Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bachelor Weekend

Clearly I am not a bachelor anymore and -- somehow fortuitously -- haven't been in a long time. But my brothers and I use the term "bachelor weekend" when our respective significant others are out of town.

Jess is out of a town for a whole week. She left this morning. She's be taking some much needed time off (I can't wait when she's applying for jobs wherever we are next year, again contingent on someone wanting me to go to their school for a Ph.D, since people will be all about hiring her wherever she applies -- she's a complete Physician Assistant badass), in addition to hopefully locking up some wedding spots, dates for both the church and the reception. I'll be trying to get a lot done this week.


Finally received the new Fugue (though the new issue is not yet on the website) today. I don't say that with any bitterness, even though I think some contributors were a bit confused about why it took so long. Apparently, by way of a few emails from the editor, there were some production problems, and then the boxes got delivered to the wrong city. So it was a seemingly circuitous route, literally, the path the journals took to finally get here. But again, I didn't mind the wait.

And it was worth it. Brian Barker (who's already has done a first book interview and will be an official part of its continuation imminently) and his wife, amazing poet (somehow, almost laughably without a book right now -- seriously, check her work out, it's amazing) Nicky Beer (also a recent Ruth Lilly fellowship winner) are contributors, along with Mark Halliday, K.A. Hays, Richard Garcia, and many others.

I love the cover. It's my favorite cover of any journal I've seen in a while. There's just something haunting about it, and I love the dark blue along with the lighter yellow brushstrokes in the middle. I'd paint our whole apartment black if I could. I'm not a big fan of light. But I was never a goth kid in High School, I swear.

I suppose also what makes me love this issue is that includes on of my favorite poems of mine, one of the few favorites: "Poem Ending with a Hundred Year-Old House on Fire." So thank you to Fugue and all the editors. It's a great issue, and they're easily a journal I will continue submitting to in the future.


Other good things, or rather another good thing, is that I found out ABOUT RAVISHMENT (which is now GHOST LIGHTS) was a finalist in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award for the second year in a row. I love love love Crab Orchard, both the journal and their books, and since I've placed three times in three submissions to their contests, I'm just very happy that they're fans of the manuscript. I'll be sending to Crab Orchard until (if and when) this manuscript gets picked up for every single contest they have. Even if I never win one of their contests, I feel great about giving the contest money to a press that I really and truly believe in and back wholeheartedly.


Ah, the NFL season is starting. For those of you who don't really know me, I'm a New York Giants fan. A pretty die-hard Giants fan. (Yes I was born in Western Pennsylvania. No I don't like the Steelers. I pretty much hate the Steelers.) But I currently live in Richmond. It's pretty much Washington Redskins country. Most of my students are and have been Redskins fans (and to one student who said, "She-li? Come on..." the other day, I responded, "Yeah, beating the 18-0 Patriots to become Super Bowl Champions really isn't a big deal..."). I'm surrounded by everything Redskins.

This Thursday. The First Game Of The Season. We Play The Redskins.

I'm psyched. At 6:00 P.M. ET today the final cuts will be made.

So, far, by the count of the New York Giants blog, here's the roster:

QB (2): Eli Manning, David Carr

RB (6): Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward, Danny Ware, Reuben Droughns, Madison Hedgecock

WR (6): Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Domenik Hixon, Sinorice Moss

TE (3): Kevin Boss, Michael Matthews, Darcy Johnson

OL (9): David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie, Guy Whimper, Adam Koets, Kevin Boothe, Grey Ruegamer

DE (4): Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Dave Tollefson, Renaldo Wynn

DT (4): Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Jay Alford, Rodney Leisle

LB (7): Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark, Gerris Wilkinson, Chase Blackburn, Bryan Kehl, Zak DeOssie, Jonathan Goff

CB (6): Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Kevin Dockery, R.W. McQuarters, Sam Madison, Terrell Thomas

S (4): James Butler, Michael Johnson, Kenny Phillips, Sammy Knight

K (2): Lawrence Tynes, John Carney

P (1): Jeff Feagles

I'm very happy with the roster (and if Tynes can't go, Carney's fine with me -- as long as it's not Josh Huston, who, thankfully, has been cut), though I'm not sure about not having a third quarterback in the mix. Let's hope Eli can continue his role at staying healthy, not mention hopefully continuing in the regular season the amazing numbers he put up in the playoffs and Super Bowl.


