Wednesday, March 28, 2012

a publication & a passing

I have a poem in the now out-in-the-world Spring issue of Ploughshares. It's a true true pleasure to be included, and alongside so many people I like and admire. Go order the issue - it will be well worth it. also: We will miss you, Adrienne Rich (1929-2012). from The Dream of a Common Language 1. My body opens over San Francisco like the day – light raining down each pore crying the change of light I am not with her I have been waking off and on all night to that pain not simply absence but the presence of the past destructive to living here and now Yet if I could instruct myself, if we could learn to learn from pain even as it grasps us if the mind, the mind that lives in this body could refuse to let itself be crushed in that grasp it would loosen Pain would have to stand off from me and listen its dark breath still on me but the mind could begin to speak to pain and pain would have to answer: We are older now we have met before these are my hands before your eyes my figure blotting out all that is not mine I am the pain of division creator of divisions it is I who blot your lover from you and not the time-zones or the miles It is not separation calls me forth but I who am separation And remember I have no existence apart from you 2. I believe I am choosing something now not to suffer uselessly yet still to feel Does the infant memorize the body of the mother and create her in absence? or simply cry primordial loneliness? does the bed of the stream once diverted mourning remember the wetness? But we, we live so much in these configurations of the past I choose to separate her from my past we have not shared I choose not to suffer uselessly to detect primordial pain as it stalks toward me flashing its bleak torch in my eyes blotting out her particular being the details of her love I will not be divided from her or from myself by myths of separation while her mind and body in Manhattan are more with me than the smell of eucalyptus coolly burning on these hills 3. The world tells me I am its creature I am raked by eyes brushed by hands I want to crawl into her for refuge lay my head in the space between her breast and shoulder abnegating power for love as women have done or hiding from power in her love like a man I refuse these givens the splitting between love and action I am choosing not to suffer uselessly and not to use her I choose to love this time for once with all my intelligence. ( via Natalie Jabbar)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

ce dont nous parlons lorsque nous parlons de l'amour

obsessed right now with starred.

finished choosing poems this morning for gigantic sequins issue 3.2. it's going to be bloody wild.

long walk with C to buy morning glory seeds then to la guadalupana. everything is happening quickly as always.

Starred - Call From Paris from Grant Singer on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

going, gone

Went alone to see Girls last night at Fitzgerald's. It was beautifully rewarding. Every show I've seen at Fitzgerald's has been so wonderful it makes me wonder if actually, I really just like going to see live music and miss doing so. When I worked at T.T. the Bear's in Boston, live music wasn't a question... hell, it wasn't a question for the whole time that I lived ten blocks from Tom Johnston, because he spooned me out of my hermit cave to so many miraculous shows... I couldn't begin to count the times. I always thought of seeing music as rigid in some way. Tom changed that - music was something to move into, something that was there all of the time. It wasn't an isolated event. There was always a show to see, even if just for a little while. It was easier, of course, in Boston, and especially at T.T.'s. But so it goes. Last night was a good reminder.

I brought Christopher Owens Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red because I can't seem to stop giving it away to people who move me. He was very sweet and squeezed my hand. I want to say all sorts of things about him but I'll post a song instead. Youtube won't let me embed the thing, but the video is worth seeing.

I have some publications coming out next month that I'm happy about. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's spring break. Today I went to the ocean and to a nature preserve and sat in traffic and bought a laminated map of birds and saw and saw and saw and spoke very little, but I sang a lot while on the water, into the wind. I found a large vertebrae of something on the beach.

Take care of each other.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

carry on

Today I was accepted as an associate artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, to study under the poet Gregory Orr for 3 weeks. I'm thrilled. This means that I'll be taking a two day road trip across a bit of the south (Texas to Florida). If you don't know how much I love Gregory Orr, you can read about it here.

Gigantic Sequins went to AWP in Chicago. We came, we saw, we shone, we shivered. We drank too much coffee & saw lots of friends. We're excited for next year when we're on our college-hometown turf in Boston. There are still a few days left in this submission period, so send your work in.

Everyone should go see this movie, based on Another Bullshit Night In Suck City, a memoir by Nick Flynn. It's short notice, but if anyone is in NYC tomorrow night, there's a benefit screening for the AIDS service center, which you should attend...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

March 7, 1924 - February 19, 2012

my mother read this poem at my grandmother's funeral today:

The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

There were no nails in my grandmother's coffin. The pine box was put together with pegs, perhaps yesterday, sawdust still lit on the edges. There was no service. We stood in the first few pews of the funeral home, just immediate family, talked quietly, looked at some pictures.

I was on the phone with my mother when she got the call on Sunday, had called her after a week or two of not being in touch. There was no better way for her or I to get the news.

When I first thought about the funeral, I didn't think about the actual act of putting the loved into the ground, didn't think of it at all until my dad mentioned that I should bring a coat to Pittsburgh. We buried my grandmother, truly, at least half of the coffin, my family and I. It's Jewish custom. All of us shoveled. At first hesitant scoops, trading off the shovels, then with greater muscle, acceptance, a job to do, digging into the cold dirt with force, pushing our feet onto the shovel's head so that it broke more earth for us to heave into the coffin. It became something more communal than standing beside the grave. I don't think any of us knew we'd be burying her like that. In funerals on TV, at other funerals I've been to, sometimes there is a handful of dirt cast down, a flower thrown in. This was shared grief in action, as we literally buried our dead. A blessing to take part in that type of closure.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I wrote my name in yr book / only God knows where

my poem Say When is up at Pank Magazine.

We are still open for submissions at Gigantic Sequins until March 10th.

The song today is Laura Marling's Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

the journeys in its claws

gordon matta clark

--you should download Anne Carson's performance of "Cassandra Float Can" at the 92nd Street Y for free at Itunes.

--Six Winters by Tomas Tranströmer.

