Monday, March 29, 2010

Goodbye, Ai

The poet Ai died last week. She was fierce in every sense and, I always thought, audacious to choose her name, as if she were saying, "I, poet." Of course, I was unaware that "ai" means love. And it was a strange love she wrote, too, for the violent, the destitute, and the debased. You could hear her scream or grit her teeth through a line. Electifying, intoxicating stuff. Why don't we read her more often? Is it because she makes us feel all raw and vulnerable, like our high school selves, roiling balls of hormones and anger? Tell you what, I'll read her if you will. It's a deal, then? Good.

Goodbye, Ai. We love you, love.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where Y'at, MOMA?

Apparently, MOMA has acquired the @ symbol. Um, ok. So, what does this mean, exactly? That they can display a giant, screen-printed @ on their walls? Yes. That they can expound upon the design genius of said symbol? Most definitely. That they are well on their way to acquiring parentheses? Maybe. That they must now employ a typesetting expert to track down @ forgeries? Probably not.

I'm not sure how I feel about the @ as a piece of art. I mean, I understand that it has historical significance and that it plays an incredibly significant role in our technology-laden lives. But art? I just don't get shivers over the good old @. Maybe that's just the writer in me; @ really isn't found in poetry (or fiction, or memoir, or any type of creative writing, for that matter). Give me an ... or a -- any day, even an & if you're feeling particularly saucy. But imagining @ in a poem is as unsavory as spotting the product placements in your favorite movie.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Does anyone know of a poem with @ in it? Or a great story that uses @ without being silly? Let me know. Heck, maybe I'll write one myself. How's th@ for inspiration?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Movie Monday: Crossover, the Sequel

Remember this post about Slope's themed issue on Movies and Poetry? Well, Puerto del Sol, the wonderful lit mag produced by New Mexico State University, is now accepting poetry and fiction on the theme of Pop Culture and Film. But hurry and submit now; the deadline to send work in for this special issue is the end of March...only eight days away!

A bit of a side note about Puerto del Sol: I have been submitting here ever since I started sending out my work and, while I have yet to receive a coveted acceptance, the rejection letters are more than worth the time and effort. Each time, I have received a considerate, thought-out response to my work with suggestions on where to take the poems. I just want to express my gratitude to the hard working editors for taking time and treating these submissions with an obvious and copious amount of care. Gracias!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Grammar in the Wild

I've been advocating for "funner" and "funnest" to be grammatically proper for years. Finally, someone else agrees:


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Workshop: Anticipation of Abundance

Spring on the farm is a cautiously abundant time. You can feel the quiver in the air as branches prepare to burst into green, worms get busy in the dirt, and the first bees find the first plum blossoms. It's all about to happen...but not quite yet.

This in-between moment is a great time to do some free writing...and I mean really free writing. Here's the technique I use to break free of any boundaries and get my creative sap flowing:

1. Set aside at least fifteen minutes of free time. You'll need at least this much to get past the initial awkward fumbling and start to produce quality stuff.

2. Use old fashioned pen and paper. One of those journals you always get as birthday gifts could work too. Do NOT attempt this on the computer. Won't work.

3. Start writing. About anything: what you see, what you're thinking about, what you did yesterday. The content doesn't matter. What matters is to keep writing. Keep the pen moving on the paper for the entire fifteen minutes. If you can't think of anything to write about, write your name over and over, or "I don't know what to write," or, heck, maybe a curse word or two. Just KEEP WRITING.

This technique is sort of a colon cleanse for your creativity (pardon the metaphor). It gets all the junk out at the front of your mind, making room for the really good stuff. By keeping your hand moving, you are also instantly ready to write down what ever pops into your head...no pauses, no picking the pen back up, no spellcheck or green grammar error lines. What you'll be left with, especially if you practice this technique, is an abundance of fresh, original writing, as new as the thousands of leaves soon to unfold.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just Doom of Guilty Joys

Today's big news, at least for we literary types, has nothing to do with health care or the Corey Haim (sorry, Corey, you'll be missed). Rather, it has to do with the biggest posthumous comeback since Tupac. A Shakespeare scholar is now claiming that a play which was once thought to be written as a hoax is actually by the big bad Bard himself. Double Falsehood was first performed in the 1700's, and was quickly denounced as a fake. Now it is believed that the play is, in actuality, real Shakespeare, albeit reworked a bit. Now, if we've learned anything from Antique Roadshow, we know not to screw with an original, however shabby. If only they were aware of that three centuries ago.

This news makes me wonder how one goes about proving such a fact...how unique is one's writing style, really? Is it like a fingerprint, individual to each person, or is it more general, manipulated by time period, place, gender, etc.? I performed a quick little test over at the Gender Genie, the online tool which purports to predict the gender of an author by counting "gendered" words (apparently, words like "myself," "she," "should," and "where" are female, while "it," "these," and "more" are male). I used a recent book review I wrote for California Literary Review, minus quotes. The verdict? With a score of 1159 to 591, my writing is resoundingly male.

