Monday, March 31, 2008

Breathing Again

My nephew is nearly 2, and is already talking up a storm. He's energetic, inquisitive, and sweet. And he's proof that toddlers aren't always picky eaters: he has his favorites, of course (blueberries) but he'll try almost anything. And he doesn't like potatoes, which means that he doesn't demand to eat fries all the time. I also discovered Quorn, which is really one of the best meat substitutes or meat-free foods I've ever had. I think that I had the "chicken style tenders," which were toothy and had a nice texture.

I stocked up on sumac and dried pears at the Berkeley Bowl, and also bought a copy of The Transformation from Pegasus Books. And I'm going to read it. And I'm also going to take a nap.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Off to Berkeley

But not for poetry, dear readers, for family--four generations of it, in fact.

(Not so) secretly, of course, I want us all to go to Tartine on Saturday. I've already over planed food options. I have to go to Cheeseboard, at least, even if I don't make it all the way across the bay.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ba ba etc

Last night I dreamed that I'd actually taken that job. I woke up in a sweat and had thrown all the blankets and pillows off the bed. That job haunts me every few months. I make plenty of money, but I'm not making $60,000 a year. Thinking about that salary really does make me want to throw up, for several reasons 1) $60K is a lot of money, I think 2) I'd really, really have hated the job, which would have involved me managing a combined design and writing department and encouraging them to work really hard and really fast so that the people upstairs could make even more money, and 3) It's hard for me to imagine a world in which I could make $60K doing something that wouldn't make me want to vomit. I don't mean getting 60K doing something that would make me happy, I really do mean something that wouldn't make me want to vomit.

Honestly though, at times I wish that I did have a tolerance for office work. It would make things easier. But nope. I prefer having a crazy, precarious schedule. Because with that crazy, precarious, and totally unsupervised, uncubicalized schedule and income, I can still:

be an artist, pay my bills, save a little, sometimes do some traveling (more of that in the future, after said bills are paid), practice yoga, bike along a lagoon each day that has several excellent birdwatching spots, walk two blocks to the beach, go to readings (not as often as I'd like, but more than I thought I'd be able to around here), publish chapbooks, write, drink wine, go out to dinner sometimes, get Lester new toys every few months...

Monday, March 24, 2008

The overwrought child who made this sandcastle cross at the Carlsbad State Beach on Easter kept trying to get his father's attention. "Dad, Dad," he said, "check out the details on the cross. I put nails in it and everything!"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hey hey, it's my sisters' birthday!

They are nine!

I missed their call from Australia. I tried to call them in Australia, but no one was home : (

There are many reasons why they kick my butt, but here are three:

1. They have passports from both Ireland and the USA. They can live and go to school anywhere they want.
2. They're super intelligent, and funny, and cosmopolitan.
3. There are three of them: they have their own built-in posse.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

M & L California Beach Day

Grading, design, make a poem, walk on the beach, nap on the beach, grading, shower, beer outside in the sun, tacos outside in the setting sun, more beer, a walk home through an unfamilar neighborhood, many spring birds.

We live here, yes, but it's not like any of that happens very often.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Lester / Happy Full Moon

Lester has many, many toys in his cage (and outside of it). His most recent game, however, is to pull up the paper lining at the bottom of his cage (rough drafts of manuscripts) and make a tent with it. After he's made the tent, he chews the paper and sings.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ce Soir

Please join us on Thursday, March 20 at 7 p.m. for the next reading in the Community and World Literary Series at California State University, San Marcos, featuring Edwin Torres.

The reading will be held on the Cal State San Marcos campus in Markstein Hall Room 125. The event is free and open to the public, but there is a fee for on-campus parking.

Edwin Torres has collaborated with a wide range of artists, creating performances that intermingle poetry with vocal & physical improvisation, sound-elements and visual theater. He has received poetry fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Foundation For Contemporary Performance Art, The Poets Fund and The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. He has taught workshops at Naropa University, St. Marks Poetry Project, Bard College, Mills College and Miami University, among others. His work has been widely published and his CD Holy Kid (Kill Rock Stars Records) was part of The Whitney Museum’s exhibition, The American Century Pt. II. His books include I Hear Things People Haven’t Really Said, Fractured Humorous (Subpress), The All-Union Day Of The Shock Worker (Roof Books) and The PoPedology Of An Ambient Language (Atelos Books).

Event Information:

Thursday, March 20, 7 p.m.
Markstein Hall, Room 125
California State University, San Marcos
333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd.
Campus Maps and Directions:
For more information, or to sign on to our mailing list to receive announcements of future events, check out our website:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ali Warren's Cousins

I've been catching up on my long overdue chapbook reading.