The wonderful Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska died today in her sleep. Here is one of my favorite poems of hers:

Unexpected Meeting

We are very polite to each other,
insist it’s nice meeting after all these years.
Our tigers drink milk.
Our hawks walk on the ground.
Our sharks drown in water.
Our wolves yawn in front of the open cage.
Our serpents have shaken off lightning,
monkeys---inspiration, peacocks---feathers.
The bats---long ago now---have flown out of our hair.
We fall silent in mid-phrase,
smiling beyond salvation.
Our people
have nothing to say.

1923-2012 R.I.P

Sunday, January 29, 2012

fallow, and plough

Pied Beauty
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

Monday, January 23, 2012

& learns by breaking

My poem Against Desire appears in the latest issue of Pebble Lake Review. There's a recording there too, of me reading the poem. I think it turned out nicely. Ploughshares just send me proofs last week, as did TYPO. A nice winter/spring publishing.

If you didn't know, Gigantic Sequins is still open for submission. The other day in workshop, Tony Hoagland said that he wanted "wet blood poems." Fresh kill. Send me some bloody poems.

Gigantic Sequins will be at AWP, at the bookfair, right next to Wave Books, which is amazing for so many reasons, including the fact that they've supported us via raffle donations for the past two years. We're having a reading too, on Saturday night. More about that later.

I am feeling quiet today, chickadees. Holding stillness. I taught my kids a little about syntax and discursive poetry and Carl Phillips and there's just so much I do not know. Off to read Transtromer and Moore and more and more.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

inspiration: saga sig

i really love saga sig - iceland-born, london-based photographer. her sense of the world and color and possibility. she's smart and magical. here, she talks about her personal fashion, history and beliefs ("nothing in the world is more evil than jealousy"), and here is her blog, the neverending story.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

i turn you with slow animals

(& in text version)

This video and this poem make me think of Chautauqua, age 15 maybe and meeting a boy who'd dyed his long hair black and red, how he and Julia (who was fair, whose bright red hair lifted when she ran) were goths in safety pins and purple ribbons and there I was in my polo shirt and brown shorts and we all ran away from club to John's house, smoking cigarettes, all of us laying on his bed together on our backs listening to The Smashing Pumpkins, if you turned your head to the side there was the lake outside down the hill, the sailboats, maybe it was drizzling or smelled like drizzling, like an old house in New York State in August on a warm gray afternoon and then I was being kissed

Thursday, January 12, 2012

live the questions

I want to tell you about my friend Anna's journal.

Actually, I'll let you discover it for yourselves, but I'll share here some of the questions she poses, which I find inspiring. All of the below are her thoughts and questions. They fill me with a sense of longing and hope and challenge. Perhaps you will find a question that chimes with you:

could something else have been possible?

how does the specific body choose to carry out tasks and actions?

what is my body not aware of? what does my body not know?

what are the infinite possibilities?

what would it take for an unimaginably fluid, creative and adventurous 2012? what would it take for non-stop dancing, traveling and collaboration opportunities? what would it take for grand leaps of growth and expansion to all directions? what would it take for ease, space and lightness of being?

what leaps, turns, shifts, drops and changes are available for my body that i can't currently even imagine? what is the range of unexplored physical expression that is possible through the dance of frequency? where can i go from where i am today by dancing sensation, feeling and imagery?

hey universe, what would it take?

what does it take for an optimally available body? what does it take for a soft, open, empty body that listens and feels without thinking? what does it take for an unrestricted, uninhibited instrument of movement? what does it take to dissolve habits and patterns and make new choices, have new options?

thinking is such a drag. how to follow intuition, instinct and impulse without the necessity to employ the thinking mind? how about creation without conclusion, decision and judgment? how about doing it for the sake of doing it, always expanding further and not having to look back?

what are the chances?

Friday, January 6, 2012

in this spare room

cass mccombs at the library, first night, boston

2nd year of first night in boston; after tom got me hooked on cass mccombs' music, it turns out that he & his friends - jake & mollie (lighting), albert herter (film) - are lovely people too. they're on tour all of january.

2012 is the year of lace, the year of john & yoko.

reading the art of losing, edited by kevin young, and AVA by carole maso. feeling a little peace in shift. another key, another bed for now, another flight. no place to go but along with it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


here's some best of 2011, off the top of my head.

best books:

I Wore The Ocean in The Shape Of A Girl - Kelle Groom
Running In The Family – Michael Ondaatje
Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
The Lost Father – Mona Simpson
The Caged Owl – Gregory Orr
Gravity and Grace – Simone Weil
The Captain Asks For A Show of Hands - Nick Flynn

songs listened to on repeat:
Stick With Me Baby – Allison Kraus & Robert Plant
Love More – Sharon Van Etten
Challengers – New Pornographers
For What It’s Worth – Stevie Nicks
For Kalaja Mari – School of Seven Bells
Excuses – The Morning Benders
Solitude – Girls
Marked – EMA
Flirted With You All My Life – Vic Chestnutt
Cannons – Little Scream
Too Young – Taken By Trees
Helplessness Blues: Fleet Foxes
Secrets- Silver Swans
It’s Okay – Land of Talk
Ring – Glasseer
Eleanor – The Turtles
Say No More – Humble Pie

best movies:

best places:
The Ocean
The West Village

stay warm, chickadees.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Gigantic Sequins 3.1 is now available for pre-order.


Poetry from Carrie Murphy, Ken Taylor, Jake Kelly, Chrissy Friedlander, Candice Wuehle, Laura Goode, Analicia Sotelo, Kimberly Grey, Amanda Auchter, and Chuck Carlise.

Fiction from Kelli Trapnell, Olivia Kate Cerrone, Nathanael Green, and Meg Cameron.

