I wrote my first poem when I was 13. I lived on an island that year and was in a split 7th/8th grade class. Total number of students in my grade: 11. And that was one of the biggest classes.

Anyway, my teacher required us to keep a journal, but we could write whatever we wanted in it as long as we wrote every day. I wrote a very long, rambling, inarticulate poem about "something," some kind of vicious beast, chasing the speaker during the night. Therapists will say it was gay desire. My teacher didn't comment much on it (she read them every day). It was notable primarily for its generous use of capitalized words and line breaks, which allowed for a maximum of two words on each line (but frequently only one).

I still have it. I've written every since, with the exception of the two years between undergrad and grad.



The Definitive List of Problems with American Poetry

1. There are too many poets. I can't even tell you how many poetry books are published each year. A lot of them. Nobody in America reads poetry except poets and fiction writers desperate to find a way out of their bland novel life. The problem with poetry in America is that there are just too. many. good. books. to. read. I can't keep up, much less provide myself with opportunities to read all the great poetry in America's past. What should I do? Instead of publishing so many books, I suggest we begin publishing digest versions of great books. Poetry's already so short, we should be able to pack at least What Narcissism Means to Me, Sleeping With the Dictionary, Little Ice Age, and Lie Awake Lake in one convenient, brief package. I mean, we sell hamburger buns in sets of ten.

2. There are too many different kinds of poetry. American poetry will never develop a cohesive audience because, unlike television, poetry hasn't developed "a sitcom," "a newsmagazine"—something easily consumable and endlessly replacable. For example, imagine every book was written by Ted Kooser or a Ted Kooser surrogate, or a writer mentored by Ted Kooser or what have you. People might develop a taste for that.

3. Most poets are overpaid and become fat and lazy. Yes. We've seen this time and time again. I call this the "Hollywoodization" of poetry—and now our literary world is full of waddling Harvey Weinsteins in their black suits and colored ties. We have female Harvey Weinstein impersonators. It's getting serious, people. Think of the children. When a poet becomes an overpaid poet *poof!* Their next book wins a [insert prestigious award], newspapers insist we've been reading him/her all along, and then the rest of their life is crap.

4. We do not enjoy bad poetry in the same way we enjoy bad movies. I have a coworker who is obsessed with the film Pootietang. It's an awful film, yet she loves it. There is no poetry counterpart to Pootietang. Bad poetry does not become camp. People do not quote bad poetry to each other at parties and then make friends for life. This is unfortunate.

5. Poetry has been swallowed by academia and now bears no resemblance to the actual world. We should supply each American with a new publication, The Idiot's Guide to Language, and a collectable decoder ring distributed through eBay and Amazon.com. Only Americans who purchase both items will be able to read the poetry being created within academia. Poetry created outside of the academy will fit into one of two new genres of writing: greeting cards or word noise.

6. There are too many lists decrying the problems with American poetry and not enough lists enumerating what's right. If I'm part of the problem, does that mean I'm solved by the solution? Or does the solution now suddenly bear no resemblance to the problem?

From Charlie's Ktichen: Pastiche Quiche

So named because it blends elements of Quiche Lorraine (bacon/onion) and Quiche Florentine (spinach).

You will need:

1 frozen pie crust
1-1.5 lbs swiss cheese
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1/4 lb bacon
1 Tb butter
3 eggs
1 pint half and half
1/4 Tb salt
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
dash cayenne

Bake pie crush per directions on package; set aside.
Preheat oven to 450.

Cook bacon in frying pan until crisp. Set aside to cool. Keep bacon fat in pan.

Melt butter in bacon fat. Sautee onion until translucent. Set aside.

In blender or food processor, combine eggs, half and half, spinach, salt, and cayenne. Mix until smooth and well-blended. Mixture should appear pale green with spinach specks. But it will taste good.

Crumble bacon into small pieces. Place bacon in pie shell, spreading evenly. Spread onions evenly in pie crust. Add swiss cheese to pie crust. With fork, slowly fold cheese mixture to evenly distribute ingredients.

Slowly strain (technically, I just pour it) egg mixture over the pie crust, allowing liquid to seep down and fill cracks in the cheese mixture. Fill pie crust nearly to the top of the crust.

Place quiche in oven for approx 18 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for additional 18 minutes. Check quiche for firmness. If center hasn't baked completely, return to oven for five minute increments until baked through.