This only raises more questions. Do I write "male" because I've been taught to? Because I write in a professional capacity? Because the majority of canonical writing is written by a man? Or because my writing is (hopefully) strong and decisive? Are strength and decisiveness in communication particularly male traits? Can words really be gendered...especially in a world where gender lines are becoming increasingly blurred? What do you think? How do you score?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Two More for the Road

Here's a couple of small Sacramento-area presses I missed before:

The micro-press POEMS-FOR-ALL, run by Richard Hansen, produces tiny single-poem booklets, which can be yours for the low, low price of postage. With poems by the likes of Jack Micheline, Patti Smith, William Blake, and a host of local names, these little gems are like the Flinstones vitamin of poetry--tasty and good for you.

A little farther afield you'll find Quercus Review, which operates out of Modesto Junior College. Founded by Modesto Poet Laureate Sam Pierstorff, Quercus is both a journal and a press, and has been awarding a yearly book prize since 2003. What's more, the site has an amazingly thorough list of all the top lit mags in the country--a great resource for writers. Thanks Quercus!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Means Small Press Month

It's March again, dear friends, which means it's Small Press Month. Last year, I shared some of my favorite national presses with you, but this year, I'd like to stay local. So here's the best of the Sacramento Valley:

Flatmancrooked began as a fiction-only lit mag, then added a blog, and soon blossomed into a publishing powerhouse. They've even decided to publish a little poetry. Their "Launch" series is an innovative publishing program which not only produces hot new books, but actually helps the authors promote their work. Shocker!

A new discovery, Scrambler Books is also based in Sacramento, publishing poetry and fiction. Their covers alone are worth the visit to the website. They also publish an e-journal, The Scrambler, which has a great mix of poetry, prose, art, movie reviews, and music playlists. Fun stuff.

Finally, Rattlesnake Press is the go-to place for local poetry. This prolific press publishes books, chapbooks, little chapbooks, broadsides, and a collection of lit mags. They also sponsor a reading series at The Book Collector, the go-to bookstore for local poets. So, you know, go to their website and check it out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Movie Monday: Oscar Post-Game

So...it's the day after the biggest night in Hollywood, and the big topic of conversation now is...how did I do on my predictions?

Picture -- YES
Director -- YES
Actress -- YES
Actor -- YES
Supporting Actress -- YES
Supporting Actor -- YES
Animated Film -- YES
Film Editing -- NO
Costume Design -- YES
Original Song -- YES
Makeup -- YES
Adapted Screenplay -- YES

Final Score -- 11 out of 12 correct! Not bad, hey?

Sadly, District 9 came away with nothing...even as the Academy paid tribute to horror movies. Weird. Why doesn't Oscar like horror? True, there are many trashy horror flicks out there, but there are also those high-quality, truly sinister ones like The Others, The Shining, or most recently, Pan's Labyrinth. What do you think it will take for them to break the Best Picture glass ceiling?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Foodie Friday

I love food. I love planning, preparing, and eating meals. I love a glass of wine with a bowl of stew. I love cheese. I love greens with a little bit of vinegar and molasses. I love bread and tortillas, biscuits and croissants. And I love my home, the Sacramento Delta, where food and wine are such an important part of the local culture and economy.

For Italians, cheese and bread is like breathing: essential to life. And they will both be celebrated this weekend at Old Soul Coffee Co. in Sacramento. Bestill my Italian heart. Cheese, Bread & Thou, a seminar organized by Slowfood Sacramento, promises to combine the magic of Old Soul breadmakers with cheese artisans from Pedrozo and North Valley Chevre. Tickets are $25. Bliss is ensured.

Now, if there's anything I love as much as bread and cheese, it's wine and books. Those of you that feel the same can fulfill your hunger later this month, when local foodie giant Darrell Corti, of Corti Bros. Grocery will speak at Time Tested Books as part of the Sacramento Living Library. The March 21st event is free to the public, and promises to be a fascinating look into the life of a professional gourmet. Salud!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Movie Monday: I've Been Watching...

viewing partner: Isaac & George
stars: ***1/2
notes: I love you, Amy Adams, but I wish it was just "Julia." Oh, and I want some Beef Bourginon. Stat.








viewing partner: half with Isaac, half solo
stars: **
notes: Norwegian-style magical realism does not translate well to the silver screen. Boring and badly edited.








viewing partner: sadly, I made Isaac watch this
stars: none
notes: This was not a movie, just a bad short that took too long to end. Billy Baldwin as a serial killer? C'mon.








viewing partner: George
stars: ****
notes: I want to live in Patrick Swayze's barn. Roadhouse!









viewing partner: all by myself
stars: *****
notes: Amazing. Funny. Moving. Thank you, Mirelles and Lund, for keeping the violent images mostly faded and in the background.