Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fish Boxes.

Recently, R. pointed me towards a paragraph from a short-story called "The Patch" by John McPhee that appeared in the Feb. 8, 2010, issue of The New Yorker. He got my attention by claiming that he thought it came close to offering a metaphor for my aesthetic, my muse. That it sounded like the way I think about information, about history, about language, as I write poetry.

Okay, so he got my attention. Here's the McPhee paragraph--a story about fathers and sons and fishing, which, in and of itself, does not sound much like my writing. But this:
Pickerel have palatal teeth. They also have teeth on their tongues, not to mention those razor jaws. On their bodies, they sometimes bear scars from the teeth of other pickerel. Pickerel that have been found in the stomachs of pickerel have in turn contained pickerel in their stomachs. A minnow found in the stomach of a pickerel had a pickerel in its stomach that had in its stomach a minnow.
is fantastic. Must. Now. Write. Poem. About. Pickerel.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hahamongna Blog Day.

Here Is A Place

[*excerpted* *cut* *not whole any longer*]

. . . There is there.
All our looking at things
should not make there
There is not here . . .

Here is a place, Hahamongna,
where two fingers touch.

On July 12th, the Pasadena City Council will decide whether to proceed with a plan to build soccer fields in Hahamongna Watershed Park, between the San Gabriel Mountains and the Arroyo Seco. I may write poetry, but I am also a soccer mom. My daughter belongs to the AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) Region 13 (Pasadena, Altadena, La Canada). By definition, by regulation, all soccer fields are the same. Thus there is always an alternative soccer field. Yet Hahamongna Watershed Park is unique. Why would we choose to replace what is rare with what is routine?

More information about the proposals to build soccer fields in Hahamongna Watershed Park, the five unique habitat zones that make up the park, and what you can do to protest this proposal, is located at

and at the following local blogs, all of whom are participating in this online day of protest:

Altadena Above It All
Altadena Hiker
A Thinking Stomach
East of Allen
Finnegan Begin Again
LA Creek Freak
Mister Earl's Musings
My Life With Tommy
Pasadena Adjacent
Pasadena Daily Photo
Pasadena Latina
The Sky Is Big In Pasadena
Webster's Fine Stationers Web Log
West Coast Grrlie Blather

**Image courtesy of **

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Denver Redux.

I went to the AWP conference in Denver a couple weeks back. Like the big blue bear in front of the venue (the Convention Center downtown), I was mostly peeking in. Less so than I would have been in previous years, since I (1) met up with friends for lunches / drinks; (2) had a book signing at my press's Bookfair table; and (3) went to see a friend read at an offsite reading, but, nonetheless, I'm not yet feeling like this is my tribe. Whatever one has to say, positively or negatively, about MFA programs, they do provide communities for their graduates to align themselves with (or against) later on. Having made the leap from literature professor / scholar to full-time writer, I bear the acute sense of having fought for every poet-alliance I've made. Much of the time, this struggle to find voices in sync with mine, or that will challenge mine, translates into an opportunity. At times like these, though, when the Bookfair resembles a medieval marketplace and the lobby bar scene is, well, a scene, it can leave me feeling impoverished. Especially, I might add, at my age, which is, in this context--shall we say--riper than some. Okay, most.

Highpoints included the indecent haul of poetry books and journals I picked up at said Bookfair (I actually paid a total of $48 extra dollars in airline baggage fees on this trip), some of which I had in mind to purchase before I went (and had been waiting for, so I could take advantage of the friendly price reductions) and some that I came across fortuitously, as I was, for instance, searching for an ingress to conversation at a certain press's table. No, apparently, I'm not above buying my way into an introduction.

What I bought:

Rick Barot's Want
Beth Bachmann's Temper
Aase Berg's With Deer
Catherine Bowman's The Plath Cabinet
Susan Briante's Pioneers in the Study of Motion (signed!)
Jeanne E. Clark's Gorrill's Orchard (gifted to me by my editor)
Oliver de la Paz's Requiem for the Orchard (signed!)
Angie Estes's Tryst
Farrah Field's Rising
Elisa Gabbert's The French Exit
Amy Gerstler's Dearest Creature (my favorite cover, maybe of all time)
Ernest Hilbert's Sixty Sonnets
Douglas Kearney's Fear,Some
Becca Klaver's LA Liminal
Melissa Kwasny's The Archival Birds (gifted to me by my editor)
Karen An-hwei Lee's In Medias Res
Karyna McGlynn's I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl
Jim Natal's Memory and Rain (because he now runs the CW program that I used to)
Donald Revell's The Bitter Withy
Judith Terzi's The Road to Oxnard (because I met her on the plane to Denver!)
Monica Youn's Ignatz (my second copy!)

and copies of The Laurel Review, Third Coast, and Tin House (because I'd been dying to read two poems by Joseph Fasano that weren't available on line, "Buck Season" and "Fragments"...they also gifted me their Hollywood issue, as I try to keep up with the LA poetry out there [see Becca Klaver's book above]).

