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 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.