Art &/or Comics from Sarah Schneider, Gillian Lambert (cover art), and Goodloe Byron

Friday, December 9, 2011

& lonely offices

self-portrait with the source of winter as a far-off cry

The Way Things Work
by Jorie Graham

is by admitting
or opening away.
This is the simplest form
of current: Blue
moving through blue;
blue through purple;
the objects of desire
opening upon themselves
without us; the objects of faith.
The way things work
is by solution,
resistance lessened or
increased and taken
advantage of.
The way things work
is that we finally believe
they are there,
common and able
to illustrate themselves.
Wheel, kinetic flow,
rising and falling water,
ingots, levers and keys,
I believe in you,
cylinder lock, pulley,
lifting tackle and
crane lift your small head--
I believe in you--
your head is the horizon to
my hand. I believe
forever in the hooks.
The way things work
is that eventually
something catches.

Monday, December 5, 2011

the misfit, the judge


Open little box

We kiss your bottom and cover
Keyhole and key

The whole world lies crumpled in you
It resembles everything
Except itself

Not even your clear-sky mother
Would recognize it any more

The rust will eat your key
Our world and us there inside
And finally you too

We kiss your four sides
And four corners
And twenty-four nails
And anything else you have

Open little box

by Vasko Popa

I'm writing a paper on Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy, the Grotesque, the Gothic. Violence, intelligence, religiosity.

Yesterday over Twitter I had a nice chat with Kelle Groom after we simultaneously posted about Francesca Woodman. Kelle is very lovely, & said that an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir would be in the same Ploughshares as my poem in the spring.

The Fader did a long profile on our mister Cass McCombs. Looking forward to seeing him & his crew over New Year's.

Remember sleep? I remember that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

angel in the thicket

There is a wonderful post today at The Rumpus today: All At Once Is What Eternity Is: Musings on Kenneth Patchen. Kenneth Patchen is one of those rare writers who truly gives his wildness permission. If you have not read The Journal of Albion Moonlight, stop reading this post right now, go to your local bookstore, and buy it immediately.

This post is written by Carolyn Zaikowski, who apparently is a strong and brilliant writer:

"...Your language does not need permission to be said, to be written. Your life does not need permission to exist. Your blur, your cliff, your bewilderment does not need permission.... You don’t need permission to be just as you are in this moment. Your strange language doesn’t need permission to be itself. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar who wants your power, who wants war, who wants your beautiful huge seed. Anyone who tries to shame or break your language is betraying you."

Amen. This is exactly the kind of voice we want in Gigantic Sequins. Yes, our submissions are open.

onwards, chickadees.

Monday, November 28, 2011

ship inside a bottle, if your body is the bottle

Today is a nice day. Cold outside in Texas enough for the black coat with the two buttons sewn back on with blue thread.

Four of my poems are featured this week at The Offending Adam, with a very nice introduction by Matthew Siegel.

Also up today is my short essay,"The Passing Word," at Gulf Coast.

Here is a song by my friend Anna:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011


Who says what and how and whose business is it anyway?

Is this especially true in my little corner of the internet? Yes, it damn well is. If I am not writing violent things along the lines of "I'm going to blow up XYZ with (insert explosive thing here) at X time, for sure," then at worst, my words should only be a danger to a reader's worldview or comfy perception of How Things Are.

As far as I am concerned, I can say anything I want. So can you. And so can that other guy. So can JSA Lowe, who is a poet and a PhD candidate here at the University of Houston. This is her blog, lycanthropia. and, to my complete surprise, THIS is what she wrote on HTMLGIANT after someone in her workshop at school read her blog, expressed concern to a workshop leader, and the workshop leader (I don't know who) confronted her saying something like this:

…people have come to me who are concerned…other students in the program… upset… distressed…compromising their experience of the program… haven’t read it myself, that would break boundaries for me…affects their perception of you…their sense of you as a professional…writing about very intimate matters… damage your standing with your colleagues…makes people uncomfortable…took it to the department chair [and here my brain made an almost audible shorting-out sound] and he agrees with me…run the risk of this having a real effect on your career…future employment…could jeopardize your standing in the program….really best that you not.. writing about such personal things so publicly…consider…think about the wisdom of… importance of being collegial…for your own sake….

Lowe continues:

"It’s still Monday morning. I’m sitting frozen in a strange office trying to scramble my resources for some sort of a response. And I’m pretty sure I have The Wrong Look on my face. I’m supposed to be—what, grateful for this intelligence? Contrite? I don’t know. Probably warring on my features instead: incredulity, disbelief, the deepest shame and anger. Of course I am ashamed. I was born ashamed. The blog is part of my attempt to counter some of that—

(Went to the department chair? Students are upset? Who? Why didn’t they approach me like grown-ass people? Why did they go to one of my professors, why this professor? What the fuck did I write that was so awful? If my blog is so distressing to them, why don’t they just not read it?)

(And is there any irony in the fact that my creative writing program apparently wants me to put a sock in my creative writing?)"

You can read the rest of the essay yourselves, if you are a blogger, or a writer or a parent or loved one of anyone who writes. Lowe is bringing up important issues with a lot of investigative clarity in a tone not quite as pissed off as mine. I am livid about the whole thing. I don't write much in this blog that is terrifically personal, but I have in the past. If you read the whole thing you could probably surmise some not terribly pretty things about me, but you might come to the same conclusions about me if you read my poetry. I work in a high school, teaching 14 year olds about poetry. If they're writing dark stuff, I don't tell them not to write it, I don't contact their parents, I talk to them. I use my judgement. I treat them like young adults. I use my judgement about what's a threat, what's a behavioral problem, and what's metaphor, what's creative expression, what's the sight of them processing a tough experience. For me to shut any of that down without talking directly to them would just be disrespectful.

Jennifer, yes, I "still cloak a lot of what (I) write in lyric incomprehensibility, just to be on the safe side, but also because that’s how (my) brain works," but if you don't want to, if the larger You doesn't want to, you shouldn't have to, and anyone who tells you otherwise can go marinate in their fear cave.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

and i asked myself, don't you just love it? then, why don't you just love it?

