12.28.2006

...hello?

1. Going to California tomorrow: debauchery sure to ensure.

2. Will be back soon.

12.21.2006

More

Also, I grew a beard. Helena Handbasket wasn't cutting it as my beard, so I to go out and get a real one. Thanks, Tucson!

My Year: 2006 in Music

Here is my annual rundown of the albums that came into my life this year and were treasured for various reasons. This year I'm choosing an Album of the Year as well as a Runner-Up for Album of the Year. And I'm blowing the wad right up front:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Panic! At the Disco
A Fever You Can't Sweat Out
Sounds Like: The love child of Fall Out boy and the Killers, if they lived in the 1940s and did lots of coke, and sung lyrics written by the ghost of Allen Ginsburg as channeled through Denise Duhamel
Representative Lyric:: "Talk to the mirror / oh choke back tears / and keep telling yourself / 'I'm a diva!'" ("There's a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered, Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet")
Best Track(s): "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage," "Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks," "Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off," "But It's Better When We Do," "There's a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered, Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet"
Notes: Panic! At the Disco are a really ingenious rock band. Long, narrative titles connect the songs on this disc into two cohesive narratives—one about patients in a mental hospital/disaffected youth, the other about a wedding and relationship gone awry—whose lyrics crack and pop with intellect, acuity, and their own music. Plus, they're all cute.

RUNNER UP

Jack's Mannequin
Everything in Transit
Sounds Like: Ben Folds backed by a Beatles cover band
Representative Lyric:: "And every word / to every song I ever heard / that made me want to stay / is playing through the in-flight radio" ("Bruised")
Best Track(s): "Bruised," "Holiday from Real," "MFEO Part 1," "Dark Blue," "I'm Ready"
Notes: It might be premature for me to elevate this album to this place on my annual chart, but like this year's Album of the Year I have been unable to listen to virtually anything else since getting it.

OTHER NOTABLE ALBUMS:


All-American Rejects
Move Along
Sounds Like: somewhat generic alterna-pop with catchy hooks and nice lyrics
Representative Lyric: "The phone rings / and she screams / 'Stab my back / It's better when I bleed for you.'" ("Stab My Back")
Best Track(s): "Move Along," "Stab My Back," "It Ends Tonight," "Dirty Little Secret."
Notes:


Angels & Airwaves
We Don't Need to Whisper
Sounds Like: the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Opera
Representative Lyric:: "I can't live / I can't breathe / unless you do this with me." ("The Adventure")
Best Track(s): "The Adventure," "Distraction"
Notes: This is one of the singers from Blink-182's afterlife project. It's good--so different from that original band, but very inventive and with a sort of familiar, vintage sound.


Annie
Anniemal
Sounds Like: Something you'd hear on Radio Disney: Deutschland
Representative Lyric: "I don't want to settle down / I just want to have fun / I don't want to settle down / I just want to chew gum" ("Chewing Gum")
Best Track(s): "Me Plus One," "Happy Without You," "Heartbeat," "Greatest Hit"
Notes: Although her accent is a little disconcerting, this is finely crafted power pop! She has a song called "Chewing Gum," for Pete's sake! With her saccarine vocals, inane lyrics, and irresisible hooks, this album will seduce you—and then take over your nation.


Christina Aguilera
Back to Basics
Sounds Like: Somebody put their panties back on. Well, half on.
Representative Lyric: "Beautiful boy / How did I ever do something worth deserving you / My better half / How I cherish through and through every part of you." ("Without You")
Best Track(s): "Ain't No Other Man," "Back in the Day," "Without You," "Hurt," "Still Dirrty"
Notes: An ambitious double-album of retro-influenced tunes, Aguilera's new project oozes love, love, love—for her husband, who, from the sounds of it, is God's gift to humankind.


Erasure
Union Street
Sounds Like: An unofficial soundtrack to Brokeback Mountain
Representative Lyric: "The way you stirred your coffee like an / angel in the morning / still you dare to change your mind / you'll be sorry when it's over / when you've had your taste of freedom / don't come crying on my shoulder" ("Boy")
Best Track(s): "Boy," "Tenderest Moments," "Stay," "Alien"
Notes: As inventive as it is moving, Erasure's new project revisions many of their old songs as slide-guitar acoustic meditations. Fantasti—breathtaking—inspired—and wonderful.


