12.31.2004

Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel is a fucking genius.

I just read her kinetic poems over at No Tell Motel and I'm blown away. I especially love the poem on the hamster wheel (all of us who've worked in academia know this torture) and the pinwheel sestina that can be read beginning at any stanza. The poems are beautiful and compelling in their own right, which prevents them from descending into gimmick. That sestina, man. Wow.

Denise Duhamel, I *heart* you.

Suzanne & A.D.

And What Do You Get

Excise the er from exercise. Or from
example, take the ex out: now it's bigger;
to be lonely, take the amp out
and replace it with an i, Take am or me
away from name
and suddenly there's not
much left, the name's one of the many names

for naught. Eleven tons of hidden work
are always lurking inside words. In English or
analysis (the cons turned pro, among the -fessions)
take in out
of mind and you've

go someone who delivers you a bill.
Take double you from anybody's will
a skew, a skid—and all
is terrifying—
take the the from

therapist, split accent with an id

                    Heather McHugh

12.27.2004

Search Me

The latest and greatest searches that inspired folks to arrive at Therapist with a Dream Inside:

Thank you therapist poems
Inside euphoria
AIDS poetry
Dream therapist
I meant to suicide
Inside digestion
Poem physical therapist.

12.23.2004

The Poetics of Design, Part 4: TEXTURE & RHYTHM

TEXTURE, in terms of design, is signified through touch. But poetry has textures as well—language itself has a texture. English language involves several linguistic textures. Words of Anglo-Saxon origin create our hardest, roughest sounds—hard stops, labials, etc. Latinate words have a softer texture; they occupy more linguistic space and involve more intricate sounds. Long vowel sounds have a more luxurious texture than short vowel sounds, and special letter combinations like “sh,” “th,” and “ph” have softer texture than “ch,” “st,” and “gl.” The way a poem sounds in terms of texture is a significant source of meaning for the poet and listener because, in some ways, texture is the source of the emotional, non-definitional meaning of words. The difference between SHUT UP and BE QUIET.

RHYTHM is the last design principle relating in this discussion, and is something probably obvious to all poets: the spoken rhythms of language, which so often lend themselves to pattern, comprise rhythm.

12.19.2004

The No Tell Motel

Kirsten Kaschock's poems over at No Tell Motel this past week are really wonderful and breathtaking and strange and beautiful.

12.17.2004

The Poetics of Design, Part 3: MOTION & PATTERN

MOTION is the design principle that describes a relationship with time. Poetry cannot exist without an understanding and awareness of time. Language requires time to create meaning; according to Ferdinand de Saussure, language ONLY creates meaning because it occurs over time and involves a constantly-changing relationship with the terms before and the terms after.

In design terms, there are two types of motion: literal motion and compositional motion. Literal motion suggests that an object is capable of motion—that its state may, over time, come to occupy multiple spaces. Compositional motion describes the perception of movement by a viewer (or listener or reader)

Since time and space are inextricably linked, a poem in motion moves both literally (from the first word to the last word) and compositionally (through the air or down the page). All acts of perception require time in order to function. This creates a certain commonality between the ear and the ear.

"Lines can be combined with other lines to create textures and patterns." The next design element to be considered is PATTERN, the underlying structure that organizes surfaces or structures in a consistent, regular manner. This is, I think, what most poets and readers discuss and recognize in the poetic term “Form”—whether a poem has a discernable meter or rhyme scheme, falls into a repetitive system such as the sestina or villanelle, or works with internal slant or near rhyme.

Pattern is the ongoing recognition of familiarity that, when recognized, creates a line between point A (the initial occurrence) and point B (the repeated occurrence). Pattern is a system because it creates an overarching structure of meaning between multiple elements within a poem. Unlike other principles of design, pattern creates meaning not by signifying difference, but by signifying likeness or unity.

12.15.2004

The Poetics of Design, part 2: FORM

Part 2 in a serialized discussion.

