Saturday, June 30, 2007

It's June 30, Seven AM, Do You Know What the Poetry Book Club Book Is?

Tomorrow, I leave for the much anticipated, much needed vacation with my mother. Today, I have to wrap up loose ends. Probably the biggest loose end for this blog is our selection for the Poetry Book Club Book for July.

Since I will be gone until July 7, the selection will take place on July 8. We'll have a discussion post on July 24, since I will be selecting late.

Here are some suggestions, made in the past...

* Gino suggested Tramp in Flames by Paul Farley

* Aaron suggested Real Karaoke People by Ed Bok Lee

Here are my suggestions for the month, to help fan the flames of debate...

* For a little nepotism, here's my graduate advisor and hero Deborah Keenan's latest book, Willow Room, Green Door

* Elizabeth Alexander's most recent book American Sublime

* Because she kills me, Louise Gluck's new book, Averno

That should be enough for selection. If you have your own recommendation for next month's book or if you want to vote for one of the above, please leave it in the comments.

Have a great week!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dana Gioia Done Good

A friend of mine sent me this article from about a new NEA program. Dana Gioia, the second term chair of the government agency, has created a new program called "The Big Read." In over 400 cities across the country, the NEA is providing grants for spreading specific works of literature. Click here to see what book is being used in your community.

By getting a community to focus on a singular book and a book event surrounding it, Gioia hopes to encourage literacy and the love of literature. I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of Gioia, but I'm a tremendous fan of reading. So, kudos for Gioia's creative approach to the spread of reading in America.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Instead of Verb, I Decorate

I made a couple of changes to my blog, mostly in the layout. I feel like I need to change the look every couple of months to keep myself engaged. It took me forever to decide on the colors, and I spent two days asking my husband which blue he likes the best. "Do you like periwinkle, honey? Do you like cobalt better, sweetie? Yes, they're both blue, but ones blue-er. Honey?"

I am most proud of the banner, which I designed myself from some digital pics I took with my old camera and my new camera.

The first picture is an inverse of the poet=verb snapshot I took back in April. (Wow, time flies.) Speaking of poet=verb, I didn't post my poetic verbs this week. I'm rethinking the concept of just posting my verbs. I think I'm still going to keep track of them, but I think I'd like to transform those posts into more weekly or biweekly ruminations on poetry as an action and how it affects my writing life. Those will resume after my vacation.

The second picture is an inverse of a closeup I took of my journal. I'm hoping to make a cover for a new journal before I leave on my trip, because this one is getting old and full. Which is a good thing.

The third picture is an inverse closeup of the fluorescent lights above my cube in my office. It haunts me, with its sickly white glare.

Please let me know what you think of the redesign, so I don't have to bother my husband anymore. He thanks you in advance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

#13 -- Summer Starts In

Summer Starts In

humid alleyways,
and garbage-scented breezes,
sour as spoiled lilacs.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Poetry from Prison

I learned about an interesting new poetry anthology from Day to Day on NPR today, and I'm really intrigued by it.

Mark Falkoff, a law professor who also has a doctorate in literature, compiled poems from Guantanamo Bay detainees. His anthology, Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak, will be released by University of Iowa Press this August. During the Day to Day Program, one of the now-released poets read a couple of his poems and described a little of his experience as a detainee. His experience was harrowing, surely, but he described it in such a touching and accessible way. For instance, he developed a literary friendship with one of the guards and they traded poems back and forth about their experience as guard and inmate. I wonder what Foucault would think of that?

What amazed me most about this project is that these poems have an amazing opportunity to humanize these detainees and their experience. Here is their perspective, not only on their detention, but on their lives. However, the program described some of the legal difficulties that Falkoff had in trying to publish this anthology. Apparently, the current administration felt that the poetry might contain hidden messages that could endanger our national security. I cannot imagine that a respected press like the University of Iowa Press would publish poems that would promote terrorism. I think that the administration's concern is that the detainees' plight could become sympathetic, and that the poems might encourage further awareness of the Guantanamo debacle.

Sasha Did It!

Sasha emailed me, triumphant that she had conquered the "Myth" style poem that we had discussed during May's Poetry Book Club.

Here is her poem Ants, which I think is pretty marvelous!

Congratulations, Sasha!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekly Word Count, June 18-24

This was haiku-a-go-go week for me, after a bit of a stall on the project. I completed 3, so I wrote 300 words for the week. This puts me at 17594 for the year. I hope the streak continues.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Poetry Book Club-- Horse Latitudes by Paul Muldoon

Here are some discussion questions for this week's Poetry Book Club book. I'm still in the middle of it, so I will be posting my answers either later tonight or tomorrow. I'll also try to add some reviews by other authors in my own comments. I look forward to everyone's responses.

