Thursday, August 30, 2007

Letter From Cid

Going through my old things, I surprisedly came across a letter that Cid Corman wrote me while I was working on my Muriel Rukeyser thesis, some of which will strike as contraversial. I leave out the beginning formalities for the sake of time. The letter was a response to my question about the marginalization of Rukeyser's work. I don't know what ultimately led me to Corman-- perhaps that we had met briefly earlier at Naropa. It was exciting to re-find the letter, and his comments were insightful, not only to Rukeyser's work, but his attitudes about women and Niedecker.

"Muriel R I never met or knew personally. I did admire her early book THEORY OF FLIGHT. Her WAKE ISLAND meant well but was a big disappointment to me. I found her work uneven, but even so- more interesting than most. Lorine is much finer and is gradually finding a greater audience -- long overdue. (All my people are/were independent spirits, like myself, and that tends to keep us out of the standard taxts, at least while we're "alive.")

I think she (MR) was included in John Ciardi's MIDCENTURY AN ANTHOLOGY from the early 50's. She may had have had a poem or two in Oscar Wms pocket anthologies - but he and his wife (Gene Derwood), poor poets, were far more conspicuous. Whether MR ever attained a place in Untermeter's standard texts in the late 30's and 40's - I cant recall. Possible. But meagrely. I see she's NOT in the Ellman OXFORD job - no more than LN is.

I wish women wd get off the gender kick: they narrow their perceptions needlessly. Lorine has sharper eyes than this. And was a wonderful human being.

Academia/the Establishment have all the credentials that work with regular publishers and they guarentee BIZ/sales/money. They have the buyers in their pockets. As simple as that. By and large publishers have NO sense of poetry. Jay Laughlin exceptional, but even he has missed out on some great ones. (He has first crack at Zukofsky and LN).

Poetry often, alas, is slow becoming accessible to its audience. Higginson boosted Emily imensely but merely tolerated her as a freak. Whitman and Melville as poets were largely posthumous figures"

I will type the final two paragraphs tommorrow,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ok, I lied. The day wasn't ALL bad. Ms. Das made us dinner & Jeff got a new bike & now it is quiet & I can read Mei-mei Berssenbrugge.
Today was a little harder than that possible? Everyone has gone back to work, so I have been deemed Mary Poppins! R. and Jeff were getting along famously for three hours this morning until the hits began to fly. Both boys ended up in hysterics and R. had to go home. Meanwhile, I was trying to keep my work going, and the couch was being delivered and I desparately needed to find a fax. I didn't tip the couch guys the right amount (of course). Jeff screamed (literally for 1 hour straight). I had to get to that fax machine & he couldn't find his shoes, so he wore my pink ones down to the fax place, which was closed! (We eventually found a place).

I wasted an enormous amount of the day attempting to contact people at the Dept. of Ed. I finally decided to resign rather than extend my leave. I finally got in touch with someone. My school closed, and the DOE did not make one effort to get in touch with me all summer, and my attempts to get in touch with them were not successful. When I told the director of HR that I was resigning, it was clear that he could not care less, and had no time for my complaints. Ironically, the Times did an editorial today about the problem with the lack of teachers. Hello! I plan to write to the Times, but it is unlikely they will publish the letter. If they don't, I'll post it here.

I AM THRILLED about my new job. That's not the problem. What gets to me is that I worked so darn hard to be a DOE teacher. I went on dozens of interviews, took tests, got a new degree, put up with countless prejudices against my disability, nurtured the WORSE behaved kids, and swam through harrassment from Assistant Prinicipals. I tried and tried and tried. I can say that I probably tried harder than most to make that job work...and here I am, quitting. If they can chase somone as stubborn as me out, believe me, there in no hope.

The Poetics of Identity

BECAUSE I'VE NOTICED THAT PEOPLE ARE JOURNEYING OVER HERE FROM THE HARRIET BLOG, I've decided to re-post my essay on identity poetry. Lest I be named a hypocrite, I want to be straight in saying that my arguments on every subject are often contraditory.


Lately, I have been thinking about poetry and identity. There have been many poets giving birth to children lately. I have been reading various discussions of how parenthood influences a poet"s work/identity. Jeffrey McDaniel discusses this in "babies, parents, and poetry" on the Harriet Blog. Eoach just did a fabulous issue #3: Queering Language. This issue includes many of my favorite poet/blogger/people including Jen Benka, Amy King, Bill Kushner, Mark Bibbin, Nathaniel Siegel and so many others. Soft Skull recently published Jullian Weise's An Amputee's Guide to Sex.

First, I need to "identify" what people mean by "identity' in poetry -- or the world. I think that people chose to create identity in order to survive in the the world without being destroyed. People tend to create identity issue as a backlash to marginalization. White, rich males don't tend to focus on their whiteness or richness because these are not things that need to be overcome. When people consider the question of identity in poetry it tends to focus on some version of the outsider due to race, disabilty, sexuality, gender, or, believe it or not parenthood.

