Friday, December 26, 2008

Yesterday and Today

This post needs pictures, but I am not going to upload them now. It is a miracle that I have even written this post.


I ate the last of the eggs in the fridge before heading to meet Tom in the Mission and go to Tartine, where I ate bread pudding and he had a croque monsieur. Someone offered us drugs almost immediately after we got out of the BART, which made me happy--no one has tried to sell me drugs in years! Then we walked around and went in many used clothing and consignment stores and bookshops. We bought some dust masks to wear to the SPT Poetry Spectacular event. I saw the SF branch of Yoga Kula, the Anusara yoga studio that I'd love to be taking classes at--but I can't do everything in one trip. Then we walked up Mission for a while and parted ways near where all the streets bend and run northeast-southeast instead of north-south. Tom went to Haight street and I kept walking up Market street all the way to the Embarcadero, which took a long time. I bought an actual mask for the reading. I bargained it from 26 to 5. It is an ok mask--but no one seems to be able to explain this supposed "San Francisco tradition." My plan is now to wear two masks and excessive eye make up.

At the embaracdero, I bought several olives stuffed with various cheeses and nuts and a roll, then I made a sort of sandwich out of all that and ate it for lunch while staring at Treasure Island and the bay. After some writing and some down time, I met Dodie at the Samovar Tea Lounge where she treated me to some chai and some soup and some excellent conversation. I felt relaxed, nourished, and warm. There's more to be said about our conversation but it will have to be said later, since I really just writing notes now of the days, not detailed reflections.

After dinner, we went to Dodie and Kevin's apartment and hung out a bit. I petted Sylvia, who was very friendly and out and about. Quincy was hiding, but I did say hello and she seemed pretty content. As most of you know, I live with a parrot, but I grew up with cats, so I always enjoy the chance to be around them.

Kevin and Dodie kindly drove me to Sara's apartment. Tom had been to Amoeba Records and had had a beer somewhere (maybe Pop's?). Anyway, we met in front of Sara's apartment building and went in together. I always feel like readings in SF are so...private...probably because many of them are in people's private homes. But Sara's apartment is nice. It is circular, so the socializing doesn't stagnate, and people, well, circulate around quite well. I was glad to see Tyrone Williams again and hear him read, and I was glad to meet Julian T. Brolaski, whose work I find I like quite a bit--it was very aural and watery, with plenty of energetic torque. It wasn't floating off the page.

Sara was there, of course, since she was host, and so was David Brazil. I met them very briefly in LA, but it was good to talk to them when I was a bit more sober and not competing with the intense coolness of the Mandrake in Culver City and an overly briny dirty martini. Erika Statie was there, and I was very glad to see her again, and I also met Cynthia Sailers, though I'm afraid I must have been a bit of a dork when she told me that she is a therapist. I said, "Oh. Um. Now I am going to be careful about my metaphors and word choice. What do people usually say to you when you tell them that you are a therapist?" She said that they usually either want to tell her about their problems or tell her about their therapists. A bit like how people behave if you tell them you're an editor. They want to show you their work or they want to complain about their editors and publishers.

I also met several people in person that I'd only known virtually-- François Luong and Johannes Göransson. Joyelle McSweeny was there, too. I've meet her in person before, and it was good to meet her in person again. I also met Anne Lesley Selcer. Anne and François were kind enough to show me how to get back across the bay from Haight street, so we chatted the whole time. More about that conversation later, too, which was fascinating, mostly because we all share similar interests in procedural and conceptual art. Etc.

Ashby is vaguely sketchy, but not nearly as sketchy as some places I've lived. I felt comfortable walking home. The racoon made another apperance, as it probably will tonight. I was so happy an hyper last night that I stayed up late and had to write and drink mint tea to calm down.


Today began more calmly with coffee and morning buns from the Berkeley Bowl. I also bought a role which I brought home and made into a sandwhich with some cheese and leftover grilled vegetable tapenade to pack for lunch. Eventually, I wandered over to Juliana's place to visit with her, Bill, Charles, and Sasha. Sasha was in good spirits, running around and playing--he seems like a happy little boy. Patrick Durgin was there, too, looking very hip and wearing and especially cool tie. I don't think I'd seen Patrick since MLA was in DC. A long time ago.

I had to run back to the house to get something, but we all ended up on the same train across the bay. The Hilton was full of MLAers looking professional, frantic, and desperate. I called Lisa and Bill Howe's room and hung out with them for a while in the hotel. We ranted, we raved and we did yoga. I ate my sandwich for lunch. We weren't exactly relaxed, but it was great to see them. Tom came back from some museum excursions. We continued to rant and rave, but we also called everyone else we could think of.

Finally we left to get some dinner in the Tenderloin--Vietnamese. Yum! Then a brief stop at the Goodwill next door where I almost bought a Russian children's book with creepy illustrations but did not. Lisa got a very cool jacket, so the whole thing wasn't a waste of time. Tom had to head back home, but Lisa, Bill and I went in search of a bar. I vetoed the first one, which was too small and had no name. I liked it better than our second option, a Korean sports bar. If I were big or a man, I would have been all over it. But since I am neither, I was not. However, we did find a good medium. A very small Korean bar called "441 Cocktail Lounge." It was quiet and they had a pool table. Lisa ran back to the hotel and ended up meeting several people in the looby. Meanwhile, Bill and I played pool. Drinks were reasonable enough given that, well, even if it's the Tenderloin, it's still near MLA, and nothing is ever cheap near MLA.

After Bill and I played pool, then Lisa and I and Bill played pool, Bill played with some of the Spanish speaking guys at the bar. After two drinks, and with interviews tomorrow for some of us, we went home. We did not manage to meet Mr. Daniel Gutstein, but no doubt we will tomorrow.

There was a football game, so BART was full of drunk California Bears fans. We all survived, though.

Tomorrow is the big reading for out of town folks. We are also going out for Dim Sum.

I think someone should throw a party on Sunday or Monday night.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

If I can't find a mask, maybe I can, I don't know, paint my face or just wear excessive eye make up.

I slept until 9:30. It was amazing. Once I settled down and checked the locks on all the doors, well, I won't say exactly how many times, but it was more than twice, I fell deeply asleep. Before I fell asleep I worked on my writing project that is loosely connected to this trip. Today I had some of the Christmas bread (like fruit cake, but nicer and less sweet) I brought with me for breakfast, spoke with people on the phone. The sun came out so I went for a walk up college and to the university and all around and around. I found a coffee shop and sat and wrote for nearly two hours. What resulted is the first draft of a story thing that is kind of ridiculous, but I think I like it. And anyway it doesn't matter if I like it or not. I just have to finish it.

Today certainly has been a strange day--first sleeping until I don't feel like sleeping anymore, then walking, lazing in a coffee shop, and writing energetically.

My original food plan for today was to find some ramen around the campus, but I ended up eating some really excellent shwarma with rice, salad and lentils at an Israeli restaurant before heading home. I just finished doing some yoga and I'm feeling mellow, rested, and excited.

Tomorrow, I'm going to head into Chinatown to try and find a (very inexpensive) mask for the SPD reading, and to look around the Embarcadero like I always do. At some point, I'll meet up with Tom and head down to the mission to see Julian T. Brolaski and Tyrone Williams read in the Earthworm Reading Series.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm watching the nutcracker on PBS

I arrived in Berkeley easily. I tried to go to the Berkeley Bowl to stock up on some food for this evening and tomorrow, but it had already closed by the time I got there. But there's a little Cameroonian restaurant around the corner, so I stopped in and got their vegetarian combo to go--rice, beans, okra, sweet potato, plantains, some kind of spinach dish, and then various sauces, including some very very spicy hot sauce. It was excellent, but they gave me so much I could barely eat a third of it, so I suspect I'll have the rest of it tomorrow.

Tomorrow I'm going to...I don't know. Probably do some yoga and read. Maybe go for a walk. Prepare to be social. Make a mask for the SPD/MLA reading.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm off to SF tomorrow.

In between seeing friends and having various tasty things to eat, I'll be at these two events. I'm reading in the first event--and I'll keep to my two minute limit, I promise. In the meantime, I need to find a mask to wear. Something either very ornate and corny or very gruesome and corny.

SPD SF Poetry Spectacular

Sunday, Dec 28th at the Forum at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on 701 Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Streets in the San Francisco Poetry Spectacular, otherwise known as the MLA off-site reading. The event starts at 7:00 and will go until 10:00. The location is walking distance from the hotels. Attached are a map and poster for the event. Postcards with the map will be available at SPD booth #517. The list of readers is on our site

In the spirit of San Francisco and for extra thrills, we ask that you wear a mask to the event. Of course, your own reading will be mask-optional.

We look forward to seeing & hearing you at the San Francisco Poetry Spectacular, sponsored by Small Press Distribution and the Poetry Foundation.

