Friday, June 30, 2006

All out of my Hands

I was really crazy tired of that template. Now it's just "blue." I do hope to do something fancier but it'll be a while. I may have to return to college first.

So, Germany won against Argentina. Hard to believe, but in the end I was rooting for Germany. Carlo was a bit pissed because it means Italy has to play Germany (in Germany, where we live). And because he thinks Argentina was the best team in the mix. I personally haven't got the faintest. I'm just sweet on the German goalie.

Italy is playing Ukraine now.
It's all out of my hands, folks.
Even if I go in the bathroom and pray, it won't help.
Even if I avoid the cracks, it won't help.
Even if I sit just so, with my back straight, it means nothing.
Even if I get through the light before it's red, it'll do nothing.
Even if I leave the room and fix snacks, my absence é niente.
I don't even like sports.
I can hope all I want.
I can holler like a man.
I can just calm down.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Coming Soon

Ok you all have to forgive that i’m just hearing about this movie but here I am all the way on the other side of the ozone. I get into Yahoo! and the lead story in news is about the release of a movie called “Snakes on a Plane.” First I think someone is pulling my leg. Maybe it’s a video game. I mean, there couldn’t really be a movie with such a lame-ass title, right? At least not one that isn’t supposed to be funny.

But there is. Leaves a lot to the imagination, no? Snakes on a Plane. Can kind of guess what that’s gonna be about. There’s still room to wonder, though, why the snakes are on a plane. Where are they going? Business or pleasure? Did they just get in the plane or did somebody plant them? Is this plurality of snakes a big plurality or a single digit of snakes? And pray tell, what type of snakes are they?

Tell me there isn’t some overpaid Hollywood drug addict with a better idea than that title. Boy I almost wish they’d make a complete sentence of it: “There are Snakes on a Plane.”
Or maybe more emphatic with “There are Snakes on this Plane.”
Or doubtful, “Snakes? On a Plane?!”
Or just your old standard Subj-Verb-Obj: “Snakes are on a Plane.”
Or add a colorful adjective, “There are Snakes on this Goddamned Plane!”

So now the question is, will I be seeing this movie? Would you?

Miles is king

Thanks to Arlene Ang (again) for putting Miles in grave danger.
My mother, god knows how, thought the shot was real. She asked how did I stay calm while he had his picture taken like that.
My mother, by the way, is the one who in the 80's sent my extremely patriotic and hospitalized grandfather a Get-Well postcard from Washington signed "Pres. Ronald Reagan." My grandfather fell for it; his pride was unspeakably hurt when the truth came out. She wasn't trying to fool him, actually. She thought he'd "get it."
And how I would get my son to eat bananas while perched on the breast of a giant gorilla I don't know.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Yesterday I finished Ian McEwan’s Saturday, which I really enjoyed. His prose is beautiful and polished. In reading the criticism (afterwards), I understand how some take issue with his characters, viewpoint and writing style, but I ended firmly back in his camp.

I found especially interesting the plane crash the main character witnesses at the beginning that threads through the book. He wonders why it’s not immediately on the news, why reports are terse. Then there’s who’s on board. For me it was an accurate inner drama of thought-swings: dreading the worst has happened, feeling a bit buoyed that it’s not so bad, doubting news, then how you almost want your fears confirmed. That would justify your having them. A proof of guilt would justify your opinion and preserve your righteousness. A lot of the book is about that: a well-off surgeon with a day to examine himself. It’s a world itself looking at itself ready to unravel after 9-11. There are a number of allusions to The Heart of Darkness, not the least of which is the bruise left on the surgeon’s chest after a run-in with some thugs.

There were a few places were Saturday is overwritten. (One sentence especially sticks out – read the book and ask me later.) I also think the lingering over soup ingredients and furniture reflects the lifestyle and camp as much in a negative way as a laudatory. And, yes, it is in one spot the plot is especially contrived, but it can’t be any more weird/coincidental than real life. I’m letting him off the hook this time. I’ve read a number of McEwan’s books and swore him off after Amsterdam, which I found contrived enough to be ridiculous. But my mother left Saturday at my house after she visited so I figured why not. Chances are you’ll hate it.

I was surprised to find out this morning when talking to a colleague that Amsterdam(1998) won the Booker prize. Oh geez that must have been a bad year. Of the Booker prize books I’ve read, I also disliked Possession (1990). But I loved Disgrace (1999) and Oscar and Lucinda (1988). If you read Michael Ondaatje, read The Collected Works of Billy the Kid before The English Patient (1992). And my colleague recommends Banville.

Here are the Bookers of the past 30 years. I bolded the ones I've read.

