't like Portland a whole lot. It was very industrial and didn't really have much of a "vibe" to it at all, except for knob hill (spelling?), which is super cute. I had the best hamburger of my life there! That alone was worth the trip.

Now I'm back to the grind and find myself very tired and unmotivated. Hopefully this too shall pass, because now that the marathon is over, it's time to concentrate 100% on studying for exams. From now until April is crunch time.

I was reading Matthew Cooperman's Sacrificial Zinc on the plane- a great read for sure. I knew Matthew when I was at CU and published some of his poems when I was poetry editor of Sniper Logic/ Square One. His first collection is very smooth and readable- it was actually the perfect selection for a four hour airplane ride. I highly recommend it, long flight or not.

I have a meeting with my advisor that I need to prepare for, so that's all for now. Thanks for all the well-wishes, both via email and on the blog. I thought about my cyberfriends a lot during the race and it definitely helped keep me motivated. Thanks for that :)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Slacking but not

I've been bad at posting here, mostly because this semester is so crucial for me in terms of my exams. I've been working as hard as I think I am capable of, but the hardest part of the process is knowing what that new threshold is n ow that I have a little person to completely take care of. I hope I can get through this whole thing. I am not feeling great about it right now.

Speaking of not feeling great about something, I leave tonight for Portland to run the marathon on Sunday. That photograph is a picture of me from the Chicago Marathon exactly two years ago. I felt pretty good about that race, but this time I'm constantly wavering between thinking/knowing I can do this and being convinced that I will have to walk half of it. I had a great conversation with my best friend of 10 years and, using the experience she had a few weeks ago of completing a triathalon, she assurred me that it's not about the race sometimes; it's bigger than that. To risk sounding like a complete cheeseball, I think she's right, especially for me in this situation. I ran a 3:23:44 when I was 22 years old, my best marathon time to date. Now, seven years later and one baby after, I'm aiming for a 4:00:00 (four hours). I have such a hard time re-adjusting my expectations (yes, the exact problem I spoke of in the last paragraph!). Nobody ever taught me this skill. It's the hardest of realities for me, but I feel good about saying that I will be happy with a 4:00:00, so I suppose that's a step in the right direction. I suppose on some level I should celebrate the fact that I ever ran that fast, and that I am still running after more than 15 years in the sport. Wish me luck. I need all the help I can get right now.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

29 is fine

I was on the phone with friends almost all day yesterday, which was great. I felt like a celebrity or something. And when I wasn't on the phone, Eliot was playing with it, which means I actually missed calls, if you can believe it. I guess that day-after-the-birthday phone call is more popular among my friends, especially when your b-day is on a Thursday.

I had a ten-hour flu last night. Very bizarre and not fun, but I feel spiffy now, so whatever. The strangest thing is that I didn't even leave the house yesterday but to walk the dog. . .I'm not sure where it came from. But be aware- it's going around.

t-minus eight days until the marathon. I'm excited to get it over with and not having it hang over my head anymore- what a relief that will be. t-minus six months until I take my exams and one of my faculty members will not even email me back to schedule a meeting. I've been waiting for three weeks now. That list is the least completed-- only has 10 books on it so far. I'm starting to really doubt whether or not I'll be able to pull that one together or not. I wish I knew more teachers. I really got screwed when Michael Anania retired- I took two great classes from him and definitely would have done a list with him if he were still at UIC. But alas. I'm left grasping at straws. Frustration.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Birthday Song

A new poem, on the occasion that it is my last day as a 28 year-old. Slightly inspired by Scott, but what else is new?

Dway-berry dribble like muscle blood, fun because of poison. Bent. Loose habitual slide of tongue between orbs. Thalam, under arching boughs. Thicket. The guitar, though convincing, does not speak loosely. In the creviced instant, I am covered in saffron. You are pressing me into strands because of autumn, because of hibernation. If I told you I am there, you would be a shoreline, spreading infinitely away from me. A useless tide. For now. Burrow. Scurry. Clam foot, your anchoring fear. Thunder, a trembling nerve beats a chamade to lure you here. Parleyvoo. My trembling tune. Sleeping wisp of foam drags sand. I cannot help my lips. They become an envelope, arriving nowhere.

Let's all eat cake

Above, my little Eliot and I share the messiest birthday ritual ever: baby's frist birthday cake-dive. Well, the party was a huge success, aside from running out of food and being really stressful. It's really hard to throw a party at someone else's house when you're totally in charge of everything. I definitely needed a vacation from my vacation.

Anyway, my little man is one year old and in only two days, things have pretty much settled down on the homefront. Back to school and studying. Read a big chunk of Shelly's "defense of poetry" yesterday, which is really quite interesting, especially since I'm reading it right after book X of Plato's Republic which is all about how poetry is infectious and, well, basically worthless because its only purpose is to mimic a thing and the person who mimics a thing has no knowledge of the thing he mimics, blah, blah, blah. Shelly, on the other hand, seems to privelege the mimetic value of poetry and uses it as part of his defense. He also thinks heroic odes are the best form of poetry EVER, which I would say is a slightly dated opinion.

I've also been reading the new(ish) collected works of Faye Kicknosway, which came out in 2002 I believe, and is very spectacular. She's been one of my faves since I came across a used copy of her book Man is a Hook, Trouble in a used bookstore in Boulder (once owned by the famed essay writer, Reg Saner, BYW. He signed it and everything. . .). Her collected book is titled Mixed Plate and is quirkier than ever. After thumbing through it for a few days, I'm only now opening it to the first page to read it cover to cover (my usual book-reading process) so I'll surely post more about it once I'm in the thick of it.

I got my rejection yesterday from Harvard review (as expected) and it's quite a nice postcard. One of my favorite rejections yet. Ninth Letter also has a great rejection slip- very sleek and crisp, and the stamp on it seems to change every year. Good stuff. Nothing beats the crusty BPJ rejection from about a month ago. Yummy.

