Author Archive

The Price of Modernity

Friday, November 4th, 2011

For $800 you, too, can have an ipad typewriter. ipad not included. Click clack.

 

On Embarrassment

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

**Note after the fact: let me just preface this little bit by saying that while I’m confessing a feeling I get writing for a group internet blog, I am not confessing something deep and wrong about my own character. Please, don’t comment about my self-esteem. I’m pretty fucking okay. I meant for this post to be more concentrated on thinking about how internet culture, for me, demeans things deemed “more traditional” in art. That and my feelings about groupthink. Sorry if it comes across as something else.  I’m going to keep it as is anyway.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed by my favorite poems–most of the time that tiny flash of shame comes when I’m writing for HMTL. I feel like I have to be hip and cool, read things that are experimental and edgy (which, by the way, I do and also love). Like most HTML contributors I read widely and variously, and the cool thing about being a contributor here is that we do read variously, have different tastes, get excited by totally disparate things. Yet somehow I’m still embarrassed by my roots–the poems I can’t shake, obsess on, memorize–when I sit down to write posts. Those poets and poems that turned me into a poet from the outset somehow seem out of step with the 21st century (Dean Young being the exception?), or at least with the internet’s version of it. But they are my epiphany moments. For me, the brilliance of these poems comes not from experiment or postmodern aesthetic (we’re past that, right?), or political stance, though I think you could argue for those things. The brilliance of these poems derives from their depth of thinking about the human experience: the history of knowledge, the cold zero of perfection, the universal solvents and pilgrim souls, language’s redemptive power. I think, here, I’m supposed to be too cool for being in uncertainties, Mysteries, and doubts, that the simulation of being literati somehow precedes the ability to feel deeply. It’s as if I’m supposed to, but can’t, say everything with a wink and a nod. I’m probably wrong; likely, I’m being insecure, a wild child who has been invited into a gentleman’s club in which I feel sometimes validated and other times lost in the woods all over again. If you want to read a rant on “joining” at my blog, you can. It’ll maybe explain some of my feelings. Or you can just read some good poems from me to you.

Elizabeth Bishop, “At the Fishhouses”

Mark Strand, “Always”

Yusef Komunyakaa, “My Father’s Loveletters”

Philip Levine, “They Feed They Lion”

WB Yeats, “When You Are Old”

Dean Young, “Sunflower”

 

 

FictionSpeak 2: Dialogue

Friday, October 14th, 2011

I was trying to write dialogue the other day. Then I was trying to write about dialogue. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal back in February called “Talk That Walks: How Hemingway’s Dialogue Powers a Story,” by John L’Heureux. I found this article because I had just read “Hills Like White Elephants.” I don’t feel like talking about Hemingway. Though his dialogue is masterful, I really hate his treatment of the girl. I also hate L’Heureux’s treatment of the girl for different reasons, but I like what he says at the conclusion of this article:

“Dialogue suggests what people mean by what they’re saying, even if they themselves aren’t fully aware of it. Sometimes, of course, the most effective dialogue culminates in silence. This is more than irony. It is what characters do to one another.”

Because the writer is god, she knows what her characters mean. I don’t know about that. I like Silence. I’d like to know about un-dialogue please. When I was thinking about dialogue, I started writing this:

What is dialogue but the memory of nothing-ever-said? How many palettes from which to choose? You say this, you dothisthingtome. I say something back, which is worse in my mind than knifing a dying dog. I want to write about a conversation had. A once-had conversation. But it’ll never work. Nothing works but the working, someone said, out of darkness. Nothing but the eventual loss of a thing. Loss of a pain, loss of a memory. Is it or is it not the same face on the coin? The same face before bed beckoning.

I wake up angry. Wanting a fight. Which I’ll never get, which you’ll never give me. Ever-heaver. Ever-body-distiller.

Dialogue is a thing we do in stories. Or a thing smug people do in offices with bright lights.

