Thursday, March 31, 2005
The words are maps.
-Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”
1. genus, genera
a. Forget the thing you came for. As in:
There are trees enough between us.
b. Syntax breaks all the bones,
fashions an index or an acanthus.
I was threadbare and calm, and the splinter still inside me.
c. Here, we came for the ghost of the word
inside the other word:
When seen at a nervous distance,
the leaves that spring from her mouth
2. nebula, nebulae
a. Beware any direct object that ends in –ment. It commonly implies
slowness and pralines.
b. One word may possibly be confused for another. As in,
the instruments were very accurate
the dark gears, incredibly precise.
c. Like diagnosis or phenomenon, many are remnants of archaic systems.(Germanic, Indo/European, et al.)
You believe her when she tells you the radius of her palm equals
the width of a star.
3. stratum, strata
a. The tongue prefers the Latinate, the celestrina and the castanette.
b. She was holding a nest of paper wasps,
the window sills, all the cells covered with silk.
c. What may be utterly commonplace may be utterly lost.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Yesterday, one of the student workers handed me a book and said "he doesn't seem to have a barcode." At first I laughed, but then she and I got to discussing whether books have a gender. I always found it amusing that other languages have those gendered articles...le, la, les, un una, des.... Can individual books have a certain property about them that indicates gender? The volume in question was a play from the 60's I really knew nothing bout....but what about other books? Is the sex of an author a factor.? Now I would say most definitely that Moby Dick is male, while all of Jane Austens novels are female. I've determined the following books/authors to be female despite who wrote them: anything by Chekhov, Henry James, EM Forster, Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Thedore Dreiser. Dostoevsky is certainly male, as are Milton, Poe, Dickens, Hemingway, and Updike. All the contemporary poetry on my shelves at home are female, with the exception of the Bukowski, while all my reference books are male except for Grave's White Goddess, which of course, has to be a woman.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Am in the home stretch with the Book of Red collage project--which is a good thing since I need to deliver it to the gallery Friday afternoon. Spent a better part of Sunday working on it--the highlight being when my neighbor next door came knocking on my door asking me to turn the music down because he was trying to get some work done. I breifly considered telling him he might not want to maturbate so loudly in that case (I assume it's that since I don't hear anyone ELSE quite so vocal.) I'm surprised it was so loud considering it was just the tiny laptop speakers and not my stereo.
Spent the rest of the day assembling the next DGP chapbook, and am nearly finished. Also some more Wicked Alice's from last year. I have the covers all printed, but ran out of bodies for the initial print run of 100, which I guess is good. Suddenly had an unexpected spike in sales--I don't know where THAT came from, but it's good.
Realized that I have a bunch of stuff out in submission that's making me impatiently check the mailbox everyday, moreso than usual--9 out to print journals, three poems each. Plus two book manuscripts, and two chapbooks. No wonder I'm unusually antsy.
And today, absolutely gorgeous out, the first day when it's been reasonably warm this year. I SO do not want to be stuck here in the library. Spring Break--on the good side it means a break from classes, bad side is that I have to work the dreaded 9-5 shift. I'm not sure it's a fair trade.
Im suddenly obsessed with the idea of a series of carnival poems. Of course I can't start that til I finish the half-dozen other things I've vowed to do. The Red Riding Hood poems.(only some of which I'm using for the collage project). More Joseph Campbell pieces. The regular book poems. Poems for class. Plus layout for the next Wicked Alice. Plus getting a start on the next DGP chapbook. Plus a new little venture which we we'll see if it pans out.
Ah, but it's spring...so things don't seem quite so overwhelming...
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Not ever really my favorite holliday. It's always yukky out--the trees still bare, the sky gray, the grass brown. And ham. I hate ham. I opted out of family festivities today since I couldn't see going out to Rockford for one day. And the family get togethers are always a riot of fun. Today, I plan to spend the day writing and collaging, and just relaxing.
My mom is so funny. Every year, no matter how old we are, we get some sort of Easter basket with some candy and a small gift--usually a cool candle, or some scrumptious bath gel. This year, my parents aren't coming in a for a couple of weeks, so she didn't have a chance to give me anything. She insisted I make sure I bought myself some candy over the weekend and fashioned my own little easter basket, so last night I went to Walgreens and procured a big chocolate bunny, some pastel foiled hershey kisses, and some taffy. Also two books from Borders--Neruda and Lorca, both of whom I'm not all that aquainted with. So I shall spend the day hopped up on sugar and translated poetry.
