Monday, December 31, 2007

The other Emily

Month after month year after year
My harp has poured a dreary strain -
At length a livelier note shall cheer
And pleasure tune its chords again

What though the stars and fair moonlight
Are quenched in morning dull and grey
They were but tokens of the night
And this my soul is day

-Emily Bronte

thanks to groundwork for the trees

Sunday, December 30, 2007

no blue intrusion

s: sullen grey
m: worm grey
tu: radium grey
w: rag-tatter grey
th: dove grey
f: symphonic grey
s: brain grey
s: rock-bottom grey

Friday, December 28, 2007

chronicle of a death foretold

5.30 am dismay, rat in the mirror, walk the dog
6.05 am brief up-blip, reading marin sorescu, coffee with milk
6.30 am dismay, turn on tv to check time, benazir bhutto still dead, cannot be made undead, leave for work

Thursday, December 27, 2007

a rose by any other name

I thought Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, w00t, was dull. Do we really need another word, complete with orthographic gimmick, that’s an exclamation expressing triumph? We’ve already got yahoo, yippee, alright, hooray, hurrah, yee-ha, etc. I admit to never having heard w00t used before, so maybe I’ve missed out on the joy of it. To me it sounds more like a Dutch rendering of “what?”, or the sound Snow White made when she tried to dislodge the piece of apple from her throat. If it weren’t dumb enough on the face of it, I read somewhere it’s a pseudo-acronym for “we owned the other team.”

Oxford University Press’s word of the year – locavore – was more interesting, a product of the times, using the loc- root and –vore suffix so, if you didn’t know already, you could deduce what it means.

A phrase I found interesting and heard the first time this year helicopter mom. Like locavore, it’s socially relevant. A word we seem to need is one for killing your pregnant wife/girlfriend because you’re having second thoughts about the whole father thing. Just might not be for you, you know? I asked my colleague if there’s a word for this in German and he said, “Notwehr.” (self defence)

The New York Times made a list of 2007 buzzwords for 2007, many of them phrases or compound words like mom job and drama-price. My favorite is post-kinetic environment, a masterpiece of double-speak. ("In military jargon, the site of an explosion, severe gunfire or a destructive engagement.") And while an astronaut diaper is still a diaper, I really enjoyed the explanation: "A garment worn by astronauts when they’re in pressure suits and can’t get to a toilet. 'We call them urine collection devices,' Mike Mullane, a retired astronaut, told The New York Times." - I mean, calling it a urine collection device implies the urine is being collected for something, but what?

But the funniest list is below. I don’t know where it originates. I found it here, but have since seen it many places without being attributed. My personal favorite is assmosis.

1. BLAMESTORMING: Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
2. SEAGULL MANAGER: A manager, who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.
3. ASSMOSIS: The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard.
4. SALMON DAY: The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.
5. CUBE FARM: An office filled with cubicles.
6. PRAIRIE DOGGING: When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people’s heads pop up over the walls to see what’s going on.
7. MOUSE POTATO: The on-line, wired generation’s answer to the couch potato.
8. SITCOMs: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. What Yuppies get into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids.
9. STRESS PUPPY: A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
10. SWIPEOUT: An ATM or credit card that has been rendered useless because magnetic strip is worn away from extensive use.
11. XEROX SUBSIDY: Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one’s workplace.
12. IRRITAINMENT: Entertainment and media spectacles that are annoying but you find yourself unable to stop watching them.
13. PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE: The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
14. ADMINISPHERE: The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve.
15. 404: Someone who’s clueless. From the World Wide Web error Message “404 Not Found,” meaning that the requested site could not be located.
16. GENERICA: Features of the American landscape that are exactly the same no matter where one is, such as fast food joints, strip malls, and subdivisions.
17. OHNOSECOND: That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you’ve just made a big mistake. (Like after hitting send on an email by mistake).
18. WOOFS: Well-Off Older Folks.
19. CROP DUSTING: Surreptitiously passing gas while passing through a cube farm.