My friend, Scott Glassman, got three poems accepted into the Iowa Review which is just awesome. His poem "Burning, so you swim" is probably one of the best poems I've read all year, so look for it in the upcoming issue (i assume, no?).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Leaving on a jet plane

Here's Eliot with Mr. Bear Chair, his first official birthday present courtesy of my bro, Chris. Thanks Chris, he loves it, in case you didn't guess :)

We're off in about an hour to the beautiful foothills of the Rocky MOuntains, namely Denver, Colorado. Eliot will be one year old on Friday, which is a bit freaky because it went SOOOO fast. I will probably not be journaling for the next few days, but will be back next week with all of the details of the big birthday party.

Monday, September 19, 2005


By my brother, Chris Carignan. The new frontrunner for my book cover :)

Because I have nothing else to offer save a small butt. . .

Here's a poem from Runes to break my drought. Other exciting news from my life includes Eliot's first steps yesterday afternoon and his first birthday on Friday. I got a haircut today. I have tendonitis in my knee which will hopefully not prevent me from running a marathon in three short weeks. I bought some new jeans today, size four. I'm currently toasting myself with a glass of wine.

After seeing a photograph of nothing in particular

At the mention
of distance,
your bones flower
into spores
and blank, fibrous
diamonds. What
gives? Cannon
ball. Belly
flop. Chisel stars
out of photographs
and make
a charm-bracelet. Who
would you give
it to? I sparkle.
I focus. A cluster
of signatures
form a canopy. Banyon.
Fused above
and below.
circle, navel.
The eye
of storm and
the ridge
of shelf cloud.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

hmmm. . .

It's been a while, not because I don't have a million things to blog about but mostly because school is taking a lot of time and effort right now. The reality that I have like 80 books to read by April is weighing on me pretty hard core. Without the baby, it would be daunting but possible. With the baby, it just seems impossible. But on I trudge, through the lists. Longinus. Shelly. Wordsworth. Plato. Rosemarie Waldrop. Myung Mi Kim. Walter Banjamin. An interesting collection of voices in my head.

I bombed in class on Thursday attempting to teach an introducton to poetry class a Saussure essay- I guess I should have known better but it was a learning experience. I learned that it's a good idea to give some preface materials (define terms, reading questions, introductory lecture) before having the students read something really difficult. I think it helps them get more out of it. I rarely teach prose/ theory pieces in the workshops I've taught in the past, so I'm learning. It's definitely a process.

Eliot's 1st birthday is on Friday and we're going to Colorado to throw him a huge party. I'm pretty excited but also a little stressed out. It's a pretty big deal, and difficult to throw a party from 1000 miles away. Let's hope it all comes together.

I've been writing very little and what I have been writing is very empty and disembodied, so I've been keeping it to myself. Too much reading perhaps? Usually that helps. . .but maybe there are too many voices. But again, usually that helps. No time. That's for sure.

Friday, September 09, 2005

35 and counting

After today's note in the mail from the Indiana Review that their submission period begins on October 1st (a little later than most, no? Though I should have double-checked.) I figured out that I currently have 35 submissions out to publications right now. Granted, about 15 of these went out in the last two weeks, but before today's "note," I had yet to recieve any sort of response from any of these publications for over three weeks-- not a single thing. For all practical purposes, an empty mailbox. I stuck pretty well to my three submission per week goal throughout the spring and summer months and counting the 16 rejections and two acceptances, that figures about right. That said, shouldn't I be getting some mail? Like maybe some response from the places I submitted to over six months ago?

Again, I just need something to focus on to keep me sane. And actually, I'm pretty proud of my submission progress. It keeps me grounded. My actual publication progress is another story.

Off to re-read Brandi's and Garrett's book manuscripts which we are re-swapping (after reading and critiquing each other's work) on Sunday. Good times. And good poems. And hopefully good drinks on Sunday.

Amid the ruins

I'm having a hard time coming to terms with anything abstract lately, like I need "tasks" instead of concepts. Yesterday, instead of reading about the characterists of the "sublime" during my afternoon study time, I went to the library and found books to add to my third reading list. It was quite productive, but didn't require a whole lot of abstract thought.

I can't come to a decision about how I feel about this whole hurricane thing. I feel like I am, to quote a line from my own poem, "cought in swirl." I lived on the SW, Gulf side of Florida for 11 years, most of that time in Port Charlotte, the small, retirement community ravaged by Hurrucane Charley last summer. My grandmother's house was demolished as well as my great aunt and uncle's trailer, which is still to this day uninhabitable. My grandmother and her husband (my step-grandfather, but I called him "Pappy" because I knew him all my life) were in the house when it happened. They're lucky to have survived, but they were displaced and she died from lung cancer only three months after the hurricane, Pappy quick to follow only weeks after her. I have lived through many, many hurricanes and tropical storms: preparation becomes a routine easily adapted to. Tape on the windows. Bathtub full of water, batteries for flashlight. lots of canned goods and a few can openers. Have a battery-powered radio for news/weather updates. It becomes a way of life. An expectation. Like you're waiting for the bottom to fall out. Needless to say, I was not a fan of living in Florida and moved as soon as I found somewhere else I felt at home (Colorado, at that point).

I am angered at how much this natural disaster has become a political issue, and think in many ways we are missing the forest for the trees. I hate GW as much as the next guy, but the devistation tht happened to the Gulf Coast isn't his fault. If anyone has come across the article printed in National Geographic in October of 2004, you know that the devistation had actually been predicted, almost down to the death count. In a sense, we're all responsible for this. Bush is an idiot, but he can't stop a hurricane and he can't build infrastructure for an entire coastal region that has been depleting for decades. Do I think the response to the whole thing took too long? I have no idea. It seems that it did. But I wasn't there so I can't speak to it. Could it have been avoided? Seems like it. That's what angers me the most. If the CIA had intelligence that New Orleans, Mobile, and Biloxi were targets of a terrorist threat that would wipe out 20,000 people, there would be action to stop it. We had intelligence and didn't stop it. It's a nightmare.