The Spectacular is free, ADA accessible, and open to the public. Please invite everyone!


Locals MLA Group Reading

For those of you San Francisco for the MLA, please come join us for this companion reading to the big MLA reading on the 28th, this one featuring over 30 Bay Area poets. The reading will start promptly at 7pm, at the nearby club Hotel Utah. Featuring: Melissa Benham, Alan Bernheimer, Brandon Brown, Xochi Candelaria, Norma Cole, Sarah Anne Cox, Del Ray Cross, Brent Cunningham, Donna de la Perrier, Steve Dickison, Stacy Doris, Steve Farmer, Gloria Frym, Susan Gevirtz, Javier Huerta, Scott Ignuito, Elizabeth Treadwell Jackson, Andrew Joron, David Lau, Joseph Lease, Dana Teen Lomax, Bill Luoma, Laura Moriarty, Stephen Ratcliffe, Barbara Jane Reyes, Cynthia Sailers, Leslie Scalapino, Lauren Shufran, giovanni singleton, Suzanne Stein, Chris Stroffolino, Stephen Vincent, Alli Warren, Chet Weiner, & more! hosted by David Buuck & Small Press Traffic.

Tues Dec 30, 7pm, $2
Hotel Utah
500 4th St. @ Bryant, SF

But What Book Should I Take With Me?

I took Lester to the vet to be boarded this morning. He's boarded there plenty of times, but this was only the second time we'd made the trip via train and bicycle. He loves the train, and after about a minute of settling in on the bicycle, he seems to enjoy it--he sang most of the ride. There were two iguanas, two bunnies, one hamster, and five parrots (plus a lot of people) in the vet reception area, and Lester seemed to enjoy that, too. Everyone seemed nervous, and at one point there were two parrots flying around the room because they didn't want to step up onto the scale to be weighed. Lester, however, preened, ate some millet, and sang "Lester's a pretty bird" and "salt peanuts" over and over again, which got him a lot of attention. And, of course, he loves attention. When I'd finished putting all his favorite toys into his boarding cage, he willingly climbed off of my shoulder and got in. I'm glad that he's so well-adjusted and confident.

Today I need to:

1. Exercise
2. Clean
3. Pack
4. Print any remaining things for the trip
5. Go to Trader Joes to get something to eat tomorrow when I'm traveling

Saturday, December 20, 2008

SF countdown

I'm madly trying to finish all my work before I head off to the Bay Area for some quality time with friends, poetry, food, and plenty of MLA conference sadomasochism. I'm going to try and stay away from the actual conference and instead just go to the readings and other events in and around the conference. It's possible that one day I will have to attend and interview for a job at MLA, one day, but I'm in no rush. My work life is sustainable and tolerable, even in this economy.

But in between work this weekend, I've been doing plenty of yoga, dancing, and hooping. Tomorrow is the winter solstice here, but I've been thinking about my sisters in Adelaide, and how they're in the middle of the lightest time of year, not the darkest. Not that it's especially dark here in San Diego. Winter is my favorite time of year here. There's fewer tourists, and the weather is like the best kind of autumn day back east. This afternoon I saw migrating whales off shore at Swami's in Encinitas. I'd still trade all this beauty for a viable life in a city with a vibrant international art community, but I don't dislike my life here.

I arrived at Swami's late, so the class was more or less over, but Michelle and I played around for almost three hours. After the hoop jam, I watched the sunset (and the whales, dolphins, cormorants, and pelicans). There was an elderly couple hanging out with a very elderly woman in a wheelchair--either the woman or the man's mother. They kept joking with the woman in the wheelchair, asking her if she was warm enough, and telling her that eventually they would throw her into the water where she would be "nice and cool." This all seemed rather horrific and cruel, except that the very elderly woman/mother thought it was hilarious.

Tomorrow, more grading, web stuff, cleaning, yoga, and hooping.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rain is good for San Diego

But not so good for hooping. The last time I tried to hoop inside, I nearly broke the lamp.

Friday, December 12, 2008

This week has been horrible

I love roasted cauliflower. It began with a cauliflower gratin several months ago. Then the roasted cauliflower soup on Thanksgiving. Now I want to make cauliflower everything--it's a winter vegetable, after all. I'm remembering, too, how much Indian food uses cauliflower, so tonight I'm making something vaguely Indian. It's a good excuse to use some of the mustard seeds I've been hoarding.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Reject me! Fund me! Accept me!

This is my statement of interest for UCSD. It's not the best thing that I've ever written, but it does a pretty good job of describing my current creative interests.

Over the past two years, my writing has become increasingly interdisciplinary, borrowing from and integrating a variety of different genres and forms. With my first book coming out in March and several completed poetry manuscripts cluttering my desk, I am in a transitional moment. I am applying to the MFA program at UCSD to develop my creative work in a stimulating, interdisciplinary environment, participate in an expanded community of peers, and work closely with writers and scholars I respect. The MFA program at UCSD is of particular interest to me because it is one of the few programs in the country supportive of innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to literary art. I am also excited by the trans-cultural nature of the program.

I grew up mostly overseas in China, Papua New Guinea, Chile, and Mexico, and when I wasn’t overseas I lived in rural Maine, where many of my friends lived on communal farms. As an undergraduate, I studied Chinese and East Asian history and politics at George Washington University because I wanted to continue to travel in Asia, and I thought I wanted to be a journalist. Really, it was a way of concealing my interest in writing and making it seem professional and practical. During college, I spent between six and ten hours each week in various Chinese classes, and the rest of my courses were devoted to history, politics, and economics. I worked for various non-profit organizations during the school year, and spent most of my summers either Beijing or Singapore working, variously, as an English teacher, translator for a petrochemical company, and web designer.
After I graduated, I got a job working in the East Asian department of a non-partisan but mostly democratic public policy organization focused on international security. I spent a lot of time researching and explaining various plans for missile defense systems and going to meetings at the Pentagon where I would talk to Department of Defense bureaucrats about why the People’s Republic of China felt insulted and threatened by US plans for missile defense systems. These meetings typically took place in windowless internal offices decorated with artsy pictures of mushroom clouds, and I was usually the only woman in the room.

When I finally did start going to poetry readings and learning about contemporary poetry in English, I was drawn to the politically and socially engaged poetics of Language poets as well as writers affiliated with the Kootenay School of Writing. However, I was especially drawn to writers engaging issues of translation and gender.

Yunte Huang’s first book, Shi: A Radical Reading of Chinese Poetry, as well as his critical work on the “transpacific displacement” of cultural meanings through twentieth-century America's imaging of Asia, was pivotal to me. In particular, it helped me rethink the problems and pleasures of translation from Chinese to English. A Xu Bing exhibition at the Sackler Gallery in 2001 was also important to my critical thinking about translation—I love his scrolls printed with thousands of imitation Chinese characters.

One of the first larger projects I worked on after college was a procedural translation of several classical Chinese poems, which attempts to highlight—through form and process—my anxious relationship to the creation of a poetic text that can be read as a kind of ethnography that maintains linguistic and cultural boundaries, even as it tries to subvert them. The translations were procedural because, in addition to Yunte Huang and Xu Bing, I’d also been studying Jackson MacLow and John Cage. The final manuscript, Large Waves to Large Obstacles, is coming out as a chapbook from Take Home Project in 2009, with the original Chinese on one side and my procedural translation on the other.

While I was busy investigating translation and conceptual art, I was simultaneously reading a lot of Lyn Hejinian, Bernadette Mayer, and Kathy Acker. All of these writers challenged me to rethink the relationships between form, subjectivity, and materiality. These are the main concerns in my book, Terminal Humming, forthcoming from Edge Books in 2009.

While working on my MA in literature at Georgetown University, I continued to think about these concerns, but became particularly obsessed with the role of pain in the construction of subjectivity, and how the experience/articulation of suffering through sexual and romantic relationships comes to bear on representation and identification. I read Mayer and Acker within a continuum of writers who examine sexual relationships through experimental lyric and narrative forms as a way of highlighting material concerns, critiquing cultural representation, and renegotiating subjectivity. Working through the subject-subject oriented psychoanalytic theories of Jessica Benjamin and Elaine Scarry’s investigations into the experience of pain, My MA thesis brought these critical concerns to bear on Mina "Loy’s Songs to Joannes" and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood.

In retrospect, I see how my theoretical interests at Georgetown were an extension of the concerns in Terminal Humming. The poems in Terminal Humming oscillate between an insular rhetoric of lyric desire in stanzas and social rhetorics of love and sex, always in some combination of prose, stanzas, procedural pieces, and breath-based space on the page, with bits of narrative only occasionally appearing. My work has always been interdisciplinary, but recently I’ve been exploring and integrating new forms into my work. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the use of visual non-linguistic materials, narrative, and movement/gesture.

