Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is"

My mind keeps telling me not to understand this book, but of course I understand it. The story, the telling of the story is devastating and terrifying. Reading it, I have what I can only describe as a clump of dread stuck in my gullet. Russell Banks knows a lot about us. I’d like to say this book is breaking my heart but really it’s breaking my mind.
This can hurt a little bit.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

the wind is my little cape

Last week Front Porch Journal accepted my poem Naked, Come Shivering for their December issue. It’s a cento using lines from 20th century French poetry. The title comes from a poem by Roger Giroux, which begins with the same words.

Nthposition also accepted three poems – Cape, Equestrian and Excuse me while I wring this long swim out of my hair – for their next issue, due out in about three months.

I feel really glad for all those poems, like I’ve placed my children in a good school.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

nov. 22

When Saddam crawled out of his hole, I was watching tv in a Paris hotel.
When the towers fell, I was bringing my kids home from kindergarten.
The day the Challenger exploded, I was in the Philadelphia Library checking
out “The Annotated Dracula.” The librarian let me know on the way out.
When the tsunami hit, I was discussing Christmas dinner with my sister.
The day Kennedy was shot, my birth was still a few days off,
but I remember it as if I were there on the side of the road,
holding the camera, getting it all down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

fable


Some nights I still lie down with my son when he’s going to bed. He's also allowed to sleep in my bed sometimes. I like going to sleep with him because we have great conversations at night. He gets to talk all he wants. Being a bit of a stammerer, less articulate than his sister, I appreciate his having the opportunity. He tells me about his friend whose parents are getting a divorce. He tells me about school, jealousy, what he’d like to learn to do, or something that hurt his or somebody else’s feelings. We also make things up. One night we were talking about why people seem to chew their cuds while asleep. Last night we discussed sleeping positions. I said I prefer sleeping on my stomach, but that it’s better for your back to sleep on your side or your back. He said he also likes to sleep on his stomach, but his back is bothering him (he fell) so maybe he’d take my advice. It was a very harmonious talk, not to be underestimated at the end of the day.
(He's the one on the left. On the right, is our friend K.)


Sleep’s Achievement


Sleep chews me up in its gums.
No bother about bones.

Then what?

Then it starts to snow.

Then?

When the moon goes all gluey,
sleep’s lips stick to it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Better Homes & Gardens

One day in Germany
I missed my appointment
and almost immediately
received a letter saying
I missed my appointment
keeping appts is important
in good relations with doctors,
the letter said, also with receptionists
with snowy columnar calendars
with stacks of magazines
(homes for ladies, cars for gentlemen)
I am so sorry
I missed my appointment
it was the first time
what was I thinking

Saturday, November 17, 2007

i catch myself giving crap advice

"I want to play with Luisa and her friend."
"Well, ask them and see if they'll let you."
"And if they say no?"
"Then cry and see if they'll let you."

Friday, November 16, 2007

friday confession

I prefer if it's an exciting or bold or enthralling poem than if it's a "well crafted" poem. Weird is also good.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

she'd be 120 years old today


Browsing round for links for this post I felt I'd had the wind knocked out of me over and over. Many people love her bones and deserts, or wonder at the flowers. I admire those too, especially the Taos church, and the cross. But if God came down and told me I could have Georgia O'Keefe painting I wanted, I would choose one of the watercolors, or one of the oil paintings
of fruit.

"My first memory is of the brightness of light...light all
around. I was sitting among pillows on a quilt on the
ground...very large white pillows..."

careful as a hummingbird in daylight

I’m on a kind of reading sabbatical, taking time to read without kicking myself about how I’m wasting time not writing. Before I had kids I read a lot more than now, but what really slowed me down was writing. I remember giving my father - who’s a writer - books as a gift, and him telling me he’d try to get around to it. I always thought it strange that a writer didn’t read that much, but now I understand very well.

I’m reading mostly fiction. After finishing Ward Just’s The Translator, now I’m reading Reynolds Price’s Kate Vaiden, which is not bad. How can I say it… it’s very “plotty.” There’s a lot of “and then…” and “what could have prepared me for what came next?” You know within the first four pages that Kate’s father kills her mother and that Kate abandons her child as a baby. The character Kate is meant to embody resilience and pluck, but while I do sympathize with her most of the time, I find her a bit cold.

One feature of the writing that annoys me some is the frequent use of similes, which is done – understandly – to reflect the Southern dialect. Some of the similes are sweet, like “I filled with thanks like a rain,” or “I was calm as the pavement,” but it still bugs me when it’s done too much. Here’s an overdose from page 4 alone:

- …making that long trip on roads rough as gullies.
- …drive home to see my mother, bathed and nervous as a hamster.
- It was January and cold as igloos.
- ….fall afternoons when my mother would be blue as indigo.

Nevertheless, it’s not a bad book, just not especially my thing. I understand that the protagonist’s personal history makes her what she is (sometimes cold and inconsiderate). As with The Translator, I picked this up on my trip to the states; it’s a random found-browsing book. More than with its glowing back-cover blurbs, it won me over with its cover. A weakness of mine!

I’ve also been surfing the book blogs and have been blown away by how many books people read. I was reading one called by a blogger who’s read around 60 books this year. Then I clicked into one of her links to find a guy who’s so far read about 140! That’s inspiring, if unattainable. I’d have to quit my job and abandon my family, and I choose what I want to read pretty carefully according to my time budget (or at least so I console myself).