Ali Warren's Cousins (Lame House Press, 2006), has been close to the top of the stack for some time (it's now 2008, for G-d's sake)!

These are poems of a self/selves very much entangled with the social--the languages of bureaucracy, consumption, family, and material objects all move through the poems not as disruptions, but as everyday syncopations. The chapbook's title implies familial and social connection, obviously, but there's also plenty of ironic humor to go along with this interest in the material world that makes me think of a Tim Davis reading I heard in New York probably a long time ago, especially when I read lines like this one from "My Factless Autobiography": "I wrote a narrative about our collective pain / and went shopping."

But the irony in Cousins isn't quite as harsh as what I remember of that reading. (Note: I'm a fan of harsh irony, as long as it's original, so this comparison isn't a put down to either Warren or Davis). However, the way Warren's poems connect the problems of constructing a fixed identity to the material world does remind me of the more postlanguagey New York School writing of the mid to late 90s.

"Imbedded Report" is a good example of what I'm trying to describe--it's full of bodies, babies, shopping, and hints of punny psychoanalytic language. Here's the first two stanzas:

The stations are landmarks The cars haul Drives
No ideas but in organs Atoning for drives In the unerring there

Let's say infants take up arms Free-ranges begin to sag
With what greasy nonchalance is the belly full?

It warms my heart to read poems that are thinking about identity in a way that is funny and connected to the material world. It makes me think that someone still might care about French Feminist theory and have a sense of humor! There's no lyric I in these poems floating off into white space and gentle images of love, the weather, and birds. Instead, the I is going shopping, or pulling I's self (and a rotting rabbit head) out of a Versace handbag before morphing into grotesque conjoined babies and being "slated for major redevelopment." (Note: I love love, the weather, and birds, but I admit I'm bored with many of the recent poetic renderings of them I've read--a topic for another post).

This is a chapbook that makes me feel competitive in the best way.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I've been told that I should focus more on exhaling--by both the last doctor I had who treated my asthma as well as one of my yoga teachers--and that this will make inhaling easier and more productive.

According to an article I read in the Yoga Journal, "Dr. Gay Hendricks, author of Conscious Breathing (Bantam, 1995), and Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, a pioneer in the use of breath retraining for asthmatics, consider the malady to be more a disturbed breathing pattern than a disease."

That's pretty interesting--asthmatics tend to breathe at a rate two to three times faster than most people do, i.e. our breathing pattern is not normal. We take in a lot of oxygen, but then we breathe out too much carbon dioxide. Again from the same article "If CO2 levels get too low, the hemoglobin that carries oxygen through the blood becomes too "sticky" and doesn't release sufficient oxygen to the cells."

After a while, the body gets starved for oxygen, and so it resorts to rather drastic measures to slow breathing down and build up the CO2 levels again. Basically, it resorts to creating an asthma attack--muscles around the airways tighten, the body produces mucus and histamine, and breathing becomes difficult.

So, that's why trying to change my breathing pattern might help. I tried focusing on my exhales during yoga class this morning and it was incredibly difficult. When I'm forcing myself to exhale completely, all I want to do is stop halfway through and inhale again. However, I did notice that after about three or four minutes of breathing this way, exhaling completely became easier.

I just have to remember that when I'm not on the mat.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The wind

blows. So we went for a goodly hike in the Daley Ranch. One day we'll make it to the desert, but not when there are 40 mph winds. The weather here is stupid. I don't understand it.

One of the days I spent in the Ramlat al Wahaybah was very, very windy. I understand why desert mythologies are about the wind and wind-demons. There's no rain, snow, etc, just the wind. And it can be a problem. A headscarf can help. And a low riding vehicle.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


No trip to the desert this weekend--in San Diego county where the weather is supposedly so great, the weather is often not great. 40 mile an hour winds are no good for desert hikes. Plus, Ilya Kaminsky is on the front cover of the San Diego Reader. My hamstring attachment hurts. I'd like to separate my femur from my hip joint and just get it over with.

I posted new poems. Still in the draft stage. And these actually are spaced differently--but HTML doesn't render space well...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Real Jobs

One of my current students found my myspace page last weekend, and friended me. Most of my students on myspace eventually do find me, so it wasn't unusual. However, after class today he asked, "so, your real job is as a writer?" I told him it was, and he didn't respond with the disbelief or obvious discomfort that other people sometimes have. This little exchange stands out because he concluded that my real job is as a writer, where as teaching is something I do "on the side." That isn't quite true, but it's the exact opposite of the conclusion that people usually come to, so I thought it was interesting.