“Let’s have a dialogue about this.”

“Fuck you.”

And then the piece turned into something else entirely. I was trying to teach freshman writing students about dialogue a few weeks ago, and I gave them a bunch of revision checklists. I asked questions of them like, “Is the dialogue natural? Does your dialogue portray personality? Is your dialogue interesting? [what does that mean?] In class, we’d read “Hills Like White Elephants” aloud. We talked about mystery, about saying, not saying, about how things are said. I didn’t teach these kids a goddamn thing, though a few of them caught on.

My question is this. I don’t want dialogue. I want not-dialogue. What are the best books that make minimal but insanely good use of dialogue?

FictionSpeak 1

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

For the next couple of months, I’m going to run this weekly series, FictionSpeak, because, well, I’m a poet trying to write fiction, which seems like it could be worth talking about. 

I started writing fiction a few weeks ago. I’m writing this fiction in a square yellow sketchbook. Just like a poet to be writing fucking fiction in a square fucking sketchbook, you say. On top of that, I’m only writing on one side of the page. And I’m only writing in snapshots that will ostensibly form a novel. It’s probably a disgrace to fiction writers everywhere, what I’m doing. I don’t understand things about dialogue or character development. I really don’t understand plot. Zip. Zilcho. I think I’m decent at description and setting and emotional arc, poetical things, so then why am I not writing poems in my new fancy-pants sketchbook. Because I already have a black vinyl, lined notebook for poems, silly.

Originally, this fiction-in-a-sketchbook thing was going to be memoir. Then I read The Chronology of Water the other weekend. Then I picked up Sarah Manguso’s The Two Kinds of Decay, which I’m reading right now, and I thought two things. One, I don’t have the stuff of a memoir yet. Two, these books are great to read if you want to write fiction. For different reasons. Lidia Yuknavitch for voice and fierceness. Manguso for matter-of-factness and snapshot.

Back in grad school at ole Emerson, I’m pretty sure there was a fiction-writing-for-poets course, or maybe a poetry-for-fiction-writers course. I never took either. Navigating fiction makes me feel like I’m walking into a Templar initiation ceremony or something. It’s dark. There are candles. Robes. Dorky music. A guy in a mask with a sword doing degrading things to another guy who poses just the right way to look simultaneously mysterious and mastered.

Umm, nevermind.

My first question is this. Writing fiction forces me to dredge up weird shit from my past and use it with different characters and settings. I mean, I’m raping my life wholesale.  Is that normal? Somebody said to me yesterday, “Change the facts enough so your family doesn’t recognize them.” My feeling is that I’ll change them just enough to fit the narrative, just enough to make them work for me. I mean, that’s what poets do…

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WRITER

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

They're lining up for you.

All guests wishing to enter the signing line must have a wristband.

Days, sometimes consecutive, without showers.

Campus-or-city map.

Arc of narrative. Arc of argument. Arch-ness.

A boy who draws a teddy bear and a bumblebee and hands it to you on crumpled paper.

Wristbands will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis beginning the day you decide to get off your ass and write something.

Sensitive skin lotion abounds.

Massage oil.

Grape flavored lubricant that tastes like Kool-Aid.

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The Writerly Life: Part Uno

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Started teaching at a new place today. Was hired on Friday. That’s one weekend to prep. It’s a freshman writing class. Nice kids. First day of college, etc. etc. They all get laptops. I do too. I don’t like teaching when I’m not doing it. I like it okay when I am. We talked about some fiction-y things. They wrote a little about an impossible thing that didn’t happen to them but did, ala truth vs. Truth in fiction, etc. I don’t know. I had no time to prep this class that I’ve never taught. It will not be taut. But they will write some things and revise a few. Maybe they’ll develop a writing vocabulary. They are art students so they will also draw some things. They will put these words and pictures together and make new things. I said something about Sid Vicious. I said fuck. I wore a nice teal dress and some heels. You know, like a real-live-person. This morning, before everything, I wrote a poem about X-ray Astronomy but really about pain or something. This is part of a new hour-a-morning scheme. And then I worked at another job where I wrote emails and shuffled papers, which was fine. I dealt with some drama here and there. Then I went to the other job, teaching writing. Then I went to an art collective meeting. Then I went home and crawled into my pajamas and a hoodie. I wrestled the tennis ball away from the pit-chow mix. I can stick my hand into his mouth, and he won’t bite me. Sometimes he growls if I tug on his paws. Sometimes I try to stick my head in his mouth. I did not walk too much today. Or do my special physical therapy exercises. But nothing hurts too bad. There was coffee. I smell like cigarettes.