FORM
As I mentioned when this discussion began, the FORM of a poem is, in its basest sense, the space a poem occupies. Because, like film, poetry is a time-elapsed art and a visual art, the space a poem takes is mutable. We most often conceive of poetic form in its visual sense: the way a poem looks on the page, the length of its lines as perceived as a collective whole, whether or not lines begin with capital letters, where stanza breaks fall or do not fall, etc.

The visual form of the poem has visual weight and is only perceptable because it is the opposite of the space it occupies: it is not white space. Therefore, a poem has to forms: a positive form (in which the text appears as an occupant of space) and a negative space (all areas of a given page which are NOT text, which surround the text).

Obviously, the privileging of visual form over all other elements of the poem is taken to the extreme by concrete poetry, poetry which creates significant meaning through its form, meaning which complicates, illustrates, or expands on the meaning of the text. Poets signify an understanding of form when they play with the space a poem’s text occupies on the page and inextricably links the way a poem looks to the principles of design.

A poem when read also occupies space. The sound a poem makes disrupts the “blank page” on which it appears: it disrupts silence. The spoken sounds of words, elapsing over time as they must in order to create meaning, fill silence. And, like visual form, aural forms of poetry involve a sort of negative space. From the smallest perspective, the pauses between words occupy a negative poetic space—it is actually only by virtue of that negative space existing that any spoken meaning can occur. Like the visual negative space that surrounds, or creates, the readable text, the tension between silence and speech is the cornerstone to its aural form.

12.13.2004

The Poetics of Design

PART ONE IN AN ONGOING, SERIALIZED DISCUSSION


FIRST
Form in poetry is an interesting concept, but it becomes a little too vague a term when opposed with the vocabulary of design. Everything in the world has form—form is one of the most basic organic (and inorganic, depending on the situation) elements. To recognize a form is to recognize an outline of something—in the vaguest terms, its shape or shadow. Form does not sufficiently account for the intricacies of what goes into the making of a poem. These nuances are better served by DESIGN; every constructed element of a poem takes into account an element of design.

A poem is a made thing.

LINE
The most basic design element of the poem is the LINE. Graphically, a line "is a mark made by a moving point and having psychological impact according to its direction, weight, and the variations in its direction and weight. It can act as as a symbolic language, or it can communicate emotion through its character and direction."

But the line in poetry may not be so different. In basic terms, the line begins somewhere on the page, ends somewhere on the page, and consists of a variable number of points (words) between. The line is the motion of the poem on the page—and for some poets, a measure of breath, rhythm, meter, or other standardized measurement. Because the poetic line consists of points and transpires over distance (where "distance" consists of length or time), it is a design element of the poem, both visually and aurally. And every poet conceives of line differently, encapsulating in their own understanding of a design for their poem.

Inertia

I recently—and suddenly—went from having three jobs to just one.

For teaching, I need to finish calculating my grades, but that's it. I have one other online course I'm teaching at another institution that's ongoing.

But I guess the big news is that Friday was my last day of working sales at Gap.

I've been working for Gap since just before I started my teaching assistantship, about a year and a half. Six months ago I transferred from my store's Gap location to the babyGap store, which I ended up enjoying 1,000 times more because babies are actually less high maintenance than most adult shoppers. The strangest phenomenon: suddenly, it was no longer my fault when the size 8 woman stuffing herself into the size 2 lost consciousness because she couldn't breathe.

Anyway, I'm trying to stay on at Gap in a non-sales capacity, but haven't heard anything definite about it. I'm pretty damn hooked on that discount.

And next week I'm starting my full-time, post-MFA job.

It's a crazy world, folks.

12.11.2004

A Wholly Irresponsible List of the Top Ten Films of 2004

I was going to do another one of my annotated lists, but I got halfway through it and accidentally closed the window... So, instead, it's just titles and a brief rationale:

10. Kill Bill, Volume 2
Daryl Hannah as a one-eyed Salieri.

9. 13 Going on 30
Judy Greer: the next American comedic genius.

8. The Girl Next Door
It's not all Ecstasy: this film's got a heart (of gold, naturally).

7. Mean Girls
Best gay character of 2004.

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Innovative lighting, editing, set design, and cinematography—the best in recent memory (and not done by Baz Luhrman).

