Pornography Disclaimer

This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered  all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.



. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, I'm between poetry manuscripts, in a kind of purgatory of middleness, and part of the silence (while I revise and play my own secretery, mailing out like a mad filing intern) is that I'm rapt and studious--though it feels more like despair--over the manner of poems I truly feel compelled by. I'm in a kind of desperation for the poems of necessity, by which I mean, of course, those poems my heart desires most. I'm reading feverishly few books, over and over, trying to summon a voice from them that is my own. Some authenticity from between the black hammers.

It's all a great mess in my notebooks right now. And then there is the cloud of great worry, the anxiety, the fear. And the intense envy, which is also a gear. In the end, as always, the language fails, and what I have are these long mornings where I blur and try my best to work and come into focus. Then a long walk on the beaches in the afternoon with my cutiepie, my puppy. The most resonant part of my day: the lightning silent on the fronds, the wind rifling the brokenness of the horizon's blue mane, the wind come down off the black mountain to the north to scour the gold dunes. A brightness underscored by some lengthening transparent shade. It's a useless life, and I pace in it. The stars fall down on my head.

. . . . .

I notice in my last post that I use the words "narrative" and "confessional" synonymously. Probably because I'm trying to find my own lyric place between them. A poem with a lyric "I" born by music, helped along by the trappings of both narrative and confessionalism. What exactly is a confessional poem? I am speaking of contemporary poets whose poems are so often spoken by an "I" that seems authentically the poet. The poetry of our journals is filled with self-referential moments, perceptions, incidents, and minutiae from the poet-speaker's own life. To some extant, we're all writing some version of a confessional poem.

Stern says of his AMERICAN SONNETS that they are "memory-ridden," and I think this is true of his latest book, EVERYTHING IS BURNING, a collection of mostly shorter poems written, he's said in a recent interview, in short bursts:


The same cracked hoarse nasal sexy laugh--
I almost lifted my face out of the newspaper
to remind her of the drowned bee and the shaky
pedestrian bridge, I almost told her her
favorite passage of Mahler, we were that close
going up and down the ladders and interchanging
souls with each other, we were that overlapping,
appearing and disappearing, that prayerful,
lighting each other's cigars inside the room of laurel-green
horse laughter.

The "I" here is confessional and not-confessional: sure, this is Stern himself and yet he's not really confessing any incident, there's no secrecy afforded us, no internal monologue that completes a perception of the world. But having written this, it strikes me that this is exactly what this poem does. We're driven by a consciousness in fragmented reflection. Voice is tantamount to the achievement of the poem. As is playfulness with the language, and a remarkable love of experience. But does this make his poem confessional?

The poem is also not-narrative and narrative at the same time: Stern tells the story of this memory, but also refrains from burdening the reader with superficial direction. We don't know who they are, or where, or why they're there, or what happens to them. Stern offers us the details of sensual incident without boring us with the monotony of the story itself. The encounter, the bliss of it was all. We get the good parts! and the poem retains all the mystery of something partially remembered and that emotional resonance that makes it valuable.

One of my favorite poems in the book is a short one that first appeared in The New Yorker entitled "Sylvia." It's written to his little sister who died when they were children, but I like to think of Sylvia Plath:


Across a space peopled with stars I am
laughing while my sides ache for existence
it turns out is profound though the profound
because of time it turns out is an illusion
and all of this is infinitely improbable
given the space, for which I gratefully lie
in three feet of snow making a shallow grave
I would have called an angel otherwise and
think of my own rapturous escape from
living only as dust and dirt, little sister.

. . . . .

A review by Olivia Cronk in the January 2007 issue of Bookslut of Frederick Seidel's new book OOGA BOOGA remarked that "because Seidel spends such time with these bits of the everyday, it becomes noticeable that his existence is textured with a creepy decadence." Seidel, like the best Dr. Seuss book, is violent both in his language and in his imagery. His daily moments, those he might be "confessing", are tempered by metric extravagance and confessional insight. At times his book reads like a psychological profile, as he provokes with sexual violence and bare political heat. As in Stern's poetry, voice is a driving force in Seidel's work. And still, I hesitate to call his work "confessional," even when it is, it isn't:


Clematis paniculata sweetens one side of Howard Street.
White butterflies in pairs flutter over the white flowers.
In white kimonos, giggling and whispering,
The butterflies titter and flutter their silk fans,
End-of-summer cabbage butterflies, in white pairs.
Sweet autumn clematis feeds these delicate souls perfume.
I remember how we met, how shyly.

