Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Lets say a woman’s heart
is like a wind-up bird.
The conservatory filled
with oranges and the cellar
disordered, unstable
with the pull of thieves

gathering outside the windows.
I’ve invented this: the panic,
copper tongued and shaken.
I’m dizzied, dulcet.
A thin layer of graphite
blooming beneath my skin.

And here, my slight of hand,
my tour de force,
skirts come all undone
and tapping out code beneath
the dressing table. I am
impossibly lovely, impossibly
fixed against the horizon.
Any attempt at flight
ruining all the furniture.

Monday, February 27, 2006

lust sonnet #2

Soon, I’m all about wanting the men
with their sleeves rolled just so.
The shoebox in their linen
closet stuffed with ghosts
and this penchant for fucking
on kitchen floors. Now I’m bourbon
tongued, bedded, flicking
my index finger against the ribbon
I’ve knotted and tied to the bed frame.
I can struggle if you want, can open
my body like a seam, my name
a note taut and hectic as telephone
wire. I could sidle up purring against
your thigh, error in the bend of my wrist.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

After seeing this smug jerk-off on the news this morning, I am reminded of this film...

coming this month from
dancing girl press

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I'm having one of those weeks where I feel the po-biz world is rather nasty--general skeeziness, back-stabbing, back-scratching, cronyism, cliquishness, etc. I might crawl under a rock. Everywhere I look, every overheard conversation, every thing looks shady and suspicious, and I'm torn between wanting to be a part of it and wanting to just run away.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

once, when I was six

This was my favorite ever garage-sale-find dress. My mother actually had to hide it to keep me from wearing it to school, claiming it was too short. You can't tell, but it was made from the most delightful polyester...I could barely get its zipper up it was so tight...

Monday, February 20, 2006

lust sonnet #1

Mid-winter and I’m a twisted ankle,
a barometric ache. How my hands shake
over your spine, the broken line I’ve raked
slow down the inside of your arm. I hate
how even the rain has birds in it now,
the curtain of wings pounding the windows.
Downspouts littered with feathers and the prowl
of cats, blue black, along the unlit rows
of houses with their backs to us. The dawn
still loves me, still skims its fingers along
the emptied beds, the sad dresses that fall
over bedroom doors, their dark sleeves gone wrong,
gone tangled and unruly in their want.
Outside, every bird with rain in its throat.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

no, after you

This is interesting. . I've never really noticed that there was a struggle for who gets to read second--but maybe I'm just oblivious (or perhaps it's not so blatant in the low-key midwest). Of course I tend to volunteer to go first or early on in big groups because then, having once read, I can actually sit back and enjoy the other people without having the running monologue going through my head that says "I'm going to fuck-up or trip. I'm going to fuck up or trip." I love giving readings but there's always serious anxiety before I'm up there doing it. Well, and when it comes to some readings, in bar-like settings, I'm still pretty sober (the only cure to the above) early in the evening and less likely to bungle words. I agree it's certainly better to read while your audience is still fresh and people are still apt to pay attention and not be scooting for the door. The only reading I've hosted myself, I asked, and since either of the two seemed to care, I determined they'd go alphabetically. Nobody seemed out of joint about it. This seems like a fair way to do it. But I've only done a couple readings with only two participants, ususally three or four more like it. Maybe it's that whole opening act stigma, who knows?

Meanwhile, otherwise it is damned frigid here. It couldn't be 8 below today when I didn't have to get out of bed and go to work, could it? It's still too chilly in the apartment--old radiators + lots of big windows + tightass management company = me freezing my ass off. I guess I can't complain since winter's been rather mild this year after a bad December. Today, cleaning and writing my sonnet for forms class, maybe a little reading under my comfy down comforter, the only place in the apartment that's bearable when you're sitting still.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

(Hopefully, after my AMC post, this will make me seem all smart and stuff...or maybe not...)

I've been reading Poetic Culture again, where Beach is talking about the widely varying careers of two varying poets. While I actually like Hejinian somewhat, I for some reason thought Dobyns was solely a novelist due to a poor choice in the B&N bargain bin a few years ago..Apparently, he's a poet and not a very good one. Since I had to write them up for class, here are some vague thoughts on how I see my work fitting into the continuum of super innovativeness and mainstream vanillaness.

