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?