Then again, I can the other side to all of these arguments. It's impossible for me to arrive at absolutes right now. I'm definitely greiving, maybe even more than 9/11 because of the close ties I have to that area (I worked in Destin, Florida for many summers and frequented Mobile, had friends in Biloxi, and drunk-puked for the first time in NO). And it's not just the destruction of a few buildings- it's an entire region of the US that will feel the repurcissions of this for years. (Not that robbing of us of our sense of security for decades isn't a significant blow, but there it is.)

I don't know what I think. I'm angry at people who make this into a completely political issue instead of donating $$ or volunteering. This country had big issues with coming together, even in times like this when we don't know what else to do. So we blame shift. Tough questions.

I have phone calls to make and chores to do. Maybe that will make me feel better for now.

Monday, September 05, 2005

the sting

Writing seems to take away some of the sting for me. There are other things I should be doing, for sure, but this is the only thing that helps me feel slightly human right now.

Some of this poem is written out of a moment of footage I saw days ago where GW went into Biloxi and was comforting a woman and her daughter. I was amazed by his compassion, a side of him I haven't ever seen. I hate the man, but still haven't been able to reckon with this moment. Was it all a charade? so many cameras around?

the sting

I knew you would be here, caching figments
in the back room, devastating small children
with a lemon rind in your smile. It passes the
time. Flawed, an inkblue sky behind water, highway
like a reed weaves in and out. In your own
time. Citrus fermenting, floating among residents
and swimmers. Open sores.Heat pulls back
as if you commanded it. She cries is all
you know. She’s been swimming for days. She shows you
her fingertips, bleached white, shriveled and dry.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

final photograph

only road-dust to float you now. without a body. through the swinging eye. roof into dust. window into pile. wind exile. you would have gone. but not so soon. you say as a stone in my dream. every morning. woke. photograph. one of three kneeling women. scabbed knees. the smallest, lightest tree. no more wall. but the window. water I cannot move through. oranges. candles. a driveway, a moat. my watery, glittering eyes. horn. wave. always to goodbye. the last picture ever taken of you. weight on me. gravel loose under toes. you are small like a child. like a dead child. in a river. in an eddy. caught in swirl

Friday, September 02, 2005

let's do this. . .

It seems only fair to give when giving is required. Knowing about the devistation sure made my own bed the happiest place I could fall asleep last night.

Red Cross

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Thank the heavens

the CWPW is, as Brandi says, "just going through a period of adjustment," and is still, in fact, quite alive, no thanks to me! Some recent spurring on by our blog gave me quite a productive day- I assembled ten poetry submissions to various journals around the country. I haven't recieved a rejection in weeks. . .i definitely feel a void. :) I'm used to rejection on a daily or at least weekly basis; junk mail just doesn't do it for me. I need the extremely light, almost transparent envelope with my familiar address label to leap from my mailbox and say, "try again! try again!" over and over. I'm at a loss without it.

I'm feeling better and not so tired today. I think I need more calories- I crashed and burned yesterday. It wasn't pretty. Unfortunately, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass section 53 (I think. . .) was the only casualty. Somehow, while reading Plato's Book X of the Republic, however, things were much more clear than ever before. Loonginus' "On the Sublime" wasn't half bad either, the part that I wrangled through anyway. Bizarre, though then again, not really.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Random scatterings

I can't get my thoughts in order enough to write an actual post, so I'll post some random things that are of interest to me lately:

  • I've seen two dead pigeons in as many days, just lying there on the sidewalk as if they're sleeping. Not sure why or how.
  • We took my dog, Clover, to get groomed on Saturday. She looks great but got an infection in her you-know-where and it's extremely disturbing. She's on antibiotics and has to wear one of those funny collars so she won't lick herself. Poor puppy.
  • I haven't had a decent run in weeks and am starting to doubt whether or not I can pull off this marathon. I wonder (this may sound strange. . .) if it has to do with pollution. In a nine mile run, I can only imagine the abount of car exhaust I suck on, especially because I run next to a main throughfare during the early part of rush hour. My brother once told me that running the LA marathon was equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes. Consideraing the fact that I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, this is pretty disturbing.
  • Eliot threw himself out of the crib onto the floor yesterday. I suppose it was bound to happen, but it's definitely a cause for some major anxiety. He's not hurt or anything and I removed the bumber form the crib (which I surely should have done weeks ago. . .duh) but let's hope it doesn't happen again.
  • Eliot has six teeth coming in all at the same time, and he has been kind of a nightmare for a few weeks (can we blame him?). He's going to look really wierd with teeth; I'm actually kind of scare of him having teeth. It seems at that point, he's not really a "baby" anymore. Crazy.
  • The once-powerful and spectacular Chicago Women's Poetry Workshop seems to be petering out and losing some steam. I feel bad because I've missed two meetings in a row, but I hope we can regroup and recharge. It would be a bummer to dissolve.
  • I saw the same guy twice in the past week in two cpmpletely different places. I know it's the same guy because I had a class with him the first semester I was at UIC. I remember him being a film student or something like that. I saw him in the tunnel at Jackson between the red line and blue line as well as on the LSD bike path this morning, he on his bike, I breathing in polluted air and dying of exhaustion. It's a bit wierd to me.
  • I just can't seem to get it together. I always feel tired and like I'm about to self-destruct. I couldn't even say a coherent sentence today when I was teacing about one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems. I feel like I'm losing my mind.
  • Our nanny broke our door down a few weeks ago because she accidentally locked Eliot inside and herself out in the hallway (we live in a condo on the 3rd floor). We totally need a new door and lock but just don't even have time to deal with it. Unreal. I can't believe she knocked the door down.
  • I'm fitting into a lot of my pre-pregnancy clothes, which will save me some money come fall. Most of then don't fit so well, though, cause my body has changed a lot. A good excuse to shop. . .too bad we're broke.
  • I'm constantly tired. I need a vacation and it's only the second week of classes.
  • I've done nothing to work on my lists for my exams. I have so much work to do I can barely handle it. I haven't been this stressed out in a really long time. Training for a marathon may not have been the smartest thing I've ever done. . .

