Thursday, July 31, 2008

he lit up the room by leaving

The funniest thing I saw in London was in a book shop. I walked in, and directly to the left was a shelf dedicated to "Horrible Childhoods." Yessiree, a long row of abuse physical, sexual and psychological, neglect, forced prostitution, incest, chips for dinner and long overdue diaper changes for you to enjoy in your leisure time. I found the label funny, of course, not the childhoods, which I didn't stop to learn much about.

I proceeded to the mark-down bin, where I found "The Wicked Wit of Insults." I actually bought this book, although it's not very good, because one of the insults on the cover was so funny:

"I'm going to memorize your name and throw my head away."

I spent my free evening slumming in bookstores. I had expected to splurge, but bought just three: the insult book, Donna Tartt's "The Little Friend" (also a mark-down), and Blaise Cendrars' "Moravagine." There were jillions of books I wanted to buy, but couldn't stop thinking how I could get them used online for next to nothing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

having fun already

I crossed the street from my hotel to order some take-out and, waiting, found the only magazine they had was a British GQ. I’m sure this will become the cross-cultural experience of my trip.

The first thing that struck me was how many very handsome well-built men appear in the advertising, usually without shirts on. On two opposite pages were two cologne ads, both featuring young, shirtless men leaping into mid-air. At least the water around their feet suggest they have leaped. For all I know they are simply suspended there.

I soon arrived at a story about “enhanced breasts.” It begins “until a man has made love to a woman with fake breasts, he cannot really comprehend their true horror.”

A couple pages later there was a section on kitchen gadgets, all of which were very large and chrome. There was an imposing juicer, and a high-tech coffee machine. No Tupperware or piddly utensils here.

Soon I came to a short column called “How to look well read without reading anything.” It suggests five books GQ readers should have to make an impression. One of these is Pablo Neruda’s Selected Poems, which will suggest to the world that the owner is “well hung.”

Shortly before my order came I glanced through a column called “Cook Her Into Bed,” which included a recipe. I realized men’s glossy magazines are not so different from women’s. Only funnier. To me.

file signs/under wonders

I finished Divisadaro on the train into London. When I got to the long end-segment on the French writer I felt I’d really arrived in the book, like Ondaatje was speaking directly to me. I smiled when, on page 173, the writer receives a letter from someone who signs Sarah S.

My hotel room window looks out onto Ave Maria Lane.

Having not expected to finish Divisadero until tomorrow, I was glad to find my room equipped with A Traveller’s Guide to the History of London, as well as an Oxford Dictionary/Thesaurus. I opened to the page running from Ghoul to Gin.

Feeling right at home.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

i've begun building a little city in my throat

This fledgling In the Mist looks interesting, even if I disagree with their punctuation. I will read it when it comes out but I often hesitate to submit to brand new publications. Who knows what their tastes are? If they solicit something then I generally think at least they think I’ll fit in, even if it’s sideways. Otherwise it’s probably better to wait for a look at the first issue. Still, “outdoor poems from women" sounds refreshing. I hope for a lot of froth and panting, like crashing mountain bikes and near-drownings in the ocean, and not just women weeding their quite contraries.

I had a few poems accepted recently.
Barn Owl Review took Etiquette, a low-key party poem that begins “I was doing my best at the friendly gesture…” It includes wine and song.

Weave, a new publication, took three poems: Ground Shadow (“I’m going out with the storm cloud”), Dear Scum (“Many mornings I’ve seen you…”), and To the Benevolent State (“Give me liberty”). Weave just overhauled its website, too, and looks great.

Linebreak accepted Ghazal with Heavenly Bodies, which I’m so glad about. I never trusted myself enough to even try submitting there, though I was invited.

I also got an email from an editor this week who said she “really really really” liked my poetry and did I have anything available, so I hope she still likes my poetry when she gets my return email.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I changed the blog links at left to show when they were last updated, which is a cool feature, but now it seems to take forever for my blog to load. It hardly seems worth it. Think I'm going to have to switch back, cut, paste, cut, paste, cut, paste, blah blah or just blast the damned thing to hell. Has anyone tried the new link system and also found it slow? I also dislike how the links now pop up in a new window. I haven't found the button that stops that.

It's 57 degrees Fahrenheit here today. I'm sure they'll still tell me next month that it was the hottest July on record. Not that I mind. I hate hot weather, probably because I hated wearing shorts as a teenager, and I still do,
and I feel like I'm supposed to
because everyone did
when I was 14.