Four months of drought on the East End ends.
Ten thousand windshield wipers wiping the tears away.
The back roads are black.
The ocean runs around barking under the delicious rain, so happy.
Traditional household cleaners polish the Imperial palace floors
Of heaven spotless. THUNDER. Cleanliness and order
Bring universal freshness and good sense to the Empire. LIGHTNING.

I have never had a serious thought in my life on Gibson Lane.
A man turning into cremains is standing on the beach.
I used to walk my dog along the beach.
This afternoon I had to put him down.
Jimmy my boy, my sweetyboy, my Jimmy.
It is night, and outside the house, at eleven o'clock,
The lawn sprinklers come on in the rain.

Even though a poem as beautiful as this confesses, the focus of it seems to be in praise of existence. Of a time of year, a season of being and losing and the adoration of the time. The poem itself isn't concerned with making any confessional statement. Seidel is in his life, but the poem doesn't examine this life as much as it revels in it. It admires the narrative details of Seidel's experience and transforms them into a spiritual dialogue of sorts between the man and the world. It makes a kind of memory as much as it documents a difficult and layered relationship with his experience of the world in time. Still, there is a restraint that hides the details we expect of a confession. Rather, these sections work as psychological profiles of the same man at different moments of attention. They serve as the documentary of his remembering, that moment un-occluded by langauge. Yes, for me this poem works like an independent short film. I see the man touching the flowers and having a wash of emotion, but there is no cut to another time, no explanation. This time, of meeting the flowers, of being between thunder and lightning, of remembering his dog, is the point, and all of these points are Seidel.

I think I'm wrestling here with what I think confessional poetry really is. Robert Lowell in the study of his family, Anne Sexton in her religious and sexual addresses, Lucille Clifton, Dorianne Laux. . . I look to these writers whose work mostly seems to be confessional in that they admit the details of personal being, and their poems seem to examine issues of personal identity: issues of faith, gender, race, politics, philosophy, etc . . . many of their poems are explorations of a personal wonder, anchored in daily experience.

This doesn't sound so different than what happens in Seidel's poem. For me the biggest difference is a kind of dramatic staging of the voice in his work. Perhaps this is only a stylistic remark on my part. In fact, his first book was controversial precisely for how exactly confessional it was, naming real persons. In this poem, clarity results in a psychologically apparent movement in which each section is deflected by the next. So a psycho-lovely poem, and, I suppose, a confessional poem--but with the air of something different. . ..

. . . . .

Perhaps where I feel clearest about what a confessional poem might be is when reading Henri Cole's newest book BLACKBIRD AND WOLF where I'm struck by a very centered and intimate Self who speaks to his own life. It seems apparent that the poems are autobiographical, and that here is the poet in his own life trying to put things down as simply as possible--"simple" is the demanding task that makes Cole's poems so rewarding. When he speaks I feel as if I must crouch down to listen, to eavesdrop on someone else's prayer, and this, for me, has an aura of sacrilege that makes his poetry that much more insistent. When I read them I feel as if something necessary is happening and my attention is required to fulfill it. I am needed by these poems. They demand me. Yet when I read these poems, I am also accutely aware that I am unnecessary. They exist in themselves completely. Cole is a consciousness considering objects and events in his life, weighing them forthright. It is a pleasure to be able to witness this kind of working understanding:


Waking from comalike sleep, I saw the poppies,

with their limp necks and unregimented beauty.

Pause, I thought, to say something true: It was night,

I wanted to kiss your lips, which remained supple,

but all the water in them had been replaced,

with embalming compound. So I was angry.

