Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Old Year, New Love

My first book of poetry, Perpetual Care, is almost a year old. Which means it's been in this world almost as long as I lived in New Orleans. Strange. A large part of the manuscript deals with the loneliness and alienation felt by a person in a new city, new coast, new culture, etc. How fortuitous, then, that I recently found, and fell in love with, the photography of Mercedes McAndrew.

Her year-long project, L'image Quotidienne, is a sort-of love letter to her new city, San Francisco. In the same spirit of Perpetual Care, which seeks to understand New Orleans as a whole by archiving smaller elements and moments, she took on the project of photographing one person each day as a way of learning her new home. The evolution of the photos reveals her increasing comfort with and, dare I say, love for the city.

And the individuals are as varied and colorful as one would hope. Young and old. Fashionable and scruffy. Dads. Grandmothers. Dreadlocks. Genuine smiles and obvious poses comingle. A waitress offers a bowl of macaroni and cheese. A Christmas tree vendor named Mr. Green glows in his neon orange pants. As the year draws to a close, both here on the farm and in the city, I encourage you to reflect on your own home, new or old, and the faces that make it unique.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Movie Monday: I've Been Watching...

viewing partner: Isaac
stars: *****
notes: We had the "Uncle Buck" car growing up. I sympathize, Tia, I really do.

viewing partner: Isaac
stars: ***
notes: Disco-ready outfits, pecs that won't quit (that's Lou Farrigno, ladies), and robotic ancient Greek monsters.

viewing partner: Isaac
stars: ****
notes: Perfectly lovely and funny. If you grew up in the Eighties, watch this.

viewing partner: Georgie
stars: ****
notes: Catholic guilt, indeed. Can non-Catholics ever really understand?

viewing partner: Isaac
stars: ***
notes: How did I never watch this when I was younger? I would've probably had a crush on Sherlock Holmes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Chapbook Has Landed

It's official: A Classic Game of Murder is available for purchase. Buy your copy now. Seriously. Do it.

I must acknowledge DGP's editor, Kristy Bowen, who does all this beautiful work with her own two hands. Her books are exquisite. Thank you, Kristy, for a wonderful Christmas gift, and a very merry to everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Fab Fourteen Hills

Last week's Fourteen Hills release party at the San Francisco Motorcycle Club was rockin'. Never have I been to a journal release that was so diverse and so well-attended, by both contributors and lit-lovers. I mean, people flew in from the East Coast for crissakes...and raffle prizes (none of which I won, sob) ran the gamut of sock monkeys, couture corsets, and clown cabaret tickets. Really.

The knock-you-down drinks were poured by a couple of bikers, and were sufficiently strong enough to make me stumble on my way to the mike. Sorry, blond-haired girl with kick-ass boots in the front row. I read two poems the quickly got off the stage, but not before I inadvertently insulted my man and revealed that my fly was down earlier.

But, hey, all's fair readings. Thanks again to the amazing editors of Fourteen Hills. You all know how to throw a party. And if you haven't gotten your copy of the newest issue yet, buy it here. Feliz Navidad all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bad Movie of the Month

Ethan and Hallie (Ethan Embry and Thora Birch, before they were alterna-famous) know what they want for Christmas: a reunion between their divorced parents, Catherine (Harley Jane Kozak) and Michael (Law & Order's Jamey Sheridan). But first they have to get smarmy business man Tony Boer (Kevin Nealon) out of the picture. The scheming siblings put together a foolproof plan including mice, ice-cream, and Santa’s (Leslie Nielsen) help, so Mom and Dad can be together again. For some reason, Lauren Bacall costars.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Farm Fresh Friday: The Holiday Edition

Remember this post about Golden State Fruit, the ultimate source for fresh California fruit and munchies (including pears from right here in the Delta)? Well, they now offer amazing new baskets with holiday goodies like gourmet sugar cookies and chocolates, and amazing cheeses from artisan California creameries. I know you can't resist.

