Saturday, January 31, 2004

Best Search Strings: January 2003

It's always interesting to find out how people find my main site. The most unusual search strings that brought people this past month:

bombs over la poetry
buxom goddess
west virginia jackal

For December 2003:

son who saw his mother nude

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Tender Buttons, aka Erica Leigh

A couple weeks ago Erica and I saw Cold Mountain. Talk about a big chunky turd. Oscar worthy, my ass. One problem I have when attending dumb movies with my sister is that I break out in uncontrollable laughter much to the chagrin of the other theater goers. Once I start laughing, Erica starts up and it never ends. If I so much as make eye contact with her or sense her eyes gazing upon me, I laugh. Sometimes a dumb movie trailer can set me off for twenty minutes (so blame Kevin Coster for making The Postman, not me). I am not proud of this and understand it is rude. I do not relish being inconsiderate to others. Times like these, the beast takes the reins.

At the end of Cold Mountain when Jude Law's character ironically dies after making it home safely from the Civil War where he was blown up, shot numerous times and sodomized by penguins, I relinquished myself to said beast. Erica, the only gal I know who's meaner and more heartless than me, (That's right Leona Helmsley, you can suck it, we got you topped.) made some snotty remark about me being cold to which I replied, "Oh yeah, I forgot, you're a tender button." That comment brought tears to her eyes. Not an easy feat.

But clearly I can't take credit for "Tender Buttons." I borrowed it from the title of Getrude Stein's ground breaking book. It had been a long time since I read Tender Buttons as an undergraduate, so I thought I'd go back and refresh myself, for Erica, my only sister. Below are some excerpts that I feel pertain to the above mentioned situation/sister:


A blind agitation is manly and uttermost


Elephant beaten with candy and little pops and chews all bolts and reckless reckless rats, this is this.


A little monkey goes like a donkey that means to say that means to say that more sighs last goes. Leave with it. A little monkey goes like a donkey.

Click here for more Tender Buttons

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Gimp Homecoming

Sometime late this evening Chris is supposed to come back from New York. After I have him scrape all the ice off the sidewalk and steps, I'm going to punch him in his dislocated shoulder for leaving me to do it for the last four days. Damn it, I manage the finances, do the laundry, vacuum and provide delightful repertoire; shoveling is not in my job description yet I've done the bulk of it this winter because somebody is always away or just getting out of surgery.

Being cooped up in the house with two bitchy cats has made me cranky. Too much thinking time. I finally got out this morning for a yoga class and Chipotle. When I got back home the mail I was expecting hadn't arrived and what did arrive wasn't what I was hoping for. Such is, such is.

My cooped up time wasn't all for lunacy, I finally finished my book reviews for NewPages and those should be up sometime within the week. I also read It Is If I Speak by Joe Wenderoth, one of the many books I received as Christmas and birthday gifts (thank you Amazon Wishlist). I liked Wenderoth's Letters to Wendys but I think I liked It Is . . . better. One reason is because it didn't drag on as long, it seemed more purposeful. What I liked about both of them was how they both played with ideas and philosphy both humorously and seriously. Apparently I'm reading all of his work chronologically backwards, his first book, Disfortunate is on the big heap too. Sometimes I like reading an author's work in reverse, instead of going on the journey with the poet, it's more interesting to see where they are now and play detective to see how they got there. It's a different way to look at the work. Not that I've done much teaching, but it always seemed to me that a better way to teach poetry to young people is to start with contemporary work and go back from there. Give the kids something to connect or identify with, or at the very least understand and hope that piques their interest to explore back. Sure, Shakspeare, Byron, Wordsworth, Blake (my fav), etc. are very important and should be read. I just don't know if they're the best place to start, even if so much of what has been written since stems back from them. I'm sure some teacher types disagree and could explain their positions much more eloquently than I have.

My pal David is on the board of directors at Graywolf Press and occasionally sends me their new poetry books. (Thanks David, I love free books!) I just started reading the re-release of Elizabeth Alexander's first book, The Venus Hottentot. The title is named after a South African woman, Saartjie Baartman, who in 1810 was convinced that she could become rich and save her family if she went Europe to become a dancer. When she arrived in England, she was placed in a cage at a freak show and was forced to parade around naked while aristocrats gawked at her "unusually large genitalia." She later died in 1815 in Paris after being forced to support herself as a prostitute. For more historical info, click here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Staying Put

I won't be making a run for the Canadian border. Apparently poets don't get any respect there either.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Sticking it to a Philistine

Letter writing campaign to the New York Times regarding its new editorial direction against reviewing literary fiction (which means even fewer poetry reviews, as if that could be possible): "So let's hit this Philistine fucker where it hurts."