Friday, July 18, 2008

friday confession

I wrote nothing today except this.
I wrote nothing today, except this.
I wrote nothing today.
Except this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

reading while walking with the book up under his face

head like a pin mounted in a map
head like John the Baptist’s, delivered
head like the sack of stones I couldn’t drag any farther than the middle of the field

Monday, July 14, 2008

lucid steer

I dreamed that after work I was training to be a cardiologist. My mentor was a new doctor with long light wavy hair. I was to come in and take over from her a couple afternoons a week. On the second day of my assignment, I was late. I may have been an hour late but maybe more like five hours. That’s because I had to stop at my brother’s birthday party and deliver two pieces of salt water taffy and also consider stopping at the birthday party of my college boyfriend who had/has neglected me so long I considered killing him. The inner deliberation took time but soon I was in a taxi speeding to the hospital where I put on my white lab coat and stethoscope, hoping no one would experience any heart trouble on my watch since I knew as much about hearts as about the carnal ruse of the Buddha - nil. I put my life in the hands of a little plastic Jesus mounted on the windowsill. “Whatever you do, Lord, you’ll do because you’re doing it,” I said. My mentor came in, furious. Wouldn’t even look at me. It turned out she was the lady at the shoe store I’d been to Saturday who had brought me about five or seven pairs of shoes and then the next size and then the brown not the black and somehow she had found out I would be returning the shoes . . .

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I knocked on the tin roof of the fish

On vacation, I finished the Booker Challenge I began in January. It was easy - just read six Booker prize winners or short- or long-list nominees in 2008. My sixth book was Anne Enright’s The Gathering, a novel about a woman whose older brother commits suicide. The book has a strong negative charge that I enjoyed, but to be honest, although the writing is good, I found the first 2/3rds of it pretty humdrum. Nearer the end, the writer revs things up emotionally and psychologically, but it still didn’t make the book all that remarkable.

I hadn’t been planning to read The Gathering, but when we flew to Italy, Alitalia lost our luggage and I sent a desperate email to my mother, who was coming to join us, asking her to bring along something for me since I was nearly done with what I was reading.

I also read Machado de Assis’s Epitaph of a Small Winner, written from the perspective of a dead man. It was original and very entertaining. It’s considered an obscure classic, but I found it more prosecco than champagne, and not a must-read.

I also read Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, a long novel that won the Pulitzer Prize in the early ‘70’s. It’s about a man confined to a wheelchair who writes about the lives of his grandmother and grandfather in the West, interweaving it with his own biography. The story was engaging and very good. I really hate the ‘70’s though. There’s something grotesque about them.

The best book I read on vacation was Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost, about the author’s great-uncle and his family who are killed in Poland in the Holocaust. It’s probably a prerequisite to be at least slightly interested in the Holocaust to enjoy this book, but if you are, it’s a fascinating, terrible and beautiful story. The story itself isn’t brilliant since unfortunately it’s similar to what befell millions of terrorized European Jews. What’s brilliant is the way the author uncovers the story, the riveting discovery of the story. He pursues it with such loving care and tells it almost unbearably well. I cried all over it.

I also read 12 of the 20 stories in The Best American Short Stories of 2002, which all in all were quite good. There are a couple more stories I want to read before putting this back of the shelf. So far my favorite story in the collection was Richard Ford’s “Puppy,” which you can read here.

Here are the books I’ve read so far this year, excepting poetry:

Schindler’s List – Thomas Keneally (Booker Challenge)
The Color of Blood – Brian Moore (Booker Challenge)
The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
When We Were Orphans – Kazuo Ishiguro (Booker Challenge)
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro (Booker Challenge)
Rule of the Bone – Russell Banks
Last Orders – Graham Swift (Booker Challenge)
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
Eclipse – John Banville
A Dangerous Friend – Ward Just
This Republic Of Suffering – Drew Gilpin Faust
The Kiss – Kathryn Harrison
Stoner – John Williams
Epitaph of a Small Winner – Machado de Assis
The Lost – Daniel Mendelsohn
The Gathering – Anne Enright
Angle of Repose – Wallace Stegner

Friday, July 11, 2008

friday confession: leaky

I went through airport security with four different liquids on my person: a vial of perfume, a bottle of hair detangler, a juice box and some patchouli body lotion. Is security sleeping on the job or what? I actually didn’t mean to smuggle these over the border. But since I don’t associate any of these liquids with potential hazard, I forgot. At check-in they even asked me if I had any liquids in my hand luggage. Since I wasn’t planning to bring down the plane, I guess it just slipped my mind.

I do love the expression “on my person.” It rejects all slavery.

-Do you have any liquids on your person, ma’am?
-I carry most of them inside, thank you.

I do wonder how much good it does making everyone throw away their liquids and fluids at airports. Aren’t there other ways to screen for danger without trashing everything wholesale? We must be talking mountains of (wet) plastic garbage. We could start a new ocean.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I'm still in Sardinia, but dropping in to say I have a poem in the new issue of Green Hills Literary Lantern.

I've read a bunch of books I may blog about later, but mostly I've just been sitting on the beach. Every blue day is a carbon copy of the last, cloudless, blazingly sunny and hot.
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