Wednesday, December 29, 2010

portis finds his title

Genuine Moxie
Irrefutable Fortitude
Indubitable Pluck
Honest-to-God Guts
Real Nerve
Authentic Backbone
Certified Chutzpah
Veracious Crust
Clear Spunk
Bona-fide Balls
Unquestionable Mettle
True Grit

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

last dash

The only book I got for Christmas was True Grit. I’d asked for it because I am fervently in favor of preventing the movie industry from stealing the goods from the publishing industry. After reading the book I feel free to see the film. I usually try to pull this off, and the only high-profile failure I recall now is Atonement by Ian McEwan. It was a very good movie, and I look at the unread book on the shelf and know it must be at least as good. But unfortunately I know the plot and characters, which damps my enthusiasm.

A day or two before Christmas I also got my contributor’s copies of Bateau (4.1). This is my third time in this journal, which I'm really glad about because I love Bateau. There are a number of prose poems in this issue (mine is a poem poem), and I’m looking forward to reading everything. One of the things I admire about Bateau is the editors decide which order the pieces will appear in, i.e. it’s not alphabetical. That reflects how much thought they put into presenting the journal as a whole.

That said, as with poetry books, I don’t think I ever read journals from first piece to last. At least on first encounter, I open randomly and start reading, or go through the table of contents to find something intriguing. Also in this issue are Carrie Chappell, Ben Merriman, Paige Taggart and John Peck, among many others.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In the morning for what it's worth I open my eyes

By shoveling snow, I invent sunlight.
It arrives just as I finish scraping away.
I could like this job, I say to the first possible bird.
I could let this grow on me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

super sad true story

On Tuesday night, the night she was supposed to fly, my sister had to cancel her Christmas visit because of European airport chaos. Poor us! My mother, who was to fly the same day, didn’t have to cancel, but won’t be here until Dec. 26. I’m considering taking a bunch of sleeping pills tonight and waking up Dec. 26. Sorry, I just pretty much had all the holiday joy sucked out of me. I'd put up the video of Elvis singing 'Blue Christmas,' but I hate Elvis. On the upside, I have earned great sympathy from my husband and kids.

Also nice is the deal with my son. I told him that for Christmas I’d like him to read two books for me, and after browsing though my Young Adult expert’s bookshelves (thanks NE), managed to find a couple titles available in German, both by Rick Yancey: The Monstrumologist and The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. I am happy because I think my son may actually like these books.

I got books for my daughter, too, but she never needs her arm twisted. She went with me to pick up a Yancey book I ordered yesterday and came up to me at the cashier with an armload of “interesting books,” “just to show me,” you know, for my interest...

Monday, December 20, 2010

under the bridge

Just a short stretch until 2011 arrives, so here is my reading list for 2010 so far. As always, some of these are shortish ebooks, thus boosting the number. On the other hand, I left off a couple books because I stopped reading them, or they were art books that I have trouble saying I “read.” I don’t know. I’m still figuring that out.

Among the most memorable was David Copperfield. It was my New Year’s resolution to read it and dread was the watchword, but it was great. Jane Eyre was at least its equal, less tra-la-la, more sturm und drang. I was also bowled over by Today I Wrote Nothing. In non-fiction I thought Columbine was fabulous, although the topic was never in the forefield of my radar screen.

In poetry, I liked many things, but A Civic Pageant (a chapbook) may have been my favorite by a single author. The Poetry of Surrealism edited by Michael Benedikt was super. American Spikenard and Salvinia Molesta definitely had my full attention.

I'm in the middle of Drood and The Book of Disquiet. If I manage to finish one, I'll just add it to the list. I'm hopeful.

Among the clunkers, hmmm, there surely were some... Lark and Termite, for example. If I Die in a Combat Zone was also a let-down, although I've enjoyed O'Brien's other books a lot.

For next year the big book will either be Crime and Punishment or The Magic Mountain. It is good to resolve.

