Chapbooks: Scarcity Influences Demand

So, a while back I posted via myspace that I was almost out of chapbooks.

Now, I am out.

I have some more coming soon, but it's going to take a few weeks because—yes—more have to be printed!

Thanks to everyone who already bought one and for those of you who've shared your responses with me. It means a lot.

On a sidenote, are you my friend on myspace? Because I want you to be.


Gay Iconography

Rufus Wainwright has created a list of his top ten gay icons. He discusses each one, but to save you a click, they are:

1. Judy Garland
2. Stevie Nicks
3. Dusty Springfield
4. Madonna
5. Kylie Minogue
6. Morrissey
7. Barbra Streisand
8. Pink
9. Prince
10. Kate Bush

And here's my list:

1. James Dean
2. Rufus Wainwright
3. Madonna
4. Frank O'Hara
5. Greg Louganis
6. Gwyneth Paltrow
7. Todd Haynes
8. Chris Isaak
9. Sarah Michelle Gellar
10. The cast of Ugly Betty


Epigraphs of my current works in progress

Foundational epigraphs:

"I am always interested in people in crisis. When I finish with one, I enter on another."
—John Berryman

"In times of crisis, we must decide again and again whom we love."
—Frank O'Hara

"Fact will muzzle anything."
—Matthea Harvey

"There are many such stories."
Pop Alvarez in Vertigo

"A lightning bolt is made entirely of error."
—Galway Kinnell


SWAC Roundup

Thanks to everyone who attended my sessions on artists' websites/blogging and alternative methods of promoting your arts organization at the Southwest Arts Conference yesterday! I really enjoyed the time I was able to present and speak on the panel and I appreciated your questions.

Don't forget the handout is available on my website.

Don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions about any of the topics I discussed; I'm happy to help you get up and running.


Chapbook Update

William Vandergrift had this to say about Living Things:

"A couple days ago, I received Charlie's chapbook Living Things. (signed too!) WOW! What a powerful collection of poems this one is! Jensen explores a lover's suicide effectively using taut prose that creates a distance between him and his readers so that the poems do not come near being melodramatic as they might have been had they been written by lesser writer. With a watchful eye and a keen ear, Jensen objectively explores and conveys the process of dealing with death and being the one left behind who must go on living. Wake Ecstasy is my particular favorite in this collection. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work hopefully in the near future!"

Ron, Eduardo, Montgomery, Josh, and Jules, your chapbooks are coming soon!


"Saw Snow"

Friends tell me it snowed in the Phoenix metro area over the weekend.

One colleague claimed on the news they showed a girl in Mesa playing in the snow—in flip flops.

Another said on the news, they interviewed several people from the snowy areas and under their names it said "Saw Snow" as their newsworthy relevance.

The reporter in North Scottsdale described her special experience with frozen precipitation as "softer than hail but harder than snow." Some of you might call this sleet.


I'm a Made Man

I'm happy to announce Living Things can now be purchased at the Made Art Boutique on the Roosevelt Row in Phoenix. The in-person price is $7.00.

Made is located at 922 N Fifth St.


Accessibility versus Engagement

I was thinking tonight about art.

Specifically, I was thinking about how art is art because it creates a response in the viewer—isn't this the fundamental definition of what we consider art? That it makes us think, feel, reconsider, review, etc? Also, I think, art is sometimes art because it is presented in the context of "being art," which changes the way it is consumed.

But I'm already starting to digress. I then wandered over to thinking about the long-standing po-blog debate about the level of "accessibility" in poetry. Many poets turn up their nose at poetry they deem to be overly "accessible," which I take to mean poetry they feel is pandering to an unindoctrinated audience, or trying to please the "general public," who may or may not care about poetry as an artform to being with.

I think accessibility is becoming a dangerous term. I don't say this because I aspire to write poems that are accessible. (But that's an easy out. Maybe I do.) When people describe poems that are accessible, I feel they are really commenting on a given's piece ability to engage a wide audience in its meaning or methods.