The Real(er) World

Now the standard in choosing cast members

1. Do you drink alcohol?
2. Do your friends have a sassy nickname for you?
3. If you answered yes to number 2, do you they call you it to your face? (add four points for a yes)

4. What is your IQ? (If IQ is greater than 78, please put down your pencil and leave the testing area immediately)
5. Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
6. Do you have a boyfriend and a girlfriend?
7. If you currently have a boyfriend or girlfriend, how many would you estimate you have right now? (Including today)
8. Add four points if you cannot currently list the names of all your boyfriends/girlfriends.

9. When you drink, do you drink to get drunk?
10. If you answered no to question number 9, please put down your pencil and leave the testing area immediately)
11. When you get drunk do you often have "spells," "lose time," or "black out"?
12. Have you ever made out with a member of the same sex? (Minus four points if you are, in fact, gay, bisexual, or beer-gay)
13. Would your parents disown you if they saw you kissing someone of the same sex on cable television?
14. Have you ever beaten anyone while drunk?
15. Have you ever been treated for alcohol abuse or experienced an "intervention" or "tough love"? (If yes, put down your pencil and leave the testing area immediately)

16. Describe yourself in three words:
17. Add four points if one of the words you used in number 16 was "hot," "experimental," or "laid-back." If you used these three words, proceed directly to the Real World house in __________ (city).

18. Are you a virgin?
19. Is it on purpose?

20. How many things have you done in your life that you truly regret?
21. How many of those things still make you cry?
23. If your answer for number 21 is less than 4, please put down your pencil and leave the testing area immediately.

24. Are you a member of a strict religion, a commune, or a cult?
25. Add seven points if you are Mormon or Scientologist.

26. Would you call yourself an angry person?
27. Have you ever been told to "calm down," "chill out," "step off" or "back the fuck up, bitch"?
28. Has the world committed any fundamental injustices against you or "your people"?
29. Would you like to kick the world's ass, even if it meant having to live with six strangers, kicking each ass individually?
30. Check here if you are from Philly.

31. Are you a member of an ethnic minority?
32. If you said yes to answer 31, please indicate which minority/ies here:
33. If you indicated "white" as your ethnic minority, what is your political affiliation?
34. Please check here if a member of your family is the Unabomber.
35. Please check here if you are the Unabomber.
36. Please check here if you are Puck.


"You Look Tense"


A coworker recently explained to me that one of her friends ardently believes all gay porn films begin with the phrase, "You look tense."

Which may explain why, as a whole, the French/American film High Tension revolves less discreetly around lesbianism than serial killing. In the film, French student Marie (channeling Maria Falconetti of Dreyer's classic The Passion of Joan of Arc) travels with gal pal Alex to her family's remote farm estate in the French countryside. Marie's a little on the butch side of things, but be warned: the girl is hot. Lithe, sinewed, with cropped blonde hair and tight jeans, she's basically sex with opposable thumbs.

The sexual tension between Marie and Alex becomes palpable. Alex, who is a bit horsey, seems not to notice Marie's desperate desire. But when Marie turns out to be the dangerous serial killer who has slaughtered her family (knowledge which Alex knows from early on but which is kept from the audience through a simple, stupid cinematic device), we're reminded again of just why lesbianism is such a danger: desire that cannot end in marriage ends in murder.

Marie's cinematic alter ego is a fat, hairy Frenchman with an eerie smile and who communicates through a series of grunts. This is who we see commit the murders and who Marie ultimately "hunts" in order to save Alex. My problems here are many. I can understand the natural, foolish impulse of heterosexuals to characterize the dangerous desire of lesbians as a male killer, but why is he a fat Frenchman when Marie is such a thin hottie? Why isn't her own self-visualization on her desire for women appear as, say, a shirtless Christian Bale?

Secondly, when heterosexuals express desire through homicide, they don't have to sacrifice their gender identity to do so. The confusion of Marie's sexual identity with her gender identity is a fundamental misrecognition of heterosexuals to understand same sex desire. Marie's desire for Alex masculinizes her, yet Alex herself remains unaffected. The impulse toward masculinizing lesbians reinforces a female-object/male-objectifier dichotomy that does not exist in same sex desire. Heterosexuals of the world are uncomfortable when desire becomes a level playing field. This begs the question: can a woman objectify another woman? And if so, what is the resulting power dynamic when the object objectifies the gazer right back? The desire might be considered oppositional were it not so fortutious for both parties. Love (or its physical expression) results.