My first teaching job was at the Corcoran College of Art + Design, where many of my students were already accomplished visual artists. Teaching at an art school helped me see poetry as part of larger, more complicated, cultural, historical and multi-disciplinary frameworks. One of my students described drawing as “just making shapes that resemble real shapes.” I started drawing and making visual poems because I thought it would be interesting to attempt something I have no talent for and because I was looking for a way to critically and creatively respond to all the poetry readings I was attending. So, I started doodling during readings, and those were my first visual poems. At this point I have more than a hundred reading responses; if I could get away with it I’d publish them as a book of essays. A complete list of influences for my doodles would very long, but it includes Övind Fahlström, Louise Bourgeois, and bpNichol.

Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys, Jane Bowles and Paul Bowles are central to my understanding of narrative, but my more recent interest was prompted through exposure to various contemporary experimental fiction writers and through an ongoing exploration of New Narrative, which has only increased since I moved to California. In particular, I’ve been considering how New Narrative and Language poetry mutually inform each other’s concerns with narrative, gender, and identity. Several conversations with Kaplan Harris, as well as his recent scholarship on this subject, have deeply informed my thinking. Narrative strikes me not as incapable of mounting a materialist critique of language, but rather capable in a way different than poetry. In addition to New Narrative writers such as Robert Glück, Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, and Camille Roy, I’m interested in works like Lyn Hejinian and Carla Harryman’s “The Wide Road,” The Transformation, by Juliana Spahr, Selah Saterstrom’s The Pink Institution, Stephanie Young’s most recent book, Picture Palace, and almost everything recently published by Les Figues Press.

All of my work plays with an intense and even exaggerated exploration of life as a female body but also a rejection of that materiality (if that’s even possible). Before I became interested in incorporating gestural elements and movement into my work, I was drawn to writing grounded in voice—an actual, physical voice that forms the base of a line. So, that means I was reading a lot of Bernadette Mayer, whom I’ve already mentioned, and also Joanne Kyger and Eileen Myles. It wasn’t much of an intuitive leap for me to move from voice to movement. Speaking is physical.

With physical movement in mind, I’ve been studying the work of choreographers like Pina Bauch and Martha Graham, whose work emphasized emotion, spontaneity, the erotic, and an exploration of Jungian psychology. Modern dance is dominated by women and often grew out of a desire to thwart cultural control over female bodies—think of Isadora Duncan dancing uncorseted in a white tunic, for example, or Graham’s Greek mythological heroines. Theoretically, I’m opposed to Jungian psychology, and I remain postmodernly obsessed with the fact that our emotions and behavior are socially conditioned. There’s never a moment when we’re free from social constructions. Instead, we participate in and are constrained by an endless dialogue with them. However, I am interested in how stereotypes and mythologies about femininity and female bodies have been used by Feminist artists, and modern dance is a good place to explore that.

Tina Darragh’s work has become increasingly important to me as I consider these feminine stereotypes. Darragh’s work investigates such stereotypes in a hybrid, interdisciplinary way and demonstrates how materialist critique, Feminism, non-linguistic elements, and performance can successfully exist together—albeit with plenty of tension—in a text. Darragh is a poet I know from Washington, DC often associated with Language poetry. In 1999 she started working on a project that eventually became opposable dumbs, a multigenre piece that combines reportage, theater, letters of protest, visual pieces, and notes that examine and think about pain, hysteria, animal subjectivity, economics, labor unions, and Feminism. Even after years of hearing her perform different parts of this piece and now reading the 2007 “project report” I have trouble summarizing it. Her work has many possible sources that connect and expand into other possible sources. It’s investigative and process-oriented, but the process and investigation are always shifting.

In addition to modern dance choreographers and Tina Darragh, I am inspired by my peers and slightly older contemporaries, many of whom have been incorporating gestural elements and movement into their work—and here I am thinking especially of Laura Elrick and Rodrigo Toscano. Elrick’s recent performance pieces stem from, as she noted in her statement for the Positions Conference in Vancouver, August 2008, “a desire to elaborate a social poetics that does not rely exclusively on language operations to enact and continually ‘post’ its resistance to the hegemony.” I’m equally intrigued by Toscano’s idea of a performance text being, as he noted in his statement for the Positions Conference, “a semi-contained social-psychological crisis, a formalization of an incipient collective consciousness from the vantage point of the collapse of a previous collective consciousness.” At recent readings, I’ve been looking to their work as well as drawing on my own background in modern dance to incorporate movement and polyvocality into my performances. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how it’s working. Thus far, I’ve created musical and sound texts to accompany myself while reading, and I’ve performed both choreographed and improvised movement. Performing my poems while upside down in a handstand gives the performance a strange combination of camp and discomfort.

I want my poems and performances to highlight risk and vulnerability—aesthetically, politically, psychologically—and I want them to be a bit out of control. Extending poetic praxis into multigenre and non-linguistic forms feels risky and necessary. It’s also fun. As with any innovative art, there is always a danger that the reader/viewer will not be able to or not want to make the intuitive leaps offered, but playing with that danger is, to me, the point.

My creative interests are interdisciplinary and well suited to the resources of the MFA program at UCSD. The creative and critical work of Rae Armantrout, Eileen Myles and Michael Davidson is of immense interest to me given my work in avant-garde poetry and gender, and I am certain I would like to work with them. Anna Joy Springer’s own innovative fiction and interest in Kathy Acker and intermedia is also relevant to my own concerns, as is Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s work in innovative and speculative fiction. Moreover, Wai-lim Yip’s work in comparative poetics, modernism, and translation theory is also very relevant to my interests, and I would hope to study with him. Finally, the Archive for New Poetry is a major resource that I would be very glad to have regular have access to.

As I mentioned above, I can think of few MFA programs that could support the cultural, linguistic, aesthetic and theoretical concerns of my various creative projects. The interdisciplinary MFA program at UCSD has expertise in contemporary experimental poetry and fiction, feminism, and comparative modernism, and I would be excited to pursue my studies there.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cool White Girls

I'm taking a very brief break from alienation to write about cool white girls, er, I mean, women. I used to wonder if such a thing were possible.

Ever since Mark and I bought the Anita O'Day Mosaic box set, however, I've been hopeful about the possibility of cool white girls in the world. Anita O'Day is cool, especially when she sings "Let's Begin" but even when she's singing a song as ridiculous as "Harriet":

"all the cow hands wanna marry Harriet / Harriet's handy with a lariat / but she don't wanna marry it / she's having too much fun..." etc

When I talk about "cool," I don't mean interesting, Feminist, laudable, amazing, talented, original or inspiring--a lot of white girls are all those things and more, and sometimes cool white girls are also all those things. If you're cool, you're not easily upset, and problems slide off you--you're controlled, stable, and composed. Like Anita O'Day, you can live well into your 80s even though you did heroin for years while still recording and touring. I certainly am not a cool white girl, although I am fabulous--I am hyper, easily baited, and have terrible hangovers.

Anita O'Day is at the top of my cool white girl list. However, she shares the top with Mae West and Jean Rhys. After that though, the list becomes more difficult. Mina Loy, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Jane Bowles, you'll notice, are not on it--and they are some of my favorite white girls in the entire word. But they're not cool. Jane Bowles drank herself to death.

Here's my list--feel free to add to it and debate it:

Anita O'Day
Mae West
Jean Rhys
Wanda Jackson
Dusty Springfield
Mata Hari
Chrissie Hynde
Debbie Harry
Kim Novak
Simone de Beauvoir
Marlene Dietrich
Barbara Stanwyck
June Christy
Chris Connor
Emmylou Harris
Melba Montgomery
PJ Harvey
Bernadette Mayer
Lee Ann Brown
Eileen Myles
Kate Chopin
Ida Lupino
Bonnie Parker


Djuna Barnes
Marie Curie
Jane Goodall
Lucile Ball
Carol Burnett
Eleanor Roosevelt
Mimi Eisenhower
Patsy Cline

Sorry, still alienated

And, like most of the people I've communicated with recently, overburdened with work. In my case though, the work isn't so bad, but there's a lot of it: 5 hours a day of teaching + several design contracts + MFA statement of interest. The design projects are fun, and I'll actually been playing with creating some nifty typeface effects, which means that the end result of both projects will, I hope, be some of the best work I've done yet.

I'll post my statement of interest after I send it off tomorrow. Only a deadline will prevent me from noodling with it further.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Since I haven't been able to do as much travel, recently, I prefer to experience my alienation in malls, box stores, and domestic airports.

I started to respond to one of Ryan's comments on my recent brief comment on alienation, but it got too long and too rambling, so I'm making it a separate post.

I think confusion is often a kind of lazy alienation. What Ryan describes reminds me of a kind of sadness I've often felt, and sometimes see in my friends and students--a dissatisfaction without really knowing the source. Or maybe not even dissatisfaction, since that's rather precise. General malaise. Vague sadness.

