Cinema Scare-ité

Recommendations for Halloween viewing:

10. The Grudge
Not only does this surprisingly bizarre thriller feature Sarah Michelle Gellar in her first post-Buffy/non-Daphne role, director Takashi Shimizu's bleak nightmare shuffles its narrative to keep you guessing until the end. Sad, strange, and uncomfortable, The Grudge is a sadly overlooked example of the horror genre in capable hands.

9. Scream
Wes Craven's reinvention of the slasher genre revitalized all horror filmmaking in the mid-90s, creating a renaissance of films whose quantities had gone unmatched since the 70s. Neve Cambell's lips part speechlessly with such aplomb that her trademark expression nearly parodies itself. Oh, and Rose McGowan plays a whore—go figure. Also a favorite as I used it as my Senior Project in college, demonstrating horror films are still, at heart, anti-queer.

8. Signs
M. Night Shyamalan's second feature film followed the cardinal rule of horror films: giving your audience a good look at the monster/killer/etc ruins the effect. And so, in the most Spielberg fashion, he reserves it for the end, peppering the rest of the film with masterful Hitchcockian touches of suspense and thrills. This is the film that clearly identifies Shyamalan as heir to Hitchcock's big, big throne.

7. The Addiction
Although it can be tiring to confront yet another "vampirism as _____" metaphor, Abel Ferrara's gem features Lili Taylor as an ambitious philosophy graduate student in New York who stumbles headfirst into...a new addiction. Starkly filmed in high contrast black and white, it features a stunning sequence that just might change the way you think of the word "buffet."

6. From Hell
The Hughes Brothers' adapted this notable graphic novel theorizing the identity of Jack the Ripper in Victorian London. Johnny Depp investigates the gruesome crimes on behalf of Scotland Yard, while whore-in-peril Heather Graham defiantly works the streets for answers. As far as period horror goes, it doesn't get any better than this.

5. Poltergeist
Americans love two things about supernatural films: pissed-off spirits and freaky kids. This film, arriving on the tail end of the 70s horror fantasia, continues to creep out everyone digging their own swimming pool, defrosting steak in their kitchen, or burying their loved ones parakeets in the backyard. Props to a young, sexy Craig T. Nelson for keeping JoBeth Williams glowing.

4. 28 Days Later
What if you woke up from a coma and found London inexplicably abandoned? Although your first thought might be looting at Harrod's or sorting through Gwyneth Paltrow's underwear drawer, director Danny Boyle wants to caution you by considering a nation under the effects of zombification. This artfully shot thriller doesn't disappoint in terms of scares, and newcomer Cillian Murphy looks great with a shaved head and scraggly facial scruff.

3. Final Destination
One of the most inventively plotted horror films of the past five years, Final Destination features the most elaborate, most gut-wrenching, and most horrific character deaths since Hitchcock's Torn Curtain. Cutie McCutestein Devon Sawa gets Ali Larter under his skin as he tries to protect survivors of a horrific plane crash from certain death. Don't be fooled by its teen cast: this is a wonderful horror film.

2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
This film is so scary I haven't been able to watch it a second time. Notable for igniting my love for Jessica Biehl (Stealth notwithstanding), TCM truly benefitted from its production value makeover. Smartly set at the time of its original filming, the film is, again, beautifull filmed and expertly edited for maximum suspense. Although gruesome at times, the emphasis here is on anxiety, not fright.

1. Nightmare on Elm Street
Poor Nancy can't get enough sleep because she's being stalked by a vicious, hideous killer in her dreams. Johnny Depp makes his second appearance on this list in his first film role (and, thankfully, a half-shirt: thank you, 80s). Wes Craven's slasher masterpiece is smart, Freudian, and convincing. If you die in your dream, do you die for real? The only people who can tell us aren't talking (they're dead, duh), but in the meantime, bone up on your B-movie acting with Heather Lagenkamp's campy portrayal of good-girl-gone-vigilante Nancy. Sequels in quality order: 3, New Nightmare, 4, 6, 2, 5.

HONORABLE MENTION: House of Wax. Elisha Cuthbert in a wife beater, Chad Michael Murray in full-on pout mode, and Paris Hilton dies. Enough said.


Don't seduce a poet with poems; use music instead.


Into Perfect Faces Such Poems Are Sheathed

It was a good week for me and poetry.