High Tension ultimately reserves its violence not for the victims of Marie's chain saw, axe, straight razor, or shotgun, but for the lesbians in the audience. As representations go, I'm not sure we've seen something this horrific since Silence of the Lambs's Buffalo Bill. Oh, but who am I kidding? In horror films, gay folks are always on the right end of the knife. Heterosexuals beware: per your worst fears, we are not afraid to use it.


Morgan Spurlock and 30 Days

A big fan of Super-Size Me, I eagerly tuned into the debut of Morgan Spurlock's new hourlong documentary show 30 Days when it premiered on FX last week. The premise is, á la Super-Size, that Morgan will document 30 days of somethin—minimum wage work, exercise, etc.—for the good of...the good.

In the first installment, Spurlock and his partner move to Columbis, Ohio, and secure minimum wage work. His girlfriend gets a dishwashing job at a cafe while Spurlock takes up odd construction, landscaping, and restaurant work. They move into a bug-infested apartment with basically just the clothes on their back—and no heat until they have enough dough to start the service.

Their 30 days documents the financial hardships of the minimum wage earner and makes a strong argument for a federal wage increase, yes. Spurlock and his partner scrimp and save as much as they can but are knocked out by back-to-back emergency room visits (his for work-related wrist injury; hers for a nasty UTI). For his partner's 30th birthday, they must choose between a $20 meal out (which goes overbudget) or a visit to the local conservatory (adult ticket price: $6).

Spurlock repeatedly asks the camera during his "confessional" moments: How do people live like this?

I respect Spurlock and I respect what he's doing, but I was also a little outraged by this episode. Spurlock and his partner, despite their "immersion" in the culture of poverty, are still just tourists there. Any minimum wage earner in our country doesn't have the luxury of asking how people live that way—because they're too busy living that way. Throughout the episode, Spurlock provides a brief history of the minimum wage and its current status—that there's been no increase since (I believe) 1997. It's horrific to be one of America's working poor, but it's sort of irresponsible to live above the poverty line and profess to understand what it's like after just 30 days.

It's a complication that speaks to my relationship with poetries of witness. Witness is such a difficult thing to communicate because it can easily encroach on violence. For example, Spurlock is attempting to provide a witness of an experience that isn't entirely his. I don't know where to draw the line in terms of witness, either. It can be a slippery slope. But I think recognizing the difficulty of witness is a good start on the path to keeping it "honest," if that's even possible.


The features have been updated again this week. Check out the new Blogoview question.


Batman Benign

Let me say, for the record, that I mostly liked the new Batman flick. Didn't love it. Didn't think it was a revelation of cinema. Just liked it.

It seemed to me a lot like an okay poem that hinged on a few good turns of phrase. There were great moments in the film, but as a whole, it was a bit uneventful and—yes—a little boring.

And I even like Katie Holmes.

I liked the new rendering of Gotham City but felt it lacked a certain...Gothic feel. It was sort of too post-apocalyptic, and the entire film tried to cultivate a sense that the city lost its innocence when the Waynes were killed (September 11? What?). Right down to the ensuing economic depression...curious.

The scariest thing about Batman Begins from a political perspective is how it supports America's current seek-and-destroy ideology on terrorism. Batman—not a vigilante, because that's "selfish"—is on a crusade to cleanse Gotham City of those who engage in crime. Evil doers, perhaps? "It's not who I am underneath, it's what I do that defines me." The film uses this phrase to transcend Batman's identity from crimefighter to benevolent angel, but it has a converse effect: in some senses, Batman is nearly the outlaw the criminals are.

I more enjoyed Burton's take on Batman, even though they got a bit campy. I enjoyed the addition (finally) of Arkham Asylum to Gotham City. I thought the villain's reveal was a big fat cinematic whoopee cushion.

Gary Oldham was a revelation as Sgt. Gordon. And wouldn't this film have been better if Christian Bale were shirtless even more? Although, by the end of the film, I had already felt disgusted with myself for eating half a bag of popcorn and downing a soda after seeing his no-fat, muscled torso flex under and over his bedsheets. (Being gay cuts both ways.)

My favorite take on Batman was the WB cartoon series of the late 90s. It cultivated Gotham City as a moody Art Deco wonderland, complete with women whose stockings had a seam up the back of their legs. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Even Two Face, one of the biggest villain duds, was given appropriate due in the series.

Overall, Batman met my minimum expectations. I think the next one will probably be better.


Night Reading

Last night I read at the author reception for Kris Sanford's photo show at The Kitchenette, a downtown Phoenix art collective of which she is a member. Kris and I have been collaborating on a found-photo/text project, and during the month of June she showed a few pieces from that series as well as related works. Prior to working with me, Kris worked with the fabulous poet Matt Heil on the same project as she and I, and so last night, Matt and I regaled her crowd of guests with our poems.

