I love this line

from Laurel Snyder's poem over at Born.

"I can't possibly fix you,
but by all means,

Also a beautiful piece there by the equally beautiful Victoria Chang.


New & Noteworthy

> I have a new chapbook ms. finished. I collected about 30% of my prose poems from the summer, did a bit of revision, and ordered them appropriately. I'm very pleased with how the project turned out. I don't know if this is stand-alone work or a section of a longer work.

> Kris Sanford is working on Stolen, an artist's book in the form of a photo album using found photos of male couples. Matthew Heil and I supplied love poems for each page. One of them appeared in a slightly different form on this blog. It's going to be a beautiful book.

> The Red Mountain Review with my chapbook in it should be available in three weeks...

> My bf purchased Sim City 4 and The Sims 2. We will never leave our house again. My city currently has 13,000 happy little Sims. And lots of Simoleons. (I'm a frugal yet effective mayor.)


Hayden's Ferry Review

The new issue of Hayden's Ferry Review arrived in our offices yesterday, and I can safely say it's amazing. The artwork is mind-blowing. I wish I could post just one of the cover images—overhead views of rumpled beds from Tammy Rae Carland's "Lesbian Bed" series. It's really breathtaking. I read through the special section on gender yesterday—a combination of poetry and art (and, in the interest of full disclosure, an interview Sarah Vap and I did with Frank Paino) that is really just so interesting, intelligent, and provocative.

You can learn more at HFR's website.


The Vile Abuses of Sameness

When Tony says all contemporary poetry is boring, I understand what he means. I know he's revised/extrapolated that statement already. For me, I find the more contemporary poetry I read the more it seems the same. This is probably because I'm not reading widely enough, and trust me when I say I want to be widely read, and maybe in part because the dominant forms of poetry supported by publishing communities are strikingly similar.

I don't purport to do anything new or different myself. I might be part of the problem. So, no attacks there, those of you who've read my work and think it's boring.

A while back, my friend and colleague Sarah Vap and I started having conversations about "natural languages." Sarah's a poet whose understanding and use of language is intuitive and beautiful, which results in a very singular voice in her poetry. We theorized that perhaps our best poetries were the poetries written in our natural languages—language the way it occurs inside of us without forces of grammar, expectation, understanding, or success at play. In conversation with someone I can't juxtapose two disparate things. But in poetry I can, and will. If it occurs to me, if a connection sparks in my head, it works.

Sometimes this works well in poems. Not always.

In any case, Sarah and I did a little experiment where we translated each other's poems into our own natural languages. Her translations were wild, spontaneous, wonderful. When I translated her work my instinct was to move through with sound. Sound is important to me; after reading first drafts I often find I've accidentially/intentionally rhymed. (Maybe you notice this in my blog too). When I write I poem I sometimes know better the sound of the word I want rather than the word itself.

I don't know what this is about.



What I don't like are cold poems.

When I say cold I probably refer to a degree of objectivity in the writing. I want to placed inside something, in the heat of it, without a map. "Our house is like a museum: it's very cold and you're not allowed to touch anything." I understand museums and they'll always be there. Make your poem something hot. Something I'll remember after it's touched me.

There aren't many risks in objectivity because objective poets are hoarding all the cards for themselves.

I like hot poems.



The Blogoview has gone bi!

Biweekly, that is. (We're experimenting.)


Kris Sanford Rules!

Also, I wanted to give a quick shout out to visual artist Kris Sanford, with whom I've collaborated on projects, as she graces the cover of our local gay weekly here in Phoenix.
I think Ginger is really on to something here, that the New Sincerity isn't just a response to contemporary poetry, but a perceived lack of sincerity in American culture.

Because I do think it is such an artistic and cultural touchstone, is this, at heart, a response to September 11? To our president's edit that "America is open for business?" Perhaps we're open for—to—more than that now, including the realization that life is too short to be a cool cucumber and not long enough to play clever games.

Within 30 days of September 11, the longest relationship I was in ended. People I knew got engaged and quickly married. People moved out of cities (or to new ones), quit jobs, started or changed families. It seems that maybe we take things a little bit more seriously now.


Christopher Hennessy moderates a really wonderful "virtual panel" with Aaron Smith, Jason Schneiderman, and Richard Siken here..


The Precious Against the Sincere

I've blogged before about my extreme dislike of preciousness in any form, but especially preciousness in art. I think it's important to discuss and differentiate between sincerity and preciousness, though, because I sense that when people write about Sincerity, what they are really arguing against is preciousness.

