Friday, April 29, 2005

double-decker movie day.

Okay, so, today, after reading a bunch of poems by students who were submitting them late, and other sundry work-related tasks, I went to the movies with my daughter. [Note for anyone wondering about the car dilemma in our household: we walked. Just a half-hour, briskly taken. Very refreshing. Nice pedestrian skywalk over the Bangerter, in case you're interested in taking a demi-godlike view of cars.]

We saw A Lot Like Love, the little cone of cotton candy starring Amanda Peet and Ashton Kutcher. While it's true that it's hard to make a great romantic comedy (I would have said Annie Hall, but I'm still suffering from my Woody Allen issues from last weekend), I also think it's possible to make a perfectly enjoyable flawed film. This film is a case in point. Much of its charm came from the fact that both the stars are very cute, and, in the case of Amanda Peet, actually quite talented. A sort of silly story that hinged on a few implausibilities, easily brushed aside for undiscriminating viewers such as myself, a lover of romantic comedies. If you, too, like this genre, by all means, go ahead and view this film with its very good-looking stars who have a tough time getting together (I bet you can figure out how it ends).

Then, my husband the historian and I saw A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He slept through a bit of it--not an act of bored protest, but really more an indicator that he was tired. I found this film to be quite enjoyable--pretty damn funny, and, since I have not read the book-that-spawned-a-zillion-fans, surprising and sort of fresh. Nice performances all round--special kudos to Mos Def, who has given me joy in several performances of late. And, let me also add that the audience seemed to be deeply pleased by this film. I take it that many of them were among the above-mentioned zillion, as they chuckled, they sighed, they said "awww," in all the appropriate places. Somehow, their approval enhanced my own enjoyment.

If I'm lucky, I'll get to see another movie tomorrow. That will make it a three-movie weekend, which should be the standard, if you ask me.

Note: go to Dr. Write's blog ( for her reading meme. Very interesting, and you'll want to fill it in for yourself. For your personal records, as it were.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Short Lists

Amusing things I've heard on television in the past couple of days:

1. That "natural male enhancement" commercial, where the guy, after taking whatever the product is, is "stepping large and laughing easy."
2. Charles Barkley, talking about how, when you step on the court with the Shaq-ed-up Miami Heat, they're "gonna maul your ass."

People I like that I really shouldn't:

1. Charles Barkley. One more thing CB once said--when asked what he thought of Rasheed Wallace (back in his Portland days), he said "he's a knucklehead." (I think that you had to hear the pronunciation--"head" was more like "haid.")
2. Lyndon Johnson. Much, much longer story.

Quotations from the Bible I find myself thinking of all the time:

1. "Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves."
2. "The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the heads of the children.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Meditation 3

Meditation 3

My children in argument surface from below. The dog grazes my calves as he crosses under the table. A pen has gone missing. A bone buried. Irritations blooming like bulbs having wintered over. The tuneless surge of the shower two rooms away whispers like a sea in my left ear. One never does what the other asks. A dog has gone missing. The pink tulips hold their green secret. The sky has released its loose wet petals. A pink scarf the rain writes its cursive script on. The dog, found, crosses from in to out and back in again. Someone stands naked in the shower’s rain. In April, the winter is trying to become a summer. Under the rambling rose, the knot of a bone.

Crash into you.

No, not the Dave Matthews song, and not either of the movies (the David Cronenberg, sex-in-crashed-cars silliness, nor the new one with Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and so on). An actual car crash that has now brought the total cars in my household down to one.

Both of the car crashes of the past year have been at the hands--the darling, adorable hands--of my eighteen year old daughter. I believe that new rules for driving are in order.

The main thing for you to know is that if you have no car, you cannot go anywhere except on foot. And in the suburbs, this is death. There should be a new bit of figurative language or iconography or something that equates the sneaker with death. I'm just saying, there are no quick trips anywhere.

On the other hand, there is bucolic delight in working at the kitchen table looking into the backyard where the cherry trees are blooming away and there are also daffodils and tulips. Also, certain herbs have resurged, which made their first appearance in a pasta dish on Sunday.

Updates: despite having said the playoffs were something I was looking forward to, I have watched nary a game. Maybe I'm not that excited after all. Maybe, on the other hand, unless you've got a dog in the fight, the first round, at least, are pretty much a snore. And on the other other hand, what about Houston demolishing Dallas--twice?

New poem: I began a series of prose poems last week based on my husband's reading of the
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. I feel I've read them now by proxy. I'll update you as to the progress of these new poems.

