Friday, February 29, 2008

NEW Triple Threat Reading Series

Mark has a good blog post about the ways in which San Diego is and is not a poetry city. I'm simply posting the information about the reading this Saturday--I'll be there, hopefully with freshly manicured hands and pedicured toes. Yes--a reading in San Diego is that exciting.

NEW Triple Threat Reading Series--sponsored by 3 San Diego Small Presses: 1913 Press (ed. Sandra Doller), Kuhl House Press (ed. Ben Doller), Tougher Disguises Press (ed. James Meetze) announces its inaugural event...

Come one, come all to the first reading in North Park's new and explosive series. We begin with Noah Eli Gordon & Joshua Marie Wilkinson who are reading in support of their fresh new collaborative book Figures for a Darkroom Voice.

Agitprop Gallery in North Park
2837 University Ave. San Diego, California 92104
(entrance to the gallery is actually on Utah)
7:00pm Saturday, March 1st.

Noah Eli Gordon's first book, The Frequencies, was published by San Diego's own Tougher Disguises Press in 2003. Since then, he has had five other books appear, including Novel Pictorial Noise, which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series, and published last year by Harper Perennial. Last year also saw the release of Figures for a Darkroom Voice, a book
written in collaboration with Joshua Marie Wilkinson. He writes a column on chapbooks for Rain Taxi: Review of Books, and his reviews and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Publishers Weekly, Boston Review, and Denver Quarterly. He teaches creative writing at the University of Colorado in Denver. See him reading with Joshua Marie Wilkinson here:

Joshua Marie Wilkinson is the author of Suspension of a Secret in Abandoned Rooms (Pinball, 2005), Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk (U of Iowa, 2006), and The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth (forthcoming from Tupelo Press). He holds a PhD from University of Denver and lives in Chicago where he teaches at Loyola University. His first film, Made a Machine by Describing the Landscape, a documentary about the band Califone, is due out next year. He curates Rabbit Light Movies, a website devoted to short poem-films, and recently co-edited an anthology of conversations between younger poets and their elders, which is forthcoming from the University of Iowa Press. See him reading with Noah Eli Gordon here:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

It's definitely blowing the top of my head off

"There is a difference between fashion copy and our 'poems' which are imitations of fashion copy. There is a difference between a real fashion show and our imitation of a fashion show. We are interested in these differences in spite of the fact that we have tried to eliminate them.

"We want to show the difference between presentation and representation by bringing presentation and representation as close together as possible."

--Hannah Weiner, from "The Fashion Show Poetry Event Essay"

So, yes, I've been reading Hannah Weiner's Open House. I bought it at Bridge Street last October, and I'd been waiting and waiting to read it until I could actually read it with attention.

Recently I dreamed that Mark and I were in the last house I lived in in Sedgwick, Maine. Fish started floating out of the sky, and eventually jellyfish. A large apartment building space ship came down, and a military man said we had to come with him. I was skeptical, but also nervous about the fish in the sky. So I ran back into the house and grabbed an already-packed suitcase, and also Hannah Weiner's Open House. We got into the apartment building space ship, and things got weirder from there. The last part of the dream included Mormons and ballroom dancing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's still February, after all

Read a student essay today that suggested being a hippie was, for the student, about making better style choices and having more interesting conversations. That particular student is a good conversationalist, and does a great sense of style.

Another student said that you could rent a one-bedroom apartment in Milan for about $400 a month. I don't really believe it, but still.

Today a student asked me the difference between "reality" and "real estate." In San Diego county, there isn't a whole lot of difference.

Also, I want this; this would also be nice.

Going to yoga this evening to pry my shoulders out of my ears.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Altered States

One of my coworkers at one of my many jobs asked me for advice about sensory deprivation tanks--did I know of any? Apparently the only one this person had found is in at Full Circle Yoga Institute in San Diego. My coworker knows I practice yoga, and that's why this person asked me--if one yoga center has a sensory deprivation tank, why not another? I had trouble focusing on the question, because the moment this person said "sensory deprivation," I thought of a scene in "Altered States" where the main character Edward Jessup has regressed so far back into collective consciousness that he's become a kind of Neanderthal who goes on a killing rampage at the zoo. Later he says something like this to his wife: "Last night I hunted, killed, and ate a goat. It was one of the most sublime experiences of my life."

Monday, February 25, 2008

I have trouble remembering facts if I don't understand them.

No rain today.

I ate a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. It was good.

I am tired.

It is Monday.