1. Dear Friends the Bird were Wonderful! – Alexis Orgera (Jan/Poetry)
2. The Land of Green Plums – Herta Müller (Jan/Fiction)
3. The Sea – John Banville (Jan 23/Fiction)
4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Moshin Hamid (Jan/Fiction)
5. A Walk Through the Memory Palace – Pamela Johnson Parker (Jan/Poetry)
6. Attention Deficit Letters – Nicelle Davis (Feb/Poetry)
7. The Air Around the Butterfly – Katerina Stoykova Klemer (Feb/Poetry)
8. Super Undone Blue – Sarah Anne Cox (Jan/Poetry)
9. Last Words – Howard Good (Jan/Poetry)
10. Magnum Magnum (Jan/Photography)
11. Lark Apprentice – Louise Mathias (Jan/Poetry)
12. Bear v. Shark – Chris Bachelder (Jan/Fiction)
13. Pig/Iron – Howie Good (Feb/Poetry)
14. Der Tiger Tötet Nicht – Ted Hughes (March/Poetry)
15. Today I Read Nothing – Danil Harms (March/Shorts&Poetry)
16. Lark & Termite – Jayne Anne Phillips (March 21/Fiction)
17. A Companion For Owls - Maurice Manning (March 27/Poetry)
18. Erwin Wurm: The Artist Who Swallowed the World (March/Art)
19. Erwin Wurm: One Minute Sculpture (March/Art)
20. Underlife – January O’Neil (April 11/Poetry)
21. Speak Easy Symmetry – Audri Sousa (Apr/Poetry)
22. The Shadow of Sirius – W.S. Merwin (April/Poetry)
23. Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure – Harold Bloom ed. (Apr/Lit Crit)
24. American Spikenard – Sarah Vap (April/Poetry)
25. They Kissed Their Homes – Christopher Cheney (May/Poetry)
26. Why I Hate Straws – Barry Parham (May/Humor)
27. Every Man Dies Alone – Hans Falluda (May/Fiction)
28. A Civic Pageant – Frank Montesonti (May/Poetry)
29. Book of Longing – Leonard Cohen (May/Poetry)
30. The Birds – Tarjei Vesaas (June/Fiction)
31. Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy (June/Fiction)
32. A Sorrow Beyond Dreams – Peter Handke (June/Memoir)
33. The Poetry of Surrealism – Michael Benedikt ed (June/Poetry)
34. How German Is It – Walter Abish (June/Fiction)
35. The Diary of a Country Priest – Georges Bernanos (Fiction)
36. If I Die in a Combat Zone – Tim O’Brien (Memoir)
37. Seeing Birds in Church is a Kind of Adieu – Arlene Ang (June/Poetry)
38. The Best of (What’s Left of) Heaven – Mairead Byrne (June/Poetry)
39. Give Over to the Heckler and Everyone Gets Hurt – Jason Tandon (Jul/Poetry)
40. Nadirs – Herta Müller (July/Fiction)
41. The Door – Magda Szabo (July/Fiction)
42. Columbine – Dave Cullen (July/Non-Fiction)
43. Stick Pink – Carrie Murphy (July/Poetry)
44. The Cat Inside – William S. Burroughs (July/Memoir)
45. The Reserve – Russell Banks (July/Fiction)
46. With Deer – Aase Berg (July/Poetry)
47. Factory of Tears – Valzhana More (July/Poetry)
48. Written in Bone – Simon Beckett (Aug/Fiction)
49. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens (Aug/Fiction)
50. Tiny Deaths –Robert Shearman (Aug/Fiction)
51. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (Aug/Fiction)
52. Camus, a Romance – Elizabeth Hawes (Sept/Bio&Memoir)
53. The Stranger – Albert Camus (Sept/Fiction)
54. The Shining – Stephen King (Sept/Fiction)
55. Watermark – Clayton Michaels (Sept/Poetry)
56. Best of the Web 2010 – Matt Bell ed. (Oct/Poetry&Pieces)
57. Pornografia – Witold Gombrowicz (Oct/Fiction)
58. Methland – Nick Reding (Oct/Non-Fiction)
59. Salvinia Molesta – Victoria Chang (Oct/Poetry)
60. The Waste Books – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (Oct/Aphorisms)
61. Stupid Hope – Jason Shinder (Oct/Poetry)
62. Dark Things – Novica Tadic (Nov/Poetry)
63. Awe – Dorothea Lasky (Nov/Poetry)
64. The Furies – Janet Hobhouse (Nov/Fiction&Memoir)
65. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski (Dec/Fiction)
66. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (Dec/Fiction)
67. Austerlitz - WB Sebald (Sept/Fiction)
68. Drood - Dan Simmons (Dec/Historical Fiction)
69. True Grit - Charles Portis (Dec/Fiction)

