Saturday, May 31, 2008

How cute, I will be 30 soon

11 more days until my birthday. Although this day is not yet over, I am considering it over. Since I know I'm not going to receive real estate in Spain (or anywhere else), today's birthday wish is for all of my friends to keep visiting and to keep inviting me to visit them; I also want to give more readings, go to more parties, more art galleries, etc.

Tomorrow's birthday wishes will probably be about health and vanity.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We're in Seattle now that conference festivities are over. We spent the day being tourists, walking around down town, and trying different food from the many places around pike place. The conference was fun and productive--I'm on vacation, so I'm not going to do a thoughtful post about it now, but later. I did a handstand as part of my reading, which is a good indication of the whole atmosphere of the event.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Off to Olympia and Seattle

Last night I dreamed that I went to Kaia and Jule's panel on Landscapes of Dissent: Guerilla Poetry and Public Space and the audience was me and fluffy kittens that look suspiciously like the ones in some of Anne Boyer's recent pieces that she's been posting on flickr. And then, here's the paranoid part: I checked my AIO work email, and there was a message from Alma haranguing me for not posting an announcement about the "apocalypse festival" to my class.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Umbrella Above our Table at the Julian Pie Company was as Beautiful as the Pie

1. Finishing my essay on Alma and other things for the Feminist poetics panel at Press this weekend. It's not really an essay, and it's not really finished, but I think it will be a good "talk." I've never been one for reading my paper as a presentation start to finish anyway.

2. Trying to familiarize myself wtih Pig Angels of the Americlypse; looking forward to rehearsing and performing.

3. Laundry and getting Lester ready to head off to the vet for boarding tomorrow.

4. Packing. I like packing. I'm not sure if I'll bring any dresses. Certainly I will bring some heels.

5. Organizing my poems for readings both at the conference and later in Seattle in the Subterranean Yak series.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No broken bones, just sore--but in a good way, not an injured way.

It's important to be decisive when you're doing any form of acrobatics. A half-assed jump up into handstand doesn't work. And if you're the base/support, you can't be indecisive about when you need to come down. You need to be able to know you're done about five seconds before you're done so that you don't collapse with everyone balancing on top of you. Being indecisive especially doesn't work when you're doing handstand on someone's ankles while they're in plank and someone else is doing an inversion on their back.

I took the acro-yoga workshop because I don't feel comfortable doing partner work; I don't want someone to support me, literally or figuratively, I want to support myself. Acro-yoga is all about partnership. I'm usually game for anything in a yoga class, but it was amazing how timid and even negative I was at moments about some of the balances and inversions we did. I do much better when I know the person being the "base"/support.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hopefully I won't come back with any broken bones.

I've been grading all morning, and am now headed to an acro yoga workshop. Apparantly "the mystery of inversions is no match for the wisdom of acrobatic training techniques!" I already have no problem being upside down, but I'm hoping to learn more about assists. The workshop description also suggest that we're going to learn how to build pyramids. Mmm. I'll let you know how it all goes. Maybe I can learn a few moves to use as P4 in Rodrigo's "Pig Angels of the Apocolypse" that we'll be performing next week during Press at Evergreen. Piggy pyramids!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Lester

I've been reading a review copy of Danielle Parfunda's My Zorba (Bloof, 2008). The diction is more domestic than Glenum's Hounds of No and less blatantly grotesque--though there's still plenty of ovaries and medical treatments (not so many explosions or references to mucus membranes). I'm enjoying the energy on the level of the line.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Laura Glenum's Hounds of No

We're in the midst of a slight heat wave here on the coast. The guy I buy bread from at the farmer's market told me he thinks the strange weather is a sign of the End of Days, and also of global warming. "It's never colder in Escondido than it is in Carlsbad," he said. I told him that when the oil runs out and the apocalypse comes, I'll be in good shape with my bicycle. He laughed and said that I could ride up into the clouds and away from the horsemen.