Eva Cassidy
Imagine
Sounds Like: Joss Stone + talent + heartbreak
Representative Lyric: "But I will still be here / I have no thought of leaving / I do not count the time / for who knows where the time goes?" ("Who Knows Where the Time Goes")
Best Track(s): "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," "Fever," "Imagine"
Notes: If you know anything about Eva Cassidy, your heart's already broken. An amazingly talented singer who died far too young and before she could really hit it big in the music industry, she left behind a series of bootlegged concerts and small albums. This one, mostly covers, features Eva and some acoustic backdrops—which, really, is all she ever needed.


Louis XIV
The Best Little Secrets Are Kept
Sounds Like: Five dirty fratboys playing with some instruments, a karaoke machine, and poor British accents in 1968
Representative Lyric: "Ah bang a gong or get it on / We don't need to take off our clothes to get it on / Pull your skirt up a little bit / Pull down your top and show me a little tit" ("Paper Doll")
Best Track(s): "Pledge of Allegiance," "Illegal Tender," "A Letter to Dominique," "Paper Doll," "God Killed the Queen"
Notes:Raucous and raunchy, Louix XIV is out of control. This album is totally fun but totally concerning with all its lyrics about tying people up, torturing them, and, in the immortal words of Reese Witherspoon in Freeway, "Doing sex to their dead bodies."


Natasha Bedingfield
Unwritten
Sounds Like: Daniel Bedingfield in a dress and an attitude
Representative Lyric: "Read some Byron, Shelley, and Keats / recited it over a hip-hop beat / I'm having trouble saying what I mean / with dead poets and drum machines." ("These Words")
Best Track(s): "Unwritten," "Single," "I Bruise Easy," "These Words"
Notes: All right, it's catchy, but it's also all over the map. Bedingfield plays with hip hop, R&B, pop, ballads, etc, etc, etc, pretty much trying on everything in her musical closet but not able to choose quite the right thing for her night out.


Nelly Furtado
Loose
Sounds Like: Typical Nelly Furtado, dipping into the Well of Many Sounds, but coming up with keepers
Representative Lyric: "She's a maneater, make you work hard / Make you spend hard / Make you want all of her love" ("Maneater")
Best Track(s): "Afraid," "Maneater," "All Good Things Come to an End," "Say It Right," "No Hay Igual," "Promiscuous"
Notes: I like Nelly Furtado and I'm not sorry. She's interesting and different and this is a fun album, but I think it has a little more substance than your typical pop disc, although this is dumbed down from the depth of her debut album.


Regina Spektor
Begin to Hope
Sounds Like: Björk singing Tori Amos songs on Rufus Wainwright's piano
Representative Lyric:: "On the radio / we heard 'November Rain' / That solo's awfully long / but it's a good refrain / We listened to it twice / because the DJ is asleep" ("On the Radio")
Best Track(s): "Fidelity," "Better," "Samson," "On the Radio"
Notes: Regina is weird and different, but very interesting. Her arrangements are inspired, her lyrics strange and wonderful, and her sound completely individual.


Scissor Sisters
Ta-Dah!
Sounds Like: Elton John giving CPR to various members of the Bee Gees while Donna Summer looks on disapprovingly
Representative Lyric: "It's a bitch convincing people to like you / If I stop now call me a quitter / If lies were cats you'd be a litter" ("I Can't Decide")
Best Track(s): "Don't Feel Like Dancin'," "I Can't Decide," "She's My Man," "Might Tell You Tonight," "Everybody Wants the Same Thing"
Notes: This album took me a long time to appreciate, but it was worth the repeated listenings. Although very retro—almost too much kitsch, not enough camp—the album encapsulates what I think is a very "now" perspective on pop music: a certain darkness, an edge, a disappointment...it's an interesting collection, and one that shows them growing out of the roots of the first album.


She Wants Revenge
She Wants Revenge
Sounds Like: The guy you dated with the neck tattoo is back—the one who really liked Joy Division?—and he wants to marry you or bury you, your choice.
Representative Lyric: "I heard it's cold out, but her popsicle melts /She's in the bathroom, she pleasures herself / Says I'm a bad man, she's locking me out / It's cause of these things, it's cause of these things" ("These Things")
Best Track(s): "Out of Control," "Red Flags and Long Nights," "These Things," "I Don't Wanna Fall in Love"
Notes: It's a little creepy, a little sexy, and a little subdued, but it's a nice debut album by a group clearly influenced by 80s giants like Joy Division and Depeche Mode. The monotone singing gets a little old, but overall this is a nice album for nighttime desert driving past your ex's house. Again and again and again.