Friday, August 26, 2005

Spear Atmosphere

I dare to say (as the approaching comet
dares) that you have given
sound a spine, brought

me given me
into stitches of hair,
dust, wool. Clay is red

your tongue is red
clay in a river bed awake
and speak. Clouding

over, the black thread
lifts my eyelids,
pupils and Saturn

unlike any moon. We carve
ecstasy out of lime
seeds, small yellow

breath-puff, a crystal
city on your breastplate.
Begin again

as the rain comes. It’s perfection
and collapse, a spitting
wind in a slew

of lightning bolts mistaken
for flashbulbs. Pop. Smoke.

Blue spots with trails among
the planets.

((Another poem from the collaboration.))

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It could be worse. . .

Inspired by Eduardo's reply in the comments of my last post, I thought it would be fun to play the "at least it wasn't . . ." game to see what kind of interesting substances we can come up with. What is the most horrifying substance you can imagine to be slathered all over your rejection slip AND rejected poems? Here are a few that I thought of:

at least it wasn't. . .
10. vomit. I suppose it's one of the more expected answers, but I'll say it because other's mught not want to insinuate that my poems are bad enough to make someone vomit. . . Also, I've passed back student poems with slight traces of baby vomit on them, but was greatly embarassed and apologized at gret length.

9. pineapple juice. I hate pineapple. I even make a face when something is disguisting to me which my family calls my "pineapple face".

8. Red Ink. That's just obnoxious. :)

7. Snot. Eduardo is right. This is just wrong.

6. Breast milk. Keep it to yourselves, sisters.

5. anthrax. I suppose I should be thankful for an unidentified food smear.

4. spider guts. Though it would make for a more interesting story.

3. blood, urine, feces. The usual suspects.

2. toe jam. Eeew. Maybe that's what it is!?!

1. an apparition. Imagine if the smudge was shaped like the virgin mary? Yikes. But at least then I could sell it on ebay and make some money from it.

Feel free to play along. I know I've forgotten a few goodies. . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An astonishing discovery

To add insult to injury, the Beloit Poetry Journal not only rejected my poems, but sent them back to me caked in some sort of food-type substance. The rejection slip is complete with actual crumbs and an oily finger print- I wish the photo's did the food smear more justice, but you can barely see the juicy goodness. Of course, only the first page has the nasty, stucky film, and I can deduce law-and-order style that the rest of the pages were never even touched.

This is a first for me, I must admit. I like this journal a lot and have been rejected several times, but this is the first one with a gift inside :) Maybe next time, they'll cushion the blow by sending me a whole piece of cake, not just the crumbs. There's definitely a poem in this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A quick update

I've been in Colorado since Friday morning, unable to access the internet, which is sometimes more of a treat than an inconvenience. We had a nightmare flight back, delayed nearly 3 hours, and they lost our stroller, so we had to carry Eliot along with all of our luggage home on two different el-trains. Don't fly Ted; it's terrible. When we went to fill out a ticket or whatever about our lost luggage, the baggage office was closed as was the ticket counter upstairs. Unbelieveable. I knew we should have just stayed in Colorado :)

But we're home now and I teach tomorrow morning at 11am, which is just crazy. I'm feeling extremely unprepared and over exhausted. My hubby reminded me that the first day of classes is a blow-off day anyway, so that made me feel a little better, but mostly just like I need one more day to prepare. . .

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A new poem

I'm posting from my *new* and fabulous office at school today, which is wierd. I needed a break from syllabus writing, so here's the latest fruit of my collaborative project with scott. He has a great poem up as well!

Carnage, Pixels
inspired by Roy Lichtenstein's "Brushstroke with Spatter," 1966

You blur into drear, stigmatism focus on fake drips,

on fake intermittent light smear, on callous

glamour smear, shaken hand in bountiful sinews.

You give me a filled carcass, a shaken boxcar, a forest guile,

a hidden smile, more guile for the long trip through briar bayou.

Blue briars into you, slick martini eyes. The drag,

the influence of drag, the martini gleam effluvium taking over

squirrel-tooth effluvium. Come in bold, balance, entitled

rails we ride on, entitled something it wears, killer sari button

on the move down. So sorry for your hands.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

an even later response to Mary's tag

Mary blog-tagged me to do the following assignment on Monday:

List five songs that you are currently digging - it doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions and the five songs (with artist) in your blog. Then tag five people to see what they're listening to.

here's my totally terrible list:

1. "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt (it's the song I sing to get Eliot to sleep every night!)
2. "Ghetto Music" by Outkast (cause it makes me run really fast when it comes up on my ipod)
3. "All That We Let In" by the Indigo Girls
4. "Weight of the World" by the Samples
5. "Blackbird" by the Beatles (always one of my faves)

I think maybe only two of those were written in the last ten years. What can I say. . .I don't get out much.

I'm not going to tag people, but if you read this, consider yourself tagged. leave a comment so we know to check out your list.

about the body. . .reader beware

First and foremost, though I am a day late, check out poetry (yester)daily featuring my home-girl Simone. If this poem doesn't do it for you, well, you're dumb. Sorry, but it's the truth.

I had a strange experience yesterday while darting around Chicago, doing various errands, mostly to replace items from the lost/stolen wallet. While I was looking at new wallets, a woman with two teenage sons asked me where a Target is. We started conversing and her son said something about being happy that I was pregnant. I about fell over. "I'm not pregnant!" I said, probably embarassing him more than me at the moment, as he literally ran away and hid among some nearby clothing racks. "I had a baby about a year ago," I explained to the mother, calmly-- I could see the look of horror on her face and wanted to assure her that it was OK. She apologized about ten more times and I said don't worry about it. But, of course, I did. Then on to the DMV, a nightmare on wheels. I had to wait in line to get a number to wait in line to talk to someone to tell me to get in line to pay to get in line to get my license. Unreal. But the lady I actually talked to was really nice and called me "cute". I said thanks- It was better than being mistaken for being pregnant, that's for sure. But we had to "revise" the weight on my license from 110 lbs to 125 lbs because of my pregnancy weight gain. Another blow to the ego. Off to campus I went, feeling cute, pudgy, and pregnant. I saw a professor in the hall who I've been meaning to get in touch with- I'm working on an exam list with her. I said hello and she looked at me like I was a freshman asking for directions. She said, "Remind me of your name. . ." I said "It's me, Mackenzie- we're working on an exam list together. . ." I guess it had been a while since she's actually seen me in person- so much of this stuff happens over email. She remembered me then, but felt it necessary to explain why she didn't recognize me. . ."Oh, you've gained some weight! It's good weight, I mean, but you look so different!" Hmm, there it is. The New Sincerity has claimed another victim.

