Monday, May 30, 2011
--RIGHT NOW SOMEONE IS FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOUR SMILE
…Happy Memorial Day Weekend. I hope it's been a good one for you. Me, I came back from NY, had a day at home, and then took off for four days to Walla Walla wine country five hours from where I live.
I feel swollen. I also feel like I've been trampled by a herd of rhinos, beat up by a ring of angry mountain goats. But I had a lot of fun.
Wine-making is pretty fascinating. It's science and math and art all bottled up. There's a certain alchemy to the craft. There's a definitive beauty in all the smoky, oaky layers of those sophisticated wines.
I hope you had the chance to relax this weekend and have a glass of wine or two.
…I have a story, "Cousins" up at Flash Fiction Offensive and couple of new poems --"The Wall" and "For Those" up at a special Memorial Day issue of The Rusty Truck.
Memorial Day is very important to me. All of my brothers went in the army. One of them served in Vietnam and did not have a good experience there, to say the least. The poems I wrote for Rusty Truck were for him.
It's hard to imagine being in wide open combat. It's hard to imagine your friends dying next to you, bullets and rockets shrieking overhead. It's hard to imagine.
…Whatever you do today or this week, don't go see "The Hangover 2." You will be disappointed. You might even get angry, angry that the writers could be so lazy and take a big money grab by writing the exact same script without the charm of the earlier film.
…I had a dream last night. It was not a good one. I won't tell you what it was about.
It was one of those dreams that seemed very real. I woke in the middle of the night and was relieved to discover that the dream never happened, yet each time I fell back asleep I re-entered the dream/nightmare.
Does that ever happen to you?
…This is a thing I know: it's easy to let go. Let yourself go and gorge yourself. Let go. Stop caring, grooming. Let go. Stop holding onto things you once deemed precious and valuable. Let go. Make a change. Draw a line. Let go. Tell yourself this thing is not as important as you once thought. Let go. Watch the balloon squiggle into the sky, becoming a smear and then nothing. It's easy to let go.
It's hard to hold on, to stick with things, to keep caring. But I think that's what separates the fleeting from those that endure.
…I like these things for the end of May:
"Make the leap and the net will appear." Zen saying
"The mind is a wonderful thing--it starts working the minute you're born and never stops until you get up to speak in public." Roscoe Drummond
"The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart." Mencius (371-291 B.C.)
"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The well placed period can be like a spike to the heart." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"A poem is a machine made of words." William Carlos Williams."
"The purpose of art is to stop time." Bob Dylan
"Writing is happy work. As gratifying as sex or hard laughter or love or good drugs." Anne Lamott
Friday, May 27, 2011
YOU ARE GREAT AT EVERYTHING YOU DO. REALLY, YOU ARE
…In New York City when the sun is shining, as it was today--like bright yellow paste--you can walk rings around the earth and feel as if you own it.
So that's what I did.
I gave myself the day. The day for me to ponder and listen and watch.
I walked to the MoMA. I love that place. There was a powerful South African exhibit that refocused my mind on racism and absurd stupidity.
Next I trekked to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, which is another 30 blocks away, sitting like a Roman theater on the eastside rim of Central Park.
The Met is filled with so much of everything. The first two floors have form after form of magnificent sculpture. You would recognize most of them.
On the other floors were an exhibit from the late, great Alexander McQueen and a host of classical paintings (Duchamp's "Nude Descending," Van Gough's "The Starry Night," Cezanne's, "The Bathers," Sauret, Kilmt, Picasso, Miro, Munch, Manet, Monet, Matisse…) that were bewildering in the number and in their accessibility.
Then I hitched it (cab) to SOHO for wine and food at my favorite tavern, "Bar 89." The ambiance there is spartan yet artistic in a sort of Asian way, while the music playing was Gipsy Kings. At "Bar 89" (89 Mercer Street) on the second mezzanine is the bathroom which, by all accounts, is the main attraction. (People run in all the time just to see it. For a while they had to post a guard.) You look down at the pale, warped, wooden planks to see M W M W M W in order to know which restroom to use. The restroom doors are about 12 feet tall, made of glass with sleek chrome hinges and handles. Once you step inside, the glass sort of bubbles, like champagne, or resembling what would happen in Star Trek when Kirk would say, "Beam me up, Scotty." And so you can't see inside the stall, but if you're inside the facility you can very well see outside while you're doing your business, which is sort of freaky and cool and artistic all at once.
…While in the Met I bought a book on Klimt, who I knew, but only in a roundabout way. I just finished it. It's hard to describe how fantastic he is. You can stare and examine and stare and examine and then come back to a particular piece later on and do the same and you'll still see so much that you’d somehow missed previously.
He was obsessed with the beauty of women, "Eros and Thanatos" i.e., Sexuality and Death. Those themes come through in nearly every painting he ever did.
Incidentally, more color reproductions are sold in museums of the works of Klimt than any other artist.
…I am trying not to be so focused on me. I am trying to cleave that part of me off, away.
But I am a little sad, tarnished right now.
Got a few story rejections, which is fine, but then comes the Alex Glass rejection for my novel, "House of Rats..."
He was extraordinarily kind and sounded authentic about the writing, but in the end it's a no.
I realize it's almost unreasonable to think you'll get an agent your first time querying, but I had hopes.
So, yeah, that's like a dagger on top of some other unfriendly news.
On the plane I outlined my new novel. I like the characters and the story. The premise is nothing as unusual as "House of Rats," though, so now I'm sort of swimming in some writerly self-doubt.
