Once Upon a Time in Mexico

I just got back from a long weekend south of the border, where I laid out by the pool, got my tan back, read, relaxed, ate great food, and almost went to jail.

I meant to post that I was going to be gone, but it just didn't happen.

Why am I so sleepy after my vacation...?



We begin our second year of publishing creative work on a city-by-city basis with the launch of Joseph Harrington's Lawrence. This Kansas city is home to an aesthetically diverse group of poets, all innovating poetry in their own ways.

The Lawrence edition features poetry by

Anne Boyer
Cyrus Console
Joseph Harrington
Jim McCrary
Judy Roitman
K. Silem Mohammad
Kenneth Irby
William J. Harris.

Stop by and enjoy!

Ask Arden Anything

Dear Arden,

My boyfriend and I were thinking about getting another dog. What is
you view on living with other dogs? And are cats out of the question?
Keep in mind we live in an apartment with no yard.

Too Much Lovin' for Just One Pet

Dear Lovin',

I always say that people are a lot like dogs. We're both very social and we like to make friends. But it doesn't mean we're going to get along with everyone.

My owner was kind enough to catsit for a friend a few times recently, and wow, I had never been that close to a cat before. It smelled like bacon and I wanted to put it in my mouth. But I knew that the occasion didn't call for that, so instead, I took to chasing her around the house, much to my owner's dismay. However, I will tell you, after a while, I felt like the cat was begging me to chase her around. She wanted it. Even though our friendship was what you might call "unconventional," we made the situation work.

Now, you know that your dog and I get along great, Lovin'—remember that camping trip? I still get goosebumps...when I think about how cold it was! I think you are in the fortunate situation of having a likeable, friendly dog, so I say: do it, but get something small since your home is small. I think your pets will be good friends.


Arden answers your questions every Friday here at Kinemapoetics. Submit your question by emailing chasjens ATyahooDOTcom with the subject line "Ask Arden Anything."


Friday: Ask Arden Anything

Posting has been sporadic this week as I've been enjoying a vacation at home. Saturday I'm going to Mexico.

Maybe forever.

Don't forget, though, that Arden is eagerly awaiting your questions and letters for tomorrow's edition of "Ask Arden Anything."


30 Days of Night

Vampire flicks come and go; the mythology itself seems to fall in and out of fashion with abandon. As my colleague Aimée noted recently, "Vampire stories aren't about seduction and surrender anymore; they're about blood." (I'm paraphrasing) And it's true. For the Victorians, the urge of sexual surrender was so strong and so taboo that only a "creature of the night" could enthrall a woman into giving in to him and enjoying arousal (such as the tender kiss on the neck).

But today's vampire mythos has been revolutionized over and over again. In The Hunger (early 80s), David Bowie and Catherine Denueve seduce a boyish-looking Susan Sarandon into exploring some lesbitronic love action, which then was a compelling form of taboo surrender. Abel Ferrara's haunting and brilliant The Hunger appeared at a time when heroin chic was robbing the culture (again) of our most talented musicians and made the link between drug addiction and blood lust that culminated in one of the most atrociously wonderful orgies of violence ever filmed—in celebration of a doctoral defense!

And today we have 30 Days of Night. It's hard to make a film about blood that doesn't call upon the AIDS crisis in some way, I think, and vampirism as an infectious disease is a metaphor we've seen before. But here, in this new film, I think vampirism has become a form of terrorism.

The isolated, nearly-uninhabitable town of Barrow, Alaska stands in for post-9/11 America in the film. Residents prepare to leave as their titular 30 days of night, a time of complete isolation for these residents, begins to fall. But something strange is happening: a pile of burned cell phones is found on the outskirts of town. The power is cut and all other telecommunications and data services go out. The town is, effectively, removed from the rest of the world as America itself has become increasingly politically rogue in its pursuit of terrorist cells. Who can we call for help now? No one's listening.

The vampires rely on secrecy and disinformation to do their work. "It took us centuries to convince them we were just a bad dream," the leader tells his army. "There can be no survivors." American government would have us believe that terrorist cells run on this same philosophy. But are these vampires really so much like our goverment's top enemies? These vampires behead their victims, plain and simple, to prevent them from "turning." This strange departure from the traditional vampire lore is significant today, after we have been broadcast on the internet our own citizens beheaded by terrorists. It wasn't so long ago.