5. Dawn of the Dead
Best rebuttal to George W. Bush's axiom that shopping will save America.

4. Super Size Me
You'll never eat lunch (or breakfast or dinner) in your car again. More horrific than number 5.

3. Spiderman 2
Avoids all your typical superhero cliches by earning every plot point, and painfully.

2. The Incredibles
It's not just for kids! It's freaking hilarious!

1. Garden State
An amazing debut film that will easily be The Big Chill for our generation.

Films I haven't seen yet that I think could affect this list: Bad Education, Motorcycle Diaries, Ray, Closer, The Aviator, Kinsey, P. S., Birth.

12.09.2004

Syndication

Since Tuesday night I've watched 10 consecutive episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I'm sick. A cold ambushed me after my two weeks of non-stop defense stress.

Last night, though, I fought through the late-night haze of NyQuil just so I could watch Project Runway, which is easily the best reality show I've ever seen.

12.07.2004

Relativism, Binaries, & Question-Asking in Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

One of the major ideological bases of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the attention and service it gives to considering the extent to which good and evil overlap, coincide, and resist each other in ways that are often unnatural or especially complicated. In the major narrative arc of season 4 of the series, information-gathering becomes central to the discrepancies between the polarized forces of "good": Buffy's close-knit, emotionallly familial gang of "Scoobies" and the militant, hierarchically familial cluster of The Initiative. The nature of question-asking as a primary—yet disputed—form of information-gathering comes to a head in the mid-season episodes "The I in Team" and "Goodbye Iowa."

The Initiative is, on the surface, a highly-skilled, highly-trained specialized military force that seeks out HSTs (their acronym for demons, or "Hostile Sub-Terrainians") and detains them in a technologically advanced, covert hideout beneath the University of California—Sunnydale campus, where Buffy is a student. The Initiative is successful because it resists acts of questioning: information is delivered from a top-down perspective and only on a need-to-know basis. The Initiative distinguishes between public and private information through the designations of "classified" and "de" or "unclassified." Among the players in the Initiative, Maggie Walsh represents the brick wall of resistance to information-gathering, at least on the surface: she is the information relayer, providing the troops with only as much information as they need to complete missions. Riley Finn, her first in command, tells Buffy, "I know as much as I need to know." The act of questioning is not natural to him, having been "trained out of him."

Buffy's Scooby gang, on the other hand, communicates nearly entirely through questioning. Often, the questions delivered among the group members are sarcastic or ironic, but always questions represent a desire to gather information or further a given discourse. Much like the nature of Judaic communciation, wherein question-asking is perceived to be part of a larger "dialogue" with God, the Scoobies's questions are frequently more rhetorical. However, in terms of exploration and information-gathering, questioning is their primary mode of action. Nearly every Buffy episode contains scenes of the gang conducting "research" in Giles's collection of mystical texts; the very act of research requires a question. The Scoobies, by virtue of seeking an answer, are asking the questions.

The Initiative relies heavily on perceptive binaries in drawing conclusions. Since there is no succinct research-based dialogue occuring among them, the isolation among their members requires the built-in decision making skills a binary provides. In Initiative terms, things may fall into one of two categories: "Good" or "Evil." No term may safely reside in more than one term, nor may terms shift comfortably between the binaries.

Two examples: Spike, one of the most evil vampires on the show by any group's esteem, is captured, detained, and "neutered" (prevented from harming humans) by the Initiative, who perceive him to be Evil. Buffy's camp also considers him Evil based on his actions and his ideology, a me-first credo that encourages him to help whatever group or master may best serve his own needs (which stands in direct violation of Scooby ideology, which prizes group solidarity over individual needs). Upon his "neutering," Spike ceases to be a physical threat to any living creature beyond the demon variety. The Initiative continues to consider him Evil while Buffy and the Scoobies recognize the relativity of his Evilness: his ability to carry out and commit Evil is nearly zeroed out, and since he is not a threat, he is no longer Evil. At times, Spike does fight demons (when it suits his needs or pleasure), which, in the Scooby's ideology, makes him marginally more "Good" than "Evil," but does not disallow the simultaneity of those terms to coexist within Spike.

