Wednesday, January 30, 2013

from the homeward commute

Coming home on the crowded UBahn I am glad to find a seat. My knees, if I didn’t turn them slightly, would touch those of the woman across from me. She has firm legs, but lined with blue veins and blotchy. Over them she has put on a pair of low-sheen mustard-colored hose. This is really unattractive, but also fascinating, and I realize it's because clad this way those legs resemble my beloved Stilton cheese.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I recently finished a John Banville’s Kepler, and yesterday began The Infinities, which is first off remarkable for its beautiful deep eggshell blue cover. I’ve read some reviews by readers who find Banville pretentious (because of his vocabulary? because there are Greek gods hovering in the narrative?) but I think he’s marvelous. Take this passage, about a boy getting a clay pipe that blows bubbles: 

"At first he could not get the hang of it then suddenly did. The bubbles hesitated on the rim of the pipe-bowl, wobbling flabbily, then broke free and floated sedately away. They seemed to be rotating inside themselves, as if the top was always too heavy, and the iridescent surplus kept cascading down the sides. Sometimes two of them stuck together and formed a fat, trembling shape something like an hourglass only squatter. They were made of an unearthly substance, a transparent quicksilver, impossibly fine and volatile, rainbow-hued. They popped against his skin like wet, cold kisses."

Friday, January 25, 2013


So glad it's Friday.
The Spanish wine I like was on sale.
I picked up two chunks of my favorite cheeses (Fontina & Stilton).
The next episode of Sherlock awaits.
And I'm very happy to share this review of Homebodies from The Rumpus.
AND I don't have weekend duty...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Word Thursday

The 2012 word of the year in America was hashtag, which is a good word in terms of sound and suggestion, even though what it denotes is a yawner. Soundwise, with its two tight /ae/s, it is like a dentist asking you to open wide, twice. In terms of meaning, hash evokes aromatic resins and potato products, while tag suggests it's for sale, used. Still, the hashtag itself, referring to the # symbol used on twitter posts, is kind of a sad comment as word of the year, I think. To use two more /ae/s, #flashinthepan.

Germany also had a word of the year: Rettungsroutine. Like hashtag, it’s a compound word consisting of Rettung, or rescue, and Routine, the same in English. Specifically it means going through the never-ending motions of rescuing the eurozone with summits, pep talks, bailout money, and warnings about austerity. 

Germany also had an “unword” of the year, which a jury of linguists chooses as the year’s worst or most unfortunate word. In 2012 it was Opferabo. Once again, it’s a compound word. (I guess it’s tough to get attention as a free-standing word anymore.) Opferabo literally means “victim subscription,” or “subscription to victimization.” It started with a weatherman who was accused of rape, who said that in society women enjoyed a sort of “victimization coupon,” their image as perennial victims being an ace up their sleeve that allows them to accuse men of abuse. 

The jury chose Opferabo as the eye-rolling word of the year because it stereotypes women as sly users trying to take advantage of a perceived disadvantage, while ignoring the fact that only a small percentage of women who are sexually abused or raped ever actually report it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Walk on by

If it were my inauguration, Dionne Warwick would be singing Burt Bacharach. Actually singing, whether she felt like it or not. And my inaugural poet would be Charles Simic, who could just read from The World Does Not End. No need to write some pathetic occasional poem. The swearing-in would include plenty of swearing and my speech would not dream of tedium. I would wear a Jil Sander dress and modest heels when it was over I’d throw fateful word confetti from the podium and put a poster of myself up in my room.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Among the Familiars of Wittgenstein's Mistress

Artemisia Gentileschi, who was not taught to read or write.

Giotto, because he could draw a perfect circle, or at least it is harmless to think he could. 

Michelangelo, who did not wash and was thus probably hard to sit close to, though Kate later thinks this harsh and claims she would shake his hand. 

Anna Akhmatova, who is assigned a role in Anna Karenina. 

Marina Tsvetayeva, who kills herself. 

