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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fluid Identities

My very first post on this blog, nearly four years ago, was about mishearing and misreading words. As I continue to have these experiences, I've been chronicling them in the Comments Section of that first post.

But today's mishearing is just too good not to offer it on its own. So here it goes:

Today I misheard "Gore Vidal" as

----------------------------------wait for it!-------------------------------------------

" Barbie Doll."


Thursday, November 27, 2014


To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD


Raised Voice               Katie Ford

I had no craving. I heard sirens at night.
No craving, and a moon through the blinded window.
I listened to hymns and asked so much of them they quieted
like a body that withers when it feels itself
clung to. I was taught the body is deceptive.
The heart, deceptive.

Get out of me but stay with me, the city cried.
I had been looking up at the awnings with names,
trying to find a place for us. I am uncertain now,
but there was no moon. Shop lights on and off then off
for good. When Thomas asked to see the extent
of the wounded body, evidence
was consecrated as a holy request.
Evidence being that which screams its moment—
one need not even look.


One Dispensation    Elizabeth Whittlesey

Night has embalmed the trees in water turned
To ice. There could be sparrows hiding, where,
However, no flesh seems to know, the only
Aim the living sustain today is movement
Along the snow, to keep the motion steady.
Again, in the case of winter versus city,
Winter has beaten city, but with brutal
Softness, so that city lays herself down,
Though in a faux submission. She will play
The part this whiteness asks; they play this part
Together as they scan their muted pageant,
A blustery monument to themselves, (saying):
See how the slim bare branches bear the thickness
That afflicts them. See how the human tries
To navigate a scene where all distinction
Has been taken. See the shovel, hear how
It scrapes across the pavement in a rite
Of defiance. See them sow salt on paths,
Purged of the usual murmur of their thoughts
And voices. See they only seem to note
Their steps now, one after the other. See what
Happiness we have smothered on this city.


To Be Continued: A Parable                Samuel Hazo

It's like a play.
                     Or rather
   the revival of a play in which
   you're still the main character.
The set, the lighting and the stage
   are what they were, but not
   the cast.
                Different actors
   have the roles that other actors
   acted when the play first
         You make comparisons
   but then accept the differences
   as given.
                 Somehow you only feel
   secure in character but alien
   to all the others on the stage.
Their names will keep on changing
   as the run resumes with younger
   people in older roles.
                                 The script
   will stay the same.
                              You know
   your lines by heart but try
   to say them in a different voice
   each night.
                  The other actors
   say your character and you
   are one.
               Sometimes this seems
   a sentence, sometimes a challenge.
Either way you keep on playing
   your part.
                 You have no choice. 


Rhyme                           Robert Pinsky

Air an instrument of the tongue,
The tongue an instrument
Of the body, the body
An instrument of spirit,
The spirit a being of the air.

A bird the medium of its song.
A song a world, a containment
Like a hotel room, ready
For us guests who inherit
Our compartment of time there.

In the Cornell box, among
Ephemera as its element,
The preserved bird—a study
In spontaneous elegy, the parrot
Art, mortal in its cornered sphere.

The room a stanza rung
In a laddered filament
Clambered by all the unsteady
Chambered voices that share it,
Each reciting I too was here

In a room, a rhyme, a song.
In the box, in books: each element
An instrument, the body
Still straining to parrot
The spirit, a being of air.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winter's Rattle

Rattle #46

I have new work out in Rattle, volume 46, a poem called "Wakening" about the loss of my uncle on Mt. McKinley. Thanks to Tim Green, who chose the cover art by James Bernal with a view to my poem.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Unalphabet is a new website featuring words prefixed with un-.

Check out Matt Rasmussen on 'unsuffering', Gertrude Stein on 'unwelcome', Natsume Soseki on 'unavoidable', and me on 'unmuddle'.

This is a great concept, one I can appreciate as an aficionado of the suffix -less, or, as the creator of offered, someone 'suffixated'.

Word lovers, enjoy this site.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Most artists are flawed; but they probably ought to make the effort not to be. But how do you teach people to enlarge themselves in order to enlarge their writing? You enlarge yourself because that is the kind of person you are. You grow because you are not content not to. You are like a beaver that chews constantly because if it doesn't, its teeth grow long and lock.
~Wallace Stegner 


Flesh                                                               C. McAllister Williams
I apologize to anyone. Ask me to buckle & I will
eat the moon. My teeth override my capacities.
All of them.