Secondly, Buffy herself exemplifies the Initiative's resistance to perceptual change. In "The I in Team," Buffy is allowed to enter into the community of the Initiative. At her very first Initiative debriefing, she visually stands apart from their homogeneity by wearing, in their sea of dark green camo, a melon-colored stringy halter top. "Don't worry," she assures them, "I've fought evil in this halter before." During the briefing, the Initiative officers ask, rhetorically, if there are questions. In military terms, there should never be questions because the information given should be sufficient to carry out the mission—everything provided is everything necessary. Buffy fires a series of questions about the mission: What does this demon want? Why is it here? Why can't we injure its arms? In Buffy's terms, a demon's "degree of Evilness" is relative to its ideology. The Initiative perceives Buffy's insistance on question-asking to be hostile to their own ideology, and she shifts categories from "Ally" to "Enemy," or, from "Good" to "Evil." As a result of the change, Maggie decides Buffy must be killed in order to restore the binary order to the Initiative way of life before anyone else, dangerously, considers asking questions.

When not fighting demons or plotting to kill Buffy, the members of The Initiative perform "civilian" roles on the college campus—Maggie teaches Psych 101 and Riley is her Teaching Assistant. The irony that The Initiative is located under one of the primary research-based centers of question-asking in the United States is not lost here; in fact, Maggie's teaching style is as far from the Socratic method as one can safely get. Didactic, stern, and bossy, Maggie is not the teacher who raises questions: she prevents them. In their "civilian drag," the members of The Initiative engage in a sort of pantomime of Scooby-like ideological acts. Surely, then, since they are university-based, they must be like-minded, just as Giles was so irrevocably linked to the High School that even his dismissal as Buffy's watcher couldn't physically remove him from that space. It is only under the cover of darkness or in the thickets and woods around the university that The Initiative may wear their true faces.

The polarization engaged in by The Initiative comes to a head for Riley in "Goodbye Iowa." Buffy, seeking information on a demonic threat, goes to what she perceives to the source: Willy's Place, the demon dive bar in Sunnydale. She goes to question Willy, to gather information. Riley arrives at the bar and catches her in the act of questioning, and says "I thought you were out hunting the Polgara demon, but instead you're socializing them." The binary of "Good" versus "Evil" in The Initative's ideology results in an ever-expanding string of binaries: one cannot be among demons unless one is "socializing" with them. Securing information from demons is not a valid method of information-gathering for the members of The Initiative. Furthermore, The Initiative perceives living things as "Human" or "Demon." Riley points his weapon at a frightened woman (or demon?) trying to leave the bar and says, "If I shoot you, I don't know if I'll have a corpse on my hands or one pissed-off vampire." Buffy's ideology, however, has had to make allowances for the simultaneity of these terms. Angel, her love interest from seasons 1-3, was a human/demon vampire hybrid. Although Buffy claims, "When a vampire bites you a demon takes up residence in your body," Angel is an uneasy mixture of Good and Evil: although cursed with a soul ("Good"), the demon Angelus ("Evil") is omnipresent. Willow's boyfriend Oz, a werewolf, also represents this Good/Evil split, as does Anya, the ex-vengeance demon who became trapped in the body (and emotions) of a 17-year-old girl when her "power center" was destroyed in season 3. Because The Initiative insists on dividing the world, on "categorizing" it, it divides every situation up into divisive and dangerous binaries.

The Scooby ideology prizes question-asking because it secures information from the outside world and brings it into the group, where it can be discussed, evaluated, and shared. The socialist spirit (socialist because, after all, only Giles owns the right books...) of the Scoobies prizes debate and dialogue over blind acceptance. The Initiative's ideology resists any form of non-binary thinking, perceive it, actually, as a threat akin to "Evil"—which makes, then, the very act of questioning an Evil act. If the Initiative's attitude could be summed up as "Shoot first; ask questions later," you might say the Scoobies believe something more like "Ask questions always; shoot only when appropriate."

