My Holiday Weekend in 15

Because I don't have time for anything of substance.

15. Sharpie pen
14. Singing Lindsay Lohan at karaoke
13. Discovering the yummy raspberry long beach cocktail
12. "slut laps"
11. Buffy season 3: "Bad Girls" through "Enemies"
10. Chipotle!
9. Starting Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451
8. Packing, packing, packing
7. Getting your phone call, then missing all the others
6. Winning the "Glory Hole" round at drag bingo
5. Listening to Panic! At the Disco's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out CONSTANTLY
4. Arden, Arden, Arden
3. Text messaging the wonderful Woody Loverude...extensively
2. X-Men 3...and the secret clip at the end!
1. Having delicious pizza at Cibo


Post Script

Also, I got a promotion at my job. I am now the Program Manager for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing!

I'll be overseeing all the programming as well as the day-to-day operations of our little organization. Good times!

News of the New

I'm pleased to mention I'll have five poems in the upcoming issue of Merge and five poems in No Tell Motel the week of September 11. All ten poems are from my forthcoming chapbook Living Things. Gracious thanks to the editors for including my work!

* * * * *

I've been feeling weird about writing lately. Divorced from it, sort of—taken out. I feel like it's time for me to turn my full attention back to the page and away from these extraneous concerns: the contests, the publications, the submissions, the etc. I've become very busy in the past two months—busy enough that I'm not sure how to squeeze it all in—and I need to remember what's really important here.

I'm trying to finish up generating new work for the manuscript I'll be revising for the next year. I'm probably halfway to three-quarters of the way through writing it. That's when the "real" work begins for me. A segment of one of the pieces has already been selected for publication, which is very encouraging. But there's much still to be done.

That said, this weekend is probably the last time in a long time I'll have an opportunity to put submissions together. I'll be working with the second ms pieces and trying to find homes for them. And once they're gone, I'm going back into the cave to make my little drawings and maybe I won't be out there in the world for a while.

Wound-licking, etc.

* * * * *

In other ways I have come back to the world after a long absence and it's a different place, an interesting place, and a little scarier than I remember it.


Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch III: This Time It's Personal

This past week Stephanie and I read work by two interesting poets: G. C. Waldrep and Suji Kwock Kim. Our discussion was spirited and we drew the following win conclusions:

Me: G. C. Waldrep (in an upset!)
Her: Suji Kwock Kim

For me, there wasn't much question. While I was sure I would love Suji's work more than G. C.'s, I was shocked to discover the opposite. I really enjoyed Waldrep's two prose poems, "O Canada!" and "The Miracles of Saint Sebastian" and felt Kim's works were good, but not as good. Admittedly, though, I was confounded by Waldrep's lined poems and didn't find them too appealing; however, the success of the other two was enough for me to award victory.

I was very put off by Kim's talking onion poem, but Stephanie was supportive of it, and our length discussion of Kim's work softened my initial disappointment of it. Kim's work, to me, was definitely interesting and compelling, but these selections just didn't hit the mark for me. Like Trethewey of last week, I feel like in order to really get a grasp of her work, I'd need to read Notes from the Divided Country in its entirely, and I do plan to do so.

On another note, I did a little statistical work while waiting to meet with Stephanie and I, in true Dan Brown fashion, unearthed the following tidbits:

Of the 85 poets in the anthology who list (or clearly imply) the institution granting their MFA degree, the most common response is the Iowa Writer's Workshop.

You have a 1 in 3 chance of randomly selecting an Iowa graduate's work when you pick up this anthology.

The next most common institutions were Columbia and UMass, both with 8 graduates represented. Even combined, that's still ten less than the number of Iowa grads.

Among other "top" MFA institutions, only Johns Hopkins, Houston, the New School are represented by one graduate. NYU has two representatives. University of Utah and USC have 0 graduates represented. (And these "top" institutions here are most based on rumor and speculation since there is no clear ranking published since 1997.)