The nature of the vampires' modus operandi ties them to the communicated notions of insurgency. Although we are led to believe that insurgents are a small band of poorly trained civilians, they are in fact a fairly sophisticated form of guerilla warfare (itself a loaded term: guerilla is in the eye of the colonizer). And the vampires don't break through doors with their teeth bared; they wait. They hunt. They attack swiftly, quietly, and efficiently. One shot in the film pans over the entire town, showing in horrifying omniscient detail how the attacks have disabled nearly every resident. Bodies litter the ground as attacks continue. Humans run for escape but are taken down in quick succession.

Unlike many horror films, 30 Days of Night resists resolution. It is fairly gory, but it gets high marks for "looking away" more often than not, for resisting the urge to create a spectacle out of violence. I wanted to barf after I watched it, but not from the gore. It was because I was entirely stressed out throughout the film. It's a good film for Halloween.


Ask Arden Anything

There was no edition of "Ask Arden Anything" last week while Arden enjoyed a spa vacation in Sun City West.

This week's letter:

Dear Arden,

My partner and I have hosted dinner parties in recent weeks at which
invited guests have called at the last minute to ask whether they can
bring someone else along. I wouldn't mind this for a house party, but
for an intimate dinner for which I have planned for days and carefully
considered the guest list, this is rude on many levels. I have
assented on all three occasions, and everything worked out fine, for
the most part. Still, it bothers me, especially when I value these
friends and wouldn't anticipate such behavior from them. How do I
tactfully turn down further requests?

Assenting P. Tooniceity

Dear APT,

Sometimes my owner takes me to the dog park, where, as I'm sure you can guess, dogs pretty much roam free without their leashes on. It's an important time for us to experience the luxury of freedom we think humans take for granted. While we don't mind being led around and told what to do all the time, the dog park represents a kind of sloughing off of our major responsibilities and concerns.

I think people have dog parks, too, but the fences around yours are less succinct. Bad behavior that dogs might save for the park instead creeps into the more structured areas of your lives, where etiquette formerly reigned supreme. If dogs know anything, it's etiquette. We have carefully observed rituals for greeting, for assessing each other's value, and for dating. You refer to much of this as "sniffing butts," but I'll tell you it's more than that: we want to understand each other.

Cleary, your problem stems from two things: a lack of respect for boundaries on the part of your guests and a lack of understanding of etiquette.

Since it sounds like different guests are committing the faux pas each time you host, your problem is wide-reaching. But what's the harm in saying no? For example, whenever I want to eat a kitten, my owner shouts a stern "NO!" and I understand that this behavior is unacceptable—that I am stepping out of the boundaries of etiquette. Perhaps you should take this example to heart, APT, and give your guets a sternly shouted "NO!" when they call.

I wouldn't stop there, though. You can help them understand the rationale for this rule by explaining that dinner parties involve limited resources, a hierarchy of the pack, and a series of rules that must be followed. When dogs live in the wild and kill a small animal, clearly that animal cannot feed any strange mutt who wanders up to the carcass. And dogs wouldn't go around dragging strays over to their food dish, either. Why humans believe they can drag strays to your food dishes is beyond me. It really just spoils the meal (or the carcass if you are serving this meal in the wild).

Thanks for writing, APT, and please write again to let me know how this issue progresses.

Arden answers your questions every Friday here at Kinemapoetics. Submit your question by emailing chasjens ATyahooDOTcom with the subject line "Ask Arden Anything."


From Dustin Brookshire

The 2007 AIDS Walk in Atlanta is approaching in five days, and I am excited to be participating because the walk will benefit twelve organizations, which I will list at the end of the entry. In these last few days I am pumping up my fundraising efforts. You can help out and have the chance to win a lovely prize. A number of established poets were generous, thoughtful, and kind to donate autographed books with the comment, "Thanks for supporting the 2007 AIDS Walk," for me to use for fundraising efforts.

How it works:
1. Visit Team Truvy's AIDS Walk page by clicking HERE.

2. Once on the AIDS Walk site, click on "make a donation," which is located above the "AIDS Walk Atlanta Goal Watch" and "My AIDS Walk Donors." )You should see a page with a header reading "2007 AIDS Walk Atlanta;" below it will read "Thanks for giving on behalf of Dustin Brookshire.")

3. Enter the amount you wish to donate. (Remember, all donations are tax deductible.)
Every $5 donation earns you a chance to win an autographed book. A donation $50 earns you 15 chances to win a book by select poets. If you donate $100 you can pick the book you want from the list below!

