Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thinking about poetry reviews

My father once told me not to read reviews. He says that they will say positive things for all the wrong reasons and negative things for all the wrong reasons. I have been thinking of this lately. I used to review poetry books and loved it, but had to quit because life got in the way. I worked for Jewish Book World, Harvard Review, St. Marks and a few others.

I have very particular ideas on how to interact with poems. I believe that a reader should let a poem unfold to him or her. I think a reviewer/teacher should figure out what the poem/poet is trying to do. I think the reader should set aside their own prejudices and expectations. One will not read a Michael Palmer or a Jill Essbaum or a Mary Oliver poem in the same way. All have their failings and successes -- note, I haven't seen a poet who only writes good poems, although Palmer and Rilke probably come close. When reviews/teachers have rigid expectations -- say, I only like trendy post-language poetry or the poem MUST have a narrative -- the review is going to be, ultimately, unfair and not as complex. I wish poets were more flexible. Why can't we cross all the fake barriors we have set up. The barriors actually have nothing to do with poems themselves. They are reflections of snobbery, academia, and personalities. 

That's today's two cents.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 Roundup

Everyone has been writing lists of books from 2008. I've decided to jump in and make a list of some great books I read this year -- most of which were not published in 2008. Like my father likes to say -- I go in and out of them. I've read all of some of them and some of all of them.

Fiction:
Paul Auster: Timbuku, New York Trilogy, Leviathan, Music of Change.
Kate Chopin's The Awakening, Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum 

Poetry: Howl, Before the War (Duncan), Patterson (WCW), Your Ten Favorite Words (Reb Livingston), Most of Frank O'hara's collected poems, Midwinters Day (Mayer), Night Scenes (Jarnot), Book of Ocean (Larkin), Elegy (Bang), Modern Life (Harvey), The Introduction to My Vocabulary Did This to Me (Spicer), The House that Jack Built (Spicer) --note this was the most important book I read this year --What's Your Idea of a Good Time (Mayer and Berkson), parts of Utopia (Mayer), Transformations (Spahr), Horace (Tim Aikens), Black Dog Songs (Jarnot), Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers (Tarn).

Non-fiction:

Copious New York Times articles, far too many first-year English papers, enough Peter Singer discourse to make me vomit, Harriet McBryde Johnson's autobiography, many feminist books (in an attempt to find disabled women-- which I didn't), Of Woman Born (Rich), Women Poets on Mentorship (Greenberg and Zucker), the Children's Bible, The I Ching.

The best things that happened to me this year: visiting Yahauts, Oregon with my family, spending time with my mother and sister in California, my one day trip to visit Rachel in San Francisco, getting poems into New American Writing, my literature class last semester, watching 'Milk,' 'Short Bus,' and 'Man on a Wire,' reading with my father in Los Alamos, being in Lisa Jarnot's poetry class, my friend returning from Africa, seeing Equis, coffee with Andrea, spending a weekend in the Poconos (that was a big one), spending most of the summer with my in-laws in Oregon, the Jess show at Reed College, driving in Portland with MaryRose Larkin and her father, swimming lessons, my birthday at Temple Bar, the PRESS conference in Olympia, and listening to Rufus Wainwright. 

The hardest things (since I am a fatalist) were my son's behavior problems, fighting with my mother over gay marriage, making a recommitment to Catholicism (not sad, happy, just complacated), my grandfather Beyer's death, my neighbor's dog's death, not receiving the NEA, not even getting an interview for a poetry job at my own school, driving from Oregon to California with only me driving and the boys bitching all the way, anxiety, not being able to grow anything in my garden, and spending six weeks away from my husband.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Stotts 'review' of 'In Company'

A rebuttal to Stotts review of 'In Company: New Mexican Poets After 1960' appears at galatea resurrects. Before you start singing nepotism, hear me out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Politically Correct Clothing