I loved the poppies, with their wide-open faces,

how they carried themselves, beckoning to me

instead of pushing away. The way in and the way out

are the same, essentially: emotions disrupting thought,

proximity to God, the pain of separation.

I loved the poppies, with their effortless existence,

like grief and fate, but tempered and formalized.

Your hair was black and curly; I combed it.

If we map the movement of the poem, perhaps we see why Cole's work feels so intimate: "I saw the poppies . . . I thought, to say something true . . . .I wanted to kiss your lips . . . I was angry . . . I loved . . . Your hair was black and curly; I combed it." He's confessing an emotional response to the world as well as trying to remark upon it. He risks a self-indulgence that other poems must combat with stylistic overture. I'm being unfair, since every poet must invent their own way to say, to move. But it does strike me that Cole's poem invents a voice that is stunning for its emotional vulnerability.

What's interesting about narrative is that by the end of the sonnet, it's transformed into contemplation. Again, much of the particulars are fragmented as they bolster the bareness of Cole's voice. Nothing happens in the poem but the poem. We're not told about an afternoon when at the wake the speaker tries to kiss his lover's dead lips and instead finds a correlative in the poppies. Still, the story is hidden here in the speaker's confession, though it turns at the end when he considers what existence might be: "The way in and the way out / are the same essentially: emotions disrupting thought, / proximity to God, the pain of separation." Cole's is a contemplative lyric that he finds by writing about his own life experience.

. . . . .

What good is all this diffcult attempt at naming, defining, categorizing? Is it fair to think of a poet as "Confessional" or "Narrative" or "Lyric"? Isn't every poem bound to itself, to how it might achieve its own poemness? Still, I think it says something about my work if I can say what kind of poem I think I'm writing. Whatever the poem does, if I think of myself as a Lyric poet, or a Narrative poet--these admissions are really evidence of an aspiration. Because even if it's still an abstraction, there is a "kind" of poem I'm envisioning for myself, for my own. . .

Friends and Strangers, I'm not sure. But I am caught in wonder at these poets, who seem to move through their poems with a striking lyricism that reaches me. I'm interested in how they carve out a poem from both confessional and narrative stands.

Are these my new models? Perhaps they are the poles between which I will attract my own version. I am triangulating the stars that fall down on me. I love them. I am against them. I steal them. I curse them. I hide them, mutilate and kiss them.

My heroes, my haunts, my lovely hells.

. . . . .



I'm thinking tonight about Charlie Jensen's post just after AWP (3.04.07) which seemed to me a defense of poetry, an ars poetica, a few sentences built to explain his approach to his own writing which might be autobiographical and narrative, a post entitled "The Poetics of Never Forgetting":

"the rest of the world, so transient to me, must be kept somewhere. I put these things in poems. . . the rise of the AIDS crisis . . .a book about my ex-boyfriend's suicide . . . a book about losing other people: another man, a boy in Wyoming. I don't want to forget how whole things once were. I think the world is a winnowing place . . . so I share the never-forgetting. This is all I can do. I don't write history, I write subjectivity."

I'm chopping him up here and I hope he forgives it. I love this post because it makes an argument for saying something clearly in a poem. I hesitate here. Saying an honest thing about lived experience. His post almost reads like a defense of confessionalism. Our experiences are what we have, why not save them in poems. . .

I think about Jensen's post as a kind of response to, or in a kind of dialogue with Joshua Corey's brilliant essay "Notes Toward the Dramatic Lyric" at sidereality.com (or through his blog Cahiers de Corey). What I love about Corey's essay is that, like the Russian Futurists, he demands of his language a political certitude. If language fails us, then how we go about "saying an honest thing" is by using the language to its ultimate ability, that is, demanding that it be more than conventional, self-indulgent, vulnerable to melodrama, as we see happening in so much narrative confessional work. He insists instead that it be provocative, offensive, that it wake up a real reader inside of us, an ardent consciousness.

One can't help think of a poet like Paul Celan, who I love, who's work is at once direct and elusive, but a work in which the langauge itself demands our heightened, even political, attention:

"Day freed from demons.
All breeze.

Disenchanted, the powers-that-be
sew up the stabbed lung.
Blood pours back in.

