Friday, June 11, 2004

V-Day for Ye Ol' Fashion Versifiers?

After reading the inept journalism about the inane writing referred to on Silliman's blog, a few thoughts:
  • People's endless capacity to lump things together that don't belong together. For example, just try calling an Irishman an Englishman. They nearly come from the same part of the world, don't they? The same way people lump "free verse", or for that matter, Silliman's "School of Quietude", together. The map is not the territory. What sort of taxonomy lumps the writings of Lyn Hejinian together with that of Carla Harryman? There is no such thing as free verse - not because "no verse is truly free" but simply because it is a convenient, and often incorrect, label.

  • Free verse did begin in the fifties... of the last century, with the publication of "Leaves of Grass" in 1855. We are still trying to play catch up with Whitman.

  • If "Idle keyhole / Terminal door / Tilted table / Cast from shore" is offered as an example of the relevance of New Formalism, I'm not quite certain what battle has been "won". This is scarcely better than Ginsberg's latter-day doggerel, to my ear.

  • "the hard battle... has always been and will always be to write magnificently," Thank you Mr. Gioia. Clearly the NEA is in good hands with wisdom such as this.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Last quarter I submitted some stuff to the undergraduate literary magazine at this campus. I figured it was one of those 'You wrote it? It gets in' type of deals and, unsurprisingly, two out of the three pieces I submitted were published. Yesterday I got an email from this guy asking if I would like to come in and read some of my work and be interviewed.

So.. I will be reading on the radio tomorrow.


On the one hand I'm flattered that he liked my work, but on the other I'm petrified. Is he kidding?? I've never really published outside the web; I'm not a writer. I just.. write, for no one in particular and with no hope of ever getting anything out of it.

All I know is I will be mentioning As/Is. I will be mentioning Malcolm. I will be mentioning Tom. I will be mentioning Mark. I will be mentioning Sheila, because I've always been faintly in awe of her work. I will be mentioning just how long-running my website is.

In other words, humiliating myself on the radio.
As/Is 2... 2?

Four More Questions

1) What sort of ideal anthology can you envision, if budget & resources were unlimited?

2) Is there anything that is neither over- nor under-rated, but is rated exactly as it should be?

3) In what ways can you re-imagine the act of canon formation?

4) Describe your ideal day job & how it would interact, or interfere, with your writing activities.
Monday, June 07, 2004

Tom's questions

1) What inspires you to write poetry in both the short- and long-term? In other words: what gets you started, and what keeps you going?

I keep going because it's what I do.

Honestly, that's all there is to it. I'm an underconfident sort of girl, but I've written my whole life. I used to write short stories and so on but I have no head for fiction. Poetry is the way I make sense of the world. It's where everything crystallizes.

As for inspiration... God, it could be anything. I'm a foolish 21 year old college student and I write like that. Boys, girls, parties, booze, music, term papers, loneliness, squirrels, scrub jays, shoes, t-shirts, sorority girls, shows, Australia, California, the tree outside my window, the excruciating slowness of time, how difficult it is to get out of bed, dreams, pine trees... everything. Sometimes life seems so full I can hardly stand it. Otherwise it feels echoingly empty. The usual.

2) Is poetry the primary genre that you work within? If so, why? If not, why?

Yes, but in terms of volume I write far more research papers than poetry. It's the primary genre I work within because I feel most confident there. I'm trying to push myself to write fiction but I've yet to find my, I don't know, groove? Caught the correct train of thought?

I also take photographs. Photography is different. Photography is about being unafraid to press the shutter button. When I'm behind the camera I fall in love with light. When I write I fall in love with space.

3) Do you believe that a poet has any special sort of social responsibility?

Yes, but no more than anyone else. I'm a feminist and sometimes this imbues my work. I can't help but think about gender and sexuality and the way our society works. Sometimes poetry is the best way to express this.

4) What does writing poetry do for you? Why does poetry matter?

Like I said before, poetry is how I make sense of the world. When I'm really going what I write seems realer than anything else. Poetry bears witness to my life.
Sunday, June 06, 2004

Pre!scription Dr!ugs ej

Someone must have signed me up for an anonymous poetry mailing list. Here's the latest from my inbox:
zimentwater bays. fantasms arithmocracy unfoundedly contractedness scarifier miteproof playgoers unbranching immorality. discoloring ciboule dome earcockle roughtailed bouncingly. hefted wardsman mega pseudoviaduct vibracular sheiklike roughleg mahatmas. stiffing decipherment floured plumped unsuperscribed. onychophyma unbetrayed disqualification snooperscope gratifies choloidic epinephrine.
subserrate coheirship rhyming dewlaps unpeaceful rebecs boots erythrin reflectionist. shog chicayote eucre unproportionality precanceling checkrowed precanceling nogal. verbascose expatiating ultramodernist psychoanalytical angarias pillmonger. sentry smockings kiblas lutianid.

What do you make of it? How would you describe it? When you read a poem like this, how do you find yourself going about it? Do you read it aloud? Do you read it from first word to last or do you hop about in the text and try to find or make associations between nonadjacent words? I see hints of things everywhere, as in this negative string, "unproportionality precanceling checkrowed precanceling," in which I read check and row as stop and argue, followed by the Afrikaans adverb for moreover. And "sheiklike roughleg mahatmas" has me wondering. And what about that title with the playful exclamation marks -- "Pre!scription Dr!ugs ej" (unless "ej" the writer) -- why do you think that wasn't carried over into the rest of the poem?