Preciousness, in these terms, is sincerity taken to a level where the experience of being sincere trumps the actual emotion. In this way, preciousness is a form of kitsch: it is less about the object and more about the experience of the object, the memory of the object, or the audience's relationship to the object.

Take, for example, Precious Moments figurines. These tiny, cherubic children are precious-ized into fat, vaguely sexualized, "adorable" litte figures. The owners of the figurines don't purchase them because they represent real childhood; they represent the adult relationship to childhood as an idealized experience. I mean, if we created figurines that represented childhood as it was lived, there'd be a lot of shitting, nosepicking, black eyes, and worm-eating.

Because poets desperately need to avoid the precious (unless they are employed by Hallmark or a subsidiary), they oftentimes feel obligated to skirt the sincere in favor of something other, a type of armor against the perception of preciousness. It's like I've written about Patrick Donnelly's The Charge—one of my favorite books, but, ultimately, a book full of overly-sincere poems. What do I love about it? The fucking amazing poems where Donnelly pushes the envelope of sincerity and creates at its borders a real, true capture of human emotion and experience. Without the trivialization of that emotion via preciousness.
Very Well-Rounded

You have:

The graph on the right represents your place in Intuition 2-Space. As you can see, you scored above average on emotional intuition and above average on scientific intuition. (Weirdly, your emotional and scientific intuitions are equally strong.)

Emotional Intuition score is a measure of how well you understand people, especially their unspoken needs and sympathies. A high score score usually indicates social grace and persuasiveness. A low score usually means you're good at Quake.

Your Scientific Intuition score tells you how in tune you are with the world around you; how well you understand your physical and intellectual environment. People with high scores here are apt to succeed in business and, of course, the sciences.
Very Well-Rounded

You have:

The graph on the right represents your place in Intuition 2-Space. As you can see, you scored above average on emotional intuition and above average on scientific intuition. (Weirdly, your emotional and scientific intuitions are equally strong.)

Your Emotional Intuition score is a measure of how well you understand people, especially their unspoken needs and sympathies. A high score score usually indicates social grace and persuasiveness. A low score usually means you're good at Quake.

Your Scientific Intuition score tells you how in tune you are with the world around you; how well you understand your physical and intellectual environment. People with high scores here are apt to succeed in business and, of course, the sciences.



On Her Majesty's Secret Service Agents

Last night I was pleased to discover my all-time favorite Bond film playing on AMC:

It's my favorite for a lot of reasons: not one but TWO high speed Alpine ski chases PLUS an out of control bobsled pursuit; Diana Rigg as the petulant, pouty, and powerful Countess Tereza "Tracy" Draco; Telly Savalas (!) as Blofeld; eight very sexy ladies from all corners of the globe secretly trained to be sexy assassins; and James Bond's wedding.

Lest I forget to mention the very, very sexy George Lazenby in his first and only James Bond role. Lazenby's Bond is my favorite becase he's the youngest, the most athletic, and has the best smile. I mean, yes, I love Connery. But Roger Moore was a foppy pansy (did anyone really believe he wanted to do anything in bed with those women besides paint their toenails?), Timothy Dalton was a smidge too bipolar, and Pierce Brosnan is okay but not great. Lazenby got a raw deal—the film is the most complex outing for Bond and the only time we see him "fall in love." His romance with Tracy is one of the high points of the series (later alluded to at the beginning of—I believe—A View to a Kill).

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.


Sorry, Girls

My nudie shots won't be on the poetry calendar this year.

I'm planning something hotter.



If the New Sincerity is just a joke, does that make you any less of a New Sincerist?


New Sincerists Do It With Harder Enjambments

I think people are rejecting the New Sincerity because they believe that what is sincere must also be trite: greeting cards, for example, have destroyed all meaning to the phrases "Happy birthday," "With sympathy," and etc. The most important occasions call for (now) the least sincere sentiments. And therefore the most trite.

But sincerity is (truly) the opposition to the trite, the frivolous, the meaningless. Sincerity has money down on this game and it's not taking chances. Sincerity recognizes an investment in poetic communication that is emotional, honest, and less interested in being smart than being true.

Isn't New Sincerity really just the end of hiding behind all of our neurotic, cooler-than-you bullshit?

I've been photographed naked. I'm a New Sincerist.



I am (I think) 26 pages into my next manuscript, which even has a tentative title.

They are 26 drafty, drafty pages. Mostly short bursts of something. Spliced together.

Over the past year or so, I've found myself increasingly comfortable with a new writing technique: sometimes I get this feeling about what I'm writing—that it isn't finished yet. When I feel that, the next time I write I open the same file I was working on, put in a page break, and write what comes next. I continue to do this until, well,

I have 26 pages of poems. All in a linked little row. And: I'm still going.