Identity in poetry can be great, and it can be very problematic.

On the one hand, I am so grateful to people like the editors at Eoach who put together such a comprehensive, beautiful issue. It goes without saying that outsiders need more of a voice in literature. However, what I am leery of, is poetry that rests too much on the laurels of the author's "otherness." If Charles Bernstein wrote obsessively on being a Jewish boy growing up in New York, would he be so wonderful? The quality of the poetry has to always be primary. The poets in Eoach have been able to avoid being trapped in one kind of work. The poetry speaks for itself.

I have not read Weise's book yet. I have to admit, I'm a little jealous. She's very young and has met good sucess. What I have read of The Amputee's Guide to Sex is interesting. The book has great selling power: disability, sex, and a scadelous cover. But, what will her next book be about? How can she move backward from this? Although I thought Tory Dent was a highly talented poet, I found her work problematic. She had HIV; that is all she wrote about.

But is it okay to use one's disability/race/queerness to sell books and/or get a university job? Isn't society hostile enough toward us that it is okay to turn the tables on them and use it to our advance? Is it fair for me to sit here and collect a check for being "disabled" when I actually could be at work? Or did God bless me by giving me time to write? It's all so very hard to sort out.

I have wrestled with this problem as a poet with cerebral palsy. When I wrote something direct, James Galvin tore it apart publically in a workshop. I was crushed. But, then he gave me some great advice. He told me that my disabilty would come accross, no matter what I wrote, and I think it does. In my new book, I only have 2 disabled poems, one is really good, one sucks. UNM Press has decided (and I have too) to make it clear that I am disabled in the hopes of making the book stand out. But, again, I'm not entirely comfortable with this, it's more like, well as a poet, you have to use whatever you can. (This would also be a good place to note that to my knowledge exposing my disability has done NOTHING for my poetry career, which has been relentlessly slow). I have tried to tackle the issue in my second book, but have had very little success.

I hope I don't piss off too many people here. I am certainly not saying that anyone should be/live/write other than their own experience. Until we rid society of prejudice, there will be a need for special grants, magazines, and so on. But, people only need to write, and their experience will be there. Everyone knows Ashbery is gay, Eigner was crippled, and Hughes was black.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Today was just not a good day. Carrying over from yesterday, I had a number of insults thrown at me from Ange Minko (sp?) of the infamous Harriet Blog (Poetry Foundation). Who knew that poets of some stance could be so mean and illogical.

Jeff and I saw a guy smoking crack on our street in the middle of the day.

Some ten year old thugs at the park relentlessly rode their bikes around me, calling me retard after I (stupidly) told them to watch their language in the children's park.

Mary Higgins died. This, of course, puts it all in perspective.

I like to say (cliche?) that when a poet dies a star goes out. I think the world needs as many poets as possible. & it really needed Mary. Mary was a poet, not nearly celebrated enough, who was relentlessly talented and interesting. More than that, she was kind. She was soft-spoken and always compassionate. She took her illness calmly and bravely. I remember how wonderful she was at the reading (two?) years ago at Columbia with Charles Bermstein. They were thrilled to have her; she was thrilled to be there. Mary did not take any successes for granted. Even though she was deserving always, she had no airs about her. She was always gracious and grateful to be in the poetry world.

Mary later told me that before reading she had been diagnosed as 'terminal' and decided to keep it private. She said that she later questioned her decision. But, she told me that she wanted the reading to go well and she didn't want to elicit pity. She had a wonderful time in New York. Even in our last conversation, she expressed gratitude to my dad for introducing her to the Language Poets. She told me numerous times that he had helped her find her true voice.

I loved Mary. There is no way a person could not. It is odd that her "friend," our mentor and friend Gene Frumkin died less than a year ago. All I know is there are two less lights in the high desert tonight.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

All things food!

If you're interested in eating visit Fab Faye at

Sing It Sister!

Lisa of the Lisa-blog writes: "Organic farming appeals much more than the ongoing nonorganic carrot of "you'll get a good full-time teaching job when your biography of Robert Duncan comes out." The point is that we didn't write about Robert Duncan in order to get a teaching job. We wrote about him because we loved him."

Be careful, with that attitude Nathaniel Tarn might fall in love with you!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I've become a work-a-holic of sorts. Jeff doesn't start school for two weeks, so I'm trying to pay bills, scrub the house, finish book business, and make a syllabus all while watching him out of the corner of my eye. Needless to say, movies are being heavily employed. I broke the gameboy by putting it in the backpack with his seashells. A shell got stuck in there. He keeps telling me -- you have to pay for it! Like I didn't the first time!