I thought, then, of something Claudia Rankine wrote in an interview soon to be published in the next issue of Marginalia. To poorly paraphrase her, she said something along the lines of how sometimes people see a film and it has no impact on them. Other times, the work engages them. It creates a response within them. Whether or not the film fits into the limitations of accessibility is irrelevant in this case. Take for example, Yoko Ono's film "The Fly," in which the entire film consists of a static image of a fly running across bare human skin in extreme close-up. All the while, the fly giggles. Although this film isn't "accessible," I would say it is able to engage an audience and spur a response. They may not like it, but they respond to it. Therefore, under my parameters, it must be art.

People often cite people like Mary Oliver as a poet of access. Mary's poems often seem simple and plain—of nature or basic human experience, without much hooha or fanfare in the language. Mary's books sell like hotcakes. She had, like, five books on the 2006 poetry bestseller list. Clearly, her work engages people and spurs a response, but positive and negative. It must be art.

Accessibility is linked (in its negative usages) with dumbing-down, with ease, lacking complications or excess, perhaps even a lack of intelligence or craft involved in creation. But engagement operates on different terms. America's Next Top Model engages many people, including me, and yet, I trouble myself to consider it art. But under the terms I set forth, it must be art.

If something that is less "artful" is still "engaging," perhaps accessibility, then, is also about high art/low art—that other troubling dichotomy. And here we get into all sorts of poetic judgments. I'll reveal something to you. I consider Dr. Seuss to be a genius. His books still provide me a kind of enjoyment in adulthood that I found in childhood. But he is not High Art. (Not yet, at least—time is generally the hobgoblin of what is high and low in the world of Art.) I would argue that many people feel Mary Oliver's poetry is more pedestrian ("lower") than someone like, say, Gertrude Stein or Lyn Hejinian or others. In our little world, difficulty denies access, denies some with engagement, although I, too, argue that any response—even confusion—is still a form of engagement. Therefore, Stein and Hejinian are art.

And take, too, Claudia Rankine's amazing book Don't Let Me Be Lonely. An uncomplicated book in many ways: clear, concise, direct. It has exceptional levels of both engagement and accessibility and personally I think it is one of the most artful books I have read. Rankine's other books were less "accessible" to me, but I still took from them a level of engagement. And what engages has value. Therefore, it must be art.

What do we succeed in doing by isolating the "accessible" from the "non-accessible"? Creating a culture of non-access seems to me to devalue participation by a wider audience. It creates a sort of "You over there/Us over here" split that only isolates poetry further and limits its readership. But here I expose one of my main values about poetry: that it can and should be read.

I don't offer solutions here. I don't have answers, just thoughts and observations that struck me while walking from campus to the car. Some people in poetry want to limit access to those who are indoctrinated. This doesn't mean that no one outside of poets should read poetry, but that access to poetry is something to be cultivated and earned. Those aren't bad values to have. Aren't all good things earned over time? People rarely value what is handed to them without hard work.

But: engagement. Think about it.

Arden has the right idea.


Hungry Hungry Blogger

I've written two aborted blog posts this week: one about Nintendo Wii that Blogger ate all up, and the other about fiction that didn't go anywhere interesting.

In the meantime, I will leave you with the book I'm currently reading:


My Amazing Friends

Tonight I've been sitting down to write in my living room while listening to my friend Aaron Middleton's amazing, fully improvised piano CD Distant Storm. It's available for purchase and awesome.

One Thing I Love That is Not a Person or TV Show

is when I read a collection of poems, a manuscript, by someone I know and it ROCKS.

Getting that "I wish I thought of that!" feeling. And also, watching the poems grow from first drafts into final pieces. It's like your neighbor's kids are all grown up and heading off to college.

I also love reading my friends' published books—a pleasure I'm saving for this weekend.


Better Version of Me

Design work for the 2007 version of Charlie Jensen has recently been completed:



Show Me the Monkeys

In honor of Veronica Mars's return from winter hiatus on January 23 with an episode called "Show Me the Monkey," I'd like to recap some of the show's best episode titles so far. I'm hot for good titles.

"The Wrath of Con"
In which Veronica tracks down the source of an internet con artist who preys on high school girls with money to burn.