My students said several interesting things today about their ideal neighborhoods. Many of them would like to live on an island in the Caribbean. One student wants to move to Anchorage. Another student wants to live in a city in southern Europe. My basketball playing Turkish student is being recruited by a school in Edmonton, Alberta. Their utopias were all basically mixed-use, economically diverse urban communities near a beach (except for the student who wants to move to Anchorage).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

How is it possible that tomorrow is Monday? I had a three day teaching week last week, so now I feel like every week should be a three-day week.

A yogurt went bad. We had to throw it out. Quel dommage.

Mark and I watched an episode called "The Lost Child" from the 4th season of Prime Suspect on Friday night. It was tense. I remember my mom liking the Prime Suspect series. The episode felt very 90s pop Feminist. Detective Inspector Jane Tennison is woman in power, but the rest of the bureaucracy is all men, and she's often at odds with her superiors. The episode begins with the suggestion that she's had an abortion, and the plot revolves around the problems of motherhood and having a career. The murder victim is a toddler and the murderer turns out to be the mother (who was crazy, tired, studying for law exams, and frustrated with bourgeois pressures). Interestingly, there's a character who's a (former) pedophile--he's the main suspect, but completely innocent. In some ways he's a rather sympathetic character, even though he's also disgusting.

Anyway, the episode made me think about 90s Feminism, and Hilary Clinton, and the Democratic debate in Austin on Thursday. I drank almost too much and stayed up past midnight--both of which are pretty hard to do in San Diego north county. I want the primaries to be over.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

We went to the zoo today.

Last night I dreamed that the house was a huge maze jungle gym for Lester.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sympathy and Empathy

So, today, for the umpteenth time, I explained the difference between sympathy and empathy to my ESL students. (Aside: I remember the first time I heard the word "umpteenth." Dan Rather said it during coverage of the first Gulf War. I don't remember any more about the context, but I went and looked up "umpteenth" in the dictionary. I have a problematic soft spot for Dan Rather because he gave my Dad topographical maps that helped him backpack out of Baghdad to Jordan).

I think the word "sympathetic" has a bad reputation. As in:

We tend to focus on the concept of "pity" (pathos, etc) relative to sympathy, but I think sympathy can be about the capacity to imagine someone's experience while at the same time recongizing that you cannot possibly accurately imagine someone's experience--especially their suffering. It's the combination of the willingness to imagine and the recognition of the impossibility of imagining that is important. When my Dad's dad passed away nearly 10 years ago (I never new my grandfather, all I know is that he ate wheat germ and was once hit in the head with a wrecking ball--mythology) I didn't know what else to write except something along the lines of "Dad, I have no idea how you are feeling, but if you want to talk, let's talk."

When I explain sympathy to my students, I talk about it in terms of identification. Sympathy is when you can imagine or identify with someone's experience, even if you've never had a similar experience. Somehow, there is an affinity--even if it's only imagined. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (if some kind person with access to the OED wants to send me the entries for sympathy and empathy, great), sympathy is "almost a magical notion at first; e.g. in ref. to medicines that heal wounds when applied to a cloth stained with blood from the wound." Sympathy as a way to connect to someone else, even though true connection is impossible.

Empathy is a much more recent term, coined (again, I'm citing the Online Etymology Dictionary) in 1858 by Rudolf Lotze. Empathy is initially about identifying with art, not with people. (The art object as a mirror of self, bla bla). When we talk about empathy relative to another person, it's still largely an intellectual concept: empathy is a kind of intellectual vicarious experience of the feelings of someone else. At least that's how I explain it to my super smart advanced ESL students.

So, I think of empathy as being intellectual, and sympathy as being imaginative. Yes, I know, it's a false dichotomy, but still. It's truly impossible to understand someone else's experience. You can't really know what another person is experiencing any more than you can know what a parrot is experiencing. What you have is your ability to imagine someone's experience based on your shared interactions. This is how Lester and I interact: we have our own knowledge of ourselves, and our own knowledge of our shared interactions.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I was confused about many things

Alas, there are no readings this evening.

I am going to make a lentil stew thing with greens. Lentils are good with greens. Also, I have a rather large amount of lentils in my cupboard, and also a lot of greens in my fridge.

I want to brine my own corned beef for St. Patrick's day this year--all in practice for one day spending St. Patrick's day with my sisters and Dad and Mary in Westport (we'd have to climb Croagh Patrick the next day to work off the corned beef). This will likely never happen, but I want to be prepared. Mark and I will eat leftover corned beef on sandwiches and in breakfast hash.

I wish that Jean Rhys had written more. I wish Jane Bowles had written more. I have to stop myself from rereading Good Morning, Midnight and Two Serious Ladies every month. When I'm tired and frustrated with reading, those books are all I want to read. I think it's probably time for me to reread Nadja. Maybe I'll be able to appreciate it without feeling so hostile towards it and endlessly comparing it to Nightwood.