Apparently I'm a fatass, and people, even complete strangers, aren't afraid to tell me about it. It's been more difficult than I imagined gaining weight with the pregnancy and not being able to lose all of it quickly. A big part of my pre-pregnancy identity had to do with my thinness, my obsession with thinness, hence my bout with an eating disorder in college and some of early grad school. (Most people assure me that I was too thin before, and have gained "good weight," like the professor said, but that's a hard perspective to buy into.) I'm much better now, but it never totally goes away. How does this difference in weight affect me- my image- my images- my writing- my thinking-my parenting? Not only am I having to deal with a new identity as a parent, but also as a physically different person. Along with the 3 inch scar on my abdomen from the c-section, there are 10 pounds that I will just never lose, and it's changed me.

It's a selfish and ridiculous worry, I know. As my husband constantly reminds me, most women would kill to weight 125 lbs shortly after having a baby, being in school, etc. People are starving all over the world and I'm worried cause I have some extra love handles that I can't get rid of. It's ridiculous. But it's my reality, even though I try to keep it supressed inside as much as possible, days like yesterday, when everybody felt the need to comment on my physicality, it bubbles to the surface and makes me nauseousfor the rest of the day.

Monday, August 15, 2005


I've been a busy girl, some good production, some unfortunate occurrences.

I met with my esteemed friend and colleague, Simone Muench, on Thursday evening for margaritas, spinach crepes, and discussion of my manuscript, which she was gracious and kind enough to read and comment on. I got some great and in-depth feedback which I've really been needing, and have been reworking the manuscript ever since. Since the meeting, I've changed and rearranged many of the poems, including the first poem in the manuscript, which was "cata strophe" but is now "Misspell," which I think really works to introduce this collection a lot better. I'm SO happy with the changes- I feel like it's a completely different manuscript and I feel a lot better about sending it out. I think I'm pretty much ready to leave it alone for a while. The new title, you ask?

leave, light, entropy

(the picture above is my brother's (Chris Carignan's) painting. . .I would love to be able to use it as a book cover when it gets published, though I know this may not be my decision to make. He painted this for our grandmother after she died in November, and I feel like the tone fits with a lot of the poems in the collection. . .the first section is called "leave," after all. . .)

I think this title fits the manuscript best, which is what really matters (thanks to Melissa Severin in my poetry group for saying, bluntly, "Which one works best for the BOOK???"). Thanks also to everyone who weighed in a few weeks ago- it really helped to have such a broad palate of perspectives. I'm happy with it, and have titled each of the sections appropriately with one of the words from the title. It all works out quite well, really. Gives a continuity I feel the book was lacking- ties it together nicely, but not too nicely.

The unfortunate outcome of my meeting with Simone is that my wallet got lost/stolen the night of our meeting. It's a weird feeling to exist without identification or plastic- it's a kind of weakness and vulnerability that I'm really enjoying (masochist, who?) though it's not altogether the safest thing with a baby and all not to have any way to access money or tell people who I am! I'll go on Tuesday to get a new license, student ID, etc. Till then, I'm incognito :)

I start school next week, the reality of which is finally starting to sink in. Ugh. I had a small revelation that I will miss my little Eliot very much- I have been spoiled this summer spending all my time with him. As he embarks on walking, I'm sad about the fact that someone else could see his first steps. But the academic awaits- exams are no small feat, especially since I've taken the last three weeks off from reading! I have too much work to do.

some happy thoughts on a few good journals

On Friday, I got word that my poem, "Reaching into the Same Pockets," has been accepted to a journal called the Chaffin Journal, out of Eastern Kentucky University. I'm excited about this publication because of how classy my correspondence has been with Mr. Robert Witt, the Editor of the magazine. Back in March, I sent them some poems. Mr. Witt promptly sent them back to me with a detailed letter, (my name and address printed on the letter, nonetheless!!) telling me that I had missed the submission window and to please try again in June. He signed the letter and everything; I was very impressed by his attention to detail and the way he treated me like an actual human being, a luxury many journals are not afforded because of their extremely large submission pool (though I suppose it's possible that Chaffin has just as large a pool, but just assigns a priority to being respectful and gracious to their patrons. . .). So I resubmitted in June (response time was only like 8 weeks!) with the unusual expectation that my poems would actually be read and considered thoroughly before sent to the slush pile, or maybe, even, that someone would like one of them enough to publish, regardless of the fact that I'm still a "young poet". I'm honored to be in a classy publication like this-- it renews my sense of determination to start my own journal in the next several years (as soon as I finally settle into a locale) and gives me some ideas of what the priorities of that journal will be.
I'm not trying to knock other journals, either-I've worked on enough lit mags to know that time is as limited a resource as money- and what most journals lack in "personal attention" to their contributors (unless, of course, you're famous. . .) they make up for in content, layout, distribution, artwork, thoughtful reviews, website design, etc. It was just refreshing to be respected by an editor for a change, based on my POETRY instead of on my list of publications, lack of a published book manuscript, and (for now) lack of a PhD. It'll fuel my fire for a while.