I'm sorry I'm not otherwise engaged—I don't
believe in harmony. & I'm sorry I'm not
sorry I'm not a more guttural member.
When we all sing, we wake a newborn.
There are complications—there are insides

that are softer than expected. I'm sorry expectation
polishes itself inside its temple. Ask me to repent
the future zealots & I'll repel any invader. When I'm
born, the whole world is born with me.

A solitude of the ear buoys the breath's answer     Joshua Corey
A solitude of the ear buoys the breath's answer
to smoke from autumnal fires. Gathered up,
gathered out, paper hearts and iron stoves.
Put on your hat and gloves, it's poignant out.
Carry your own chill separate from the air's.
Cradle fuel, stand stamping on the corner
ten years too late waiting for a blank beloved.
She comes in a furl of branches to cover
your eyes with mittened hands. Guess who?
But that's not how it happened, you never turned
to feast your eyes on vacancy. Instead
I'm still stamping snail-mail letters to the editor
and picking pomegranate seeds from my teeth.
Dwelling yet in dear ears deaf to my storms, my doing. 

You Are Not Christ                          Rickey Laurentiis

For the drowning, yes, there is always panic.
Or peace. Your body behaving finally by instinct
alone. Crossing out wonder. Crossing out
a need to know. You only feel you need to live.
That you deserve it. Even here. Even as your chest
fills with a strange new air, you will not ask
what this means. Like prey caught in the wolf’s teeth,
but you are not the lamb. You are what’s in the lamb
that keeps it kicking. Let it.


This is a mammal paleontologist’s nightmare, the dreaded “harmonica,” or a jaw without teeth. Without teeth, it’s often impossible to determine precisely what the creature is. 
~Interpretative Display, Minnesota Science Museum, St. Paul

************************************ cannot compare this present experience with a past experience. You can only compare it with a memory of the past, which is a part of the present experience. When you see clearly that memory is a form of present experience, it will be obvious that trying to separate yourself from this experience is as impossible as trying to make your teeth bite themselves.
~Alan Watts


Peach                                            Catie Rosemurgy

The head, the mouth, the fruit, the eating.
The pit, the teeth, the branch, the fall.
The wet, the swollen, the light, the seeing.
The picking, the washing, the cutting, the quartering.
The sweet, the having.

The juice. The holding it in your hands
beautiful and then ruined. The forms of devouring. The remaining empty.
What’s inside.

The excitement of the definite article. What’s inside
one thing is analogous to what’s inside another.
The ceremonial names

of what is done to them. What is unknown requires a new way of cutting.
What we’re left with.

How we make an object ours, make it disappear.
How we become the object and are food.
How we are delicious and dead at the center in so many ways.
How that is wrong and it is stillness, moon-like at the core.
How what we are is what reflects off it. How we are light produced earlier
by other things.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Themed Issues

When I see themed issues of journals or calls for submission to anthologies, I look through my work to see if I have something that fits, but I have never written for a specific market. However, this week I've seen three calls for submissions that have me considering doing just that. Here they are:

1) The Chattahoochee Review has a migration theme, which I think I mentioned earlier on this blog. If so, skip ahead to the next one.

"The Chattahoochee Review seeks submissions for its Fall/Winter 2015 double issue with a special focus on Migration. Literal and figurative translations of the theme welcome. Not only flight, but also movement; not only movement, but also kinetics; not only kinetics, but also conflict; not only conflict, but also arrival; not only arrival, but also immersion. Dare to be […]"

Deadline September 15 of next year. Lots of time to work on this one.

2) The National Museum of Animals & Society is looking for "poetry and visual art for poet-artist collaborations to appear in an upcoming exhibition on animals in poetry, entitled “The Poetic Animal,” opening in fall 2015. This first of a kind exhibit will focus on poems, and the visual presentation of poems, that represent animal subjects and animals’ subjectivities, and that explore human-animal relations and the human-animal bond."

Deadline January 10, 2015.

3) Body in D[ist]ress Anthology is project from Negative Capability Press "seeking work (Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, drama, hybrid work) for an issue on Health-Healing: Body in D[ist]ress. Think of the body in disarray, the body in costume, the body as text. We are also seeking artwork that would be related to this theme."

Deadline April 6, 2015.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Two Good Things & One Sad Thing

1. Undertow Tanka Review is open for submissions of (you guessed it) tanka, tanka art, and 10 submission, for their third issue.

2. My new passion is Roomful of Teeth, featuring (among others) Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. You can stream their entire inaugural album here, and then if you like it as much as I do, you'll end up buying it.

Warning: Sad thing next.