Anyway. I have a lot of reading ahead of me.

I also went to several panels, including the near-epic showdown (hoedown?) between Tony Hoagland and Donald Revell. In sum: Hoagland says we need to pull back our chests and show our primal wounds, all poetry (must/should be) about suffering, and Revell answers with a quotation from Beckett's Endgame: "HAMM: We do what we can. CLOV: We shouldn't."

Actually, the idea that most stayed with me was Revell's suggestion that there should be a "conversion, a road to Damascus" between lines of a poem--otherwise, why bother with the turn?

I went to the Sparrow Anthology reading, and I'd quote something from that that I really loved, if I could find the scrap of paper I wrote it down on. Note to self: next year, bring a cute moleskin notebook, like every other youngin' around you. Come prepared to class. Duh.

Overall, I can't complain. I put faces to names. I did some stealth research (sitting alone at a table at a reading in which I didn't recognize a single soul, except Cole Swensen, who was the only other person past 40 in the room. Hey, I had merlot.). I met my editor for the first time in person. I sold a few books. And, now, I have a lot to brew on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blue Dot Real Good Chair Experiment.

I found this video through one of my favorite design blogs, Kitsune Noir, which is based here in L.A. The video, which effectively is a commercial spot for Blue Dot, a high-end furniture store, takes the concept of dumpster diving to a whole new level. I love it. This is what advertising should be.

I also have a thing for chairs.

Blu Dot Real Good Experiment from Real Good Chair on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It "couldn't cope with metaphor..."

excerpted from the AWP's The Writer's Chronicle:

Computerized Exam Markers Fail Hemingway, Churchill, Golding

Some of the world’s most well known writers have received failing marks when submitted to a new computerized marking system for British school essays, the Times Online reports. Winston Churchill’s 1940 speech exhorting his countrymen to “fight on the beaches” had a style that was too repetitive according to the computer. The speech was rated below average. William Golding and Ernest Hemingway came up short as well, ranking less than standard in the American equivalent of an A-level English exam. A passage from Golding’s Lord of the Flies was docked for its two-word paragraph: “A face.” Graham Herbert, deputy head of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), an umbrella body for exam boards and other organizations, said: “The computer was limited in its scope. It couldn’t cope with metaphor and didn’t understand the purpose of the speech. We also tried a passage from Hemingway. It couldn’t understand the fact that he had a very spartan style and (it) said he should write with more care and detail. He was also rated less than average.” This system, already in use in the United States, was created using a range of comments by human graders in response to exam papers. While the program recognizes sentence structure, other elements such as style and purpose are not recognized. According to Herbert, some children in America had “cracked the code” by learning to write in a style that the computer understood. This was called “schmoozing the computer,” he said. “At the moment we do not have a reliable and valid way of assessing English language using a software package, although this is something for which there is demand.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vegetable Love.

for The Restless Chef . . . a poet after my own turnip heart....

Friday, January 1, 2010


I know it's fashionable to dismiss the practice of making New Year's resolutions as cliched and token. But I consider resolutions to be like a marriage of a good "to-do" list with the Consolation of Philosophy, and I am never one to look askance at a well-wrought to-do list, nor at Boethius for that matter, so I do engage in this little ritual.

Just before Christmas, I found the little white card where I jotted down my resolutions for 2009 last January. Out of six, I checked two completely off (find a church community I can live with and publish more) and made some progress on a couple others. Clearly, publishing my first book of poetry was the professional (and perhaps personal) height of my past year, although learning to put up five-dozen jars of Drunken Fig Jam was definitely a highlight. Too bad it wasn't a resolution.

I cringe at the fact that the first thing on my 2009 list of resolutions is also the first thing on my 2010 list--the ole "lose weight & get in shape" goal--not because it isn't a worthy or, lord knows, necessary resolution, but rather because it is the superlative cliche of the entire cliched act of making resolutions, as anyone who has sat through a round of network TV commercials in the past week can attest to. At least I don't smoke.

The trick to doing an acceptable list of resolutions is the Boethian half of the model I propose--it's no fair including such whimsies as "straighten desk" or "write thank-you notes" on a list of annual goals. These are the stuff of refrigerators and pocket calendars, not New Year's Resolutions. To have resolve, after all, is to dally with earnestness. One must be philosophical about the passing of time, if nothing else.

Nonetheless, I did include "going to the dentist" and "renewing my passport" on my 2010 list. I need at least a couple resolutions I can cross off in a slightly-more-than-philosophical sense.