Preparing for a great upswing in grading activity. Last night, I prepared by watching quite a bit of random television.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sad Movie Update

How depressing is it, when you go to a movie that all the critics agree is pretty mediocre, and they're all right? Not only was the movie mediocre, but the critics--those masters of groupthink--also trounce your creative will to find something they missed. You're doubly lame--you chose a waste-of-life movie, and you thought you could play "beat-the-critic" and win.

And I am, unfortunately, triply lame, because I did this twice (or have I got the math wrong?--is it doubly lame, squared? cubed? do I need a quadratic equation for this?). You heard it here: both The Interpreter and Melinda and Melinda are pretty lame excuses for a movie. (By the way, I am pretty sure that W.Allen is not only recycling characters and imposing his nebbish-y line readings on otherwise hilarious actors [W. Ferrell], but he's now recycling actual chunks of dialogue. There's a bit in a scene between Ferrell and Amanda Peet that's pretty much directly taken from Annie Hall--this creates a curious effect of making the current movie feel like an embarassment, but also retrospectively revising your feelings about the earlier, great movie.)

Finally, what does it say about me that, despite the general mediocrity of these films, I am not sorry--not one bit--that I saw them?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Coming Attractions

1. The NBA Playoffs. Since it's been a foregone conclusion for, ahem, quite some time that my beloved Jazz would not be making a postseason appearance, I am now looking forward to enjoying the playoffs in a stress-free way. Moreover, since the Lakers tanked spectacularly, there is no official Evildoer team to root against. (That always used to be the way--I feel a little nostalgic, actually--once the Jazz lost in the first round [I'm leaving aside the sacred seasons when we went to the Finals. The great years. The Stockton-to-Malone years.], you'd just root for whomever the Lakers were decimating. Man, I remember some spectacular letdowns--when the Kings seemed indomitable, and a combination of insufferable Laker swagger and some seriously horrifying officiating took them apart. I can get a little hot just thinking about that!) This year, I'm considering my fan options. I like the Phoenix Suns, because I've always loved that Steve Nash--a splendid player all around. I always kind of like the Spurs, even though they have been our nemesis for so long. What irony--is it irony?--that in the year the Jazz imploded, they managed to beat the Spurs--twice! I like the Spurs' "get it done" ethos, plus Tony Parker and Ginobli add some panache. We're always glad at our house when Andre Miller does well, so there'll be some interest in how Denver does. Frankly, we have a hard time getting worked up about the Eastern Conference, but we'll be very interested in how Detroit does and, of course, how the Big Aristotle (is that right? Can that really be right? and more importantly, why?) does.

2. Uhhh, well, summer. We're definitely looking forward to that. Buying random plants. Shorts every day. Up late, sleep in. That kind of thing.

That's pretty much it for right now. We're going to see The Interpreter because pretty much all the worthy and serious films at the serious, worthy theaters either (a) have been seen already, by me and my sweetie, or (b) look like a snooze. And I'm just not down with that. Probably The Interpreter will also be snoozy, but at least there will be real movie stars in it. Also, there's Thai food, and that's always an attraction to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


The kids aren't alright, and neither am I. In the last days of the semester, everyone's working on their collaborative projects, which means an already loose classroom environment becomes
. . . even looser. I'm afraid that I'm a bad teacher. They're afraid they're not going to finish. I can no longer tell who's actually participating, since I have no more panoptical powers (unless I insist, say, that they copy me on all their electronic communications, and that's just too creepy).

Plus it's raining again for the second day. There was snow on Monday, at the same time the fruit trees are all blooming--the specter of the gray day, big gray close clouds, fat wet flakes of snow, just about the same size and loosely the same shape as the blossoms.

In just two weeks, the semester will be over, and we'll all be released from this. I have my summer mapped out as if I were the general of an army ready for war games. My assault on the world starts . . . NOW. (or in two weeks.)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Making Movies.

My son--formerly known as the broken arm, but now he's just Scar, since his cast was removed and he can do a push-up, so that means he can start shooting a basketball again, with other people around!--and I took the plunge and bought a miniDV camcorder this weekend. Yesterday I read just enough of the user's manual to record and also to use the optical zoom, which gave me an absurd feeling of command.

My plan is to make a video essay about my dog. When I reviewed my plans with Scar (just to recap--sixteen years old, which means that everything about me is faintly or even patently absurd), I told him: "I want to make a movie about Bruiser. It's going to be all footage of the dog, with interviews from other people as a voiceover narration. Also, there will be some music." He said, "You think you can do that?" (only a faint hint of derision)

But what is the purchase of a new miniDV camcorder, if not an opportunity to learn how to make a movie about my dog with voiceover narration and music? Even if it means that, in addition to buying a camcorder, memory card, mini tapes, software, hardware, and a service plan, we also now need to buy a DVD-RW drive?

