Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Whale Sound

Nic Sebastian of Very Like a Whale fame has a new project called Whale Sound, a website where she records selected poems. I'm very glad to have provided one of the inaugural pieces for this project, "Vestment." Click here to go to the page. There are two other poems up, one from Cati Porter and another from Patricia Fargnoli.

Nic did a series on poets & technology at her blog, and Whale Sound grew out of a question from Amy King. Asked what technology can still do for poetry, Amy said: “If every poet were to record just one book of poems that they loved for the rest of us to listen to, and not just their own poems, how excellent would that be?”

Kind of like Fahrenheit 451, no? Nic is not doing a single book, though, but collecting her favorites in a sound anthology. She reads beautifully, and Whale Sound is a generous project, so please visit and applaud her.

In other poetry news, my Ghazal of the Sharp Knife, recently up at DMQ , is the Web feature this week at Verse Daily!

All this happened yesterday, when I stayed home from work with a sore throat. Maybe I should do that more often. Good jinxes to all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

back to school doom

I remember my first day of third grade. I was standing in line to enter to school and two third-grade wiseguys asked me, “Hey, did you ever fart?,” and while I was thinking it over I knew either way I was going to give the wrong answer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

some words which have long seemed poetically forbidding

You can find the tambourine on ebay and I avoid it because it’s noisy.

The word crochet reminds me of a decrepit and inexpert case of choking.

I hate projection like the plague and I’ve no explanation.

My high school sweetheart’s brother’s ex-girlfriend ran an all-things-brass shop in an upscale strip mall and we laughed a lot at her which is now painful to me so you won’t find cheap metals.

It’s good to get this all out there into the sunshine, which I shun because I never get the sky right.

The word absent should be kept in the classroom with its pretentious emptiness.

Frankly I’ve never known what ballywick means, and Peking went out with the old, however sadly.

Mortal and sublime and √úbermensch and fairy inferno pristine incredible limpid shithead snot-nosed patriot exact binocular frigid gelatinous hot tub and perhaps it’s time I spoke to my analyst about all this avoidance.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


My poem “Ghazal of the Sharp Knife” is up in the summer issue of DMQ Review.

As a draft, this ghazal was called "Ghazal of the Honed Knife," but that was unnecessary. And the end-phrase was originally “of her,” but with all that -oom going on, “of him” worked better. And in the end the knife as a man in the kitchen is an interesting man.

But does he resent it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

land raft

This raft is not a toy.
This raft is not a life-saving device.
Do not jump directly onto this raft.
If children jump directly onto this raft, they must be accompanied by an adult.
No one should be alone with this raft.
This raft should not be operated in the vicinity of teenagers.
This raft is not safe near pregnant women or people with heart conditions, known or unknown.
Do not use alcohol while operating this raft.
This raft is only operable when inflated fully.
Do not overinflate. (the raft)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

stray thoughts surrounding blue capellini

Everyone knows that in English we translate capellini as angelhair pasta but in Italian it simply means hair and doesn’t belong to anybody. Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day but on Thursday I am often alone, making it a good opportunity for a steaming bowl of Blue Capellini. The blue refers not to the pasta but the sauce which is a secret and marvelous with whole peppercorns. Italians tend to talk a lot as if they were allergic to quiet, no matter if their mouths are full of noodles. But I eat my capellini silently. I don’t suck that one strand into my mouth like a retractable vacuum cleaner cord. I chew very slowly with my mouth sealed as if it were a recording studio sound chamber. I’ve never had a need to do qualudes but when the Italians come to dinner I sometimes grate a couple into the parmesan and make the sauce an extra soothing blue for the sake of white blouses and international peace and quiet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some things I hate like the plague

Liza Minelli singing 'Cabaret.'
Anyone with a real or fake German accent singing 'Cabaret.'
Pretty much anyone singing 'Cabaret.'

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

fob & socket

An AP article this morning about the incoming class of college freshman says many of them have never worn a wristwatch. In fact it’s a pretty crappy article that never explains this. I don’t suppose they’re all pretentious pocket-watch types, but rather rely on the clock in their cell phones. Or is there some other new-fangled way to tell time that I’ve missed? Do they maybe wear those neato “ring watches?”

As for me, if there were an item of apparel I would choose to marry, it would be my watch. I’m never without it. It’s heartbreakingly handsome. I wear it to bed. It’s mechanical, and must be faithfully wound. I love that. I treated myself to it just before my son was born. If I lost it, or broke it (lord forbid), I would replace it with the very same model.

This is something I’ve never quite gotten about “the digital age.” Why would you choose to fumble around for your ugly cell phone to check the time rather than simply swivel your wrist facewards and find out instantly? Why do people keep their address books on their computers? My husband, who preceded the beloved wristwatch, has to turn on his laptop, locate the file and do a CTRL-F search to find a phone number. I have an address book in my purse, and a spinning rolodex next to the phone, which plugs into the wall. Where I can find it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

in which the soul selects

Lago di Garda is a beautiful lake, surprisingly beautiful. We stayed on the somewhat wilder west side – wilder because the hills and cliffs lay closer to the water, making the coast in general less habitable and necessitating dozens of tunnels, some brief, some drawn out and dark. Years of trickling rain and exhaust make the walls and roofs look like they've been stamped with Mark Rothko paintings, with their abstract, coffinesque, repetitive shapes.

It being August, I read a lot of Wallace Stevens. He fit in perfectly with the weather and the landscape. His Florida, my Italy. His palm and mine. I didn’t even get around to looking at the four other poetry books I’d brought with me. Why fool around?

My Italian did improve as the days went by. The truth is I was selective, as people often are when it comes to foreign languages, i.e. if I didn’t want to talk to someone, I played dumb. If I did want to, or I needed something, those great clumps of earth under which my Italian was buried sloughed over, and I became resourceful and inventive.

I didn’t miss the oil spill, nor the celebrity news. I didn’t miss work or Starbucks or my brand of chewing gum or my iPod or public transportation or Facebook. I didn’t even miss the neighborhood church bells or well-stocked supermarket. I did miss my room a little, with the wisteria growing into the window.

Monday, August 09, 2010

and welcome to it

The most prevalent supermarket in this part of Italy is called Despar.
It's everywhere, sometimes twice to a town.
Of course as an English speaker I can't help reading it as Despair.
Ubiquitous! Bring the family, and roll that cart on in.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


It pains me to confront how much my Italian has faded. While I was busy sharpening my German, or reading poetry in French, this vowely language that I once had a good grasp of began ebbing away. I went to the post office today and drew a blank at the word for stamp! I made my way around it. But later I was buying cheese and couldn't remember the word for goat. That was nearly too much for me.

I'm putting this little chapter down in my big book of defeat.

There is a word that is hard to forget, however: zanzara.
It has sting and speed. It has zing. It has zap and alacrity.
The mosquito is pendulous and slow, a smoky hovering presence you only know when it's gone.
But the zanzara puts itself plainly in sight as an adversary.
Like a good student of geometry, it knows the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
And it knows that evading the slap requires zig and zag.
Zanzara is a perfect Italian word, exact and very accurate.
It rides the air like the intonation of your best Italian sentence.
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