Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chessie the Manatee

Way back on October 3, 2005, during the last autumn I lived in DC, I wrote a brief blog post about Chessie, a manatee who swam up the James River all they way to Richmond, Virginia--although now I can't find any verification that this was an official Chessie sighting.

Chessie, originally from Florida, was radio tagged and tracked by the US Geological Survey's Sirenia Project--although he apparently got rid of his tracking device in 2001. In 1995, Chessie swam all the way to Rhode Island. According to the Chessie Watch page (which hasn't been updated since 2004), there hasn't been an official Chessie sighting since August, 2001, although a younger manatee has been sighted in and around Virginia Beach. You can read more about Chessie's in his bio.

Anyway, I bring to your attention a comment left this afternoon by Mr. Case of Virginia Beach, VA on that very old blog post of mine. He says:

"I saw a manatee today at noon at Rocketts Landing; it was swimming slowly downriver."

Well, Chessie, if that was you, we wish you well. In fact, whoever you were, we wish you well, and recommend that you start heading south before the water gets too cold. Go, manatee, go!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Specific Information

My adventures in MFAland continue to be interesting--I've posted the last two sequences of things that I workshopped in Rae Armatrout's class to my poetry drafts blog, See it Everywhere. I've been doing some visual stuff, but I'll need to noodle with that a bit longer before I post it anywhere.

In Rae's class we're reading Claudia Rankine's, Don’t let me be lonely and John Ashbery, Robert Hass, Jorie Graham, Donald Revell, & Lyn Hejinian from the Hybrid anthology. And then also Hejinian's Against Closure essay. Predictably, I deeply dislike the Revell. I've heard Claudia Rankine read from Don't let me be lonely at least once. The doodle above is from when she read at UCSD on January 25, 2006--that must have been one of the first readings I went to after moving here. That book is, among other things, a devastating examination of American loneliness, and so a good introduction to living in the San Diego suburbs.

This week is Futurism and Dada week in the Modern Art Movements and Aesthetics with Michael Davidson. We're reading some of Peter Bürger's Theory of the avant-garde; The argument of this book is incredibly familiar to me at this point, but it's good, I suppose, to be actually reading it. We're also looking at Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto, Loy's Feminist Manifesto, and several pieces by Schwitters, Huelsenbeck, Tzara, Khlebnikof, Ball, etc.

In Movement for Theater we continue to focus on honing "neutral" movement. We've also started working on some basic tumbling and acrobatics--somersaults, standing on each others' shoulders, and some basic flying techniques that resemble what I've practiced in acro yoga. And handstands, which I'm always glad to do. All of this is incredibly fun and stimulating, but I'm not yet seeing a path towards how I'm going to use it in my own work. Thus far, my attempts at movement in performance feel muddy and confusing.

Research into my family history has yielded interesting information: 1) Comanche great grandmother 2) Dutch ancestors, in addition to the Scottish ones that I already knew about--they all came through New York 3) A lot of my ancestors on both sides of the family lived in and around Tippah, Mississippi. The ones that didn't stay in New York went south, typically. 4) References to marriages in Jamaica--but no specific information.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I think that the "neutral" walk is much harder than standing on someone's shoulders.

1. I'm a bit embarrassed by how much my weeks at UCSD leave me completely exhausted.

On Thursday, I got up early as usual to go to my theater/movement class. We stood on each other's shoulders and practiced "neutral" walking, which isn't really neutral at all--more like walking without character, or walking with the character of a white man from Europe or North America with excellent posture and an unusual level of evenness.

That afternoon, I was completely useless, much like a squashed bug or a pile of warm laundry. I know those aren't especially unique comparisons, but that is what I was like. A friend from high school once described me as being like "an elf after the holiday season." So, I was like a squashed bug, a pile of warm laundry, or an elf after the holiday season.

2. Wednesday was the first event in the New Writing Series at UCSD.

Part of my funding for my MFA comes from a research assistantship connected with this series. Nikolai, my fellow RA, and I have been running around all over campus for the past three weeks trying to get everything organized. Like so many administrative and organizational jobs, the tasks themselves aren't difficult--what's difficult is getting everyone and everything to coordinate in at least a semi-functional way. Example: getting a key to the performance space where there readings are held required signatures from three different people, one of whom doesn't really have an office and rides around campus on a small green utility cart, as well as a tutorial on the sound system for the space.

About an hour before the reading, Nikolai and I went to set up the space. However, the numeric code to the door, which had worked on Tuesday, did not work on Wednesday. Inexplicably, the art department had given me a code that would work for only one day instead of the entire quarter. Because I'd left my cell phone at home that morning, I had to borrow a phone to call facilities, and finally the police, to let us into the building. The police and facilities kept asking me for "the number of the building." The performance space in the visual arts facility, of course, does have a number, but it's not located anywhere on the building. Randomly, I had a map of the department in my bag, which had the numbers of the buildings. The Visual Arts Facility at UCSD is confusing enough to need its own map.

The policeman tried thirteen keys before he found the one that would open the space. All of this happened about 10 minutes before the reading was supposed to start. Fortunately most of the faculty as well as the readers, Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop, were a little late arriving.

3. I am emotionally available for irony

Baudelaire! Baudelaire! Baudelaire! Baudelaire! Baudelaire! Baudelaire! Baudelaire!

I am quite sure that I use irony as a way of identifying with others as well as distancing myself from them.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

My work also sounds so mean and ironic. It is mean and ironic, but it isn't all mean and ironic.

Today was our first day actually workshopping in the poetry workshop I'm taking. It wasn't so bad. Everyone's comments were, in general, insightful and mostly helpful. There were a few that were very helpful.

All that said, I don't think my work is well suited to a workshop format. I write in long, messy sequences. I don't really write discrete poems--so I have to submit these weirdly excerpted chunks. Things that seem strange shifts in tone, diction & form, etc, usually are, but they also typically have resonances with what's happening later. I write very very loose rough drafts that get revised a lot--a lot--and I also do a substantial amount of reorganization.

I suppose what I have is a fairly boring kind of nervousness. I'm really not used to showing people rough drafts of my poems. I'm used to showing them third or fourth drafts--given the way I write, I'm not sure how useful a first draft is to really look at.

In and around our exhaustion with work, Mark and I have been talking about emotional availability in poetry. We haven't particularly defined what this is, and it's not "authenticity" or the opposite of irony or sarcasm, but whatever it is I feel like my recent work lacks it a bit. I want the sense that anything can come into the poem--I'm good at letting in things like roadkill, or the extreme exhaustion of the person sitting next to me on the bus this evening who kept falling asleep on my shoulder all the way from La Jolla to Carlsbad. However, I'm not so good at letting in the sunset over the beach out the window, or the pelicans and cormorants.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Yeah, I haven't read Notes on Conceptualisms. I would, however, like a "Sobject" T-shirt.

In MFAland, gradschooland. Reading and rereading, among many things, Henry James' "Beast in the Jungle" (which I mistyped as "Beach in the Jungle") and The New Sentence.

I like how "sentence" is "oración" in Spanish, and that it's feminine. La Nueva Oración. In English, a sentence is more about the conventions of writing than speaking. The closest English word to oración is, of course, oration, though oration is rather formal, dignified and ritualized. Latin orationem--"speaking, discourse, language, prayer."