It's that time of the year when I start to feel, well, terrible.

This year is different. There are Big Life Transitions that I'm not going to detail on the internet. I still feel terrible, but terrible in a way that pulses with placelessness, & possibilities, & love, & an odd overflow of hope / hopelessness which is somehow feeling like the same thing.

I have a big crush on dancing girl press & studio. How do people manage to keep things like this running? Are they independently wealthy? I would love to do something like this. Also, I would love to be independently wealthy. Also, I would love to own a little white llama and a patch of forest where he could live. All of the above is equally unlikely, so I will just keep my crush.

Back to Pittsburgh on Wednesday for Thanksgiving. Very excited, though I have to leave little cat for a few days. The Glee Adele mash-up is in my head on repeat. Was that scene devastating or was it just me?

Hop along, chickadees.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

ask me how

forgetting something

Try this—close / your eyes. No, wait, when—if—we see each other / again the first thing we should do is close our eyes—no, / first we should tie our hands to something / solid—bedpost, doorknob— otherwise they (wild birds) / might startle us / awake. Are we forgetting something? What about that / warehouse, the one beside the airport, that room / of black boxes, a man in each box? I hear / if you bring this one into the light he will not stop / crying, if you show this one a photo of his son / his eyes go dead. Turn up / the heat, turn up the song. First thing we should do / if we see each other again is to make / a cage of our bodies—inside we can place / whatever still shines.

--- nick flynn

Thursday, November 10, 2011

i was a guest in the yoke / of my body

At Thirty

Whole years I knew only nights: automats
& damp streets, the Lower East Side steep

with narrow rooms where sleepers turn beneath
alien skies. I ran when doorways spoke

rife with smoke & zippers. But it was only the heart's
racketing flywheel stuttering I want, I want

until exhaustion, until I was a guest in the yoke
of my body by the last margin of land where the river

mingles with the sea & far off daylight whitens,
a rending & yielding I must kneel before, as

barges loose glittering mineral freight
& behind me façades gleam with pigeons

folding iridescent wings. Their voices echo
in my voice naming what is lost, what remains.

-- Lynda Hull

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To Friend

Facebook made "friend" a verb, which is a little unfortunate, since "befriend" was working just fine More unfortunate is the awkward verb "unfriend," but so it goes.

This is a post about friends, about poetfriends.

I really like this poem by my poetfriend Alexis Orgera at H_NGM_N.

If you are in Pittsburgh today (November 9th), you should go see the lovely and talented poetteacherfriend D.A. Powell read for free.

Today is the BIRTHDAY of my poetfriend Leigh Phillips, who is brilliant and endlessly inspiring. Sometimes she falls into despair about writing, but even the expression of her despair is poetry. Go say Happy Birthday to her on Twitter.

Our submissions are open at Gigantic Sequins for issue 3.2. This is included in a post about friends, because small journals are very friendly. They purr. Send us some writing on fire.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Unexpected Meeting

We are very polite to each other,
insist it’s nice meeting after all these years.
Our tigers drink milk.
Our hawks walk on the ground.
Our sharks drown in water.
Our wolves yawn in front of the open cage.
Our serpents have shaken off lightning,
monkeys---inspiration, peacocks---feathers.
The bats---long ago now---have flown out of our hair.
We fall silent in mid-phrase,
smiling beyond salvation.
Our people
have nothing to say.

--Wislawa Szymborska

Friday, November 4, 2011

you were there, and you, and you


And now I know what most deeply connects us

after that summer so many years ago,
and it isn’t poetry, although it is poetry,

and it isn’t illness, although we have that in common,

and it isn’t gratitude for every moment,
even the terrifying ones, even the physical pain,

though we are grateful, and it isn’t even death,

though we are halfway through
it, or even the way you describe the magnificence

of being alive, catching a glimpse,

in the store window, of your blowing hair and chapped lips,
though it is beautiful, it is; but it is

that you’re my friend out here on the far reaches

of what humans can find out about each other.

—Jason Shinder

go home go home go on get gone

thanksgiving's coming soon, thank god

next semester, if everything works out, I get to take a class with edward albee and go to the ocean as much as i want.

a friend sent me his new manuscript. it reminded me to pay attention; he'd somewhat fallen into victimhood. being a victim is easy. owning your stuff, your garbage, baggage, baloney - that's hard. owning the places you've really fucked up. cleaning up. packing up, unpacking. i understand that you can write a book about a garden without writing about the sweat it took to plant it, without the times you cursed the ground, but why would you? why write the real dark as something imagined? maybe it means you could write your way out of there, temporarily, while the lights flash and you sign your book, do interviews talking about your book; i understood that the phrase to re-write history, implied avoidance, choices. I think it means something much darker now.

i should be fair. be fare, be fine, be-yond. last month, in the back of my notebook, he wrote a note that made me cry, that i needed to press to my chest for awhile, to soothe what felt torn there. and then one day, i didn't need to. i walked into the present tense. the air was just cold enough, and the sun was out -- it is fall in texas and the monarchs are coming through on slow loping wings on their way to the gulf. today i'm writing a paper, going to workshop, tomorrow waking up at 3 a.m. to go to the ocean with zach and eric.

good morning, chickadees, get up. let's go.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Try, Try Again

The Divine Image - by William Blake

Cruelty has a human heart
And jealousy a human face,
Terror the human form divine,
And secrecy the human dress.

The human dress is forged iron,
The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace seal'd,
The human heart its hungry gorge.