I'm VERY impressed with the journal, the Canary, which I ordered more out of curiosity than anything. I mean, it's the best journal I've seen in a long time- a very ecclectic and lively assortment of voices. It's a lot more experimental than I expected, which I appreciate. In fact, I've yet to read a poem I don't appreciate on some level- and the great thing about it is that I often appreciate the poems on different levels- some intellectual, some because of narrative innovation, some because they relate experience adeptly, some because the language is just rocking. I love the Cole Swensen pieces, though that's not a surprise to most. She's one of my all-time faves (and one of the nicest poets ever to walk the earth, may I add. . .). I love the Dan Beachy-Quick poem, too- "Difference in Triplicate". The way it confuses narrative and perspective is astonishing, doubling/tripling of tree imagery. . .very cool.
I would have liked some sort of editorial preface to the journal, but I'm entering the series at #4, so I'm not sure what the history, mission statement, editorial goal of the journal is, unless there just isn't one, which I doubt. The journal is too intelligent for that.

In response to the comment that my poetry is "too intellectual," I've submitted to the Harvard Review. Mostly as a joke. I think it's funny anyway. I'm sure I'll get my rejection in record time :)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

another poem. . .

after the likes of Scott Glassman and Lorna Dee Cervantes (a collaborative effort, whether they like it of not , hehe). Scott and I have decided that great poets don't cheat, they lie. (Careful, it's copyrighted.)

glow paper
a red match

finding glitter
bringing me there

denim eyes
hook and eye

your eye
stay the white

your pockets
emptied and gone

sell me
sell me fire

garlic quilt
you sweat clean

strips in
flowers, purple bundles

hates smallness
wants to taste

and find
fabric and taste

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A new poem from my collaborative project

this poem came out of my collaborative project with Scott Glassman:

Anatomy of a Scream

Cave glass, you take my breath
to go, flung and baited but crisp

in blue birth. To stretch lightning,
isolate the green, bleed it

dry until he dreams jagged
faces onto you seems

like it already happened. I am glad
for your sadness, for its delirious

conflict, for the flecks
of silver that motor, that curtain,

that call from a closed room
we can never enter. The sea

is in there, boiling and still,
asking us to swallow its name.

I'm a bit confused. . .

by other blogs I've read recently that seem to belittle everything I'm trying to do as a poet right now. I never imagined that wanting to publish one's poems in a journal would be a controversial issue, but apparently it is. I understand the principal beind the idea that entering first-book-contests is a bit shady, but I never thought of it as a mark of shame, which is how Ron Silliman characterizes it in his most recent blog. Is it realistic to think that one can be "successful" as a poet without playing the game? I supose it's all about how you define success, and the bottom line is that others will judge you by whay you define as success. Right now, my goal is to publish my manuscript, probably by means of a contest if possible, but I am definitely open to a more "community" oriented mode, if I can find one or one presents itself. I want people to read my poetry, and not just on my blog, which means that I need to publish it in journals. To me, success is sharing my poetry with others, seeing how the world responds to it, and building off of that (to a certain extent). In order to enter a community, one must build their own community or be accepted by another, and while being in a community is a ideal place to be, it's not always so easy to find one, especially one that offers the opportunity to publish and help one's poems BE SEEN. BE read. I don't write poetry in a vacuum. Surely I will be called arrogant for wanting to be read, but I don't care. I write to be read, and success to me is being read.

On the other hand, I would not be the poet I am today without the community I have found here in Chicago. Friends like Simone Muench, Mary Biddinger, Anna Marie Craighead-Kintis, Brandy Homan, Jackie White and new web-friend, Scott Glassman, have inspired me and shaped not only what I write but what I do (where I submit, how I construct syllabi, which book contests might actually read my manuscript before throwing it in the recycle heap). I am amazed on a daily basis by how much people will go out of their way to help me, to guide me, to share with me the difficult lessons they've learned and help me avoid the pain, or just to make the blow less painful when it comes. It is because of this community that I have truly taken ownership of my poetry, come to believe in it, come to actually like the majority of my poems as well as the new direction(s) my poetry is moving. Does this make me arrogant? That it's taken me 15 years of poetry writing to finally believe in myself and believe that I should be being published seems to me an OK place to be. It's the belief that my poetry has something to offer my readers, that I have come here, to this place poetry, to share this.

I feel like I've lost grasp of the "reality" of the situation. Curtis Faville makes a good point in the comments on Ron's blog when he says: "The contest system is designed to provide a means by which, One) Taste can be used to control the structure of literary hierarchies, in their various forms; and Two) Professional discrimination can be made public, enabling literary careers, jobs, and reputations. It is demonstrably NOT about disseminating good writing, or husbanding in avant-garde technique, or furthering "communities" (Ron's favorite pet)". It takes only looking at how boring and mainstream most of the prizewinning books are (aside from a few, of course, like Saturnalia, Alice James, Helicon Nine, Slope Editions)-- nothing innovative or interesting at all going on. Just the same poem, over and over again. No envelope pushing, no paradigm shifting. But where does that leave poets like me and many of my friends (Erika Bernheim comes to mind, an astonishing and amazing poet) who are trying to do something different. . .which more than not is construed as being "too intellectual" even though we're just trying to EXPLORE? Trying to NOT write that same, dry, lyric ego-jacked crap? Any ideas?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself." Walt Whitman. At least I can be comforted by that.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A publication in the house. . .

Yes, it's wonderful and exciting. The irony? It's my husband's publication. And it's in a computer magazine: Dr. Dobbs something or other. I can't even read it because it's written in another language, namely Geek :) Another stinging reality? He made $600 from it, which is like twice what I've made from prizes, publications, etc. in my entire poetry career (unless you count the essay contest I won in 8th grade, for which I got a $500 savings bond, but I'm not sure that should count. . .). I'm not bitter, not at all.