Snow Patrol
Eyes Open
Sounds Like: Mid-to-late 90s alterna-rock: poppy, snarling, and perfect
Representative Lyric: "It's hard to argue when / you won't stop making sense / but my tongue still misbehaves and it / keep digging my own grave" ("Hands Open")
Best Track(s): "You're All I Have," "Hands Open," "Chasing Cars," "Close Your Eyes"
Notes: It took me a while to hop on the Snow Patrol train, but this album was worth the wait. It's a nearly perfect pop album with great lyrics, great guitar riffs and hooks, and catchy but meaningful and interesting lyrics.


The Wreckers
Stand Still, Look Pretty
Sounds Like: Michelle Branch calling you from her double-wide
Representative Lyric: "Now you can drag out the heartache / Baby you can make it quick / You can get it over with and let me move on / Don't concern yourself with this mess you left for me" ("Leave the Pieces")
Best Track(s): "The Good Kind," "Cigarettes," "Leave the Pieces"
Notes: Michelle Branch, famous for commenting on just how much C*CK one has to *ahem* in order to get a song heard on pop radio, foresakes her previous albums and goes full-tilt Dixie Chicks with her new singing partner Jessica Harp. The result is pure Branch—really, hasn't she flirted with this all along?—and pure joy as Branch gives herself over to the melancholia and heartbreak that country music encourages.

12.20.2006

Where the place turned red and the ground soaked through with what he was, I was love.

They say where the ground took on his blood, Venus designed a flower—it was red. It blew open by wind, blew apart in the wind. The myth says beauty is always a temporary state of being: to endure is to become common. How is it quick death makes memory immortal?

I feel like I've waited my whole life to see this film

Click here.

Love

12.19.2006

After Livingston

Visual statement of poetics:

I'll Take, "Things That Are Hard to Find" for $1,000, Please, Alex?

How about books about somewhat obscure Italian Renaisssance painters who painted a series of portraits of Venus and Adonis?

Yes. I am searching. I may have to fly back to that art museum so I can complete my book.

I'm trying not to do that, though. Maybe I can buy the exhibition catalog... But really, I need some color plates of the paintings, and being in the same room with them would be better.

EDIT
I talked to the museum and they say their catalog should provide me everything I need. Kind of pricey at $45, but cheaper than airfare.

12.18.2006

Gap Employee Fantasy

GAP tested this commercial made by Spike Jonze, but never released it nationally. Still, it's a nice thought.

All Things Working in Fervent Collusion

Here are the things that impacted me as a writer this year and influenced my work in my new manuscript. In no order:

  • Claudia Rankine's Don't Let Me Be Lonely

  • the Todd Haynes film Poison (thanks again for sending it, Em; it was life-changing)

  • Juliana Spahr's thisconnectionofeveryonewithlungs

  • Panic! At the Disco's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (in terms of narrative)

  • The Blair Witch Project

  • Denise Duhamel's poem "Carbós Frescoes" in Two and Two

  • A telephone romance

  • The Luca Cambiaso exhibit of "Venus and Adonis" pantings at the Blanton art museum in Austin, Texas.

  • Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and his interviews with François Truffaut

  • Memories of my high school physics class

  • Rereading the journal I kept in 1998

  • Paul Morris's frequent conversations at work about false documents in literature and film

  • the ghazal

  • The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier.

  • Conversations about poetry with Stephanie Lenox and Richard Siken

  • Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
  • the production design from the films The Rocketeer and The Manhattan Project

  • the photo shoots on America's Next Top Model and runway shows on Project Runway

12.17.2006

Publication Update

On Thursday my chapbooks came.

On Friday, I got this in the mail:



My contributor's copy. This book of interviews and poems features the interview Sarah Vap and I did with C. D. Wright in 2003. Other poets in the book include Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa | Mei-mei Berssenbrugge | Jayne Cortez | Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Kathleen Fraser | Alice Fulton | Barbara Guest | Susan Howe | Harryette Mullen | Alice Notley | Alicia Ostriker | Sonia Sanchez | Leslie Scalapino.