Vague sadness is irritating. It's irritating to experience and it's a drag to hang out with someone who is vaguely sad. If you're sad or confused, then why not try to figure out why you are sad or confused. And if you're not trying to figure it out, then that sadness or confusion must be serving you in some psychological way. I'm not against perverse neurotic insistence on one's own sadness. Oh, maybe I am.

I'm a jerk. On the train back from LA yesterday, Mark and I sat behind two women. One was perhaps in her late 30s and the other maybe in her 60s. They spoke very energetically and happily with each other about everything from the Iraq war to gay marriage to Christianity to their favorite craft stores to how wonderful children are. Their conversation was amazing for several reasons, but mostly it was amazing because each topic eventually turned in to a joyous affirmation of Jesus, children, and family values. They were at times completing, in that yoga class way I've talked about, with each other to be happy. They did not seem estranged from the traditional communities of which they are a part. They were high-spirited.

Doesn't Buck Downs have a line that goes something like "alienated but not insulated" ? I'm often attracted to alienated people who understand and accept the sources of their alienation. Such people are often confident and fun at parties. I'm attracted to the people, not their alienation. I suppose you could identify alienation as a lifestyle choice, but then you would be, well, confused. You can't choose to have feelings of estrangement. If you have them, you have them; but you can decide how you're going to respond to them.

One reason why I used to move around a lot and spend as much time in foreign countries as possible was because the way that being a foreigner or being distinctly different creates a very specific source of alienation is a relief. When you literally are a stranger, then being estranged is not so mysterious. That's not to say that it feels better, but I'd rather feel alienated in a foreign country than alienated in my own country. My love of Jane and Paul Bowles cannot be underestimated.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I think my peers should write about their alienation in more interesting ways.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I have a cold and Lester bit me

Half of my class was absent today for legitimate reasons. One was taking a driver's test and the other two have the same cold that I am now developing. Lester did bite me, very hard. But, to be fair, he was sitting on my arm, and startled by my sneeze. Series of sneezes. When I blew my nose, it was too much for him. Hence, the bite.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Today is one of those days when I feel dramatic and unsatisfied. On days like today, I want to recite John Donne. I'd like like to do something absurd around my peers and competitors that would later be described as both admirable and disgusting.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lester enjoys the sound of belt sanders

But not the sound of:

crinkling plastic bags
tin foil
boxes and packages being opened
the electronic toothbrush (unless he is in the same room as it, and then he likes it)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My neighbors, who live in the apartment (or possibly condo) complex just behind ours and closer to the train tracks, are blasting cumbia music, which makes me very happy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sucking it up

I have planned my blue outfit for tomorrow. I've already voted. I don't feel calm about anything, but for now there is nothing to do but wait for results and hope that there are results by tomorrow evening. Please vote for Obama if you haven't already. A Democratic presidency might help decrease the number of wars our country wages and restore some small ounce of fiscal responsibility. I'm not holding my breath for universal heath care though, or actual money spent on education. I wish, though.

I am trying to finish my statement of interest for the MFA program.

It's getting dark, and Lester has fallen asleep on my knee.

I've been thinking about my least favorite asanas. I have two: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog) and Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)--both are upward facing backbends instead. I'm not a big fan of sticking my chest out. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana in particular makes me feel like I'm a bust carved into the prow of a ship. Or a hood ornament. I never feel like it's actually opening my chest or shoulders. Instead, I feel like my shoulders are up around my ears and my wrists are going to pop off. Dhanurasana makes me feel heavy. Instead of opening up the front of my body, I feel like my knees are going to pop off.

I find it interesting (to use the blandest, least specific word possible), that my two least favorite asanas are poses that are meant to open the heart chakra, build courage and stamina, and create energy that encourages us to reach out toward others.


I am back from yoga. We practiced my third least favorite asana: Virasana (Hero Pose)--yet another asana that opens the front of the body. I have eaten a nice pear. I have made a list of all the good things about being in an MFA program and having an MFA. I have congratulated myself on...I forgot was I was going to write, so that means I have forgotten about what I congratulated myself on.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mat and Stan read well.

Maybe I will go to San Francisco in between xmas and new years, and enjoy the wondrous pain and socializing that is MLA.

I advised someone to not transfer to CalArts for his last year of school because he would go into debt.

Lester enjoyed hanging out late and talking, and even stood on Mat's finger.

I wrote my statement of purpose for the UCSD MFA writing program.

I'm feeling overwrought about the election like everyone, but revived after two weekends of poetry and socializing.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Stan Apps et Mathew Timmons at Agitprop in Northpartk, November 1

We hope you can join us this Saturday, November 1 at 7 pm for the next reading in the Agitprop reading series at Agitprop Gallery (2837 University Ave in North Park, entrance on Utah, a few blocks west of 30th Street), featuring STAN APPS and MATHEW TIMMONS. Wine and snacks will be served. Donations to the gallery are always appreciated.

Stan Apps is a poet and essayist living in Los Angeles. His books of poems include soft hands (Ugly Duckling Presse), Princess of the World in Love (Cy Press), Info Ration (Make Now Press) and God's Livestock Policy (Les Figues Press). A collection of essays is underway from Combo Books. Recent work has appeared in Joyland: a hub for short fiction (, Try Magazine, Abraham Lincoln, Ecopoetics, and the Icelandic webzine Tregawott. Stan ekes out a living as an adjunct college instructor, teaching the poor to write short persuasive essays.

Mathew Timmons co-edits/curates Insert Press (w/ Stan Apps), LA-Lit (w/ Stephanie Rioux) and Late Night Snack (w/ Harold Abramowitz). His collaboration with visual artist Marcus Civin, a particular vocabulary (P S Books), is forthcoming, and his work may be found in various journals, including: Sleepingfish, P-Queue, Holy Beep!, Flim Forum, The Physical Poets, NōD, PRECIPICe, Or, Moonlit, aslongasittakes, eohippus labs and The Encyclopedia Project. He teaches interdisciplinary arts and writing workshops for CalArts School of Critical Studies.

We hope to see you there and for all festivities afterwards!

Saturday, November 1
2837 University Ave in North Park. Entrance on Utah.

Happy Halloween

I enjoyed explaining to my students what a "bar wench" was. Mark and I will watch as many horror movies tonight as we can stand (which is a lot), and hope for trick or treaters.

Monday, October 27, 2008

99 Percent of Everything I Write Has a Typo

And usually an embarrassing one.

Where should I go for the winter holidays?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

I subscribe to Yoga Journal, Self, Lucky, Cooking Light, Food & Wine, and Cooks Illustrated.

I also subscribe to a bunch of poetry and literary magazines, but those are too many to list.

I recently an article in Self called "Keeping Up with the Yogis." Yes, I read and subscribe to Self. Anyway, the article was about snarkiness and snobbery in yoga communities. The article made me think about the anger or sadness many of us feel when we have an especially aggravating experience with other poets an artists. The world of art is supposed to, somehow, be better than the rest of the world. It isn't of course. I mean it is, but not because the people are nicer or more reasonable or funnier or even more intelligent.

It's the same with yoga communities. Yogis can be competitive and unkind, even though they're not supposed to be. I remember when I worked at the desk of the yoga studio, there was a man who would always tell me what time he'd gotten up to meditate. I didn't care, wasn't impressed (was he flirting with me? I don't know). I found it annoying when he said things like, "You know, it takes a lot of spiritual discipline to get up at 3:00." No doubt, but shut up about it, please.

There's also a kind of competition to see who can be the most calm and happy. My external hard drive crashed right after mercury went into retrograde (in the studio where I practice, we do talk about things like mercury in retrograde). A few days after my hard drive crashed, I went to my usual Wednesday night class. The teacher was talking about how to remain calm when everything around is not. I was able to proudly announce that my hard drive had crashed! Yes, my hard drive had crashed, but how calm I appeared while saying it! I could have said it while doing an open-floor handstand! How wonderful that the Universe was testing me in this way and giving me the chance to grow! Even if I believe that--and I'm not saying I don't or do--I despise the snarky language of yoga pop religion. You know, this kind of stuff:

I've been really fortunate, I think, with my teachers and studios. My first yoga teacher was Jeanne Gaudette, a neuro-muscular therapist and yoga teacher who had a small studio in Blue Hill, Maine (I think she now is a teacher at the Downeast School of Massage). I have no idea what kind of yoga Jeanne taught but I remember basic standing sequences that are still familiar to me, and a lot of restorative poses. I also remember that she did bodywork for both me and my mother at a very discounted rate. She was kind, funny, and unpretentious.