I'm giving you, my friend and reader, the best gift I know: a 20% "friends and family" discount redeemable at Golden State Fruit. Simply enter coupon code "ASPFAM20" on their Shopping Cart page and click "Apply Coupon." It's as simple as that. Quick as a flash, the best fruit, cheese, and snacks California has to offer will be on their way to your loved one's (or your) door.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Not-Really-Review: You Better Not Cry

At our house, Santa always arrived on Christmas Eve. He seemed to know exactly when mass at St. Luke's ended and must have calculated his sleigh flight to arrive about twenty minutes after, just when we had snuggled into our pajamas and gathered around the fake tree to wait. A jingle of sleigh bells, a hearty laugh, and a booming knock on the front door signaled his arrival (we had no chimney for him to slide down, one of the great tragedies of my life, along with the lack of a secret passage in our new-ish tract home). My brother and I would race to the door where a humongous pile of sparkling presents waited. We'd drag in the booty with a cursory glance at the night sky to see if a trace of reindeer could be seen. This happened about three or four times in a row: the knock, the pile of presents, the heady act of unwrapping. Then, one Christmas (I was about six) while my brother was busy dragging in the gifts, I noticed the garage light on. Strange, I thought. Who could be in our garage at this time of night? I peeked in, and there they were: Santa's presents, all piled together on the dirty garage floor. Santa, I figured, must be short on storage space.

The Not-Really Book Club meets each month in Sacramento

Monday, December 14, 2009

Moving Picture Monday: Go Forth

One of my graduate school professors loved commercials. He was convinced that, if movies were novels and televisions shows short stories, commericals were poems for the screen. It was almost as if he was predicting Levi's newest commercial campaign.

A montage of mysterious and iconic images (fireworks; skyscrapers; a girl in a field; a fist in the air; a couple post-coital, jeans around ankles) is set, not to the newest John Mellencamp or Taylor Swift jam, but to a scratcy recording of Walt Whitman's anthemic verse. The commercials are haunting and powerful in their effect. Do they make me want to buy new jeans? Yes. But more, they make me want to watch commercials.

Now, before you get all uppity and anti-materialistic on me, consider Seth Stevenson's logical argument about the pairing of Whitman and Levi's over at Slate. It makes sense that the most American of poets would mingle well with the most American of clothing items. This makes me wonder, which other poets would be translatable to television? Which products would they be best suited to? What would you sell?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Copenhagen Hatin'

Poor Al Gore. He won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize, and people still don't like him. Just in time for the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, James Delingpole with the Telegraph has launched a very anti-Gore poetry competition. The winner gets a free copy of The Real Global Warming Disaster by Christopher Booker. Feel free to is, after all, free...but change a few lightbulbs while you're at it.

Speaking of free books, check out this very cool book giveaway program by Goodreads. The online social network for bibliophiles gives away tons of free books every month. All you have to do is create a Goodreads page and click on the books you want. I haven't gotten any yet, myself, but it's always fun to dream.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh, the Weather Outside...

really is frightful, at least for us here in the Sacramento Valley. Ice on the windshield and in between rows of the field, huge globs of mud in my shoes, and a chill in my veins. But inside, with a fire going and slippers on my feet, it feels heavenly.

I'm in the perfect mood, therefore for holiday shopping, especially the kind that involves a laptop and some hot chocolate. For those of you with like minds, here are some great resources:

  • The Emerging Writers Network is posting holiday shopping guides by various authors. The selection, which includes fiction, poetry, and journals, is eclectic and intriguing.
  • If you're looking for something a little more mainstream, Largehearted Boy has compiled a list of all the "Best of..." book lists for 2009. It's staggering.
  • My new favorite non-literary blog, Design*Sponge, has gift guides of the fabulous and funky organized by price. Hooray for great finds under $25!
Happy shopping!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekend on the Farm

Fog...hard to take a picture of

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Time to Give

Who wants to give a goat for Christmas? I'd rather give my money to the arts organizations I love.

Duotrope Digest is a wonderful free resource for all us struggling writers out there. They offer an extensive database of print and electronic publications to which you can submit your precious poems and fine fiction. In addition, they give users access to a free submission tracking service, and recently they have added small presses who are looking for the next big thing in publishing. Duotrope relies on donations in order to keep going, and if you have ever used their service, you should give a little something.

The PEN Center USA, and its east coast companion, the PEN American Center, are organizations committed to the freedom of speech and the fostering of marginalized voices throughout the world. A membership will help support their prizes and causes, and will give you access to their writing community, publications, and special events.

Local Sacramentans can attend the Sacramento Poetry Center's 30th Anniversary Celebration tonight from 6 to 8. Your $30 donation will get you in the door for a night chock full of food and drink, frivolity and fun. Teresa Vinciguerra and Danyen Powell will read poetry and music will be provided by the American River College Vocal Jazz Quartet.

Is your wallet yawning after all that giving? Well, charity doesn't have to cost a dime. For those of you with a Facebook account, consider voting for Dzanc Books in this contest sponsored by Chase. Dzanc is a small press dedicated to new and emerging voices, and to growing a literary community from the ground up through grant programs. They are in the running for some well-needed funds, which Chase happens to be giving away. The organization with the most votes gets the's that easy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Left My Heart In...