So, in light of that discussion about the apocolypse, I thought I'd post my reading notes about Laura Glenum's The Hounds of No. Again, these are reading notes, not a full-fledged review. It will take several days to weed out the typos. I find that when I think "review" I'm unable to say anything useful. So, I write "notes" which later become "essays" or "reviews." So, on to the notes:

I've now actually read Laura Glenum's The Hounds of No (instead of just looking at it and reading every other poem and then skipping to the back to read the end). I really want to like this book. In theory, it's got everything I love:

macular holes, mucus, aliens, pigs, corpses, ovaries, aborted fetuses, sperm, aliens taking over bodies and exploding (again, with lots of mucus), bodies that explode (even without being surrogate alien parents), insects, S&M, parts of bodies (both human and non-human), doll houses, museums, dioramas, tableaux, Victorian wigs...

And more.

This book resonates with all the Modernist literature most dear to me: Mina Loy's "Pig cupid rooting his rosy snout in erotic garbage," for example, or practically every love affair in Djuna Barnes Nightwood. Maybe even H.D's Nights for it's masochistic and symbolic order that finally doesn't lead anywhere definite--"Two straight lines run into infinity." There's even a bit of Breton's Nadja here, although she shows up as something like an exploded mannequin, and the trail left by her plastic body parts doesn't lead any where sacred (even in a profane way).

I like the camp in this book, I appreciate the very obvious critique of female objectification, I like the fact that Glenum seems to care about what both Freud and Lacan have to say about the world (I think this is the first book I've read that quotes from Dora) and is able to critique them without shunning them completely.

In short, this book has many of the concerns of the Feminist avant-garde Modernists I mentioned above, and also New Narrative (There's a lot to unpack in that statement.)

And yet I'm not howling with ecstasy. Which puzzles me. Hounds of No is working with concerns with which I am, um, deeply concerned, but it also feels very familiar. Point #6 of Glenum's "Manifesto of the Anti-Real," is this:

"To be Anti-Real is not to be Surreal. The achievement of Surrealism lies in displacing correspondences, in the poem not arriving. In the Anti-Real, all assumptions are disabled, too, with one difference: the Anti-Real displaces causal logic with a totalizing logic of violence."

Sound's good. But Surrealism is interested in violence, too. Comte de Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror is all about violence (and evil, and grotesque bodies, and how when you push these things far enough they become strangely beautiful and, dare I say, sacred), n'est pas? Although I guess he was really pre-Surrealist; they claimed him posthumously, right? I suppose pushing profanity until it becomes holy is a kind of arrival. And the heroine in H.D's Night does arrive at the bottom of a frozen lake, but the text doesn't have anything grand to say about it, except for the fact that the suicide is annoying and puzzling for everyone else still alive, so the text opens up again without arrival.

Surrealism isn't Feminist, of course. In many Surrealist poems, women are sacred entry points to the divine (often very literally) or guides to the mysteries of the universe. They show up naked in the woods at night, or they are lovers like Nadja who embody all that is mysterious, dark, violent (and, you guessed it, sacred) about the night cityscape. A cunt is great as long as it's imaginary. It's been a while since I looked, ahem, at Louis Aragon’s Le Con D’Irene, but still.

Ok. So I like The Hounds of No, but it's finally a little too neat for me to love it. The poems know their contexts--the grotesque, Christianity (which I haven't discussed), Surrealism and psychoanalysis and Feminist critiques of both, nods to critiques of post 9/11 politics--but I'm not sure the language went far enough for me. Let me try to be specific. The moves are really good, but they felt familiar. I keep thinking about Kathy Acker's Kathy Goes to Haiti :

"Is he your husband."
"No. I don't have a husband."
"Listen, you don't understand how things are in Haiti. Women in Haiti don't go around alone."
"What about the women who aren't married. Are there any women who aren't married?"
"They live with their families."
"It's not like that in the United States."
"You can't go to Jacmel alone. You have to have a boyfriend."
"But I don't want a boyfriend. I want to be alone."
"If you don't have a boyfriend, the driver of the Jeep'll become your boyfriend."
"You mean he'll rape me?"
"No. No. There is no violence in Haiti. Anybody can do anything they want in Haiti."