This morning's flight and accompanying travel was a debacle. Truly. Suffice it to say that I traversed all of Newark's terminals (from C to A to C) twice and walked through the jet way door just as he was closing it. I had been running. In my socks. I just grabbed my stuff from screening and didn't bother to put it back on--shoes, belt-- and ran. I got onboard sweating like a fountain. It was my son's birthday and I couldn't miss it.
On the flight I dealt with cold sores and a migraine. There was massive turbulence. Somehow the girl next to me slept through it, snoring wide-mouthed like a baleful trout.
…But tough days make the good ones all that much better, right?
Tomorrow will be great, I know it.
Good morning, Sunshine.
I am ready.
Here are a few things I like for the weekend--
"A childlike man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle aged habit and convention." Aldous Huxley
"The only people for me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time. The ones who never yawn or say a common place thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars" ~ Jack Kerouac
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
"I've always wanted to own a maternity shop. I'd call it:” We're Fucked!" Sarah Silverman
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
--I DON'T BELIEVE IT
…I hear horns and sirens and horns that are sort of fluted because the horn-honking truck is moving in reverse, and I hear shouting, someone telling someone else off, and I hear the fan in this hotel room running its fingers through everything and just naturally, there are workmen outside laying down tape and drilling into walls with a piercing shrillness reminiscent of a dentist, and the workers are saying things in Spanish and English and most of their talk is about women who've disappointed them or women that they want but, for whatever reason, can't get, and now I hear some little kid who's young but not little in stature because he bounds/pounds overhead on my ceiling, his floor, and a chair scrapes so loud it must be making a long scrape mark, and then next to me the guy coughs up something loudly, opens his door and lets it slam avalanche-hard as a woman calls out, "Room service!" and, well, I guess it's Wednesday in Manhattan.
Or maybe it's Tuesday.
…On Monday night a group of us met at Hudson Books, which is a very atmospheric bar, sort of a landmark on the Westside of NY near the meatpacking district. Ron Hubbard, founder of Beatrice.com was there and then afterward he got us into a party atop the Stanton Building which has one incredible, panoramic view of Manhattan, almost 360 but not quite. It was fairly foggy out but The Statute of Liberty was still visible, the entire financial district, midtown and New Jersey where Hackensack is. I was not on my best behavior and for that I am very sorry.
...Yesterday morning I finished Paula Bomer's book, "Baby" (hey, that's a lot of alliteration.) It was really good, filled with strong, flawed female characters, most all mothers, some mothers that don't like their children, don't like their spouse or their life or their lovers. It's good reading and I recommend it.
…I also finished Kim Addizinio's book, "Ordinary Genius." It's terrific, mainly about writing poetry, but there are great lessons about all kinds of art and life.
…I walked. I walked miles. To The Javits Center where the monolithic Book Expo is taking place. I walked to Chelsea afterward. Played pool at the Westside Tavern. Went to the Meat Packing District. Stopped by at Hogs and Heifers, a famous dive bar where, if you’re female, you toss your bra back of counter and they hook it on antlers along with a few thousand others. At one point the waitress got up and did a country shuffle dance atop the bar to Willie Nelson’s “Good Timin’ Woman.” She asked the other women customers to join her, but none took her up on it. There were walls and walls of celebrity photographs—Brad Pitt, Gwenyth Paltrow, Michael Douglas—who’d stopped by. The film “Coyote Ugly” is based on Hogs and Heifers.
…Last day in NY today.
…These are things that are good on a Wednesday:
"We should insist while there is still time. We must wade mouth-deep into love." Jack Gilbert
"There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen
"Sometimes I to about weeping, and all the while I am being carried across the sky on a great wind." Chippewa song
"This world and all of the creatures in it are on fire and some of you know it." Nion McEvoy
"Women, like queens, keep nine-tenths of mankind in bondage." Leo Tolstoy, from "The Kruetzer Sonata"
"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what's next or how. The moment you know how, you being to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark." Agnes de Mille
"Love is a dog from hell." Charles Bukowski
Monday, May 23, 2011
--ALL MY FRIENDS ARE TALKING ABOUT LEAVING
…The flight to NY was bumpy as all hell. All the way it was. Bumpy. To New York. My soda sloshed up and over the rim of my plastic glass and splashed the bland lady next to me.
But the five hour flight went fast. I finished two books. I wrote so much poetry. And it was really good! Really, it was some fine poetry. Some of my best, I think. I often write shitty poems but these had a lot of illicit alliteration and used and used repetition quite a bit quite a bit to create a juxtaposed staccato fluidity.
…The Patasola Press/Amperand Reading night in Brooklyn was fabulous. Took place at The Weigh Station. Shya Scanlon and Rae Bryant read. It was so much fun. Lisa Marie Basille was there, her boyfriend Lee, Julie Innis, Sara Lippman, Sarah Gerard and others.
…I read last night at The Cell Theater along with Beth Miller and Greg Leelick. The Cell Theater is a wonderful space in Chelsea. The Tandem Reading Series takes place there once a month, hosted by Karen Hueler. Karen does a terrific job. I was a tad nervous, this being only my second time reading, but I think it went well. I might go back in late fall/winter.
…Have you ever eaten too much of a certain kind of food--when you were young, say--got sick, threw up and felt totally nasty, then never eaten that type of food again?
I did it with cantaloupe in sixth grade. Seeds came up like slot machine tokens. It was sick. I was sick. Momentarily anyway.
Another time I remember babysitting and eating an entire pan of marshmallow Rice Krispy Treats while watching one of the awful "Planet of the Ape" sequels. I spewed badly then, too, and have never had a gooey, crispy square since.