List of my current jobs:
  • Teaching English as a foreign language
  • Teaching developmental English
  • Tutoring people about writing
  • Designing t-shirts
  • Doing research for a marketing company
  • Creating marketing materials & public relations materials for a local yoga studio
  • Managing the web site of that same studio
List of my current writing, art, and editorial projects
  • Diligently shopping my first book manuscript around to all the places people said I should, even though I'm pretty sure I already know how it will eventually be published.
  • Editing my second manuscript. Getting ready to, yes, diligently send it around.
  • Kind of putting together a third. I don't think the third is really a manuscript--the pieces are too disparate to make a coherent book.
  • Writing my fourth manuscript.
  • Still working on "Memory Lessons," a series of visual pieces.
  • Thinking already about my contribution to the 2008 Dusie project, now that the 2007 one is complete and live.
  • Little bits of an essay thinking about the concept of "The Gurlesque." I need to plan ahead so that I have something to say by the time the anthology edited by Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg comes out from Saturnalia in 2009. I've been a slllooowwww critical writer recently.
  • Little bits of a review on Lara Glenum's The Hounds of No, even though it's been reviewed. Maybe the review and the essay will be the same thing. Maybe I'll send them/it to Absent.
List of current yoga projects:
  • Dropping back into urdhvadhanuasana from standing. Standing up from urdhvadhanuasana.
  • Jumping up into handstand from two feet but with straight legs.
  • More flexible hips, hamstrings, psoas, and quadriceps. So, that means a lot of hanumanasana and krounchasana.
  • Learning and memorizing all the asanas named after birds. Krounchasana is the "heron pose--a very appropriate homage and counter balance to my bike rides around the lagoons.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Dumb Rebellion

I hated everything about yoga. I hated the stupid new age music with its pseudo Hindi ethereal vocals. I hated all the vinyasas. I hated the "centering" at the beginning of class, the pranayama at the end of class, and I hated the chanting. I thought, I don't want to feel centered. Being centered and balanced is for suckers.

The teacher who taught is one of my favorites, but I was in an unusually agitated mood--unusual even for me. I'm not sure I've ever been more agitated during yoga. One reason why I do yoga is to turn my brain off, but even during some of the inversions and crazy arm balances I couldn't turn my brain off today. I was hostile and perverse. I thought things like, Fuck you, Shiva, I hate this asana. I cursed sages by name! To hell with Koundinya and Marichi!

Several people I know through the yoga studio are pregnant, and I thought mean, nasty things about pregnancy and children. During one asana, someone joked that the class was becoming "like a prenatal class" and I said, rather too loudly, no thank you.

I stayed an extra three breaths in headstand two or three or whatever it was out of spite. I wasn't enjoying being there, I just didn't want to come down at the same time as everyone else.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I was at the beach today.

Well. I walked near the beach. Along it. As a kind of very mellow exercise.

Before that, I did three and a half hours of grading.

I stared reading Siri Hustvedt's The Blindfold. I don't know what I think of it it. I like it enough to keep reading.

I maybe have a possible shot at possibly teaching classes at Palomar. Maybe.

I have never wanted a job, though I've needed, applied for, and had many. Maybe the exception is when I applied to be a counselor in training at Nichols Day Camp in Sedgwick, Maine.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Deep Change

I own a pair of white, patent-leather, high-healed sandals. I noticed them in my closet just now, realized I'd forgotten about them (bought them on sale at the end of last summer), and immediately started planning an outfit around them.

But white, patent-leather, high-healed sandals? I like them, but I'm skeptical. I look at them and think "Orange County." I also think of a potentially sexy but usually just depressing youthful look that gives off an "I am hot and dressed up and 17 but I don't really know I'm hot and I don't really know what I'm doing and I'm about to get married to a real douche bag" kind of vibe.

I'm not 17. I know what I'm doing, and I'm not about to get married to a real douche bag. Still. What does it mean that I am now ready to plan an outfit around a pair of white, patent-leather, high-healed sandals?

I just looked at them again. They're slingbacks. That helps me feel more confident.

I'm not exactly a rich Italian heiress on a yacht, either, so I can't pretend I'm working a nautical look.

O. Friday.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I have no personal weirdness

It's spring! There are wildflowers all along the bluffs above the ocean.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Felonies of Illusion

138 pgs.
Cover by K. Lorraine Graham

I won't go on about how much I like the poems in this book, but I'll go on at least a little: the lines are twisty, the rhythms complicated and unexpected. The poems have a trippy tension between how they feel/sound and what they are and are not saying.

Plus, I'm proud of the cover.

You can order Felonies of Illusion directly from Edge Books for $11!

Here's what other people say about the book:

A master at making genre question itself, Mark Wallace gets the square peg in the round hole again. A stark and aphoristic long poem about living and working during the war—direct, wise, and brave enough to skip the decorative—bumps up against the witty, clanging, angry, top-speed, palimpsestuous title series—lyrics that swallow their own tails. Wallace is cynical, clear-eyed, and resolutely jokey on commerce, war, love (the "therapeutic use of commitment") and exhausted longing ("This day could be about today, leisurely and bright/if the days weren't stacked like nights inside it.") Nobody gets away with anything in Felonies of Illusion: we're all skewered till we grimace and grin.