John Ruskin, who recoils upon discovering his wife (read: women) has pubic hair. 

Brahms, who may or may not have carried candy in his pockets to give to children, of which he had none of his own. 

Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, most famous for being from Mexico, where Kate’s son Simon/Lucien died. 

Karen Silkwood, poor Karen Silkwood. 

Samuel Butler, who possibly wrote The Way of All Meat

Clytemnestra, who kills her husband, but of course after he had killed their daughter to raise wind to fill the warships’ sails. That is, Clytemnestra murders Agamemnon, but understandably so

Beethoven, who could not do children’s arithmetic. 

Wilhelm de Kooning, who is Dutch, like Rembrandt and Spinoza, who may or may not run into each other at the pharmacist’s shop. 

Nietzsche, who cries upon seeing a horse being beaten. 

J.M.W. Turner, who has himself tied to a ship’s mast so he can experience a storm from that perspective. 

Odysseus, who does the same for a different reason. 

Sappho, whose poems were shredded to stuff mummies. 

T.E. Shaw and Lawrence of Arabia, who are never seen together in one place. 

Winston Churchill, who has an English name. 

Vincent Van Gogh, who tries to reform a prostitute. 

Bruegel, who depicts snow in one of his paintings, specifically, a snowball fight.

Bertrand Russell, whose grandfather met George Washington.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Cold without snow is like nakedness without nostalgia.

Just the unmitigated shock of freeze/age without anything to dress it up.

You go outdoors/into the mirror and think, I'm not coming here again until someone lends me a fluffy coat!

Some people say snow absorbs some of the cold. I think it just makes it easier to bear.

I am glad to have plentiful flurries this morning, a consolation amid minus temperatures and Germany's eternal grey.


With a picture from summer: here is an interview with me on chapbookery conducted by Laura Madeleine Wiseman.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The big turn-on

Snow makes excellent natural lighting. Every night I walk my darkbrown dog into the park nearby, and even on the open field she is concealed by the dark. But the weather turned a few days ago and we were lucky to get plentiful snow. Even if there's no moon or stars, the snow lights everything from the bottom up and the little landscape and its shapes are easier to make out - the hedges, the basketball net, the swings and trees. And of course the dog is easier to find. And she loves snow.

I thought I remembered a Hawthorne story where light shines from below a town square (?), creating an ominous atmosphere. But the snowlight isn't ominous, just pretty, and reveals everything is where it's supposed to be.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Next Big Thing, or small

As I mentioned last post, Kathleen Kirk tagged me to write about The Next Big Thing, a questionnaire for writers on a project or book.

What is your working title of your book /story/project? 

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
In general, from reading. I’ve written a number of poems about books and reading, and a couple years ago when I was reading a stiff hardbound copy of Madame Bovary (?) or The Line of Beauty (?), it occurred to me that the “Note on the Type” at the end of the book was longer than the author’s thumbnail biography, and more interesting. I loved that – it was so full of LORE. So I set out to write some poems on imaginary typefaces, too. 

What genre does your book fall under? 
Bibliophilic poetry. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
Donald Sutherland would play the imaginary typographer Robert Crèvecoeur. The nuns in Sognidhia would be played by Winona Ryder, Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman, who all resemble each other. Daniel Craig would make a good Thomas Hardy. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
It will be published by Dancing Girl Press this year.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
It was never written as a manuscript. It came together piece by piece with separate poems over years. Some of them were published in 2007, maybe 2006. A couple others were published this month. 

What other books/poems would you compare this story to within your genre? 
Nothing comes to me immediately, but some other poems on books would be - 
I Was Sitting” by Juan Ramón Jiménez 
He ate and drank the precious words” by Emily Dickinson

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
I had a number of poems mentioning books or a specific book or writer, and then I got into the typography poems. I also was writing a poem called Inksleep, which is still under construction, and the word Inksuite came into my head and it seemed too good a word to waste. 