After college, I started practicing with Margaret Townsend. Again, I think I was amazingly lucky. Margaret is a dancer who teaches Ashtanga yoga, but her background is in Integral, Iyengar, Anusara, and Ashtanga--so I got the benefit of learning about how to connect breath and movement, learned the logic behind sequencing, and also learned a lot about alignment and anatomy. She's a kind but demanding teacher with a sense of humor. And unpretentious. I would never have started practicing yoga seriously if I hadn't been lucky enough to randomly go to one of her classes.

I did go to one studio in Washington, DC that was really weird. The owner of the studio wouldn't tell me the names of the teachers, and had no information about their certifications. He also grabbed my butt during an adjustment--the first and only time that anything like that has ever happened to me in a yoga class. I never went back. Good lord, what a creep!

The studio here in Carlsbad where I practice is, frankly, pretty great. Like all communities, it has it's moments (see above). People are, in general, friendly and unpretentious. They admit when they feel tired. The teachers are all diverse and well-qualified. Their bios are posted on the website. They answer questions, they don't make adjustments unless you want them, they're attentive and responsive. I hate having a hamstring injury (it's better, but still not completely), but I've really been grateful towards my studio these past few months. I'm benefiting from my teachers' knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, and yoga. My hamstring is getting better, and I'm learning how to make sure that doesn't happen again. A doctor would have just told me to stop practicing.

And now I'm all energetic and optimistic. Sorry...

Friday, October 17, 2008

So much of my life is taken up with boring, tedious details. Explaining to the State of California why I don't owe them 2005 taxes. Noting student attendance and giving them daily grades for participation, attendance, and fluency; paying bills; making sure that I hang my keys up on the hook so that I can find them again; laundry and folding clothes and putting them away (I hate putting them away); filling out my time sheet, and other stuff that is so much more boring than what I remember now. I think about this often, how I really don't remember half of the things I do, probably more than half.

I know I could write poems about these things, perhaps, if I could remember them. When I worked at the Henry L. Stimson Center, I wrote poems with language from staff meetings and panel discussions, and started a rather long poem based on acronyms officially in use by the Department of Defense. Now, I don't feel like I have the strength or interest to poetically engage my everyday details. Instead, I want to get away from them.

Maybe it's time to start working on another one of my big long procedural Chinese translations. Or to make more doodles. There was a book at the Dupont Circle location of Secondstory Books in Washington, DC that I regret buying. It was a Chinese language reader based on the speeches of Mao. That would have been fun to work with. I'm a sucker for old language text books.


I made my first risotto of the fall yesterday. Strangely, I made it with spring vegetables. Asparagus, for example, which is still really good at the farmer's market. No fava or lima beans, alas.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ha ha, I laugh at you, O State of California Filing Enforcement Section MS F180 of the Franchise Tax Board!

I have located and printed a copy of my 2005 DC taxes, which I will send to the State of California Filing Enforcement Section MS F180 of the Franchise Tax Board. I payed DC $2025 in 2005. I will not pay California $988 plus a $225 penalty for late filing plus $230 in interest.

In other exciting news, there was a fire in Camp Pendleton again today. I could smell the smoke all afternoon and used my inhaler for the first time this year. The last time I used it was, well, last October, during the fires. The smoke clouds that form after fires are oddly beautiful the morning after. They look like a thick marine layer that's come from the desert instead of the ocean.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stall Dos

I am, in fact, applying to MFA programs this year. I once vowed I would never, ever, under any circumstances get an MFA. But vows are generally stupid, as I now know. Besides, I made that vow in a time and place where/when no one around really cared about MFAs. In DC, an MFA didn't prevent me from teaching at the Corcoran, because DC is a city, and cities have art communities that, while they include universities, are not defined and created by them. However, most of the USofA is suburban, not urban. With a new, interesting MFA program at UCSD, I might as well apply. Hey, if you don't have an MFA yet, why don't you apply, too...

I frequently say, "I want an MFA so I can get crappy adjunct work." However, as Mark has pointed out, I already get crappy adjunct work. But I want better crappy adjunct work. I have no delusions about getting a tenure-track creative writing job, but a local MFA might make me more attractive to area community colleges. Maybe I'm guilty of wanting change for change sake. A dangerous want, but oh well.

Tangent: I found my female Robin Hood-type doll. She has a Robin Hood hat and everything. I played Robin Hood in 6th grade. The play was in French, which seems ironic given the history of the Normans and Saxtons.


I have not made the hair appointment yet.

I want to make aged Gouda biscotti with walnuts. I have no aged Gouda, though. Next week.

If I only had to eat aperitivi for the rest of my life, that would be ok.

Writing continues. Attempts at writing something on Tina Darragh's Opposable Dumbs.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I put on a different kind of eye liner than I usually wear

It is green. Now my eyes are watering. I should stick to Clinique charcoal gray, or whatever color it is that I normally use.

I got a flu shot this morning, and then took my external hard drive to be fixed. Although neither was a pleasant task, they went well enough.

My trial-size perfume samples arrived. Six of them. I will find a good, long-lasting, citrus-based scent.

I have no content right now. My content is beach town. My students saw a dead seal on the beach that, according to them, looked like it had been the victim of a shark attack. It's windy, clear, and cool today, windy enough for white caps--my favorite kind of North County weather.

I think I've decided on a place to get my hair cut: Detour Salon in Encinitas. It will probably be a bit overly-trendy, but that's ok. I'm going to try and get an appointment with either Jessica or Jillian, because I like their hair.

Friday, October 10, 2008

They Hate Me

But I hate them so much more than they hate me. They cannot fathom the depth of my hate.

Also: California, fuck you. I do not owe you taxes for 2005. The reason I did not pay 2005 California state taxes is because I did not live or work in California in 2005.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We got our ballots in the mail today.

I want to get my hair cut shorter into some kind of bob. But I don't want to look like Paris Hilton or Posh Spice, and I don't want to look like I work for CNN. I need something a little asymmetrical, a little inverted with the right amount of layers and razored ends, and maybe longish side bangs.

But it can't require blow drying to look good.

And where to get it cut? I haven't gotten an actual, styled haircut since I lived in DC. Nope, it's been Supercuts all the way. Big decisions.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My Love Roderick Usher Part Trois

Thank you, Slate, for pointing out that my beloved Vincent Price has a cookbook. Just listen to him describe how to make Viennese Stuffed Eggs!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Yo quiero a garden

Heirloom beans!

And also, on the bus today was a kid wearing a black trench coat and bowler hat. And he was reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. He is the third person I've seen reading on the bus, ever. The other two are regular AM bus riders: an elderly woman who volunteers at the library and reads a lot of children's literature and a guy who reads a German-English dictionary every morning. I stared at the young man rather directly until he looked at me and gave me the finger. I smiled at him and said "right on." I don't know what possessed me to say "right on." I've already integrated "peace out," "rad," and "bogus" into my vocabulary, but today's "right on" was a first. I don't know how I feel about it.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More drafts of poems up at See it Everywhere.


My hamstring is not completely healed, and it is frustrating. I hate it. I hate being injured. I hate the stock market. I hate cars. I hate wall to wall carpet and press board. I hate how yogis say "please be mindful of..." instead of "please don't..." I hate the fact that my hard drive is broken and shouldn't be and how nothing is made to last. I hate the dust that sticks to the screens. I hate my sensitive skin. I hate professionalism and I hate a lack of professionalism. I hate it when Lester bites me. I hate poems about dead pigs that use overly familiar feminized language to describe the dead pigs. I hate asthma. I hate Bank of America. I hate the bus schedule in North County. I hate how my nails break. I hate grading. I hate how some people think that having a specific kind of degree makes you a poet. I hate the average failure rate of students in online classes. I hate working for schools that treat students like customers. I hate how my fingers swell up after I run. I hate how I have a sore right ankle which is somehow connected to my f-ed up left hamstring. I hate how having a sophisticated critique and understanding of power and hierarchies doesn't mean that one has an emotionally sophisticated understanding of how power and hierarchies affect one personally and directly. I hate how people talk about how mellow the lifestyle is here without specifically mentioning anything other than the beach, even if they don't live anywhere near the beach and instead live in Valley Center or Burnt Mountain. I hate how women I don't even know say things to me about my apparently inevitable future family. I hate how the sun causes cancer and salt water causes rashes. I hate the plastic on the beach. I hate the dead seals after red tide, I hate all the crap on the roads: glass, rocks, hoses, rakes, pieces of furniture, blown tires, dead animals, shoes. I hate it when people abuse the carpool lane. I hate the reverse elitism of community college employment practices. I hate it how people throw all sorts of crap into the lagoons like bottles, cans, and plastic bags. I hate dog shit on the side walk and I hate people who are overly paranoid about dog shit. I hate home security systems and also thieves. I hate the fact that my employers never tell us if they're going to serve food at staff meetings but then surprise us with mediocre pizza that we all eat even though we've already eaten lunch. I hate how scratched up my glasses are. I hate putting things away. I hate Sunday afternoons.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Lester

Lester has some very particular likes and dislikes. Dislikes include the sound of crinkling plastic or paper, the rapid opening and closing of doors, and loud sneezes or coughs. Likes include the sound of running water, dried chili peppers of any sort, lime juice, and chewing on dental floss.