Is anyone else taking up the task of their Favorite 100 Movies list? Any bloggers? Anyone? Mine is coming along. It seems monumental to take up the task, but then once you have 100, it begins to narrow, and you start to question things. Can I watch this in any mood? How many times have I seen this? Does that matter versus movies I have only seen a few times? So many questions. So many movies. So many decisions.

I'm pretty sure I'll be taking a lot of shit for my list. There are so many "classics" I haven't seen. But not only was I born in 1981, I'm still going for balls-to-the-wall, the Apocalyptic List, whatever that may mean, even if it's a movie no one's heard of (but not pretentiously and forcefully so, as one may possibly assume by such a comment). Yes, folks can fill their lists with Truffaut, Wilder, Hitchcock, Godard, Bergman, and I'll have some gems listed by some of those amazing directors, but I'll also have some movies that have ripped open my stomach and pulled out my heart and showed it to me while I was trying to gasp for breath but could not. Not every movie will be like that, of course, but there will be many on the list as such.


Cheers to everyone having a great long weekend...

Thursday, August 28, 2008


After reading that Victoria Chang has a new book out, I'm interested to read it.

One of the things I've been doing lately is trying to compare book-published poems with journal-published poems. How do you do that? Why in God's Good Name do I actually take time to do that, and what the hell is wrong with me? Well, it's easier with something like Blackbird. Since I went to VCU, Blackbird was talked about everywhere and all the time. I never worked for Blackbird in any capacity, but I always read it. And like I said, lately I've been oddly interested in comparing "finished" products with the journal-published poem, or draft, or whatever you would like to call it.

I was first curious about this with Jake Adam York's book, A MURMURATION OF STARLINGS. I will always seek out Jake's work, and I always have, and it was interesting to see what edits he made to recent poems that are in his book which previously appeared in Blackbird. Buy his book and compare if you want to see the changes. I won't post them here.

But, the changes were sharper, more fluid, and overall good choices. In this humble opinion. Poets have the opportunity, apparently, to change their work for books, since most presses explicitly say that, or should I say most "contests," considering the recent CPR things afoot (I can't stop linking this). But maybe it is with most contracts and whatnot. I don't know.

I was curious about Victoria's book, however. Most of us know, I hope, that you can sample single poems by looking at the table of contents on Amazon (with a SEARCH INSIDE! on the cover), usually before they cut you off, though if you wanted to have the whole book, you probably could.

That said, I checked out some Blackbird poems of Victoria's, and "After Hanging Mao Posters" and "Postmortem Examination on the Body of Clifford Baxter" are spot on exactly the same. She didn't change a thing. I always expected poets not to change a thing from journal to book. And now I know that's different. But it doesn't matter what I think.

Then I checked out
"Jiang Qing," and though it doesn't seem like an entirely different poem necessarily, it's hard to imagine that the poem appearing in her book and the poem appearing in Blackbird are the same.

The link is there above, but here's the text for side-by-side, Blackbird first:


Jiang Qing

—Mao Ze Dong’s wife committed suicide while under
house arrest for crimes related to the Cultural Revolution.

Now the fires are all out. My throat hoarse
and husky. Swallowing pork can blow my head

to pieces, everything too thick for my shrinking
tube, even a sigh, all my breaths are sighs now.

How I used to speak so sleekly in pavilions, even
crows and clouds came down to hear. But now

they blame me for deaths, even for the rain in Venice.
But I think it’s the tops of trees that make the first

sound of rain. How I want to lie with you again,
your stubbled face on my neck. How I want to

see the darkened halls of your mind, eyes that
boiled me. How I want to cut down this paper city,

ask you to rebuild it in red, center it. I want to
smear your lips on mine, fasten your thoughts into

my head. Here is a hammer. Here are some nails.
With each new thought, your hand around my neck

still indents itself just so. I can no longer take
my own brain. Soon the wind will inhabit my shadow.