There's nothing formally crazy about that passage, and it's not fair to compare poetry to fiction, maybe, but that passage is super creepy and funny and it plays will all kinds of familiar problematic racial and gender stereotypes and fantasies. The last line makes me laugh and leap out of my skin. I'm not leaping out of my skin with Hounds of No. Maybe because its form creates distance between the reader and the text, and it does so on purpose. And "distance" isn't a code word for saying "it is experimental and uses enjambment and disjunction etc," although it does all of those things and I like all of those things. It's probably more of a code word for "performance," something else I like, especially when thinking about gender.

That doesn't quite describe what I mean when I say that Hounds of No is a bit familiar and that the language was good but didn't go far enough. But I'll have to stop here. I need to eat an early dinner so that I'm not sluggish during yoga this evening.

Maybe part of the problem is that I wasn't raised as a Christian--I've never even been baptized. I enjoyed the performance in Hounds of No, but I think I'd like to feel more threatened by it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It is beautiful.

I brought home the bicycle today.

Mark and I just returned from a bit of happy hour festivities at Las Olas. We walked home along the 101 and the beach. There are many vacant homes along the 101 and the beach. The old ones were built to be actual homes, but are now rented, and the newer ones were built to be investments, and they are tacky.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Teacher: "Quick come up with an excuse other than 'I overslept.' "

Student: "Yes."

No more ESL teaching for the next month. I have about 15-20 hours a week of online teaching, as well as a few professional development things I need to do, but that still amounts to significantly less work than normal. I actually really enjoy teaching ESL, but it's also exhausting, so it's nice to take a break from it every six months or so.

I'm going to typeset Terminal Humming and give a copy again to a few folks to look over--at this point, many people have read it and given me advice about the poems and order, but now I need help catching really nitty-gritty things typos and word choice mix ups. Loose/lose, for example is one that I make constantly. Basically, I make the same annoying word choice errors that my students do--that's probably obvious to anyone who reads this blog regularly. I can catch 95% of those errors after very attentive proofreading, but the rest--no chance.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mom, I couldn't reach you by phone,

but I dedicated all my handstands and back bends to you today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

But I'm way too fried to tell you about them.

I bought a bike today, then graded and graded. I'm nearly done grading, but I have one final batch of ESL essays to do tomorrow.

As of this Tuesday, the next four weeks are mine for writing and making art things and going to poetry events and giving readings and spending time with friends and on the beach. Even if I only do 1/8 of what I have planned, I'll be extremely happy.

Other things are happening and being thought, by me and others.

The bike is awesome. Awesome doesn't do it justice.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lies lies lies

I don't hate grading. I just hate it when I have to grade a lot in a short period of time. To a deadline. In a specified format.

I can probably scrounge to cover the legal fees myself.

If I had any capital at all now, I'd buy this apartment in Roses on the Costa Brava. Close enough to Barcelona, close enough to Toulouse, about 300K less than less than the cost of a tiny apartment here in North County, and probably more rentable.

Please let me know if you would like to donate a mere $138,000 to my cause. That would cover the cost of the property.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Monday, May 05, 2008

Important Updates

I have decided to not get my hair cut short. Instead, I will grow it long(er) again and consider bangs.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

My Life as Gilgamesh

I’m continuing to think about binaries, specifically gender binaries, and, yes, still in the context of Alma, although this post is going to noodle quite a bit. Basically, I grew up with some of the gender binaries that were important to certain kinds of 70s feminism—the kind of pop Feminism that celebrates and emphasizes woman’s connection to the earth, aboriginal peoples, and children. (Ah, even writing that sentence makes me want to leap out of my skin!) So, despite the many non-normative aspects of my childhood, no one was really overturning gender binaries. There was a lot of earth mother love though.

I received a pretty steady diet of hippie aesthetics and values as well as Western mythology growing up. Most of my friends came from global nomadic families, like mine, or else they were hippies (some wealthy, some genuinely not) who moved to Maine to establish communes and farm with various levels of success and failure. I lost touch with one particular high school friend after he graduated because he went to live in a teepee somewhere and was impossible to locate. Lao, if you’re reading this, drop me a line if you’re so inclined!