Lester's been in a good mood recently. Mark and I have settled into our respective normal Fall schedules, so it's easy for Lester to predict our comings and goings. All three of us typically eat dinner together most evenings; he eats more or less whatever we eat. For the past few evenings, Lester has sung while eating dinner and throwing his food all over the cage--surely a sign of a good mood.

The other evening, I went to yoga, and Mark and Lester hung out at home. Mark put on Peter Brotzmann's Machine Gun album--a rapid, frenetic, and dissonant European avant garde jazz recording from, oh, I think the late 60s. We saw Peter Brotzmann in DC three or four years ago, I think it was at the Black Cat. Anyway, Machine Gun is an awesome album, but not lyrical or relaxing in any traditional sense of those words.

Lester sat all fat and relaxed on his favorite perch for the entire album. He didn't shriek or express any displeasure until Mark got up to go into the kitchen and prepare lunch for the next day. Lester despises lunch preparations, because they involve opening and closing cabinets and the crinkling of plastic.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

No one presses their audience appreciation button

during the second verse. They push it during the chorus. Or the guitar solo.

My point is that those CNN graphs are addictive, but not necessarily telling. Everyone goes for generalized, soaring rhetoric about American families sitting around the kitchen table, etc.

My lesson about the grammar of wish statements didn't go very well.

It's not like I chose that topic.

I finished Kora, now I'm reading Spring and All, both of which are good bus reading. My students haven't wanted to talk politics this week, so I'm getting a bit of respite. Not that teaching and talking about US politics during an election year is punishment, quite, but...

Today is laundry day.

I am looking forward to the first "cold" day so that I can wear my sweatshirt that says "expatriate" on it.

Next week, perhaps, we will return to posts with more "serious" "content." I'm working on something for LA Lit and looking forward to the Cal Arts conference at Redcat at the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

WCW--c'est bon for me right now. The preface to Kora is always great, especially the letter from Stevens.

My morning commute to work is especially pleasant now. I ride past the lagoon at about sunrise.

Money is so abstract. All this value.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Magical 777

I am listening to Joan Jett while my next door neighbors are having a party. My go-to "I'm alone" music is usually the Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, Jefferson Airplane, or Tori Amos. So, today I'm branching out because I need something that rocks and is less moody.

No men appear to be at the party. Large groups of women out on the town (such as it is) or at parties is a common sight here in north county.

On my mind:

I'm exhausted with hating and obsessing about the US government and economy. I often feel like it's got to be some kind of accident that I'm a US citizen. I barely grew up here, and half of my family still lives overseas. I often feel like I'm in the middle of an alien, embarrassing homeland. Reading Leaves of Grass and Spring and All helps. But.

New ESL session starts tomorrow, new class. I'm teaching 8-11:30 instead of 8-1. I'll miss the money, but 5 hours of that kind of teaching every day is too much for me. Preparing vocabulary and conversation questions/topics that will help the class discuss all the recent news.

Starting a new online class, one I've taught before. I'm ambivalent about online classes, but it's better than nothing for students who can't otherwise attend an on the ground class, and I'm getting better at teaching them.

I have no retirement funds since I'm still in the process of paying off dept. Oh, I take it back, I had about $1000, but obviously less than that now. However, other people I know do have substantial retirement accounts, and I hope that today wasn't too catastrophic for them.

It rained today. Hard. With thunder and lightning. This is quite unusual for around here, but perhaps it bodes well for the fire season.

My little sister Allison has been writing a "long, rambling manuscript" that she won't show to anyone. This makes me happy.

I hope the places where I work remain solvent.

There are many grapes that make good wine.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wilted, slightly revived

This last cycle of teaching was difficult. It's not always fun to be a representative of my country and translator of its politics and culture to my ESL students. I get tired and start imagining that I'm an old Australian man living in the Marquesas, or maybe the captain of a freight ship. I know. Being the captain of a freight ship would probably suck, but never mind, I like port cities.

If I were moderately independently wealthy, today's fantasy involves Croatia. If I were just plain independently wealthy, today's fantasy would be about Barcelona.

And, dear friends, please don't feel the need to caution me with well meaning, paternal advice about recklessly buying international real estate. To be reckless with real estate, I'd have to have the funds to do it. Rest assured, I don't. Maybe I'll buy a fancy perfume sample in my continued quest to find the perfect citrus scent, or a whole watermelon instead of half a watermelon.

Maybe I will reread all of Laura Riding's Progress of Stories, or something from the pile of new books on my desk--I think the one on the top is from Tarpaulin Sky Press. It better be good.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Lives of Dead Bugs

They thrive on the hoods of cars, for example.

Today's alter ego is split between Jam Master and Achy Le Fevre. Other alter egos include: Little Lord Summerfield, Cakes, and Prudence.

Here is a picture of one of my forefathers, Sir James Graham (1612-1650):

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Sisters are Fortunate

They live in Australia, go to an international school, and have dual citizenship in Ireland and the United States.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Less working for money more working on writing

More vacation

Fewer injuries

New running shoes

More energy

More time

More watermelon

More focused students

A raise

Fewer flat bicycle tires (less glass on the road)

Fewer hallucinatory dreams

An alternative to wall-to-wall carpet

New ESL texts

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last Day of Summer

At my cousin's wedding in Maine, several of the men wore Nantucket Reds, and the women wore pearls (I brought some pearls with me but didn't end up wearing them). It had been a while since I'd been in a polite, yacht club environment, but I was able to draw on all of my sailing and preppy vocabulary to make conversation. I remember in high school that I vaguely wanted to get some boat shoes, but they were rather expensive, especially for someone who didn't sail very often. But even the people in Maine who don't sail can sail--the coastline and waterscape demand it. So, I took lessons at the Blue Hill Yacht Club for a while in high school, raced a little, and went on sailing trips, etc. But I never became comfortable with sailing with a spinnaker, and I wouldn't feel comfortable now navigating on a long trip, or even a short one now. I've forgotten a lot.

There were several graduates of my high school at the wedding, all friends of my cousin. I knew some of them because I'd taught them swimming lessons at Nichols Day Camp. One confessed to having had a crush on me during camp and said that I should come "party with them" after the reception was over. It seemed good natured enough (his girlfriend was there and thought it was funny), but I was tired, and didn't have the stamina for more alcohol. I admit that, ridiculously, I was feeling old, and felt weird about partying with a bunch of guys wearing Nantucket Reds reminiscing about their days on the sailing team at Dartmouth. And the fireplace in the cabin where Mom and I were staying was quite nice. And it was pouring rain.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I was supposed to be meditating and focusing on my breath, but when I did that, all that happened was I saw the word "breath" in various fonts

I'm grumpy.

Today during savasana I tried to list all the ways that my life has been/is/was materially affected by the Bush Administration. I can think of numerous ways that other people's lives have been drastically changed. But truly, I can't think of very many ways my life has been affected.
  • My job outlook is poor, but it's always been poor. I do well enough somehow anyway.
  • Now that it's even more difficult for students to get visas to study in the US, more students go to Canada, and so enrollment is lower at the places I teach. However, it hasn't really been lower than usual. I have fewer students from Africa, and more wealthy students from Europe, especially Milan.
  • Real estate is messed up, but I never owned real estate, and even with prices "low" now, they're still way too expensive.
  • The price of gas is still high. I don't really drive much, and have structured my entire work life around not driving whenever possible. Mark and I share a car, which he drives 15 miles to and from work three or four days a week.
  • I suppose we've taken less road trips than we might have otherwise taken.
  • The rising cost of living in DC coupled with increasingly unstable and unpleasant work possibilities would have caused Mark and I to leave DC, even if he hadn't gotten the job at CSUSM. Mark's job at CSUSM and the general growth of this area has a lot to do with suburban development based on 1) the military and 2) real estate. These two things are at least partly responsible for our move to San Diego county.
  • 9/11 and post 9/11 Bush policies really enlivened the careers of anyone working in international security, as I was when 9/11 happened. Several people I worked with wrote white papers and press releases and were promoted. A few went to work for the DOD or defense contractors, one went to work for the Millenium Challenge Corporation (which, despite its name, is in fact a government agency). I promptly left my job and got an MA at Georgetown. I didn't do an MFA because Georgetown gave me better funding and Carolyn Forche was more or less gone from George Mason. Aggravatingly, it would have been a better professional choice for me to do an MFA. But who cared about MFAs then?
  • The dollar is down. Going to Europe is harder.
  • Health Insurance is worse. However, in California, it is still possible to get free birth control, even in a county where Planned Parenthood is always surrounded by anti-abortion protesters.
I'm thinking about this list for several reasons. I feel all overwrought about the elections, as I always do. I care about U.S. politics and think it matters who wins, but this feeling isn't personal--it's very abstract and vague, which is part of why it's so aggravating.