I'm not politically correct. But, finally, my wardrobe is!  I've finally - more or less -- accomplished the near to impossible task of avoiding sweatshop labor. My latest three pieces of clothing are: a dress from Pip Squeak Chapeau ($200), a skirt from good-will ($2.99) and a knit hat from the local yarn store ($39.00). How, you might ask, can a girl spend so much on clothes? It's a sin! Well, is it? The $200 dress was designed and made it Brooklyn. I know the design, her kid went to Jeff's school. I also happen to know that she just had a baby, so that cash is going directly to a good cause. Thrift store skirt: It's from 'Mexx' probably made in China. But, with thrift store stuff, I think you get a waver. The money goes to charity and the clothing is not being 'wasted.' For $2.99, you can't beat it with a stick! Even if it makes you look a little fat. My glorious hat: hand knitted by a woman in Greenpoint. The thing doesn't even have a TAG in it! Now, if I could only find shoes!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

MOMA Pipilotti Rist: Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters





Yesterday, we went to MOMA to see Rist's Pour Your Body Out exhibition at the MOMA. Watch out, grumpy patrons. This exhibit is extremely so-called 'kid friendly.' Downstairs, we place bets on how many more old ladies Jeffrey would piss off before we reached the door. It was only twenty feet and my odds were that J could make it. But, alas, Jim won this one! Jeff pause before the revolving door and a lady gave him a tsk and look of utter impatience. Jim wins!

On the way home, Jim told a joke we didn't quite connect with an Jeff said in a very earnest voice, 'Maybe someone else will think it's funny.'

Monday, December 08, 2008

Jess

Today, Jeffrey discovered Duncan and Jess. When he came home from school, we made collages.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Now a word from our sponsor about Lisa Jarnot

A few days ago, I was thrilled to see that Lisa Jarnot put a mini-review of Derivative up on the Lisa blog, I have been friends with Lisa for about two years. During this time, she has been a relentless help and poetic navigator for me through the world of poetry. Lisa and I have different views on a couple things, but not many. She is a protester against the death penalty, an political idealist, an environmental activist, and a gay rights supporter. Lisa is the kind of person who is always looking to make the world better. She makes soap, she plants trees and prunes them, she knits hats to symbolize fallen soldiers, she tries not to waste food or electricity and, of course, she writes fabulous poems. Things we should all be doing.

In the world of poetry Lisa is not afraid to question academia. She seems intolerant of an concept of 'scenes' or 'cool' notions of poetry. She truly cares about poetry, not as a way for a job, money, or popularity, but as a crucial being in its own right. Poetry for the sake of poetry. Nothing else. It seems that this is a hard quality to find in some folks today, and many of us are too worried about getting in the 'right' magazine, getting the 'right' award, and having the 'right' people accept us. I, myself, divide the poetry 'world' into a number of facets: Ecco Press, academic, Iowa, Naropa, Fence, West Coast, East Coast, Middle Coast, and so on. I've felt accepted in some ways by all of them and rejected in some ways by all of them. I worry that many of us have, but aren't willing to go vocal on it, or run off and start our own scene. 

I think my tendency to fall through the cracks maybe for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is because I'm handicapped, but not handicapped enough to provide an interesting story. Perhaps it's because I'm too aggressive or too obnoxious or am conflicted about homeschooling and feminism. Perhaps it's because my work is too lyrical and too oblique and not oblique enough. I probably went to the wrong schools. Perhaps it's because of my father somehow. Perhaps, as Rebecca Wolff of Fence proclaimed, my work is just 'bad.'  

Lisa's support has helped me make it through this crazy life.

Friday, December 05, 2008

If you are looking for my father, he has no online presence. He is hiding in the mountain in a cave in Las Cruces with a spledid woman and three splendid cats. He writes poems, makes art, watches a Indian's dog on Mondays. That's about all the information I am at liberty to provide.

I'm happy to pass on messages, but only if you are willing to stop and say hello to me! Preuse awhile, read a poem, buy a book! After all, the great man's talents have been passed down!
The intranet is giving me a headache. I have joined Facebook, goodness knows why...I guess it's a last ditch effort at joining the poetry community. Thomas also convinced me to do it. Now, I have a very public face of silliness. I don't watch TV, so I guess I have an excuse. However, meanwhile, Spicer, Grass, and papers sit unread next to the bed.

I have been swamped with work and getting ready for a long rest. Today, school was a nightmare. Some nitwit called in a 'bomb threat' to our building and it disrupted everything. This is also not the first time I haven't felt safe on campus. How ironic, I'm standing in rural Jersey thinking ...I don't feel safe, I want to go back to Brooklyn!

Thursday, December 04, 2008