5 nonfictions I want to read right now

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Anybody read any of these??

 

House Wife Blues: Plath, The Bell Jar, and Writerly Neuroses

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Yesterday, my boyfriend and I were out walking the dog, and I was feeling shitty about work as usual. Rounding the corner where the Bay meets the roadway, sun setting pinkly, I blurted out, “Sometimes I just wish I could be a housewife.” He looked at me and said, “Me too.”

That was the end of it. Which pissed me off even more. I wanted to have a legitimate conversation about what it means to be a housewife (which, by the way, I could never be in the 19050s sense), the fact that it’s not even an option anymore for most women. We’re worker bees now, too. It’s only fair. If I want to stay home, which I kind of do, I have to figure out a way to pull in enough income to pay the mortgage on the house I bought all by myself. I have to be able to pull my weight. Not to mention take care of the dogs, do the laundry, make dinners–all because I’m home, which somehow still means, not doing anything at all. My boyfriend would  never say or think these things, by the way, but I would. I struggle with these concepts because I would feel guilty if I had the luxury to write. As if writing isn’t work. Writing poetry isn’t work, it’s what you do in your spare time.

In her essay “The Bell Jar at 40,” Emily Gould writes of Sylvia Plath:

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The Writer’s Mind?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Last night as I was leaving the local pub, a middle-aged drunk woman jumped into my car with me before I knew what was happening. She said, “Hey, gimme a ride up the street?” and proceeded to talk about her husband who doesn’t come home when he should but who’s pretty good to her.

I didn’t know she was a prostitute until she said, “Hey, slow down,” at which point I slowed to 30mph on a 45mph street, and “Roll down your windows. How am I supposed to see?” So we rolled past the seedy motels of my neighborhood, as she explained to me how she has to see who’s where. This somehow made sense to me. It even made sense when she had me turn onto a street behind an abandoned Winn Dixie and onto another, smaller street where several men strolled on cell phones. I thought this was where she’d get out, but when two of the men came up to the car, she told me to go. She said, “Go. Now.” Even this seemed okay. We drove some more, casing more corners, checking out the motel situations.

We spotted another woman she knew, much younger, much thinner, much more traditionally dressed for this line of work, and I pulled onto a corner to drop her off. But we were friends now. She didn’t want to leave, so she whispered that the girl was her daughter. I said, “Really?” and she said, “No.”

The two of them argued through the window about a lighter for a while, and then they fought about age differences. “She says I’m 14,” the new girl told me, “but don’t believe her. I’m 29.”

And then the woman with whom I’d, by now, spent a half an hour or so, jumped out of my car and started chasing her friend down the street and out of my life. All I could think was, I have to get out here more often. What a great story this would make. And I do this all the time. With my dad’s Alzheimer’s. With crazy roommates. How will I do this justice on paper, as though paper is the only way to legitimize life.

Do other writers do this? Am I my own kind of prostitute?

 

Monday, July 18th, 2011

I don’t mean to be a nudge, but I actually do. If you haven’t filled out my small survey, would you please? I’d like at least 30 more respondents in order to get a proper non-scientific view of how a tiny sliver of the population views the J-O-B word alongside creativity and other such nonsense. I will write an exciting post about this very subject! Including data!

A job worth doing.