Of low-residency programs, Warren Wilson and Vermont College show up with 2 and 1 grads respectively. Brown rounds out the Ivy leage with 2 grads, and other regional favorites include Florida International, Syracuse U, Indiana, UCs Davis and Irvine, Oregon, Pitt, Washington U of St Louis, and Michigan, all with 1-3 grads each (but mostly 1 grad).

Public institions outweigh private instituions by a ratio of nearly 3:1, due in large part, I think, to the overwhelming number of Iowa & UMass grads (34 grads total).

So what does this all mean? Beats me! I just crunch the numbers. Anyone care to weigh in?


Da Vinci a la Mode

The Da Vinci Code is one of the biggest wastes of film I've seen in a long time.

Unfortunately, it proves the old adage that good stories don't make good films. While the premise of the film is definitely interesting and dramatic, the film itself is a lot like what would happen if you gave a team of 8-year-olds a copy of Hamlet and asked them to write a faithful adaptation.

So, what you get in DVC is: amateurish dialogue, a plot fueled (alternately) by complete absurdities or by dialogue, a non-character as a protagonist, and a lot, a lot, a lot, of history lecture.

Tom Hanks turns in his best performance as paint drying.

The only interesting things here are a nearly unrecognizable Paul Bettany as Silas the Nasty Monk and Audrey Tautou as Sophie, plucky French detective. What's frustrating is that this movie could have been the next Pelican Brief, a taut, savvy thriller in which plot twists don't turn on a dime and in which characters outweigh plot by a longshot.

Because the real drawing power of the book version is the plot, whatever poor hack adapted the film was probalby just stuck trying to reconcile how to communicate this great mystery with the flaw of revealing a single character trait for the main charcter in the last 30 minutes of the film. The only thing we EVER learn about Hanks's character comes at the end, and by then, who cares?

This is what I looked like as I was leaving the theater.

My favorite moment in the film is where a hit man completely misses shooting our heroes because, above him, a flock of pigeons randomly coos and takes flight FOR NO APPARENT REASON, allowing the characters time to run away. And it's not even a John Woo film! Factor in the Hanks character's Peter Pereira-like ability to instantly unravel anagrams and store complex visual data for immediate recall in his brain and suddenly nothing's making much sense anymore.

It was clear to me that Ron Howard lost a bet, or was suckered into buying a timeshare and the script to this film, or was emotionally blackmailed into participating in this subpar, waste-of-time project by an insidious secret society of evil Vatican priests.


The Origin

Yesterday I had occasion to remember what was probably the foundational moment of me becoming a writer.

I was thirteen and I lived on a small island in Wisconsin. There were 500 permanent residents, mostly related to each other in some way, and my 8th grade class had 11 students.

During the year, a poet named David Steingass came to our school to conduct what I think was a week-long residency during which time we wrote poems, workshopped them, and read poems.

I realized yesterday that, knowing I began tinkering with poems that year, it was probably a direct result of David's visit that I began trying to write poems. Our teacher made us keep a journal and we were graded on writing in it every day. Eventually I started dropping little poems into it instead of writing real entries, but that, too, was a foundational exercise for me—I do journal now every day or nearly every day and have, by and large, since college, when I was very dilligent about it.

In any case, I remember butting heads with David (yes, even as a thirteen-year-old I was this troublesome) about his insistence that lines end with "strong words." I think I was breaking my lines with prepositions! I still think of that sometimes when I write and prefer not to break on a preposition [editor's note: in the interest of full disclose, I don't deny anyone else's right to break on a preposition].

Obviously, writers-in-the-schools programs can be effective in reaching people. Had I not had this opportunity to work with David, I might never had started in poetry. It was the following year, in high school, that I found my first ongoing poetry mentor with whom I would work for the next five years.

Those first teachers...who were yours?