Discussion Questions

Overall, did you like the book? What about it did you like?

Were there specific poems that spoke to you? Which ones? Why?

Was there anything that confused you about the overall book? What was it?

Were there any individual poems that confused you?

What would you say is the overall theme of the book? Which poems best carried out that theme?

How would you describe the author's style? How did he use language to convey images, ideas, or voice?

#12 -- Sidewalk Garden

For the past couple of days, I've been posting haiku that are inspired by a recent walk I took in my neighborhood with my digital camera. I live about 4 blocks from downtown Minneapolis, so most of my neighborhood is comprised of apartment buildings and stores. However, in a hill above my house there are some really lovely city houses with gardens. This is where I took the majority of my pictures.

This has also helped me to get a jump start on my 100 Haiku project, because it had been pretty stalled. I've been trying to write 100 urban inspired haiku, with a focus on the seasons, as is traditional with haiku. However, it seemed like winter was a more evocative season for the city, until I found these flowers. Click on the 100 Haiku label to read the others. Enjoy!

Sidewalk Garden

In concrete confines,
a manufactured chorus,
voices singing spring.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

#11 -- City Flowers

City Flowers

are like scarlet soldiers,
standing silent sentry at
our black gated homes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

#10-- Spring Flower

Spring Flower

Yellow petals curled,
beckoning fingers. Flower
whispers, Come closer.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Poetic Verbs, June 11-June 17

I have been finished with my class for about a week, and I don't have to take the next one until the end of July, so I've been luxuriating in procrastination and guilty TV pleasures. Despite the overwhelming instinct to melt into my couch, I have been pretty productive.

Here are the things I've done this week to honor my writing practice:

* put together my packet of poems for my writer's group
* attended writer's group
* went through all of my old writer's group poems (about 30 in all), read through all the comments, and determined what actions need to be taken on each poem.
* created a spreadsheet to track these writer's group poems(I love spreadsheets)
* purchased a new digital camera (in preparation for my vacation, but also to help take better pictures for this blog, among other things)
* took 2 separate inspiration walks around my neighborhood to take pictures and notice images

I didn't get to actual writing, but I think most of these actions will help with the composition and revision processes.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Weekly Word Count, June 11-June 17

I did a lot of things to honor my writing practice this week, which we'll see when I post my verbs. Writing, however, was not one of them. It just didn't happen. So, I remain at 17294 for the year.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fun, Sun, and ...Books?

In just a few weeks, I am going on vacation. Ten working days, to be exact, not that I'm counting. I'm a pretty type-A kind of girl and I have a feeling I will be needing some beachy entertainment.

So, I'm looking for some suggestions for summer beach reading. I'm looking for something both frothy and literary, if you catch my drift. For instance, I love literary biographies, especially if they involve scandal, like the recent Edna St. Vincent Millay biography, Savage Beauty. Or summery poetry, like, well, I can't think of summery poetry.

So I'm asking for help. If anyone out there has encountered some good summer reading, please leave me some suggestions. I leave on July 1, and I'm planning a library trip for June 30. Any help would be much appreciated!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Poets & Cloggers Unite!

I hate being persnickety about details. I really do. But this article from Time Magazine has been sticking in my craw since I read it this weekend.

The stupid thing is that it is a good article. It's interesting and illuminates a big debate among poets and educators -- where does poetry belong, with the people or with the elite? See, it's about the Ruth Lily grant that the Poetry Foundation received. With this grant, the Poetry Foundation named John Barr, a poet and banker as the author painstakingly points out, as president. And now Barr is starting programs to help bring the poetry back to the people. All great news, in my book. As I often tell my students, if everyone read poetry, the world will be a better place.

So what's my problem? The author of the article, Lev Grossman, opens the article with several annoying and offensive stereotypes about poetry and poets. For instance...

1. "Money and poetry rarely have much to do with each other, especially in such a stunningly large quantity. Suddenly the small staff of Poetry was swimming in cash--it's the literary equivalent of the Beverly Hillbillies."

I can imagine the fish out of water TV sitcom now. The poet with flushing toilets and real writer neighbors.

2. "Poetry is the spinach in America's media diet: good for you, occasionally baked into other, tastier dishes (like the cameo that W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues made in Four Weddings and a Funeral) but rarely consumed on its own. In the hierarchy of cultural pursuits it sits somewhere just below classical music and just above clogging."

Seriously, clogging? In my informal and highly unscientific research, when you Google clogging, you get 4,890,000 hits. When you Google poetry, 145,000,000. And 108,000,000 for classical music, by the way.

3. "Poems became less like high-end pop songs and more like math problems to be solved. They turned into the property of snobs and professors."