Sometimes we forget that fear makes us cruel. A friend told me a year or so ago that I could be mean. I was taken aback; I never think of myself as a mean person. You're mean when you don't get what you want, he said. We'd been a 'thing,' a romantic-ish but never-quite-official thing. When my friend said want, he meant capital W want, want that is the thin shell of the fear that we'll never be fully loved, fully chosen. Humans hold a hundred forms of fear. When it comes to other people, that fear comes out in unexpected ways - some never directly expressed, some unbelievably violent. Fear surprises us. Our impulses go sideways. Most people act by self-propulsion, and the fuel is fear. We all think we're fakes, or we're not fakes, but we're ashamed of something we've done. We're afraid of being seen, so we're too loud or don't go to the party at all. I try to live in the middle, within reason, but I fail all the time.

Most often, when I act out, I misuse the gift of being a writer. It happened recently, this morning. The thought having hurt someone, having deliberately hurt someone, is so bewildering. I don't know myself, when I am sharp and thoughtless like that, sending that poem I knew was cruel. Not mean, but cruel - pushed buttons, hit nerves I knew it would hit. It's not my sober self, it's the addict self, who wants and lashes out when want isn't met. It pushes me from people. It's the real darkness in me, the faithless place. You might think the darkness was something else, something less to do with people, more interior, less nameable. But this is the real root of it, I've come to realize, because I have so many people who love me, who have stuck with me through hard time. Fear, fear, a hundred forms of fear. All I can really do is own it. To claim my side of the street. To pray to whatever is there or not. Try again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

After the Movie

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that's not love. That's attachment.
Michael says, No, that's love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you're forced to think "it's him or me"
think "me" and kill him.

I say, Then it's not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We're walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can't drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I've just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he's saying is "You are too strict. You are a nun."

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things of me even if he's not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

From The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, by Marie Howe

Monday, October 10, 2011

the center of the earth is the end of the world

turns out, that really, I am actually a Green Day fan. Who knew?

this is a lyrics fan-made video & sloppy but I sort of like it. There's pretty great narrative music video that won't be embedded here

Sometimes I forget that I was a teenager in the 90's. We listened to Weezer, to Rusted Root, to Ani DiFranco, to No Doubt, to Ben Folds Five, to house music, to Joni Mitchell. Apparently we listened to Green Day. We didn't have a clue what was happening in the world. We quoted "Clueless." We watched My So-Called Life. We bought clothes from thrift shops - old man sweaters and ugly boots we markered up and babydoll dresses and bell-bottom jeans we ripped to shreds. We were sheltered by money. I rode the bus downtown alone three days a week afterschool to dance. We read Beowulf and The Scarlet Letter and Bartelby the Scribner. When Annie died, Dorothy had me sit down before she told me. There was a point at which Madeleine and I started to sneak out during the school day to smoke on the fire escape of the white house where no one seemed to live. I hardly remember senior year; I remember a trash can fire in the sun in someone's backyard, a day I threw up in the bathroom near the theater. There are pictures of the rest, but I can't remember it. We drank beer in Sparky's kitchen, ate bagel bites, rifled through her mom's purse. We so often slept at one another's houses. There were a lot of dusks we ran through other people's yards - how was it we could be carefree? Girls with ripped jeans playing children's games. There were a lot of long walks. There was a lot of rain.

dream city

Boy in Video Arcade
by Larry Levis

Some see a lake of fire at the end of it,
Or heaven's guesswork, something always to be sketched in.

I see a sullen boy in a video arcade.
He's the only one there at this hour, shoulders slightly bent above a machine.
I see the pimples on his chin, the scuffed linoleum on the floor.

I like the close-up, the detail. I like the pointlessness of it,
And the way it hasn't imaged an ending to all this yet,

The boy never bothering to look up as the sun comes out
In the late morning, because, Big Deal, the mist evaporating & rising.

So Death blows his little fucking trumpet, Big Deal, says the boy.

I don't see anything at the end of it except an endlessness,

The beauty parlors, the palm reader's unlighted sign, the mulberry trees
fading out before the billboard of the chiropractor.

The lake of fire's just an oil speck.
I don't see anything at the end of it, & I suppose that is what is wrong with me,

Among other things. And it's slow work, because of all the gauzy light,

It's hard to pick out anything.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dreams of Ondaatje (2)


The Father's Guns

After her father died they found nine guns in the house. Two in his clothing drawers, one under the bed, one in the glove compartment of the car, etc. Her brother took their mother out onto the prairie with a revolver and taught her to shoot.

The Bird

For a while in Topeka parrots were very popular. Her father was given one in lieu of a payment and kept it with him at all times because it was the fashion. It swung above him in the law office and drove back with him in the car at night. At parties friends would bring their parrots and make them perform what they had been taught: the first line from Twelfth Night, a bit of Italian opera, cowboy songs, or a surprisingly good rendition of Russ Colombo singing "Prisoner of Love". Her father's parrot could only imitate the office typewriter, along with the ching at the end of each line. Later it broke its neck crashing into a bookcase.

The Bread

Four miles out of Topeka on the highway - the largest electrical billboard in the State of Kansas. The envy of all Missouri. It advertised bread and the electrical image of a knife cut slice after slice. These curled off endlessly. "Meet you at the bread," "See you at the loaf," were common phrases. Aroused couples would park there under the stars on the open night prairie. Virtue was lost, "kissed all over by every boy in Wichita". Poets, the inevitable visiting writers, were taken to see it, and it hummed over the seductions in cars, over the nightmares of girls in bed. Slice after slice fell towards the earth. A feeding of the multitude in this parched land on the way to Dorrance, Kansas.

First Criticism

She is two weeks old, her mother takes her for a drive. At the gas station the mechanic is cleaning the windshield and watches them through the glass. Wiping his hands he puts his head in the side window and says, "Excuse me for saying this but I know what I'm talking about - that child has a heart condition."

Listening In

Overhear her in the bathroom, talking to a bug: "I don't want you on me, honey." 8 a.m.