Dropped

My name was dropped in the Verse blog's review of Colorado Review's "Writing of the New West" issue:

"The poetry is more formally varied than the fiction, featuring a little bit of everything: the portrait/narrative of Marea Gordett's "Meeting Michio Takayama the Day of the Total Eclipse of the Moon," image-driven lyrics like Charles Jensen's "Dream River" series, Joshua Kryah's meditative "Perforate," and also many more fragmented pieces which depend upon juxtaposition and the reader to make connections, like Lara Candland'ss "Longtemps" and Alice Notley's "Burrowing Soul,"� two of the best examples of this tactic by way of their taut language and momentum."

I feel pretty cool! :)

12.06.2004

Top Ten Albums of 2004

Granted, I didn't hear everything I wanted to hear (like Morrissey's new album) because I'm po', but here's a highly subjective listing of the greatest albums released in (or just before) 2004:

10. Good Charlotte, The Chronicles of Life and Death.
Along with Avril Lavigne and Matchbox 20, Good Charlotte rounds out the triumverate of bands I'm ashamed to admit I love. This album—predictable at its lowest point ("Predictable") and inspired at its peak ("I Just Wanna Live")—lets those cute little goth-punksters have more than a little pop in them after all.

9. No Doubt, The Singles 1992 - 2003.
No Doubt has long been one of my favorite bands; in 1995, they gave one of the best live shows I've ever seen. This collection of their singles ranges from the fashion-forward/backward "Hella Good" to the forgettable "Bathwater" to the curious "Trapped in a Box." Although Rock Steady and Tragic Kingdom are nearly equal in their perfection, this album offers some good tunes from every album—including "New" from the movie Go.

8. Rufus Wainwright, Want Two.
Although, for me, his eponymous debut album will always be my favorite, Want Two picks up where Want One left off, exploring themes of love and longing from a decidely queer (and operatic, and melodramatic, and wonderful) perspective. "Gay Messiah" gets special points for being my favorite song title of the new century.

7. Coheed & Cambria, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.
This curious band popped up on my radar and then vanished nearly as quickly. Based on their strange yet infectious single, "A Favor House Atlantic," I picked up the album and was pretty blown away. As the sonic offspring of a concept album and a bizarre aural landscape, Keeping Secrets is fairly uncategorizable. But successful, and hypnotic.

6. Switchfoot, The Beautiful Letdown.
Although Switchfoot's album came out deep into 2003, they didn't really splash until this year. My boyfriend has the dubious honor of having attended Bible College with members of this band when they were still reserved for Christians. What I like about Switchfoot is their unfailing optimism, their interesting lyrics, and their ability to rock out when so inclined. Although image-wise, they've been processed in the Magical Music Machine (apparently the same one the Goo Goo Dolls fell into), they've still got some cred. Ask Jesus.

5. Polyphonic Spree, Together We're Heavy.
Dubbed "so gay" by one of my ENG 101 students, the Polyphonic Spree resist easy boxing. If the entire decade of the 60s had sex with Norman Jewison's film version of Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar while meditating, this band would be the result. Amassing a seemingly endless array of members, the Spree crib together chorale, orchestra, rock, and communal values. Not to be missed.

4. Phoenix, Alphabetical.
This low-radar band's second album fuses pop, rock, and soul beats. The lead singer's lackadaisical vocals sound as though the act of singing is nearly too much effort for him, but the mellow, round tones suit the music. Lyrically interesting, Phoenix's second set also show great rock range as well.

3. Jem, Finally Woken.
Hailed by both The OC cast & producers and Dave Matthews as an artist of merit, Jem, a former producer, takes her first stab from behind the mike. The results are Dido-like, yet creepier: where Dido's musical concerns are primarily about being left, Jem actually considers mortality ("Just a Ride"), ubiquity ("They") and the horror of falling in love ("Falling For You"). The beats are the thing here--strange, almost reggae-like at times, Jem's electronic musical smorgasbord doesn't fail to be interesting.

2. Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters.
You can't say anything about Scissor Sisters without first thanking for them finally making some fucking awesome, distinctly queer music. Trash culture never had it so good, and this band pushes the envelope, going so far as to make the most deliciously inane disco remake of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." They show heart on "Mary" and "Return to Oz," get funky and sexy on "Music is the Victim" and "Lovers in the Backseat" and decry the state of modern culture on "Tits on the Radio" (as in, "Cuz you can't see tits on the radio..." And why can't you?!). They're good shit, dog.

1. Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand.
I nearly wrote this band off as a Modest Mouse clone, but I would have been sorely mistaken. Franz Ferdinand blows all their competition out of the water for album of the year. Lyrically rapturous, rhythmically diverse and avant-garde, Franz Ferdinand are easily the best new band of this decade (so far). The lead singer's voice, straight out of Cabaret, is dark, mysterious, chiding, sexual, and fun—in the same phrase. From the dubious sexuality of "Michael" to the shifting beats of "Darts of Pleasure," this album has no equal this year—and few in the history of alternative rock.

12.04.2004

On Preciousness

Last night, while graciously celebrating the glorious birth of Sarah Vap, I got into a conversation with another dinner guest, Mary Kay, about the nature of preciousness, especially how it relates to art.

I told Mary Kay that lately I was becoming worried that my poetry was seriously flirting with ideas of preciousness, which is something I'd purposefully avoided in the past. Let me put it this way: the word "tender" keeps finding its way into my new poems. I mentioned this also to Suzanne a few days ago, and she noticed something similar coming to her own work. It's a scary thing, preciousness.

Essentially, our culture ascribes value (qualitatively) to many things—precious gems and precious metals, for example. Here, the value of precious is obviously economic, describing an item's monetary value. Precious is also an emotional term, as in "Look at that room full of precious babies!" In this context, precious indicates that an item has a value. Although it isn't monetary per se, the value is still economic because it describes a relationship between that item and all other items. This is essentially what money does in our culture.

Anyway, by noting that something is precious, we immediately and irrevocably create its opposite. What is the opposite of precious? I just looked in a thesaurus, but it claims there are no antonyms for precious. But there are: whatever is the opposite of precious has no value, is something we want as far from us as possible, etc. By making something previous ("valuing" it), we simultaneously ostracize ("devalue") something else. Precious, then, only exists by its virtue of devaluing all other things.

For example, and this is the example I used in the conversation with Mary Kay last night, if someone cries, "That is the most precious baby I have ever seen in my life!" it elevates the (probably) aesthetic value of that baby above all other babies. It indicates that a hierachy exists among babies. The baby who represents the qualities furthest from the most precious baby then personifies the anti-precious baby. A polarization occurs. A polarization always creates a spectrum into which all other terms can be valued as "precious," "anti-precious," or any value in between. But because the spectrum has ends, unlike a continuum, there is a positively-valued end and a negatively-valued end.

Mary Kay raised a lot of great questions about preciousness, which kept me thinking about it all day. I think it's American nature (as opposed to human nature) to create binaries and enforce them—our political spectrum does not allow for the successful integration of a third term, we cannot conceive of gender as having more than two values, etc. We like our binaries. We pathologically need our binaries.

So, back to poetry. Precious poetry, I'd say, in its most obtrusive form, is poetry that overvalues something—typically an experience. The worst perpetrator of preciousness in poetry? GREETING CARDS. Here, the entire verse is dedicated to objectifying a life experience: birth, death, marriage. There's a sense of "treasuring" the experience. That use of "treasure" as a verb is no accident: it indicates that an experience should be recognized to have a value above other experiences. Or, flatly, to identify its preciousness.

I imagine the impulse toward preciousness in my mind to be that irresistible desire to hold something very tiny in your cupped hands.