Once bitten, twice shy? I guess so.
…I like these things on a Monday:
"Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going--
Two simple happenings
That got entangled." Kozan Ichikyo
"I always felt like a bird blown through the world.
I never felt like a tree." May Swenson
"Goddamn it, you've got to be kind to each other." Kurt Vonnegut
Even if it's a little thing, do something for those who need help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.-- Albert Schweitzer
"Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Carrie Fisher
Thursday, May 19, 2011
--MAYBE YOU'RE GONNA BE THE ONE THAT SAVES ME
…I have new things:
"For Some People" and "Forensic" up at POETRY SUPER HIGHWAY
"Gear Box" at Blue Fifth Review
"Rehearsal" at The Camel Saloon
All of them are also here under "Words in Print"
…I broke my own personal record. I went 18 consecutive days having at least one poem or story published each of those days. Kind of fun. But I haven't really submitted much lately, so that will come to a withering end.
…Holy Hell, I saw "Bridesmaids." It is HYSTERICAL. I had a side ache from laughing. Go see it. Tell your friends to see it. If you do not love it, I will send you money. Kristin Wiig is brilliant as is everyone. It might be funnier than "The Hangover." Seriously. I mean, seriously. This film is seriously funny for 2 hours and 5 fucking minutes.
…I've been listening to The Cave Singers. I saw them when they opened for Fleet Foxes. What an interesting band. They are all bearded fellows and one woman and on stage they lope and prance like deer on LSD. They sound very much like drunken pirates singing around the campfire. The lead singer has a voice that would mirror a much-used ashtray, if in fact ashtrays had vocal chords. His doppelganger is Joe Cocker.
…It's interesting how popular libraries are. I would have predicted their demise, but the one here is always teeming. People wait in line for it to open. I think it's all the free Wi-Fi and, well, the free everything. I like how quiet it is.
…Tomorrow I leave for NY. I’m pretty stoked. The flight is at 7am, so it’ll be a 4:00 wake up call, but that’s okay. Wish me luck!
I like these things on a sunny Wednesday:
"To see a world in a grain of Sand,
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour." William Blake
"Art is a way of dealing with hopelessness. It helps you take something that is within you and make a place for it outside of yourself." Kim Addonizio
"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals." Samuel Ullman
"Now that I have money, there's nothing I want." Kurt Vonnegut
"I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it." Sylvia Plath
"I can now see everything falling to pieces before my eyes."
"Existence is.. well.. what does it matter? I exist on the best terms I can. The past is now part of my future. The present is well out of hand." Ian Curtis
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I hear voices. See things.
Below me the ground swells, shakes and shudders; Godzilla buried alive. This city wants to accost me because I am no longer me, not the self I know, not the one I left behind.
I am two different people living within this same frame-skull-torso-rib cage.
I am divided, two husks, each related by mere physical resemblance.
The me I am now leans over the ledge of a hotel balcony while the city wails below, teeming like famished piranhas, as if someone’s boiled the ocean and named it Manhattan.
The other me that is not here is sitting in his den, all the way across the continent, house on a rustic lake where there are eagles and beavers cattle sheep horses miniature horses pigs and pickups and barns.
Perfect serenity for writing.
But here it is even better.
It is different. It is a fever-pitched party, pouting and prancing, prattling. Pandora’s Box.
Perfect for writing as well.
Here there are bombs going off everywhere. Streaks of lemon-yellow stain the air where taxis fly as if with wings. The streets rumble underfoot. Everything has a pulse, even the buildings, especially the buildings which crowd in like gang members, shiny silver hoodlums with their flat screen teeth and billboard eyes.
Just listen to the voices—Dutch, Italian, German, French, Japanese, Brooklynese. It swirls through the May air like humid shawls of sound and
I love it.
I love this place.
The city owns me, puts me on edge, pushes and pulls, knocks me over, knocks me down no different than a greedy dominatrix. She wears latex and leather, stilettos and cracks a whip. She says, “Start spreadin’ the news.”
This half of me is intoxicated.
This half of me has left the other half in Farmville.
This half of me is desperate, needs the hustle, the rustle, craves the visual thunder of rippling neon, the rich toxicity of bodies en masse pushing through the city’s many uteruses. Smell of roasted almonds, briny pretzels, Haute Couture perfume and sand oil. Feel of a billion breaths. Sight of The MOMA SOHO NOLITA East Village. Old lady dressed like Dorothy. Man crossing in his boxer shorts. Lady with a toucan hat. All the rest slick and sleek and wearing various shades of black or charcoal, model thin or simply modeled to look anything but not chic.
Steam smolders from the manhole covers. A convoy of hotdog vendors push their kosher carts uptown midtown downtown. Somebody slams on the brakes. A billion birds honk. “Hey, Asswipe!”
“Hey, wanna buy a bag?”
“I’ll take your picture for five bones. Or you can take mine.”
“We got the best girls here. Come on in.”
“We have the best Italian food in Manhattan. Have a seat.”
“We have it all. Want some? Here.”
For the next five days I will taste and touch and take in. I will scorch it all into my brain and when I return home to see my other self I will say, “You’re not going to believe it. Look what I’ve brought you.”
Monday, May 16, 2011
--LOVE IS ON MY SIDE
…I have been in a big poetry phase lately. (You already knew that.)
I just discovered Martha Collins. Wow.
I'm almost done with "Blue Front" which is her book, an entire collection about racism based on lynchings that happened when her father was five years old in 1908 and sold ice outside of a small town store.