We agreed later that making a series of films starring Bruiser is in order. We have discussed the technical requirements for special FX in which Bruiser will walk up a wall. Also, in one film, Bruiser may walk on water, making him, in Scar's words, "The messiah of dogs."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

David Denby should not be allowed to review movies anymore.


1. His review of Fight Club, whenever that was. (I'm starting with the earliest evidence first.)
2. His non-review of Fever Pitch (I'm skipping ahead). What kind of review is about seven sentences long, cites exactly three details from the film, and ends with an injunction to Red Sox fans that, now that they've descended into the "banality" of winning, they'll have to live ordinary life like the rest of us? Either the movie's worth reviewing or it's not.
3. The capsule review of The Ballad of Jack and Rose. Denby proves yet again that he should take a Tums before he reviews a movie.

Movie reviewing is, like, a sacred art. The best reviewers (currently Stuart Klawans of The Nation, David Edelstein of Slate, and maybe Glenn Kenney of Premiere, Anthony Lane when he's not being too cute to live--and to them I add Roger Ebert, whose humane reviews I find increasingly laudable) make movie-life better. And movie-life is important, man.

Denby almost always ruins my day, and has for years. I remember a great review he wrote once--of Walter Hill's Geronimo, which was a great movie--but that, my friends, was a decade or more ago. Denby needs to hang up his hat and write about something else--maybe, say, how he became addicted to online gambling? Oh, wait--he already did that.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Joys of Working at Home

1. The dog is my supervisor (he walketh beside me in green pastures, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, my dog is with me.)
2. You can take a minute to get started, but once you're started, there's no one to interrupt you.
3. You can have an unbroken conversation with the dog.
4. When your sixteen year old son comes home from school, you can mix the Gatorade (from powder--saves money) and have a chat.

Yesterday, I was able to draft and post a lecture on tercets/triplets/villanelles/terza rima; respond to many student posts, including a bunch of sestina drafts; communicate with important colleagues via e-mail; and remind myself that James Merrill is a veritable wizard at forms (see section "W" in The Book of Ephraim for terza rima wizardry).

The only downside is that for some unfortunate reason, our browser/computer/ISP/whatever gets some websites "stuck" on the page for a certain date. This included all blogspot sites yesterday. So I couldn't update you. Possibly, my children have spent too much time downloading all sorts of pictures (rapstars, boy bands, Invader Zim [for info about this killer toon, check here]). I don't know what it is, but things were rather sloooooooow on the internet front, and also downright obstructionist in the case of the stuck websites.

Jazz notes: what the crazy? The Bold, the Beautiful, the B-team triumphs. Ave Memo! Ave Gira!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sorry to bother you . . .

. . . but in case you're interested, here's a link to two new poems against poetry, selected by Robert Pinsky. The Louise Bogan one is especially great, I think.

Was Sick, But Now I'm Better.

I spent most of the weekend laying around coked up on Advil Multisymptom Cold. Okay, not coked up, mostly dragged out. But my reading went well. It was in a big room with not so many people, but the people seemed pretty attentive to me (I'm a hypersensitive scanner of the room in situations like this--any hint of boredom and it's over, baby. Unlike, say, in a department meeting, where I'll hold forth till people keel over.).

Anyhow, I planned what I thought would be a 40 minute reading which was more like 30, but there were questions from students and the reading organizer, so all was well. No heckling. As a sample, and because middlebrow claims that my readers want poesy, and because I promised my daughter I would, here's a recent poem, the one I closed the reading with:

[Warning: poem below contains mention of a granddaughter and a daughter, but also
drug references. Read at your own risk.]

Two Dark Birds, Flying

As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies making a mane:

I've pinned a line of red clothes to snap
in a wind that blows and keeps blowing.
Today an unfiltered sun pours

at last down the empty Knaven road.
I'm the American grandmother, here
to help with the new baby.

Everywhere here, fireweed's pink flush
—in ditches, lining the narrow farm lane
in this hamlet outside Aberdeen—

flourishes chest-high.
Pheasants large and small scurry—
they're so stupid, says my daughter,

that hawks will make swift meals of them.
Last night, I read in The Scotsman that,
by their own report, Scots are happy least

of all people in the U.K., and even
in the whole E.U.—in fact, they're sadder
altogether than Norwegians, Danes, or Swedes.