Now here's the comparison text of the poem that appears in Victoria's second book, SALVINIA MOLESTA:

Jiang Qing

—Mao Ze Dong’s wife committed suicide while under house
arrest for crimes related to the Cultural Revolution.

Now the fire is sick. My throat, hoarse
and husky. My throat cannot take swallowing,

everything too thick for my shrinking tube,
even a sigh, all my breaths are sighs now.

I used to speak so smoothly in pavilions, even
crows and clouds came down to hear. Now they

blame me for deaths, even for the rain. I think
it's the rain that kills with its endless dropping.

I want to lie with you again, your cheek on my neck,
to see the darkened canals of your mind, eyes that

lied to me. I want to cut down this paper city, ask
you to rebuild it in red, center it, to smear your lips

on mine, fasten your thoughts into my head. Here
is a hammer. Here are some nails. With each new

thought, your hand around my neck still indents
me. Soon the wind will overtake my shadow.


I prefer the first version overall. But what was the first? I almost feel like the book-published version was the draft, and she went back to it post-Blackbird, which was the more polished of the two.

I guess I just come back to always questioning. Does publishing poetry always necessitate the Paul Valery comment: "A poem is never finished, only abandoned"? If poetry's such a distilled art, down to word choice, line break, rhythm, music, everything else (whatever that is), then how do we not eventually abandon our work if we're always changing it?

I always see poems by others where I'd make different choices all around. Probably most would do the same. One of the things Wojahn said to me in his office a few years ago was, "You need to get your poems how you want them to sound, how you want them to look, and how you want them to feel." I think there are too many people writing poems who don't keep that in mind. And we all should. But when is there a definitive version? Is there ever?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rumi Nation

I'm not really responding to this post by Nick Courtright directly, but it's certainly worth reading, and I suppose has to do somewhat with the semblance of a post I'm writing now.

Because yes, folks, it's that time again. Submission time.

I feel like I have about 6 poems ready to be out in the world. Usually my date is October 31st for the fall. With the exception of very few journals, that's usually a safe date to get your work out there. That said, I started thinking about waiting, and it seemed a bit ridiculous, especially when I have a batch that I think is ready to go out. And many journals are reading starting September 1st. Agni, Bat City Review, Puerto del Sol, and West Branch are even switching to online submission systems (the infamous Devin Emke one that everyone is using, if they're not just accepting .doc or .rtf files via email), which is great, and which I just found out yesterday. I imagine that trend probably helps journals get more and more shitty work that isn't even close to publishable ("It's free, why not?"), but then again, it probably encourages folks who are writing good stuff to go ahead instead of being lazy, which we can all be, especially since stuffing envelopes isn't the most fun thing out there.

When I send stuff out I'm always inspired to write new stuff. I may still be tinkering with them... oh no, did I just say that? "How dare you send stuff out and still work on the poems." Pretty sure everyone does it, so I got over that a while ago, especially if you're just tinkering with the mostly meaningless things. If you're changing whole stanzas or endings, maybe you shouldn't be sending your work out.

And yes, who knows if anyone will ever want "Ghost Lights," but as I said, 37 of the 39 poems are published, which means at the very least, those aren't going out anymore. It may be a fat stack of papers as just a manuscript, sitting in my desk forever or as a file on my computer, but at least I don't have to make batches of poems that have already been rejected by many places. I should mention that I don't give up on my work either, as far as trying to publish. My thing is if it's a good poem, it'll find a home. If you want to give up on your work or be lazy, that leaves more room for my work. No, I'm not obsessed with publishing. Yes, when poems are ready to go out, I send them out. Make of that what you will.

See the posts below about Stacey Lynn Brown's debacle with her book, which has also spurred many of us to really consider all the issues, especially those of us with first books we're "shopping around," since that's essentially what we're all doing by sending to contests. Open reading periods? Starting your own presses? Reb has a good response to everything (post on 8/25/08), full of thoughtful things to say, from someone who has a lot of experience on where she's coming from. But then again, I wonder why Cider Press Review even started, how and why. Maybe they felt the same way, but decided to do a fair contest system, or something like that. Who knows?