I am in a very strange position of being someone whose work, up until the last couple of years would probably have been leaning toward the Dobyns side of things, but whose current work is moving further toward the Hejinian . A number of things determine this. Until the last three years or so, my exposure to contemporary poetry was very much of the “official verse culture” variety, having gleaned a lot of it through things like the Poulin anthology and other Norton-like books. My poetry gods and goddesses began with the confessionalism of Plath and Sexton and continued through to Strand, Gluck, Forche, Dove, and Rich. My work reflected this, pretty straightforward, sometimes lyrical, occasionally narrative. When I began the MFA program, suddenly I was exposed to all sorts of things I’d never really encountered before, having not really gotten much poetry beyond typical English department fare—most of it pre- or early 20th century. Contemporary poetry, if we covered it at all, tended to end around the mid-seventies. Suddenly, all these other poetic models were cropping up, some of which I liked (like Imagists, the Surrealists) some of which I didn’t (New York School, Langpo). I became much more aware of what was possible, and my work began to reflect that.

Unlike what I see with a lot of Langpo and its spawn, I still think language “means,”—at least something, and that a poem ought to have some internal logic, even if that logic doesn’t always conform to what’s outside of it. I do agree that the word and the thing are not always necessarily aligned, but there’s a tension in that which works well no matter which camp you fall into. I also think that the referential and associative quality of language should somehow co-exist with being challenging and interesting—different from everyday speech yet still the same somehow. I want something recognizable and accessible to draw me in, but also things to be just a little bit skewed and unexpected, perhaps in image, or logic, or syntax. And I want a certain tightness, preciseness, even occasionally density. So much of what I see, especially in more mainstream journals is too loose, too prose-like, too sloppy. Most of it the same first person—sensory experience-followed by some sort of predictable epiphany. And yet I look at a number of journals with a more innovative bent and I’m often lost as how to enter the poems, lost as to what sort of terms to apply to them. And yet I don’t want to avoid challenging language. But I don’t want difficulty for difficulty’s sake either.

My process in writing is probably far more innovative than its end result. I tend to use a collage techniques a lot (not always necessarily the found aspect, but more the layering), sometimes also incorporating other text, or in dialogue with other texts. Formally, I probably fall more on the Dobyn’s side, typically writing in stanzas, in poems about a half a page to a page in length, and yet my poems tend have more impact as longer projects than they do just on their own--like fragments that often form a whole. They tend toward more or less everyday language, but that language has increasingly become more and more fractured, denying that unified and consistent voice.

I’m probably most often stuck right in the middle of the continuum, some of my pieces moving a little bit more left, some a bit more to the right. So the contemporary poetry scene tends to frustrate me endlessly. I see it all the time, one side completely dismissing the other as either indecipherable on one side or predictable mainstream blandness on the other. Granted both are right on some counts (I’m thinking Bruce Andrews nonsense on one side and Billy Collins vanilla on the other.) But there’s a whole spectrum in between that’s ignored when people start dividing into camps.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Am I totally losing intellectual points by admitting that for the last week and a half I've totally been absorbed with watching All My Children?

I say this knowing fully I hate it when forms of entertainment consumed predominantly by women are automatically deemed as inferior (my feminist slip is showing). But soaps are so overwrought and bad. And yet so often they're touted, like romance novels, as mindless entertainment for home-bound housewives. Not like there isn't mindless entertainment for men that's just as banal... Regardless, I usually abhor daytime tv--it's "my baby's daddy" talk shows, it's insipid gameshows, and don't even get me started on Oprah. I'm not even particularly fond of television in general--though I do have a fondness for HGTV. I'll watch The Daily Show sometimes, and South Park (which little sis has on if she's around), can occasionally get sucked into a Law & Order episode. but other than that, the t.v's on but it's just background noise. Really, since I work nights a good part of the year, I'm not home for much of it. There's no recording anything since I lost the VCR remote either. (Nor could I probably find a blank tape.) I used to watch Buffy religiously when it was on, and I would watch Lost, if I were home, but luckily I have the DVD's.