Here are some books I would like to read:
  • Insel - Mina Loy
  • Daughters of Decadence: Women Writers of the Fin De Siecle - Elaine Showalter
  • Trauma: A Genealogy - Ruth Leys
  • The Open: Man and Animal - Giorgio Agamben
  • The Blindfold - Siri Hustvedt
  • CALAFIA'S CHILDREN, The California Heritage Poetry Curriculum - Oakland Unified School District
  • Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society (Ethnographic Studies in Subjectivity, 4) - Joel Robbins
And a lot of other books

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Riding in the Rain

I should get rain pants. It turns out that they would actually be very useful, even here in southern California. Also, riding in the rain would be easier if I wore contacts. I've tried, but I don't like them. I should also go to a real eye doctor who can fit me with contacts that aren't irritating. I like the fact that my glasses cover up the circles under my eyes.

I have a new ESL class this week, and so I no longer have the very vexing and scary student I had last month. Apparently, he complained about having a new teacher and told the director that I was the best teacher he'd ever had. He's like a guy who beats you and then says how much he loves you afterwards.

Edwin Torres arrives tomorrow to read at Cal State San Marcos. Leslie Scalapino is also reading down in San Diego. If only there were two of me!

Off to yoga. My open-floor handstand is much stronger now. My quadriceps feel like they're shrinking, though--one downside of cycling, so I need to work more thigh stretches into my sequences.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Missing Cupcakes

I can't find the cupcakes we brought home from Auntie Em's Kitchen. I think I remember taking them off the train. Maybe they are in the car? I am sad.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

LA + Poetry + Poet Friends + Art + Armenian Food + New People + Me + Mark =

Big, big love.

And I love the sleepy, somehow not quite hungover train ride back to north county, too.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Today it was 41 Degrees

And there was hail.

And yet many people are still in T shirts.

Tomorrow Mark and I are going to drink cava, but that has nothing to do with the weather.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm pointing you all towards what Nada Gordan said about Hilary Clinton, gender, and the recent primaries.

I admit that I voted for Edwards by mail before he dropped out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I will not complain about my students.

All I want to yap about is how difficult and challenging (in a boring way) the current group of students in my ESL class is. I'm also in the midst of three days of insane final grading for one of my online classes, which is just ending. I'm testy.

The shower won't drain.

A few weeks ago, I finally potted the clipping from the jade plant that Mark and I had in DC. It's doing quite well, and it's nice to have a little plant here in my office.

It's nice to have an office.

I found my old English grammar book from the first half of my sophomore year in high school in Mexico City. On the back page is a list of potential gifts for people, a note that says "remember Lord of the Flys" (my spelling was even worse then), and a cheesy quote from the song "Fragile," by Sting.

Here's a quote from the grammar book:

"To people who speak standard English, an error in the use of even a single verb is as conspicuous as a smudge on one's face. These additional drills are included to clean up any remaining 'smudges' in your use of the irregular verbs that you have studied so far in this chapter."

or, a favorite sample sentence:

"After Elmo added raisins, he put the cake in the oven."

I'm not sure how studying English grammar in an environment geared towards non-native speakers of English at the same time I was learning Spanish resulted in me enjoying grammar, but it did. Spelling has always annoyed me--grammar I like. It explains structure. Thought. Logic--or lack thereof.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm going to name my style: it is called the My New Style is Your New Style Style. Alternatively, it could be called, "I hope this doesn't feel good"

or also "it pains me."

I have a new student who really really wants to talk about condoms. He's 28. I fear that his presence in the class will mean that I have one overwrought young man too many. They all came to California because they thought it was warm all the time and they could go to the beach and meet girls. It's cold now. Too cold for the beach, and most of them don't live near the beach, and getting to the beach takes an hour on the bus, even though it's only five miles from their house. They are overwrought and lack the ability to pay attention to detail. None of them even bought a guidebook before coming here. They didn't look up the weather, they didn't even really research where Oceanside is located. No one gave them any useful advice before they arrived and it didn't ever occur to them that studying English in California would NOT be like starring in an episode of the OC.

In general, I like and respect my students, but I'm having trouble doing that this month. I don't respect them. I want to, but they need to give me some indication that they are thinking. I feel like everything I say to them is a disappointment: they're so fragile. "California is cold. No, not all women are sluts. No, there is no street life in Oceanside. No, you will probably never have the opportunity to go to a house party while you are here. No, the public transportation is terrible. No, you can't go to a club until you are 21. No, there aren't really any clubs to go to. No, the water here is cold all year round. No, the weather isn't nice here in May and June--it's cloudy and overcast every day" etc....

