This Is What You Get

That offhanded remark at AWP ("I haven't been writing prose poems lately at all") and the sudden realization that it was true have led to 34 prose poems since April.

I've written little else.

I poured some of them together over the weekend to get myself thinking about which poems to write to go in between the poems I've put together. Some of them I love. Some of them I'm not so fond of anymore. Some of them I don't quite get. But I'm enjoying writing toward understanding whatever it is I'm doing. I enjoy starting with a word and moving outward, like a ripple. That's how I'm doing this. From the word. A self-imposed writing exercise with legs.

I'm obsessed with that phrase "be bird for you" lately. Oh, do I want to be bird for you. Baby, I'll be meat for you if only you'll salt me clean.

A special message goes out.

It gets complicated. But I enjoy my little life.



There's a new Blogoview question up.

And, some new Google searches that may be begging to be poems:

> cheese camp kitsch
> poems about a dry spell
> gay desexualization literature
> how to get taller
> now, someone loves romeo and he is in love again. both have become attracted by each other
> phallus envy
> numbers a dream
> what's it mean when i dream about murdering someone
> bird in the house superstition


Summer Ends

I will not name you again.

I will not reduce you like a memory to your smallest parts,
      little fantastic machine-heart slaving away its heat
      little controlled burn
      little smolder-fire wicking toward the dry brush.

I will not replace this moment with the next,
      will not exchange you with clocks,
      with steady breaths or the tsk-tsk of the nearest metronome
      the pulse of lost touches that never made landfall.

I will not end when the summer ends,
      this small, small moment bird-like in its nervousness
      our bodies near touch-to-touch
      there are new nervous octaves nested in my throat

which will be anything for you,
      be bird for you,
      be timepiece of wrists for you, be shadow and wind for you.
      be jeans for you. Licks for you. Oh, summer ends

bemoaning its own misfortune. I sit near you
      and the dusk comes on like the dizzy sweet sting of your cologne.

For you I could be the longest day, all of your sunlight,
      if for me you made yourself coda,
      made nightfall, made yourself nest.


1. The person who passed the baton to you?

The wonderful Laura Carter at écritures bleues

2. Total volume of music files on your computer.

1686 songs
4 days, 19 hours, 12 minutes, and 59 seconds of music
7.41 GB

3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought.

I thought three at once:
Songs for Silverman, Ben Folds
The Beekeeper, Tori Amos
Silent Alarm, Bloc Party

4. Song playing at the moment of writing.

It's too early to be playing music.

Passing this to Emily, Woody, Paul Guest.



Vacation / All I Ever Wanted...

I'm officially on vacation. This means for the next five days I'll be:

>Transcribing the March interview Sarah and I did with D. A. Powell, which is actually a joy because he speaks slowly and plus, Sarah and Doug are adorable;

>Playing around with an idea I have for the prose poems. Something chapbooky.

>Cleaning my office.

But today I'm going to treat myself by buying Ben Folds's Songs for Silverman and Tori Amos's The Beekeeper—both overdue in my life.


New Features at TWDI

Today I'm launching The Blogoview Project, a collaborative interview scenario in which each week I will toss out a question for those willing to answer in their own blogs.

This new feature replaces Name That Poignant Pop Song Lyric of the Week.

Please participate. And enjoy.


New Glasses

I've been meaning to post a picture of my new glasses for ages. A.D.'s search for quasi-literati frames spurred the actual appearance here now:


I Literally Just Pooped My Pants

Dear Mr. Jensen:

Congratulations! Joel Brouwer has selected your chapbook, “Little Burning Edens,” to be the first annual Red Mountain Review Chapbook Award winner. It’s a great collection—the work resonates both as individual poems and as a collection. Feels more substantial than most chapbooks. We’re proud to have it.


From Charlie's Kitchen: Ginger-Soy Chicken

Heat a pan over medium heat.

With a fork, poke holes in 1.5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts to tenderize.

Place chicken in pan and cook for about 1-2 minutes per side, for a total of 4-5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan. Allow pan to cool slightly.

Over medium-low heat, melt 1.5 Tb unsalted butter. When melted, add 1 Tb fresh ginger (I use the ginger paste you can get in your grocer's veggie section—it's just as good) and sautee for about a minute.

Add 2 Tb soy sauce. Sauce will thicken. If it's too thick, add a little more butter and soy sauce.

Place chicken breasts in pan and cook through, alternating sides every 1-2 minutes. It's helpful to slide the breasts around in the pan to keep the sauce from reducing too far or burning.

** You can also cook this recipe with steak, and it's also very yummy.


Why I Hate Will & Grace: One Gay Man's Confession

Listen, there's no television show airing now that I regret as much as Will & Grace.