I am pleased that of the 10 books I set out to read at the beginning of the year, I’ve managed four, plus some that weren’t on the list. Some of those I didn’t read may go into next year’s to-be-read list, but maybe not. Dogmatic I’m not, and I’ve got a bunch of other ideas.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

all i want is some good news

Anything would do.

A discovered talent.
Seasonal temperatures.
Paradise regained.
A healthy baby.
A true book that doesn’t leave you shattered.
"Dog alerts family to fire."
Lamb chops and carmelized onions for dinner.
The best man wins.

Anybody got any good news?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

ever since the stars swarmed into my hands

I have two poems in the new Wicked Alice -
Snorkeling and Stovetop.
There are also poems in the issue
by Rachel Mallino, Jessy Randall and Yoly Calderon.

mailer dies

When I was in college and quite the radical feminist, I swore I would never read that bastard Norman Mailer. In my late twenties or early thirties, when my feminism adapted for better or worse to the real world, I read The Naked and the Dead. It was a very very good book. I forgot all about "Norman Mailer."

It's often hard to separate the personality from his/her art. But you could miss something unique by just writing it off at the outset. I try to walk unprejudiced into the book/painting/music. I still allow myself to roll my eyes at the person.

Friday, November 09, 2007

bookplates


I was trying to find some Christmas gifts
and ended up with these wonderful bookplates
for myself. It is almost my birthday.
The first one was slapped into
Ward Just's The Translator -
the rest to follow. Like them?
You can get your own.

I really like bookplates.
This site has a nice exhibit.
But an even cooler site is
this guy's blog, which makes me itch with greed.

our blood does not forewarn us / like migratory birds

I’m reading an excellent book: The Translator by Ward Just. Two months ago I had never heard of Ward Just, but turns out he’s nearly as prolific as Iris Murdoch, and way worldlier. Even his name is a kind of big-impact commodity: Ward. Just. Very punchy.

I have about 40 pages to go and I can feel the doom clotting up, getting ready to burst, and I am committed to watching it. The protagonist, Sydney, is a German who translates novels into English. He lives in Paris with his American wife, and their retarded son lives in a home. The wife longs to leave the city and find a place in the country where the son, she believes, will be happier, so Sydney gets involved in a shady deal to earn a one-off lump of money. I don’t know the particular flavor of tragedy that’s due, but I know it’s coming.

Just is good at evoking atmosphere, and he sets a scene so well. The book takes its time but does not feel slow. The story takes place in Paris but is very German, heavy, fraught and dark. The main character may enjoy oysters and Sancerre, but there’s nothing carefree going on. And Just is spot-on in describing the conflicts of ex-patriates, I feel directly spoken to over and over – being torn from “home,” being separate from “home,” watching “home” disintegrate, rationalizing, romanticizing. I haven’t been this engrossed since White Noise, but for all of that book’s dazzle and smack, maybe this is better.

Part of the fascination lies in how the book and mood are couched in recent history, around 1990, the fall of the wall, Glasnost, German “reunification.” Here’s a scene where the main character and his wife are watching Romania’s Ceausescu (“Eyebrows”) seal his doom on tv:

Ceausescu was shaking his head. Not a denial of the charges but a refusal to dignify them with an answer. His wife sat beside him and looked at her hands. She had a peasant’s shrewd face and large hands. Suddenly she looked at her husband, and Sydney said aloud, she knows. He doesn’t know but she does and she’s trying to tell him but he won’t listen to her, because he still thinks he’s a dictator and she knows he isn’t.

Why hadn’t I heard of Ward Just before? maybe I don't get to the states enough.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

whose world


I was browsing Amazon yesterday looking at “world poetry” and there was a book, a translation of a book, by an (east) German guy named Lutz Rad-something and the review was brief but indicated he was worth checking out so after work I went over to the biggest bookstore in town – HUGENDUBEL – and had to search out the poetry section, which had been moved since I’d last been there. It’s now located in a small drawer behind the cash register where they keep the rags and window cleaner. Anyway there was no Lutz Rad-something in there, which was disheartening since this is Germany last I checked. So I browsed the other books which were mostly crap. If you dislike it when English poets use lower-case letters as a rule (which I don’t mind – be my guest), you’d go hari-kari if you saw “serious” German poets doing it. There seemed to be lots of juvenalia poetry there – innocuous, insipid “i put an envelope in your absence” kind of cat-lover poems. To be honest I’ve forgotten now what it was about and can’t be bothered to go back and check. Luckily there was a bit of Ernst Jandl, which is hard to translate, which helped me forget briefly all the assholes who talk too loud on their cellphones.

Friday, November 02, 2007

November is Stop Making Sense Month

November 1 is ... Plan Your Younger Epidemic Day
November 2 is ... Buttery Daybreak Day
November 4 is ... Have a Bad Day Day
November 8 is ... Wait it’s Pinball Day
November 11 is ... Wool in the Mayonnaise Day
November 16 is ... Occult Toke Day
November 19 is ... Nationalize Picasso and Worthily Exclaim Day
November 23 is ... Rehash Absconded Resentment Day
November 26 is ... All the Doo-Dah Day

Thursday, November 01, 2007

word of the day

Torpordo (n., pl. –does) [NLat. genus of ancient underwater homosapien known to explode]: A cigar-shaped middle-aged white lady barely able to self-propel herself when launched from bed with too little sleep.
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