Fourteen Hills 16.1 Release Party

Wednesday, Dec 16 7:00p
at San Francisco Motorcycle Club, San Francisco, CA

Join us for the Fall 2009 release of Fourteen Hills, San Francisco State University's International Literary Magazine.

Readings by: Stephen Elliott, Katie Cappello, Rhea DeRose-Weiss, Rae Freudenberger, Austin LaGrone, Gregory Mahrer, Gabrielle Meyers, Marcus Pactor, Sarah Cohen Powell, Marc Stone

Fabulous Raffle Prizes by: Periscope Cellars Winery, Mercury Cafe, Under One Roof, Four Star Video, 222 Hyde, Jewish Theatre SF, Half Price Books, Omnibucket, Dark Garden and many many more!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Workshop: I'm Making a List...

We're all making lists this time of year: lists of what we're thankful for, what we want for the holidays, what we'll do different in the next year. Then there are the little remembered everyday lists, which can be just as important. The grocery list for Thanksgiving dinner. The list of to-do's before the family arrives to visit. The invite list for a New Year's party. The list of stores to hit pre-sunrise on Black Friday. The list...yes, I said it...goes on and on.

Which makes me think of list poems. Whitman was a master of these, with his "Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle,/Out of the ninth-month midnight," etc. Other contemporary poets who have tackled the list poem include C.D. Wright, Jorie Graham, and Lynn Emmanuel.

But what makes a list poem a poem, and not simply a list? Metaphorical leaps in logic and imagistic language are musts, as well as attention to the musicality of the line. Try this: begin each line the same way. You can use Whitman's "Out of..." or another broad phrase (into... if you... what I mean is...). Then complete the line. Over and over. As many times, and in as many different ways as you can. You can also try describing something using this list technique (The city like... The desert is... My wife with...).

Don't worry in the initial drafting about perfection. The key to a good list poem is the cutting and revising afterwards. Then, and only then, after you have something to work with, can you make a poem out of a list. But whatever you do, don't write a poem starting with "I'm thankful for..." Save that for the dinner table or holiday card.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Movie Monday: Bloody, Indeed

Now, I know you are all avid followers of the blog authored by Nigel Sheinwald, the British Ambassador to the U.S. But for those of you who happened to miss it, I would like to direct you to his recent post on the strange case of British actors playing vampires in American film. The list includes favorites such as Stephen Moyer from True Blood and Gary Oldman as uber-vamp Dracula. Of course, the esteemed ambassador missed a few, including Stuart Townsend as an admittedly forgettable Lestat in Queen of the Damned. Any other blood-sucking Brits you can think of?

Rather than delve too deeply into the psychology at work behind this trend, the ambassador chooses to cheer the inspiration of British talent on American art. But really, you gotta wonder why this is. The boyfriend suggests that, because Great Britian is older than the U.S.A., and because vampires are, usually, much older than humans, the two are a perfect match.

Then, there is the morphing of the vampire legend. Vamps are no longer alien-like creatures, or strangely dressed immigrants from Central Europe. They are now (thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer) sexy, desireable, loveable even. And a British accent complements the smooth sensuality of this new type of vampire much better than, say, a Brooklyn accent. Which reminds me, has anyone else seen A Vampire in Brooklyn, in which Eddie Murphy gives us his version of a Carribean vampire? Hey, the Carribean was once part of the British Empire, right? Well, there you go.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Friday, I'm in Love


wtf pwm

scarves and tights

this bike on a chain

bootie slippers


chili and cornbread

Roseanne and Bruce

birthday pie

big hair

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Not-Really-Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Swinging the green blanket around her shoulders, she pulled her dog into her lap and bowed her head beneath a fold, hiding from the adverse elements: the fog, the wickedly wet cold that somehow passed through the heaviest of fabrics to chill her skin. She knew the crows outside (or were they Crows?) would continue their incessant cawing, but here she was safe, in her own little self-induced hermitage. She would outlive this winter yet.

The Not-Really Book Club meets monthly in Sacramento.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Saga of the Fridge

Our fridge has been broken for a year. For a while it didn't matter, because we were traveling. Then we lived out of a dorm fridge for a while. You remember those, right? The slots for beer cans, sometimes a tiny "freezer" compartment for a singe ice tray or airplane-sized bottle of booze. I am still surprised at what we were able to pack in there: hot dogs, greens, eggs, lunch meat, even the occasional beer or two. But, of course, that broke too.