4. Once you've donated drop a line on the blog or send an email to dustinvbrookshireATgmail.com.

5. The drawing will occur following the AIDS Walk. Poet Montgomery Maxton will create a Youtube video announcing the winners.

Exquisite Politics autographed by Denise Duhamel
Small Gods of Grief autographed by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
the dead alive and busy autographed by Alan Shapiro
Tantalus in Love autographed by Alan Shapiro
Late autographed by Cecilia Woloch
Slow to Burn autographed by Collin Kelley
Sacrifice autographed by Cecilia Woloch
Return of the Prodigals by Kurt Brown
Mille et un sentiments autographed by Denise Duhamel
Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry autographed by Denise Duhamel
Never Before: Poems about First Experiences autographed by Laure-Anne Bosselaar
*Not Pictured* Like All We Love autographed by Kate Evans
(Should be up tomorrow)


The boy with the empty plate at the poetry buffet.

It's happening again. I'm forgetting what poetry is.

This happens a lot. I forget how to write poems. I don't know what they are anymore, I don't understand them, and I feel frustrated.

I become a very picky reader. I don't like anything I hear or read. I think everything's been done already and there's no use writing. I get frustrated, anxious.

But in the past couple of weeks I've read two really good books: Pamela Painter's The Long and Short of It and Neil Smith's Bang Crunch. Both are inventive short story collections, both gorgeous.

I wish I could stick books directly into my head like a tape into a VCR.

I wish I knew what I was trying to say.

I got a nice rejection note from Ausable Press today that said my manuscript was very good and I should try submitting again.

I needed that.



I've never been afraid of danger, so the other day, when I stepped out onto the glass floor of the Calgary Tower, the one hanging out over the street about 520 meters from the ground, I was shocked to discover neither of my feet had actually moved and that I was still standing safely on the carpeted area.

Through the glass, I could see straight down to the street below. I could see tiny people walking, matchbox-sized cars slipping around a turn, little construction vehicles working. I could see the shadow cast by the tower.

Stepping onto the glass seemed counterintuitive, like stepping onto a cloud. I watched two Indian women giggle while having their photo taken on the glass panels next to me, seeming in the photo, I'm sure, to float on air. They had no problem doing it. My friends walked over next to me and stepped onto the glass. I wanted to grab them.

Instead, I tentatively moved my foot onto the glass. It felt sturdy, but...didn't it just move? Bend? Surely I felt it bend. Or jiggle. My hand flew up onto the huge metal beam next to me. I imagined myself falling as the glass shattered, my feeble attempt to hold onto the girder thwarted by the fatty ghosts of all my fast food meals the week previous. I couldn't manage to get around it, but I was determined to get a photo of my feet on the glass, looking down. I had to.

I lunged my body across the glass panels to the metal handrail on the other side, grabbing hold of it with two sweaty palms. Quickly, before I could rethink it, I set both my feet on the glass panel and clicked the shutter.

Then, I scuttled off the glass, full of panic, sure of doom.


O Canadia!

It was a long journey, but we made it to Calgary for WordFest, the international writing festival. The city itself is beautiful—although quite large, it has an intimate feel that belies its cosmopolitan vibe. And it is full of hot Canadian men. I might just get married this weekend...we'll see if I can snag myself some Canadian citizenship.

On the docket: readings, readings, readings, and hopefully a lot of writing, and seeing an old friend, and some new ones.

It's cold here. Very cold, by Arizona standards. Although some of my travel companions are from cold climates and haven't been Arizonized yet, me? I'm freezing. I bought a special wool winter coat for this trip (and for January's frosty AWP in New York) and have been bundled up in it and a scarf. Tomorrow: buying a hat, probably. It's that cold.

But, beautiful.



Ask Arden Anything!

Welcome to the first edition of our weekly feature, Ask Arden Anything! We received several compelling letters from readers already this week and Arden described the process of choosing one as "arduous." In the end, she felt one correspondent needed help more desperately than the others.

Today's letter comes from "somewhere on the East Coast":

Dear Arden,

You seem like an articulate pup, I bet you're paper trained. God
bless you. I have a 2 1/2 year old son who really enjoys pooping his
pants. He lacks ambition. Any advice that would translate into the
human sphere?


Up to My Elbows

Arden responds:

Dear Elbows,

The process of housebreaking your toddler is a challenge for any new mother. Although I have been sterilized by my compassionate owner to ensure that I do not bring needless puppies into the world, I can empathize with your plight. It wasn't so long ago that I, too, was "pooping my pants," as it were.