Albums You Should Hear

Snow Patrol, Eyes Open

All American Rejects, Move Along

Erasure, Union Street

Panic! At the Disco, A Fever You Can't Sweat Out

Keane, Hopes and Fears

Fall Out Boy, From Under the Cork Tree


Little Thoughts, Little Friday Thoughts

Phoenix, I'm coming for you soon.


I hear Eduardo's coming back. All the MFA students are talking about it. Where's Eduardo going to live? Eduardo, I have an extra bedroom you can share with my dog. She's very quiet and she doesn't snore. From the window you will see shirtless boys. That is my promise to you.


Hearing that I've been the subject of (true) gossip! Sort of titillating, really. It's about time someone said something true about me.


I've already got tan lines.


Because Erin Reminded Me: A Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch Update

Last week, as you might recall, we left Natasha Trethewey and Carrie St George Comer locked in an epic battle of strength and wits in the second match up of the Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch.

Who emerged victorious?

The answer is more complicated.

Her pick: Natasha Trethewey
My pick: Carrie St George Comer

We talked a lot about the way narratives were constructed in either poems. In Trethewey, narratives were clearly laid out within each poem, while Comer was playing more with montage and collage elements in crafting her second two poems. Naturally, I prefered the montage, kinemapoetic-esque approach, although I hated Comer's first selection in the book. I enjoyed Trethewey's work, even if I felt the poems represented weren't especially risky. Powerful, yes. The complexity of her crown of sonnets transcended its form—I mean, you could only tell it were a crown if you thought to look, so cleverly hidden is the form.

In any case, both poets' work was compelling enough for me to feel interested in reading more of their work. She recommended I pick up Belloq's Ophelia—Trethewey, like me, she said, is a project-based poet.

Next week: Suji Kwock Kim aka "The Enforcer" takes on G. C. "Man Without a Face" Waldrep.


I'm Learning This the Hard Way (There's No Other Way)

For new project I have a 30-page poem, a 10-page poem, and 2 one-page poems so far. I need more of these smaller pieces.

Here is what I know:

Each piece will be without a title.
The longer pieces will be their own sections and the smaller pieces will form connective tissue between the major sections.
I know the project's overall title.
The current epigraph is from Matthea Harvey: "Fact will muzzle anything."
The 30-page poem needs substantial revision and will probably end up half as long as it currently is.

After this, I'm going to do something much, much lighter. Maybe limericks.


An Important Message from the Luminous Sarah Vap

Todd and I recently met David Kowalczyk, who is starting a new literary journal called Gentle Strength, out of California. (For those of you from Phoenix, this isn't related to the co-op in Tempe.) He's looking for contributors for the next few issues. I think his first one is full and due out in October-- and he is working on the next couple. (It will come out four times a year.)

If you're interested, please send him fiction or poetry at

gentle_strength002 AT yahoo.com.



It's been over a year since I have numbered anything. I think it's because of death. It takes away the clear order of things. There is no more causality in the world. All things are randomized.

I keep going back in time, remembering something, saying, this is when it all began. This is when I knew it would happen. There are a thousand different origins, each one as legitimate as the last.

The embrace of numbers signals a return to the world.

I went shopping for clothes. My term: retail therapy. What I was told: you shopaholic! It was said then that everyone I know is a functional alcoholic. It's either the disease or the cure, wouldn't you agree?

Although numbers may be ignored, once you have entered into language you may never reject it. Language owns you.

My receipts: full of numbers and codes. Return policies. I always ask: how much damage can I do to this garment before you won't take it back?

You are a symbol of language. Language does not represent you.

Numbers are the ultimate symbolic, possessing not only their definitive qualities (read: quantity), but mystical qualities as well. Nine is the number of full completion: it's why, no matter how many new planets are discovered, we cannot consider our solar system more than nine planets large. Three is the almighty symbol of systems: father, son, spirit. Id, ego, superego. Larry, Moe, Curly. In architecture, the triangle is the strongest form of construction and bears more weight than any other stucture. The universe lives 3 x 3 x 3. It is a cube.