She's taught me a lot about meter and cadence and breaking rules.
as a mirror on a wall, or the fall
of a dress. a dress, a shirt on a line
to fasten to dry. on the rack, or back
in the closet again, a sweet curse
on it all, sliver of nail, delayed
attack. shamed creature, a curse
on itself, so the act of doing it
changes the verb, tense with not
quite right. with rope, like a swing
from a tree. from a pole, like a flag,
or holidays, from an arch lit bright
with lights. in the night, in the air
like a shirt. without, or with only
a shirt. without, like an empty sleeve.
I mean, holy hell, right?
I sent her a note on Facebook. (Facebook really is an amazing thing, the way it builds a bridge and gives you access to all these people who would otherwise be untouchable.) She was very kind and grateful.
…I am also almost finished with Kim Addonizio's book, "Ordinary Genius." I love it. Every other page is filled with gold, so much terrific stuff in there about writing or life or some aspect of beautiful, wonderful, inescapable art. If you got this book, you would be so happy.
…So consequently, I wrote a shit ton of poetry in the bath tub last night. It just poured out of me. A lot of it was horribly tragic, but good, I think.
…I spoke to a group of 50 people last week. Blah Blah Blah. I did pretty good. They laughed a lot and cheered when I was through. Yesterday a guy I didn't know that was there was really sweet and said nice things about my talk and when I told him I was a writer now, of course the first thing he asked was, "Have you been published?" And he's meaning, naturally, do I have anything in print, meaning specifically do I have a novel or collection in print (I don't.) When he asked what I write about I said, "Tragic things. Dark things." When he asked why--which I liked, which I thought was kind of brave of him--I said probably because of my childhood.
One day, some day, I will write a happy story. I can write about sex pretty well. That's happy material right there, isn't it? But, you know, like a happy story that's happy on its own merit--well, I am not that capable.
…By the way, I am really learning to love the new "Airborne Toxic Event" album. I was scream singing to track 8 just today. A lady at the light next to me saw me in my car and probably wondered if she should dial 911 or not.
…By the way, doesn't it seem strange to you-- 9/11 and 911. Or is that just me?
…I like these things on a Monday morning:
"The hardest thing in the world to do is to take something everyone already knows and make it a little better." Michael Bastian
"I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all." EB White
"If you aren't prepared to put your writing first, you aren't really a writer." Rita Mae Brown
"Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost part of your life." Michael Leboeuf
Saturday, May 14, 2011
--WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?
…I have three new poems--"The Truth About Love," "Dolt," and "It Happened Again" up at Orion Headless, plus a story, "Potions" in the last issue of 52/250 A Year Of Flash.
They are also here under "Words In Print."
…I have been listening to:
Fleet Foxes (new)
The Cave Singers
Rage Against The Machine
The Mountain Goats
Bright Eyes (new)
Crash Test Dummies
I loved Arrested Development's song, "Tennessee." (Look it up on YouTube.) It's got a soulful vibe. They talk about God and lynching ("I climb the trees my fore-fathers hung from…") and ancestry, using hip hop, all without swearing once on the entire album.
…I am going to NY next week to do a reading at The Cell Theater and to attend other readings as well as The Book Expo. I love NY. NY was made for me. It's the peanut butter to my jelly sandwich, the cheese to my macaroni. I have this dream where I live there for a year, just a year, in a Spartan loft with brick walls and cab horns blaring outside. Somewhere in Soho or Nolita, the East Village or near The Meat Packing District. I would like that. Very much, I would. That would be totally cool
…I've been reading William Carlos Williams. Do you know him? He went to dental school, switched and went to med school, became a surgeon, and during idle moments at the hospital would jot down poetry. Thus, most of his things are brief.
I like him.
I especially enjoy this statement which appeared on the dust jacket of his book, "Al Que Quiere!" published in 1917:
"To Whom It May Concern!
This book is a collection of poems by William Carlos Williams. You, gentle reader, will probably not like it, because it is brutally powerful and scornfully crude. Fortunately, neither the author nor the publisher care much whether you like it or not. The author has done his work, and if you do read the book, you will agree that he doesn't give a damn for your opinion…And we, the publishers, don't much care whether you buy the book or not. It only cost a dollar, so that we can’t make much profit out of it. But we have the satisfaction of offering that which will outweigh, in spite of its eighty small pages, a dozen volumes of pretty lyrics. We have profound satisfaction of publishing a book in which, we venture to predict, the poets of the future will dig for material as the poets of today dig in Whitman's, 'Leaves of Grass'."
Isn't that wonderful? Crazy? Fantastic, to be so bold and carefree about what you believe in? To not care if anyone buys, let alone, reads your book?
Since I was a boy I have always been trying to get people to like me, to love me even. It's true. Insecurity is a tragic defect of mine.
I was painfully shy up until the age of 18.
Actually, if you really knew me, you'd know there's still a little nine year old boy cowering inside my chest somewhere, needing a hug from you.
That's one of the reasons I did not pursue my passion until so late in life.
I was afraid.
I didn't think I could do it.
When I told my dad I wanted to be a writer at age nine, he responded without so much as a smirk, saying, "Quit your fucking dreaming. How do you expect to eat on that?"
And so I was scared to do it, to be a writer, or call myself that. I was afraid I’d let my father down, he who never read, a man who made a rough living with his hands, fixing things.
I wanted him to love me. To be proud.
I cared profoundly about what he thought of me.
I could never have been so brazen and reckless as William Carlos Williams. "Who cares what you think of me or my writing? Fuck you!"
Well, I care. I care what you think of my writing.