This week I finished off David St. John's The Face and started and finished Catherine Barnett's Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced.

The Face is a wildly imaginative project, an idea I wish I would have (and could have?) had myself: a middle-aged man comes to terms with his past and his relationships even as an intrepid filmmaker shoots a biopic of his life (which will run in reverse!). Formally, the poems seem a departure for St. John—long, expansive lines with seemingly random breaks; an effusive voice eager to reveal his story but ashamed of it at the same time. It's a complicated book-length sequence, with each poem titled by a Roman numeral and nothing more.

My favorite piece in the book, which, incidentally, ran in the last issue of Hayden's Ferry Review I co-edited:

from XXX.

Everybody ends up...here, at Edge World. Just my kind
Of theme park; & maybe it's your kind of theme park too? So maybe
You go for one of those short, three-day "Lost Weekend" passes—
Not me; I'll hang in there for weeks at a time. I'm what you call "dedicated,"
& I've found that some artificial incentive can help steady you for
A favorite ride—mine's "The Abyss." It's really just for one person. You
Stand at the lip of a black chasm, strapped into a silver, spring-loaded harness,
As, below, at the bottom of the abyss, a few emaciated dingoes & starved
Pit bulls tear at the raw carcasses of lambs. Icy-blue gas jets keep spitting up
Flames to keep the dogs & dreams all hopping. But for me, the best part is this:
The far face of the canyon wall is really one big movie screen, & scenes of
The most horrifying
& humiliating moments of your life are looped together, running endlessly,
Edited so that the really desperate episodes crescendo into a burst of self-pity
That sets even the dingoes howling. Here & there, I recognize scenes (of myself)
From earlier Edge World visits, though I swear I don't recognize a single
Face in that sticky sea of bodies. Finally, after you've watched for a while,
Some attendant walks on over & simply
Pushes you off the edge.

Retyping that out, it occurs to me that this might be the kind of poem Berryman would write (or be interested in writing) were he around today. Neurotic, self-obsessed and ashamed in the way that only the most anxious, OCD person can be...and yet, understandable. I know Edge World. Maybe this is the appeal of the work for me.

Barnett's book is a 180 from St. John's book. Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced is a quiet tour-de-force, the kind of book that, days later, you can't seem to shake. I picked it up early in the week and, after about 7 pages, had to put it down, not because the work was bad, but because the work was literally tearing me to pieces. I'm not sure I've read a book to which I had such a visceral response; the closest I've come, I think, would be the first time I read D. A. Powell's Cocktails, but even then I was so transfixed I could not look away.

I went back to Spheres the next morning and read it right through to the end. I might be attracted to this work—aside from its mastery—because of my own experiences with grief in the past year. She's speaking my language. I know what this is, this confusion and caution. Barnett's narrator is a careful participant-observer in her family's tragedy, seeking both understanding and a return to a kind of equilibrium. And maybe that's the real message of Spheres—that the most perfect, unspoiled parts of life, when corrupted, can never be restored. There will always be an absence. There will always be an absence.


Boob Tube

My favorite shows (current):

1. Veronica Mars
2. Supernatural
3. The L Word
4. America's Next Top Model
5. Kitchen Confidential
6. Weeds
7. The Apprentice: Martha Stewart

My favorite shows (historical):

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. Twin Peaks
3. The Muppet Show
4. Popular
5. Doogie Hauser, MD
6. Project Runway
7. The Amazing Race



Please join me in celebrating with Anne, whose poem "Windows" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

More hooray: My poem, "Nina (2)," was also nominated for a Pushcart by No Tell Motel! Big thanks to Reb and Molly for the nod.


Because You Deserve It


Great Moments in Gay Culture 3

Earring Magic Ken (Mattel, 1992). Companion doll to "Earring Magic Barbie," who in 1993 filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences."

Earring Magic Ken tears up the Castro in his purple naugahyde vest and matching mesh t-shirt. His single pierced ear (the left, naturally—let's not be overt) and two-toned hair are sure to attract plenty of attention in West Hollywood's hottest gyms. All the boys back in Chelsea look to EMK (as he's affectionately known) for the latest trends. Ken's biggest accessory—and I'm talking here about the one around his neck—bears more than a passing resemblance to a proportionately-sized cock ring. It's uncanny.