I get annoyed with friends who talk about not voting because they can't bear to compromise their moral values, or voting Green (as I used to do when I was a DC resident, since voting in DC is nearly like not voting at all). I rehearse my argument that a Democratic president means Democratic bureaucrats and Democratic interns doing the fact-checking for all the documents and all the research that informs policies, and that this slight difference in perspective is important, regardless of whether or not the actual President is effective.

I think not voting in any election year would be idiotic, and also a sign of just how materially irrelevant a change in administrations actually is for many of us. Maybe if the cost of gas were $9 then voting would seem less about abstract values and feelings and more about basic things like eating and living.

Not that that would be especially good, either.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I don't worry about love or sports, so the only things left at times are politics and students (i.e. work).

Sick of worrying about the elections. Sick of worrying about work, or, rather: bored. Que mas? I'm taking my bike to the shop tomorrow for its 6-month tune up. Y al mismo tiempo I need to think about cleaning my study, as usual. Sorry. No especially exciting thoughts. A student gave me a nice bar of German chocolate, and Mark bought some Oktoberfest beers. Also, I made a green curry--more Indian than Thai (cilantro, mint, jalepenos, baharat seasoning, coconut milk). Editing and getting final responses from people on a forum I'm moderating for Area Sneaks on visual poetry. Working on the cover for Terminal Humming.

Left hamstring is slowly recovering. I still can't do a forward bend like I used to, but I don't need compression when I practice asana now, so that's something.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Without Nuance

Probably many of us who vote aren't significantly affected by the government to have enough of a perspective on the very real differences between a Democratic and a Republican administration. I don't mean that we aren't affected. I mean that we feel like we aren't.

I don't worry so much about the President (though I worry about that plenty) as I do all the low and mid-level bureaucrats who will loose or get jobs based on the next election. I don't want Republicans as heads of the various foreign policy desks at the State Department, for example, and I don't want someone fresh out of an internship with the Heritage foundation to be doing their fact checking, either. Oh for the days when people with PhDs in German literature were on staff at the NSA.

CNN just advertised the next "Larry King Live" with the tagline "Sarah Palin, Up Close."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

There's an interview with me online at The Scrambler, as well as a few of my visual pieces, including the one above.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The oldest daughter of my oldest cousin on my mother's side is getting married

I not really a wedding person, but I'm not not a wedding person. Either way, I'm going to Maine tonight on a redeye. Think of me at 6:30 am on the east coast, when most of you will be asleep. I'll be in Newark trying to get some breakfast and waiting for my flight to Portland. It's been ages since I've been in the Newark airport. Ah, nostalgia.

San Diego to Maine is about the longest trip one can take in the continental US--but Maine can be beautiful this time of year, and I'll see family that I haven't seen in a long time. Maybe 10 years for some of them. I'll post pictures.

And I'm still, yes, still, writing up notes from Vancouver, which will appear here eventually.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Having people over makes me happy

and makes me love our apartment in spite of the wall to wall carpet. Here's what I've made for our 3rd annual Labor Day party:
  • Baba Ghanouj
  • Skordalia (Greek potato and almond dip/sauce, one of my favorite things ever)
  • Hummus with Paprika and Whole Chickpeas (the most fancy hummus I've ever made)
  • Egyptian Spiced Carrot Puree (I also love this, mostly for the spice topping part, which is made of toasted ground hazelnuts, coconuts, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds, and other stuff)
  • Roasted Red Pepper Involtini (little rolls made out of roasted red peppers filled with a ricotta mixture. These taste good but fall apart)
  • Roasted tomatoes with honey and thyme (they are so good! Good on bread, especially with some ricotta)
  • Rice Salad with Merguez and Preserved Lemon Dressing (I couldn't actually find any Merguez, so I used some spicy chicken sausage, but it tastes good)
  • Three Pea Salad (hurray for peas!)
  • Beet Salad with Candied Marcona Almonds (Marconas are addictive even when they're not candied. And I love roasted beets)
  • Cheese, fruit, etc
This is a fairly long list, but it really only took me a few hours on Saturday morning (which left plenty of time for hooping and the beach), with some final preparations today before I head off to yoga. I roasted anything that needed to be roasted outside on the grill, so I didn't even have to heat up the house.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bringing Lester Home

Last Monday, the day after we got back from Vancouver, I took the train down to San Diego to pick up Lester from the vet where he boards. The vet is less than a mile away from San Diego old town as the crow flies, and (as it turns out), a very direct bike route as well.

Waiting at the Carlsbad Village Coaster Station:

Until the train came:

I wasn't the only one reading and writing on the train ride:

At San Diego Old Town Station, where I got off, you can catch the trolley to San Ysidro, and from there walk through the turnstiles and over the border to Tijuana.

It was a short ride from the station to Lester's vet. I picked him up, packed up all his toys, and put him in the travel cage, which fits quite nicely in my bike bag. This was the first time he'd ridden in with me on the bike, but he seemed to like it. He sang most of the time. He did make a nervous contact call once or twice when a large car passed us, but I answered him, and he went back to singing.

We had about 45 minutes to kill before our train came, so we looked around San Diego Old Town. Lester sang to the cheesy Mexican music. Together we attacked a lot of attention. Several people asked me if I'd just bought him (yikes, NO). A schizophrenicaly dressed Australian woman waiting to get on a tour bus with very precise circles of pink rouge on her cheeks asked me if he was "a peach face" and I said no. Parrotlets are kind of like lovebirds, but they are smaller and from south America, not Africa.

Lester admired the adobe construction.

Finally, we got on the train. While waiting for the train a guy named Paul told me about his mother's lovebird, and how the bird is vicious and likes to bite him. An elderly woman with a little poodle told me about how her mother used to befriend coyotes, and how her sister's cockatoo loves her and not her sister, and that this has created a rift between her and her sister, but that she was moving down to Rosarito soon, and would take her sister's cockatoo with her.

Lester sang for most of the train ride. The two guys next to me were on their way to the race track. They asked me if I'd been to the track here and I said no. But I told them about how I used to go to the races in Mexico City with my Dad and a guy from San Diego I called "Uncle Geno." Our bookie's name was Rambo, and I remember that he had bad posture. I am nostalgic about the races in Mexico City, but I don't support horse racing now.

Lester's been very mellow and happy since we all returned home, though I doubt he'll appreciate my absence next week when I go to Maine for my cousin's wedding.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

And now I've gotten all abstract.

As a respite from the Democratic convention, which I am of course watching, but watching in a nervous, not-hopeful-about-the-future-but-having-no-alternative way, I'm going to post some thoughts from my notes related to one of the panels on the second day of the Positions Colloquium.

There was a lot I wanted to talk about after the panel on "Alpha Bets: Language Gambles on Land," but didn't. This panel was moderated by Rita Wong. Presenters were Juliana Spahr, Pat O'Riley, Reg Johanson, and Peter Cole. I'm either one quarter or one eighth Comanche on my father's side. My father looks native American, but I don't, really. And getting accurate information about it is impossible--my father doesn't even know the name of his grandfather (my aunt claims it was "Julius Caesar Graham" and that he had over 30 children), and whatever native American heritage I do or don't have came from my father's mother, anyway. My father's distinctly not-white appearance was helpful when he was a hostage at in Baghdad during the Gulf War. He wore an Iraqi soccer team t-shirt (which my brother had, for a while. I wonder where it is?) and wandered around Baghdad without incident, buying food and noting the positions of anti-aircraft weaponry.

I suppose that discussions of race and class always interest me and make me uncomfortable. Really, I am as white and WASPY as can be. Except that I'm not. I'm not-white enough to have official tribal affiliation (which my brother successfully applied for, was going to accept, and then didn't), and I've never been baptized. My mom comes from a family descended from Jamaican, slave-owning creoles (my great-grandmother called the African Americans who worked in the nursing home where she lived "darkies") and my dad is a cracker Comanche who lived and worked on reservations in his 20s. I grew up in South America, the Asia-Pacific, and Maine. I tell people I'm from Washington, DC, but that isn't true. Unless you're a diplomat, many ex-pat communities are usually made of ambitious working-class people who want to get the hell out of their town and country, and who enjoy a standard of living totally impossible for them if they still lived at home. Class is weird among ex-pat communities. It's an old story though. Certain Europeans left Europe for the colonies in order to make their fortunes, or at least to be more economically and social mobile then they could ever be in their home countries.