Perhaps I shouldn't, but I do.
…Enough with confessions and nostalgia! Here are a few things I like on a Friday, right on the cusp of a happy weekend:
"Live or die, but don't poison everything." Anne Sexton
"With lots of exceptions, killing yourself is a bad idea." Benjamin Alsup
"You can find on the outside only what you possess on the inside."-- Adolfo Montiel Ballesteros
"It took me a long time to figure out that not every writer has to be brilliant." Jenny Shank
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
--WE DID IT! CONGRATULATIONS!
...I have a new story, "God of Rose and Thorn" up at Apocrypha Abstractions and another non-fiction piece, "Will You Please Not Be Quiet, Please?" about one of my idols, Raymond Carver, up at 52/250 A Year of Flash.
Both are also here under "Words In Print."
…I haven't seen a deer in quite a while. I love deer. They are so sleek and stealth and beautiful, almost poetic, reminiscent of ballet when they lope through the woods. Deer might be my favorite animal. I once saw a deer clattering down the middle of the road. This was maybe two years ago. I rolled down my window and started talking to it. Really. I said, “You need to get off the road. Go run up that hill there and disappear in the trees.” The deer gave me this huge, ogle-eyed look, like it thought I was some kind of weirdo. Eventually, the deer did take my advice and scamper off.
What are your thoughts about deer?
I worry about them getting struck by cars.
I worry about them when it gets very cold out and there are several inches of snow on the ground. I wonder where they go when it is freezing out.
…I have been listening to:
Little Bow Wow
Guns and Roses
…I watched “Glee” last night. Yuck.
…It would be a sad world without music. Music is one of the 8 Things You Can Never Have Enough Of. And then there's Books, Movies, Photography.
Can you guess the other four?
Do you have your own list?
…Speaking of sad, it's sad to say this, but I've come to the conclusion that the vast amount of people in the world are flaky. Meaning, they say they are going to do this and then they don't do it at all. They just fade away.
I used to get frustrated by that. Now, unfortunately, I sort of expect it. So when people say, we should get together next month, I don’t worry at all. I just say, “Sure!” because it’s never going to happen.
…Tonight I am speaking to a group. I am going to wing it. I have some stories in my pocket that I'll tell. I might be a big hit or a total flop. We'll see.
…Some things are hard for me. Picking up the phone and calling a certain person is very difficult for me. It shouldn't be that way. I should want to pick up the phone and call this person because I should love this person but I'm not so sure I do and because of this uncertainty it makes me feel a little ashamed, although if you knew this person, if you knew the circumstances of my situation and history involving this person, well, you might be in my corner. I don't know, though. You very well could consider me despicable.
…Sometimes I think I am too much of a romantic. I want things to be sweet and lovely. I want to be loved. I want a happy ending. So that's why I turn to music. I let it swirl and swim through me. When I wear earphones is when it really seeps into my being. I love hearing the fingers plucking the chords and strings right there in the center of my brain, that hollowed out space needing something special and meaningful to fill it up.
…And here we are. Happy Wednesday.
"It's time to start living the life you've imagined."-- Henry James
"If you are not risking sentimentality, you are not close to your inner self." Bill Kittredge
"I find the more I practice, the luckier I get." Jack Nicklaus
"Most people who worry about morality ought to." Richard Hugo
"I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above; those that I figh, I do not hate, those that I love I do not guard." WB Yeats
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
IS THIS HOW YOU WANT ME?
…I have a new micro, "Hand Me Down" up at Eunoia Review and a poem, "Pallet" at The Camel Saloon.
Both are also here under "Words In Print."
…I like to laugh. How about you? My kids make me laugh harder than anyone. I love my kids.
I think laughter is an important part of living and the human condition. Life would be sad without humor, don't you think?
I can laugh pretty freely. My boy and I watched Tivo-ed episodes of Saturday Night Live last night and I laughed and laughed. It felt good, liberating, as if I was molting myself, shedding stress.
…Tina Fey looks beautiful pregnant. Most women look way prettier pregnant. Maya Rudolph, however, is not one of the majority.
…Do you ever sleepwalk? I used to. Supposedly stress or alcohol consumption are the causes. Which makes sense.
When you sleepwalk and wake up the next morning you are in a very vulnerable position because you can't remember doing the sleepwalking thing and so whoever noticed you sleepwalking holds a lot of power because they can say you did this or that and you have no choice but to believe them.
I'm sort of fascinated by the idea of sleepwalking. I've written a few things about it. One story, called "Ruthless Trust," that I really liked but few people "got" begins with this line: "My wife says I've been sleepwalking again. Next she asks, 'When's Ben coming?'"
Ben is the man's son. Ben is a bad kid. He's physically abusive to his Dad. I thought that was a fascinating concept, sort of the abusive father-son relationship turned on its head. But that's just me.
…I finished my story for Matt Potter's "Pure Slush" Travel-themed issue. It was quite a dark story. Are you surprised? But it turned out pretty good. I made myself sad reading it when I re-read it last night. It's okay to be sad sometimes.
…I've been listening to Fleet Foxes so much that I feel as if I'm now a band member. The only thing keeping that from happening is I don't have a beard and my hair is clean.
…Did you see "The Beaver" yet? You need to. No go, git. See it.
…I'm reading "The Triggering Town" by Richard Hugo. I'm doing a summer workshop in Iowa and this book was recommended. Richard is a poet and a professor. He does a good job of teaching writing principles, which is a tricky task, if you ask me. Here are a couple of things he says that I like:
"You have to be silly to write poems at all." (I agree and would add, "and brave" behind the word "silly.")