Either way, there's been a lot to think about lately with people finding out about this. Maybe it'll die its little poetry death soon enough, but I hope people are paying attention, as much as they can, for reasons I'm not sure of yet.

I don't really know where this post was meant to go, but I don't really feel like deleting it. So be it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Small Press Poetry Avoidance

Stay away from Pavement Saw Press

Leigh Stein seems to have had an awful experience. Obviously it would be good to stay away from them and not piss your money away.

Stay away from Cider Press Review (Press)

Stacey Lynn Brown weighs in on her experience, at least a bit.

Save your money, folks.

I don't understand why you'd start a press if you're going to pull this shit. It really angers me. I would never start a press. I could never keep up. I'd turn into this. Which is why I'd never start a press.

If University Presses are sometimes picking folks who went to their school, judges are picking students, whatever, at least the books actually come out. I think at least. For most.

I never planned on sending to these presses anyway, but now I'm doubly glad I didn't. And I'm sorry for the folks who got screwed.

And yes, I wasn't there, didn't talk to anyone directly, etc. but the proof seems to be in the pudding. Which is a phrase I never got.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Eli Manning is God

Thanks to everyone for the comments and emails about the engagement. It'll be in Pittsburgh, if I didn't say that already, so the long distance factor will prove I'm sure to be a bit of a pain. But we'll deal with it. I'm lucky she even said yes I suppose.


The new Matthew Robert Cooper record has leaked, and thanks to Casey letting me know, I finally snagged it, and it's not surprisingly a very beautiful record. MRC usually puts out records under Eluvium, whose "Talk Amongst the Trees" is one of my favorite records ever. There's some Eluvium type guitar washes on this, but also more "Accidental Memory..." piano pieces. I wasn't a huge fan of "Copia," as a lot of the songs just didn't gel for me. Maybe it was the hugeness of the aimed production. I'm not sure. But this one seems to be on the money. Hopefully I'll get inspired to write to it. I've written most of my poems to atmospheric music. It's cliched as hell to say that now, since so many people run with that, but it's true for me and has been for as long as I can remember.


Craig Beaven sent me his 100 Favorite Movies list, as he and some friends have sent them to each other, so of course I decided I'll be making one too. I feel like mine's going to be a bit weird, as I won't have nearly as many "classics" on there as others may. "American Movie," for example, will easily be in my top 10, while "Little Monsters" will probably make the top 100. And there are a slew of directors like David Gordon Green, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, Harmony Korine, whose comprehensive films thus far may be spread out over the list, while leaving out a few I imagine.

And this is "Favorite" movies, which to me are the ones I can put on in any mood I'm in and watch, regardless of length, style, or anything else. 100 Desert Island Movies, then? The same type of thing? I'm not sure. But for me no Hitchcock will be on the list, and "Citizen Kane" doesn't make my Favorite list for sure.

I challenge anyone who's reading this to do the same. I'd love to see some of these lists. It would be good for me to see how many amazing movies I need to see that I haven't thus far for whatever reason.


To me, this whole argument is hilarious and uncalled for. I have to admit, however, that I was indeed entertained by it. I really don't know why Eduardo, who I don't even know, have never met, and whose work I've never seen, talks so much shit on people. It may all be seemingly innocent, but I can see why Collin and Steve got so pissed off. Then again, maybe that's why he does it, to get a rise out of whoever he can. If we write and send out we're involved in Po-Biz. Get used to it or become a dentist. But just like Foetry, if all of us spent less time bitching, we'd probably be producing more quality work, or at least work we're proud of, myself included.


The new issue of Diode is up, and in just a year Patty and Jeff have really done a hell of a job. The design's slick, simple without looking too basic or hurting the eyes, and they've had a number of great poets involved. Not only that, but they want moving work and have no defined aesthetic, which are the journals I tend to gravitate toward. Narrative poems by language poems by prose poems by completely experimental and uncategorized pieces. It's all there.