In Bocklemund Cemetery, the
hammershine from
races over the
shallow inscription on the front,
also over you,
deep Brother Letter."

I love this poem, and though I've had to live with it for a time to feel as though I can "read" it, it is something that I understand immdediately as an address to mortality, the wind over the letters engraved in a headstone. Still, it's frought with symbolism, both difficult and elusive, lyric, filled with intuitive but not narrative clarity. It's demanding in a way that much contemporary narrative, especially in the confessional mode, is not.

Here is how Corey addresses a narrative poetry of consumerism:

"even those poets who commit to raising readers' social consciousness are hamstrung by their commitments to narrative and the poet-identified 'I.' However vibrant their language, the formal decisions these poets make confine experience to the easily recognized, easily digested packages of meaning that can be swallowed without thinking. The resulting poem is anesthetized and anesthetizing. And poetry as a means of speaking the true and difficult is supplanted by a poetry of reassurance and distraction, of matter-of-fact mimesis, of easy identity politics."

Well. Jensen and Corey are two poets with opposing philosophies of language, and somehow I feel torn between them. I always have. I suppose a desire to make a poetry that is accessible to my family opposed with a poetry that is dramatic, intensely metaphoric, one that drowns itself with a pure delight in language and meaning. One devoid of a responsibility to narrate and explain. A poetry of fantasy, but one of real feeling, a real response to a spiritual existence, which is a vision plagued by signs--I suppose my approach has been to pursue an inversion of the real for the really real. Well, whatever that means is what I mean. It seems to me that both Jensen and Corey have a similar goal, but I'm interested in the certainty of their differing approaches. Mostly because I seem to war between them. On the one hand, I'm bored out of my mind with practically everything conventional in our journals, filled with poems of journalistic precision--as if poetry were journalism!

Except that it might be! A journalism of the hiddenside of experience, the welling of the truth that is about us, but not easily articulated. But clean narrative bores the hell out of me. It makes me want to vomit on myself if it can't accomplish something interesting in the language, something delicious in its approach. Saying something. How do we? Do we even want to? Or do we need poems to be just that: poems, pieces of delight in themselves, and not necessarily records, markers, artifacts. And yet. That's what they are. How much do I love Charlie Simic's work, which is just that: small visionary wallet-sized photos. Maybe I don't need to compare his poem to Celan's, since they both accomplish something unsayable.

So this entry is entirely folded in on itself, circular, pointless, except to draw the poles I am drawn by. Yes, I have a crush on Charlie Jensen and a hard-on for Josh Corey. One doesn't impair my heart-on for the other. I'm greatly promiscuous. I'm somewhere between a love for the confessional narrative and the postmodernist abstract lyric. Poetry, it seems to me, is an attempt to speak to the question of deep recognition in the world.

I guess one question we might ask ourselves is what part of the reader we are trying to reach, the part that will easily recognize us, or that part that must sleep to recognize us? Of course to really sleep is not to encounter the monotony of our consumerist culture, but to face a dreamlife that is at first senseless. A life bound by desire and how it is transforming us somewhere within. Remember lines from Lucille Clifton: "children / when they ask you / why is your mama so funny / say / she is a poet / she don't have no sense."

Still, I cannot deny my love for someone like Louise Gluck, who's AVERNO I've just finished reading. She really felt me up with that one. Really got me undressed and undone and helpless and ruined. God it was good. Braingasm. Filled with quietude and sense. When I think of this book, I think about what Jensen says in his post about poetry being a kind of remembrance that witnesses and saves us from the "never-forgetting." Gluck has written that "poetry is autobiography stripped of context and commentary" which perhaps supplements Jensen, perhaps transforms him. Perhaps confines his topics to versions of himself. Which is fine, because for me Guck is intensely compelling. A kind of bareness that is terrifying, even though it is given to us in a narrative of clear, unassuming, even confessional, language:

"Archaic Fragment"

I was trying to love matter.
I taped a sign over the mirror.
You cannot hate matter and love form.

It was a beautiful day, though cold.
This was, for me, an extravagantly emotional gesture.