"I caution against communication because once language exists only to convey information, it is dying."
"Once you have the information, the words seem unimportant."
"Never worry about the reader, what the reader can understand. When you are writing, glance over your shoulder and you will find no reader. Just you and the page. Feel lonely? Good. Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone."
"If you are a poet, your vocabulary is limited to your obsession."
"Words love the ridiculous areas of our mind."
"The imagination is a cynic."
"Your job is to be honest and to try not to be boring."
"Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don't work. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work."
"I don't know why we write poems. We must be crazy."
Monday, May 9, 2011
THAT SILENCE YOU HEAR IS ME BEING A GENTLEMAN
…I have a new poem, "Old Pictures" up at The Camel Saloon and a micro, "Elsewhere" at Eunoia Review.
Both are also here under "Words in Print."
…Happy times. My story, “Mockingbird” was listed as one of the 50 best stories of 2010 at Wigleaf. Steve Himmer, from Necessary Fiction, really pushed me on that piece, which is rare for a publisher, which speaks volumes about the kind of guy Steve is, and it ended up being a way better story than what I’d originally written. Even the title is different (“Bukowski At Breakfast” was the first one.)
…In the last few days I have seen two movies by myself. I never go to movies by myself, but I think I will start doing that more often. It isn't lonely at all! I rather liked it actually, and had a good time. "Win Win" with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan was wonderful. I love those little indie films that are unique in fun, quirky ways. Go see it.
But if you can only see one film, see this: "The Beaver." It punched me in the face, knocked me down and then beat the shit out of me. I can't stop thinking about it. You may have harsh feelings about Mel Gibson, for which I can understand. You may not especially like Jody Foster (I don’t especially either) but she was brilliant. Everyone was. It's sad that Mel's antics are going to debilitate this movie. Great films like this are so rare anymore. Instead we get The Green Hornet/Pirates of the Caribbean/Fantastic Four/Narnia blah blah blah.
Guilty pleasures are okay, but when they become sustenance, oh boy, aren't we in trouble? Film is art. Art is life.
…I have been listening to a lot of Fleet Foxes. And Bowie, Carolina Liar, Bright Eyes and today the Brothers Gibb, “Spirits Having Flown.” The last minute and a half of “Reaching Out” has the most preposterous falsetto ever. It’s the closest thing to an oral orgasm you’ll ever have. Really.
…We used to have a gold sofa in the house where I grew up. It was nubby and two seated. It had tan wooden paddles on the sides that you could push down and when you did the bottom flap by your ankles would lift up your legs and your spine would sort of ratchet backward.
It was a love seat.
A gold love seat.
That particular piece of furniture played a big part in my youth. That piece of furniture, consequently, shows up in much of my writing. It’s in “Old Pictures.”
I often imagine dousing the love seat with kerosene and lighting it on fire.
I sure wish someone would.
…It rains a lot where I live. Consequently, when the sun makes an appearance, things are lush and verdant. Moss cuffs the tree limbs and it looks radioactive. So pretty. I love the glowing green color. The roadsides look like a place The Hulk would be sulking in. The Hulk or Shrek.
…Did I tell you the beavers took down four small trees from my front yard? Yep. I didn’t like those trees anyway, so the toothsome group did me a favor. Now, the stumps look like sharp stakes sticking out of the ground, like something you’d use to slay a vampire. Kind of amazing, those water creatures.
…Sometimes I wish I could play piano. If I could, I’d write you the prettiest songs. They’d make you feel as special as you should be feeling about yourself. You’d blush and maybe weep a little. The songs would tell the world that you are fantastic and they should pay better attention.
…Today I need to write a story having to do with "Travel" for a themed issue of Pure Slush. Matt Potter asked me to send him something. So far I’ve got this: “I was on the train because I had to kill a man.” I haven’t figured out why the narrator has to kill a guy or why the doomed dude deserves a killing, but I’ll get to that momentarily.
…On a Monday, at the start of a new week, I like these things:
"I am eternally, devastatingly romantic, and I thought people would see it because ‘romantic’ doesn’t mean ‘sugary.’ It’s dark and tormented — the furor of passion, the despair of an idealism that you can’t attain." ~ Catherine Breillat
"It takes courage to be a nobody." JD Salinger
"Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved." -- Will Rogers
"I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes--and the stars through his soul." Victor Hugo
Saturday, May 7, 2011
--GO AHEAD: TELL ME AGAIN HOW MUCH YOU CARE.
…I have a new micro, "Jemima" up at Eunoia Review and a poem, "Wind Pipe" at The Camel Saloon. Both are also here under "Words in Print."
…This morning the sun wore a monocle, shrouded in the gray gauze of cloud cover. For a moment, I thought a giant Cyclops was staring at me from behind the heavens. But, no, it was just the sun.
The sun has seen so much over the years. What stories it could tell.
…I got a hot tub. It seats seven and is metallic silver, pretty cool-looking actually. It faces the lake so you can have a cocktail and watch the water skiers. Should be a fun time in winter.
…Yesterday I discovered the poetry of Kelli Anne Noftle. She's quite good. As is Martha Collins.
It's difficult for me to find poets I like. Most try too hard and so their writing becomes this "experimental" gibberish, pretty language that doesn't mean anything unless you've just dropped a few tabs of acid. Or else it's so basic as to seem trite.
Something with a narrative arc but strong word play is right up my alley.
…I buy a lot of magazines. If you subscribe, they're like, 70% off the newsstand price and thus, practically free. Magazines are definitely one of the best values out there.