When we lost the mini fridge and still hadn't gotten the big one repaired, we learned to subsist on very little...and we got really good at making omelets. Now I don't know what to put in the new, albeit much smaller, fridge we recently purchased. Ketchup, tortillas, and fruit all found new places on pantry shelves, in baskets, or in drawers. Even our cheese was fine in the chest freezer outside. What do we really need all that space for?

Mark Menjivar, a photographer, is investigating the answer to that question. I found his work through Kris Sanford, an ASU alum and former Visual/Text coordinator. Menjivar's photographs record the contents of a person's fridge...from the glory of leftovers in styrofoam containers to the contents of the crisper drawer, however rotten. Included with each photo is a short bio of the person, sometimes even an explanation for the contents. It's a fascinating look into the eating habits of America. And while I figure out what to put in my fridge, I'll be enjoying Menjivar's work.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poets in Need

Do you love Copper Canyon Press as much as I do? Are you thrilled by the political and aesthetic power of Poets Against the War? Then, maybe you will find it in your heart to help out Sam Hamill and Gray Foster. According to this letter from Marilyn Hacker and Alfred Corn, Sam and Gray are, like many, financially crippled by the health care system. While sending them money might not be viable, why not use this as impetus to contact your local legislator about the health system? When health care issues start to affect even our art, things have got to change.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Indie Bookstore Number 4

What: Jo Ann Carroll's Old Lahaina Book Emporium

Where: 834 Front Street, Lahaina, HI

What I found:
1. W.S. Merwin's The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative
2. A section called "Beats and Offbeats"
3. More first editions and signed copies than you can shake a stick at

Why you should go: You're on the've finished your trashy airplane're looking for something else to read...something substantial...something funky or classy or rare. Oh, and you're feeling a bit sunburned as well. Come out of the heat, and get lost in the stacks.

Want more? Visit the website for a taste of what's on the shelves.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Workshop: 350

Did you know about 350? If you're an NPR junkie like me, you may have heard about this environmental organization which brought crowds from all over the world together on October 24th in support of cutting carbon emissions. The organization takes its name from Bill McKibben's groundbreaking book on climate change. Why 350? Find out here.

In support of the group's efforts, 350 Poems invited 350 poets to write pieces on global warming and environmental issues. Each piece could only be three and a half lines long. The resulting pieces are sometimes eerie, sometimes funny, sometimes moving. The project is a fascinating, eglatarian mix of well-known and lesser-known poets, high and low language, metaphor and overt naming. In short, just what you could hope for from a group of environmentally conscious poets.

While the day of advocacy has passed, I think this form lends itself well to the subject of environment and climate change. It leaves little room for didactic statement, forcing instead a distillation of emotion, imagery, and call-to-action in a neat little package. So I'm calling on you to write your own short, soul-punching pieces. Try to stick to the three and a half line limit, and see what happens.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Poetry Flash Fabulous

Up until recently, I was regularly posting monthly calendars for Sacramento-area literary events. These postings took up so much time, and so few people were clicking on the Adsense links (hint, hint), that it seemed like a mismanagement of my time. Plus (and here's the big secret), I was getting most of my information from Poetry Flash anyway.

Poetry Flash is a great resource for California and other Western writers. Providing information on submission calls, awards, book reviews, news items, and, yes, that fabulous literary event calendar, Poetry Flash is one-stop shopping for us word-slinging cowboys and girls. They even host a reading series, jam-packed with plenty of contemporary literary superstars.

Please visit their site for more information on upcoming events in November and December. And if you are struggling about what to get the writer in your life for the holidays, consider a donation or a subscription. The crew at Poetry Flash will thank you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bad Movie of the Month

Also known as Homo Erectus, this movie takes you back to that miraculous prehistoric time when cavemen somehow knew English. Complete with stone-age glasses, Ishbo (Adam Rifkin) is the classic nerd, cast out by his father, Mookoo (the late David Carradine), for inventing pants. He longs for the love of a good woman, in particular the stunning specimen Fardat (Ali Larter). Can Ishbo find a place to call home, and a girl he doesn’t have to club?

Some material courtesy of Gracenote, Inc.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poets Are the Next Vampires

Vampires are so last year. They're everywhere now: in bestsellers, on television, in movies. If you're tired of the vamp trend and looking for a hot new Halloween costume, then look no further. Check out this handy list of poet costume ideas, including a nightgowned, reclusive Emily Dickinson, a lusty and bearded Whitman, a rubber-gloved William Carlos Williams, and, of course, the bard of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe.

