The Money Pit

I feel good about my manuscript still (manuscript 2, that is). It's been probably a month since I finished it and I don't hate the poems yet. In fact, I wrote to Annie the other day that I was having a hard time thinking of them apart from the collection—that each of them were little cogs in a bigger machine. I like that. I get excited about that.

So, basically, I just want someone else to be excited about it too.

I'm sending out again today. I figure if I send to one contest a month it will be affordable and it will keep me in the game.

The hardest part about ALL of publishing, for me, is the cost. It's really, really expensive for me to constantly send work out, and sending manuscripts out is basically exorbitant. I have some cost-saving measures in place: my brother gifted me a free laser printer a few years back. I try to time my purchases of mailing supplies with holidays where I receive money as gifts.

But I think my argument is larger here: I mean, I have been afforded enough privilege in my life to even be able to send my work out consistently. I consider myself lucky, with the realization that there are people in the world creating wonderful poems, but, because of economics, can't afford to get in the game.


For Emily Lloyd

Dear Emily is thinking about the Alabama queer book-ban and wrote a poem about a queer epiphany from childhood. Inspired, I'll toss mine in the mix.

Biblical Knowing
        —after Madeleine L'Engels Many Waters, for Emily

Strapping teenage boys, jocks
with cocky attitudes and quick smiles—

the twin Murray boys, Sandy and Dennys,
left to their own devices among the strange devices
of their scientist parents, then absent,
tumble headlong into the time

of loincloths, of blond boys with their skin so tan
the new hair of their arms goes white,
combed into neat Zen garden rows.

The two mauve rosebuds of their chests
taste the dry air and bloom.

Oh Sodom.
Oh Sodom.

Let me be alive like this,
half-naked and deserted where I sense soon,
soon, torrential rains
will douse the land. I will be—yes—
carried away,

teenage boy with the heart half-broken
stumbling darkly toward its long-lost twin.


Take Action Now



"Writing poetry is the eradication of all bullshit."

Today, Chase Twichell said (in addition to this post's subject), "From the time I was a child, nature was my higher power, the place I went to see how the world could be or should be."

That statement really spoke to me. I have always, since childhood, rejected notions of humans (read: Americans) as "beastmasters" with a manifest destiny to populate the earth. I always just thought we were another animal, no more or less fortunate for our experience than any other living thing. I always tried to choose what animal I would like to be if I could be one: a small bird, an otter.

There are a lot of birds in my poems lately. Otters do not appear in my poems.

In my family, there is a legend that says when a bird enters the house, a Jensen man dies. When my grandfather died of emphysema, a small bird landed on the open windowsill, sat for a moment and looked in, then flew away.

Once, my great-grandmother heard a bird chirping in a closet in the house. She became very nervous and started trying to find out where the bird was. She ran upstairs, thinking it might be in the attic, but instead she found my uncle having sex with a woman on a squeaky (read: chirping) bed.

And once a bird flew down our chimney and was trapped in our glassed-in fireplace when I was a teenager. We were concerned: was it in the house? Had we averted disater.

Nobody died. Not then, at least.


Now I Know What Torrance Shipman (Played by Kirsten Dunst) In Bring It On Means When She Says, After Losing the National Cheer Championship

I just received notice that I was both the second and third place finalist for this year's Frank O'Hara Chapbook Award! For two separate manuscripts!

Q: Charlie, how does it feel?

A: "It feels like first."


Linguistic Oversight

The first true failing of the recent "What Kind of English Do You Speak?" quiz bubbling up around the blogosphere is that it asks

Do you call it a
a. Drinking Fountain
b. Water Fountain

But doesn't include

c. Bubbler.

Bubbler is an intensely regional term whose usage, I believe, doesn't extend more than 50 miles in any direction beyond Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If you ask, "Is there a drinking fountain nearby?" they will gently correct you, saying, "Oh, you mean a bubbler," as though the "Milwaukeese" term is the common term and you are using wacky new slang.