I've been doing some pre-writing for this project since mid-June. What I was writing then was all over the place: fiction, Carole Maso-esque fiction, poems full of white space. But that wasn't the project. That was the overture to the project: the main themes, the notes and lines that I've blown into full, curvaceous poems. This: reviewing those notes, rephrasing them, expanding on them, riffing—this is the project. The project is a stasis. I'm staying inside it.

It's awfully sincere.

I'm staying inside it.



Last night I received my (hardcover!!) copy of the "restored version" of Sylvia Plath's Ariel. I immediately dug into it, reading first (in a very uncharacteristic fashion for me) the entire forward by Freida Hughes and then plunging into the first poems, many of which I hadn't read before because they'd been replaced in the Ted Hughes version.

What I'm not going to talk about here is whether or not I think Ted Hughes committed some kind of crime against poetry by altering Plath's original manuscript. There is no way to know if, upon reflection, Plath would have revised it further had she lived, and there's no reason these three versions (the US version, the UK version, and the "original") shouldn't exist simultaneously.

The first line of the book, which I shared yesterday, blows my mind. That whole poem blows my mind. A friend of mine once quoted a line from it in a poem of her own ("cow heavy and floral in my Victorian nightgown"), and that line, too, has always stuck with me and spoken to me.

Plath is a poet whose deep influence on me is not something I readily understand. I tried to convey her power to my poetry students when I was teaching. I had several students read "Cut" out loud and then read it to them myself, trying to expose the power of her irregular rhyme scheme and the harsh hardness of her rhythm. Her work, to me, seems nearly unfiltered from the subconscious—undistilled, pure, raw—but beautiful.

I think it's so unfortunate that people respond most immediately to Plath's seeming confessions in this work, without really getting into her language, which sits on the page in a tight, suspenseful coil. Her work makes me nervous. It makes me feel tense and uncomfortable, but I understand it and believe in its honesty. I also think it's unfortunate that she is so often lumped into a category with Anne Sexton. From the perspective of language, their work is oppositional: where Sexton is an enforcer, completely controlled and deeply artificial, Plath is an explosion, uncontrollable. Indelicate. Sexton's work to me always seems on the verge of breakage, like an expensive vase set too near a table's edge. Plath is the bomb that goes off from under the table—the one you didn't even realize was there.

I'm eager to rip through the collection again—it's been some time since I first read and reread Ariel. I'm going to commit some of these poems to memory. One stanza that never leaves me is

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
and I eat men like air.




Process & Product

During my book arts class this summer, I was presenting my final project. "When I started, I wasn't sure why I wanted to work in miniature," I said, "but by the end of the project, it became clear to me what I was working toward and why."

One of the visual arts students in the room nearly gaped at me as I said it, and I think he may have even made some kind of response indicating his disbelief.

I realized then how different the process of a writer gets to be than most other artists. We often forge into the woods blindly, with perhaps some general sense of where we're going ("north"), but often times without a definite destination or path---or with the option to go off in an entirely different direction altogether.

Visual artists--particularly photographs, it seems to me--need to have a pretty good idea of what they want the product to be before they begin. So much of photography requires the creation of what is photographed: the manipulation of the object(s), lighting, position of the camera, etc. All of those decisions are often made before the camera even takes the photo. And then, in the development process, an additional set of decisions must be made in order to coax the negative into its final form.

For writers, revision is a sort of development process. I've often commented that I'm most comfortable revising like a sculptor, chipping away at poems until they've been reduced to their absolutely essential parts. By then, I usually have a good sense of what the final product needs to be: I've discovered it along the way, maybe by writing a certain line or using a certain word. Or, the poem in a context of other poems indicates its function/purpose/form.

Discovery and invention are such natural parts of poetry for me that, up until that moment, I'd never considered the ways in which other artists much approach the creation of their work. It makes me sort of glad that I can work in a genre that allows me to get up, go into the forest, and to just see what there is to see.



I received word yesterday that my manuscript was one of 20 finalists for the Wick Poetry Center First Book Prize. It's the second contest I've entered it into and the first contest in which it reached the final judge.

A good portent? Let's hope so.


This Just In

Received via email today:

"But I need you to know that my frst night here involved the Illinois police, a blow up doll, Mike's Hard Limeade, the St. Louis metro train, and a u-turn. Hot."

Clipboard Check

My favorite meme is the clipboard check: let's see what you've copied to your computer clipboard most recently. Show the world.

No editing:

Do a control-V (Mac users: command-V) in the comment box. That's a "paste" for you drop-down menu users.