On Saturday, I got the new issue of The Journal, which features two of my poems based on Pedro Almodóvar's film All About My Mother: "La Agrado" and "La Agrado (2)." I'm so pleased to see all these lovely people in the issue with me:

Seth Abramson | Denise Duhamel | John Gallaher | Scott Hightower | Cynthia Hogue | Kimberly Johnson | Eliot Khalil Wilson

among many others.

Chapbooks are still for sale/swap, folks.

12.13.2006

Gratuitous Animal Cuteness



"Miss Arden, take a letter, please."

How Are You Feeling Today? Medium



It's time I confess something here, something I don't tell many people, but I think you should know.

I devotedly watch Medium.

There are a couple reasons for this. First, it is the only TV show I can think of that takes place in Phoenix and I get a special delight when I hear them talking about streets that don't exist, locations that don't exist (take "Mesa University," for example), or when nobody complains about the summertime heat (or sweats!).

Although I hate to admit this, too, I tend to watch a lot of shows that deal with the paranormal or the occult (X-Files, Buffy, Angel, Charmed, Supernatural, etc) but I promise I am not a nerk, geek, dweeb, etc. I mean, I also watch America's Next Top Model and stuff.

Anyway, the show's main character, Alison DuBois, is a real person! Here she is with Patricia Arquette:



The show's premise—that Alison's psychic tendencies are used by the Phoenix District Attorney's office to prevent, locate, or prosecute criminals—is also true. She has a book, Don't Kiss Them Goodbye, in which she writes about some of the mysteries she's helped solve. What is not true about the show is that the real Alison does not receive her psychic impressions through dreams (although TV being a visual medium—pun intended—it makes more sense for Arquette to bolt upright from a scary dream that we witness rather than walking around her house saying, "I get the impression that someone is being murdered right now," etc.)

Also, it is curious to note that I have never seen a saguaro cactus in any episode of the show, and they're sort of everywhere around here, and they also only grow in the Sonoran Desert from Phoenix south into Mexico. Here is a saguaro, if you don't know:

12.12.2006

Walking to MV



Having spent some concentrated time reading Walking to Martha's Vineyard on the plane home on Sunday evening and then having had some time to think over the poems I'd read, I think I'm now ready to share some of my opinions and impressions about Wright's work.

First, let me say that up until this point, my only knowledge of Wright's writing has been what he has submitted to the "Letters to the Editor" section of Poetry magazine and to the comment boxes of many of my peers' blogs. This man—confrontational, pedantic, aggressive—is not the voice of Walking, although they seem to share a name and a history.

What first struck me was the spareness of these poems. Generally I like a poem with as little language as possible—it means each word is (hopefully) doing more than its share of work. Wright's poems in this collection often come to the reader as hushed, overheard prayers that are as bold in their confessional tone as they are for their spareness. (Disclaimer: I am not calling Wright a Confessional poet, nor am I indicating this collection is confessional: I mean that these poems do, to some degree, evoke a sense of speaking directly to God or to the speaker's past.) These poems draw a clear picture of this voice, who is concerned both with the past and with his present state of affairs, and how both of these ultimately (and irrevokably) lead one toward death.

To some degree, reading the poems became almost uncomfortable as the voice divulged more and more intimate details of his life. It was similar to being on a train while someone engages in a very personal cell phone call, of which you hear only the most intimate and revealing half, with no hope of escape. But I think the truths Wright pursues in these poems are uncomfortable, and the fact that the poems transmit this to the reader is a success.

I don't think every poem in the collection works as well as the next, but overall I thought they were compelling pieces. The desires in the book—for forgiveness, for reconciliation, for self-understanding and health—are things most of us can identify with and understand.

12.11.2006

Confession

I haven't finished reading Rebecca Loudon's Radish King yet.





I can read about five pages of it, and then I have to put it down because it makes me have to go write poems immediately.

Back to the Grind



I saw Panic! At the Disco and it was good. It was very good. They played their songs in order, I think, and added "Killer Queen," which was very good, and "Eleanor Rigby," which was only okay.

They are some cute boys. Sometimes I like a boy in eyeliner.