Self Criticism

"For a while there was something about me that had a dubious quality. Dogs would not take meat out of my hand. The town bully kept handcuffing me to the trees."


Always one fantasy. To be traveling down the street and a man in a clean white suit (the detail of "clean" impresses me) leaps into her path holding flowers and sings to her while an invisible orchestra accompanies his solo. All her life she has waited for this and it never happens.


In 1956 the electric billboard in Kansas caught fire and smoke plumed into a wild sunset. Bread on fire, broken glass. Birds flew towards it above the cars that circled round to watch. And last night, past midnight, her excited phone call. Her home town is having a marathon to benefit the symphony. She pays $4 to participate. A tuxedoed gentleman begins the race with a clash of cymbals and she takes off. Along her route at frequent intervals are quartets who play for her. When they stop for water a violinist performs a solo. So here she comes. And there I go, stepping forward in my white suit, with a song in my heart.


The poem above is by Michael Ondaatje, one of my favorite writers. I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to Ondaatje - I talked about him here over a year ago, and meant to say more. Life moves in, and takes up space. Welcome, life, you say, then turn around and find it's been a year since you last thought about answering a question you'd meant to shed light on the day before. What I mean is Michael Ondaatje, and how instructive he is. How he keeps out of the poems by being so in them, unquestionable. I'm tired, can you tell? I want to say more but can't, Rudyard Kipling is next to my desk stomping around, demanding to be read for tomorrow I'll say that this poem is one of my favorites of his. He's coming to Houston next Monday and I'm deeply deeply excited and am going to dorkily bring all of the books I have of his to be signed. Is that terrible? I'm going to do it. Maybe not. But I'd like to. I'd like to have him sign along the line of the veins in my wrist.

On a side note, my poetfriend Chuck Carlise has a new chapbook out, called A Broken Elevator Still Isn't the Stairs. It's $10.00 and it's incredibly, incredibly beautiful.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

throw up your arms

Green Day's 21 Guns is stuck in my head today. I'm not really a Green Day fan, but somehow today, the song skipped through my head, & I followed it, & now I'm stuck. It doesn't hurt that this is the version from the American Idiot musical...

Next Friday I'll be reading as part of the Gulf Coast Reading Series at Brazo's Bookstore with Celeste Prince and Thomas Calder. I'll read poems, they'll read fiction. Free; 7 p.m.

and hey, it's October. Beautiful.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

animal / cry

A little black pit bull trotted in front of my car as it crested the small slope on West Alabama by the low red bodega, it trotted in front of my car then crossed the divide and was hit in the side by a red truck the blank thud yelp weep cry muscle pulsed and turned all wrong a cry and between us shot into the night this cry I found my hand over my mouth with my car stopped and the red truck stopped and the dog had turned after the slam the thud the cry turned back and ran the other way into the dark strip of ruined fields houses yards, the man in the red truck his eyes so briefly locked in mine our mouths both open throats stopped and the dog already running back into the night, then both of us letting up the breaks, driving forward, with no cars before or behind us, no witness. The radio was on. Leonard Cohen was singing Chelsea Hotel #2. I turned it off. I tried to pray. The praying sounded like Please save the little black dog, god, the little black dog, please please save the little black dog. It sounded like failure, like helplessness, like waiting rooms of hospitals, like detoxes, like a slur on the phone, like denial. I called my father. He tried to tell me a story about a dog in Israel, how before lunch, Ben had been petting a small dog outside a cafe, how when they came back and I stopped him from telling because I could already see my small hand touching the golden dog's head its wirey frame like a coyote already feel how I'd have been with it, feeling it a friend in a place where I felt foreign, both of us strangers here on earth. To think of it, what happened after lunch, when they went outside the cafe, when they saw the dog. I could feel the terrible hole opening up in the world to swallow me then, to see how quickly all can be erased....

In the paper this summer, there was a picture of a man being attacked by a jaguar outside a village in India. Apparently the jaguar has been hanging around town - there had been a drought, and when droughts occur, animals are forced to widen their hunting and foraging areas. So the jaguar had been around. The story said that the man was killed, and the jaguar was shot. Look at that, my mother said, poor man. Poor jaguar, I said. She looked at me with a long pause. There is something very wrong with you, she said.

I have read plenty of stories and poems in which an animal is hit, heard other people's personal stories. But until tonight, I'd never seen it. I should say, really, that I'd never felt it. A small part of me thought that if there were a war, if I should be in a place where there was a war, where I saw combat, I would lose my will to live very quickly. I realize again I am deeply porous to pain and with animals, more so. It felt a piece of me flew out to the dog... no.. into the sound that the dog and I made together on impact, and that the piece of me that flew is a hole that will stay a hole, uncertainty, fragility, the hollow sound. And if you haven't seen an animal hit, if you haven't hit one, this will be just another story to you about how it happens, how it happens all the time.

My little cat is so old now that sometimes she doesn't wake up immediately when I touch her. Yesterday I put my fingertips on the underside of her sleeping belly and felt her heartbeat, felt the little ribs, listened to her snore. Her paws twitch dreaming.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The peddling boy says: Let's close our eyes.

A couple weeks ago I was granted the Mary Jean Irion Award from the Chautauqua Literary Arts community. Basically, it's the equivalent of winning a prize in heaven, where everybody is thoughtful and willing and interested, poets and those who don't consider themselves poets. It's not a big award but it was a very sweet encouragement.

Back on the ranch...

- Submissions are closed for Gigantic Sequins issue 3.1. This is going to be a great issue, featuring poets I'm very excited about, so far including (but not limited to) Amanda Auchter, Laura Goode, and Kimberly Gray... you can check out their websites for a little peek at the type of work we're interested in.

- Submissions are open for Gulf Coast, where I help edit poetry in Houston.