What I do when I read magazines is I tear stuff out. Some of the tears are black and white profile shots that I pin on a cork board and keep in my office for inspiration. Others are those fragrance strips. I rip one open when I write and it gets all fragrant. My favorite colognes are clean with a hint of citrus. I love Aqua di Gio.
…Jason Jordan once did a post on his blog about the five most overrated writers and he got lambasted for it. It sort of disgusts me how politically correct we've become. Can't a person have an opinion? And on their own blog, for Pete's sake?
…I just saw in "The Writer's Chronicle" that AWP is coming to Seattle in 2014. That should be fun times at Ridgemont High.
…There are many professional skate boarders in Seattle this weekend. Hundreds and hundreds have flocked to The Emerald City. My son and his friends are going ape shit about this. Me, I'm going to a movie by myself after I drop them off at Key Arena.
…When I first started out, I only wrote rhyming poetry. Then, in high school, I got selected to attend a semi-elite Workshop in Port Townsend (Raymond Carver was there) and I realized that no one really rhymed anymore.
I had just turned seventeen.
This was one of the first things I wrote that weekend, about a girl I was crushing on at the time:
Beauty has never done as much,
nor the sea in all its wonder,
walking barefoot and free,
…There are so many poets (can you tell I'm in a poetry mode?) out there. Bajillions of them. And none of them make any money. The only people who buy poetry are writers. But you gotta really admire that about poets--how they toil in obscurity just because they are so smitten with their craft.
…This is something I love that you should love as well because, well, it's about love and lovers:
"Writers are great lovers. They fall in love with other writers. That's how they learn to write. They take on a writer, read everything by him or her, read it over again until they understand how the writer moves, pauses, and sees. That's what being a lover is: stepping out of yourself, stepping into someone else's skin." Natalie Goldberg
Friday, May 6, 2011
--I CAN BEAR ALMOST ANYTHING, AS LONG AS I KNOW I'M NOT ALONE
…I’ve had some new things published:
Three pieces--"Ancient," "Voices Carry" and "My Neighbor, The Nudist"--up at BLIP Magazine.
"Locked In" at Eunoia Review
"Partners" at 52/250 A Year Of Flash
They're all here under "Words in Print.
…Sometimes I think about giving up. Do you ever do that? I used to consider this a lot. Maybe five or six years ago I did. Then I had a burst, a renewal, but now my old way of thinking has returned and I wonder about turning in the hall pass, maybe for good.
I don't know. We'll see.
Purpose is an interesting concept.
What is my purpose?
What is yours?
…And what about God? Where’s her role in all this?
Do you even believe in such a thing? In God? No?
If this—life, existence--is not a happy accident, and if there is no God, then are we really here just because energy bumped into energy--not by accident, mind you--but because the stars happened to be aligned before there were even stars in the sky?
Gee, I just don't know.
I want to know, though.
I really do.
This is something I am very curious about.
…I saw this post yesterday and it made me smile out loud: "Poll: Given a choice between Sarah Palin and Donald Trump for President, voters overwhelmingly choose suicide."
…I watched TIVOed episodes of "The Office" last night--the latest ones with Steve Carell leaving and Will Ferrell stepping in. I actually got wet-eyed several times. I never thought that show could make me cry, although, come to think of it, there were several moments--Jim and Pam kissing at the Christmas party, Jim getting on his knees in the rain outside a convenience store to propose, Holly finding Michael on the roof top--that did, indeed, do that very thing to me.
…Yesterday this wicked lady scolded me for driving over the 20 MPH speed limit on her road. She was with her dog. She did not have a leash on her animal. She saw me driving and sort of pounded the air with her hands, which was her way of making a Go Slower motion. When I rolled down my window, she was all bitter and vitriolic. “It’s only TWENTY MILES PER HOUR ON THIS ROAD,” she said. I didn’t realize that. And honestly, I didn’t care, either. So I said, "You should try a leash."
As I drove off, this sour woman who is probably—unfortunately—someone’s mother, shouted, "I can have you arrested!" Really, she did.
There are all types of people in this world.
…It's Friday. Friday is a popular day of the week. Lots of folk prefer this day over others. It's the tipping point, a nod to the weekend. There are even many songs about Friday i.e., The Cure, although Saturday might just have the advantage i.e., Elton, Chicago, that whack internet chick.
When you are not ordered to a work cadence, Friday doesn't stand out. Friday becomes another day like any other and the challenge is making it special just because it is special having the time to live, to play your life out.
That is what I am going to try to do today.
What do you think about that?
"To live without ghosts requires solitude." Anne Michaels
"Dying a little each day is really time consuming." Justine Middleton
"Let it all come ripping right through you." Jeff Bridges
"We must find time to stop and thank the people who have made a difference in our lives." -- Dan Zadra
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
IF THIS IS A BAD IDEA, YOU SHOULD JUST SAY SO
…I have new things:
"The Truth About Snow" @ THE CAMEL SALOON
"In Flight" @ EUNOIA REVIEW
"Starling" @ EUNOIA REVIEW
"Scoliosis" @ EUNOIA REVIEW
All are here under "Words in Print."
…Boy was I confused! I saw Fleet Foxes last night, NOT The Mountain Goats. I guess I get my forest animals mixed up.
The Cave Singers opened for FF. The Cave Bro's were outstanding. I'm getting their album in a momentito. The lead singer was like a young Joe Cocker, growling, bearded and sort of spastic with his mannerisms.