Recently, Nick Courtright had an interesting blog post (which I stole from Eduardo, who actually has a lot of good links when he's not starting blog brawls), and I think Diode is a journal that subscribes to this. I've never had a problem with reading just one poem by someone, and often I've bought books on the strength of one poem that blew me away. I've emailed poets and fiction writers to tell them how much I liked their single piece. But Diode tries to have a sampling, and that's great. And they're someone who may need to be mentioned on the post.

If you haven't sent work yet, you should. Greater things will be happening with the journal, and they're getting quality stuff by a ton of great up and comers in addition to the "established" folks, whatever that means. Now I'm starting to sound like a journal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Snow Angels

I paid for my first ever Itunes tunes today. One was a single track, an Itunes exclusive, I think, from The Silent Years.

The other was the Snow Angels soundtrack, featuring the beautiful and virtuoso monoliths David Wingo (also of Ola Podrida) and Jeff McIlwain (who is also Lusine), and it was worth it. I may have blown my cinematic wad by knowing the songs of the score before the flick, but I couldn't wait. There's also an original Explosions in the Sky tune apparently, near the end, for which I'll be on the lookout.

The soundtrack's low key but what I'd expect from the duo. Seems perfect for the subject matter of the book, and the movie I believe sticks pretty close, but you never know with David Gordon Green.

September = The start of the NFL season and Snow Angels on DVD.

And all you Giants haters and disbelievers, we're going after it again this season too.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

This thing is what scares me. Not this.

I think Seth Abramson's someone everyone should look up to for how dedicated he is to poetry and politics and his blog, and I know he's not the only one who took part in this, but it does scare me. Not in the way that the imminent apocalypse scares me. It's really not harming anyone.

But I think it shows the niche market of the MFA degree, or it shows how it's becoming such a thing, how there are so many programs now that too many people can get in who shouldn't, and I say that because the ones who publish poems and end up having books out there are certainly on the low end of the spectrum. It takes more work than people have the stomach, funds, or time for. And you hopefully have to have at least a shred of talent. But we've all seen books published by people who don't have any of those things, so who knows.

Seriously, if you don't want to do this your whole life -- and I know that may change, because look how often marriages fail -- think about going into a career that can make you some money. You can always write on the side.

I'm just thankful when I see books published like this one that it wasn't around when I was applying. Thankful I had no idea what I was doing. Thankful I kind of still have no idea what I'm doing. The list could go on and on. Had there been something like this out when I was applying, I probably would've been dissuaded wholeheartedly. I have that feeling.

Anyway, I hope people talk about this. I want to know more opinions, from those who are writing fiction and those who are writing poetry. I think it's amazing what has happened to MFA programs since I first moved to Richmond to attend VCU almost exactly four years ago, on August 8th, 2004. I can't believe it's been over four years already.


It's a beautiful night, and I've been out on the porch reading. In the 60s. First time in a long time. I'd much rather die the way Travers dies in "Cliffhanger" than being burned alive in a building. Floating wide-eyed below the ice. I can't take extreme heat.

I love "Cliffhanger."

Evil Frank is here also.

But there were some prototypical frat boys walking down Kensington, and keep in mind this is a Monday, screaming lines from "Goodfellas." At least when I'm wasted I can be articulate in my movie-quoting abilities, and if I'm not articulate I at least try to switch up the lines. Every second: "Now Go Home And Getcha Fuckin' Shinebox!" I sincerely hope I wasn't like that at Allegheny.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Catching Up

The cat is almost officially out of the bag, meaning I've proposed to Jess, and she has said yes. I want her to pick out the ring, which everyone in my family has done, so we're probably going to start looking tonight. She's the one who has to wear it on her finger, after all, so I want her to be happy with it. I can't afford anything too crazy, but she can always upgrade it if she wants to I suppose. So, soon, amidst Ph.D applications and hopefully writing new poems and these first book interviews will be all the planning. It'll be in Pittsburgh, so we'll have to do a lot of it long distance, but that's fine. I hate the Steelers and their fans with a passion, but I do love Pittsburgh as a city, so I think it'll be nice, and I'm very much looking forward to everything.