Precious poetry is usually not very good poetry because it overestimates the value of a particular aspect of itself. Although much great poetry is molded in overvaluing experience, preciousness, I think, also indicates a deeper emotional connection to the poem, whereas most "effective" poems are able to either maintain objectivity or so deftly create subjectivity that the reader does not evaluate the experience (or other aspect) of the poem.

Sometimes I think Adrienne Rich's poetry can be precious (but I love her, for the record). I think Bishop's poetry is never precious. Glück is never precious, either. Stein plays with preciousness. Sharon Olds writes precious poems.

I'm still working this through in my head.

12.03.2004

My Defense

For nearly two weeks I've been ready to vomit at the very thought of giving my defense, which is odd for me, because I'm sort of known for reading poems at the drop of a hat, and for anyone who'll listen.

But yesterday was different, and I was panicked and crazed for most of the day. I spent the 24 hours before my defense practicing reading the poems, changing my mind entirely on what to read, cleaning my house, and then deciding that every poem in my ms sucks. How tired! How lifeless these little pieces seemed. Surely, I'm a hack and will not amount to anything. Then, I reread the entire book and decided, grudgingly, that I really had selected the best pieces to read the first time around, and, although they too sucked, they did suck a little less than the rest.

My brother & niece came down to wish me luck with lunch, and my mother, father, grandmother, and cousin also arrived for the reading. We headed over and I was nearly twitching, but you know, outside I looked ice-cool.

The room got really full, and mostly with people I love, although there were some folks I didn't know there. My family sat right up close to where I was.

I started reading. When I get up in front of a group of people, my nervousness turns into a rudimentary form of stand-up comedy. I gave the poems some spare introductions, assuring the room that "Her Breast," while dedicated to Sarah Vap, was not actually about either of Sarah Vap's breasts—a conclusion that I myself hadn't even realized people would draw until Sarah told me her father had found the poem on the internet and thought just that.

There are a series of poems that I read that are what I would consider emotionally autobiographical, although the events they describe are amplified and modified, by they consist of strong language and sexual situations. I told the audience prior to these poems that they were rated "R." Before reading "Straight Men Make Difficult Lovers," I admitted, "This next poem's really good," and I noticed that I meant it.

Reading my work in front of other people saved it for me. My hatred disappeared and, while saying all the words I written, they really came back to life for me.

Afterwards, I was asked some pretty tough questions: How am I using the body as a landscape, and why do the urban landscapes of the early poems start to give way to a more rural body? Do I think I'll keep writing "autobiographical" poems, or am I done? How are my poems political? Etc. My Dad raised his hand to ask a question. He asked, "What happened to the baseball poem?" I said, "Dad, I was 14 then, and it turns out that baseball-as-sex metaphor is pretty played out."

We all left the room. They called me back in afterward, provided me with some wonderful news and feedback, and then I walked out into the hallway to thunderous applause: They liked me! They really liked me! Oh, like I was Sally Field.

A lot of my poems have really overt queer content—I'm talking about shit that would curl your hair—along with drinking, drug use, melodrama, drag queens, go-go boy, sexual content... Several people told me they were not only impressed that I was confident reading them in front of my family, but that my family enjoyed them.

Out in the hall, about to go to happy hour, I hugged my family. My dad was so overwhelmed and happy. My parents said, "We don't understand them when we read them on the page, but hearing you read them out loud--wow. We totally got it."

And then there was a beautiful happy hour full of $2 Conoras with my best friend Patrick, all my dear friends from the program, and even one of my favorite coworkers from Gap.

It was the most beautiful day of my life, I think.

12.02.2004

More



My defense was today.

More when I return to sobriety.

Maybe It's Just Offense

I'm having trouble bringing myself to read a poem about anal sex in front of my ENG 101 students, the department coordinator, and my 90-year-old grandmother—it involves saying things like "Too many movies had vaginas," "I am how a plunger must feel, plumbing dark, septic depths," and "Somewhere, my mother is frowning." But I feel like it has some of my best language in it, though. Ditto this for my poem about having crabs.

Also, I will simultaneously out myself to about 30 people, my largest simultaneous outing ever.