Any other great literary costumes out there? Let me know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Little Something from the Scottish Play

Yes, I misquoted the Bard last week. In order to redeem myself, here is the witches' spell in its entirety:

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.
Enter the three Witches.
1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH. Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Workshop: Pantoum Me!

The pantoum, a poetic form in which whole lines are repeated, seems appropriate for Halloween season. The finished product often has the feel of a spell about it, a little "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble." And many times writing a pantoum feels like an act of magic...the way the lines fit and meaning transforms from stanza to stanza, the way you always seem to know when it's done. So if you're feeling witchy or warlocky, I suggest you work a little magic and compose a pantoum of your own.

First the rules...

1. Write a first stanza.
2. The second and fourth lines become the first and third lines of stanza two, like thus:



3. Repeat this pattern for subsequent stanzas, thusly:



4. The final stanza re-conjures those forgotten lines from stanza one:


You end where you it? Good.

Glam Rock Pantoum

What happened to the skinny boys?
David Bowie strutting skin-and-bone thighs
as the Goblin King, in snakeskin gray,
his balls rising like a heart between ribs.

David Bowie strutting skin-and-bone thighs
on stage, singing Ziggy played guitar,
his balls rising like a heart between ribs,
a barking tree frog in white branches.

On stage, singing Ziggy played guitar,
forearms strungwith g-string veins.
A barking tree frog in white branches,
the artery swelled in his neck when he sang.

Forearms strung with g-string veins.
Hipbones pointing like triggers.
The artery swelled in his neck when he sang,
I thought I could wrap my mouth around it.

Hipbones pointing like triggers,
as the Goblin King, in snakeskin gray,
I thought I could wrap my mouth around them.
What happened to the skinny boys?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Long Time, No Write

It has unquestionably been too long between posts. I was working on reorganizing the blog, and then life took me away. So sorry!

I will be posting regularly again soon, though not as frequently. In the meantime, read these wonderful e-journals:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Born in the UK

Today is National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom, and I'm guessing that the home of Shakespeare and Byron will be a great source of poetic celebration. In addition to readings and educational programs, the official NPDUK website offers links to a selection of British poetry bloggers.

In other literary news from across the pond, Scottish poet Don Paterson has won the prestigious Forward Prize for his recent collection, Rain, and the British pronounce T.S. Eliot their favorite poet, according to an online poll. While I have had my love affair with J. Alfred, I must admit to a soft spot for John Donne as well. Who is your favorite verse-composing Brit?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bad Movie of the Month

Infamous jewel thief Blackie (French Stewart, of Third-Rock-from-the-Sun fame) has found the ultimate hiding place for his most recent haul: the collar of a seeing-eye dog. When Owen (Luke Benward) sees Blackie and his henchmen, Arty (Kelly Perine) and Bud (Chris Farley's brother, Kevin), mistreating the dog, he helps the poor animal escape. Finding refuge in his mountain-top fort complete with booby traps, Owen is ready to fight off the bad guys with his new animal pal, the aptly named Diamond.

Some material courtesy of Gracenote, Inc.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Game Time

Here's a little diversion for those of you suffering from mid-week blues. Cheese or Font is a fun little online game in which you have to decide if something is...well...a cheese or a font. It's really much harder, and more fun, than it sounds. you know the answer? The sounds of the words are wonderful for those of us who love such things. And for foodies and design freaks alike, the challenge is impossible to resist. What's your high score?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Eww...Gross

This week's workshop comes again from the Hayden's Ferry Review blog. The editors over at HFR have issued a challenge to write the grotesque in 500 words or less, and now I'm passing that challenge on to you. What encompases the grotesque for you? Carnival sideshows? Bad horror movies from the seventies? Green beans?

Ok, I'm a little biased on that last one. And, to be honest, green beans are more gross than grotesque. But where does "gross" end and "grotesque" begin? Explore that boundary in your writing this week. You have free reign to be as horrifying and gross as possible.

If you produce something worth reading, send it along to HFR. Who may win a subscription to the journal...or you may just freak some people out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Formal Considerations

Sorry for my silence yesterday, friends. I was recovering from my days in the desert, and needed some away-from-the-computer time. But I am back today with a great article by Matthew Zapruder about the history of poetry and how it relates to his history as a poet.

His essay got me thinking about my time as a student, both in grad school and before. I went through a similar phase of experimentation with rhyme and form, and wonder if others have had the same experience. Did you start as a free verse star, or did you slog your way through form beforehand?

