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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Not-Really-Review: Stiff by Mary Roach

I never liked Biology class. Or dissection. Whenever attention was called to a body part, I could suddenly feel it, large and ominous in my body. The liver would announce itself, a five-pound weight in my abdomen. The kidneys would shift around conspicuously. As the teacher outlined each bone in the body, I could feel it: ulna, tibia, coccyx. A lecture about blood circulation? I could feel each tiny cell coursing a million miles an hour through my veins. The veins themselves would seem to pump up like Air Jordans, throbbing painfully in each wrist and elbow crook. I'd fold over with imagined pain as my lab partner sliced through rat skin, carefully extracted each gray, spongy lung. Perhaps it was the realization that we were all just a loosely knit grouping of pieces and parts. Life was suddenly illogical, strange, unlikely. What the heck was I doing, walking around?

The Not-Really Book Club meets each month in Sacramento.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weekly Workshop: A Numbers Game

Jonathan Thirkield uses code to compose in his debut collection, The Waker's Corridor. Following the title of a poem, he includes two numbers in parentheses--"Upstate (7:127)" and "Abend (10:101)" are two examples. The first number corresponds to the number of stanzas, the second to the number of characters in each stanza, minus white space. This leads to some interesting musical and metric moments, as in the poem below:

The Tilethatchers' Play (16:36)

Roofless night. The tilethatchers rest in

The nativity hay. One clutches a sheep mask

To his chest and snores loudly. The dusting

Of sequins, mimic-starlight they had cast

Through the broken roof upon the toy child,

Reflects the actual moonlight moving over

The exposed stage. And now it is time for the

Wings. Sweeping dark fabric against a dark

Backdrop. Wheeling each sleeping scene to

The carriage houses. A boy holds his finger

And thumb over the tongue of a bell. Hushed,

He follows them in across one life bolted

To the doorway. Now is the time for putting

Everything away. Some bread carried off in

The beaks. Some sweepers again making wing

Noises or brushing bottles off of the curb.

A couple suggestions for trying this new form: 1. Use the word count function in MS Word to avoid crossed eyes trying to count each letter and puctuation mark; 2. Try converting a piece that's not quite working into this numerical format; or 3. Assign yourself random numbers and see what sort of fun you can have.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Generation Text

Clive Thompson has an interesting article in the recent Wired which strikes back at claims that technology (texting, IM'ing, etc.) is making the next generation illiterate. In this article, he cites the results of the Stanford Study of Writing, which show that the vast amount of typing required of youth culture actually makes today's students better writers. In addition, they seem to be more aware of their audience than writers of the past, and function better with a specific audience in mind than simply writing for the grade.

Since I am no longer teaching, I can't really weigh in on this debate, but I can say that it seems to make sense in a purely logical way. I wonder whether these results are seen by you teachers of composition and writing out there. Are your current students more persuasive, more prolific, than classes of the past? Do they write better when they write for a specific audience? Does all that constant blogging, tweeting, and facebooking actually improve their compositional skills? Please share your experiences and your thoughts.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Movie Monday: Whine and Cheese

I saw an old preview for Bottle Shock recently, which reminded me of how insanely bad the movie was. I saw it on a I need to say more? Bottle Shock purports to tell the story of how a winery in Napa beat out all those stuffy old world French vintages in the Seventies. The Napa wine-man (Bill Pullman) battles it out with a snobby English wine taster (Alan Rickman). Meanwhile the guy from Six Feet Under (Freddy Rodriguez) makes secretly good wine and gets involved in a love triangle with Bill Pullman's son and an inexplicably hot girl who just shows up to work in the vineyards and likes to flash cops. Hey, it's the Seventies.

I began to wonder why movies made about the wine industry are always so bad--not counting Sideways, of course. That was movie like a shaft of light from heaven itself. But I'm thinking of movies like A Good Year, which I also saw on a plane and in which Russell Crowe inherits a Provencal chateau and vineyard, complete with secretly good wine and a hot vineyard worker (Marion Cotillard). Seeing a pattern?