Begging the question

Does Mary have white or black hair?
Does Mary have hair?

Does the left want to destroy or defend the Constitution?
Does the left want?

The housewife is vacuuming the rugs.
Doesn’t she live in an apartment?

A poem is god’s lightbulb.
Is Thomas Edison god?

(doesn’t god sell candles in church?)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

snooze button

I find the best time for a nice nap is as soon as you wake up. You’re dressed for it, and often it’s still dark out. When I wake up, first thing I notice is how big my head is in relation to my body, like a crazy toddler, and in danger of toppling. My pillow makes a good table for it. Legless at this hour, like everything. Also my heavy are eyes. My sore throats. Sleep is heartbreakingly desirous of me. It finds me very attractive. But I am being brown-dogged by a kiss.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The copious snow went the way of the tunamelt yesterday and revealed that the grass beneath it was still green as green can be. Today the freeze is back on. Two decades in Germany and still I’m adjusting to celcius, with its significant degrees. How easy it is to get negative. Maybe that’s part of the weight on the national personality. In Kansas one winter I had a Jeep and went ice skidding across the highway smack up against the rail that looked many meters down onto a milomaize field. I sat there stunned. “Almost bought the farm,” I said to myself stupidly, unable even at that moment to resist the pun. That accident isn’t where I got my limp, though. My limp is the result of childhood crush. And the crick in my neck comes from caring.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

giddy-up, jingle horse

I made my first consumer foray into the bowels of Amazon with the wicked gift cards I got for my birthday. Unfortunately (I’d use a four-letter word here, but what would it help), Amazon won’t let you use an gift certificate at, meaning you’ll have to break up your orders to avoid paying customs, and you’ll have to pay about $16 per shipment on top of that instead of nothing. Oh well. Never look a gift card in the mouth.

I made a long thoughtless list and then placed a random order:

1. Among the Monarchs by Christine Garren – I have never read this poet so this goes on the “whim and a prayer” shelf.
2. Moscow to the End of the Line by Venedikt Erofeev – This is also known as “Moscow Stations” and I’ve been looking for it forever not realizing it had another title. It’s one of the “1001 Books You Must Read” books, and supposedly there’s a lot of drinking in it, squalor and cold weather.
3. Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison – My soon-to-be-ex-step-sister-in-law, whom I adore, has recommended Robison to me many times. Since she also recommended Lydia Davis, she enjoys great credibility. We also had a long conversation last time I saw her about the male vs. female writer (and artist) dilemna, i.e. why male writers are more popular and praised than females, and man did we come out punching! In other words, I am forgoing a lot of supposedly great books by men to read more books by women.

On another topic, in disciplined Germany you don’t put up the Christmas tree until the 24th, but being true ausländische iconoclasts, we are throwing that sucker up today. Break out the Charlie Brown and Sufjan Stevens and all those icicle ornaments!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

o come let us adore it

At the train station, they’ve set up a life-size nativity scene with wooden figures. Mary and Joseph are there, the Magi, a couple animules, straw and a cart. In the prominent spot near the front of the scene, however, instead of Jesus they’ve placed a Poinsettia. The figures stand around it looking awe-stricken. One of the Magi goes down on his knee; Mary clasps her hands to her breast, and the sheep and donkey appear dumbstruck and hypnotized by this modest, potted flower. I admit it is hard to look anything other than dumbstruck and hypnotized as a wooden figure, but especially when confronted with such a cheerful little flower.