Every summer when I was a teenager, I'd spend a good part of the afternoon, after sleeping until noon or so, watching soaps, the ones on NBC that my mother had been addicted to until she went back to work when I was 13--first Day of Our Lives, then Another World, then the even trashier eighties incarnation, Santa Barbara, which was always smuttier than the others. All afternoon, lounging in front of the tv, and then heading out to the pool for the rest of the day, until dark, then coming in, staying up reading trashy novels until 2 am when I'd finally go to bed...(damn I wish I was fourteen again) But I'd be riveted the entire summer, but then stop watching in September when school started and be easily able to pick back up the next June. I think they're designed that way. I'd never watched All My Children until the last couple of years. I use my tv alarm to wake me up around 10 or so when I'm going into work at 2 and I usually have the ABC news at 11 on while I'm getting ready. AMC is on at noon right afterwards. I usually just leave the tv on until I'm walking out the door. At first I'd be showering, getting dressed, in the other room checking my e-mail, and occasionally found myself pausing in the bedroom, sitting down on the bed and watching--poor acting, terrible writing, and yet I was drawn in. It usually might last only a couple of days, a certain plot point. I'd forget about it the months in the summer when I work earlier hours. But then watch it again only to get sucked back in as I'd never left. There's this whole Mardi Gras Ball explosion thing going on now, so it's extra engrossing, people being pulled from the wreckage all all sorts of related drama. I'm hooked for the next week or so anyway..even if it means I'm leaving at the last possible minute in order not to be late for work.

Tonight, another Art of the Library opening which has some collages like the one above in it. You will know them by their proximity to the bathroom on the 2nd floor. Once again, it seems staff members and student workers (around whom the whole program was initially concieved--as a way to reveal some of the creative doings going on among us) are continually shafted out of prime 3rd floor more gallery-like space to other floors, replaced by college faculty and other more important people-"politics" I'm told. "politics" means whoever makes the most stink, has the most clout, and does the most bitching gets what they want. *sigh* I'm probably just being petty. But things happen again and again over the course of a couple years, and you've been told, even when just jokingly mentioning the trend --not complaining--that it's "politics." basically "other people are far more important than you."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

new poem

in The Melic Review's final issue...(sure it takes me this long after four years of submitting at least once a year to get in and now there won't be any more issues.) An awesome round up though, as always, including faves like Taylor Graham, Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, and Christopher Barnes. I also particularly the Kirsten Kaschock poem. Will have to check out her book, Unfathoms.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

february free-for-all

I've just sold the last copy of belladonna I had for sale...but I have like a million copies of The Archaeologist's Daughter languishing both at home and beneath my desk at work. So, for the next few weeks, they're free for the taking. Just shoot me an e-mail at wickedpen74 (at) lycos.com to get your very own. Postage included. (I'm really tired of kicking the damn box whenever I cross my legs).

This is the first chapook mss. I ever put together back in 2002 and it was published by Moon Journal Press, a cool feminist press out in the burbs, just last year..There are poems about about history, mythology, literature, and art--Rapunzel to Columbus, Gold Rush Brides to Pompeii. And it has a snazzy pink cover.

An interesting discussion today in the lit class. We're reading Beach's Poetic Culture, which this week was talking about the academic monopoly on poetry, and someone had brought up how Columbia, as a school with both a BFA and an MFA in poetry fits into the equation. A couple grad students brought up how they feel, especially now with that thesis looming, they're being pushed constantly toward publication, some of them begrudgingly.

I hesitated in class over what to say about my own experience. On one hand, here I am obviously publishing and always seeking publication, and yet I don't think any of that comes from Columbia, or anything anyone at Columbia has or hasn't said to me about when or whether I should publish. We all occasionally get occasional info on contests and submissions calls from the department, but I don't think that's a pushy thing but more like just letting us know. In my experience I came into the program already imbued with that drive, having already started to publish online and in smaller local stuff. But then I was always submitting, even when my work was awful, because that's what I thought writers did. Ever since I was nineteen, I think in part inspired by Plath's frenetic journals and letters (which I was reading about then for the first time- ever the patron saint of anxious young women poets), to make conscious efforts toward being a writer. Never mind it was another 5 years before anything was worth publishing, but I did it anyway.