Were you expecting the bed sheets
changed or were you waiting for
chocolates to float down to the pillows?
Sleepy sweets, smear the sheets,
you never tipped for such treatment,
scratchy sheets, pressed and neat.
Is it the chambermaid you ring
for? She left for a better motel.
Not much air from the ventilation box,
curtains never knowing the furious
touch of breeze, pristine and better off.
Movement taunting from every wall
from every place other than where you
lay, but who can bother with rage?
This is where you paid to stay.

Agony Amongst the Snow

Yep, the weather forecast was accurate, D.C. is getting lots of snow. I'm basically stuck in the house for the next day until they clear the roads. Hopefully they will actually clear my road. Tiny little trucks always come by and clear the walking path behind my house as soon as an inch of snow accumulates, but do they clear my street? Not always.

Does that mean I'll get lots of writing done? Maybe. Maybe I'll post some rough drafts.

Shout out to my poor suffering husband who managed to dislocate his shoulder while skiing in New York this morning. I told you not to ski like an asshole!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Dream Chasers and Catchers

I just caught the last ten minutes of a reality show on VH-1 about some girls trying to become Vegas Showgirls. Beautiful gals, kicking their legs and sharpening their claws into each for a spot on the stage. I love reality shows that focus on how people go about pursuing their dreams and I'm not talking about finding prince charming or giving a geek a chance at dating a hottie, although I do watch some of those as well. I like watching people who want to be something, something competitive and difficult to attain. I find the shows where people compete in events to win prizes and money (like Survivor) to be dull. There's never enough at stake (is he going to be rich or not? woo-hoo), it's just a drawn out game show.

I'm fascinated with what the big life dreams are, the priorities, what folks do to try to get it, the sacrifices and how their friends and family support and/or thwart their attempts. I think my favorite "dream chaser" reality show was MTV's "Tough Enough" where a bunch of kids trained for a shot at contract for the WWE (wresting), yeah fake wrestling, not as easy as it one might think. Suddenly I developed a true appreciation for sweaty, muscular titans slamming each other into a ring. Mindless it is not. Early on in these shows you can always tell whose heart was in the work and whose wasn't. It really doesn't matter what the dream is, it's always the same. There's people who want the dream and there's people who just think they do. There's people who have dreams, and people who are just dreamers. Not that everyone who really has the dream gets it. But dreamers almost never do.

Over the years, being a poet has made me respect people who pursue seemingly odd or ambitious careers. I wasn't always like that. I remember when my friend married a struggling comic book artist. At the time I had a corporate job and was enjoying making money and expected everyone to do the same thing. I kept asking her when was he going to get a "real" job. Yes, that's right, the stay-at-home poet and beader once asked somebody that question. She was probably pretty offended and with good reason. Now I understand because I get similar questions all the time, especially now that I'm finished with grad school. "Are you going to go back to work?" "Have a baby?" "Ever think about law school?" "Could you at least write a novel or something somebody would want read?"

Turns out my friend's husband was a man with a plan and has done very well for himself, produced a series on MTV, writes a bunch comic books that people love, won awards and has a big following. Good thing he never listened to us naysayers.

I suppose any dream is successful if you get to do the thing you really want to do, whether or not it brings lots of money or acclaim. I'm always amazed when I meet young poets and writers who are hell bent on fame. What fame? Even when you're dead, it's damn minimal. Stand outside your super market and quiz 20 people to name a living poet. 80% of the ones who can come up with a name are going say "Maya Angelou" or "Jewel." The other 20% are going to name themselves. I remember the first day of an introductory poetry workshop I took as an undergrad. Before we did anything, the teacher passed out a piece of paper and told us to write two lists, five living poets and five dead poets. I was able to do it, but just barely. Granted this was before I decided I wanted to pursue poetry, but it was quite the wake-up call for this 19 year-old. There was no denying it. I was woefully under-read.

But I digress, dreams, we should all give a little thought to what our dreams are and why we pursue them. If you want to be loved and adored and recognized, just start handing out money to people. You'll be internationally known. I promise.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Drop the Name Bomb

Name droppers didn't always bug me. My first recollection of obnoxious name dropping is from an AOL content programming meeting overrun with uppity NYC types. "I was having lunch with Dominick Dunne. . ." when Dominick Dunne had nothing to do with the conversation. Or when asked if she could get Jakob Dylan for an online chat, a woman responded, "I'll call him and up see what I can do" as if she was his bud and no that she was going to call up his manager's assistant. POSTSCRIPT: There was no Jakob Dylan chat that week.

I like to name drop sometimes, one time, when I was a little kid I was running with a bunch of helium balloons and managed to smack the best mayor Pittsburgh ever had, Richard Caliguiri, right in the face with them in front of a bunch of folks. Seven years later he died. Pittsburgh has never been the same.