My advice to you, Elbows, is to swiftly swoop down on your child immediately when he poops and shout at him with a stern NO! This will let your child now that his behavior is inappropriate. With equal swiftness, you should rub your child's nose in his feces while continuing to shout NO! Then, lock him in a small crate for up to five minutes. When he emerges, shower him with praise and affection.

Another tactic is to place your child's butt on the toilet every hour on the hour until something happens. Eventually, the child will poop, and he will begin to associate pooping with the toilet. This is how I was housebroken as a puppy. My owner—wonderful!—took me outside every hour to "take care of business" and to give me adequate opportunity NOT to do it in the house. Your child can learn much the same way. When he does finally poop in the toilet, throw a party! Let the golden shower of praise begin, and let him know you're proud of him. He will never poop in his pants again, unless you leave him locked up in a crate all weekend long, in which case it's not really his fault.


Arden answers your questions every Friday here at Kinemapoetics. Submit your question by emailing chasjensATyahooDOTcom with the subject line "Ask Arden Anything."

Ask Arden's Advice About Anything

Although she's young, Arden is a wise soul. She'd like to offer up her advice to anyone on this blog each Friday.

All questions will be considered, but only one will be posted and thoughtfully answered (she is, after all, a very busy girl). If you'd like Arden's perspective on something—anything—simply send an email to chasjensATyahooDOTcom with the subject line "Ask Arden Anything."

Serious queries only!


Will Have Been


My favorite verb tense is the future perfect because it is the closest anyone gets to real time travel. When used, the speaker of the statement exists simultaneously in two times: the future and the past.

"By this time tomorrow, I will have left town."

The action is past but the time of its occurrence is in the future, and the action itself is a phantom of what occurred. The speaker is not in town, but the lack of him continues to be in the town, which makes him a ghost.

I am interested in ghosts, time travel, and leaving town right now.


The Office

From: Meghan B
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2007 6:17 PM
To: Information , Smithsonian
Subject: Workplace debate

At the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, a question came up
that we've had a hard time answering. I hope your natural history
department might be able to help us or give us the contact information
of someone who will.

Who would win a fight, a grizzly bear or a gorilla?

Most people seem to think grizzly because they're stronger and faster.
But a couple of us think that the gorilla is equally strong and much
more intelligent.

Thanks so much for your time in answering our query.


Meghan B

From: Information , Smithsonian
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2007 3:30 PM
To: 'Meghan B'
Subject: RE: Workplace debate

Meghan B,

Your inquiry of September 19, 2007, regarding a grizzly bear and a
gorilla has been received in the Smithsonian's Public Inquiry Mail
Service for response.

We have forwarded your correspondence to the Department of Vertebrate
Zoology in the National Museum of Natural History from which a response
will be sent if helpful information is available.

We appreciate your interest in the Smithsonian Institution.

From: Gold, Joy
Sent: Mon 10/1/2007 7:18 AM
To: Meghan B
Subject: RE: Workplace debate

Dear Meghan,

I am not sure what kind of fight you are envisioning. Do you mean a
fight where a gorilla and a grizzly bear confront one another? Do you
mean a gorilla that is fighting another gorilla for dominance? Do you
mean a grizzly with cubs encountering a predator such as man? There must
be some kind of bet associated with this question! In the spirit of the
hypothetical since gorillas and grizzly bears would never meet in the
wild as they are distributed in two different continents, I asked two of
our curators for their opinion. After thinking about it a bit, one
replied he didn't know which would win but because the gorilla had hands
that could grip and long arms, he might give it the edge. He thought it
could win if it attacked the grizzly from behind; however the likelihood
of that is unknown. On the other hand (so to speak) another curator
thought it all depended on the fighting tactics. He felt the grizzly
would win with its claws and aggressive attitude. If it bit the gorilla
on the front of the neck, it could win. Then again, he said that if the
gorilla opened its mouth and attacked with its arms spread wide it might
scare off the Grizzly. Both animals are big, strong with large jaw
muscles and large teeth. Give them a break and have a good dinner!


Joy Gold
Technical Information Specialist
Department of Vertebrate Zoology


Enquiring Minds

Didi put up a short interview with me about publishing a literary magazine here. Many other wonderful and talented men have been included as well, including the now-vanished C. Dale Young.