And kind of all on my own..there were years as an undergrad and grad student when no one saw the poems but me and the editors I submitted them to. (thank god) In the eyes of my professors, I was purely a gradate literature student...they didn't know anything about the writing that went on the rest of the time. A couple of undergrad instructors knew I made vague gestures toward writing, but I was predominantly a lit student, not a writing one (at one time, a distinction very sharp at RC). I was almost embarassed by it in that context. I thought it impeded me somehow as a scholar, that I wanted to spend all my time writing poems and not doing research or writing criticim. (though it's been done, but I didn't think I was capable of it) It the end it was my undoing.

After a while, the poems were getting better, and because I couldn't afford all those SASEs, and they seemed more open to emerging poets, I started publishing in electronic journals--quite alot. After awhile it became less about proving myself as a poet and more about just finding an audience for the work. I was still writing on my own then, four or so years ago, starting to master little successes, becoming more involved locally in readings and such, getting my first chapbook together and getting it accepted.

My reasons for entering the program were muddy. On one hand I didn't want to regret not taking advantage, not getting that terminal degree, just in case it never came in handy--if I wanted to teach later on, even if not now. And really just because I thought it might make me better, which no doubt it has. And a little because it was THERE, and convenient and cheap. And I'm just now ready to admit it, but I was damned tired of people-my family, the people at work, regarding me as some hobbyist. "Oh you write poems, how precious. My niece paints ponies. " sort of stuff. I felt (wrongly, obviously) that an MFA would make me legitimate in some way I wasn't. Peer pressure, no doubt.

So I came in already part of that poet culture of submission and rejection. Of contests and applications. I'd already put the intial version of the fever almanac (then known as just almanac) together and was entering it in contests. It was actually a little surprising how they didn't push publication at Columbia, given the horror stories I'd already heard regarding other programs. Almost a little refreshing, how it wasn't all geared toward making publishable work, but making good work (of course each member of the faculty has differing opinions on what that is--as do the students.)And again, even "publishable" is relative in so many ways. If had someone throwing that at me now, telling me what is publishable and what is not, I'd certainly have dropped out long ago.

I think "publishable" brings "marketable" into the equation. Which again is sort of relative depending on who you talk to. Given certain minimum standards obviously.. but then again maybe not with some books I've seen. If we write this book, this body of work, is it marketable in the publishing world? And is that the basis on what it should be judged in degreeing the MFA? Brilliant does not equal marketable, not always, maybe not even most of the time.

But then I can't just dismiss the reality of publication altogether. I don't think it should be completely ignored if the students are then expected to go out--especially if they're remaining in academia--and fend without some eye toward building an audience for their work, however small. Since poetry needs readers, that publication, however it comes about is a necessary evil. Though thank god now days the poetry world as a whole is much less insular and homogenized as it once was--indie presses, journals all over the place, micro publishers, etc. It's certainly easier to beome part of the business of poetry than it might have been even 15 years ago. And without sacrificing the integrity of your work. I do, however, bristle at someone telling me I should publish in X journal or with Y press, because that equals being a "legitimate poet."

Monday, February 13, 2006

I was organizing some stuff on the shelves at home the other day and moving a whole rather large section of reference books--stuff like mythology books, Benet's Readers Encyclopdia, A Writers Thesaurus,and the Encyclopdia of Word an Phrase Origins, etc--
when I came to the stunning realization that I haven't actually cracked any of them open in at least a year--not since I got my laptop. I mean, I work in a library for god's sake, so it's not like I don't have a whole 5 floors at my fingers, but before, my only access to a computer was at work. So if I suddenly needed to know the name of some Greek goddess, or the origin of the word "odd," I had to truck on over to my nifty reference shelf and look it up.