It angers me. It's frustrating for me to watch. And mostly, it's not even funny.

But generally speaking, it puts gay Americans in a very awkward position. Sure, it has been a hugely popular prime time hit for the generally queer friendly NBC. It's allowed gay men (and their friends) into the homes of Americans who have probably harbored some bias against gay people because they've never actually known one in real life (or so they think).

Harvey Fierstein was notably quoted in the film documentary The Celluloid Closet as saying his philosophy on assimilating queer culture into straight culture is "visibility at any cost." It's an important concept to consider, and I can't necessarily say I agree or disagree with that. Visibility is important, but Harvey, please—let's do consider the cost.

To summarize Will & Grace, queerly, is to note that there are, visibly, two kinds of gay people: Wills and Jacks. The Wills of the world are slightly neurotic, mostly chaste, affluent men who hold white-collar jobs and live in Manhattan. Wills are often mistaken for your average heterosexual because they tend to display few, if any, outward "signs" of stereotypically homosexual behavior. The Jacks of the world are promiscuous, artistic types who walk around with a virtual spotlight on them. Jacks are "sad clowns," humorists whose behavior often crushes those upon whom it is wielded. Jacks aren't necessarily white-collar, although they know people who are, and somehow manage to eke out a living that affords them multiple trips to Banana Republic. If it isn't clear yet, Jacks are your typical, "effeminate" gay men.

Both Jacks and Wills are exceptionally good-looking, have time and money for gym memberships. Jacks are restless; Wills tend to be homebodies.

This is great. Yes. There are Wills in the world who are actually out-and-out Wills, and that's great. There are real Jacks in the world, too. But this show polarizes—actually puts into opposition—these two archetypes, creating a faulty either-or binary. Even the men who guest on the show typically fall into one of these safe categories. There isn't a lot of queer diversity here.

I feel like Will & Grace is a big minstrel show. In the 1800s, minstrel shows involved white actors appearing in blackface to satirize the lives and experiences of African-American slaves on Southern plantations—for laughs, for white audiences. Out of this tradition grew several archetypes, including Jim Crow, the "care-free slave," and Zip Coon, "the uppity" former slave who affects an attitude above his "station" in society.

Straight men playing gay men. For laughs.

What's dangerous about the set-up of Will & Grace surrounds consumerism. If the show were created and packaged to be consumed by gay-only audiences, its political ramifications would change. Gay-produced satire for consumption by gay people is not a form of violence; it's an act of community-building.

But since the show is provided to straight consumers, the humor in the show is not just born from the lives of the characters, their day-to-day trip-ups and foibles—it's not only this, but also the fact that they are gay that provides humor to straight audiences. Gay people don't laugh at Jack for being outlandish and effeminate because we don't think there's anything funny—see also "out of the ordinary or strange"—about that. But since most American humor is based on mocking the opposite of the dominant paradigm (um, say like Beverly Hillbillies), the humor in Will & Grace supports and reinforces limited stereotyping of gay men.

I wouldn't expect an African-American audience to appreciate blackface—so why are gays (other than me) tuning in to Will & Grace? What is Will & Grace doing for the queer community in the long run?

See? Even in publicity shots the gay men can't be next to each other. Can you find an image of Jack and Will being physically affectionate with each other?



Peter mentioned it, Em and Woody get on board.

Let’s go
spread out like patient, half-deserted streets.

The women come: O Michaelangelo,
licked, lingered, let fall,
slipped along the street,
rubbing faces
that you murder.

The women come: O Michelangelo!

Do I dare turn back,
descend the hair—
morning coat, my collar, the chin,
my necktie, arms and legs—

Do I dare
spit out the butt,
Bare in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!
Its perfume
that makes me
lie along a table.

Should I begin?

I go at dusk through narrow smoke,
rise from the lonely men in shirt-sleeves,
scuttling across the floors,
smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or

should I force the moment to its crisis?
My head grown slightly great,
the great flicker
among some talk of you and me—

swell, start a scene or two,
an easy tool,
glad to be of use,
a bit obtuse
at times, almost ridiculous—

the bottoms
blown back,

blows the white
till we drown.