I'm nostalgic for my DC students, who were, in general, tough, polite, funny and independent.

I'm in a pissy mood, so I'm not going to conclude this post with my usual sympathetic counter argument about how my students really are OK sometimes.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

how much I like being upside down

This morning I woke up with an Alfred de Musset poem in my head--"Tristesse"--one that I had to memorize for a French class in high school. Most of the poems we had to memorize were by Musset, Jacques Prévert, Verlaine, sometimes Rimbaud. Nothing really surprising. Although I guess we did do a whole unit on Apollinaire and caligrams. And we also read Ionesco's La Cantatrice Chauve and Beckett's En Aattendant Godot. My French teacher had us reading Beckett while I was still hung up on T.S. Eliot and writing imitations of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Meanwhile, in French, I was writing awful but strange poems about salamanders and gypsies. You will never see any of those poems.

I'm not sure I have anything else to say about the "Numbers Trouble" article that I haven't already said before. Doubtless I have much to say about gender and avant-garde art. Yes. Much to say.

I've been reading back issues of Elsewhere and also Hanna Weiner.

I've been trying to figure out what I did to my neck.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Rat Year

Dim Sum over at Delirious Hem. I was too overwhelmed with student behavior problems, plagiarism issues, and two annual reviews to contribute to this forum, but do have a look. If you're even here, though, you probably already know about it. I'll be blogging/commenting on it soon. Maybe.

This was an awful week. I taught my students the verb "whine." Soon, I'll have to teach some of them how to say "momma's boy."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

road rode wrode

It is difficult to learn English in English class if you are never in English class. I don't care how much money your parents foolishly paid for you to come here.

However, today was a good day. I rode my bike to work this morning for the first time in weeks. I saw a red-tailed hawk in one of the acacia trees near our apartment, and three herons, and two feral parrots. I rarely see feral parrots around here, so I was very excited. They were smallish, green, and loud. Some kind of conure, probably.

I also now have my California drivers license. At last.

Lester's been in a pissy mood because he's going through his spring molt. Today I gave him a shower/steam bath, which helps take care of the pinfeathers, and he's in a noticeably better mood now.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ce Soir

Poets in the Galleries
6:00 p.m.

Focusing on women poets living in California, SDMA and the UCSD Department of Literature are proud to present award-winning poets Sandra Doller and Fanny Howe.

Sandra (nee Miller) Doller's first book, Oriflamme, was published by Ahsahta Press in 2005, and her second book, Chora, is forthcoming from Ahsahta in 2009. She was a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Boise State University in spring 2007 and a recipient of the Paul Engle-James Michener Fellowship in 2004. She currently teaches in the literature and writing department at California State University, San Marcos.

Fanny Howe is the author of more than 20 books of poetry and prose, several novels and prose collections, short stories, books for young adults, and a collection of literary essays. Additionally, she has won several awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Poetry Foundation, the California Council for the Arts, and the Village Voice.
$5 members/$10 nonmembers/$7 students

It's not my assignment

Oh, I wish my sinuses would just explode--that would feel nice(r).

I would never design an assignment that requires developmental English students to write a cause-effect essay on global warming. It is a boring, uncreative assignment, and someone plagiarizes every time. It's bad for the student, obviously, and it's an administrative nuisance. I tell students, "it's easier for you to write a solid essay than it is for you to plagiarize and not have me notice." They do not listen. If someone plagiarizes so well that I can't tell they are actually plagiarizing, then on some level I don't care, because it means that they must have pretty good writing skills.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Probably I am supposed to model qualities of "excellence" and "leadership."

I typed up a poem. I wish html rendered spacing better.

I'm grading. Oops, I mean I'm "providing feedback." I keep forgetting that I'm not actually a professor or a teacher, I'm a "facilitator."

The student who has missed four out of the past ten classes told the evaluators that my class moves too quickly, and the student who dropped down from the advanced class and never does the extra assignments I give him (and which he requests) said that the class moves too slow.

I bought my brother a gift membership to the Audubon Society. I can write that here since I know he doesn't read this blog.

I'm going to make tea.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

things between me and death at the hands of two simultaneous performance reviews


  • 8 year anniversary
  • dinner
  • beer
  • Fanny Howe et Sandra Dollar reading on Tuesday
  • pay raise
  • tedious community college job applications
  • California drivers license test
  • cava

Friday, February 01, 2008

All Problems at All Jobs All Together

And all must be solved, even though all are a waste of time.

I've been writing poems, which must mean that I am a poet.

I feel like reading the Plays of Hrotswitha of Gandersheim. That can't be good.