And then there's A Walk in the Clouds. Hot vineyard girl? Check. Secretly good wine? Well, no, but will you give me secret love? Keanu Reeves returns from World War II and decides to help a pregnant girl face her old world father during the grape harvest. Of course, Keanu falls for her and decides to defend her honor. Good Keanu. Oh, and he accidentally sets the vineyards on fire. Bad Keanu.

Perhaps it is the need to inject some romance into the story of wine that serves as the death knoll for these movies. Maybe that's why Sideways was so sneakily satisfying: instead of being about the romace between Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen, it was about the relationship between Paul and Thomas Haden Church. Take note, future wine industry movies: in order to make a good movie about wine, keep it strictly platonic.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Nude and Moody

While I do my best to promote local area literary events on this blog, I am aware that readings can be staid and stuffy. I have been to a few fantasticly entertaining readings, and many, many dull affairs that were not over soon enough. But, as the following two reading series show, a literary event doesn't have to be yawn-inducing.

Now, anyone who has shared a beer with me at Casey Moore's or Four Peaks in Tempe, AZ, will know that naked poetry reading was my idea. Many were the nights I described with great enthusiasm to anyone who would listen this revolutionary plan to shake up the literary world. But, like all good ideas, someone else thought of it and actually made it happen. Now those of you in the Chicago area have the chance to watch the lovely girls of Naked Girls Reading perform great literature in the buff.

Another great reading series, Cringe invites New Yorkers to read selections from their middle- and high-school diaries to the crowd. This appeases two desires: one, to read someone else's diary (oh, sweet, sweet voyeurism); and two, to revel in the Doc Marten-ed melodrama that was adolesence in the early Nineties. And what an appropriate time to do so, now that flannels are back. Baby doll dresses and wide leg jeans can't be far behind.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sacred Object

Perhaps it's going a little to far to describe the book as sacred...but perhaps not. It is certainly a desired, fetishized, and even loved object. And the feeling of reverence that came over me when I stepped into Filoli's wood-paneled, book-filled library this weekend must be similar to what the faithful experience stepping into their church.

Which is why I have avoided talking about the Kindle on this blog. As a book-worshiper, I knew I was the wrong person to pass judgment on a piece of machinery designed to faze out the book. Thank goodness that Nicholson Baker has done the dirty work for me. In his New Yorker review of the Kindle, Baker describes "tussl[ing] with anticlimax" while perusing selections on the e-reader. Anticlimax, indeed. After staring at a screen all day, the last thing to bring me pleasure would be staring at another screen.

So, for those of you who revere the book, and reject its technological replacement, I offer you a selection of blogs dedicated to that remarkable, sacred object. But once you're done with these, I urge you to pick up an actual book. Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.

1. Book By Its Cover: Illustrator and designer Julia Rothman's collection of art books and unique bound objects

2. Awful Library Books: Books of questionable value still in circulation, curated by librarians Mary and Holly

3. Forgotten Bookmarks: A compendium of strange things found in old books, put together by a used bookstore owner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Self-Portrait

This writing prompt is courtesy of Didi Menendez, via Barbara Reyes's blog. The fabulous online journal Oranges & Sardines has issued a call for poetic self-portraits, and I am passing this challenge on to you. What does the poem-you look and sound like? What words make up your body, your voice, your hair and fingers and lungs? Are you a haiku, a ballad, a sonnet...or something more fluid and formless...a lyric knot of arms and neurons, perhaps?