Language is an inadequate signifier. This means, ultimately, that no one ever says precisely what they mean.

There are things I never told you.

When it comes to the world we only understand events backwards. We order events from last to first, from effect (metaphor)back through cause (metonymy). When you say, I knew this was going to happen, you're lying. You didn't know. You only knew that it happened, that something caused something and now you are an effect.

Language is not a closed system. We perceive numbers as infinite, but it isn't possible: everything has a vanishing point except for words. Whenever we reach the edge of it, I promise to tell you a new word, a word you've never heard, and that way we'll never grow old and neither of us will ever, ever die.


Art School Confidential

Normally I don't write about movies that I decide need a little panning, but I was so utterly disappointed by Art School Confidential that I can no longer remain silent.

The film begins well enough: a young artist enrolls in art college to land hot babes and become the most relevant artist of the 21st century. Part wink-wink insider's look at the art school crowd and part satire of American relationships to art/artists, the film criss-crosses back and forth between studio workshops, the dorms, and an oddly-narrativized series of serial killings.

Unfortunately, this film needed one more script draft before heading to the screen. Lacking the irreverence of the director's last film (the luscious Ghost World), the movie putzes along as a series of fits and starts, never really making a real story happen. The most awkward element here are the scene cuts: the director and probably screenwriter include several toss-off scenes that don't contribute anything to the narrative and don't even reach any kind of climactic moment. The film feels like one big anticlimax after other until, finally, you don't even care when people die. Oh, dead? Oh, whatever. Let's see more art girl boobies! This movie also has a penis in it, if you're into that sort of thing.


From McSweeney's



Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man's friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument.

Write a short scene set at a lake, with trees and shit. Throw some birds in there, too.

Choose your favorite historical figure and imagine if he/she had been led to greatness by the promptings of an invisible imp living behind his or her right ear. Write a story from the point of view of this creature. Where did it come from? What are its goals? Use research to make your story as accurate as possible.

Write a story that ends with the following sentence: Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.

A wasp called the tarantula hawk reproduces by paralyzing tarantulas and laying its eggs into their bodies. When the larvae hatch, they devour the still living spider from the inside out. Isn't that fucked up? Write a short story about how fucked up that is.

Imagine if your favorite character from 19th-century fiction had been born without thumbs. Then write a short story about them winning the lottery.

Write a story that begins with a man throwing handfuls of $100 bills from a speeding car, and ends with a young girl urinating into a tin bucket.

A husband and wife are meeting in a restaurant to finalize the terms of their impending divorce. Write the scene from the point of view of a busboy snorting cocaine in the restroom.

Think of the most important secret your best friend has ever entrusted you with. Write a story in which you reveal it to everyone. Write it again from the point of view of your friend. Does she want to kill you? How does she imagine doing it? Would she use a gun, or something crueler and more savage, like a baseball bat with nails in it?

Popular music is often a good source of writing inspiration. Rewrite Bob Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" as a play.

Write a short scene in which one character reduces another to uncontrollable sobs without touching him or speaking.

Your main character finds a box of scorched human hair. Whose is it? How did it get there?

A man has a terrifying dream in which he is being sawn in half. He wakes to find himself in the Indian Ocean, naked and clinging to a door; a hotel keycard is clenched in his teeth. Write what happens next.


Eduardo Is Making a Mockery of My Hair Aesthetic

By pitting me against another nerd-fabulous dude in a Nerd Chic Hunk of the Blogosphere Deathmatch.

Wrote more last night. At the coffeeshop I sat at a table next to a man with a handlebar mustache who was hand writing page after page after page of text and grunting the whole time.

Spent some time in Christopher Davis's The Tyrant of the Past and the Slave of the Future, finishing off the first section. His work is really interesting and strange and compelling. I think I have all his books now, but I haven't read any of the others yet. But I will.

