Friday, September 28, 2012

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying:

The Poetics of Reverie, Gaston Bachelard (1960). I was practically live-tweeting my reading experience of this book, I’m loving it so much (though I stopped myself, so as to not be too obnoxious). Bachelard is unafraid of the exclamation mark--I equally enjoy his ideas and style (it comes across as so endearing and surprising). Here’s a swoony tablespoon for you:
“Whoever lives for poetry must read everything. How often has the light of a new idea sprung for me from a simple brochure! When one allows himself to be animated by new images, he discovers iridescence in the images of old books. Poetic ages unite in a living memory. The new age awakens the old. The old age comes to live again in the new...What benefits new books bring us! I would like a basket full of books telling the youth of images which fall from heaven for me every day.....For, up there, in heaven isn’t paradise an immense library?” (25).

Tight Spaces: Hard Architecture and How to Humanize it, Robert Sommer (1974). Speaking of the joys of immense libraries, I checked this book out this week. Sommer’s book is fascinating--he is questioning the ever-increasing hardness of architecture (think of how many public structures use steel, concrete, and glass), and links it to “a desire to maintain order, discipline, or control” (3). I particularly enjoyed his chapters on airports and university classrooms. (Thanks to Christopher Schaberg for the recommendation of this book, via Twitter---check out his blog and book, The Textual Life of Airports).

This poem, “Never-ending Birds,” by David Baker. I was lucky to have had him as a professor in grad school (I admire his work so much, and am grateful for his generosity and wisdom as a teacher). I heard him read at the Riffe Gallery last night---wonderful as ever!

This post about a 100 square foot writing studio/retreat (called Watershed), designed by a company called FLOAT (directed by Erin Moore). Be sure to check out the stunning photos. Thanks to my Uncle Jerry for bringing this place to my attention!

As always, I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

There’s the Body

There’s the Body

There’s the body we have
and the one we alter.

There’s the collective body
of which we are cells.

There’s the body we point to
in portions as babies,

to learn the maps of our parts,
head, shoulders,

knees, toes, our version of
the table of contents.

There’s the body escaping
from us, early on,

the nose a grandfather steals
and shows to us

in his fist, the baby partially
disappearing from

mom or dad under the blanket,
Where’s the baby,

there she is! There’s the body
we want to be rid of

while still living, misty and light.
There’s the body

we speak of to doctors, telling
symptoms as we’d

describe the noises our sick car
makes to a mechanic,

a clack-clack-clack, a wheeze.
There’s the body

we once imagined for ourselves,
long-haired, long-legged

teenager, the body we once thought
we had, thick, fleshy,

but was not how we were, we see,
by looking at a photo

of us. There is the body that others
tell us we have, staring.

There is the body we forget about
while sleeping for hours,

the mind in the body, the hamster
in the wheel. There is

the body we tend to, trimming,
scrubbing. The body

that stirs or aches, to tell us when
to stop or rush,

there is the body you can’t feel
within you, a fridge

with full shelves and drawers.
There is the body

that is yours and the body that
you cannot keep.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If You’re Lucky

If You’re Lucky

The unrelenting clarity
of a brick wall, of a concrete
floor ringed with paint where
a can has been set down and lifted,
as a steamy, dripping coffee cup
marks the wood of the table.
A pool with a deep end only,
marble walls, no lights
A shore to cap up the ocean,
brakes and a handsy guardrail.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mr. and Mrs. Can of Worms

Mr. and Mrs. Can of Worms

Mr. and Mrs. Can of Worms
have his-and-hers worms,

monogrammed with a blue
or purple cursive W.

There are the parties they plan
and the parties that they have.

They have a hot air balloon
coupon, expired for a few

years now, still in an envelope
in a drawer. They coo and dote

over the aloe plant, renounce
chemical cleaners for two ounces

of white vinegar in a spray bottle
mixed with water. A lover’s squabble

is what they call their wormy wrath,
withered and soft from a long bath.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Drawing Richard Harrow

Jack Huston as Richard Harrow (photo via DeviceFX:    

When viewers of Boardwalk Empire are introduced to Richard Harrow, the first thing we notice about him is that he looks lonely and sad. He’s sitting alone, in front of a window in a veterans’ hospital, and when he turns toward us, we see that half his face has been burned off (and permanently, irreparably damaged).

Ah, here’s my person on this show, I thought.

Many popular current TV dramas (Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy, and yes, Boardwalk Empire) feel Middlemarch-y (these four, especially, could be released in a special edition box set called “AMC, FX, and HBO proudly present....Daddy Issues”--it’d have to be a large box). These shows recreate a historical context and conflict, onto which they project personal stories and power struggles.

Boardwalk Empire
is the Middlemarchiest of the bunch, with overlapping narratives about law, crime, love, and family. Until I find my person in these shows (Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark, I'm looking at you), I’m not fully emotionally invested. Favorite characters provide an anchor in these heavy, often-bloody, multi-volume shows.

Enter Richard Harrow (superbly played by Jack Huston).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Shapeshifters

The Shapeshifters

You forget how good at this
we are. You get used to looking
at the canyon through our
skeletons. We rewire you.
We delete your memories of us
moving, dragging the metal cords
through the valley behind us
like silver, dug-up root systems.
You’re lucky we let you keep
your Turners and Bierstadts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the Absence

In the Absence

The bee and flower collaborate,
and in their work, they vanish.

The more I focus on the honey
that has dissolved in my mint tea,

the less of me there is, and only
the taste. Look at this lake!