Let's get a close-up of that fabulous hair:


Postcards from the Edge

I've been a fan of Amanda Laughtland's postcard poems for a while now, and recently I discovered that a handful of them are scattered around the internet in various places.

As a series of poems, Postcards to Box 464 deliver (pun intended?) exactly what they promise: short missives, quick images. Based on a set of inherited postcards, each brief, postcard-sized poem is titled with a mid-20th century date, just as it would appear above a letter.

Both deeply personal and endearingly banal, the postcards capitalize on their form by delighting the reader with a seductive sense of voyeurism—the kind of pleasure I've always assumed my local postmaster has enjoyed with many a postcard in his hand. As a tradition, the postcard is a curiously public/private entity: its message typically goes to a friend or loved one, sending private (and typically lyric) thoughts while printed on an exposed medium.

Laughtland's poems capture this uncomfortable marriage exquisitely. In "May 6, 1957," the speaker writes,

Everyone seems real friendly. The house

is old but convenient, close
to shopping. I can walk downtown
in ten minutes. I guess we'll

stick with it for a while.

These comforting details—the house, the neighbors—are purposefully vague and hopeful, and the selling point of the location—being close to downtown—seems designed not only to convince the postcard's recipient, but its writer as well. And the wrenching conclusion, "I guess we'll / stick with it for a while," exposes the true nature of the writer's state of mind on May 6 in a way that could perhaps be easily overlooked. This is the real power of Laughtland's postcard series: her understanding that even our most brief communications often betray our uncomfortable secrets, cloaked in cheerful details and satisfying travel highlights.

Elsewhere, in "October 23, 1958," Laughtland's speaker writes,

Just returned
from the Pearl Harbor tour. Interesting

and pretty and sad. How's bowling?

The spacial restrictions of the postcard form require all writers of postcards a difficult and often unfortunate condensing of language. Here, memorializing the Pearl Harbor tragedy as "interesting," "pretty," and "sad" seems callously reductionist, incapable of capturing the true complexity of the event, while the sudden non-sequitor "How's bowling?" reinforces the 180-degree turns we're carelessly capable of making when space and time are limited.

Overall, Postcards to Box 464 is a fascinating project, well-written and compelling. You can connect to about 9 of the pieces through Laughtland's website.



I was sort of shocked by how homoerotic was the sudden interlude between Chris Penn's character and Kevin Bacon's character in Footloose (which I just saw past the one-hour mark tonight for the first time).

Not only does Bacon offer to give Penn dance lessons (euphemism much?), they dance together, wrestle each other, and yes—they even frolic through a field together carrying their gray 80s boombox.

The 80s were a weird time, especially in light of the fact that Kevin Bacon's dancing in this film was supposed to be considered masculine.


American's Next Top Blogger

If you aren't reading this blog every Thursday morning for the America's Next Top Model recap, I pity you.

We read it and laugh, laugh, laugh.

Dim Sum....and then sum?

Best line from a Veronica Mars episode ever.

Coming Attractions

From a new project:

Eyes sweep the room for errant no-good-niks, bright beacons of hope or hoping to isolate a simple man from his clan with their beam. The bathroom door swings. The drag queen “sings.” There are several dark corners making home to illicit maneuvers and salacious things. My ESP gets radar waves from every dick in the room. Echolocation. Movement is intuitive. Booths overflow with pairs of legs. Denim goes in and out of style with spontaneity. We’re teetering on the edge of the world. The drag queen “sings.” Ice goes to seed in small glass gulags. Futility. There is nothing left to love.


Chapbook Update

My chapbook, Little Burning Edens, will appear in the first issue of the Red Mountain Review, which should be available after October 30.

Folks can contact T.J. Beitelman or at this address:

Red Mountain Review
c/o ASFA Creative Writing Department
1800 8th Ave N
Birmingham AL 35203

Copies of the issue are $6.

To pre-order, send a check made payable to ASFA Foundation/Red Mountain Review.


A World Without Poems in It

The past week's break from writing has been great. Some of you may recall that my last hiatus from writing was marked with anxiety and concern, but this time I'm not so worried. I'm enjoying myself, letting myself read, watch a lot of TV, and clean my house. Which needs a lot of cleaning.