. . . . . . . your poem:
tried, but could not.

I taped a sign over the first sign:
Cry, weep, thrash yourself, rend your garments--

List of things to love:
dirt, food, shells, human hair.

. . . . . . .said
tasteless excess. Then I

rent the signs.

the naked mirror.

Here is narrative description that works on the level of metaphor. It reminds us that this is exactly what experience is. Poetry, if we're awake enough.

I want my poems delirious! Even if the language is clean as still life, it has to deliver duende. It has to. Since language is dangerous in itself. Both Jensen and Corey's approaches seem prone to different flaws, different challenges. I'm not sure where I exist between them. I don't know that I can clearly save experience, to recount and remember, without losing myself into some abstract and meaningless well. I also don't know that abstract lines, even when charged with meaning, do enough for me without the context of narrated thinking. I guess I've written all this tonight as an attempt at understanding what my own poetics are, a navigation between these influences, the narrative and the abstract. For me, every poem seems to ask for a reconciliation between them.



The title of this entry is from a few lines of an early poem by Beckian Fritz Goldberg,

I tell you there is no red
at night, and in the rose only a place
where the eye blows out.

I might be misquoting here, or dreaming it up, but I swear I remember reading this in an old apartment building as a student. My late nights caught with an oreo cookie half eaten in my mouth and some poem I couldn't get enough of. I remember the moment of re-reading this, and then re-reading it again. The negative attention that enacts a sensual image and simultaneously erases it--the way these lines forced me to see a color while they told me it never existed--was particularly powerful for me as a reader. Subtle irony, but more importantly they focused my awareness onto a kind of psychological drama. Enacted within, these lines said something about what language could do. The spotlight wasn't on the poem anymore, but on my own perception of things. I was seeing with the poet's eye. The poem taught me to read, but it also read the world from within me. There are lines in Jean Valentine's work, I think, that echo this kind of negative capacity: "there is no book and my name is written in it." I can't remember the titles of these poems, but the lines are in my head for years. I love the negative space they illustrate, the intuitive, poetic place, the otherside, the underlanguage, their intimation of death, body, and loss.

In Fritz Goldberg's newest book, THE BOOK OF ACCIDENT, she returns to her old themes--things we see in her first book BODY BETRAYER--and accomplishes something new with that old narrative approach. This is a book of stories, post-modern fairy tales of 20th century children, children that get tattoos and tongue-piercings, children who are dangerous and lovely. Immediately I think of a poem in her first book "The Children Dream Death" and remember that it is a child's imagination that can be cruelest. Right now on t.v. a commercial for marine recruitment: a young 19 year old marine is holding a toy airplane, commenting on the importance of technology and spyware to save lives--I'm reminded that our childish insights are simply forgotten, but they hardly disappear. Our dream cruelty shows up, ends in real disasters, murders, wars. Those old sci-fi movies with all their hidden political commentary are evidence of a way we predict our own destructions through play. So here is Fritz Goldberg telling stories, both fairy tale and sci-fi thriller. In the tradition of the narrative, we have the stories of Skin Girl, Wolf Boy, the Torture and Burn Boys, as well as poems that allude to and caricature the Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb. In the end we have a commentary on memory and dream, real violence and imaginary horror, as well as our attraction to the sexgore of the television age, the videogame era, in which we are desensitized against vulgarity in all its forms.

What interests me stylistically about this book is the way narrative takes shape. We might think of Dobyns CEMETERY NIGHTS, Popa's WOLF SALT, or Hughes' CROW as precursers to a book like this, except that Fritz Goldberg's meta-narrative takes narrative into the 21st century. There is a departure from her early work here. Even though she's pursuing a narrative shape, her poems begin to hybridize lyric abstraction with traditional story. Take for example this poem:

"The Absolute"

Finally I gave up and became the rose,
all those treacherous peaks of my sleep
around me and only one eye
in the fold . . . Such time,

flouncing its dress, rests, essence--
inhumanly sweet. Green serpent head,
tongue flame, blood-lettuce, easing
bodice, breasts on the balcony,

breasts on the balcony. No one
to say where I came from
wasn't good enough--

My lips of many mansions,
gorget upon gorget, slit
upon slit where the blade pulls out
and the plush rushes up--

No one to repeat
what I said when I was drunk.
No one

to object to the recounting and recounting
of the fragrances of the tower of you--

no one to be a woman

in the life that had already
the look of pure attachment,

fire to the stalk.