I remember the holliday being fun when I was younger though. My favorite Easter candy was always those little wax bottles with the fruity liquid in them, the ones you had to bit the top off of and and then drink what was inside. I always felt a little like Alice in Wonderland.
Every Easter when I was kid we would get up in the morning and go for a ride--always stopping at McDonalds to get breakfast, which we rarely did any other time back then, so it was like a big treat for a 10 year old (oddly I STILL associate EggMcMuffins with easter). Then we'd drive north and always ended up in Rockton, near`the Wisconsin border, driving around my dad's favorite golf course,--another place I associate with the holliday.
There were years when the Easter baskets sported a more exotic present, depending on what the family finances were like. One year, I got a silvery, blue ten-speed. One year, some white roller skates with red, white, and blue stripes on the side. Another year, a sticker book. Always some little things like kites, or bubble stuff, or even last year, just for fun, one of those foil pinwheels. There were at least two Easters I remember being too sick to go to my aunts house, unable to eat any candy, or take advantage of my new stuff. One year, my giant chocolate bunny melted in the car when placed too close to the heater, and became this mass of chocolate stuck with green easter grass. One year, when I was fifteen or so, my little gift was a Cheap Trick Lap of Luxury cassete I spent days in my room listening to.
Friday, March 25, 2005
I had a conversation with one of the student workers about important books and how I'd never been able to get through the first 10 pages of Ulysses and he'd mentioned Proust, so I think that's where this oddness came from. It all taps into how I always feel like there's too much I haven't read, too much I've missed, and how now, I'm so damn stubborn about what I read. And that's with two degrees in literature (BA, MA) and a third in specifically poetry underway.
As an undergrad, I was reading much more broadly. But in grad school it focused in on specifically women authors. So I've read alot Chopin , lots of Jane Austen, the Brontes, Cather, Wharton, Gilman, Woolf. And a few poets: Dickinson,Sexton, Plath, Millay, Parker, Loy. My contemporary fiction reading gravitates toward authors like Margaret Atwood, Alice Hoffman, Lorrie Moore, Isabel Allende and others like them. From my undergrad senior sem I know alot about Milton, and am pretty good with Shakespeare and drama, thanks to several theatre history and dramatic lit classes I gravitated toward. I pretty well aquainted with big-figures like Hawthorne, Poe, Hemingway and Faulkner, a little Steinbeck. I developed a predilection for Henry James and EM Forster on my own. So there's alot of 20th Century books by male authors I have no famliarity with. I've read Joyce's more reader-friendly books--Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners--but never DID get through Ulysses. No Proust. No Maugham. I tell myself I'll read this stuff someday, but it isn't likely.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
One of my perks for winning the Juried Reading last spring was that I got to sit on the blind jury (1 of 3 poets) for this years competetion, the highest scorers then being passed on to final judge Jorie Graham (who I am of mixed emotions about) I had to read around 500 hundred entries, each containing 5 poems, and score them on a scale of 1-5...all in about three weeks. I thought I may never want to read another poem again at times, but hopefully some of my favorites in the stack made it. All the names were off, so until they post whose poems were whose, I won't know, but it was an interesting experience to say the least.
It really made me think, as I went through them, about what I look for in poetry, what makes me say something is "great" as opposed to merely "good." What standards do I hold poems to? What sort of readerly expectations do I have?
The hardest thing was that, on the whole, I'd say 80% of what we got was competant, well-crafted, perfectly enjoyable poems. A couple of years ago I judged an online contest in which 80% was pretty awful, so this was a nice change. Although I'd have to say it was infinitely more frustrating to judge these. I can easily dismiss a bad poem, but to score perfectly sound poems, to evaluate them in terms of each other, was enormously difficult.
We were told to avoid giving poems a 3 as , I guess for averaging reasons, unless they really warranted it. My scoring went something along these lines:
First, I looked for what wasn't there: cliche, abstraction, tired language, flat imagery. If the poem suffered from any of these, it automatically generated a 1. I gave 2's to those poems which avoided all the mis-steps and all the bad things, and were, in themselves sound. crafted poems, but which didn't do anything interesting for me, or which stumbled or fell short in some way.