Bubbler isn't slang—it's the real deal, and the term is old. For 18 years, I hadn't heard it called anything else by my classmates or their parents, or by mall clerks or gym teachers or bank tellers. Bubbler. I don't even know the origin of the term, but I do know that where I grew up there were a bevy of wild springs throughout the state forest, fonts you could see "bubbling up" out of the earth the same way, in other regions, you might enounter Black Gold.

Other funny Wisconsin language tic: There is no such thing as an ATM. I didn't know what that was until I moved to Minnesota (where "casserole" is strictly known as "hot dish"). In Wisconsin, all ATMs are TYME Machines, a quirky acronym that cleverly stands for "Take Your Money Everywhere."

Its usage ends when a teenage boy, trying to find cash to buy lunch in Minneapolis, asks everyone he sees: "Do you know where a TYME machine is?" And their puzzled, concerned faces: the precursor to Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite. The pity. The fear.
The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

           —Milan Kundera


Pop Song Assignment

Write a poem with the following epigraph:

"My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard."

4 Eyes

A week after my eye exam (at which I told my prescription needed to be lighter), I got off my duff and went to get a new pair of glasses.

Although my blog photo rarely reflects this, I always wear glasses. And that old adage—"Boys don't make passes at boys who wear glasses" is fairly true.

Anyway, after getting dilated last Friday and trying—really trying—to pick out frames, i gave up. For some reason the dilation made me see better without my real glasses on. It was a total Peter Parker moment. But I suspected I might be in love with this certain pair of frames...but I just wasn't ready (or able to see enough) to make a commitment.

Today, spur-of-the-moment, I went back, bought the frames, and even got Transition lenses (which will hopefully do well in Arizona's 300 days of annual sunshine).

Look for the new frames in five to seven business days.


Take Me

I have several complementary subscriptions to The Gay & Lesbian Review, if anyone's interested in having one. Drop me a note, let me know--email me.



I was dropping a reply comment to my gal Emily Lloyd's allusion to the Adrienne Rich poem "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," and it suddenly struck me that I was making a very enormous gendered distinction.

Is form masculine?

And when I ask about form, of course I mean pattern. It occurred to me within seconds of writing the comment that I perceive poetic form to be a systemization of language. I mean, language is already the grandparent of all systems (and truly it is our guide for all symbolic systems we create), so employing a second layer of system on top of it seems strange, antithetical, almost. There's more.

Jacques Lacan, one of the great explicators of Freudian psychoanalytic theory, revises "penis envy" to "phallus envy." A phallus is a symbol most often represented by—yup, penises—but the phallus is not a penis. The phallus is power. Lacan connects the power of the phallus with two primary arenas: the Law and masculinity. The Law is our system of control in society—and it includes both legislation and social law (the unwritten but deeply meaningful). Lacan often calls this system "The Law of the Father," which brings it back toward the Oedipal scene—the Law becomes the true opponent of the child, freeing it from sexual competition with the male parent. Because the father, by virtue of malehood, seems to possess the phallus (and therefore power), some cultures support a patriarchal structure.

Maybe poetry's like this.

In "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," you get a very sing-songy rhythm—almost nursery-rhymish in its music—and a repetitive rhyme scheme. The poem discusses a the oppression a woman experiences through the institution (read: Law) of marriage. Her rebellion occurs in the fact that she creates a beautiful, defiant, genderless art in the form of tigers dancing across a screen. The poem alludes to the fact that the rebellion isn't read after the act, but that the rebellion occurs within the act. Furthermore, the rebellion is not visible to the oppressor, making it a form of language they can't access.

Since, at the time of the poem's writing, the business of poetry was primarily a man's game, it makes sense that Rich would rig this poem into a traditional form. And when I say Tradition, I say Male. I allege that the masculine is the enforcer of tradition, of repetition.

I'm going to think more about this, but I would be interested in hearing other people's thoughts about it.