And does form have a place in today's poetic culture? My grad class on form was presented to me in this way: Just write the damn thing, and don't worry about being good, because it's going to suck, but you have to do it. But I find contemporary poets who use blank verse, rhyme, who compose in groups of three or four lines. How does form make its way into your work?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend in...the Desert

I'm celebrating the fabulousness of my cousin, Kara, in Phoenix this weekend. One hundred degrees, here I come!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life Support: More September Literary Events in Sacramento and Beyond

Quite a few events are happening at local libraries around the area in connection with the One Book Sacramento project. If you are unfamiliar with this, the idea is to get an entire community reading and discussing the same book. The book in question is The Soloist by Steve Lopez. The events, ranging from children's programs and musical ensembles to panels on homelessness and a viewing of the movie, all culminating in a reading by Lopez, can be found here. Programs start today.

Speaking of kids, Time Tested Books is hosting the ScholarShare Children's Book Festival at FairyTale Town in Land Park the weekend of September 26-27. Performers, storytellers, and illustrators will gather to entertain children and get them excited about reading. What could be better? Oh, yeah, the event is completely free.

And once those children grow and become obsessed book lovers and collectors, like me, they can attend the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair at the Scottish Rite Temple on September 20th. Kids get in free, all others pay $5 to browse the vast selection of used and rare books, pamphlets, photographs, first editions, maps, autographs...anything, really, that's old, on paper, and is worth something.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Elegy Eulogy

It seems appropriate to focus on the poetic form of elegy this week. According to the Academy of American Poets, the elegy is comprised of three stages: a song of grief, an appreciation of the dead, and a turning towards solace. Famous elegies include Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats." Not as famous, but certainly just as wonderful, is Paul Guest's poem "Eulogy," first published in 42opus. In this poem, Guest reverses the trajectory of each stage in order to comment on society's fascination with death, and criticize our need for euphamism.


So that this will seem like words between

old friends, I'll say it was painless.

And quick. I'll say it was mercy

and behind my face where I put

things like The Truth and dreams about

supernovae, I'll try to mean it.

But it was his time, we should all admit.

Shouldn't we, who loved him

the way we love traffic

and cell phones during spectacular sex

and the degradations of puberty,

shouldn't we all feel

as though light were swelling within us,

inflaming us? Tell me where

you were when you heard

but tell me later, much later,

the kind of later mathematicians get excited about.

By then memory will have torn

away from my body like a scab

I'll no longer have to pick at

and I'll listen to you like a stethoscope.

It will be good for my heart.

It will be good for your heart.

In the air of that deferred spring

we'll be healthy, speaking

of an ancient wound neither of us

really remember, except

that by starlight we promised

to honor this question mark

in the periodic sentence of our lives.

Whatever you say, remember

that we cried. The dead love that we weep,

that we stain ourselves with

salt, that we become for a moment

indistinguishable from the sea,

that our shining faces rock with grief.

The choice is yours whether to honor someone who has passed, or have fun with death itself.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Basketball Boy

I first came across Jim Carroll in the guise of Leonardo DiCaprio. As a teenage girl and budding poet, this was really the best way to go about it. Jim Carroll's work made me cry, shiver with pain, was the kind of work I craved, the kind that sucked energy from its environment, got right to the grisly, dark heart of things.

Later in life, Carroll became a music entity, fronting a punk band appropriately titled the Jim Carroll Band, and hanging with the likes of Andy Warhol and Patti Smith. But he will always be best known for The Basketball Diaries, which dealt with drug use, sex, and class issues, in a personal, accessible, and immediate way.

Jim Carroll died last weekend. This week, I remember Carroll's strength and honesty, and the way his work gave me a little bit of both.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Time of My Life

I didn't know what "dirty dancing" was, but I was determined to see the movie. My parents thought I was playing Girl Talk with my childhood friend, Laura S., but we were watching as Baby carried a watermelon, Johnny twisted his hips, and the duo mambo'ed their way to true love. Most of the movie I did not understand...the political and sexual undertones were way over my head...but when Johnny scooped up a joyful Baby at the end, my heart soared. Really.

Patrick Swayze was an irresistible mix of hunky and sweet, with a heaping spoonful of chiseled muscles and a dash of southern charm. He could drive a big rig and battle Chris Farley in a Chippendale's dance-off. He made a generation of women fall in love with a ghost, pulled off a convincing drag queen, and was shocking as a pedophile in Donnie Darko. But most of all, he danced, and he will be remembered just so. Rest in peace, Patrick.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's Friday, I'm in Love


Savoie Faire's alphabet print

built-in bookcases

swings instead of sofas

my electric fly zapper

Tres Chicas

harvesting sunflower seeds

The Man From Kinvara

crawfish boils

Whether Tis Nobler...