Spam: It's What's for Dinner

Lately I've been a bit tickled by the "senders" of my spam emails. The names are...memorable. I'd like to share a few of my favorites:

Fokker G. Magnificent
Prohibitionist R. Migratory
Maturing D. Cosigners
Conservatory M. Druid
Ludwig E. Shorthorns
Bacillus O. Penetrate
Ineligible B. Revision
Mercury C. Gunpowder
Swirly R. Retaliatory
Literature R. Sympathizing
Connive L. Xeroxes
Amnestied M. Enticement
Knuckling Q. Dinky
Austin J. Merrily



I realized today I've been employed by universities for 9 of the past 10 years:

Receptionist (Study Abroad Office)
Research Project Data Entry Person (Curriculum & Instruction Dept)
Resident Assistant
Summer Administrative Assistant (Residential Life)
Student Involvement Committee Chair (Bijou Films)
Residence Hall Director
Graduate Hall Director
Graduate Teaching Assistant (English)
Adjunct Faculty (Humanities)
Project Coordinator


Stories My Parents Told Me

1. The Danish

My dad told me that Hitler sent a letter to the King of Denmark that said Hitler thought they should unite their countries—it would have been a decisively strategic move for Hitler if it had worked.

But the King wrote back, Thanks for the offer, but I'm getting too old to rule two countries.

Later, Hitler sent the King a telegram congratulating him on his birthday. For months he didn't get a response. Finally, Hitler sent another telegram asking the King if he received the first telegram.

The King sent a telegram back. All it said was, Thanks.

2. The Belgian

My mom told me that her aunt's father was the mayor of the small Belgian town she grew up in when the Nazis invaded Belgium, and, wanting to keep the town in line, they shipped him off to a concentration camp in Belgium.

The people of the town didn't know what to think—everyone sent to the camp never came back, so they grieved for him. He was a popular mayor. People cared about him.

In the camp, he noticed there were fewer and fewer Germans around. One day, a German guard appeared at his cell, unlocked it, and said, Don't leave for three days. He was a good man. He waited three days. When he walked out of his cell, there weren't any Germans for miles. He walked back to his town, and the people were elated to have him back again.

3. This I Know

In camps, the Nazis designated Jewish prisoners by making them wear an armband with a Star of David on it. Gay people—because they believe gay people to be also the scourge of humanity—gay people they assigned a pink armband with a triangle on it. Half a Star of David. A pink triangle.


You Had Me at "Hot Wax"

I admit I wasn't expecting much, not much at all, when I purchased my ticket yesterday for the retread of the classic horror flick House of Wax. But friends, House of Wax is easily—and rightfully—one of the best horror films since Scream reinvented the genre in the mid-90s.

It might be on the strength of the film's main female star (Elisha Cuthbert) who helped The Girl Next Door transcend pure adolescent sex fantasy into heartfelt drama. Or Chad Michael Murray, who has spent months perfecting his sullen glare on the WB's One Tree Hill (although we here at TWDI more fondly remember him from Gilmore Girls as Rory's sullen-yet-rich-and-sort-of-dreamy prep school suitor). Also rifled from the Gilmore cast is Jared Padalecki, and here he looks good enough to preserve in wax and place in your living room, neat as you please.

It's true, also, that Paris Hilton makes her screen debut in this feature as well, and believe me, I wanted to hate her. But: her acting, while in the vein of all stilted & wooden horror film acting, is better than your average scream queen.

Factor in a hunky psychotic and well, you had me at HOT WAX.

Seriously, though, House of Wax is a success because it simultaneously stays true to the spirit of trashy teen horror—but it has production value. It has a filmic artistry, an attention to detail. The sets used in the film are gorgeously decrepit. And, I'm jaded enough when it comes to fright, but this film made me cringe several times, look away, and cover my eyes. That's a real achievement.

It's a gore-fest.

I believe that we are now seeing the first wave of post-9/11 horror films—and the things keeping Americans up these days have gotten a little more serious.

Like both The Matrix films and this summer's The Island, our neurotic cultural message indicates our fear that the American dream is just that—a dream—and we're all waiting for that moment when we wake up and realize we're as poor as the rest of the world. Even if it's just an ethical or spiritual poverty.

We've had a lot of zombies: 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil & Resident Evil: Apocalypse, plus Shaun of the Dead, and these films make no bones about the connection between rabid, mindless consumerism and zombification.

We've had the inbred Americans of West Virginia and Ohio or other varied "deformed crazy" Wrong Turn, Cabin Fever, House of Wax, The Ring. The poor, the physically "other"...is there anything more frightening to a culture insistent on lookin' good? Or, at least, idolizing those who do look good? And plus: America, the call is coming from INSIDE YOUR HOUSE! These films represent our fear that our biggest national threats are already here.

And don't forget the things that kill us from our childhood: Darkness Falls, Boogeyman, Hide and Seek. If you are in your mid-twenties now, that scariest thing in your childhood might have been: Ronald Reagan.

And alien films, of course, epitomize our fear of immigrants. Signs, for example, is a reiteration of why we have border control policies: I mean, we can't have aliens coming in here, doing our farmwork and taking jobs away from Americans. Can we?

Over the next few years I'll think these tropes will more clearly connect themselves to ideas of national security: after all, the most important border in America is the one between the air and our skin, and the last thing any of us needs is a knife confusing that delineation.