I think we can aspire to being more than classy troubadours or bitter and troubled rock stars, while still retaining our level of intellectualism. In fact, I think it is more offensive to the public to say that because poetry became more intellectual, it became less popular. Surely, this is one of the reasons, but certainly not the only one.

So there's just a smattering of the things that bothered me. Taken out of context. I totally understood that this was exaggeration for emphasis because Mr. Grossman was making a point. I should take a breath and have a sense of humor. But, his language stings a bit, especially since he is contributing to the stereotypes that he is describing, by using this type of hyperbole.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Poetic Verbs, June 5-June 11

To honor my writing practice, I did the following verbs...

* researched places to submit individual poems and my manuscript for publication
* submitted to one journal for publication
* wrote a poem modeled after Natasha Trethewey's "Myth"
* bought Horse Latitudes by Paul Muldoon
* received a rejection for a contest (oh, well)
* visited the local modern art museum with my father

All in all, it was a good week for poetic actions.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weekly Word Count, June 4-June 10

This week, I wrote one poem, which is a feat, considering my dad is here to visit this weekend. (Since I know my dad reads my blog -- hi Dad! I had/am having fun with your visit.) :)

500 words for the week. 17294 for the year.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Through the Looking Glass

In Natasha Trethewey's book Native Guard, she includes the amazing poem Myth. In this poem, she creates a mirror image where the first line becomes the last line, the second line becomes the second to last line. The poem almost folds in on itself and it can be read backwards and forwards.

During the discussion for book club, Sasha asked if anyone was going to try the form. I didn't think I could do it, but lo and behold, this poem came out. It ain't perfect, but I'm pretty darn proud of it, due to the dexterity of the form.

If anyone knows the name of this form, please tell me. I couldn't find it anywhere!

Alice at 40

"It's a poor sort of memory that works only backwards." The Queen, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Her little life turned out
just as she had planned:
a pretty package, complete with tidy bow.

Her face remained, mirror smooth and calm,
while beneath the surface, reflections raged
every passing moment.

She found it impossible to put them into words,
so letters tumbled out, a muddy soup of sound.
She tried to swallow it whole again, which never works.

* * *

She tried to swallow it whole again, which never works,
so letters tumbled out, a muddy soup of sound.
She found it impossible to put them into words

every passing moment.
Whle beneath the surface, reflections raged,
her face remained, mirror smooth and calm,

a pretty package, complete with tidy bow.
Just as she had planned,
her little life turned out.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Things I'll Never Do Again

A friend of mine and I went on a lunch break trip to Ragstock, a hipster vintage store, in order to buy a Hawaiian shirt for his Tiki presentation at our workplace. (Long story.)

While at the check-out counter, I noticed the artfully stacked tubs of Manic Panic hair dye. For the uninitiated, Manic Panic is the hair dye of choice if you would like to have bubblegum pink, electric blue, or toxic orange hair. First, you bleach your hair an ungodly shade of white, then use the Manic Panic. Voila! Your hair is suddenly radioactively bright.

After we left, I sighed and said, "I'll never be able to Manic Panic my hair again." It's true. I work for a corporate school, and if I showed up with Cherry Cola colored hair, I'd be in severe trouble. It's a fact of my adult life.

My friend laughed and said, "Well, I'll never be able to pick up chicks at a coffee shop anymore." He's happily married, and has been for several years. In fact, he and the wife are in the process of buying a house right now.

"I'll never know what's cool to wear in clothes anymore." I countered. This lead to the things I'll never do again discussion. We countered back and forth with all the things we cannot do because we're adults with mortgages (or soon to be mortgages), spouses, and Important Jobs.

So some things I'll never be able to do again: Pierce or tattoo any portion of my face. Shave my head. Quit a job without having another one as a back up. Work for minimum wage and have party money left over. Know about a band before everyone else does. Be the smartass in the back of the classroom. Ignore my homework (or other obligation.)

This isn't a bad thing. During that phase in my life, I wasn't that happy about having to know what's hip and having to fit in. And, it's not that I want to do any of these things again. In fact, when I had the 13 year window of time to dye my hair leprechaun green, I mostly didn't. But, it's a bit melancholy to recognize that I'm now past that time in my life. Luckily, there are many benefits to this phase in my life. Like compound interest and home equity and 401(k) plans.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Poetry Book Club Selection for June

After much pondering and reading of reviews, I've decided to select Paul Muldoon's book Horse Latitudes for this month's book club selection. I picked this for several reasons.

1) He's an Irish Poet and the only modern Irish poet I've read much of is Eavan Boland, so I'd like a reference point.

2) The book includes formal poetry, including a crown of sonnets. (Sigh!)