An interesting debate is going on over at Hayden's Ferry Review's blog about, well, blogging. HFR contributors Darren Morris and Sandra Beasley each take a side, the former mostly against and the latter mostly for blogging. While I agree with Darren that most "here's what I did today" type blogs are mostly uninteresting and distracting, I also agree with Sandra that they serve as excellent sifters for our pack-rat poet minds.

I must also admit that, for someone who cannot afford her own url and never took a Dreamweaver class, a blog offers a cheap, easy, and accessible form of internet promotion. In addition, it acts as a new type of writer's community--I keep in touch with old colleagues and discover new friends. And I am firmly in the Sandra camp on the subject of reading a writer's personal life into their work. After all, it's done all the time in literature classes with the likes of Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, J.D. Salinger. Blogging offers a more active role in the process, is all.

Where do you fall in this blog debate? Does your following of a writer's blog ruin, or enhance your reading of their work? Does it have no effect at all? Do you admire Albert Goldbarth for his shunning of modern technology, or are you an avid reader of e-books, e-journals, e-anything?

For further reading, you can check out Sandra's blog. Darren doesn't blog, but I think he's on Facebook.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Hiding Place

Underneath my coffee table, a little hand long ago scrawled pictures and words. Someone crouched under there, looked up, and saw the perfect place to write. Years ago, my friend, Cindy, and I saw a similar opportunity when her parents were building an addition to their house, and they had yet to install the insulation. We wrote our names--in pink, even--in the wall, for someone to one day find.

This week, imagine your writing in a hiding place where others rarely look. What would you say, if you knew no one alive would read it? How would you leave your mark for future generations to find? In the back of a cave, at the top of a television tower, on the underside of a plate left at Goodwill--write your secrets in secret places.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Complete Package

Need something to read? Dancing Girl Press is having a fall sale on chapbooks: choose any five titles for $20. Details here.

Need something to write in? Etsy vendor Antilullaby is having a sale on handmade sketchbooks and journals. She can also rebind those much-loved older books for you.

Need some place to keep all these books? Check out these nifty bookshelves curated by Incredible Things.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Is It Over Yet?

I keep hearing that the recession is over...that home sales are on the rise...that things are turning around. What do you think?

To round out this week of recession topics, I bring you witty recession haiku written by the listeners of NPR's Planet Money. My personal favorite: the one that mentions ramen noodles. Hey, they're not just for college students anymore!

Happy Friday, readers.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Man in a Van

The man in question is Aaron Heideman. When he found himself out of a job and out of money, he decided to hit the road and collect Americans' stories about how the recession has affected them. This is where the van comes in. Inscribed with snippets of experiences, the van is now more than just a mode of transportation. It is an art piece. It is a story all its own.

The Man in a Van Project is nearing completion, though it will continue to travel and collect for the rest of September. Aaron is entering the van, and its companion scroll of stories, in an upcoming art contest. Check the calendar to see if he will be near you sometime soon. You can add your own story to the collection.

Some of the "stories" (which can be seen here) are Job-like litanies of what went wrong. Some are inspirational. Some are short and sad. Bitterness, hope, and fear all at the same time. I wonder what Aaron will do with these pieces of people once the contest is over. Whether he wins or not, this project seems poised to continue in some way...a book, a public installation, a documentary...something to celebrate this object that has now become part of America.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Postcard Poetry

One of my favorite stops in the Galapagos was Post Office Bay, where tourists could leave postcards and letters that would be delivered by other tourists. If I had thought ahead, I would have left some postcard poetry for someone to find.

A postcard poem is quickly written, short and sweet. Think "haiku" without the syllabic considerations. Or, if you must, think about it as an old-school tweet. You simply write a poem on the back of a postcard, any postcard, any subject. You can write about the picture on the card, or what is going on around you at the moment. The idea is for the poem to have a feeling of immediacy, of present-tense.

Once you have gotten down your poem, mail it, or leave it in a strategic place for someone to find. Put it in a bottle and throw it in the nearest body of water. Leave it under a windshield wiper. Tie it to a balloon. Set it free.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lending Library

This Tuesday, I bring you some recession-friendly ideas for literary giving and receiving...

Do you have empty space on your bookshelf that just needs to be filled? Don't have the cash to fill it? Then check out the supercool bartering offer from Meghan at Transletics. For the price of shipping (around $2 or $3), you can receive a volume from Meghan's poetry collection. All books are vetted and reviewed by her beforehand, so you know what you're getting.