What could cause it? Heroin
enters through northern fishing towns;
also, they smoke too much, everything's fried,

and, despite the landscape, no greens to eat.
Too much to drink. Old mills closed, economy's
bad. And then the weather: the bright days

like this—in a whole summer, you can count them
on your fingers. Inside, my daughter sleeps,
and the new baby, not quite awake,

snuffles in her little chair. One gray morning
soon I'll go back to my stateside life. I look
through each window in turn—farms

and more farms. While each child clings
to her last shred of sleep, I'm out again
to check the clothes. Two ravens fly

over this unsown acre,
torn fence, house of plain brick.
Here so lonely, they twine, part and rejoin.

Tomorrow they'll cast their runes on a sky
dull and dreich, and I'll have to leave these
tender ones to it, but just at the moment

here at Knavenside, my hands are full
of red shirts, and pheasant chicks scatter
before my step in this brief, lucky weather.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Poetry Reading

I'm giving a poetry reading down at UVSC today. It's been awhile since I've done this, and I'm sort of sick today, but I'm still looking forward to it.

Here's how it goes for me: anticipation and preparation (yesterday I picked poems from my book, my manuscript, and my new manuscript); dread and self-loathing (on the way down there, I will become intensely aware of all the drawbacks and weaknesses of my work); reading (as I'm reading, I edit out poems that I've picked that appear to me, as I'm standing at the lectern, to be ludicrously bad); and post-reading reaction. Once at the Arts Festival, when I read just before the big headlining band, after people had been standing around in the hot sun drinking beer all day, I actually got heckled. I don't think this will happen today, but you never know.

In general, I don't adore readings--there's something pretty precious about them that makes me squirm. However, sometimes a reading can be so wonderful that it transcends the genre. In the hilarious vein, Susan Musgrave's reading at AWP did this; in the somber vein, a reading Mark Strand did after the publication of Blizzard of One that I thought was pretty great.

I will report on how it all went. In any case, they're paying me, so there's that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

So Uncool You're Hot

Here's my challenge: what songs do you like that you can't admit to liking, because admitting that you like them would make you too geeky to live?

I confess:

Backstreet Boys, "I Want it That Way"

Runner up:

Hanson, "Mmmm Bop"

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Dark Thoughts

I have been lately attracted to the idea of living in a small, modular, possibly prefab dwelling, somewhere off the grid. I was feeling like this before I read the article in Rolling Stone that talked about "peak oil," and how soon it's coming, and how it's going to be basically a new middle ages. So now I'm pretty motivated.

I'm still teaching my classes for now--I guess people still need to know how to make rhetorical appeals--but pretty soon, I'm going to have to be able to grow my own vegetables and maybe keep a goat. Luckily, I had my first cheese-making experience recently.

Off the grid, baby. That's where I'm headed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I award myself the cash prize.

The person who wrote "The Endarkenment" is Jeff McDaniel. For Mr. McDaniel's notes about who the real chancellors of American poetry are, see

His books are The Splinter Factory, Alibi Factory, and The Forgiveness Parade. As a service to my readers, I searched the table of contents of each of these books, but no poem called "The Endarkenment." However, this term is apparently widely used, so many people must have thought themselves extremely clever as they separately coined it. Including Jeff McDaniel.

Other random note, for anyone who rejoiced to hear I had an umbrella: because I bought the traditional, non-collapsible type of umbrella, I had ot leave it in Vancouver. Hence, though it rains today in SLC, I am without an umbrella. Tout ca change, tout c'est le meme chose.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Idol Worship (AWP wrap-up)

I saw W.S. Merwin at the Friday night reading--he was there to listen. I hadn't seen a recent photo of him, so I was a little shocked to see how old he looked, though I suppose I knew that he was in his 70s. He was with a younger blonde woman, but only younger than him--she was probably 50. It turns out he'll be reading in SLC at the Library Tuesday night, so I don't feel as ripped off for not getting to hear his AWP reading. Anne Carson is another matter. No sightings, and no SLC reading in sight, so I do feel ripped off about that. But staying for the reading would have meant prolonging the trip, and even though it was a good conference, I was tired of being away.

Susan Musgrave, the Canadian poet who read prior to Michael Ondaatje, was just great. I didn't know her work, but will seek it out now. For one thing, she was hilarious. Michael Ondaatje was wonderful. He read a poem by Robert Creeley, two poems of his own, a scene from The English Patient, and a couple of scenes from Anil's Ghost. His voice is calm and inflected with his various provenances. His hair is white. A beneficent grandfather--if your grandfather is a genius.