Other than that, the poems’ inspirations include the Russian gulag, Wallace Stevens, Chinese cabbage, Roget’s Thesaurus, Jude the Obscure.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? 
There will be a killer collage by Emmanuel Polanco on the cover. 

Links to some of the poems: 

Tagged by: Kathleen Kirk 

Tagged by me but not obliged to follow through: Charmi Keranan 
Laura E. Davis

I was supposed to tag five people, but being too busy for so much admin, I couldn't. So, instead, here are some other writers tagged in this project: 

Monday, January 14, 2013

lines in the cold

Two of my poems are up at The Bakery. Today’s is Fitting Room Mirror, and is about just that, and yesterday’s was Lines Written in the Cold, which is appropriate because it is ice-crashy cold here. I hope you will read them. 

I’ve been tagged by Kathleen Kirk to do the blog meme The Next Big Thing about a project I'm at work on, which I’ll put up later this week. You can read about Kathleen's project here. I’m supposed to tag five folks, but as an underachiever, I will have an even lower single digit.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Sometimes after a poem is published I get the feeling film actors describe about being uncomfortable watching their own performances. It that has little to do with whether or not the poem/performance succeeds, but with being confronted with yourself, and knowing the meeting is taking place in public. This is especially true if I've recorded the poem. Who ever really enjoyed the sound of their own voice?

Editors seem to have awoken from their holiday slumber. In the past two days, I've had a poem accepted by Fugue, two others accepted by The Bakery, and a rejection from Agni. My holiday slumber, on the other hand, continues. But for those who were worried, my calendar arrived. 

Meanwhile I have a short serial prose poem up at Saudade called "Re-Reading Guide to Hardy." I'm a Thomas Hardy fan, and Jude the Obscure is my favorite.

Sunday, January 06, 2013


It's supposedly Sherlock Holmes's birthday, who, like Jesus, was a Capricorn.
I don't know who arrived at this how. 
I don't know if there's a party to be had somewhere serving cocaine and opium. 
I take that back. Vice is hardly Holmes's defining characteristic. (NB: Capricorn's weakness is "too much work and not enough play.") 
My husband bought the complete Jeremy Brett series for Christmas, which is my absolute favorite. We've been watching an episode here and there since the holidays. Sometimes the overacting is quite funny, like the fisticuffs in "The Solitary Cyclist." The one we saw last night, "The Crooked Man," was a disappointment because Holmes does not figure out one thing. Rather all is explained to him. That was a rip-off, Holmes-wise.
I know the expression "Elementary" is Holmes's most famous linguistic legacy. I don't add "my dear Watson" because last night Watson said it to Holmes, rather sarcastically. But the best and most sarcastic expression born of Holmes is "No shit, Sherlock." Of course it is not uttered in any of the stories, yet even people who have never read (or seen) a Holmes story know and use it. I have even heard a German colleague interject it, in English, into a conversation in German, filling me with secret literary delight.

Friday, January 04, 2013

the year arrives like a shipwreck

Once again the year began with January, and it did even though the calendar I ordered has not yet arrived to reassure me.
For days I have suffered the nuisance of fireworks and firecrackers and the voluminous trash they abandon.
As if a shipwreck's ruins were strewn far from sea.
But the noise is tapering off so I feel we must have made some headway into the month.
Once again the year began with worrying. My daughter called with some news that I would have liked to discuss further, but I took the call on a colleague's phone and could not pursue it. Back at my desk I decided I might be making too much of it. Which may be true. Yet I was soon besieged with the worry that I wasn't worrying enough, which is a kind of meta-worrying. I put aside the problem and focused on worrying in the right proportion.
Are people who tend not to worry doing a better job at life, or worse? One is often told "don't worry, be happy," but the phrase "a lack of concern" suggests negligence.
To support me in my many doubts I got a notification today saying, "We can inform you that your calendar "Dickens' London" has been shipped. The estimated delivery date is January 7." I was glad to hear this, although I won't get a discount equivalent to 7 days of calendarlessness despite the delay. At least when I open it I will know where&when to begin.
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