I moved around a lot as a child, but for several years I went to a Waldorf-inspired school in Blue Hill, Maine called the Bay School. Although the school now has an amazingly beautiful campus, when I went there, most of the classrooms were in a converted barn. We began everyday by lighting a candle and singing, reciting poetry, or playing musical instruments in what we called “opening circle.” I studied all of Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman mythology. The only science I remember was the history of science—the Copernican revolution, Pythagoras, and stuff like that. I learned how to knit, and crochet, and how to weave on a loom. Although they didn’t do this at the time when I was there, during the third week of May every year, the fifth grade participates in a Greek Pentathlon with other Maine Waldorf schools “as a celebration of the harmonious nature of that age.”

It’s really too bad I didn’t study Sappho when I was learning to weave (that was in high school), because then I could have sung “O sweet mother, I cannot work the loom,” while working. Except that I probably wouldn’t have felt the perverse delight about it that I certainly would now.

It’s because of the Bay School, in part, that I can enjoy reading the section in Isadora Duncan’s My Life where she describes going to Greece in order to build a Greek temple. In retrospect, that section of the book is hilarious—she performs dances among the ruins and wears togas, all while being laughed at and at times cheated by the nearby villagers.

In yoga the other day, my teacher told us to imagine ourselves as maypoles—calm and steady while people were dancing all around you. Except that I actually do know how to dance around a maypole to create different weaving patterns. And a maypole is a big phallic symbol. So the whole class I kept on thinking that I didn’t want to imagine myself as a phallic symbol, and I don’t want to imagine myself as the happy child in floral dancing barefoot around the phallic symbol. Instead, I imagined the dead cat I’d seen on the road that morning.

And only a few days ago, I drew a picture of a maypole on the white board in my ESL classroom with little smiling stick figures holding attached ribbons, and tried to explain about dancing around a Maypole. My class of mostly Korean and Japanese 20-somethings looked at me, blankly. Finally, one young woman said. “That is strange.” And I said, “Most Americans do not know how to dance around a Maypole. Yes, it is strange.” Then I taught a lesson on conditionals (my favorite grammar!) The largest events at the Bay School were seasonal festivals. Apple fest in the fall, Nowell in winter, and May Day in the spring.

I like to make fun of the Bay School, but I’m so glad I went to school there and not in the suburbs. So very very very very glad. My education was better, and I was spared some of the hidden physical and emotional violence that comes with living in the suburbs. My teachers were amazingly intelligent and creative (and that bio doesn’t mention all the years Charles Hutchison, my 5th grade teacher, spent with Greenpeace); and many of them had very non-normative ideas about what success meant. My 6th grade teacher, for example, spent ten years of her life living in Hawaii, working as a waitress and surfing. I was a pretty uptight young kid, so I despised her and thought she was stupid while she was my teacher—what driving, intelligent person would want to hang out in Hawaii and surf? Now, of course I’m grateful that my adult role models weren’t all suggesting that I needed to grow up and become a doctor or a lawyer.

It wasn’t exactly a feminist curriculum, though, and why would it have been, I suppose, given the context. Given all the earth mother rhetoric, I’m surprised that I never developed the strong desire to have children—I’ve got the farm fantasy down, but not the baby fantasy. Still, I absorbed fairly classical masculine/feminine binaries. At the same time, though, I was allowed to play with being one or the other.

There were never any female heroines in any of the school plays, but I did get to enact the role of Gilgamesh in our end of the year 5th grade play. As Gilgamesh, I got to spurn the love of my best friend, J--, who was Ishtar. There’s a lot of gender tension and weirdness in that moment to unpack: I played the hero of a story that describes conquering the savage or feminine wilderness. I tame Enkidu, the beast in the desert, then love and spurn Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. After loosing my chance for immortality, I return home and build a walled city and write my story on the walls. How classically masculine is that?

Friday, May 02, 2008

No no no. No!