I hilariously found out that my chapbook was a Finalist for the 2007 Poetry West Chapbook Contest. I say hilariously because I threw it together pretty quickly, its title is "About Ravishment," the old title of my first full length manuscript, and since I sent it to them about a year and a half ago, I thought the contest was dead, as I didn't hear this until a few days ago. I didn't even know if I still had a copy lying around since I changed to a Mac, but I did find it, and was happy to see almost every poem still in the current "Ghost Lights" -- only two of them have since been cut, and that's it.

I was thinking of maybe trying to get a new version of a chapbook together to send to some contests, but at this point I'd honestly rather continue sending out "Ghost Lights" and working on new poems, hopefully for a distant full length manuscript number two.


Eric and Jenn were here over the weekend from Savannah, and then Craig and Sam stopped by on their way back from the beach on Friday. We had a good time, though every time folks visit we always end up staying within the museum district and on our balcony. But I don't think there were any complaints.

I saw The Pineapple Express again with Eric on Saturday night, and I liked it a lot better the second time. I'm looking forward to the DVD, as the bonus stuff should be amazing. I hope David Gordon Green does a commentary and there's a cast commentary also. Maybe a "smoked up" commentary? Not sure how legal that would be. There should be some good shit on it at any rate.

Then, yesterday, when we were headed to the Watermelon Festival in Carytown, I told Jess to hold on while I grabbed my keys. But alas, my keys were nowhere to be found. We even looked in the over, the garbage disposal, and the freezer. I thought they grew legs and got the fuck out of dodge.

I kept calling Eric, though I knew his phone was probably going to be off. After we tore apart the apartment for about two hours, we came to the conclusion that Eric and Jenn had accidentally snagged my keys somehow.

Either way, they were gone.

So I called AAA, and they called a local locksmith. He was here in about thirty minutes, and with a buddy of his, in an hour made a key that opened the door, trunk, and started the ignition, all from just a metal key mold. I, at least, was pretty fascinated. It's all numbers and fractions of an inch and trial and error and codes. Then they said they were going to do shots of Sailor Jerry, which I had never heard of. And Sam told me that Belvedere Vodka with Sheetz peach icea tea -- since he found out that I was from western Pennsylvania -- is amazing, and of course it can only be mixed with the Sheetz brand peach iced tea. They were cool guys, they worked fast, and they amazed me.

Turns out Jenn accidentally grabbed my keys thinking they were Eric's. No worries, though. Things happen. Got an extra key for the car. And Eric mailed my keys back earlier today.

Now I know to have a spare, since I didn't, and that if you're really in a pinch like that, a key can be made to start your car.

Maybe everyone knew that. I didn't. I like being fascinated. I was fascinated.


It was weird and kind of surreal walking through Carytown for the Watermelon Festival, when we finally got there. Tons of people. There was a woman probably in her late 30s playing the spoons, and right next to her was a sign that said, "Need money for BB gun." And there's the heady amalgam of body odor, funnel cakes, seafood, charred ribs, candles from vendors, stale beer, sewer, and sweat. And that was when we got there at the end. I'm really going to miss Richmond.

I feel like this second "manuscript" I'm hopefully working on is going to be a kind of Richmond manuscript, involving nocturnes and the weirdness of the city, usually from a weird poetic distance, maybe out of fear. A book about the city. With lots of weirdness of course. And another chunk may be a weird project of photographic ekphrastic poems I'm excited to work on, though I'd rather reveal it once I have some solid poems written. We'll see.


First Book Interviews will soon be on their way to some poets. I think I'm past thirty willing folks now, so that's great. I want to keep the list going, so poets with first books, email me, and if you know interested parties, tell them to contact me.

I won't reveal any names, but I did encounter a few poets who didn't want to participate. Granted, their books were released a few years ago, and I can see why they don't want to participate, but I always found that kind of thing fascinating, the distance.