3's went to those, who like the 2's were competent poems, but which excelled in some way, or maybe had one poem better than the other four, or something that shined a bit brighter than all the 2's--(and there were alot of 2's).
4's were reseved for those poems that not only excelled in forming a well-crafted poem, but which did interesting things with language, with image, newness, freshness, above and beyond. Those which scored 5's, and I gave only around 30/500 entries this score, in addition to meeting and exceeding all the above requirements, showed a certain polish, an authority. All things which I look for in what I read, and try for when I'm writing.
My scoresheets had a few 1's (and believe me, there were a handful of entries that deserved a 0), lots of 2's and 3's, a smaller number of 4's, and an even smaller number of 5's. I hope I wasn't being too much of a hard-ass on this, but that was the system I devised as I read through and hopefully the best poems got the highest scores from all of us. But I was also thinking about how subjective it all is. Things I might find important may not even register with another judge. Or another judge may hate something I loved and vice-versa. Or Jorie Graham may hate everything we pick and choose the person who walks her dog as a winner. Who knows?
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
· Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.
· The last book you read:
Novel: Madeleine is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lein Bynam
Poetry: Srikanth Reddy’s Facts for Visitors.
· What are you currently reading?
Re-reading Plath’s Ariel, a novel about Plath called Little Fugue, and a critical book on Little Red Riding Hood.
· Five books you would take to a deserted island:
The Complete Anne Sexton Poems
The Virgin Suicides / Jeffery Eugenides
A Moveable Feast / Hemingway
Room With A View / EM Forster
(but the evil smutty side of me says substitute The Story of O)
for any of the above)
witched and sugared, the bed harbors
collapse and our pockets, a flood.
Strange how this wound in my
mouth opens a bit when I say love.
A strangle that pools the sheets
and soaps the dawn blurry.
Given time I can linen my body
to white, can map the coordinates
of continental drift by the shift
of vertebrae. What spreads,
what closes, like buttons on a dress.
Monday, March 21, 2005
The Archaeologist's Daughter
poems by Kristy Bowen
Moon Journal Press, 2005
$5.00 buy here
I really like the pink actually (I hadn't seen it until today.). There's a problem with the page numbering, they apparently printed the title page info on the inside cover, so the first page you see is the aknowledgements, and every page is one off from there, but it's done, so I'm happy. I'm not complaining.
If anyone would like one who has already purchased one of my other chaps, you can have it for free....or trades would be more than welcome (The poems are a little less polished than what I'm doing now, but some of them are good.)
Sunday, March 20, 2005
I have to admit, I've noticed this alot too. And actually I quite enjoy those books when I come across them. I recently read Catherine Barnette's Into Such Perfect Spheres these Holes are Pierced, and liked its narrative through-line alot. In fact, I think with what I've done with errata and am attempting with girls reading novels makes me guilty of what he's talking about. I think, in my case, since the first two manuscripts were rather broad and general, I'm just trying to do something a little more focused than I've done before. And hell, after I'm finished with this, I'm planning on doing some sort of novel-in-verse, sustained narrative sort of thing. My instructor for the Sexton/Oliver/Olds class mentioned last semester that alot of poets later on start to move more toward "projects," like Sexton with Transformations and The Death Notebooks.
But to be honest, even my first two manuscripts have over-arching themes, if not something blatant. almanac is predominantly more rural, wistful, coming of age poems, while fever poems is more surreal, more urban, more....I don't know..fevered. Now, with the latest book, I'm working toward a specific thematic overlay, largely because I find myself approaching the idea of the book as the goal, moreso than the individual poem. I used to just write poems and then draw them together into a manuscript. Now I'm writing poems to go into a book--though of course not ONLY for the book, but in large part, most of the new pieces will go into it. I find it somehow focuses me...even if there's not even the chance anyone will publish these manuscripts at all.
Though it does make one wonder why these themed books are winning a number of contests, why they're being released so often by presses. I think editors and judges are looking for something cohesive, and these books, by their nature HAVE to be cohesive. They can't really fail in that regard. Plus, in terms of potential sales, people seem to like books that are ABOUT something, even if it's sort of general. It's easier to pitch a book like this when some editor or potential reader asks you "Hey, what's this book about?"