Also, I read Franz Wright's Walking to Martha's Vineyard on the plane last night (yes, my weekend had planes). I have some responses to it, but overall I really enjoyed encountering his work.

Now: back to work.

12.06.2006

Lists that grows out of a thought

When I finish a project, my first instinct is to turn around 180 degrees and see what is there to be seen, the opposite of what I have been thinking—everything I haven't let myself look at.

I would like to write:
  • A book that needs no binding, in which the poems can be read in any order
  • A book in which none of the poems are connected
  • A book of poems based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series, not the film)
  • A sequence of poems about a character named The Matinee Idol, who appears in a Rufus Wainwright song
  • Some kind of prose work
  • A sequences of poems even more filmic than what I've so far done; perhaps script-like is where I want to go


  • My Casa Libre To Do List:
  • Finish writing new manuscript of poems
  • Finish Chicago section of LOCUSPOINT
  • Finish my term paper for class
  • Edit D. A. Powell interview
  • Read some books
  • Finish Minneapolis section of LOCUSPOINT


  • Not bad. Still time left for LOCUSPOINT today, maybe reading.

    Casa Libre: Day 8



    Last full day here. Still have a few non-poem projects to finish before I go, so it's a definite work day. Plus packing, plus possible laundry, plus there needs to be a nap, some Gilmore Girls if I'm lucky and productive.

    It's not time for a summary or reflection yet, but I'll show you where the magic happened: in this room, this desk. My trusty second-hand laser printer copping a squat in a corner. I read few books here, but maybe reading wasn't what I needed and I'm okay with that. I'll have two flights to read books very soon.

    It's warm again today: whatever winter was here before has moved on to other states. The smell of fresh coffee is calling me to the kitchen.

    12.05.2006

    Now What?



    Although the new manuscript is "finished," I should clarify that I mean the first draft is "finished," which means I am almost surely done generating new poems for it.

    This is how I work: I write and write and write new pieces, or expand the serial poems, over several months. This is the longest I have spent writing a single manuscript: almost a year to the day since I first made those initial sketches, those "what the hell are these poems about?" sketches. I generally write one project to the exclusion of all others. But for this book, the sections were so discrete that I thought each new section I was writing was a new and different project and so I was loathe to even give those poems any of my time. But I did.

    And, now what.

    Now I wait. I'll wait with these poems for a couple of months. I will ask people to read the manuscript and tell me their thoughts. In a few months, when the work stops being "my favorite" or "the best thing I think I could ever write," then I can go back into it and rework the weak areas. I always know where the weak areas are, even after I write it. Like, how when you date someone, anyone, you immediately identify his flaws, but think, I'm sure it won't be a big deal—I mean, I love him. But I don't approach the weak areas until I have thought of solutions to their weaknesses.

    And that means I don't know what to write next. Probably I should write nothing for a while. I should give myself that. Because what do I need with more unpublished manuscripts unless I plan to die young and leave a trove of rough-hewn books behind?

    Casa Libre: Day 7

    Today's photo is for Helena Handbasket and Helen Back.

    12.04.2006

    Form As Intuition

    I like to consider the form a poem takes. When I talk about form, I mean more than pattern, which I think is the conventional approach to understanding form. For me, form is everything about the poem: patterns, yes, but also its shape, stanza formations, lineations, the way it appears on the page, etc. I approach form from a design standpoint: how does this element—the visual poem—impact the sound of the poem, the phrasing of the poem, the message of the poem...? I like to ask these questions of form because I think form is, like in film, so important to understanding the way poetry unfolds before us.

    When writing poems, I experience form intutively. This is not to say I avoid thinking of form or that form is a mysterious, intangible element of the poem. No. The intuitive form means the form unfolds before me as I write, dictated both by content, emotional weight, speed of the text, and word choice. I find the strictest forms give license to writing the most emotionally-laden poems for me: there, form is a guardian, a containment, a safety net. I know within the form the my level of emotion about the subject will not overflow.

    An example: when writing the Matthew Shepard section of my manuscript, I kept returning again and again to the ghazal. I have never loved the ghazal. But I pounced on it here, attracted to the soft and slant rhyming of the initial line and the percussive repetition of the repeated phrase. The first ghazal is called "I Watch You Be Killed with My Camera Eyes," and so, as you can imagine, it bears a lot of emotional weight, much witness. However, because something is being destroyed in this book, none of the ghazals take the visual look of a ghazal and instead the form—the pattern—is an undercurrent of the poem.