Collaborating with Kris (as well as Tracy, another photographer with whom I collaborated in the fall) has been an amazingly generative experience. I credit working with Kris and Tracy as the spurs that set in motion the writing of my entire last manuscript, which occurred quickly over a few months. I learned to see through them, or, rather, a new way to see.

Matt's poems are beautiful always, but his poems in collaboration with Kris's photos are especially beautiful and powerful.

And I love reading. Never joke about inviting me to read somewhere because I will show up in my favorite shirt with a sheaf of poems ready. I believe reading is intrinsically a part of the writing process—I hear things differently when I read them to a crowd. I notice things about my work. And, in practicing the poems at home before the reading, I figure out where the problems I hadn't recognized wait in each little poem.

On the way home, I talked with my boyfriend about my poems. He's become especially insightful about my work, and his opinion is invaluable. He said he noticed that, for a while, my poems were more about their form than what they were actually "about." And now the form is more invisible, more embedded. This, I think, bodes well. And it's a nice compliment, too, I think.


An Echo

In the mailbox:

Hi -

We liked the writing on your blog so much we included it in
"Blogsday," a series of blog posts read by actors over the radio. You
can hear the entire hour here.

We're a public radio show, based in Boston and nationally broadcast,
trying to capture the sound of the web.

Thanks for the beautiful writing --

Brendan Greeley
Producer, Open Source

Tony was also included, about fifteen minutes in. My post comes at the 27 and a half minute mark. Uncanny.

And for the record, they used a female actor to read my post.


Tom Cruise proposes to Katie Holmes

PARIS - Tom Cruise popped the question to Katie Holmes at the Eiffel Tower early Friday and then announced the news to the world - they're getting married.


Urgent Forms / You Crush Me / Sleeping With the Dic

A friend of mine from work who reads my blog but, I think, prefers to remain anonymous, left me a verbal comment on my post about how my prose poems tend to be intense little love poems. She said (and "she" doesn't give anything away, since my office is full of women, and yeah, a few guys too) prose poems have a built in urgency to them because the speed with which they progress somehow relates to intense emotion. I thought it was a brilliant idea and I've been thinking about it ever since.

To contrast, though, I've experimented with writing around some of the recent grief I've felt and I've had the opposite response:
my poems are filled with

wide open spaces and

broken phrasings.

I want to say here, again, publically, that I really enjoyed Richard Siken's Crush. It had that sort of horrific reality that Brian Teare cultivated in The Room In Which I Was Born coupled with a dense, filmic eroticism and a palpable neurosis. I loved the way many of the poems appeared on the page. I feel like I always say this when I read a book that revolutionizes me, but: it's been a long time since I've been so affected by a book of poems.

I recently finished reading Harryette Mullen's Sleeping With the Dictionary, which I generally enjoyed. Some of the long list poems got tedious to me, but I sense that hearing them read out loud would make them more manageable. While reading the Mullen I was concurrently reading Matthea Harvey's Sad Little Breathing Machine.

Both books employ a sort of linguistic playfulness, but Mullen's to me seems more successful. I enjoy Harvey's poems, but I feel like they don't necessarily speak to me. Harvey's poems seem to be more about what they veil rather than what they reveal, while Mullen is employing language in a way that reveals what is cloaked. I don't mean to diametrically oppose them, but I don't think they're "opposites" (whatever that means), but there does seem to be both a great affinity and a wide divide between them.

Harvey's poems have a sort of childlike innocence about them, a misreading of the world. Mullen's work is informed by politics, justice, and the sense that language is not our escape but our chain-link fence.


Regularly Scheduled Programming: Listing

For Deborah: Things You Didn't Know About Me

>In the past four years, I have gained 45 pounds.

>I've never stolen anything from a retail store, but in high school I once outsourced the theft of Allen Ginsberg's Cosmopolitan Greetings from a suburban Milwaukee bookseller.

>I never wanted to be a poet. Growing up, I wanted to be a filmmaker. Secretly, I wanted to front a rock band.

>I play three instruments: trumpet (7 years), piano (1 year of lessons), and guitar (self taught).

>In college I marched in a homecoming parade dressed as a human condom. I distributed condoms to the crowd.

>In the float that lined up across from us: Jesse Ventura and his gubernatorial campaign staff.

>I lived in residence halls for seven years.