If you'd like to add another element to this to make it just a bit more challenging, try mimicking this surrealist poem from Andre Breton:

Freedom of Love

My wife with the hair of a wood fire
With the thoughts of heat lightning
With the waist of an hourglass
With the waist of an otter in the teeth of a tiger
My wife with the lips of a cockade and of a bunch of stars of the last magnitude
With the teeth of tracks of white mice on the white earth
With the tongue of rubbed amber and glass
My wife with the tongue of a stabbed host
With the tongue of a doll that opens and closes its eyes
With the tongue of an unbelievable stone
My wife with the eyelashes of strokes of a child's writing
With brows of the edge of a swallow's nest
My wife with the brow of slates of a hothouse roof
And of steam on the panes
My wife with shoulders of champagne
And of a fountain with dolphin-heads beneath the ice
My wife with wrists of matches
My wife with fingers of luck and ace of hearts
With fingers of mown hay
My wife with armpits of marten and of beechnut
And of Midsummer Night
Of privet and of an angelfish nest
With arms of seafoam and of riverlocks
And of a mingling of the wheat and the mill
My wife with legs of flares
With the movements of clockwork and despair
My wife with calves of eldertree pith
My wife with feet of initials
With feet of rings of keys and Java sparrows drinking
My wife with a neck of unpearled barley
My wife with a throat of the valley of gold
Of a tryst in the very bed of the torrent
With breasts of night
My wife with breasts of a marine molehill
My wife with breasts of the ruby's crucible
With breasts of the rose's spectre beneath the dew
My wife with the belly of an unfolding of the fan of days
With the belly of a gigantic claw
My wife with the back of a bird fleeing vertically
With a back of quicksilver
With a back of light
With a nape of rolled stone and wet chalk
And of the drop of a glass where one has just been drinking
My wife with hips of a skiff
With hips of a chandelier and of arrow-feathers
And of shafts of white peacock plumes
Of an insensible pendulum
My wife with buttocks of sandstone and asbestos
My wife with buttocks of swans' backs
My wife with buttocks of spring
With the sex of an iris
My wife with the sex of a mining-placer and of a platypus
My wife with a sex of seaweed and ancient sweetmeat
My wife with a sex of mirror
My wife with eyes full of tears
With eyes of purple panoply and of a magnetic needle
My wife with savanna eyes
My wife with eyes of water to he drunk in prison
My wife with eyes of wood always under the axe
My wife with eyes of water-level of level of air earth and fire

And if you end up with something really fantastic that you would like to submit to Oranges & Sardines, check out their submission guidelines.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Apparently, I'm not that good at it. With a party and a road trip and houseguests, I've been unable to post regularly. I'll be back tomorrow, promise. In the meantime, enjoy this novel on toilet paper for your bathroom reading pleasure. What genius.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Friday, I'm in Love


apricots and vanilla yogurt

toasty fashion

poems about sex and death

zee avi on a swing

meteor showers


rosa bianca eggplants

a girl detective from Wales

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bench Culture

Today, when I should have been working (see yesterday's post for my laziness justification), I found myself fascinated by this photo experiment from the creators of The Plug. Basically, these folks tied a disposable camera to a public bench and left a note asking strangers to take pictures. Amazing but true, the camera was not stolen. Even more amazing, people complied, taking pictures of their companions, themselves, their pets, their kids, bikes, traffic lights...I'm assuming anything within the range of the string.

Why is this so interesting to me? First, I love art which engages the audience--and, yes, I would consider this an "art" project, even though the results are less than professional. Second, I love art in unexpected, non-arty places. Third, these people participated in a piece of art that they would probably never see again. That's a pretty cool, unselfish thing to do. Also, the string acted as a sort of frame for what was captured, so that the individual photos fit together to create a particular atmosphere and sense of place.

Apparently, though, I am not the only one so enamored with this project. Glamour blogger Joanna Goddard decided to do the same thing, and was just as amazed by her results. The subjects of the pictures are, for the most part, similar: people, dogs, nature, the surrounding area. But the atmosphere is decidedly different...darker, more indicative of New York, as opposed to the sunnier vibe of the Atlanta photos.

I wonder what results other spaces and places would ilicit. Would a camera left in San Francisco capture its misty, earthy essence? Would one left in Phoenix be more desert or concrete? And what about a small town, like my own? Would it even work here, or does this type of experiment neccesitate a larger city, where anonymity is the norm? If you are tempted, like me, to try this out in your own city, please share the results!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Down Time

Wasps love the roof of our back porch. Last year, they built not one, but two nests, both of which were decimated by ants. But did that deter them? Heck no. This year, they're back, and as busy as ever cultivating their grubs.