Remarkable first for the confusion: Is this a dramatic monologue? A confessional poem? A poem of praise? To some extant it's monster of all three. I think of Neruda's early poem in which he writes

The parracial rose devours
and climbs to the peak of the saint:
with thick claws it fastens
time to the wearied being:
it swells and blows in the hard veins,
it ties the pulmonary cord, then
lengthening it listens and breathes.

This strikes me as a particularly erotic masculine language, where a rose "swells and blows in the hard veins / it ties the pulmonary cord, then / lengthening it listens and breathes." What the rose enacts here is masculine orgasm. Fritz Goldberg's "Absolute" is embodied by a different langauge, something akin in tone to Plath's "Letter in November" where she writes,

O love, O celibate.
Nobody but me
Walks the waist-high wet.
The irreplaceable
Golds bleed and deepen, the mouths of Thermopylae.

Fritz Goldberg begins a kind of ode to the rose which becomes an ode to womanly body, and to body itself that swoons: "green serpent head/ tongue-flame, blood lettuce, easing / bodice, breasts on the balcony // breasts on the balcony." But the praise becomes witchcraft as the speaker offers us confessional material: "no one / to say where I came from / wasn't good enough" and later, "no one to repeat / what I said when I was drunk. . . absolutely / no one to be a woman." The spirit of the poem is inhabited by a new surrealism in which the mirroring of two objects is not complete. The speaker and the rose have the same life. The speaker is half-woman, half-rose, and we understand this beauty in the eros of its sadomasochism: "my lips of many mansions / gorget upon gorget, slit / upon slit where the blade pulls out / and the plush rushes up." Iambic, these lines also employ something of a sprung rhythm, enacting the rush of the bleed of being, alive and falling, alive and unable to be anything but the flaming repetitions of a sight that is human, desirous, deathbound. We might think of great Russian heroines, that threaten and allure. Of course, the fact that the rose is described in metaphor that recalls the female sex is new as well. The idea of a "pretty" rose is abandoned, and much like the language of say, Mebdh McGuckian's CAPTAIN LAVENDER, female sexuality is here afforded imagistic violence. We might say this poem re-writes that stereotype of the lovesick schoolgirl. Here the rose is standing in its own vision, rapt with itself--and isn't this the nature of desire? That to see is to feel something, until we're coming undone from within? Don't we need a woman to tell us about it? Don't we need a woman's body to dare to see, to dare to desire with the flesh--until it changes us? Doesn't a dream like a desire change us? To swoon alone, to "the recounting and recounting / of the fragrances of the tower of you"--the "you" addressing both the desired-after and the Self. Rose Self. Death Self. Self longed for with Pleasure. Flesh-petal, because we see and we fall apart with our longing. And as we fall apart we love our deaths, because our body is speaking its dark orgiastic vocables, its un-coming-dones, the language of "only one eye / in the fold"--our consciousness in the "those treacherous peaks of [our] sleep." Yes, since pleasure in Fritz Goldberg is always linguistically awake. Pleasure that imagines through a sculpted sound, until what we see is what we are when the "eye blows out." Until we have ourselves become the negative selfspace of her poem.



Friends and Strangers,

If you're at AWP, go see WOLFMOTHER give a reading.

The epigraph to Beckian Fritz Goldberg's latest book, THE BOOK OF ACCIDENT, is from Charlie Baudelaire:

"My friend, we suffer from the disease / we have not yet contracted."

What is the disease? Adulthood? Forgetfulness? Longing? For a child we only imagine will love us before he's hunted by the Torture and Burn Boys of the last century? The speech that creates and kills in our own stories?

In this book, absence is the storybook opened in the dark. Childhood with its fears: mothers cooking their children up, children lost or abducted, children as the creatures of otherness we have forgotten we are.