2005 - John Banville, The Sea
2004 - Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty
2003 - DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little
2002 - Yann Martel, Life of Pi
2001 - Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang
2000 - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
1999 - J M Coetzee, Disgrace
1998 - Ian McEwan, Amsterdam

1997 - Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
1996 - Graham Swift, Last Orders
1995 - Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
1994 - James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late
1993 - Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
1992 - Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

1992 - Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger
1991 - Ben Okri, The Famished Road
1990 - A S Byatt, Possession
1989 - Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
1988 - Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda

1987 - Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger
1986 - Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
1985 - Keri Hulme, The Bone People
1984 - Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
1983 - J M Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K
1982 - Thomas Keneally, Schindler's Ark
1981 - Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
1980 - William Golding, Rites of Passage
1979 - Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore
1978 - Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea1977 - Paul Scott, Staying On
1976 - David Storey, Saville
1975 - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Germany vs. Sweden

Husband, kids, friends, friends' kids are upstairs watching Germany play Sweden in the World Cup. I took browndog out for a walk and knew already when we got back that Germany was ahead 2 to 0. You couldn't miss the cheers going up from the distant yards around the park. I'm not a big soccer fan but I'm finding the whole thing somehow really WHOLESOME. Engaging and uncomplicated. Sure there are a lot of drunk fans downtown (mostly not German fans). It was funny passing by the Irish pub near my office the other day when Germany played to hear a bunch of drunk British guys singing Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, üüüüber aaaalllleeess in der Welt!

Yesterday I got an acceptance note from Yemassee for "Summer's End," which starts "Noon wounds me with its bees, its burning." I'm very glad about that. Now to withdraw it from "elsewhere." Just for the record, I also got a rejection a week or so ago from Pearl on five poems, including "Flight."

The talented Arlene Ang has photoshopped my kids. I think she'll put them up at her blog, too. Below is my daughter Lulu. Tomorrow or Monday you'll find Miles. Thanks, Arlene!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Then I find some poems I do like

Upon a Sick Child by LisaAnn Lo Basso at Stirring

To Return to What I Was Saying by Zachary Greenwald at 2River View

Fresco by Tania van Schalkwyk at Triplopia (archived)

I Have Married a Crow & The Groundskeeper by Jilly Dybka at No Tell Motel

Joseph Bradshaw’s Aviary poems at Caffeine Destiny

Betty by Jennifer Michael Hecht in H_NGM_N

adding this:
Bruce Smith's Widow with Dead Pony from the new Pedestal Magazine.

Sometimes, reading the latest literary bullshit, I feel dismay

These Pages are Full of It

impossible possum, nanoventure
your room is a clot


of women shrieking Russian verbs


in admiral hours
they vanish and wait it gets worse

(noooo…nooooo, tears drool down my face!)

o thunder of clocksprings
rut into a mathematical design

(this can’t be happening!)

an adieu encrusted, tumbling

(astonishing! encore encore!)

the washing machine is on
no water in it

(oh mein gott the genius!)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


My poem "Flight" placed second in the IBPC poem of the year competition, judged by Judy Kronenfeld. You can read the winning poems and commentary here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


The funny thing about the book quiz is I recommended myself a book that turned out to be fabulous: Vasko Popa’s “Homage to the Lame Wolf,” translated by Charles Simic. Popa published an anthology of Serbian folklore and it’s obvious in his poems how he’s tied to stories, the weirdness, the magic, the earthiness. He’s surreal and comic and a little scary. As Simic points out in the intro, there’s hardly any “I” in his poems.

Here’s one of my favorites:


One strokes the leg of a chair
Until the chair moves
And gives him a sweet sign with its leg

Another kisses a keyhole
Kisses it O how he kisses it
Until the keyhole returns his kiss

A third stands aside
Stares at the other two
Shakes shakes his head

Until it falls off

That one is part of a grouping of poems called “Games.” Most of the poems are grouped. There’s a cycle of “White Pebble” poems, “The Little Box” poems, etc. I really recommend this book.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Pop Quiz

Which celebrity are you?

Answer the following questions and my shiny labrador Stella will tell you which celebrity you are. Who knows, you could be a rock star, a silver screen legend or even a famous stunt man!

1. What do you typically eat for breakfast?
2. How much are you willing to pay for a good haircut?
3. Name two or more movies you've seen more than twice.
4. Name three of your favorite poets and one of their poems you particularly like.
5. What's your star sign?
6. Among the following, your preferred poetry topic is:
a. nature b. love c. death d. God e. sex
7. What do you do when you're really angry?
a. lash out verbally b. resort to reason c. punch somebody d. throw things e. count to 10

You are Marilyn Monroe, who revealed, „I used to think as I looked at the Hollywood night, ‚There must be thousands of girls sitting alone like me, dreaming of becoming a movie star. But I’m not going to worry about them. I’m dreaming the hardest.”

You are Diane Keaton, who, as the charming Annie Hall, said “La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah,” when she couldn’t think of anything else to say.