Don't tell my mother, but now California is starting to grow on me too. (Northern, not Southern). I really like the concept of food in Kali. I'm into the whole hippy thing that I hate for our food to waste energy by traveling to us. In Kali, the food is near, fresh, and cheap. I know NY has the green market, but it terms of the distance, variety, price, and freshness there in no comparison. My mother can buy strawberries at the end of her street. Wine practicaly comes out the faucet. I also love the humane cattle raising they do near my grandmother's house. There are horrible feed lots all of southern cal., but where Gma lives (appropriately called Vacaville) people raise their own cows-- or they go to a nearby small farm. There is a farmer who travels around the neighborhood with a Temple Gradin designed contraption slaughtering their cows for them. Unitl they die, they just hang out on the hill (WITH THEIR BABIES) eating alfalfa. Now, if you believe that it's wrong to eat animals at all, then this won't make sense, of course. But, I'm much more concerned with the cows having full, happy lives. It's funny, no one ever talks about hear lots about factory farming and organic farming. But. people never write about people raising their own cows and the traveling slaughter truck, or going to your neighbor to buy a cow that's hung out on the hill. I didn't even know what these cows were for. I was baffled to see two calves of a good size walking up the hill behind mama. According to all I've read, calves are always sold for veal. This just isn't the case. I wish more people in the country would do this -- as I know they do with chickens. I suspect that they do, but since it really has no market value, they don't talk about it in the media.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ah. Home

We finally arrive home last night to a TON of work....poetry, cat pee, a new professor job (for me!) and Jim has already gone back to the factory. Rather than reading the list of twenty books that Jeff is supposed to read before kindergarten, he's glued to Chicken Run.

I have amazing stuff to report from the West...but it will have to wait. Meanwhile, I had a very telling dream about Jorie Graham. I dreamt that she told me she gave up writing poetry because there were too many starving kids in the world & she had to help them.

Speaking of superheros, the Lisa of LisaBlog has come back to Sunnyside and she's offering a workshop. She is the BEST teacher & serves popcorn and ice water with melon in it. If you're REALLY nice, she'll give you free soap. You need this class!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reading Duncan, But Not Much!

I've mainly been on vacation!

Ugggg! The baby fell!

Ahhh, momma!

Too many boys & one sister. for dinner!

Monday, August 13, 2007



Williams and Levertov

My mother, who I love, wanted to read about us getting kicked out the 4 Seasons, but Jim told her the story over the phone, so I can progress with Poetry.

I have just finished reading the letters between Levertov and Williams. I highly recommend this for even people who don't necessarily go for letters. The correspondence is edited so that it is easy to follow a narrative. WCW seemed to have a pretty strong interest in the idea of mentorship and the apprentice poet. He was also connected to Ginsberg, of course, and the book mentions Guggenheim letters for many others in addition to L.

I recollect some vague complaints about the 'sexism' in WCW attitude toward Levertov. When you read the letters you cannot help by notice that his tone is somewhat condesending. I would argue (just from this book) that Williams was definitely a believer in the male/poet role and thought of Levertov as somewhat of an anomaly. In fact, the only other female poets Williams refers to in the book are Sappho, Loy, and Solt. He and others refer to Levertov by the dreaded term "lady poet."

Yet, like critical feminists, I cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. Williams resistance to the idea of woman as poet just reminds me that he was a product of his time. If the reader can ignore it, as Levertov did, s/he can find real value in the relationship and a text for how it was crucial to both poet's life work -- although particularly L., not because she was a "girl" but because she was the poet in training here. I am working on a piece for How2 on mentorship and theirs provides and interesting outline for the concept. Their's was a life intwined in all ways. Not only in terms of sharing work, but in being intamate with each other's families.

But, Levertov DID have a hard boat to row; and (she rowed it famously!) writing in the 50's, completely surrounded by the boy's club-- Duncan and Creeley were best friends. She lived in a time when women were famously repressed and expected to be housewives. Levertov, for example, is known to have spent some of her Guggenheim grant on a washer and dryer.

It is pretty mindblowing to consider that Confessional poetry, the Beats, the New York School, Black Mountain, and the SF Ren. were happening pretty simultaniously. And how exclusionary toward women these groups were. You have Lorine Neidecker in the Objectivists, but I think she was earlier. Helen Adams, famous for being the only other woman poet (I think) in THE Anthology. The Beats somewhat included Wakoski and Kruger, Waldman was yet a wee lassy! The 'movement' that seems most feminine is confessional, Although, Levertov lived near the Lowell/Sexton kids, she seems to have little interest in them. She mentions Lowell only in passing and the others not at all. She also didn't seem too pleased with the New York guys as she writes with distaste about Ashbery and O'Hara.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hello from Hawaii! Well, not much news: just sand and sun and glad to flee from the hot, hot BK.