The sting turned into a terrible burn because on Friday, the day Dr Dobbs hit newsstands, I recieved two very strange rejections in the mail. One from a publication who solicited work from me but wrote on the rejection that my poetry was "too intellectual," to which I reply, "good! I must be doing something right!" They asked me to send more poems, but I'm not sure I want to send "dumbed down poems" just so the editors don't have to think too hard. Probably just not the happiest place for my poems to find a home. The other rejection was the most bizarre I've seen so far, as a form letter, nonetheless: "We appreciate the poems you sent to 'X'. Our editorial staff carefully considered and discussed your work. At this time, we could not come to a consensus that allowed us to find a place for your work in our magazine, but we hope you would consider sending us more work in the future." I happened to be having coffee with a friend who used to be an editor/reader for this magazine (what are the chances!?!) and she said this rejection means they liked the poems but couldn't find a place for them in that issue, which I can totally appreciate and find EXTREMELY helpful, both as a specific comment on this poem (I actually only sent one poem. . .it was a themed issue) as well as a comment about the business of journals in general. This is yet another reason why simultaneous submissions seem the only way to go: while three out of ten journals might like my poetry, it doesn't mean they all have a place for them in their current edition. Important lessons learned.

I'm proud of my hubby, of course. But the fragile ego of a poet can only take so much beating in one day.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A collaborative effort

I've been lucky enough to have been collaborating with various artists, poets, dancers, musicians, and circus performers (no, I'm serious. . .) for years now. My friends and I in Boulder started a collaborative organization called the fuzion project through which we created, produced, directed and performed in a show which fuzed all sorts of genres in very amazing ways. I think my favorite piece of that show was the finale where I got to dance hip-hop with a large group of dancers and recite an original poem while another performer did gymnastics across the stage. It was amazing. And a lot of fun. My friend, Sarah Leversee, continues the legacy of the fuzion project, Boulder through her collaborative organization, Art As Action, which takes performance to another level by donating theproceeds of each show to a philanthropy. She's been quite successful and really has a great thing going.

Sarah's Sister, Jill Leversee, and I have been close friends for years. Jill is an amazing dancer with a very creative and open sensibility. When she lived in Chicago (now she is in Seattle), we collaborated on another show, which was mostly dance and poetry, but also had musicans, martial arts, and photography as some of the showcase items. Another great time, though also a lot of work. I greatly miss collaborating with artists-- for me it is an essential connecting point in my own art-- there's no denying that this creative world truly is a big web. (As a side note, I have many, many left over chapbooks from this performance, which also served as our program. It features amazing poets such as Cole Swensen, Simone Muench, Garin Cyncholl, and Duriel Harris. I'm happy to send these to people who would like one- just send me an email through my blog link on my profile page with your address and I'll happily send you one!)

So when a fellow blogger and newly-made friend of mine, Scott Glassman, agreed to collaborate with me on, well, we're not really sure what yet, but we're collaborating, I was extatic. Right now it looks like an experiment with language and association: check it out here. It's still in it's early stages of infancy, but hopefully it'll keep building. . .and we'll see what it turns into. In many ways, it doesn't really matter what it turns into. What matters is that it pushes me outside of my personal shroud of poetry and opens me to someone elses voice in a very intimate way. I'm excited about the possibilities of this experiment. We'll see where it goes.

(Bottom picture courtesy of Jonathan Friedman)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Three years and counting


is this very moment with it’s eyes
open, the man I love escaping,

the twitch of his heartbeat
in the bowl of his throat. His sleep-

That between him and words
is my world- the only place I let things

happen. The petals we used to put in
our drawers, the summer opening.

We searched all night
for gardenia, where the smell

was coming from, what I tasted
in the cake. His eyes

not opening, but when we found the flower,
I took it, brought it with me,

can still smell it now. His hair is miniscule
and strong, his body-the white

of clay. Everyone should die
with questions, leaving that door

open, to remain, to hold the space

between what we want
and what we want to open.

(Written by me, for my husband, some many years ago. . .)

Today is my husband and I's three year anniversary. Pretty exciting, though the fact that it's Wednesday makes it slightly anticlimactic. But it's definitely a big thing to celebrate, especially because many marriages these days don't see the other side of the three year anniversary. In many ways, it's hard to believe that it's been only three years. We packed a lot into this time: moved from Colorado to Chicago, a PhD program, bought a condo and moved within Chicago, had a baby, suffered the death of three of our grandparents, my parent's divorce and three of the most brutal winters I've ever seen. But in many ways, of course, it seems like only yesterday I was standing next to him, holding my purple flowers, thinking "wow. we're actually married!"
But boy is my Brian a trooper. He's made so many sacrifices for me over the last three years, sacrifices that most men would scoff at and walk away from. But he's still here, and sometimes I even think he might still like me. It will surely be my turn soon to "pay up," but that's OK. That's what it's all about. The give and take.

The poem I posted is very old and different from what I write now, but the lines, "but when we found the flower,/I took it, brought it with me,/can still smell it now" resonates with me today. Love is like a memory: very strong and powerful at first, but it dissipates and settles in, the intensity fades, but it's always there. The stronger the love, the stronger the resonance. Hmm, how sentimantal of me. But true.

I knew it three years ago and I know it more than ever today- I'm am blessed to have Brian as my hubby. He's a keeper.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An experiment with shorter lines

Something I don't do often. . .

What then, the burn?

Maybe the spattering
of cloves
on the counter

is a way
to believe
in strength. Chew

on one, suck
oil until it crumbles
into dust between

your molars.
Does it taste
like heart?

Does the squeal
of foreign light
make its way

to you now?
Burn hole in your tongue
eyes tongue.

Maybe years ago
the source
was clear, the sting

was a yellow puss-flower
on your skin
between your fingers.

What now?
What if I am leaving?
What burns then?