This is my favorite part:
"Do what I tell you, dear aspirant and you might even be rewarded with a university position in poetry, even though you've never published a poem that anyone especially likes or remembers. "
Saturday, March 19, 2005
When I start numbering my arguments, you know I'm riled up:
1) Who the fuck caters their work to markets rather than finding markets that fit their work?
2)"Focused on our art"--I have always been focused on the art, but art is, if you want an audience, also a matter of business. Whether it's submitting work or just posting it somewhere yourself--it's still business, making a name, gaining respect. (If those are the things you want) If it's all art for art's sake I'd write my poems and thrown them in the fucking trash.
3)At least one of the speakers is making quite a name for himself in the local, if not the national scene...and no wonder since he has a book published by a well-known press, an Iowa/Harvard education, and a prestigious residency at the University of Chicago and probably had most things handed to him on a platter. (I'm saying this knowing that he likely deserves it, his book being rather good, but still...) The other, incidently his girlfriend, has a book recently out, and beyond the fact that she teaches here, I've never heard of her, met her, or seen her work. But somehow there are slightly elitest undertones to all this advice..the HAVES telling the HAVE NOTS what to do, smugly sitting on their successes....
4)If this is all true, I'd be really screwed, having been submitting on and off since I was 19, publishing quite a bit in the last five years or so, entering and winning contests, publishing chapbooks, putting together book manuscripts. I don't think any of this has interfered with my "art" but has actually deepened my involvement and kept me at it so vigorously.
5)Again, here it is, the ever-important MFA. I swear writing has to be the one art form where they DON't encourage you to become part of the artist/audience community until you're deemed a poet by them tapping you on the head with their magic poet-stick or whatever. No one woud tell a painter not to try and get into shows, or a pianist not to do concerts. I'm hoping this was just the opinion/bias of these two poets and not the entire dept--who actually always seem to support us submitting and entering things--at least they put announcements and fliers in our mailboxes for contests and submission calls. Arielle Greenberg even seems to encourage us pretty often to submit--but then I think she was also someone who had a gap in education between her BA and MFA and was doing alot of stuff before grad school, ie. "being a poet" long before her program deemed her one.
Friday, March 18, 2005
I'm extraordinarily distracted and disorganized the last week. I'm apt to blame my classes, but I've become an expert at time wastage via blog reading and watching music videos on the laptop when at home, which I never used to do. At least it was a good investment it seems in that regard.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Wednesday, March 16, 8 p.m.
The Bourbon Café
4768 N Lincoln Ave
featuring Dave Gecic, Esteban Colon, Lane Falcon, Larry O' Dean, Kristy Bowen, Jan Bottiglieri, Tom Roby, Charlie Newman, Carol Anderson, Kathy Kubik, Micheal Brownstein, Charlie Rossiter, Pam Miller, Pete Dederick, Lui s Pelayo, Somara Zwick, Scott DeKatch, Dina Stengel, Emilio, Jeff Wyatt, Emily Rose, Amy Stewart, Earth Body, Dan Scurek, Rachna Sundaram, Rod Reinhart, and more.....
Monday, March 14, 2005
Dusk disarrays the senses.I dream an accumulation of driftwood. I dream a red skirt. The sky ladders itself to my window, and I climb down, using only an elaborate insect manual and a yard of lace. Afterwards, the rain bleaches the houses white as cat bones. There is music enough for a perilous dance, all twirls and innuendoes, but not enough to trap in a bottle. I dream in cursive. The wind leaves no trace along my body.
Friday, March 11, 2005
For years I did just fine without it. By the time I started, I had finished two chapbooks (The Archaeologist's Daughter and Bloody Mary), had even had one accepted by a press besides my own, and was quite close to finishing a book manuscript--(almanac). I already had my MA in Lit, no longer had any plans to go for my PhD., or to teach. I was just writing steadily onward, publishing alot--mostly online--and even coming close in a few chapbook competitions and contests. And then I find out CC is going to offer a grad poetry program, and sucker for punishment I am, I decided to apply, since I'm here anyway and all. And I can't argue that I'm not getting anything from it--the craft classes have been great, spawning new projects and pushing me in new directions. But are my MFA studies absolutely necessary to succeed--I doubt it. It actually seemed more people liked my poems before I started the program. And certainly, we know the whole workshopping thing isn't really working out. I rarely put the MFA thing in my bio, even, since it's only a small fraction of my life as a writer.