Google Wonderland

The latest Googles ending right here:

narrative writing on smoking
design principle rhythm
baseball poems for parents
the ideology of buffy
looking at figurative language poems
rebellion in poetry
worst poem by Adrienne Rich
the killing of frank o'hara (title of one of my poems!!)
naughty therapist
fucking your therapist during your meeting**
what is disjunctive syntax
therapist for coming out

**current Best Google Ever award winner



Bye, boys. *sniffle*

The Prose Poem

My prose poem assignments are going better than I expected! During the day a word comes to me, and I think, That should be my next definition. Today's word (term, really, because I don't want to be exclusive) was "rough trade."

So far, I've written poems about the following words: Offered, Prisoners, Pupil, Crisis, Dietrichesque, and Fulfillment.

My tone is shifting. These poems are much more conversational and directly address the reader (or seem to). They also seem to be more political in tone and are especially concerned with issues of class.

In my last ms., I know I was really concerned with finding an "organic stanza," getting out of writing in the mode of stanzas of equal length (which, right now, irritates me). I was concerned with reducing language, finding a true economy of language in the lines. It makes sense to me, then, that I've done a 180 and looked for a stanza-less form, so to speak.

I can only change so many things at once. I can only explore, in detail, even fewer.

And today I drew the important conclusion that there can never be such thing as "non-narrative."




I thought this week's Name That Poignant Pop Song Lyrics of the Week might stump some of you.

Let the guesses begin. But whoever Googles gooes straight to hell.

It Rained; It Pours

Churchyard took some poems from my new manuscript: "Letter: 1987 to 2005 (Chain Letter)" (which is from the epistolary section) and several bits of the last section, an extended meditation called "Proof." I'm so thrilled! All day long I did the happy dance of somebody-likes-my-poems. It is, incidentally, my favorite dance.



Last night in my dream, people kept telling me Brenda Shaughnessy was looking for me.

I dreamed I sat at a table with Aaron Shurin at a little bar's patio, and the whole time I tried to think of something to say to him, nervously, I realized he was more interested in the fellatio happening behind me (understandable).



West Branch took two of my newer poems today—"Patient Zero" and "Vapor Boys." I'm very excited about this. It's such a beautiful publication.


At AWP, I was thanking the editor of Sentence for sending me a particularly kind and thoughtful rejection letter. He encouraged me to send again, and I said I hadn't been writing much in prose lately.

It was one of those moments where I seized on words I spoke the moment they came out of my mouth. Why aren't I writing in prose? I asked myself immediately after. What do I have against prose these days?

I get to points in my writing where I feel like I "forget" how to do things. Like, for a while, I was very comfortable writing prose poems, and then one day I realized I'd forgotten what made a prose poem a prose poem. So I walked away from them. I've felt this way about poetry with line breaks, too, or poems written in an autobiographical voice, or whathaveyou. Whatever I seem to be doing the most of, I suffer from an arbitrary and exhaustive form of poetic amnesia. What's my age again?

Anyway, since I don't have a real project to work on right now—something grabbing me by the ears making me write—I've decided to go back to the prose poem for a little while and write some little experiment poems.

My assignment is to pick a word—typically a word sitting somewhere on my desk, but it doesn't have to be—and I write a fucked-up dictionary definition for it. The first word I did was "Prisoners," then "Fulfillment," and yesterday I wrote "Dietrichesque," although I don't know why.

I also know that I have to get my head out of my last manuscript, out of the modes I got cozy writing in. And getting out of those modes are going to help me continue to revise those pieces moving forward...but for now, I need some new candy.



Erstwhile endeavor. Small birds flap their wings five times in quick succession, then coast like a wave in the air. The accelerated path a bullet makes when fired from its gun: nothing feels as good. It is said that a bullet fired and a bullet dropped simultaneously will land simultaneously: one in a long, swooping arc of speed; the other like the body of a man slipping from a dark bridge. Rock salt enters pheasants at all sorts of angles as they lift off from the brush. That satisfaction: either dying or flying. It can’t be measured. Like so many things I neglect to mention or love in my tiny life, this can’t be measured.