You are the cult figure Christopher Walken who said, „I don’t need to be made to look evil. I can do that all on my own.”

It turns out that in your last life you were Lana Turner, who said, „I planned on having one husband and seven children, but it turned out the other way around.“

You are Frida Kahlo, who said, "I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.”

You are Marlene Dietrich, who said, "I never faint because I am not sure that I will fall gracefully and I never use smelling salts because they puff up the eyes."

You are blues singer Janis Joplin. "If I hold back," she said, "I'm no good. I'm no good. I'd rather be good sometimes, than holding back all the time."

You are Steve McQueen, who said, "I don't believe in that phony hero stuff."

You are the singer Isaac Hayes. "I'd been hearing things in my head for a long time, but I'd been restricted," Hayes said.

You are singing legend Nina Simone, who said, "I would like a man now who is rich, and who can give me a boat-a sailboat. I want to own it and let him pay for it. My first love is the sea and water, not music. Music is second."

You're American heartthrob Judy Garland, who said "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."

You're the gangster heronine Bonnie Parker, who said, "Tell them I don't smoke cigars."

You are the graceful Fred Astaire, who said “I am bit sending messages with my feet. All I ever wanted was not to come up empty. I did it for the dough and the old applause.”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

i've looked at clouds

I read this poem the other day in a journal and really enjoyed it. I have to admit, being a fan of short poems, I leafed past this one a couple times before I decided to read it, and, in fact, the title wasn’t much of a draw. How many poems are there about clouds? Many of them dull? But this one develops with surprises and those little revelations that speak in poetry. The poet, Tom C. Hunley, gave me permission to reprint it. If you like it, check out his site, which has a bunch of terrific original and humorous poems.

None of Them Wanted to be a Cloud
- - a line from Lorca’s “Ode for Walt Whitman”

I wanted to be a cloud. Clouds are going places.
Clouds are never voted most likely to succeed,
but they’re always the most likely to surprise,
which is a kind of success, if that is the goal.
Only a fool would write “Don’t ever change”
in a cloud’s high school yearbook.
A cloud knows what it’s like to be white
and what it is like to be black.
A clouds knows what it is to live as a man,
what it is like to live as a woman,
what it is like to take the form of a dog
with only three legs, the form of a beheaded octopus,
its legs stretched and then pulled apart.

Clouds are not lonely, William Wordsworth.
For I have seen them travel in crowds.
They have reminded me of sheep.
I’ve seen a sunburned cloud. Its suffereing
filled the sky with such beauty!
Clouds are the sky’s chameleon poets.
I have seen clouds weep, unashamed.
They cover a multitude of sins, and when
they’re full of all they’ve seen, they burst.
When clouds part, good things happen:
a streak of sunlight dividing the sky
into two delicious pieces of blueberry pie,
a Jacob’s ladder, a holy dove,
a sign from up above that says
We’re having a party and everyone’s invited.

Clouds have such lovely, comforting names,
cirrus, nimbus, stratus, cumulus,
bestowed by the Quaker chemist Luke Howard (1772-1864).
But you can’t count on clouds.
You don’t know how they’ll vote.
Whether they’ll dissipate before election day,
float far away from the polling places,
or what winds they’ll let themselves be steered by.
You can’t shop for a cloud.
A cloud’s trouser size differs from day to day.
You can’t bring a cloud in for show-and-tell.
You can’t give a cloud a proper burial.
You can’t afford to let a cloud enter your door.
It will camp out over your head.
It will eat your memories.
It will affect your judgment.
It will cruelly enact what is happening
little by little, to each of us.

by tom c. hunley

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday arrives

And Everywhere I Look, Success

Congratulations Monday!
Congratualtions veins and arteries!
Congratulations television!
Congratuations Italy, Australia and Mexico!
Congratulations eyelids!
Congratulations river!
Congratulations Starbucks!
Congratulations magazines!
Congratulations paper!
Congratulations spider!
Congratulations Fidelity mutual fund!
Congratulations doctors and nurses!
Congratulations hairspray!
Congratualtions 7.25 pm!
Congratulations Upanishads!
Congratulations barking dog!
Congratulations top 25 novels of the century!

Sunday, June 11, 2006


The new issue of Margin is up, including a reprint of my poem "Grassland." This is a wonderful journal if you enjoy magical realism - go browsing.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


It's funny that no one chooses Chengdu. There's nothing shabby about it. It’s humid and the food is spicy. Across from this incense-thick Taoist monastery, I once ate something I could not identify. As far as a companion and I could make out, it was a dish of horse tendons. Transparent. Apologies to the vegetarians. The people of Sichuan were very friendly. A woman walked through a public garden in the early mornings, ladling night soil on the bushes. It was weird and wonderful. I loved all unamerica.
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