I already have an idea for a new project. While wrapping the last ms, I started making notes toward the next project: an even more linked book-length sequence of poems with a more fractured sense of narrative. Maybe characters. Maybe this is more a lyrical novel than poem. My typical concerns (bars, drag queens, loss, men, alcohol, the complexity and banality of relationships) still represented. The new project will be a chanteuse in a smoke-filled bar. Maybe the kind of person who used to do heroin.

It all has something to do with this:

"We are living in a world where the pursuit of all values (except for money, success, fame, glamour) has either been discredited or destroyed." (Party Monster)

It has something to do with this:

"I look for omens everywhere, because they are everywhere to be found." (Carl Phillips)

It has something to do with this:

"Time is an invention." (a t-shirt I bought at Gap a long time ago)

It has something to do.


"Like I said, 'I'm fans,' in the plural."

—Agrado, All About My Mother (Almodóvar)

Watch me go from "nerd fabulous" to "nerd proper" in five seconds:

Today I had the pleasure of discovering yet another Buffy devotee in my life. We were sitting at lunch and she mentioned her plans to go see Serenity this weekend.

When I was in college, when we wanted to find out if someone was gay, we would politely drop into the conversation, "So, have you ever been to the Saloon?" This is a similar instance, although confessing a desire to see Serenity indicates full-on Whedonverse fandom instead of just Buffy love.

"I saw it," I confirmed. "Do you like Buffy?"

Yes, there was reciprocal Buffy adulation, although I nearly immediately exposed the depths of my nerdom by seeming a little too eager to share my own responses to the show. "I even love reading critical essays about Buffy," I admitted proudly. "There's a website."

Naturally, I made the brief version of the Veronica Mars pitch.

Now that Serenity is out, it seems more and more people are coming forward to be counted among the fans of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly (the short lived series on which Serenity is based). That's a good thing. Because, without friends to talk to...all I've got are my DVDs.



The number of years ago Matthew Shepard was murdered on October 12.

Seven years ago, I was walking through the lobby of the residence hall in which I was working as a Resident Assistant when I heard on the television that a young man had been found lashed to a fence post in Wyoming and was in critical condition.

We were the same age.

Book 'em

National Book Award Finalists for poetry:

John Ashbery, Where Shall I Wander (Ecco)

Frank Bidart, Star Dust: Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Brendan Galvin, Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965-2005
(Louisiana State University Press)

W.S. Merwin, Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press)

Vern Rutsala, The Moment’s Equation (Ashland Poetry Press)


"My mind's not right"

So, my brain hasn't been picking up poetry waves for the past several days (a week?) if you haven't noticed by the flurry of incidental posts and song lyrics.

I'm resting.

I'm going to go back into the new book in a while. I'm definitely done generating new work for a bit. I need to see which walls are cracked, need new plaster, need framed photos.

I'm reading Carl Phillips's The Rest of Love and really enjoying it. Why haven't I read his work sooner? I also bought Coin of the Realm. I read his interview in the Hennessy book and realized he and I are concerned (read: obsessed) with similar themes and issues.

Finished Gregory Orr's Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved on Peter's recommendation.

So, I'm still doing things. Writing's just not one of them right now.


I opened my eyes
While you were kissing me once, more than once,
And you looked as sincere as a dog.
Just as sincere as a dog does,
When it's the food on your lips with which it's in love.

—Fiona Apple, "Parting Gift"


Negation and Success

Fun tidbit:

The subconscious mind does not recognize negation. When engaged in activities that make us nervous, we oftentimes will rally ourselves by identifying our feared outcome and working against it. For example, someone playing golf might think, "Okay, don't miss the ball. Don't miss the ball."

What the subconscious mind hears: "Miss the ball."

So, if you want to encourage yourself to succeed, you have to always think of it in positive terms. This, I guess, is the power of positive thinking. Don't think,"Don't miss the ball." Think, "Hit the ball!"



Love is:

Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine

"If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can't help but the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me or treat me mean—
I'll make the most of it; I'm an extraordinary machine"

Liz Phair's Somebody's Miracle

"Anyone could tell you were my instrument
You said, 'I understand you,
You want to play me.'"

Various artists, Veronica Mars soundtrack

"A long time ago
we used to be friends but I
haven't thought of you lately at all"

And confidential to the Buffy lovers in the house:

Veronica Mars: the Complete First Season is in stores on Tuesday. Get caught up.

I'm the IKEA of Socialists

You are a
Social Liberal
(70% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(10% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test


I Have Needs, Too

One thing that's rough about the literary life is the amount of time between happy accidents, which, for me, includes publication. I get a lot of rejections, but I handle that okay to an extent.