You're Anne of Green Gables!

by L.M. Montgomery

Bright, chipper, vivid, but with the emotional fortitude of cottage
cheese, you make quite an impression on everyone you meet. You're impulsive, rash,
honest, and probably don't have a great relationship with your parents. People hurt
your feelings constantly, but your brazen honestly doesn't exactly treat others with
kid gloves. Ultimately, though, you win the hearts and minds of everyone that matters.
You spell your name with an E and you want everyone to know about it.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


Reality TV: It's Not Just for Reality Anymore

American Idol Update

I don't know what those judges hear. I am probably tone deaf. I liked (in this order):

1. Carrie
2. Anthony
3. Bo

My bottom three were:

1. Constantine
2. Vonzell
3. Scott

It's clear to me that Scott is the next on the chopping block.

Confidential on the Amazing Race

You can have your Chip-and-Reichen. I'll take Lynn and Alex any day. They are so adorable.

(well, okay. I might take Reichen too. But just Reichen.)

Yahoo News

Someone at Yahoo News is having a really great time writing headlines. This isn't the first amibiguous headline I've noticed, but it is one of the best:

Senate Panel Grills Bolton Over Record.


Defensive Driving

My last poem: "Defensive Driving Pantoum," after I spent 6 hours Saturday in Defensive Driving class, trying to duck a big traffic fine and insurance increase... At least there was a yield of something.
A new book meme circulating around the sphere is going by the name “123.5,” and its rules are these:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

'but this morning I stand here'

Where the Boys Will Be

Poetry Workshop: Vision and Revision
June 26-July 1

The drafting process is not merely editing, it is a way of re-seeing
and re-shaping the material of the poem. Often, the poem can end up
revealing an entirely new subject that's present within its language;
the poet's task is to unmask that subject and to strengthen it through
diction, syntax and line. In this course, we'll work with early drafts
and notebooks, revising and transforming the work in several ways to
discover the most urgent utterance of the poem. Writers should bring
eleven copies of at least three draft poems, as well as their writing

D. A. POWELL is the author of three books, the most recent of
which,Cocktails (Graywolf, 2004), was a finalist for the National Book
Critics' Circle Award and the Lambda Book Award. He is the recipient
of awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of
America and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Pushcart
Prize. A professor of English at University of San Francisco, Powell
has taught previously at Columbia University, Harvard, University of
Iowa and Sonoma State University.

Click here to register.


A Poem, Which Is a Thought I Had One Mid-Morning While Walking Through the Smoky, Creamy Scent When I was Downwind of Mark Doty's Stiff Leather Pants on a Cool Spring Day in Vancouver

Mark Doty is the Mick Jagger of poetry.


Therapist with a Google Inside

I haven't posted this for a long time—for quite a while, I wasn't getting any hits from search engines. But it seems like now it's back again...and yes, it's better than ever.

Recent Googles:

metrosexuality lyric
Charles IX
Ferdinand de Saussure Lehman reader
scoobies fashion string design
burning chair readings
D. A. Powell C. R. Jensen
Alex Trebek rapist therapist
buttfucker camp
fuck for life
texture rhythm
pretty vaginas
dream dictionary zombies*
cynical therapist
AWP Vancouver
porcelain chicken Jensen
Sandover gay

*Current "Best Google Ever Ending at TWDI Ever" titleholder.


Pop Tart Poetry

I gave myself a challenge the other day to write a poem called

with the epigraph

"Sometimes a girl just needs one." —Britney Spears

and tonight, I did it.

I did a backwards ghazal where each first line of the couplet ends with the word "boy" and all the other second lines rhyme with one other second line in the poem.

It's a birthday poem.

It starts,

"You're only as old as the boys
who'll suck you off," Kyle says and smacks me on the ass.