You dedicate so many years to completing this piece of art, whether it's three or thirty-three, and then you kind of disown it, or you feel so distant from it that it wasn't even written by you. I hope to never feel like that with mine, once and if it's ever published, but it may happen. If it does, though, I guess that's why you go on. I do hope these said poets have new books in the works, though, because their first books are amazing.


I don't like Phil Levine really as a person, as much as I can know him as a person. My bad run-in my first MFA year soured me kind of forever. His work's a different thing, even though half of it, at this point in my life, I'm not raving about. I'm sure that'll change in the future. But when he was here talking about Larry Levis, he said Larry, even at an early age, worked harder than any poet he knew. And that even when he was going through awful things like divorce and deaths in the family and affairs, he was always writing.

I think sometimes people forget how powerful poetry can be. Yes, you can write sestinas and sonnets to gain some poetical muscle (and of course they can be as powerful as any other poem, but I'm talking about using those forms to get words on the page), and you can write funny poems to entertain (even though some folks have said that all writing is entertainment, and that's a broadly defined word in the first place), but those words of Levine's have never left my head.

I remember my heart kind of stopped when he said it, and I remember who was there and where everyone was sitting and what the air smelled like around that table in Hibbs. It was a moment I knew I'd remember forever. We can always write, maybe not write through things, maybe not write to always ease pain or suffering, but always writing, no matter what's going on, seems to be something that defines a true sense of someone who writes poetry seriously (and no, there aren't enough, even though many would take offense to that, and even I sometimes think I'm not serious enough, actually often I think I'm not serious enough), especially since I hate that word "poet" and will never use that term in accordance with my name probably as long as I live.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


The Pineapple Express was great. Sean informed me after we got out of the theater that, "They give more tickets away than they have seats for," since he's been to advance screenings before. I'm glad that happened after we saw the movie, even though there were still a decent amount of seats left. And funnily enough we couldn't take our cell phones in. Mine's so old I can't even take video. Is it really going to help the movie to not leak? And a clip that's a minute and a half on YouTube? People will still see it.

There were nods to Knocked Up, Ding-A-Ling-Less (and a quick Robert Longstreet cameo at the beginning), George Washington ("You gotta be the dumbest motherfucker in captivity," though in the aforementioned it's sans curse), and probably a few others. Admittedly, it was much weirder than I thought it was going to be. Yes, much of it seemed improvised. It's Seth Rogan, so he kind of plays the same deadbeat type of character too. James Franco's pretty hilarious, and Craig Robinson has a pretty hilarious supporting role. Danny McBride, a la the All the Real Girls deleted scenes, really gets to have his moments, and I imagine people may get a bit tired of it, but so much was ridiculous and hilarious. But you have to live in the world. The story pretty much couldn't happen in real life, so you're either along for the ride or you're not. I found myself laughing out loud at some stuff and being pretty much the only person in the theater laughing, which I oddly find welcoming when such a thing happens.

I'll see it again probably when my brothers are down here next weekend, depending on how we feel I suppose, but I'm sure it'll happen at some point.

Speaking of David Gordon Green, Snow Angels finally has a DVD release date of September 16th. The bad news is it seems ludicrously bare-bones. Three commentaries for his previous films, and now they have nothing? No featurette? Not even one deleted scene? I don't care too much since it'll be my first time actually seeing the movie. But I expected more. It's still pre-order city for me though.


Over 20 poets with first books (and some with more) have volunteered to participate in the continuation of the first book interviews. Many have been nice enough to send their books also, for those poets whose books I don't already own. Unfortunately I don't have the extra few hundred bones to purchase as many first books as I'd like to compensate for all the poets deciding to do this. And I don't think everyone wants to see the exact same questions answered, though many will be repeated in each interview of course.

Hopefully the first one will be posted by the end of August, but I might wait until September. It works both ways, meaning I can send all I want, but if folks are busy and need some time to get the interviews back, I want to already have a good amount before I post so I can post them semi-regularly and have some kind of schedule. I'll keep interested parties updated.