But after a while, I start to get nervous.

Especially now with this older manuscript. I've been sending work out from it for about eight months, I guess. Only a few pieces have been taken. This is fine. I mean, I'm not dying to get in. But it starts to present a problem for my relationship to the work.

The further away I get from the experience of having written it, the more I see its flaws. Like after you've seen a movie a few times, suddenly you notice the boom mike dipping into the frame like a black baby carrot. I've noticed that getting poems published makes me feel like they're not my problem anymore. That, since somebody else likes them, I don't have to feel solely responsible for caring for them, tending to them, etc.

Is this normal? It seems worse now that I've finished writing the new ms. I feel very ambivalent about the other book, which is sad because I loved it for so long.

I know that another thing that helps me feel excited about my work again is reading it. I read in June and those old pieces were jolted back to life. But reading opportunities seem few and far between here in the sunny PHX. We need a good non-MFA/non-distinguished writer reading series here.


Los Angeles: A Queer Odyssey

I spent the weekend in Los Angeles, one of the three jewels in my fantasy California crown (with San Fran and San Diego). Gay Days 2 was happening and Disneyland, so we added a visit to Magic Mountain and headed out. What follows is a brief essay of our experiences.

Gay Days is sort of a mindfuck. You walk into Disneyland wearing your red shirt and you are visually numbed by the wide sea of red shirts that stretches out in front of you. Everywhere you go throughout the park, there are tons of red shirts. It's the only time I've ever experienced the absolute opposite of the closet: everyone puts it out there. And heterosexuals, for one day, might have a taste of what it feels like to be the minority. Because there were a lot of queer folks there. And it was a wonderful feeling.

Photos not suitable for all audiences.

Dark Skies of the Republic

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

The fires over Burbank were still burning strong as we drove past.

These Magic Mountains

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

This is the only good photo from Magic Mountain, where we went on Friday after our 7-hour drive from Phoenix. I love Magic Mountain, though, and the reason there aren't more photos is because we didn't have to wait in any lines and we were too busy having fun to take pictures.

Wait Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

Here's a shot of the lines at Disneyland from up near the gate. We waited nearly 30 minutes to get in just in this one line.


Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

Some of the rides were scary. This is Space Mountain, finally reopen. I hadn't been on it since I was seven years old. That time, I cried through the whole ride and all the way out the door.

This time, I didn't cry as much.

Rides, Part II

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

Some of them weren't so scary. This is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, my favorite ride at Disneyland. It's better in the dark, though.

The only other ride we got to go on was Indiana Jones, which is pretty good too. The Matterhorn broke down again just as we got in line. I'll never get on that thing.

Confidential to James and Aaron

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

It was asking for you.

Next year, let's all go?

Something Queer Is Going On

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

When we got to the Big Gay Party in Downtown Disney on Saturday night, we'd arrived just as Peter Paige, formerly "Emmett" on Queer As Folk, arrived as well.

Just as security was finishing me off, his staff handler came running down the stairs yelling, "Oh, don't worry about him, he's fine," as security started giving Peter the ol' "wand." Well, it was really just a wand.

I started to walk up the stairs and BAM! Peter and I walked right into each other!

I'm not good with celebrities (please, I'm from Wisconsin farmland), so I was immediately overcome. I turned red. Oh my god, I'm so sorry, I stammered. We each took a step back.

Then we both took a step forward. BAM! We bumped into each other again.

Peter laughed. I nearly died. I ran past him up the stairs, engaged in a full-body blush, stammering more apologies as I ducked into the crowd.


Disney Princesses

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

Naturally, there were drag queens there. This is Cinderella and (I think) Cruella De Vil. Am I wrong? I'm not up-to-date on my Disney ladies.

Bills, Bills, Bills

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

And then there were the go-go boys. Don't even get me started on the go-go boys.

Who says you can't get anything worthwhile for a dollar?

We did a lot of tipping.

Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend Was...

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

And there were also a few pieces of eye candy for the ladies as well.

Children, Behave

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

Tiffany—the former mall superstar—appeared and sang a few songs.

Yes, she sang that song. It was wonderful.

I touched her hand. Twice.

And Then

Originally uploaded by kinemapoetics.

Then there were some cocktails and a little dancing.