Now, bees are known for being busy, but they can't compare to the frenzy of a wasp nest. The insects are constantly on the move, whether they are flying off for some unknown bit of sustenance, or they are simply traversing the nest from one end to the other. I am tempted to get a big stick and knock down the nest, just to get them to stop.

Of course, I don't really mean harm to the wasps. Besides trying to get into the house every now and then, they're really not a bother...yet. I think what I really want to do is to stop myself, stop the running around, the working, the chore-ing, the revising, the writing. I think I'm sick of myself.

Does anyone else ever feel this way? Down time can be an important part of the writing process. Like an overextended Ford Taurus engine, we need to rest, or we'll overheat and start spewing noxious hot smoke out of the air vents. Doesn't a little free time sound good? So, as the summer afternoon beckons and the light breeze softly tousels the branches of the oak outside my window, I am advocating...nothing. Don't do any writing this week. Let the engine cool, and the imagination reset. But leave the wasps alone, they can't help it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Is and What Should Never Be...Poetry?

Last week, the National Poetry Slam was held in Florida. Besides a passing nod of my cyber head at the fact that San Francisco took third place, I was not involved or interested in the proceedings at all. In fact, having participated in a "slam" as a non-slam poet, and witnessing the honors of the night go to what could only be described as a comedy routine with rhythm, not to mention the gads of bad slam poetry I received as a Poetry 210 teacher, I am downright averse to slam.

Yet this is an aversion I struggle with because, while I am not aesthetically fulfilled by such writing, I must admit that it fulfills one of poetry's three original offices: song, prayer, and spell. Slam poetry is, of course, really song, and in that sense, I can appreciate good slam poetry. When it is good, it can even evoke prayer-like qualities, as in Suheir Hammad's collection, Breaking Poems, which uses the rhythm-centric constraints of slam poetry to invent a new language. But, the critical devil in me pipes up, the bad slam poetry is sooooo baaaaad.

Well, I tell myself, there's loads of bad "literary" poetry out there as well. In fact, I've got a whole box of it that I've written! Just as the bad movies, pop songs, reality T.V. shows, and boy bands vastly outnumber the good, truly fantastic writing of all genres is similarly outnumbered. After all, not everyone is a Dickens or a Dickinson. Perhaps I should be more thankful for events such as the NPS, which present the best of the best to the nation. I was truly thankful to read this blog post by Tod Caviness, a slam poet who is similarly conflicted by his craft. As writers, of whatever genre, we should all keep our pomposity and snobbery in check, and carry on with the spirit of humility and inclusiveness.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Don't You Forget About Me

I wanted to be Sloan Peterson, but in my heart, I knew I was Allison Reynolds. If you are a child of the 80's, you know what I mean...John Hughes was an oracle of sorts for our generation, creating characters that somehow revealed our secret selves, no matter who we were. The jock, the nerd, the stoner. The rich and the poor. The good girl. The rocker. The outsider. Who hasn't, like Cameron, wanted to wrap themselves in a gray cocoon of blankets and hide from the world? Who hasn't loved the wrong guy, like Andie Walsh? Who hasn't wished that their family would just leave them alone? John Hughes created a new set of archetypes for our generation while at the same time celebrating the individual in each of his characters. His endings were not always satisfactory, more like temporary solutions in a world where there would always be another problem. Love, friendships, social status, all were uncertain.

Yet at the same time that he was pointing out the uncertainty of our lives, he was urging us, through characters like Uncle Buck, Ferris, and Kevin McCallister, to celebrate it rather than fear it. To celebrate our own, flawed selves. To sing, wear bad clothes, put pixie sticks on our sandwiches, and eat monstrous pancakes. John Hughes, thank you for making the weird Allisons of the world beautiful, the Duckies and Brians desirable, and the suburbs a place where magic can happen.