- This past Friday was the first of the Gulf Coast readings at Brazo's Bookstore. Analicia Sotelo, J.S. Lowe, and David Tomas Martinez read - good stuff. I'll be reading next month, on 7 Oct, with Eric Howerton & Celeste Prince (fic).

- Books read or begun in the past two weeks for school: The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson; The Blue Boat, by Darrel Bourque; and Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. It's going to be a very strange semester, chickadees. All about slaughter, boundaries, stripped humanity.

- For my class on Imperial Gothic literature, I watched a long documentary on Queen Victoria's England (which you can find cut into 15 minute sections on Youtube) which was horrifying and worth seeing, especially if you know very little about world history, which I do. Now I know a little more. Incredibly frightening, what people are capable of.

- To end cheerily, I'm teaching a high school poetry class. The kids are great. If anyone reading this is interested in the 70 page poetry packet I put together for them, drop me a comment and I'll email it to you.

- The neighbor's dog just made a sound like a tropical bird. The weather has mercifully dropped from the hundreds. Still no rain. Almond milk is grand.

The end.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

here we go again

Heart Condition
by Jericho Brown

I don't want to hurt a man, but I like to hear one beg.
Two people touch twice a month in ten hotels, and
We call it long distance. He holds down one coast.
I wander the other like any African American, Africa
With its condition and America with its condition
And black folk born in this nation content to carry
Half of each. I shoulder my share. My man flies
To touch me. Sky on our side. Sky above his world
I wish to write. Which is where I go wrong. Words
Are a sense of sound. I get smart. My mother shakes
Her head. My grandmother sighs: He ain't got no
Sense. My grandmother is dead. She lives with me.
I hear my mother shake her head over the phone.
Somebody cut the cord. We have a long distance
Relationship. I lost half of her to a stroke. God
Gives to each a body. God gives every body its pains.
When pain mounts in my body, I try thinking of my
White forefathers who hurt their black bastards quite
Legally. I hate to say it, but one pain can ease another.
Doctors rather I take pills. My man wants me to see
A doctor. What are you when you leave your man
Wanting? What am I now that I think so fondly
Of airplanes? What's my name, whose is it, while we
Make love. My lover leaves me with words I wish
To write. Flies from one side of a nation to the outside
Of our world. I don't want the world. I only want
African sense of American sound. Him. Touching.
This body. Aware of its pains. Greetings, Earthlings.
My name is Slow And Stumbling. I come from planet
Trouble. I am here to leave you uncomfortable.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Suddenly I realize / That if I stepped out of my body I would break / Into blossom.
-- James Wright

Thursday, August 4, 2011

At Chautauqua Lake this week. Lots of writing. Next week, Houston.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"infants begin to see by noticing the edges of things. how do they know an edge is an edge? by passionately wanting it not to be."

"where does that hole come from? it comes from the lover's classifactory process. Desire for an object that he never knew he lacked is defined, by a shift of distance, as desire for a necessary part of himself. Not a new acquisition but something that was always, properly. his. Two lacks become one."

from Eros the bittersweet, by Anne Carson

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Way You Wish You Could Live In The Storm

I was traveling for six days - Boston, New York - cars, buses, trains. Little sleep, movies, late dinners, rivers. Let's have a song.

I'm exhausted, sick. My system always falls apart after whirlwind trips.

I haven't seen Noel in ten years, and have only spoken briefly, over email. We met when I was seventeen, he was twenty-one, at a party somewhere, the middle of the years when I was hellbent & a spiraling little oblivion. Noel was always kind to me. We didn't really stay in touch after that summer. So when we met for lunch, in New York, it was wonderful to find that 10 years later, he is as lovely and interesting as I'd remembered. Noel's a painter. You can see some of his work here

I went out to Brooklyn to see Angelica, also a painter, who I studied theater with at Syracuse. We sat in her garden, drank strong coffee, talked and talked and talked. Angie is, I think, the strongest female I know, in all ways. She welcomed me into her studio-- I hadn't seen her larger paintings. I was speechless.

Angelica, talking about her work

It's beautiful to see that the people I hold dear, who I am bound to in one way or another, have committed themselves to the act of making in the same way I have - that they've given making a space in their lives, a central space. Carry on, chickadees, carry on.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Very happy that yes, The Rumpus did publish my little essay on Gregory Orr. You can read it here.

Dreamy Sunday; after swimming, late lunch in a dimly lit Thai place with one of my oldest friends. I remember when he came out to me. We were 14 or 15, and he took me slowly by the wrist out of our friend's old mansion to stand in the dusk on the gravel driveway. I'd already known, of course, so it wasn't the information was the revelation, it was how much he trusted me.

Went to see Tree of Life last night. This is the summer of movies alone. Very needed. Writing a lot about movies these days. Tonight I'm watching A Prophet, directed by Jacques Audiard. Audiard has directed two beautiful movies in the past ten years, Read My Lips, and The Beat That My Heart Skipped -- I think I'm going to see the latter again soon, as I saw it in the theatre in Boston when it came out in 2005. I think Audiard is fascinated by brutality and beauty, how they can live so tightly knit together. He's a terrifically sensitive director.

Here are 9 poems Terrance Hayes thinks you should read, and he's right.

My fortune cookie today said "Necessity is the mother of risk."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

new sight

now I have a website

I was looking through old pictures of myself last night, trying to find one that would be appropriate for a press release / posters for a Gulf Coast reading in the fall. 90% of the pictures really aren't appropriate, but they reminded me how much I used to live with my camera. Tom shared this Sally Mann/Nan Goldin transcript with me the other day - also a reminder.

Official-reminder-to-self #2 - get your camera.

The Gigantic Sequins reading on the 22nd was very lovely. It felt like a family affair. Elizabeth Hoover has a chapbook called "Love In The Wild" that is just fantastic You can find a few pictures of the reading here, along with some reminders ( submit! buy a raffle ticket! ) and an announcement that we're having a reading in NYC, July 12th, in a pop-up bookstore. There's a 70% chance that I will be there.