Olena Kalytiak Davis presented in the transgressive post-confessional poetry session, which I forgot to mention. She was awesome. She read a poem called "The Lyrical 'I' Picks Up Her Children from School" (that's close anyway).

Random Notes

Attended Dr. Write's session--it was one of several I attended that had a focus (at least partial) on multimedia productions as part of the creative writing curriculum. I had the thought that what we call "creative" and what we call "public" might be separated, if at all, by a very porous boundary. It was a good session, and Dr. Write looked great, I might add (not that that's supposed to matter--but who are we kidding here?).

Canadians pronounce the title of Barthes' book S/Z "Ess Zed."

I walked over a long bridge to Granville Island, where they have a fantastic public market. By the time I got over the bridge, I was starving, as I hadn't had any breakfast, and my sturdy constitution requires breakfast. So I stopped at Starbucks, the first food purveyor I saw off the bridge, and had a warm beverage and a scone, both of which were slightly too sweet. Ordinarily, I don't like to patronize Starbucks (ditto B & Noble, Wal-Mart, blah blah blah), but I was so hungry, dear reader, I really was. So I made my way to the market, which was, of course, a food market. If only I had had the patience! I'm still irritated about that.

The Vancouver Art Gallery had two very cool exhibits--one of photographs ranging from the early 19th century to the present, the other of a contemporary Canadian conceptual/video artist Rodney James.

I am buying a mini digital video camcorder with the money I make from doing a reading at UVSC this week.

That is all.

Friday, April 01, 2005

AWP: Conference update, Day 2

Sartorial notes:

*Young man, expatiating on freedom and constraint in the genres of poetry and film, with tattooed neck, fingers, hand, forearms; hair in a short, highly groomed faux-hawk; white Pumas; Manchester United scarf and wrist warmers; jeans and denim jacket; and a cigarette--wait for it!--behind his ear. Foot bouncing, as with all the young dudes.

*Young, hot poet--book recently published by Fence press, if that gives a clue--wearing conference-y black suit, with a side-parted bob, also black. Here's some of her monologue:

"It [the experience of collaborating with an artist and a musician for a web-based version of a poem of hers] made me think about the place of imagery in my poem . . . so, instead of just hanging things on the Christmas tree of my poem, so that the reader would just grok that and then we'd just sit around, roasting chestnuts . . . but enough about me--let's read some of my poetry . . . my students [after reading online poetic collaborations such as these] are like [slacker monotone] 'I'm thinking about submitting there' [back in her own voice] yeah, like your poem about tailgating--'cause I encourage poems about tailgating--so if you see a bunch of poems about tailgating [clicking noice--click, click--with her tongue and teeth], that's my baby."

Really cool site I got from a really cool session:

Collaborations between poets, artists, and musicians that become digital artworks:

Check out a poem called "Hoops"--it's a basketball poem. [fans of basketball poems: listen up!] But others are even cooler.

Another really cool session on the video essay:

So, apparently, you just need a Mac, a mini-digital camcorder, and a microphone from Radio Shack. Somehow it looks harder than that. These guys root the video essay in the French New Wave--Godard made them, and Chris Marker, and Agnes Varda. One really great idea that I thought helped me to think about the essay-istic quality of these pieces is the idea that the visual and the voice-over are two sequences that "cross and signal to each other, but which don't ever fully explicate one another." This seems like a productive idea for thinking about all kinds of genres which use both the visual and the textual. Visual rhetoric types, are you paying attention?

Session on Post-Confessional, Transgressive Poetry:

A very confused but nonetheless interesting session. Brian Teare, a poet whose first book The Room Where I Was Born won the Brittingham Prize, recounted an episode where Robert Duncan, whose essay "The Homosexual and Society" had been published in 1944, had a poem's acceptance rescinded after John Crowe Ransom read that essay. Ransom apparently wrote him a note in which he said that, in light of the essay, he couldn't help but read Duncan's poem as endorsing homosexuality, and he could not therefore publish the poem, since he would never see homosexuality as anything but abnormal. The best part, though, was that Teare asked the audience, "I ask you: is this anyway for a New Critic to behave?" (He also said that this might be the first time that the name John Crowe Ransom led to a discussion of sodomy, "but I hope it won't be the last.")

Another guy on the panel whose name I did not get read a poem of his own called "The Endarkenment." There will be a cash prize (well, not really--but how about a mention in this blog!!!!) for anyone who can either find the poem itself or tell me where it was published.

Crisis Averted: Baggage Found.

And now I must have lunch.


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