Fleet Foxes were brilliant. Their music soars and shimmers and gets into your skin like radiation. I have been listening to them non-stop. Even this second I have earbuds stuffed inside my ear canals and I'm listening to White Winter Hymnal on repeat.
…I used to have a dog. She was a blonde cocker, incredibly loveable and just about as mischievous. When friends visited, she'd get so excited that her bladder would burst as they reached down to pet her, urine soaking their Jimmy Choos or Ferragamo shoes.
Her name was Alex. Alexandra. Alexandra Camile Mason Kuntz was her full name.
She lived a long life: 14 years. She traveled all over this continent with me: from Virginia to Seattle to New Jersey to Virginia again, back to Seattle.
In the end she went blind and lost her facilities. It was depressing to see that happen. I remember her whenever I am feeling cozy because she had the softest fur and enjoyed curling up inside my chest like a cashmere shawl. Sometimes she’d stretch, or look up at me with her chocolate eyes. Once in a while she’d yawn so wide you could have fit a tire inside her mouth. Her breath was not always the freshest in the world. But it was impossible not to love her.
Today I am missing Alex.
…The sun is shining here. How about where you are? This morning the sun is strong and arrogant, like a too-proud policeman. It breaks through this window and scars my hands with radiance and I am grateful.
…I am weighing these bad dreams with the good ones.
In the good ones, I fly over Bavarian towns or swim under water for hours on end, coming up face-to-face with a flock of startled swans. In the good dreams I am light as gossamer. I wedge myself between the tightest places, the thinnest slots. I can pretty much go wherever I choose. It's liberating and intoxicating.
In the bad dreams I cannot get where I'm headed. I can't run so fast. My feet are weighted with cement. My thighs are made of rusted steel. But I need to get away. I desperately do, because the black specter is making headway. He's closing in. He holds a scythe over his shoulders like a machete. Tell me, what would he need that for?
His hood flaps loose from the motion of advancement and I get the look at his face and I can't believe it. What a betrayal.
Consider good and evil. Good is supposed to win. But sometimes it doesn't. I’ve seen plenty of evidence where good gets trampled underfoot.
Maybe I'll stay awake tonight. Maybe I'll watch the sun set and rise. Maybe I'll use the extra time to write you a long letter.
“Is the life I'm living the life that wants to live in me?”-- Parker Palmer
“Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced.”-- John Keats
"Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese." GK Chesterson
Monday, May 2, 2011
--RIGHT NOW, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, I AM HAPPY TO TELL YOU HOW HAPPY I AM
…I've had some new things published in the last couple of days:
"The Absence of Snow Angels" @ NEGATIVE SUCK
"Chaff" @ RED RIVER REVIEW
"Joseph" @ POETRY SUPER HIGHWAY for their special Holocaust Issue
"At My Brother's Wake" @ THE CAMEL SALOON
"God of Rose and Thorn" @ APROCRYPHA AND ABSTRACTIONS
All are also here under "Words In Print."
…I've been listening to Telekinesis. They are such a happy band! Jaunty, even. A blend of Phoenix and The Shins with a dash of The Cure. For a good time, get Telekinesis.
I also have new Elbow ("Build a Rocket Boys!") and new Airborne Toxic Event, which I am withholding from myself like a lusty junky eyeballing that last lump of heroin.
…Tomorrow night I am going to see/hear The Mountain Goats. These troubadours are pretty young, yet have already put out 16 albums. SIXTEEN.
They're kind of a mellow band (well, more than kind of) but so good. The lead singer sounds as if he has an Irish lilt to his voice, but the band is actually from Seattle.
There will probably be a lot of Tree-Huggers in the crowd. The place will probably smell like wool and B.O. and hookah extract.
But I bet it’ll be a blast.
…Today was a strange day. Not strange/bad. Just different. Lacking a consistent rhythm. Missing a cadence. It skipped beats.
I can handle odd weather--sun changing to sleet to clouds to sun breaks to hard, black rain.
I can handle what people say or don't say, flakey types, demanding types, blow-hards and show-offs.
I can take a lot of commotion going on. Loud noises and too many voices jabbering at once.
Even though I am a tall individual, I can sit in cramped spaces. I can do this for extended periods of time.
I can deal with slow traffic or overflowing traffic. I can even deal with surly people sitting in traffic shooting me the bird.
I can bear the weight of many things.
I've been known to laugh at myself very loudly.
I'll take a pretty swift shot to the chin. To the gut. And I’ll ask you to do it again, if it’s something I think will make you feel more at ease.
I'll even drive across very high bridges--yes, even that, though I'm frightened of heights and have been ever since my brothers held me over the side of The Space Needle as a prank.
I am a thin mix of bones and skin, hair follicles and busy eyes, yet I can handle most things.
What I can't abide is:
not being able to see from here to there.
not knowing what it is you're thinking right now.
not being able to say, "Hi there" and hear you say it back.
This is a thing I like to kick-start a Monday, or a life, for that matter:
…"I never thought of myself as talented. No one ever told me I had any talent. Anytime I went to a palm reader, an astrologer, I was told I should be an accountant. So it was my effort, my determination, that made new lines in my palm.
I guess I've always believed in human effort. Human effort is not just the hard physical work of putting your shoulder to the grindstone. What I'm talking about is work that wakes us up. We all have that ability within us. Talent has nothing to do with waking up. I'm talking about being aware and mindful as a writer. Knowing the names of trees and plants, noticing the sun and how it's hitting the chrome on a car. That comes with practice. It's pretty nice to be talented. If you are, enjoy, but it won't take you that far. Work takes you a lot further."
-- Natalie Goldberg, "Writing Down The Bones."