Okay chickadees. I'm going to try to convince Jason to pick me up in his Cadillac and take me to the drive-in tomorrow night. Take care of yourselves.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

is love // love more

Writing about a Gregory Orr poem I love, hoping that maybe The Rumpus will publish it.

Chickadees, there's this thing about love.

I have a friend who called crying one day from California. She said that she was tired of people saying that it'd be okay, that the last guy just wasn't the right guy, that one day she'd meet someone. She said she was tired of that shit, that she wanted to hear instead how to start to accept being alone. I don't know what I said in reply. I'd like to think I took the middle road, said maybe, maybe. Said something like, I'm sure you'd be fine alone, I'm sure you might meet someone. Soon after, she called, said she was dating an actor, or maybe it was a fellow artist. A few phone calls later, there was an additional guy, someone she'd gone out with a few times. She was excited, seemed relaxed. And soon after that, she said she was alone again, and she seemed fine about it, focusing on her art. She said she'd started running really fast, that it felt great. Working hard, you mean? I asked. No, she said, running, literally running. I started to think that for some people, no matter what walls we put up to life, desire always crept in, heat, and need, and that made us lucky, because if we didn't have someone else to pour ourselves towards, we poured towards art. We poured towards art anyway, and in the end, wasn't that most important? Wasn't that connection the thing that would never break?

And in the next breath, how could one say there was anything more important than love. I understand this as much as I understand a sneeze, or hiccups, or laughing at a time when one shouldn't laugh, being unable to stop laughing. As many walls as one tosses up, it seems there's always someone who gets in, someone who we're pulled to, kicking and screaming, with all the knowledge of the past and all that pain. When it's inconvenient. When it's not moral. When we promised ourselves otherwise, again. I'm baffled, chickadees, I give up.

On another topic (but not), I'm home for the summer. This means the large wooden desk, the lace curtains, nights with a nervous energy, the old house, and rivers, rivers, rivers. I'm trying to photograph more - the above picture is a reminder. A friend who can't sleep without the radio on. I'd begun taking portraits of friends awhile ago - this was one of the pictures that got me into CalArts, where I slightly regret not going. I haven't really taken pictures since I decided not to follow the multi-media art path. But just because I'm not in school for it doesn't mean I can't follow it. So, here goes.

By the way, it's Father's Day. Happy Father's Day. I'm making enchiladas for my dad and the family. Here's something I wrote about family & poetry awhile ago, partially about my dad's early influence on my creativity. Sometimes it's very easy to forget that my dad is an accomplished psychologist, really ground-breaking in his field. There's a Wikipedia article about him for pete's sake. I never realized what a big deal he was until this Festscrift that CMU had for him a couple years ago. It became evident that the name "Klahr" in the world of developmental psychology garnered an "oh, yes of course, his research blah blah blah." I'd always just used his office as a place where I could draw monsters on a white board. That's an exaggeration of course, but until the festscrift, I didn't understand where my slightly insane and stubborn ambitiousness came from, where my willingness for experimentation came from. Thanks, dad.

Go thank your fathers, whether they're alive or not.

Carry on, chickadees.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The forms fade and are no more than a dream, / a sketch slow to come / on the forgotten canvas, and that the artist completes / only by memory.

Charles Baudelaire

.. . . .Remembering well requires reopening wounds in a particular way, one which people cannot do by themselves . . .

—Richard Sennett, from “Disturbing Memories” p.283

Francesca Woodman was not trying to disappear. She was not recording a slow erasure. Maybe she was recording how knit she was to the world. How terrifying that is. Maybe she was trying to reveal herself in things. I think there was an essential undoing and regeneration that Francesca saw and felt pulled by. Her work is full of movement. This is not the movement of erasure, it is an aching push within time. Saw this documentary the other night that ostensibly was about her:

But it wasn't about her, it was about memory. We don't get to choose how we are remembered. What happens is other people's memories of you blend, the more they talk about you; those left remake you in their minds. In Gravity and Grace, Simone Weil says we suffer because the departed, the absent has become unreal... his absence is very real - henceforward it is his way of appearing. To not embrace this absence creates suffering in us, because our memory, our memories, are incapable of bringing that person back to the physical world. We are incapable of creating their wholeness, and by such an attempt, by repeated attempts, create in ourselves a palpable void. Whether or not we have a choice about the creation of this void is the mystery.

Gigantic Sequins presents: Shine On (celebrating the publication of issue 2.2) A reading featuring Jim Daniels, Elizabeth Hoover, and Alayna Frankenberry. ModernFormations Gallery, 4919 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville; doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the readings follow at 8 p.m. Cover charge, $5 includes dessert. 412-362-0274.

Jim Daniels’ recent collections include Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry, and From Milltown to Malltown, a collaborative book with photographer Charlee Brodsky and writer Jane McCafferty. Forthcoming books include All of the Above, Adastra Press, Trigger Man, his fourth collection of short fiction, Michigan State University Press, and Birth Marks, BOA Editions. He recently wrote and produced the independent film “Mr. Pleasant” which premiered at the Three Rivers Film Festival in November. He lives in South Oakland, near the boyhood homes of Dan Marino and Andy Warhol.

Alayna Frankenberry graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in Creative Writing and Hispanic Studies. Her work has appeared in Weave, Open Thread, OH NO, and Night Train. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. She serves as the unofficial Poet Laureate of Munhall, Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Hoover received her MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University and has published poetry in The Adirondack Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, the Atlanta Review, and The Other Journal. Recently, New Letters nominated her for a Pushcart Prize.

Gigantic Sequins issue 2.2, and tickets for our summer raffle will be available for sale at the reading, as will books and chapbooks of our readers. Hope to see you there (and the next night too, at the Cave Canem reading...)