In the library, the bibliographic librarians/instructors are very quick to warn students about the dangers of relying solely on google. Which they're right, partially, in that it's difficult to find schlarly information, and other research archival stuff via that channel, but hell, you certainly can find just about anything else. And basically most of our databases are available with a password to folks from home--full text sometimes. We always joke about librarians being obsolete and replaced by computers one day...but there may be a little truth there...at least when it come to how the role is defined traditionally.

Now I'm old enough to remember the pre-windows world, when computers for your average user could be used for word processing and spreadsheets and not much else. Maybe some games. I don't remember how anyone knew anything at all.

On a given day, I consult google (or yahoo) a million times a day for things as basic as directions to where I'm going, take-out/delivery menus, random factoids. Not to mention blogs and e-mail. Plus my writerly self is always looking up the work of poets I've heard of, submission guidelines, and other poetry stuff. I needed info on ballads last week, and where did I go, not the books on form, but the web. Movie times. Apartment hunting. Hell, I buy my groceries online. What did we do before-hand for all those little things we look up? Call the local librarian every five minutes at two a.m. for the scientific name for bluestem? Just give up if we didn't know the answer? Without the google maps and transitchicago.com I'd never go anywhere in the city that wasn't in the direct path between work and home.
I've come to realize that my personal favorite pieces among my work are oddly the ones that I can't get published anywhere to save my life. Case in point, one particular poem is certainly one of the best poems in the fever almanac, is possibly one of the best I've written, and has been rejected from everywhere I've sent it over the last year and a half. Sure, some places take two out of three and send it back to me. Or reject it outright, one even after placing a call out for submissions that says they're desperate for good poems or the next issue won't happen. Not only that, but it's one of the last poems in the manuscript that remains unpublished anywhere. And it's the final poem in the book, so I'm putting alot of pressure on it. And yet, it's not getting any action at all. Meanwhile, other, certainly lesser poems have been published. Why not this one? I've tried to turn a critical eye toward it, and there's nothing wrong with it far as I can see. I've sent the poor thing out again, but if she comes back again, I just don't know...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

ahh..the first day alone and to myself in a few weeks...not fair that it doesn't happen enough. I've been lamenting my lack of privacy in the world at large--how I'm never alone--not at work, not on the way to and from work, not in the city, ever--except when I'm home and usually not there either. I feel like I'm in the fishbowl sometimes, no privacy to even pull up my socks or cry, without eyes on me.

I spent the day working on a poem for the forms class--invented form this week--and I'm using the poem as footnote to itself or whatever--inspired by Jenny Boully's The Body. It was sort of snowing earlier, and I've been sitting here all afternoon into evening eating chocolate and leftover angelhair from two nights ago and trying to enjoy the slowness.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I just happened across Nick Flynn's website, and while I like his books very much, what the hell sort of poet has an agent and a publicist? Imagine: "No dammit, my client demands three--not just two--contributor's copies or the deal's off." I'm guessing that might have more to do with the memoir perhaps than his poems...at least I hope so...



Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Three weeks into the semester and I'm still not crazy yet. But I'm tense, which has made the back of my neck and shoulders achy and tight. And it's gotten colder after a rather mild January so I'm hating that. I've been having plane crash dreams again (all different, but three nights in a row), and one with a church and slaughtered piglets lined up along the roadside and blood shaking itself from the trees. I keep going and going, one week running into the next and it never stops. I'm just tired I think, but I woke up in one of those hopeless funks today.

On the publishing front, I'm in the final stages of laying out the next dgp chap, which I should be able to get to the author for proofing by early next week. And in book news, I just sent off the final version of the fever almanac to Ghost Road. I'm impatient for next November. I'm impatient at least for spring.

Monday, February 06, 2006

How in the hell did I miss this?

Not only the was the book from the seventies completely off my radar but the recent movie as well... I have spent at least a portion of every summer in Black River Falls, WI since birth (I was a mere two months old on my first camping trip, according to my mother.) First it was campgrounds, then cabins, then hotels. My father was actually born there. My grandparents (my paternal grandfather and his 2nd wife) lived there until they died a few years ago. Generations of Bowens are littered throughout the area. Everyone on my Dad's side makes one pilgrimage per year (at least) to Hatfield population 100, winter, 1000 summer, which is a few miles away. It's the home to most of my childhood and adolecent outdoor summer memories. Even this summer we spent a weekend in August at the Arrowhead, and there's a restuarant on the road to Hatfield that has the most heavenly battered shrimp I've ever tasted. Whenever I say I'm going to Wisconsin, that's where I'm going.