3) I've already read Ed Bok Lee's book.

If you want to participate, pick up and read Muldoon's book by June 21st. On June 21st, I'll post a discussion post and we can dissect his book. I look forward to reading with you all!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Book I Wish I Wrote

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a poem for Poetry Thursday about meeting Wonder Woman at the Super Wal-Mart. In response, Jim from "I am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small." suggested that I check out the book Becoming the Villainness by Jeanine Hall Gailey. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jim, for such a wonderful suggestion.

I just finished reading the book last night and I am still reeling from the experience. I am an enthusiastic consumer of pop culture artifacts like comic books and cheesy TV shows. In other words, I am a nerd. As a nerd, I have always thought that comics and sci-fi/fantasy genre literature has provided us with a variety of gender archetypes. I think that they are on par with the archetypes found in myth and religion. To a certain degree, they are our current religion. In her book, Gailey explores these archetypes with sensitivity, creativity, and authenticity.

Her book is divided into 5 sections -- Origins; Superpower; Character Arc; Dark Phoenix, Rising; and The Final Frame. While I think I may need to read the book another time to truly understand the movements from section to section, it feels like the book moves from the construction of a female or feminine identity to the birth of the dark goddess within women and the reconciliation of these conflicting natures.

Each section combines poems by a "real" narrative voice with her "fictional" voices. Sometimes this happens in the same poem. For instance, in Origins, we have a poem called, "Remembering Philomel," which alternates between a young woman recalling her childhood sexual abuse with Philomel recounting her rape by her sister's husband. The result is chilling and hits close to home.

Many of my favorite poems are both funny and chilling, like "Conversations with the Stepmother, at the Wedding." In this poem, Gailey explores the stepmother archetype and actually helps you to feel sympathy for her, while illustrating her callousness. Other poems spin their original stories on their ears, like "When Red Becomes the Wolf." She uses the line of "what a big mouth you have," in such a naturally colloquial way that it sings in its new meaning.

What I love most about this book is that it puts into poetic forms ideas that have been swirling around my head for a while. Myth, pop culture, literature, et al present a difficult archetype of women in our culture. Through her poems, Jeanine Gailey Hall compresses this archetype into a small black diamond. Each new facet is brilliant, scary and dark, and we can almost see ourselves in the reflection.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Poetic Verbs, May 19-June 4

I'm not feeling very poetic today. Today was one of those rough days at work, when it sucks to be a manager and a worker. I had to convey bad news to my staff, when all I wanted to do was run to the mall. Right now, I'm mostly interested in curling up on my couch and watching trashy TV. (Hello, Hell's Kitchen.) At any rate, as my students would say, would I like some cheese with my whine?

Before this afternoon, I did get a lot of poetic actions this week, including:

* writing a haiku
* reading other participant's Poetry Thursday posts
* reading most of Becoming a Villainness (review forthcoming)
* posting my online resume
* finishing my final (finally), so that I can have time to write and read again
* opening up June's Poetry Book Club selection for voting

This week, my dad's coming into to town, so I'll try to squeeze in poetry, in between the fun.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Weekly Word Count, May 28-June 3

I wrote one haiku for Poetry Thursday. 100 words.

16794 for the year.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Good News for the Little People

Publisher's Weekly reported earlier this week that a new form of philanthropy has hit the small press market. Literary Ventures Fund, a non-profit organization committed to spreading literature to new readers, proposes to help small presses promote single titles. While they will not publish titles per se, they will provide funding for the marketing of books and the promotion of books at the bookstore level.

According to the fund's mission statement, the organization was inspired to take on this task due to the pressures in large publishing houses to promote and sell books that appeal to a larger market. Currently, they do not help single authors promote their works to publication, but they have plans to do so in the future.

Hallelujah! This is fantastic news for all types of writers, from literary memoirists and novelists to poets, of course. Poets often are published exclusively through the small press, so any support for a small press is support for a small poet somewhere.

My Online Résumé is Up & Available

After working on this dang thing for a month, I am finally finished with my online résumé. Of course, I will continue to develop it as time goes on, but for now it is ready for public consumption.

Feel free to take a gander at


Friday, June 1, 2007

OMG, It's June Already! We Need a Poetry Book Club Book!

June has snuck up on me...and we don't have a Poetry Book Club book for June yet. Yikes!

So here are the suggestions we've had so far...

Poet With A Day Job suggested Horse Latitudes by Paul Muldoon

Gino suggested Tramp in Flames by Paul Farley

If you have any suggestions, or would like to vote, please do so by June 5th. I will post the book selection on June 6th. We'll have a discussion post on June 21st.

For July, I will be way more organized. :)