Monday, December 24, 2007

not necessarily new

I can't list them all - maybe I'll update - but these are some of the memorable poems I read online this year:

Why I Am Not a Good Kisser – Mary Ruefle

Travelogue Recorded in the Realm of Sorrow – Robert McDonald

Anesthesia & Evolution – Nathan Parker

Cletus Loves Donatella – Tracy Brincat

The Human Condition – Mark Jackley

Dear Fidel Castro – Ryan Murphy

Things I Haven’t Felt – Emily Lloyd

Inside the Maze – Hadara Bar-Nadav

Sunday, December 23, 2007

there's a white man in my closet

When my kids were little I used to read them a book called There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. My son never quite got it right, and instead asked to be read “There’s a White Man in my Closet.” More on that later.

I enjoy reading end-of-the-year lists – best books, movies, photos, etc. As Rachel Dacus points out, sometimes the book lists seem like advertisments for the publishing industry, but, while I like those, too, there are plenty of others. They don’t have to be books published this past year – they could just be books someone read, like Blake Butler’s interesting list. Of course there’s also Slate, NY Times, Christian Science Monitor, and New York Magazine’s “Best Books Of the Past 10 Years That You’ve Never Read.” Rachel also points out Fringe’s survey of the best American books of the past 25 not written by straight white men.

I only want to read the best books I can find. I don't feel more obliged to read someone's book because they're gay or Ukrainian-American or 0+ blood type. The only thing going to get me through a book is the book itself. Still I do appreciate the fact that straight white guys get plentiful air time, and the best books could be tucked under the sofa cushions and not eye-level at Borders.

Anyway, a long intro to a modest list, as I didn't read that much fiction and non-fiction this year. And prologues aside, the book I enjoyed most, Continental Drift, is by a white man about a white man. Certainly Gulag Archipelago and Kolyma Tales are more important books, and they are also excellent books. But in terms of compulsive reading, Russell Banks’ books beat everything on my list this year.

Of the four books I read by women, I most liked Marianne Wiggins’ John Dollar. I preferred it to Housekeeping, one of the NYTimes best books of the past 25 years. I thought the Wiggins’ writing was more interesting. I must admit I have neglected black authors. Aside from Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, who are the best black authors writing now? I tried Colson Whitehead’s John Henry Days this year, but found it overwritten.

Here’s my list - *recommended
*Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Housekeeping – Marilyn Robinson
*John Dollar – Marianne Wiggins
*White Noise – Don DeLillo
Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky
Elizabeth Costello – JM Coetzee
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
*Kolyma Tales – Varlam Shalamov
Mystery in Spiderville – John Hartley Williams
Into the Wild – John Krakauer
*The Translator – Ward Just
Kate Vaiden – Reynolds Price
*Continental Drift – Russell Banks
*Cloudsplitter – Russell Banks

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

also research won't help you sleep

lack of sleep linked to obesity, infertility, bulemia, tinnitus, headaches, eye aches, road rage, diabetes, tooth decay, male menopause, lack of patience, lack of foresight, lack of mugworts, poverty, osteoporosis, zits, writer's block, depression, high blood pressure, fawning, lolling, alcoholism, communism, heart disease, hallucinations, adultery, doldrums, delusions of grandeur, death and the fear of death

Sunday, December 16, 2007

the smoke rings of fancy cigars

My poem Naked, Come Shivering, a cento,
is up at Front Porch Journal.

xmas cheer

maybe a scarf
this one maybe, no how about this
this one is nice
but how nice is it
is it $65 nice
will she wear a scarf
didn’t I get her a scarf last year
what color is her coat
she doesn’t want a scarf
this scarf is nice for me
how about a tablecloth
but she won’t iron it
what size is her table
does she have a table
I should have thought jewelry
a brooch or something
I’ve got all this money
stuffed in my pockets
it’s so hot in here, maybe
I’ll just shove this money
down my throat
and keel over
maybe I’ll just come
back and try again

Friday, December 14, 2007

friday confession

I thought waterboarding was some kind of extreme sport.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the heart is a heavy breather

Bateau has begun its maiden voyage, and I look forward to getting my copies. The first issue includes my poem "Used Books," a praise poem that begins...

I like them dog-eared and lawnsoft,
and savor the character of winestain
and thumbsmudge,

the tear-warp between pages,
scrawl lolling down margins,

x’s, question and check marks
scratched out as anchors.