I shout to you, on the shore,
and to help you see it better,

I hold my breath, and duck
under the water, stay submerged

while you look. This image
I give to you is good practice

for the time I won’t spend on
Earth. The eye of the beholder

buzzes and hovers, buzzes
and hovers, then vanishes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

If You Miss the Ocean

If You Miss the Ocean

Paint the ocean the way you remember it,
thick as stucco, as meringue.
Cut squares from every garment you wore
to the beach and make a quilt,
denim, sandsoft pink or gray cotton. Say
ocean. The pain will swell,
will recede. Give as gifts objects that remind
you of the ocean, light blue
wineglasses, a seagull mobile. Select words
that have ocean scribbled
on the back of them, in parentheses: pine,
gull, transform, Kitsilano,
the bank and post office by the beach.
Picture the ocean now, see
how it is there for you even while it clings
to the shore. Be more like
the ocean. Everything you do can be in service
of the ocean, acts of devotion.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Blessing Over Pleasure

The Blessing Over Pleasure

Body, here is wine, water, bread, cake,
pink and violet buttercream roses,
rainbow sherbet, powdered sugar-
strewn funnel cakes. Espresso
and a hovering orange, peel unraveling
in the air as it spins, slowly.
Grey sky, red leaves, brown branches,
breeze. Not the F word, the F chord,
the reach. Fingers, and skin, the layers
of sensation that I must pass through
to live. Maple syrup in these veins
and apples and butter and cinnamon
with their hands all over me, that I
might float to windowsill where the pie
cools, calling for me, my desire. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bookmarks List/Bedside Table

Currently reading and enjoying:

“GPS and the End of the Road,” by Ari N. Schulman in The New Atlantis (Spring 2011). I teach a class around the theme of “Getting Lost,” and this essay has been useful and fun. The whole issue (on Place and Placelessness in America) is completely fascinating.

Speaking of navigation, “Map Quest,” by Alice Bolin in The Paris Review online. Bolin talks Elizabeth Bishop, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and “emotional cartography.” Completely engaging and delightful essay (and I teach some Bishop poems in my “Getting Lost” class, so I particularly appreciated this). 

“Cleaving To,” by Kristine S. Ervin in the current issue of Crab Orchard Review. Whew. Stunning and tragic essay in which the author struggles to address her mother’s murderer. This piece is honest and painful and brave (since it’s in the current issue, it’s print only, for now).

“In the Well,” by Andrew Hudgins. I was reminded of his poem recently, and it is living in my brain this week.

What are you reading/listening to this week?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Body as Garment

The Body as Garment

The shirt, say.
Because it envelops the body
and is a person
you become. As the airplane
made of paper
flies because it is folded,
all flimsiness
forgiven. You are the bone
and muscle to
your clothing’s skin. The shirt
nestled amongst its flock
until you inhabit
it. The shirt, the gown,
the pants see
more of your body than
you do. Can
a reflection be trusted, can
a photograph
be trusted to tell you what
you look like,
can the eyes be trusted to
see correctly.
Of many great designers,
this is said:
He knows how to dress a
woman’s body
or She makes clothing for
real people
We put on the ghosts they
make for us
and unfasten them, practicing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Rule for Spiders

The Rule for Spiders

All spiders are basically good.
Or, only certain spiders
can be trusted. What’s the rule.
For remembering which
spiders mean to do you harm,
what do their bellies
look like. Are they marked
with an hourglass,
a stripe or spot. Which ones
eat other bugs for you,
pitching in, gobbling up gnats
as a gift. Do they worry
when they don’t make productivity
for the month. Can
spiders even worry, or any animals
other than humans.
Are there neurotic daddy longlegs,
manic tarantulas,
what does today’s web mean.
Like every nesting,
hungry creature, spiders fear us.
How to hold onto
that when one lowers onto the arm
of the sofa from
the lamp, sensing no threat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Act Nonchalant

Act Nonchalant

When a cop stops next to me
at a red light. When I encounter
a stranger in the hall,
on the way to the trash chute.
Before the blood pressure cuff
grips my bicep and then again,
while it tightens and I imagine
my arm down the throat of a snake.
When returning the rental car,
with or without a scratch.
While the suitcase gets weighed
at the airport. With my fingers
pressed onto the glass, to leave
an image of my fingerprints,
no ink. With the car door biting
down on my pinky. With the wasps
nipping at my arms.

Friday, September 7, 2012

On Creativity: School’s in Session

Photo by Cortney Ellis

Ok, fellow creatives types....I have a few questions for you today.

For me, fall always means increased learning, energy, and reflection. School is back in session (I teach English at various universities here in Columbus, including a fine arts school), and I constantly learn new things about writing, analysis, and creativity while teaching.

This morning, I was thinking how much I would appreciate a specific kind of course. In my creative work, I always feel comfortable doing the day-to-day work of thinking and writing (especially the generating-new-work part). But once I have the work (like the writing I’ve been creating through this blog), I find it challenging to figure out what to do with it. Organizing manuscripts/collections and developing projects with a larger scope is something I’d love to learn more about. I wish someone could teach me about this--I’d love to take a class in this specific topic.

This made me wonder: as creatives, we are heavily invested in learning and new ideas. What classes or workshops would you sign up for in a heartbeat? What specific skills and processes would be valuable to explore, for you (in your art)? What would you want to focus on and learn?

Thanks, in advance, for your thoughts....
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