I didn't start this blog to bitch or enter into arguments or anything, but there are a few things that have not been leaving my head lately, and I want to enter into this conversation. A few weeks ago Eduardo posted about having some pet peeves about poet bios: one being Pushcart nominations, and the other with "prize-winning poet" attached. Then Steve Schroeder chimed in with poets talking about where their books have placed as either a finalist or semi-finalist in contests.

I agree with the fact that "prize-winning poet" is a bit lame, since the prize could be something you won only within your MFA program, with you and four others. However, I'm fine with the other two points of interest in a bio. Here's why.

As far as the Pushcart nominations go, for a beginning poet like myself (I've been writing seriously for only about two years, if that), I think it's something that can make editors take a second look at your work. Am I asking that they spend hours upon hours pouring over my work? No. But as long as you're semi-humbling on your cover letter, that could something that they may be interested to know. Again, you're probably not shouting it from the rooftops, but on a blog or cover letter? Sure, why not?

And yes, with so many online journals, it's easiER to get nominated, but it still isn't necessarily easy (unless you have an "in" with the editor that actually helps get you nominated). You have to get published for one. Secondly they're probably going to pick some fiction in there too, out of, I think six total? But to be among the crop of work they liked the most and, ideally, have the most faith in it as far as it being picked in a pool of thousands of pieces of writing (meaning the actual Pushcart judging), I think that's a nice thing to be a part of. Both of my nominations were from online journals. I knew I didn't have a chance in hell, and they probably thought I didn't either, but for someone who had really just started taking writing and publishing seriously, and to have them be some of the first poems I published, again, I was pretty honored to be among their choices.

I've since taken the nominations off my bio and cover letter, but I don't see the problem with it on there if you choose to go that route. Some writers have been nominated over twenty times, some probably over fifty. And some will die with multiple books out without a Pushcart. I've never read or have even seen a physical Pushcart anthology anyway. So why gripe about such a harmless inclusion on someone's bio in the first place?

As far as the book length manuscript contest placings go, I also think that's good information to know, whether you're an editor or a general reader. That may be something editors want to know. If they don't: fine. If they want to shred my submission on general principle because they think I'm trying to sound like a badass (which, laughably, I'm not, and I don't think anyone else is assuming such by placing that within their bio or cover letter either): fine. If they could give two shits but still end up liking the work: fine. But for me, if I like the said poet's work and read where they've placed in a manuscript contest in their contributor notes, and / or if I think I have something in common with them as far as their writing goes, I'd be more apt to send to that contest if I had a first book I'm sending out, and I currently do. The same screeners may like my work also. Plus, there are some contests I've initially found out about through seeing those bios.

Now Steve's been an editor at a few places, and he's seeing many submissions I imagine, so I'm sure he's not the only one with those gripes. Also, I imagine there are some folks with needlessly and hysterically ostentatious 25-line bios, and that may be where all the pet peeves stem from.

But again, I just don't get all the hostility, and I see this bitching from people on different blogs, at different times, continually -- enough to have me sit down and write about it, as long as I've taken to do it -- whether it's all in good fun or not.

I guess I could go into a rant on how annoying it is to see how many residencies people have gotten. Why do I care about that? Many people get them, tons of those fellows and scholars still never publish books, and tons of people who don't deserve to go end up going. It's all about the folks reading the applications. And for the record, I've never applied for one and don't plan on applying soon. But if I had a recent residency at Yaddo would I mention it on my bio? Sure. Do we need to know, however, that after fifteen residences you still don't have a book out? Nope.

Again, I'm not trying to start some big altercation, or any semblance of an altercation, and I don't think anyone reads this in the first place, but I wanted to say my peace since it's been in my head for a long time. I think if more people concentrated on the work, though, both with reading others' and writing their own, there would be less attention toward bios in the first place, since we all know they are -- or should be -- of little importance on a cover letter or blog or website.

I'm not an "editor," (though that's becoming more of a stock footage term these days anyway) and I've never been, but I always hope if I get something published -- whether it's from an online journal hosted by Geocities or the New Yorker -- that it's from the opinion of that editor that they like it and want to publish it. And if somehow a Pushcart nomination comes from it, then thank you very much.