Before leaving Hood River I finished a Boland book. At first, I wasn't impressed, but she really drew me in. She has such a beautiful voice.

I find myself doing more on vacation than I ever do at home. Here are a few things I've done so far:

Made paper
Shopped for Books
Went to a Concert
Read 2 poetry books
A sad attempt at Snorkeling
Went to the pool four times
Saw the Simpsons
Got kicked out of the Maui Four Seasons
Finished Of Human Bondage
Saw the "Bodies" exhibit
Went to Art Night
Wrote 1/2 a poem

More soon on Lady Jorie Graham, and a report from the WCW/Levertov letters.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser is a poet that you really feel bad about picking on. He seems like Stanley Kunitz, such a gentle, benign soul, that one cannot take his poetry to task without a certain amount of guilt. And Kooser's poetry is not BAD. He is certainly more deserving than many others and certainly has skill. The problem isn't even with Kooser's poetry as a rule. Take it or leave it: he writes straight narrative poetry that is borderline sentimental. Some of it is very touching, most of it is uninteresting. Poems such as this one:


All night, this rain from the distant past.
No wonder I sometimes waken as a child.

Hardly seem poetry at all, while others in Delights and Shadows do show a certain amount of emotional complexity. Emotional complexity seems to be the driving force behind Kooser's poetry. But, for my money, poetry has to have an additional complexity -- that of language. Here's where Kooser often falls short. So why was Kooser elected Poet Laurete, and why is he published in all the major places? Well, that is obvious, but I'll complain anyhow. Americans, when they read poetry, which is almost never, want their poetry to be easily digestable. They don't want to have to work for anything. We live in the land of Hollywood movies and Judith Krantz novels. This kind of society -- when they throw poets a token bone -- throws it to Ted Kooser, Deborah Garrison, or Maya Angelou. Not to compare the former to the latter. Kooser does have talent.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cab-Net Review

Finally, my review of Fence's Anthology Not For Mother's Only is posted on Cab-Net. I'm no good at links but the URL is here:

I hope the review isn't too critical & I hope I did my research enough. I'm really proud of it. I do LOVE the book. I think everyone should own a copy. I keep mine close at hand.

Sean Lennon & Rufus Wainwright

Last night's concert that I went to at the Crystal ballroom in Portland arrives to this blog with very mixed reviews. First, I am simplely too old and tired to see shows in these kinds of venues anymore. I'm such a grouch! We got there at 8:30 and Rufus didn't come on until eleven. We had to stand the whole time which was hard on the feet and back. The crowd was a strange one, some of the people were painfully young. I stood near this girl who kept bumping into me and hitting me with her hair. She told her friends that for her job she nannied...when did nanny become a verb? I missed something here. Oh, and it was hot as all get out. The main unusual thing for me was that it seemed like a "hang out" concert. We used to go to these all the time in Albuquerque -- there is nothing else to do, so you head on down to the ballroom to visit your friends and get drunk. It is not always relevant who is playing. This was odd to me because people who like Rufus in New York take him pretty seriously.

Sean Lennon was absolutely great. I really liked his first album that he did some years ago when he was pretty young. This record was pretty pop-ish. His work has really matured. He has grown a beard. He looks exactly like both of his parents. Did I mention we were at the front of the stage? Lennon was so funny and talented- really just a joy.

It WAS a thrill to see Rufus close up. I have only been that close to him once before when I went to the Times interview. But, Release the Stars is,by far, not my favorite album. The title song is wonderful and there are three others that are great, but on the whole, it's a pretty average record & he didn't do many other songs on earlier albums. I also think the space wasn't right for him. It always seems a fantasy to see your favorite singer close up -- but Wainwright's show is so energetic and grandious, I don't think a small space does it justice. After seeing someone perform at Carnigie Hall you're pretty spoiled! Also, his sister Martha was not with him. It was as though a limb were missing. I can't believe what talent she brings to his music. I mean the way they work together is just magical. Still, all told, he was still all those lovely things...charming, good looking, and my what talent.


Yesterday we made our yearly trip to Powells. We spent 302.53$. Here are a few things we got:

I got:
Selected Poems of Gunnar Ekelof Translated by Muriel Rukeyer (first and only edition)
George Oppen Selected Poems (Intro by Bob Creeley)
Barrel Fever by David Sedaris (yes...I'm a fan)
The Collected Poems of Charles Olsen Excluding the Maxius Poems
Grave of Light, Alice Notley's New and Selected 1970-2005
Book of Ocean by Maryrose Larkin
Before the War by Duncan (with preface by Palmer)

Here's what I passed up:

A bunch of Mary Oliver
the new CD Wright
Anselm Berrigan's (1st or 2nd) book
Jenny Boully's new book
a $60 signed copy of Duncan's Before the War (that was painful)
and an advance readers copy of Kate Greenstreet's case sensitive