    A later poem in the section, something I've called "Safe," was another intuitive form. Comprised mainly of couplets with very long (or very short) lineated phrases, I found when I was writing it I had to put four line breaks between the stanzas. It needed air. It needed S P A C E. But as I continued writing, even four line breaks was claustrophobic: I COULD NOT BREATHE in the poem. I widened the breaks to six. The poem itself plays with ideas of bars, of fence rails, of dividing the page up into smaller and smaller units. As a form, the poem is aware of space and its visual representation on the page. I think it's important for all poems to be this self-aware of their look.

    I use prose paragraphs when the poem is urgent, when it is overwhelmed by itself. When there are no line breaks, the eye is free to follow text instead of drifting all the way across the page as it does (this is true; ask an ad copywriter).

    There is pleasure in the form a poem takes. When a poem and its form are aligned, the poem breaks open, reveals more of itself than it would were it just broken into the way many contemporary poems read. I am suspicious of any poem in which the lines break at a fairly uniform place on the page—lines of equal length to me indicate that the poet may not have considered lineation in the writing or revising of the poem, or that they are working in metric or syllabic form. This is not to say I dismiss poems with lines of equal length: it is only a suspicion, and suspicion means only a cause for investigation.

    There was one long poem I wrote, "The Fever Heart," in which the poem splayed itself all over the page. This was an intuitive impulse that occurred as I wrote it, but in the revision of it, I tamed many of those initial shifts. Many of them have remained in the poem, though, and that path the eye takes along the page is a significant, signifying element of the poem.

    Poetic forms must be intuitive, must be internal to the poem, and they must be signifying elements of the work. It is true, then, that by this logic there must exist some poems in which the linebreaks do occur at a consistent point throughout the piece. But I think many poets today aren't thinking of form or lineation to the degree they should. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who plagued me with concern for lineation. Although I was resistant then, the lessons have found me anyway, over time, and in ways that were meaningful to me.

    Casa Libre: Day 6

    Today's post is for Alison.



    I've been thinking a lot about intention and compulsion. Last night's post was a low point, a confusion—but not out of the ordinary. I told him, Each day when I wake up, I feel like I have to recommit to doing this, to being a writer. In times of crisis, we must decide again and again who we are. Sometimes I get low on emotional energy. It gets harder and harder to follow through on the "corporate" side of writing: the submissions, the rejection files, the correspondence. For the past several months I've been trying to avoid these things and just live. I've felt like I'm wearing the costume of a regular person. It was nice, but I knew it wasn't me all along. I enjoy the community of knowing all of you. Sometimes I think knowing you is all I need: I'd rather overhear the conversation than add to it. But, too, I know that's not me. Nobody ever said of me, He knew precisely when to keep his mouth shut.

    12.03.2006

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    What am I doing with all these poems? Poems, poems, poems. Dumb things. Little toys. If you were to place all of my poems end to end you would probably stop caring. They don't stop coming. I try to turn it off and sometimes they stay away. Then, something happens, like the tiny click you hear when you stand on a live land mine. Your choice: stay there or get blowed up. So, I stay there. I can't stop this. If there were something more productive I could do with my time I would. As it is, I fill up my days with multiple jobs and guitar playing and dog playing and phone calls and cooking and then, even then, when everything else is going on, a poem uncoils in my ear and I have to write it down. This is where you draw the line between vocation and compulsion. A compulsion is meaningless except to the person who carries it out. All of this means something.

    Clearly, I need to get out of the suite today. Don't worry: I have made plans for a social activity for dinner.

    Casa Libre: Day 5



    Today is the mid-point.

    Stayed up late last night, working and reading and reviewing—mostly my life over the past year, reflecting. The dark seems the only natural time to do this. Why is that? In the dark we lose ourselves. It is a way of being found again. In some ways, the pressure in looking back comes from connecting a chain of unrelated events, giving them causes and effects, and saying, "This equals me." Rarely do the events and my self-perception match up evenly.

    When I slept last night, my dreams accomplished all sorts of work. Imaginary work, but the result was the same. A sense of completion.