So imagine my surprise when doing a little research on the Midwestern gothic tradition, to find out the existence of a strange little book of weird and wacky things, plagues of madness, murder, oddness right there in good old Black River Falls. It was apparently imspired by an archive of photographs from a local photographer and newspaper clippings from the 1890's. We had three copies upstairs, so it's not some strange, unknown out of print thing. How have i not come across it before?

It's funny, but when I was working on the beginnings of the novel that has become mydulcetproject, that was exactly my setting...a strange little summer town isolated in the wilds of Wisconsin, those endless rows of white pines that are so dark even hours before sunset. Those trailers and broken down shacks that emerge from the rolling hills and forests suddenly.

Alot of it is still like that, surrounded by state forest, a few Indian reservations (and now a casino and a walmart). Years ago it was still very small town --a place where I endured the most mundane 1989 4th of July parade/fair featuring tractors, farmers daughters, and livestock. The main stretch, which twenty years ago was sort of run-down with empty storefronts, has had a boom of antique stores and restaurants since the casino brought more tourists a, plus there's a huge atv and snowmobile crowd each year for the surrounding trails. On the outskirts a number of hotels and campgrounds.

It's interesting how often poems take place there. All the fire poems are set there. When I was fourteen and on our way to Black River we got caught in the middle of this huge fire that burned over several counties which had started in a rest-stop somehow. 1988 is known for being a bad drought year, and it was only one of several that burned in the state that summer. They were just about to close the road, and we were one of the last cars to get through, but the fire was burning on one side of the highway and was already jumping to the trees in between the lanes. The firemen were working to keep it back, but it did in fact later jump the highway and burned for another two days. We made it through, but it was slow going and when we were about ten miles away in Mauston, where our tire went flat because of the rapid heating and cooling it had endured. It was probably more dangerous a situation than I realized at the time. We did manage to get a new tire and were on our way to our rented cabin no harm done, but by the time we traveled back through a weak later everything was charred and decimated. It was odd every year to watch it slowly growing back every year, and finally to not be able to tell anymore where that spot is.

Black River itself, a few years later, was hit by a massive flood in 1993--not as devastating as the Misssipi floods that year, but half of downtown was under water...it made the national news after part of the damn broke. In Hatfield, which was hit worse and on lower land, I remember seeing pictures of the roller rink and the corner store up to their roofs in water.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

the ballad

Ugh. Feels like Cinderella's stepsisters trying to squeeze into that tiny glass shoe. Everytime I re-arranged one thing, I'd have to go back and retool the whole thing. It was hard trying to make it rhyme, keep the requisite number of stresses and syllables per line, but NOT make it sound like a dirty limerick. Wound up the stresses are off, but I'm willing to let it go..I think it was the shorter 2 and 4 lines that gave me the most trouble, not really the rhyme so much, but trying to get what I needed to say into that claustrophobic little line. I'd been thinking of writing a Bonnie and Clyde poem for a few months now, but just hadn't gotten to it yet. And of course, what subject better fits a ballad, especially since Bonnie herself wrote one.

down together

Some day they’ll go down together
And they’ll bury them side by side
To few it’ll be grief, to the law a relief
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.

--"The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde"

Her mama says women are weak,
sin woven into their drawers,
sewn damn straight in the cotton seams
of dresses. Now, the rows

of laundry smell like damnation,
closets of back road motels,
their threadbare blue flowered bedspreads.
Moonshined and drunk as hell,

he lines the rifles up like dolls
shines them to a silver.
Soon, she’s swallowing bullets whole
the pearl handled revolver

beneath the pillow. Crazy hot
for the engine’s mean thrust.
She’ll wait in the Ford in the parking lot
the windshield thick with dust

and the devil still in her yellow hair.
In the space beneath her tongue.
Nothing is quite as pretty, he says,
as a pretty girl holding a gun.