I also have a poem in Opium5, which is out now. The poem is "On the Way to Meet My Daughter's Teacher," a pseudocide poem that starts...

I was about 15 minutes early
so I figured I'd kill myself a little bit.

And elsewhere, I woke up to find an acceptance from Cider Press Review for my poem "April 4." I've been feeling so dried up poetry wise lately that this is especially welcome news. I'm doing the 10:10 poem-a-day forum with Liz Gallagher and John Vick with the hope of rooting out some inspiration.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

they might sell more hard copies if they didn't do this

Whenever a new issue of Ploughshares comes out, they put the previous issue, pretty much in its entirity, up on the website. I always look forward to that. I've read about half the poems, though, and so far found them a bit yawny. But I really liked this one. Despite the rather unpromising first two lines, it delighted me.

Friday, December 07, 2007

friday confession

In the bathroom at work, I am using someone else's toothpaste. I had a tube of my own, but hers is superior! Once I get up the energy, I will get myself a tube of whatever this is she has. I am using my own toothbrush.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I decided to make a list of all the books I’ve ever read. This is an impossible project because I don’t remember all the books I’ve ever read. I have a number of old journals listing books I read through the years, but they aren’t complete. I don’t remember all the books I read in college, for example. Some of my journals with book lists at the back were burned in a fire when I was 24, along with more than 500 books. I also lost some journals when I moved. I regret losing the journals more than the lists, but my master list project twists the knife.

One of the most interesting things about making this impossible list is how books are a part of your biography. Beyond the book - what you thought about it, how it made you feel – is how it’s often associated with a certain period of your life – what you were doing when you read it, how old you were, where you read it, the personal circumstances.

I read Tess of the D’urbervilles on my first trip to England when I was 20. In fact, I hadn’t really wanted to read it. I packed as a way to force myself. But the fascinating thing was, as I read it, I was steeped in the English countryside, walking through fields, driving past farms and hills, conjuring the characters into settings which were natural for the Durbyfields. Reading any book can be a way of inhabiting a parallel existence, but that was for me uncanny.

I read The Collected Works of Billy the Kid on a lone trip I took to New Mexico, and the experience of being blown away by that book for me is deeply connected to being blown away by the southwest. That is still one of my favorite all-time books.

I read Jude the Obscure, my favorite Hardy, poolside in the Alps. I got to the part where Jude’s son kills himself and the other children “because there were too many” while Carlo was horsing around with our kids in the pool. We were the only ones there and I remember being annoyed at how loud they were when I had a tragic murder-suicide on my hands. But part of my agitation also came from having two small children myself, and being pained and horrified.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I spent the last month or so holed up in bed reading Russian novels: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Master and Margarita and Dr. Zhivago. In my mind this is a defined leg of my life characterized by my bulk and unwieldiness and by tundra and taiga and very cold weather, although it was May in Germany.

When I read the Tao Te Ching almost 25 years ago, I loved it so much, I took pictures of it. It seems silly now, but I have a picture of it in the woods, by a stream and laid across a lampshade, stemming the light. These are in a photo album, as if the Tao te Ching were a relative or boyfriend. Actually, I soon found Chuang Tzu to be a much better book, and in fact the copy I have of it is much handsomer than my volume of Tao Te Ching, but I’ve never taken a picture of it.

If you want to read my list-in-progress it’s over at Good Reads.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

side effect

For weeks I've been having nausea and I went to the doctor, who prescribed something. He said the medicine, to be taken morning and night, might make make me feel nauseated.

(picture of lulu, racing)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

i've been making a list of all the books i ever read

Remember the time I wasted working in politics.
Remember the solitary camping trips, how I never wanted to leave Vermont.
How before grad school I dropped all that weight.
Remember the year I decided there is no God.
Remember the twenty-two months I didn’t menstruate.
Remember when I gave up smoking.
Remember all the time I spent in love with Gardner, who didn’t love me.
Remember the reading light that screwed onto the bed’s headboard.
How I wouldn’t eat anything for days – I was reading Rumi.
Remember the year the house caught fire, and all the books.

Last one out close the door.
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