Catherine Wagner

Mark Wallace invents only what's real. If democracies could talk, we would in fact be able to understand them, but we would need the help of poems like these. As its title suggests, the language of Felonies of llusion is premised on a sense of justice and reciprocity. The need is real, and thus the need for invention is constant. The writing betrays no qualms about showing this. There's serious play going on here.

Bob Perelman

Elegaic without strings, passionate without bravado, up the tragic creek without a cathartic paddle, Mark Wallace’s Felonies of Illusion is an intensely personal collection of valedictions, an extended suite of lyric leavetakings written in the infinite series of penultimate milliseconds before an always-imminent obliteration—a “now” that “is not that long from now.” These already painful goodbyes, however, are suspended in a nervewracking holding pattern as “the total system / shouts back that there’s no way to leave.” Wallace rehearses the purgatorial illogic of perpetual orange alert with unsparing gravity, but also with empathy and wit. His poems confront us with the human truth of the narratives we spin daily in the name of individual survival at the same time that they caution us not to “get / too attached to the story told / imploding.”

K. Silem Mohammad

We did not discuss "May gray"--I didn't want to upset them too much.

Today the weather is more like what people imagine when they imagine San Diego weather. "Gloomy" was a vocabulary word today, so I taught my students about "June gloom."

Still reading Hannah Weiner and loving Code Poems.

My sister Sarah sent me a card from Adelaide with a lovely picture of a rainbow lorikeet on the front--and also one on the inside that she'd drawn. She inquired about Lester and asked if I ever "try to draw the birds I see." She signed the card "All the dearest colors of the rainbow, love, Sarah."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lester is practicing a new song

--a version of "who's my good baby b?"--one of the many silly things I say to him all the time. He's now learned it and is experimenting with incorporating it into his repertoire. If I go into the living room to look at him or even talk to him, he'll stop--when he's practicing, he likes to be alone. On Mondays, Mark works late, and I work here in the afternoon and eat a very early meal so I have time to digest before my 6:30 yoga practice. Lester and I eat together; after I go back to working in the study, and Lester practices his songs.

Lester will spend weeks perfecting a new phrase or song. He often will get the tone or rhythm of the vocalization first before he begins to enunciate it. Moreover, Lester likes to develop several different versions of the same song. For example, he has several different laugh sounds that he uses in different situations. When Mark or I talk vigorously on the phone or with each other, he'll make a loud, guffawing sound. He also has two different higher, more twittery laughs that he uses.

I've blogged before about how Lester says "peep," which is a version of him imitating Mark and I imitating him. However, Lester's favorite song is "salt peanuts," followed by a three-note salt peanuts whistle. He does at least three different versions of "salt peanuts," one that is like me, one like Mark, and one like our friend Dan, who met Lester as a baby bird and spent a lot of time talking with him. Lester also does the three-note whistle in multiple keys, depending on what he's just sung before it and what he plans to sing after it.

I think he might also be learning "I love you," but it's hard to hear clearly from here.

After Lester has incorporated a new song or phrase into his repertoire, he likes to riff on it--he'll combine one part of a song or phrase with another part, or sing everything in a different order.

My understanding of domestic happiness and order has been deeply influenced by Lester's afternoon practice sessions--and by birdsong in general. A vocalizing bird is a healthy, happy bird. Mark's parakeets would sing vigorously at sunrise and sunset, whenever there was music on, and whenever anyone sung or talked with them. They liked to join in the party.

I remember taking a nap one afternoon in our old apartment at 1401 N Street NW in Washington, DC. Lester thought I was asleep, so he felt free to practice. At that time, I knew he was vocalizing, but I hadn't clearly picked out any of his specific sounds. In a sort of half-awake daze, I listened to him practicing some of the first vocalizations he picked up living with Mark and I--"salt peanuts," "Lester's a pretty bird" and their corresponding whistles. Of course, when I got up from the couch, he stopped practicing.

Lester does vocalize when people are around, especially when people are talking energetically or there's music on--but he doesn't practice then; he practices in privacy, on calm afternoons or early evenings, preferably after we've both eaten a meal.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The reading was fun

The reading was fun.

Tomorrow is Monday. Before I wrote "Monday" I wrote "Munday." I think I was thinking of "fun," and the general lack of it on Mondays (though I think Tuesday is actually a worse day than Monday). But hence the "mun" in the "Munday" I erased. I suppose "mun" could be "money," too.

The reading was fun.