Those of you in the Phoenix area can join in an upcoming film festival and celebration of Hughes at the Harkins Valley Art this weekend. Visit The Big Picture for details.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

When It Rains...

It was supposed to rain yesterday. In fact, the forecast warned of thunderstorms. But instead, I spent a nice afternoon on a blanket in the sun with my dog and another new journal. The Sow's Ear Poetry Review has just released the Summer 2009 issue, which includes "The Study" from A Classic Game of Murder. Also included in this volume are poems from two other Northern California writers: Rebecca Foust, whose chapbook, Mom's Canoe, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing, and Alexa Mergen, who serves as the Sacramento Area Coordinator for California's Poets in the Schools. Hello neighbors! Order your budget-friendly copy here.

Those of you who have experience submitting to literary journals know that dry spells between acceptances can seem endless. Well, I'm going to have to raise a glass--or sacrifice a chicken--to the rain gods, because this morning I received a message about the newest BOXCAR Poetry Review, up live and including a new poem of mine, "Rescue Effort." Read the entire, fabulous issue here.

Enough with the rain metaphors! Get out, soak up the sun (as per Sheryl Crow), and enjoy your Friday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Indie Bookstore Number 3

What: The Avid Reader at the Tower

Where: 1600 Broadway, Sacramento, CA

What I found:
1. A whole shelf full of Gary Snyder
2. Not one, but two shelved copies of Richard Siken's Crush
3. Fantastic front displays of new releases overlooked in big box stores

Why you should go: The poetry section is extensive, in both size and quality. If they don't have something at this location, there's a chance it's at the sister store in Davis. It's a great option if you're early for your movie at the Tower Theater. The guy at the counter won't bother you, either.

Want more? Visit the Avid Reader website for store events and updates.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Right Here in River City

Lists fascinate me. So do names. So when I stumbled upon this list of city nicknames for yesterday's post, I was, understandably, swept away. The possibilities--as titles, as metophoric leaps, as newly imagined cities a la Italo Calvino or the more contemporary Jen Currin--are endless.

Some are, admittedly, overused. Some simply state the facts. Some are jokes (Silicorn Valley is, of course, Fairfield, Iowa) But some are truly fabulous. Why, for instance, is Fayetteville, NC known as Torture Town? Or what does it mean to say that Anchorage is the Air Crossroads of the World? And just think about what fun you could have with Witch City (Guayama, PR), Neon Babylon (Reno, NV), Land of the Sleeping Giant (Hamden, CT), or Barbecued Mutton Capital of the World (Owensboro, KY...seriously).

Let me know what you come up with. Me? I'll be playing around with Nail City (Wheeling, WV), Jet City (Seattle, WA) and Silk City (Allentown, PA). Have fun!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From the City of Good Neighbors

For those of you that don't know, the City of Good Neighbors, also known as Queen City, Nickel City, and my father's hometown, is Buffalo, NY. Buffalo's literary journal, Slipstream, has just released Issue 29, chock full of the freshest poetry around. Included in the line-up are my friends and colleagues Karen J. Weyant and Meghan Brinson. I also have a handful of poems included, from my soon-to-be-released chapbook, A Classic Game of Murder. Purchase your copy here for only 200 nickels.

In other book news, David Applebaum reviews Perpetual Care in Gently Read Literature. One of my favorite review sources, Gently Read Literature is dedicated to reading and reviewing the most contemporary of contemporary literature. A big thank you to David for writing such a lyric, elemental review.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bad Movie of the Month: Part 3 of 3

Ten years after watching her father die by the hands of his dead lover, Justine (Brittany Finamore) is living safely in a technology-free survivor camp on the outskirts of the city. Her restlessness and dreams of her old life are soon exploited when an abandoned laptop mysteriously links her to a fascinating stranger. Because there would be no movie otherwise, Justine can’t resist returning to the city of the dead in the hope of finding a better life.

some material courtesy of Gracenote, Inc.

Saturday, August 1, 2009