One time, in 1993, along with Sam, Erikas and Jason, I was on the White House lawn doing a radio talk show on Clinton's failed Health Care plan for WRCT. Andrea Mitchell was a doll and gave us exactly what we wanted. Tim Russert was kind of a trouble maker, but he did give us what we wanted, but he didn't do it right, but we couldn't remember his name at the time so we had to just take what we got. Tom Brokaw was a dream so we didn't mind when he refused to give us what we wanted, but his security guard (name unknown) did say to me "Not to be a dick, but Mr. Brokaw is a very busy man." Speaking of dicks, Wolf Blitzer didn't give us what we wanted and did it rather rudely, but we got vindication because his cameraman gave us and our radio station serious props. Looking back, I now understand the cameraman was an angel and I wish I would have demonstrated a lot more appreciation at the time.

There was another angel that night, in the form of a White House Intern (before that term became a dirty word), I think his name was Andrew Bloom and I think he went to Auburn, but I am probably getting all of this wrong, which doesn't really help my name dropping credibility. But he was the one who made our experience really special by getting us guests, when nobody else would, like Dee Dee Myer's assistant. Andrew also explained to us that we didn't have to leave after our show, which made all of the above name dropping possible.

Frank O'hara was a name dropper and I love his poems. Here's a classic.

The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Chickie Chickiecago

Today I purchased my airline ticket to Chicago for the AWP Conference in March and made reservations at the Hilton. Of course, I procrastinated too long and didn't get the $125 conference rate. Instead I'll be paying $144 for a studio room which means it's probably the size of a closet. No biggie, I don't spend that much time in my room. As long as I can fit 10 of my closest friends and a bong, I'm good. Oh, I kid, I kid. Everybody knows I don't have that many friends.

This will be the fourth in a row that I've attended. I've had fun at all of them and usually manage to meet lots of interesting writers and a handful of asses. The panels are always a mixed bag, some are suprisingly awesome and others, well, others are surprising in less complimentary terms. Attending is an energizing experience reminding me why I chose the weirdo field of poetry or "answered the calling," however you want to look at it. Since I finished my MFA three years ago, the life of letters has often been a lonely one. I'm not complaining, but it's still nice to gather with thousands of other folks who care about the same thing I do.

Some people complain about the conference registration fee, $175 for non-AWP members (students get the best deal, $40!). Sure, that's not cheap, but the real cost is the hotel room, especially if you plan on staying for the full four nights. Last year at Baltimore, with taxes, parking and the room rate it was was over $800 for four nights and I was staying in the craparrific Days Inn overflow hotel. The parking is what really peeved me. I drove because, Baltimore is only 90 minutes from D.C., dumbly thinking how lucky I was because I could do that. I paid more in parking than I did for my airline ticket to New Orleans the year before. So if cost is an issue for you, my advice is to get some friends and chip in on the room together.

Baltimore wasn't a very good choice. First of all, it has some of the highest STD rates in the country which means I couldn't sit on any of the toilet seats. Not taking any chances there! Secondly, the place that the conference was held at was way too small, lots of the panels and readings were in rooms unable to accommodate the audience size. I'm sorry, I'm not going to stand outside the room with 80 other people attempting to overhear a discussion. The worst part was it was near impossible to crash the VIP parties since they couldn't handle the *invited* guests. Some young poet was trying to wow me, saying he could get me into the party because he was very good friends with Virgil Suarez. Woo-hoo. Duh, I don't want to be there if I'm allowed to be there. That takes all the fun out of crashing.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Paradelle Hell and New Pieces

David McDonald and Brent Terry, two poet pals, occasionally offer poetry challenges. I've participated in a few of them. They're fun, but only rarely generate something I would ever consider submitting. This seems to be the case with the latest challenge, which was given by Brent. Write a paradelle (four stanzas, six lines per, with the first line of each of the first three stanzas being repeated verbatim, in the second line.  Same deal with the third line being repeated  in the fourth.  The last two lines must use every word from the first four, and only those words.  The final stanza must use all the words from the first three stanzas, and only those words) AND include all of the following: a traditional, archetypal, poetic symbol (moon, ocean, river, rose, giant foam fan-finger, etc.) a meteorological phenomenon, and one (or a number of) bodily fluids. 

This is what I have so far and have been doing everything, short of scrubing toilets, to avoid getting back to work on it:

Lazy napping sperms should wake and swim.
Lazy napping sperms should wake and swim.
Harvest, this $200 monitor indicates fields are peak.
Harvest, this $200 monitor indicates fields are peak.
Are fields napping? This lazy harvest and $200 sperms
should wake, monitor, indicate peak, swim.

Yeah whatever. I'm working on three other pieces right now, one I'm not sure what one would call it, it's half non-fiction/journalism, half poem. After discussing my aim with my sister we decided that perhaps it was a warped translation of the front lines of my regional scene. Have a place in mind to submit it to -- but it needs more work.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Most blogs annoy me. It seems like everyone has them and are using them to say very little. Most are dull, insipid, self-absorbed and inane. Some are interesting. Some are even fun. So they can't be all bad and despite my original pooh-poohs, I'm going to give this a try. Why not, I broke down and gave in to Tivo and Friendster, why not a blog? I'm weak like that. Get off my tip.