For those of you that have too many books, and, like Meghan, are trying to get rid of stuff, consider donating a book (or hey, why not a whole box of books?) to Amicus Books of Marysville. Their book donation project benefits local school districts in need. If you're never going to read The Great Gastby again, why not give a young student the chance?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie Monday: Bad Movie of the Month

Mikey (Katt Williams) is a short, lonely guy with a bad job and no car. He decides to join the millions of others online and sets up an internet dating profile. Feeling the need to stretch the truth, he describes himself as a 7 foot tall member of the Lakers. The ladies, including the aptly named Me'Hoe (Kim Kita), flock to his profile, but are disappointed with the real thing. Can Mikey find love in cyberspace? Master P directs this romantic comedy written by Lil' Romeo.

Some material courtesy of Gracenote, Inc.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Life Support: September Literary Events in Sacramento and Beyond


1114 21st Street
Sacramento, CA

A native of Indiana, Mary Mackey has lived in Costa Rica and served as the Chair of PEN American Center West. She currently lives in Sacramento and is a Writer-in-Residence at CSUS. Mackey is the author of more than 15 books, including 5 books of poetry and her newest historical fiction novel, The Widow's War.


1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

A poet and translator, Tim Kahl is Vice President of the Sacramento Poetry Center, and has had his work published in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Fourteen Hills, Ninth Letter, The Journal, and Indiana Review. His first collection of poetry, Possessing Yourself, is available from WordTech Communications.


Art Sale benefiting
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Proceeds from this art sale will benefit the Sacramento Poetry Center and the California Stage.

1722 J Street
Sacramento, CA

Eben07 is a character from a locally produced webcomic. His creators will be on hand to introduce the first issue, Operation: For the Love of Russia, as well as a preview of the second issue, Operation: Mongoose.


James Blue Wolf, Indigo Moor, Dennis Hock, Maya Kholsa, Susan Kelly-DeWitt
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

James Blue Wolf is Poet Laureate of Lake County, CA. His full-length collection, Sitting by His Bones, was published by Earthen Vessel Productions.

Indigo Moor is a recipient of the Cave Canem Writing fellowship in poetry. His volumes of poetry include Tap-Root and Through the Stonecutter's Window.

Dennis Hock is a professor of writing at Cosumnes River Community College. He is the author of the poetry collection The Secret Cup.

Maya Kholsa is a poet and prose writer. Her books include the poetry collections Keel Bone and Heart of the Tearing, as well as the memior Web of Water.

Susan Kelly-DeWitt is known as a teacher, editor, and freelance writer. She is the author of five chapbooks of poetry and the full-length collection, Fortunate Islands.


Mandy Dawn & Rae Gouirand
Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis
27074 Patwin Road
Davis, CA

Mandy Dawn is a poet and the Office Administrator of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis.

Rae Gouirand received her MFA from the University of Michigan. Her poems have appeared in journals such as jubilat, DIAGRAM, Spinning Jenny, Barrow Street, and Columbia Poetry Review.


The Farm on Putah Creek
5265 Putah Creek Road
Winters, CA

David 'Mas' Masumoto is a third-generation organic farmer and memoirist. His family farm produces peaches, grapes, nectarines, and raisins. As a writer, Masumoto is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. His newest nonfiction book is Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land.

D.R. Wagner & Phil Weidman
1114 21st Street
Sacramento, CA

D.R. Wagner is an artist, musician, poet, and design professor at UC Davis. He has published more than 20 books of poetry and has exhibited his work in more than 30 solo shows.

A native Californian, Phil Weidman has served in the Army and worked as a landscape gardener and teacher. He is a visual artist and the author of nine books of poetry.


Memorial Auditorium
1515 J Street
Sacramento, CA

Garrison Keillor is an author, storyteller, actor, and public radio institution. His weekly variety show, A Prairie Home Companion, combines sketch comedy, music, and stories, and was made into a movie directed by Robert Altman. Keillor's books include Lake Wobegon Days and Life Among the Lutherans.


Thomas Centolella
UC Davis Arboretum
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA

A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Thomas Centolella has taught at Berkeley, the College of Marin, and in the California Poets in the Schools program. He currently lives in San Francisco. Centolella is the author of the poetry collections Terra Firma, Lights & Mysteries, and Views from Along the Middle Way.


D.A. Powell
1719 25th Street
Sacramento, CA

Originally from Georgia, D.A. Powell attended Sonoma State University and the Iowa Writer's Workshop. He has taught at many universities including the University of Iowa, Columbia, and Harvard, and is the author of the poetry collections Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails. His newest book of poetry is entitled Chronic.