I Stole This from Nick Carbo's Blog, and I'm Not Sorry

The Asian American Poetry: the Next Generation anthology reading.


Every Pop Song on the Radio Is Speaking to Me

We've created a new weekly featured here at TWDI:

Name that Poignant Pop Song Lyric of the Week.

Each week's winner wins a week's worth of...recognition.


Putting the Sin back in Cinema

Sin City is one of the most amazing films in recent years. Robert Rodriguez's "translation" of the Frank Miller graphic novels finally does what so few films even attempt: it reinvents the medium.

Sin City perfectly creates what is, essentially, a moving comic book. Moody, expressionist lighting creates stark contrasts between light and dark (read: the division between good and evil). Even the wardrobe is carefully coordinated for each character to allow the raincoats to billow and flare with special glow.

If you've seen a preview, you probably know that Rodriguez is playing with the tension between color and black and white. In a morally ambiguous world such as the one in Sin City, there can be no absolute black, absolute white. Each of the characters is dirty in his or her own way, fucked up and fucked over by the corrupt systems that, ironically, keep them in existence. When color comes in Sin City, you'd better be warned--whether it's in a pair of eyes or the red dress of an ill-fated chanteuse, some shit's going to go down.

Sin City is also a genre-bender in that it blends elements of film noir (the gritty city and its femmes fatales) and the crime film (the underworld and questions of redemption & damnation). It takes visual cues from films as disparate as Dryer's silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Pulp Fiction.

And it is, for the most part, a silent film. Rodriguez smartly capitalizes on the beauty of black and white film, presenting much of the action in close-up shots. The face is never more beautiful than when it is filmed in black and white. Voice-over narration probes into character's thoughts for a nearly uncomfortable amount of time: you do not want to be in these heads, but whever you go in Sin City, there you are.

The cast standouts are easily Jessica Alba, who has facial expressions, and Mickey Rourke. Naturally, former Therapist with a Dream Inside "Dreamboat of the Week" Clive Owen provides drooling sexuality, enough that I nearly had to excuse myself from the theater five or six times. My bf, on the way home, said, "He made me want to rip off all his clothes." Yes. Clive Owen. Yes.

Sin City. Yes.


I'm excited about being 28. 27 wasn't the most ideal year. It was, thankfully, a year of completion (2 + 7 = 9, the mystical number of completion). I graduated with my MFA, found a really happy place to live, finished two manuscripts, and completed working some interesting jobs (baby Gap, teaching comp).

28 is a number of beginnings (2 + 8 = 10; 1 + 0 = 1. 1 is the mystical number of initiation).

I am ready to do the work of doing work.

And yes--I finished work on my second manuscript on Monday night. I'm so happy with it. It feels like a real thing.


Gray Hair (Plural)

Yesterday, while driving, I ran my fingers through my hair on the side of my head, and two long, thick gray hairs popped out.

And today, I turn 28.


Fuck You Aloha I Love You: AWP Version

So, I love AWP because I get excited about people who are excited about poetry.
I love AWP because I meet poets whom I love, and typically the first words out of my mouth—before, "Hello, my name is"—are "I LOVE YOU."
I love AWP because I eat beautiful food and drink. And drink. And drink. Which is all best when it's free.

I hate AWP because, afterwards, in the wake of amazing readings and discovering new people to read and pump for information or to develop occupational crushes on...I think, in the immortal words of Peter Pereira:


Because the poetry world is small, and yet, like a good pack rat, that world is already filled with such talented people. I don't know which box I belong in, if there's a box for me, or if I closely resemble some object already sitting in its assigned place in its assigned box.

Even if I was allowed to clear away all the folks I can't abide (The Prominent Old White Dudes), the befuddling, the banal, the easily dismissed and overlooked, the redundant and reductive, the retreads. Even then it seems there may not be room at the inn because the inn is rocked out with its cock out.

So, this week my tummy's in those precious knots: the knots that mean write more, write always. The knots that mean give up while you still can.