The posting also brings up connections, an idea which makes me nauseous. I can't say I have, or really WANT to make connections that way, outside of interacting with my fellow students (and even that at a minimum), I'm not much for faculty and visiting poet sucking-up. I know so much of this whole poetry career thing depends on that, and it seems sort of wrong somehow. For so long, I was completely cut off from other writers, I'd say until about four years ago, and hate to think, that had my work been any good then (which it really wasn't that much anyway, but still,) that I'd have been unable to stand a chance simply because of that factor.
grr...I suppose there are some MFA poets (and certainly, thank god, not all) have to convince themselves that their degree gives them some corner on the poetry market or otherwise they have to admit that with enough reading and writing, anyone with half a brain,a smidge of talent, and a drive to make something of it, can do it...
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
These Wednesdays with my entire day free are very nice though. I slept twelve hours last night and got up to work on some poems and a couple other projects,which gives me a pause before the three day stetch until I have another day off...
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Even the wind chimes caused dizziness;
the ache of paper lanterns rotting
from the acacias. Perhaps the L
in my name makes you sad,
evokes a film where a woman
waves from a train. Or how
this horizon wants to be a hymn.
If you listen, you can
hear the holes in the alphabet,
the sounds lit by the lamps
of our bones. Perhaps
with this page I could fashion
a boat or a very convincing window.
A dress made entirely of vowels.
continuously, the paper dolls
in their mechanical operetta.
My pockets fill with voluptuous
words like aplomb and orangeade.
I ask for burnt and you give me wing,
and so we go on like this, sistered like
cells to the dark openings, the bracelet
of light marking the horizon. A trap
door comes loose and the bed falls
through three floors of aquariums,
all kissing fish and fiberglass plants.
I ask for umbrella and you give me feather.
Sentences become sodden, uninhabitable.
Monday, March 07, 2005
pg 78 caught when telling a lie, her teeth began to crumble into her cupped palm
pg 89 in an atlas roughly the size of a table, his teeth gleamed in the lamplight
pg 90 those which use their teeth as a means of attack or defense
pg 99 forgotten the buckets, milk-heavy, the day’s teeth already into her
pg 104 the space behind her teeth and tongue purpling and erratic
pg 107 when bending at the waist, the movement of the comb’s teeth along the scalp incites a certain frisson
pg 110 hard toothlike projection from the beak of embryonic birds, assists in hatching, later falls off
pg 112 the top of the backbone and already in the teeth, the fever spreads to the ears
pg 130 exhibited a certain sweet tooth and affinity for lemon cake
pg 145 loss of teeth, could denote a deprivation of vitamins, but may signify loss of love. Large teeth indicate dishonesty or wordiness.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Oddly this seems only to extend to writers. When I was paying, the clerk told me that I might be interested in the fact that Tori Amos would be signing things in the Borders on Michigan avenue at some point. I wasn't the least bit interested, but I was tempted to tell him, when he commented on the Plath books, that if she were going to be signing, I'd be first in line. And while I love Tori Amos's music, and have ever since I heard Little Earthquakes, I'm not really very interested in the artist herself. I tend to look at musicians much as I tend to look at actors, not as celebrities, but as instruments moved around in front of the camera to tell a story, or in this case, the person that creates a finished product. I don't care much about them beyond that..
Friday, March 04, 2005
On every continent, obscurity invents mystery. Chewing gum may help. A petticoat beneath a black skirt may mend the interstices between syllables. Be prepared.
For every vaulted ceiling, or tattered calendar, draw an x across your forearm. Do not long to steal the chandelier or place oranges at the foot of St. Cecelia.
On Saturdays, wash your lingere in white, scentless soap.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Have yet to delve into the delectable looking new issues of Lily and Stirring, which have so many xanga dwellers included, but plan to shortly. "Sugar", which is in this months Lily is an older piece, included in Bloody Mary, and revised with the ending chopped off, re-attached, and then chopped off again since then at the advice of Lily editors. That poem has had so many different endings it's ridiculous.
Tomorrow, I have the day off until the workshop class in the evening, and I guess we'll have to see how that goes this time. On other fronts, I've finally finished the last errata poem, after shuffling the damn thing in my "In Progress" file for over a month to work on new stuff, but I'm glad I can finally put the thing aside and mark it as done in all my damn infernal lists.