"The Neurological Similarities Between Sucessful Writers and the Mentally Ill" by Cody C. Delistraty. Enough said.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Font

I'm happy to have a poem "shadow: dwelling:" (originally published in the Beloit Poetry Journal) in the latest issue of The Font - A Literary Journal for Language Teachers

Those of you who teach languages should check this journal out, and consider submitting in the future. This issue includes a hilarious piece of creative non-fiction by Kelly Quinn and an essay by Anna Cabe called "Studying the Public and Private in France."

Anything related to teaching foreign languages or living in a foreign culture is suitable material for this journal, so language teachers, here's a (relatively) new venue for your creative and scholarly work.

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Rage and Failure

In the past 12 hours, I have read two online articles that are worth passing on.

1) The first is an interview with Claire Messud at Guernica, including quotes from the novelist such as the following:

"There are, too, particular questions that seem to me more gendered. Questions of wanting to be an artist, and what does that mean, what makes you an artist? Are you an artist if you’re in a gallery in New York and not an artist if you’re doing it at home? Do you need legitimation to count? If you’ve been acculturated to believe that you have certain obligations—familial, social, human—if multitasking has been your forte and that’s what’s been praised and rewarded, where do you find the single-mindedness, the selfishness to do something like art? I think those are questions that arise differently for women and for men."

"Someone asked me, Is it hard to understand Nora’s rage? And I said, No, not at all. Nora’s rage is maybe different from mine. But I think if you had a Venn diagram there would be some overlaps. That first chapter was the first part I wrote and it came to me in a volley.

When we were in Germany [for a fellowship] I read from it and there was a Dutch anthropologist in his sixties and he came up to me afterwards and said when he was growing up he never saw his mother angry. Saturday morning was cleaning day and she would go upstairs and his father and the children would all be sitting in the kitchen and would hear her cursing at the top of her lungs while she was changing the beds and sweeping the floor. And then she would come back downstairs smiling, and they would all go on as if they hadn’t heard. They never spoke of it.
I think there’s a lot of rage that rises from always being the good one."

"The extent of her anger is directly commensurate with the grandeur of her hope. It’s the enormousness of her disappointment."

"I think there’s no question that there’s a reason why small children make great art and why slightly bigger children don’t. And it’s because small children don’t worry about what anybody else thinks and slightly bigger children start to worry about these things. So, we can call it selfishness, but I think these are often names that make us feel better: you know, wow, I would never be that selfish. But it certainly takes some single-minded commitment, whether that’s selfishness or selflessness I don’t know."

2) And this compilation of authors on failure, from The Guardian, including: 

"Art is made by those who consider themselves to have failed at whatever isn't art. And of course it is loved as consolation, or a call to arms, by those who feel the same. One of the reasons there seem to be fewer readers for literature today than there were yesterday is that the concept of failure has been outlawed. If we are all beautiful, all clever, all happy, all successes in our way, what do we want with the language of the dispossessed?"  Howard Jacobson

"Success as the worldly estimate it is, is rarely a subject for literature. Gatsby cannot possibly get Daisy. Dorothea Brooke cannot be allowed to change the world. Thus does art get its own back on those without the imagination to fail." Howard Jacobson

"The criticism, no matter how virulent, has long since ceased to bother me, but the price of this is that the praise is equally meaningless. The positive and the negative are not so much self-cancelling as drowned out by that carping, hectoring internal voice that goads me on and slaps me down all day every day." Will Self

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Son Instructs Me on How to Attend His School Festival

"Bye, boys. See you later, at the festival."
"Bye, Mom. See you at the festival." That's my older son.

My younger son. "Mom? Today? At school? No hugging."
"And no patting me on the back."
"Or on the head....Or anywhere."
"Actually, touching. At school, no touching."
"And no singing."
"No singing?"
"You know. When people are performing on stage. No singing along."
"Anything else?"
"Just don't....don't....just don't do anything embarrassing."
"Okay.............Like what?"
(Insert long pause here.)
"Mom, it's good that you're coming to the festival. But maybe you should go home early."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

December Reading

I'll be participating in a reading on December 7th (Sunday), from 5 pm, at  Bar Iznt in Kobe. This is the inaugural event for a series called Authors Live! Other readers that evening will be Suzanne Kamata, Jared Angel, and Sue Sullivan (the others are not poets, so there will be a variety of genres for you to enjoy). Additionally, there will be a musical guest Steve Muller. This event is in conjunction with the journal The Font.

Although I'm billed as reading from The Insomniac's Weather Report, I'll also read a few selections from Mendeleev's Mandala, forthcoming from Mayapple Press in 2015.

Mark your calendar!