I'm a Radio

Someone has placed my poetry switch in the fully on and upright position. I'm nearly a poem a day, mostly having fun and not thinking about a project:

"The Metaphors" (I wrote it at AWP after a dream in which I was shot in the head)
"My Night with Brenda Shaughnessy" (see below)
"My Mannequin" (for Dale)
"Still of Teenage Boy on Bus (with Walkman and Guitar)"


AWP Poem

My Night with Brenda Shaughnessy
     Based on actual AWP events

I saw her pass quickly
from the glassed patio and its black rain

I said, "Brenda—
I love your work"

We were both
so drunk

and as she pushed a heavy door open
she said, with an odd look,

"This is the ladies' room—"
It was all I needed to hear.

Vancouver: A Photo Essay

This is the view from one of my hotel windows. I had a palatial corner room with a king size bed and a museum right outside.

In Vancouver, restaurants entice you inside with photos that are, ultimately, the equivalent of culinary pornography. Oh, and there's me adding human interest to an otherwise dead subject.

Jaime and I found a copy of a publication called Playboard in her hotel's lobby, and because of a weird graphic/masthead issue, we kept reading Playbeard, which we liked better. We doctored the magazine by fuzzing out part of the o and voila!: our Duchampesque commentary was complete. (This photo is blurry because we were pissing ourselves with laughter.)

Canada is unlike America because in Canada when you glaze a porcelain chicken, you make sure it has an anus.

Thanks to Elizabyth (with lighter) and Doug (breathing fire), several of us were peer pressured into trying flaming Sambuco shots at Wild Garlic, one of Vancouver's 1,000 fabulous restaurants. The first time I did it, the Sambuco went up into my nose. My sinuses are like a slash-and-burn rainforest.

This is us, at Wild Garlic, after much Sambuco and martini delights were had. You'll notice yes, I am colossally taller than anyone else in this photo—bloggers, be not surprsed. I am giant.

Even Canada wants to think it has a family of redneck Southerners who outsmart the law. Elizabyth adds human interest.

People at AWP are nametag lookers. I'm no different.

Jaime noticed how this Vancouver airport wayfinding map looked suspiciously like a big penis.

Would you buy anything on a mannequin like this? Canadians would. That's hot.

Canada, Annex Us, Or: The Happy Anschluss

I was so pleased and sincerely excited to finally meet in their flesh those on my blog roll (plus some) who were able to go this week in Vancouver: Aimee, Tony, Dale and Jacob, Julie, Kelli, Laurel, Peter, Zack, Shanna, and Woody, as well as to see again Oliver and Sue. Thanks to all of you who came up to me and said hi, because I'm very shy. Until I've had a few drinks and there's a dancefloor ready, or until I've had a few drinks and am in pointing range of Brenda Shaughnessy. (My apologies go to Kelli, who came up to say hi when my blood sugar was nearly dead, I was tired, and had to wait for food. I am not usually that off-putting.)

And more shouts out to the ENORMOUS Arizona State contingent. I think we far outweighed any other writing program representation. Also, we were very cold.

My other highlights (in no order):
>Dale's poem "Torn"
>the smell of Mark Doty's leather pants on Robson Street
>Aimee Nez and her manfriend
>Being introduced to tons of cool people by D. A. Powell
>Seeing Wallace Shawn! At an AWP event!
>Flaming Sambuco shots
>Meeting Merrill Feitell (this is a long story and I'm sure both she and Brenda Shaughnessy are processing restraining order paperwork right this minute)
>Having girly drinks with Woody at the sports bar where you can throw your peanut shells on the floor
>The Sandbar restaurant on Grenville Island
>Hearing that Charles Flowers read one of my poems at one of his panels
>Thanking editors who have published me
>Spending my paycheck on books
>Canadian money: it's just more fun to spend because it's pretty
>Finding approximately 90938475 new poets to read, and getting started on the plane ride home

It's been a long day, folks, and a long week. I'm going to post some pics and then be bed-like.