Anyway, my colleague tells me Jesus is not there yet because he’s traditionally placed in the cradle on the 24th, “when he was actually born.” If we are sticking to the script and the pregnancy calendar, there are a few other details in need of fixing, not the least of which are the Magi, who didn’t show up until January. There’s also the issue of Mary’s trim figure. But I don’t want to spoil the fun, and giving birth to an unassuming, red Poinsettia is probably less taxing than bearing the Lamb of God, before, during & after...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


The new issue of Poemeleon is out, and the theme this time around is Prime Time poetry, which the editor, Cati Porter, describes as follows -

"What unites (the poems), though, is this: They are all what we consider 'prime time poetry,' poems that can be understood, appreciated, and felt on a first read. Poetry that is, well, accessible.

This is not to say that we don't value difficulty in poetry. In recent years I personally have developed a taste for difficult work, precisely because there is so much puzzling out to do, relying on the reader to fill in & make leaps to decipher what is on the page.

But, sometimes I just want to read.

Sometimes I want a window into a room where I can make out the furniture. I want to look in and see chairs, see bodies, overhear conversations between lovers, between family members; I want a glimpse of something authentic, something I can relate to. I think this is what is meant by “accessible,” a term that has acquired a bad rap but that to me simply means work that doesn’t need a decoder ring and a cup of Ovaltine to figure out."

Please be sure to check out my poem "Etiquette," which has the much-coveted slot of Thursday night at 8 pm!

Monday, December 06, 2010


There’s a woman who often rides my train, a young woman of about 25, who must get on a couple stops before me since she’s always comfortably ensconced in a seat by the time the train is at my stop. She’s an unremarkable person, plain and a bit plump. Mousy brown, like most of us; her hair hangs thinly to the length of her chin. Not to insult her – for all I know she’s the second queen of Persia, or the president of the Frankfurt chapter of Mensa. It could be, but for the most part she’s someone you wouldn’t look at twice, or I wouldn’t, except she is often reading a book. It’s usually a beat-up book with two wind-blown figures on the cover, a man and woman, clearly what in America would be a ‘Harlequin Romance.’ But no matter. What I notice is how her expression changes when she’s reading. Her eyebrows rise and arch expectantly. Or her jaw slackens and her dull eyes start to gleam. Her lips inevitably flicker into a smile that she seems to forget is there, since she continues to smile it stupidly for long stretches of our trip. Frankly, as unkind as it sounds, she looks so idiotic at these times that I’m embarrassed for her. Frankly, I have to admit that at many points in my own recent reading of Jane Eyre that I fear I have become this person, and have resolved to restrict further reading to my room.

Friday, December 03, 2010

what a mercy you are shod with velvet, jane (p. 198)

Late shift can make a morning. I went to the dentist and chopped a big bill in half. I, too, went to the bank and killed a dud fund. I went to one of the coziest cafés in the city, and, it being 9.40 am on a workday, got the most private table, where I read 25 pivotal, heartwrenchling pages of Jane Eyre while sobbing into my café au lait. I didn’t expect sad! Nor did the aproned waitress! The café is called La Maison du Pain and at home we jokingly call it ‘House of Pain,’ but it is not. I could have rotted in bed all morning but instead I did not. Once outside the café I began to get dark. I knew it was time for work.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Above all gods I put brown sugar

Many thanks to DMQ Review, which has nominated my poem Ghazal of the Sharp Knife for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. This was a very nice birthday gift, and the third time DMQ nominated a poem of mine for the Pushcart. Last year it was Monarchs, and a few years before that The War is Still Ending. The editors sent a very kind note, which I appreciate.

I haven’t mentioned it but some weeks back Jessy Randall, who guest-edits Snakeskin every February, also nominated my poem Housewife for Best of the Web. Once a year she puts together a theme issue for Snakeskin, which this year was ‘work.’ I mention it also because she’s doing next Feb.’s issue, too, on the theme of ‘food.’ Deadline Dec. 15! She isn’t too keen on poems about food that are really about God. God and His Bounty. Unless it’s Bounty paper towels, maybe, used to wipe up food. But whatever, give it a shot. Info here.
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