In an interview with Blackbird online, she's called this book a meta-narrative, meaning there is storywork happening here, intimations of a beginning, a middle, and an end. . . The wolf child is born in a dream, meets the world, is tortured and mummified. I think--and the inventions of the book are many--that this book is as much about reading itself as it is about childhood imagination. Helene Cixous has stated that we have to become children when we read, we have to "steal the key to the library" and "kill the family"--Fritz Goldberg does both things here, reminding us how much fun it is to read fairy tales, and how dangerous. This poetry reminds us that the act of Imagining horrors is not so far off from witnessing them in the real world.

The difference between memory and dream is the psychic night of language that creates and destroys our loved ones in our own image. More on this book soon, but for now, listen:

Amnesia (2)

Past, what's wrong with you?

I would have disappeared earlier,
thrown a handful of wicked-self-dust,

but somehow that sadness
from years ago wanted to have
an anniversary--

a candle. Reflection
walked all over the fountain's pond,

with wingmeal in it.
It's the nature of now

the gleam where you look is not where it came from.
All that now

is good for
is beginning another story
like the old ones

that began, Let's take the children out to the woods
and leave them.

The past, Friends and Strangers, is as much our own creation as it is the mirror-source of longing. We are the blurred refraction of our dreams.



What is the difference between the imagination and crime? Writing is an act, but how much of it can we hold accountable, true, valid--especially here on the internet?

When do our journals and notebooks and even our books in print implicate us in the courts of rumor? Of course, as soon as someone reads them like good gossip. The bigger implication, considering the current administration's Homeland Security policies, and our country's political paranoias in the past, make this question dangerous. You don't even have to look at politics, just watch the tabloid shows one night and watch the stalkerazzi fuel us like a mob for blood, sin, and the salacious failures of character.

I'm thinking about these questions because I've recently had the unfortunate experience of being severely misread and misinterpreted. Someone I was intimately interested in has read these entries and made assumptions about the writing as obsession, as evidence of stalking.

What? ?

This is not a diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language.

I began this blog unsure about how to approach it, wanting to take part in a community online, but not necessarily wanting to become that hyper-confessional kind of site. Let me say it again--this is not my diary.

I've been concerned about being too personal here, as well as too academic. Not that sites that focus their space in these ways don't interest me, it's just I've been trying to make this into a space that is my own: a notebook of language. My real world community, on the other hand, is very small, and it worries me that a strange gossip has caught metaphysical fire around me, without me even knowing about it! What's worse is that some of my local neighbors are also students at my school, and this is particularly upsetting.

I think I've tried naively to maintain this site anonymously, but I see now the dangers inherent to online writing. This, even if it's not formal, is a place of publication. . . semi-private. . . I'm still trying to understand what this means. I think my intuition to reference pornography has to do with this idea: that we are on display in intimate ways, even if these intimacies are choreographed, and that there is a kind of persona this creates for each of us. Sometimes our site becomes a mask that readers, Friends and Strangers, begin to expect of us.

So I've decided to be a bit more professional about this site, update my profile, acknowledge the fact that this will ultimately be a resource for students as well as a way to maintain a kind of dialogue with the web community. It sort of pisses me off. I'm not sure whether this will be a useful place for me. . . If I don't have the same kinds of freedom as I do in a hand-written notebook, then what's the point? I guess I'm still trying to figure out what it is I want from this kind of space.

What I do know is that I very much appreciate reading your sites, Friends and Strangers, and that they've been important, sometimes even invaluable, to my sense of being a writer--which is something realized in complete isolation. So I thank you.

As for my real life, I feel like I've been walking around my neighborhood, my coffee shops, my bar, seen by a number of people who I know who are wondering whether I am this "stalker"--the rumor has indicted me. Its the revenge of mediocrity, since people are sheep.

And for the record, a few kisses one afternoon do not constitute enough emotion for self-destruction, obsession, mad love, or more than a line or two of real poetry. I betchu think this song is about you. . . .but it ain't.
My photo
I've got one foot in the grave and the other's in my mouth.

Poetry Disclaimer

My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.