"A Case of the Saturdays"

I woke up and took a nap again before noon. Somebody's got a case of the Saturdays.

I'm roasting garlic in my oven and revising those prose poems. My whole house smells like rich, buttery garlic. It's going into the lasagne I'll bake tomorrow and eat at work all week.

Today's new prose poem: "Poetry." It mentions Dana Gioia. Maybe it mentions you too. I'm coy that way. I like the play coy even if, really, we both know I'm not playing at all.

Got an inky rejection from a mag today—naming a specific good poem. Good. I thought that one of the weaker ones. It's always nice to get a shot of confidence (liquor) or a vote of one. On a Saturday, either one will suffice.

EDIT: When you pull roasted garlic from the oven, it makes a noise that sounds uncannily like a nest full of baby birds. Little chirps.


Conversation from My Office: Friday

(With minor paraphrasing)

E: Anne Carson's translations of Catullus were amazing.
J: Yes, they were.
C: P.S., Catullus was a big queer, I think.
J: How do you know?!
C: Because he took it up the butt.
J: What, did they have a video?
C: Yes, it's called Greeks Gone Wild.
J: Imagine those hieroglyphs.


Dossier (Favorite Films): Stillman's Last Days of Disco

Like Bret Easton Ellis, Whit Stillman is interested in the hazy, dreamlike world of the New York yuppie—the "young, upwardly-mobile professional," as defined here by Dez, employee of The Club, NY's hottest nightspot circa 1980.

Stillman's clearly a romantic in terms of the richness and texture of the language he puts in his characters' mouths. "You're not gay," Charlotte tells Dez, "but you....you have a gay mouth." Later, she tells Dez, "You're not fit to lick the boots of my real gay friends." The dialogue is deliciously effervescent—the lines snap, crackle and pop with cadence and music.

Which isn't to say anything is lost in story. Stillman's down-the-rabbit-hole plot tosses naive Alice into the backstabbing world of female friendship. Like all good movie heroines, these women are book editors—or will be. With their friends and coworkers, they criticize censorship and blind capitalism and—at one critical point—decode Lady and the Tramp as a tool to brainwash young women into falling for bad boys, the ones who inevitably end up "chasing tail" all around the neighborhood.

With a dead-on soundtrack and career making performances from Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny (Chloe Sevigny! How can you not love this film?!), and Mackenzie Astin, Stillman's New York takes us back to a time when even economics were simple: how do you like it? More, more, more.


Writing Workshop Feedback in the Voice of Randy Jackson

Yo! Yo, yo, dog. Check it out. Check—Check this out. Yo. This poem is amazing, man. I mean, you've had your moments this semester that were kind of [makes hand gestures], but you really pulled it out here. You know, and you come in here every week and you just—you know who you are and your poems reflect that. I would buy this poem if you read it to me like that, man—it's that good, yo. It's a little pitchy in places, but you cleared up the voice by the end. Yo, dog, you been in the dog pound since the beginning, you know, but this piece puts you at the head of the pack.

A Recent First Line

At night, the bed gets wider until you're the only queen in the room.


Credit & Gratitude

The new quote on my blog, "Nothing kills a budding friendship like a shitty poem," comes from James, who sent it to me in an email. I wanted to recognize him as the author of the quote, and, in return, I have fulfilled his request for an Anya "Buffy Quote of the Week." Thanks, J.



Not the kind you wear; the kind that cause something to happen. I guess like the kind you wear.

I'm asking myself lately what causes a poem.

A lot of poems seem based on events, or, when you go to poetry readings, you hear things like, "I wrote this while my cat was dying of cancer," or "I wrote this for my wife on her birthday." A lot of times, poems seem to have real causes in the world. A spur. Something happens, and then a poem begins.

Lately I have been trying to write poems that are not happenings.

Or, should I say, poems that are less about happenings and more about chance.

For example, this morning I was up with the sun (ugh), reading blogs, when I came upon the word "housewife" (or "housewives," can't remember which) on Kelli's blog, and I thought, yes. So I wrote the poem I later posted.

One day, looking through the google searches that bring folks here, I saw "lyric tattoo." That begged to be a poem. I wrote "Tattoo."

Rebecca sent me a poem called "Aperture," so I wrote a poem called "Aperture."

Do these poems matter? Is a poem made better by being more closely tied to the poet's life, or can a poet just riff? And if these are riffs, will anyone listen or will it seem like the noise before the opening act before the band you paid your $50 to see? I joke with my dad that the kind of jazz he likes sounds like the band is warming up to play the kind of jazz I like.

Are these warm-ups, or might they be real?

What about you all—do you riff, or are you spurred by reality?