    Excerpt from a Paper

    The publishing gap can be seen as the major contributing factor to poetry’s biggest liability: the size of its readership. People cannot read what they cannot buy (or find at the library), and so, if no poetry titles are made available on a ready basis to the public, the public’s interest in them will begin to decline. In 2002 the National Endowment for the Arts engaged in a sweeping study to catalog and analyze American reading habits in a variety of aspects over the years 1982-2002. Their first conclusion was that less than half of American adults read literature (fiction and poetry). The NEA found that while 45% of reading adults were enjoying novels and short stories, only 12% of those surveyed indicated they had read a book of poetry in the past year. “During the 1990s, the growth and popularity of live readings, poetry slams, and other forms led some to speculate about a revitalization of poetry in America. If such revitalization is occurring, it is not apparent in the figures from 1982, 1992, and 2002 Surveys of Public Participation in the Arts…. The percentage of people reading poetry or listening to poetry decreased substantially, from about 20% of adults in 1982 and 1992 to 14% in 2002.” (NEA) While a variety of factors have probably contributed to the decline of poetry by the general public, it seems clear that the changes in the publishing industry have contributed to the problem rather than working to correct it. Furthermore, by publishing standards, the reduction in the amount of poetry produced isn’t even a problem: it’s business, pure and simple.

    For practitioners of poetry, however, this is clearly a kind of crisis, or, as Marjorie Fletcher wrote, “The situation is untenable for authors. We must have alternatives.” With all its negative transformations in the last half of the Twentieth Century, there have been an equal number of changes that have set the groundwork for a new revolution among poetry publishing. Through philosophical shifts, technological advances, and increased arts funding, poets in particular have identified means and methods of publishing and distributing their work despite the lack of participation by major publishing houses. This “alternative industry” is couched in the nonprofit philosophy of service to mission before profit, which clearly plays a critical role in preserving an unprofitable art form as we move into the Twenty-first Century and beyond. “No commercial publisher has an obligation to preserve our culture or to lose money to preserve the works of fine writers for whom there is not a huge market.” (Feldman 4) But this is precisely the kind of obligation upon which the nonprofit sector bases its operations—in this case, the publishing industry is less a commercial venture and more a service to American culture, American writers, and the preservation of our national literary heritage. “Nonprofit and other noncommercial independent presses now publish a disproportionate amount of the contemporary poetry…in America today.” (Harris)

    12.02.2006

    Casa Libre: Day 4



    If it were left up to me I might never leave the house of my own accord. That is what this residency teaches me. As long as I have television, coffee, some food, an internet connection, I seem to have all I need—at least, superficially.

    I gave the book a name yesterday, but I'm not sure it's quite right. I feel uncertain of one-word titles. It puts a lot of pressure on a word.

    Today: a grocery store, papers to grade, an essay to finish. Those are the goals. If I am lucky, a book will let me read it.

    12.01.2006

    Uh uh, gurl, no he dih-n't

    Two monumental Casa Libre completions today:

    1. Finished watching season 1 of Lost. Have half a hankering to whittle down the season into a "typical episode" script mocking consistent dialogue (ex. "GO GET JACK!" "IT WAS SAWYER! SAWYER DID THIS." "Why did you lie to me?" etc), but probably won't.

    2. Finished writing section 2 of manuscript. I am now 2-3 poems away from completing the whole dang thing, and I know they're coming. Of course, every time I have been done writing I have said that I have "2 or 3 poems left" to write. I don't know, it's a security blanket.

    and

    I'm feeling mostly better now.

    Casa Libre: Day 3

    Today's photo is for Reb.



    At first I thought it was allergies: new place, new little invisible mites trying to colonize my body, but no, later I discerned it was different, more nuanced, had more layers. Six hours later I was bedridden and frantically trying to stanch the flow of mucous that seemed not to end.

    I did not come here to let my body get sick. I came to get stuff done. Yesterday I read through the manuscript and made revision notes. A whole section needs completing. I can see it coming together. This is a book about reduction.

    Other things to accomplish: more LOCUSPOINTs, term paper revisions and endnotes (have to relearn how to write endnotes), an interview to edit for publication. Keeping up with email at work. Thinking about hitting a poetry reading tonight if my body says it's okay. The Chipotle Burrito Bucks are burning a hole in my pocket.