"Ruskie Business"
In which Veronica helps a Russian mail-order bride track down her missing fiancé.

"Cheatty Cheatty Bang Bang"
In which Beaver hires Veronica to prove his stepmother Kendall is having an illicit affair.

"Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner"
In which Veronica's boyfriend runs off with a newborn baby.

"One Angry Veronica"
Two words: jury duty.

"Rashard and Wallace Go to White Castle"
In which Veronica attempts to prove that Wallace did not run over a hobo after a late night stop at White Castle.

"Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough"
In which Veronica saves her school's senior trip to Six Flags by pinching the thief of the winter carnival's profits.

"The Rapes of Graff"
In which Veronica must clear of rape charges the name of the boy who once broke her heart: Vandergraff.

"Nevermind the Buttocks"
In which Veronica tracks down the occupants of a muscle car whose occupants mooned the rich kids right before the bus tragedy.

"Look Who's Stalking"
In which Veronica protects her friend Gia from a perceived stalker who may or may not have blown up the bus.

"My Big Fat Greek Rush Week"
In which Veronica must infiltrate a Stepford Wives-like sorority in finding out who raped her friend Parker.

"Hi, Infidelity"
In which Veronica is accused of plagiarism and, in the process of clearing her name, uncovers an uncomfortable secret about someone in her life.


"Plutoed" was chosen 2006's Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society at its annual meeting Friday.

To "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something," much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn't meet its definition of a planet.

What 2006 Taught Me

Sometimes it happens on the first try; sometimes it doesn't happen at all.

We are each capable of horrifying beauty and gross tenderness; equally so can we disappoint ourselves and each other.

Everything you have can be lost, taken, or replaced. Including people.

So frequently are we overwhelemed or underwhelmed that when we are finally simply whelmed it feels right.

That I can do this.

That I can't do this alone.

That it's important to say what you feel and mean what you say. Always.

To get comfortable with uncertainty and to embrace many layers of possibility. Any good thing in life is unknowable at first and probably for a long time. It is the process of knowing it that makes it precious.

That anything worth having is worth working for.

That anyone worth loving is worth waiting for.

That the most important decisions to be made are the most frightening, have the deepest repercussions, the most variables, and also the richest rewards.

That love is—and should be—our first and most important risk.


Praise for Living Things

Thank you to Justin Evans for his kind words:

"As for the new year, I started early with my goal to buy a book of poetry per month. For December, I traded Charlie Jensen for his chapbook, Living Things. A marvelous read, a great tandem read with Donald Hall's poetry (The Painted Bed) about his wife, Jane, which I happened to buy with my annual giftcard from my in-laws. Chariie certainly has his own voice, though, and is able to, in his spare language, express grief with the best of them. In not naming the 'you' addressed in his book, or shifting to the third person, Charlie forces the reader to question more. There are no certainties, no safe harbor for the reader. Thank you, Charlie, for offering the trade. I loved the book. This from Hall, which I think your poems are equal to (I hope you don't mind the comparison):

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.

Like I said earlier. Your book, along with Hall's was a double shot of grief. I really enjoy the contrast of your spare words."

And thanks also to Anne Haines:

"I started out wanting to describe these poems as elegiac, but I think of elegies as being in some way about the person being mourned, and in this chapbook, the deceased beloved is present only as body -- we don't get a strong sense of what he was like in life. Instead, the experience of mourning itself takes center stage and serves almost as a character, a personage. There is the necessity of dealing with the body of the deceased, the necessity of funeral and ritual, the necessity of coping with the day-to-day post-funeral mundanities (e.g. bills that continue to arrive), and there is the way mourning rings out into the world and, for a time, changes everything the mourner sees. These poems aren't about the dead, or even really about the memory of the dead: they're about the living. I'd read many of these poems before, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read them in the context of this small collection."



Today is Arden's birthday.

She turns 1.

My little girl's all grown up!


Catching up

I just sent out a bunch of chapbooks today, so if you ordered them via Pay Pal since 12/20 or sent a check, you should get them soon.

I'd love to hear what people are thinking about it!


The Return

KINEMAPOETICS will return to our regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow.

Thank you for your patience.