>In high school, I was elected my class's Prom King.

>I wore black Reeboks to prom.

>I smoked for seven years/quit three years ago. I bit my nails for 20 years/quit two years ago.

>The religion most compatible with my spiritual beliefs is Quakerism (in a liberal form, naturally).

>I had my eyebrow pierced three different times in my life: twice during college and once during grad school. I also pierced my left ear and my bellybutton in college.

>After I pierced my belly button, I gained 20 pounds and couldn't show it to anyone.

>The only non-literary celebrity I've met in real life is Chris Isaak. I drooled and nearly passed out.

>I don't like New York at all, but I am obsessed with San Francisco and Los Angeles.

>I have been photographed naked.


Breaking Silence

Thanks to everyone who emailed/checked in with me over the past week+. I wasn't sure if I would post anything about this, but I think I will make short mention of what occurred. Last Monday morning I was told my ex-boyfriend committed suicide. It was an intense, life-rattling shock to say the least. Although we haven't been together for several years, he was my first real relationship and the man who moved with me to Arizona. I was not able to stay on good terms with him until recently, when we had a very nice phone conversation on my birthday. He was 31.

It was the first time I ever felt palpably, physically, another person's absence. Compounding the guilt was a long poem from my manuscript in which—you guessed it—an ex-lover takes his own life, written about 8 or 9 months ago. I used details of that break-up in the poem. It felt uncomfortably prophetic in retrospect.

For several days I wasn't capable of functioning on a level of language. I'm coming back to the world now. But it's a different place than when it left me.


Artist's Books

I'm taking an artist's book class this summer, and we just made our first real book. I love it—it's small and cute and I made it myself from scratch:

It's still blank inside. I haven't figured out how to get a poem into it, but I have an idea of what I'd like to have on the pages. But it will probably end up being a different class project.

Right now I'm working on an altered book project. It's been tough for me because I don't think of books as objects, I think of them as texts. I've had a hard time divorcing the book from its contents. I'll post pics of that when it's done, too. I mean, if it's any good.


Brevity Is the Foal of Twits

My first reader spent some time with the prose poem chap recently, and yesterday we went through the poems and discussed which seemed to be working, which were "okay," and which weren't working at all.

It was comforting to have nearly all of my intuitions about the poems confirmed by an impartial third party. In the poems, I think it's readily apparent which were written first and which are most recent. The early poems lack a sort of nerve. They're a bit more melancholy while the newer poems tend to end with panic, shock, or some other kind of sudden turn (which may be melancholy). The new poems seem sharper to me, but that's perhaps because they have yet to be dulled down by my repeated readings of them.

In the writing of these, it became clear they are a study of relationships. Love poems, a lot of them, and unloved poems.

I do not know why prose poems bring out the love poet in me, but it's common for them to skirt issues of romance. Earlier I had been working on a series of prose poems called "Explanations & Advice for _____." Perhaps they will find new life in this series.

I'm slowly, with each project, cannibalizing my thesis manuscript. It feels good.


Into Perfect Boys Such Holes Are Pierced

Yes. You can believe the hype surrounding Siken's Crush. I'm only halfway through it and already it's one of my favorite books of the year. It's different. It's risky. It's visceral. Those things I love.

Big kisses to Louise G for letting this one nose its way out of the ms pile.


The Joy of Blogging

With all due respect to my friends, colleagues, and mentors in the MFA program, I was thinking the other day that if I had been blogging prior to entering the program, I might have made a different decision.

And this is with the full disclosure that I loved my MFA program, loved working with the tremendous artists enrolled with me in my courses.

But blogging has been surprisingly educational for me in a way that my MFA program couldn't have been. I've been in touch with and heard about poets I never would have encountered outside the blogosphere, and I've been able to make really positive connections with other working poets around the country and, in some cases, in different countries.

Maybe I should say that blogging has been a wonderful complement to my MFA—not a replcement for or revision of, but a comfortable dovetail.

Basically, for you, this means Thanks.


Hot Man On Man Action (hMOMA)

It's getting hot in here, and not because it's summertime in Arizona. Check out the foxy studs I'll be sharing my nights with:

Richard Siken (Crush)
Mark Doty (School of the Arts
Dan Bellm (One Hand on the Wheel)

And just for good measure, these ladies will be hanging out:

Harryette Mullen (Sleeping With the Dictionary)
Gina Franco (The Keepsake Storm)
Jenny Factor (Unravelling at the Name)

I'm calling it pornetry.