The third section of Alma is called "Guardian of the Earth." Still, this moment from the poem "Crudites of Enlightenment":

"thousand-armed. the one female version, a not-quite-deity, is always a principle of mercy. the mother fuckin' mother. are we merciful?" (140)

and this

"i live in negative space with all the dead women, whose potential erased while they lived i seek to restore, via the vengeance of language and the spreading of a message of pure negativity. the unveiling of light in our owl-like faces at midnight. i am enlightened and we are, i can say anything i want to. i am saved and we are, because i say so not to you. do you know that if my poetry lasts--that is if there is a future that is similar in any way to this present--my condemnation of our leaders will have considerable weight, and i am loading it down, the words that count will be mine. and our present leaders will be despised and laughed at. because this is the way literature works. though they are all too unread to know this" (141).

Before yoga class yesterday I was laying on the floor of the studio, trying to stretch my quadriceps, the other five women in the room began to have a conversation about children, and then pregnancy, and then giving birth, and then the cost of education but also how "children are a gift that lasts forever."

I like children as much as I like other humans. So that means I like some of them and don't like some of them. I respect their right to exist, like I respect everyone's right to exist, but I'm not going to be friends with everyone.

I think the pregnancy/children conversation at the yoga center is the default conversation the women have when they don't have anything to say to each other. Just like people who happen to move in shared contexts but don't actually have much in common talk about movies or how much they hate George Bush.

We usually say "I was born on June 11" not "my mother bore me on June 11." Blake says "My mother bore me..." in "Little Black Boy" and Jeremiah says "Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed."

If you are the mother, you could say "I bore the child on June 11," or "I gave birth to the child on June 11." "I had the child on June 11" is common, but vague.

Another default conversation yoga conversation, or even greeting, is the "be positive and relax" conversation, often with the subtle but rather snobby suggestion that one person is actually more happy and relaxed than the other person.

One of my high school friends, who was very nice and positive, failed many of his classes during is first year at a University. I remember him saying, cheerfully "Oh well, I know I can do better next time," and I remember thinking, "dude, no you can't. You need to deal with the fact that you failed most of the beginning-level classes in your major."

Also, all during yoga, I kept on thinking about a dead cat I'd seen on the road that morning. In pincha mayurasana: dead cat, in urdhva dhanurasana: dead cat, in ardha chandrasana: dead cat, in ardha chandra chapasana: dead cat. Finally I said hello to the cat (not out loud, of course), and imagined breathing in all the elements of the cat that were now on the road by the lagoon, and in the air around it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It's not my favorite song on the Nuggets box, but still

Dance Round the Maypole is a classic--that's a link to a short MP3 of the song, should you not be the proud owner of Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969.

Other favorites include "How Is the Air Up There?" by The La De Das, and "I am Just a Mops," by the Mops.

However, it's May Day, so our focus must be "Dance Round the Maypole," by the Acid Gallery. It's disc 4, track 20, just in case you need to play it right this minute! Otherwise, listen to the link above, and read these wondrous lyrics.

"I like your boy," said Caroline to Jane
"You must know why, for it's the first of May"
Let's go dancing on the green
Fair girls one to seventeen

Dance round the maypole, dance round the maypole
Over the green field and down to the hay
Lift up your hearts and dance round the maypole
Run to your true love and dance all the day

Said my friend, who's a handsome Cavalier
"You and I will escort her to the fair"
Bluebells round the cherry tree
This girl gave them all to me


One minute seemed to to be right
When she expressed her delight
At finding sixpence in her shoe
How can you romance a heart
And gaze on out to the stars
When there's a shadow chasing you

3rd verse
This young girl threw her cares into the well
Now I've learned Father Time has rang the bell
No more dancing on the green
Since I've found another scene


La la la la la la la .....
Also, there were people selling fresh fish at the farmer's market in Carlsbad yesterday. I need to learn more about their sources, but still, that's an exciting development.

No more meyer lemons, and the fava beans are too big to be good now, but the asparagus is still great.

I have a new recipe for hummus that I'm going to try--the hope is that the result will be smooth, creamy, nutty, and tangy (not mealy and overly lemony).
I finished posting all my April poems to See it Everywhere. That manuscript gets more and more unwieldy. It's probably two manuscripts, not one.