So, what's my point (which is related to the actual panel discussion, but which has now wandered far from it)? Maybe that I approach conversations about race, class, and language in an overly hopeful way. However, the problem is that everyone needs to spend a lot of time explaining why they have a specific, unique identity (as I just did), and why that specific, unique identity is relevant, has been ignored, or can't really be talked about. Then the conversation moves to one of two places, usually: 1) we want to be more recognized and integrated into mainstream societies or 2) Mainstream societies suck and we don't want to be integrated into them and we should resist integration. Eventually the conversation might end in this way: some integration is inevitable or even desirable. However, we must be wary of it, even when it benefits us(especially then) and resist it simultaneously.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I won't admit to feeling optimistic, but I will officially state that I experienced feelings of joy and a distinct reduction in overall alienation.

I've just returned from Vancouver, more or less, and by the last day of the Positions Colloquium I'd used words like "moving," "inspiring" and "happy."

Vancouver is in the midst of some serious post-factory, rust belt gentrification and, more recently, gentrification brought on in part by all the money pouring into the city for the upcoming 2010 winter Olympics. The thing is, it's still a really fabulous city: the public transportation works. There are sidewalks. Not everyone is white. Not every news anchor has hair dyed blond for marketing purposes. It's a city in which a collective poetic and political organization has been able to exist for more than a decade.

My notes from the panels are some combination of doodles and language. I'll post them as soon as I can get to a scanner. For now, here's most of the language, with some descriptions of doodles.


AM: "On Line: Poetics and the Distribution of Meaning" (Darren Wershler-Henry, Brian Kim Stefans, Judy Radul, and Sianne Ngai). Information always comes from somewhere else, someone else. The desire to impose magic on things that aren't inherently magic. How avant-garde techniques are used in commercials. Facebook status updates as auto surveillance. The meat always comes shambling along after you ( I drew a zombie army, which was easy for me since most of my stick figures already look like the undead). Rapture as sublimity (I think I meant as "sublime." As in computer fantasies of transcending the body). Reinventing the page for myself/ourselves. Font de psychology (in response to Brian Kim Stefans' flash font doodling program and exploding poems). Form as distribution (remember mail art?) Sitting at a computer does have a physicality. How to render this? What's embarrassing about each form of technology is interesting(Judy Radu said that).

PM: "The Clifford Irving Show" (Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy with Guests--I remember that Colin Smith & Lisa Robertson were among them). Feminist barf wears bad shoes. I said I was fake but didn't mean it. Ibiza. No one wants to be the mother but a lot of us need mothering and lesbian tensions in mother-daughter relationships that no one talks about. Chickens RCA Cows RCA Pigs RCA but but but. Customs House. Tariq Alvi.

Lunch/Dinner: chicken and mushroom congee at the Congee House on Broadway. Yum. It was raining. I hadn't eaten congee in years, and this was an incredibly satisfying meal. Lisa Robertson recommended Mosses From an Old Manse.

Evening Readings: (Darren Wershler-Henry, Colin Smith, Brian Kim Stefans, Clint Burnham, Robert Fitterman). People are rent. I drew a picture of a baby in a crib saying "kill the fucker" and wrote a note to myself: "the fuwuyuan on the train from Harbin to Shanghai with the angry, haphazard coral red lipstick and Jamie describing it." I'm not sure what part of the reading made me think of that. I also wrote "suburban ennui" and "surprisingly, I have never watched a full episode of Lost. I also drew a picture of two people leaping on a tightly coiled, dangerous looking mattress.

To be more specific, Darren read from Status Update, a new project he did with Bill Kennedy that's rather meticulous and hilarious.

Colin Smith read from 8x8x7, recently out from Krupskaya Books. I'd heard his name before but didn't know his work--I really liked it. It has an energy, intensity, and torque that reminded me a bit of Kevin Killian, but it also seemed brutal and even a bit personal. I'll certainly be writing about his work more after I get a hold of the book (really, I should have brought more money with me to the conference)!

BKS read some recent (I think) poems with some projections of exploding flash poems behind him--WCW, if I remember correctly. I met BKS once back in New York when I'd just started going to readings. I think it was at double happiness, and maybe Abigail Child was reading. I also remember that I was being a bit shy, and also that I drank my first Boddingtons beer. Anyway, it was good to hear him read, and a reminder to look at his work as I continue to noodle around with coding and some of the visual stuff I've been doing. Plus, he's moving to LA soon.

Clint Burnham read a series of procedural homophonic translations of. What? Walter Benjamin? Somehow that detail isn't in my notes. I love sound-based translation--so often we rely on image or denotation for meaning, but sound is important, too, and a homophonic translation highlights this. Obviously, sounds have texture and mouth feel, as well as connotative and denotative meanings, and these meanings etc are also at least in part cultural. Poems that focus on sound, for me at least, always open up meanings and connections that I wouldn't think of otherwise. Plus, they're fun to listen to and write.

Rob Fitterman
read a procedural piece called "Free" made of lines from classifieds. It was funny and rather horrifying--people give away strange things, and other people give other people's things away when people die. What does bacon stretcher look like? Rob also showed a power point presentation in which every slide was a smiling picture of himself. Rob's work continues to examine subjectivity and appropriation in interesting ways.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm getting ready to head off to Vancouver

for the Positions Colloquium hosted by the Kootenay School of Writing. I learned about KSW shortly after I started going to readings: Kevin Davies and Jeff Derksen were among the people that read during my first year in that particular poetry world, and my first reading in Washington, DC was with Nancy Shaw.

Kevin Davies' line, "hand me the Bulgarian umbrella, comrade," from Comp, has always been a favorite of mine.

This was going to be a long post, but it will be a shorter post. I'm so happy to be going to Vancouver and to see so many friends. And to eat a lot of Asian food. And I'm going to draw a lot of doodles and reading responses.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the Bus

In San Diego county people I don't know frequently tell me details about their personal lives within a minute or two of meeting me. This tends to happen in coffee shops, at bus stops and train stations, and on buses and trains. Probably if I hung out in bars alone it would happen to me there.

It's always been true that marginal people talk to me, especially if I'm traveling alone. In high school and college, there would always be a vaguely lecherous and lonely middle-aged man who would offer to buy me a soda while waiting for the bus/train and want to sit next to me. Now it's usually disenfranchised middle-aged men who want to tell me their problems. Occasionally some twenty or thirty-some guy will come on to me, but the moment I tell them I'm a teacher, they usually become intimidated. It's true I'm pretty and blonde and generally seem younger than I am. But this is California, and the world is full of pretty young women, many with blond hair. It has to be more than my physical appearance that causes these men to talk to me about their personal lives. I know that I don't appear threatening to anyone.

And it isn't just men, it's women, too. Usually, these women are also middle-aged, but they are more likely to be homeless or transient. The young men I meet are not yet homeless, and the middle-aged men usually have some kind of job (often a post-rehab transitional job). Both the men and the women are often on some kind of psychiatric medication (or at least claim to be). But I was talking about the women: the women are usually fighting with their husbands, boyfriends, sons, or all of the above. Often their husbands, boyfriends, and sons are the same young men or older post-rehab men that talk to me.

(Aside: the marginal women who talked to me in DC tended to be a lot more aggressive and hostile. I don't have an analysis of that difference yet, really.)

Both the men and the women frequently look like they've been beat up. Even the ones that look healthy look fragile. In fact, anyone on the sidewalk in North County looks fragile--pedestrians here always look like they're about to fall off the sidewalk and into the street.

For the past two days there's been a guy at the bus stop and on the bus named Bob (or Robert or Bobby) who has been telling me all about his DUI case and how he lost his license and his quest to find a lawyer. Bob grew up in San Clemente in the 70s and moved to Carlsbad about four or five months ago. He says he has family who work in law and lives in down town Carlsbad. That may be true, but if it's true, it doesn't make sense that he's taking the bus to see a lawyer or hanging out at the court house to talk to a public defender. Maybe he's lying. Or maybe his family give him some money to live off of and are happy that he's not homeless. He's got the clean cut 70s look of a man just out of rehab even though I don't think he's just out of rehab: new jordache jeans, new sneakers, and a new aloha-print short sleeve button-down shirt. He carries a rather beat-up legal pad and no pen.

This morning on the bus he asked if he could borrow my pen. The only one I had was my favorite purple one, but I lent it to him but said, "I'll need that back before I get off the bus." After I pulled the cord for my stop, he asked if he could borrow it for the day and I said no, but very nicely. The woman sitting next to him and across from me gave him her pen. She'd been trying to catch my eye the whole bus ride, so this was her opportunity to enter the conversation. She said that it was a good pen, but that the ink was permanent and would mark up a car or a shirt forever. "I broke up with my boyfriend over that pen," she said, and then went on to tell a story about accidentally marking up the leather seats of her boyfriend's car, and how he got angry, and how she didn't want to be with someone who got angry over little things, so she'd broken up with him, that morning, and that the pen was good luck.

Robert was looking for some good luck, so this seemed to make him happy.