Taking poetry (too?) serioulsy

Poetry group last night brought up a lot of issues in my mind, some unsettling, some just open. Unlike most of our meetings in the past year, last night was all business (which after an almost 45 minute ride there and not being able to find parking, was OK with me, I suppose. . .) but I did miss the nitty-gritty poetry issues that we often discuss before workshopping. They seemed to insert themselves, somewhat, into discussion anyway. The first poem to be workshopped was a whopper, a single spaced prose poem, tight font, which covered an entire page. For me, this is an intimidating and daunting prospect- to read a poem of this magnitude and respond in five minutes or less is outside of my comfort zone. When faced with poems, especially of this magnitude, I need to THINK about them. Let them sink in and experience them. So I suggested that in the future, maybe we could post longer pieces on the blog page I set up for the workshop with a few hours to spare so those of us who are "a little slow" and pensive can have time to ingest it. The poet in question responded by saying that in the spirit of Dan Flavin (an artist who was discussed moments earlier) she was OK with an instantaneous response because the average time a museum-goer spends looking at a piece of art is something like 15 seconds. This is the kind of response she wanted to her poem. So we gave her poem the alloted 15 seconds and moved on Flavin-style through the rest of the night, workshopping 4 poems in about 1 1/2 hours (total actual workshopping time).

The more I think about this approach, the more I realize that I'm not OK with it. Maybe it's the poetry-idealist in me that thinks this art of poetry deserves a serious looking-at, that this is a serious art even if we want to trivialize it as a sort of "statement," aka "I hate Poets, capital 'P.'" I decided a long time ago to dedicate a large portion of my life and energy to this thing that has, in a sense, become my religion (hey, something had to fill the void and I've never been into drugs or heavy drinking. . .). And now, the time I spend with poetry has taken on a whole new meaning-- the time I spend with poetry is time I don't spend with my son, so I can't help but treat it as a serious subject. Maybe I do take it too seriously, but for me, that's the only way to take it. It's the only way I can see myself ever getting some major publications and eventually getting a book out so I can teach somewhere in Colorado close to where we'll be living. So when a poem is put in front of me, I want to take it serioulsy and give it the attention I think it deserves, which is more than 15 seconds.

And by the by, I do think it is possible to give a good response to a poem in 25 minutes or so even if you haven't read it before, but the longer and/or more complicated pieces , in my mind, do require more time.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe nothing any more is sacred in this world of soundbytes and headlines. Maybe the average reader only allots 60 seconds to the reading of a poem. But for me, poetry is a retreat from that quick and flashy synapse-triggering, migrane-inducing clip of the chaotic everyday life. It's a slow-down, a sacred space. And while I prescribe to a lot of post-modern idea(l)s, I hold this as a truth, which may make me a Poet, but I guess I'm OK with that. I'm OK with taking myself and poetry serioulsy, because if I don't take myself seriously, who else is going to take me serioulsy?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Run for the hills. . .

I don't often get pissed about things. On occasion, I get a little "amped up" as my husband likes to call it. Sometimes I get moody. But today I'm pissed, mostly fueled by a disappointment that could have been avoided.

I ran 16 miles this weekend, kicking my marathon training into full gear. I found some great girls to run with (one a MA student in Lit, one a chemistry/algebra teacher here in Chicago) and we had a great time. I finally felt like I can do this thing- that actually completing the marathon is not a pie in the sky. I've been running competitively since high school track season of 1990, which puts me well into my 15th year of running. I ran in college to fund my education and since, I've trained for and competed in 4 marathons, qualifying for Boston each time (but never actually running it. . .hmmm). My last marathon was the 2003 Chicago Marathin where I logged a slightly impressive 3:36:36 (though my marathon PR is 3:29 as a younger pup). Then only about 6 weeks later, I got pregnant and the priority to run became a quick second to taking care of myself and resting. I ballooned to a unbelieveable monstrosity of a pregnant lady, even though I continued to run up until about the 6 month mark. Because of the c-section (what a nightmare) I ended up taking about 6 months off of running, total. I started running again (using the term "running" very loosely here. . .) in November and have been working hard ever since. I got the idea to train for Chicago again because I needed an external motivation to continue to run and get in shape- and it's been working! I feel great and even look forward to getting up at 5:30 am to run because I have something to train for. It's been great and really given me something to focus on.
So why am I pissed? Well, I have been a little wishy-washy about whether I REALLY thought I could do the marathon. I mean, it's a grueling experience, both the training and the actual running-of. I've been putting off shelling out the nearly $100 to register for the race. . until last night when I decided I could really do it. I could commit. But guess what? Registration is closed. 40,000 crazy mo fo's already shelled out their $100 and the marathon closed in RECORD time- 1 month earlier than last year and much, much earlier than the year before (when I ran it). I guess I should have committed earlier, taken the gamble and just plunged in. I should have payed closer attention. But I wanted to be sure, and now I'm screwed. I'm pissed for a lot of reasons that are selfish and surely have to do with issues of entitlement- like I've been running for a long time, paid my dues, and this marathon really meant a lot to me while joe blow is trudging his fat never-run-before ass and taking up all the room in the marathon. (I know, I'm a bitch, but I'm mad. . .) I feel like I deserve to run this race, even if I missed the deadline. But there's just no way. So what now?
I think I might run the Portland Marathon, which is the same weekend, so I can maintain my training schedule and still run on the same day (just not in chicago). My best friend is working a contract in Portland and will hopefully still be there on October 9th, so hopefully I can just stay with her and run a smaller, more relaxed, cooler, and less congested race. The Chicago Marathon really is a nightmare. I was forced to walk the first few miles in 2003 and then when we finally could run, it took so much energy dodging people and trying not to trip that it surely affected my time. When all is said and done, I'm probably better off doing something smaller anyway. But I'm still pissed because now I have to race all by myself, which is excruciating for 26.2 miles (especially the last 4.2 miles or so. . .that's when the pain really seeps in.)

I can't wait to move from Chicago, and this just really is the icing on the cake. I've lived in Wrigleyville for 3 years and have only been to one Cubs game because the tickets were given to me at the grocery store. We've tried for years to get tickets but they sell out on the day they go on sale-- for the WHOLE season! Even trying to get tickets the day they go on sale is a nightmare, so we watch them on TV with our windows open and listen to the crowd a mere two blocks away. I'm not going to watch from the perifery for this race, though. It means too much to me. I'll run a marathon on October 9th, even if it's on a treadmill in my gym or as a "rogue runner" numberless in the Chicago marathon. But most likely it'll be somewhere else. . .maybe I'll pick a city that has a baseball team and actually go see a game!