I must find a place to live in 19 days.
I am the last safe thought he had.


Preview of Coming Attractions

In the immortal words of Veronica Mars:

Jackie: Make me a macchiato.
Veronica: *POOF!* You're a macchiato.

Thanks for thoughts on the poem. It's going into the Revision-O-Meter for processing.

This Just In

Regarding the Veronica Mars season finale:


that is all.


Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch

My friend and are reading the Marvin/Dumanis anthology Legitimate Dangers together, knowing that otherwise we'll never get through it and all those poems will go unread.

Each week we assign ourselves two poets to read. We read them, we come back and talk about them. We call this the Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch, each week a new pairing, a fight to the bitter end. Who emerges victorious? Meaning, whose poems do we like best.

Ilya Kaminsky
Noelle Kocot

My pick: Kaminsky
Her pick: Kaminsky

WEEK 2 "Girlfight"
Natasha Trethewey
Carrie St. George Comer

Pending battle.

Suji Kwock Kim
G. C. Waldrep

Pending battle.

Stay tuned for more Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch Action here at kinemapoetics, your Legitimate Dangers Deathmatch Headquarters.


Back in the Broke Saddle Again

I started writing again! I spent the day talking and talking about what I "planned" my next piece to be. I knew it would be prose, in sections, in voices, that it would be a confusion of the self. In some ways I don't always know who I am. Sometimes I'm him. Sometimes I think I could have been him. This is in the poem, which came out like a long roll of paper unfurling from my lips. The more I wrote the faster I wrote. It became a heated exchange.

I'm outraged when people wear those shirts that say, "I wish I knew how to quit you." It's printed in some wacky, trend-o-rama font. I want to tear them off their bodies, even gay boys who wear them. If you own this shirt, throw it away. When you wear it, it means you have no soul. It means you've learned nothing from all of this.

I've noticed that Brokeback fever seems to be waning. I no longer hear people tacking "brokeback" onto anything anymore. I'm glad. People have moved on to new things like silent births and who's got the preggers. After all, if it weren't for straight people, we'd have a lot fewer queers in the world. Thank you, heterosexuals!

Your phone call made my day—your news was the bright spot in an otherwise horrifying month. I'm happy for you. And jealous? If I were another man I'd want you for myself.

Thanks for the well-wishes on Living Things. I'm proud of this work. The encouragement I receive through this blog matters to me.

I channeled Veronica Mars this weekend and engaged in a ritual cleaning of my space: my desk, my pen tray, my dresser. When you take everything out and put it back in again. Veronica calls this "textbook." It signifies a desire to regain control of the world around you.

Tomorrow is the season finale of Veronica Mars. Don't bother calling between 8 pm and 9 pm. It's like I won't even exist.


Now It Can Be Told

My chapbook manuscript Living Things was awarded the 2006 Frank O'Hara Award and will be published in September of this year.

Living Things is a 12-poem sequence from my second manuscript, which surrounds the grief and loss of a suicide.


Poetry Workshop Feedback in the Voice of Paula Abdul on American Idol

You know, every week you bring a poem here and I'm just so impressed with how much of you you put into your work. That dress looks fabulous, by the way. And those shoes! Seriously, though, you are a star. You know who you are and every week you come out here and you show all these people how amazing you can be. You know I love you. And I love your hair tonight, that's so adorable. SHUT UP, SIMON! Even thought this might have been not the right form for you to write in, I think you really put your own stamp on it. You made it your own. Great job.


Lynn Emanuel Interview

Also, if anyone's interested in reading the interview Sarah Vap and I did with Lynn Emanuel, I have several copies of Poetry Flash here in my office. The interview is on the front page--above the fold!

Backchannel me if you want one.

News of the New

I won something. I can't say what, but I can say

it wasn't a heart


it wasn't a kingdom

but something

in between.