Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Leaves

I'm currently taking a course on Rhetoric and Composition right now at BU.

The one with the-professor-who-shall-not-be-named I took at VCU five years ago was one of the most horrendous graduate experiences I've ever had. It's in the top three easily (though really there were only three horrendous experiences, which is good four a five-year stretch). Bad things happened. Things were misconstrued. I was pretty miserable. But I was also young and immature. The class did not instruct me how to teach. The class taught me absolutely nothing. That's what I think the whole class was mostly so upset about by the end.

That said, I do thank VCU and the English Department wholeheartedly for giving me the opportunity to teach so many composition courses while I was there. I still have a lot to learn, but I have so many questions just from the experience, that I think I'll get much more out of teaching at BU now.

Just having the experience and time in front of students these days is severely underrated. I know I'm not the best teacher, I admit, but improving on the past, learning new methods, and always asking and trying to answer my questions will be something to keep track of as I go. And all that experience can and does certainly translate from course to course.

In other words, had I come here with little or no teaching experience, I'd feel completely overwhelmed. I'm glad I got that out of the way at VCU as the earlier part of my education.


See Trouble the Water as soon as you get a chance.

It's one of those documentaries that's just a complete experience, like Capturing the Friedmans, Man on Wire, How to Draw a Bunny, and many more.

Plus you never stop thinking and questioning after it's over. I didn't at least. And that's what a documentary should do (unless it has the unparalleled greatness and originality of American Movie)


I should have the galleys soon enough for Ghost Lights. Because I'm such a stickler for the look and feel of how things are presented on the page, I really want to get the font and the font size right so it's not weird or disjointed for the readers.

Many of the poems in the book (and almost all of the poems in the second manuscript I'm working on) are not left justified. You can look at Tar-era C.K. Williams and The Widening Spell of the Leaves-era Larry Levis (which also happen to be two of my favorite poetry collections of all time), and you see that there are indentations if the lines spill over into the next, though it's meant to be one line without any kind of enjambment.

I was in Wojahn's office a few years ago, and he showed me an original, square-sized copy of Tar from the 80s. He was making a case for the energy of the lines and (false?) enjambments of the later printings being the ones that do justice to the poems. I agreed. If you look at the Selected and the Collected of C.K. Williams, you'll notice that the run-over lines, because the size of the actual pages are different, are indented in different places. Because the poems are "enjambed" according to the size of the page; the long line has to be broken up at some point...

Same thing with an original copy of The Widening Spell of the Leaves and the Selected Levis. The latter keeps the lines intact, keeping them from spilling over, while the former is indented all over the place with the longer-lined poems.

If I had a whole book of long-lined poems, that wouldn't be a big deal to do; I agree with Wojahn that the energy is a bit different, in a good way, as weird as it may sound, when the lines look like they're enjambed.

But, when considering the poems in Ghost Lights, many of my long-lined poems are not left-justified, so you'd have almost a double sense of enjambment, and then it just looks completely out of whack.

My last poem of the four appearing in 42opus this month is a good example. It will run this Friday the 11th, and I'll probably point to it in another blog post if you're confused at what I'm saying...

It looks fine in the .doc file of my new manuscript, but you can think of the right side of the 42opus page as the end of the page limits for a .doc file. I don't mind how it will appear there, but I would certainly not want it to look that way in a book.

All these questions, and a lot of these I'm constantly interested in, make me think I might want to eventually go into publishing, or have publishing be a part of my life somehow.

Has anyone else questioned these issues with their books? We want to be as pleased with our final products as we hope our readers will be, so I'm making a point to really get involved as much as I can in the process of how it's going to look on the page.


Speaking of the new manuscript, I decided to grow some balls and send it out at the end of September. Worst case scenario: I spend a little extra cash to see how it does in the world, and it doesn't do anything. No biggie. Otherwise it'll be sitting here, electronically collecting dust.

I have about fifteen contests and open reading periods I'm looking at right now. I'm being more judicious this time. I sent Ghost Lights to places (when it was also About Ravishment) that I had no business sending to.

The contest was for a more experimental press. The contest was getting manuscripts above the level where I was as a writer (though there should always be shown growth from book to book, hopefully, as the years go on). The prize consisted of screeners who also read and rejected my work for a journal. There are probably more...

Case in point for the last one: The Journal. When I was sending out poems for the first book, I always sent to The Journal for some reason. Maybe ten times or so. They always rejected my poems. Not only that, but I always got the same slip, sans ink. Rejections aren't a big deal, and all the poems were eventually published elsewhere, but considering all of that, why in the hell would I sent to The Journal / OSU Award in Poetry?

The answer: I shouldn't have. But I did. I was testing every depth. Now I know better, especially when the odds are almost 100% against you for whatever reason. You have to learn the particulars and the limits, in other words, about how your work is doing and has done in the outside world of editorship.

There are so many contests when you're sending out that it's hard to learn. Most of the time you suck it up and spend your cash. That's how I learned. That's how (mostly) everyone learns.

But I'm trying to be smarter time around. I think I'm doing a decent job of picking better contests and places to send for consideration. Not "better," necessarily, but more fitting, I would say. That's crucial.


I've always been a fan of Owen. He's always writing the same song, but they're always pleasing to listen to. The production's great on his new record, New Leaves. It's a more mature record. Every song sounds like it could be a single, which reminds me of the newest Phoenix record also. That should be a goal for every collection of any constructed artistic medium in my opinion. Give it a listen when it's officially out soon enough.

Other worth-it spins:

Lucine - A Great Distance
Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor
James Bradshaw - His Last Three Records. SEEK THEM OUT.
The Clientele - Bonfires on the Heath
Imogen Heap - Ellipse
Caspian - Tertia
Polvo - In Prism
Port-Royal - Dying in Time
Sleeping at Last - Storyboards