Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Be simultaneously jealous and disgusted...

...for I am eating an In-N-Out burger in my pajamas right now. Oh god, why? Oh god, delicious.

Be simultaneously jealous and something-more-than-jealous that I just saw Welcome to Night Vale live! First Jason Webley was there and he sang songs and we howled and stuff and then Cecil was there and then OH MY GOD CECIL WAS THERE and then we were in danger and then we weren't. Or were we?

Seriously, though. I don't want to spoil it for any of you who may be seeing it live on any of the upcoming East Coast/Midwest dates, but it was awesome. It was really clever how they kept it in the same format as the radio show and yet managed to incorporate several instances of audience participation. Super fun.

In other news, I think I may be growing out of binge-watching television. Or maybe it's just The Tudors. I watched one episode yesterday, thought of watching another, and then decided against it. Maybe it's just because I know exactly how The Tudors will go. I'm only on season 1, but I know. Want proof?

King Henry VIII will marry Anne Boleyn and then she'll have Elizabeth I and then he'll behead Anne Boleyn and then he'll marry Jane Seymour and she'll die giving birth to Edward VI and then he'll marry Anne of Cleves and then they'll amicably divorce and then he'll marry Catherine Howard and then he'll behead her and then he'll marry Catherine Parr and then he'll die and Edward VI will become king and then he'll die and Mary I will become queen and then she'll die and Elizabeth I will become queen (renaissance!) and then she'll die and James I will become king and then he'll die and Charles I will become king and then he'll be beheaded and then Oliver Cromwell will be Lord Protector (puritan) and then he'll die and then Charles II will become king and then he'll die and then James II will become king and then he'll be overthrown by William and Mary of Orange because Glorious Revolution. HISTORY, BITCH!

Oh, AP Euro. So many fond memories.

Anyway, I've been having trouble watching other TV shows, too. Or, rather, finishing other TV shows. I used to be able to slam through a whole series in a few weeks, and now I just can't. Maybe it's due to the fact that I'm busier in grad school than I was at my job. Also the fact that I have so many more interesting things to do/read/write because of grad school. Hm.

I finally caught up on double poems! Hopefully I won't miss any more days. Here's one I wrote last night. I was in a bit of a sour mood before bed--pun intended.

Expiration Date

i keep changing
the expiration
date

but they always
notice the
smell

seems i cannot
help but
curdle

Monday, January 27, 2014

Influence

Finished planning my class for tomorrow not too long ago. Since my theme for the course is "horror," I've decided that I'm going to spend a small portion of each class recommending something horror-related to them--books, movies, songs, etc. Tomorrow I'm introducing them to Welcome to Night Vale because I AM ALSO GOING TO SEE THE LIVE NIGHT VALE SHOW IN VEGAS TOMORROW!!!!!

!

I'm just a little excited. It's okay.

I have to go running. Actually excited about it; I've been feeling rather lethargic this past weekend. This evening I have my first Poetry Forms class. I hope that goes well. I'm not at all well-read when it comes to poetry, so between Poetry Forms and Poetry Workshop, I'm afraid I'm going to spend the majority of the semester feeling awfully stupid. Oh well. Everybody has to start somewhere.

Hey poetry friends--if you're reading this, would you mind doing me a favor? As I'm sure you've noticed, I've been writing poems on this blog all month for practice. I've written most of them quickly, and have not given them enough thought as I probably should. The real problem is that I can't figure out whether any of them (or any part of them) are good. I'm confident when it comes to editing my own prose, and when reading other people's poetry, I can usually at least tell when something is really bad. When it comes to my own poetry, however, I am lost. I'm not asking you for tons of feedback by any means, but if you notice something that's relatively good, can you mention it so that I can keep it in mind when I'm writing for workshop? Also, if something is particularly bad, please tell me that, too, so I can avoid it.

Pretentious is the perfect word to describe how I feel when I write poetry. It was made for this situation. When I write poetry, I feel as though I am pretending to possess knowledge and skill that I do not actually have. On the other hand, you can't develop skill without practicing.

On that note, today's poems. The first poem was inspired by the curly line I drew to separate entries in my journal:

Speak to Me

I do not remember
my home
ever having a curly-wired
telephone.

Even when I was
small
the human connection was
not at all

connected.

wireless
touchless
hands-free
skin-free

The paradox of
virtual
reality is forever
ritual.

For the second poem, I took several bullet points about "active reading" from the textbook my students use and rearranged them:

Guidelines for Active Reading

Become before reading.
Title what you understand
part of--
keep your purpose
further on.

The audience is coming,
reading a writer's
journal.

Reflect a reading.
Concentrate.
Annotate as read
in--

Predict.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Food, Glorious Food!

I cannot say that I have gone hungry as of late. To the contrary, I've had plenty to eat, especially yesterday. When I went to the Frog with Michael and Jamison to work on The Salted Lash, they had brought in a chef who'd made fancy Scottish food in honor of the poet Robert Burns' birthday--lamb risotto, spicy sausage, haggis, homemade cheesecake, all with a scotch pairing for under $20. Needless to say, I opted for second dinner.

Today I met my "Uncle" Phil for lunch; he's been a friend of the family since before I was born, my mother's business partner for 30-ish years. We went to Paymon's by campus because he wanted to see what UNLV and off-strip Las Vegas was like. We ate and talked and walked around, and later he went back to join his friends. It was lovely and relaxing. Always nice to see a familiar, friendly face.

It was also a convenient way to procrastinate writing my paper on William Carlos Williams' theory of the imagination, which I just completed. It was only 2-3 pages--not bad at all. Nevertheless, I hope she doesn't give us a writing assignment like this every week. I imagine they will become quite tedious quite quickly.

I'm alliterative today!

Evening plans: watch an episode of The Tudors (Lulu got me hooked--I'm a sucker for a good period drama), read for theory, watch another episode of The Tudors. Drink wine throughout.

Poems!

This one was inspired by the fact that everyone who visits me here is surprised to discover that off-strip Vegas is made entirely of strip malls (almost).

Off-Strip

Gray skies over
s t r i p  m a l l s
are appropriate.

Bright skies over
s t r i p  m a l l s
are wrong.

Sunny days
make taupe make beige
less dire.

Dire is appropriate.
We should be tired,
sad, afraid.

This second one was inspired by old pictures I saw on Facebook today and also by The Tudors:

Past Palette

blurry teens gray twenties dusty thirties sepia forties x-ray fifties sunshine sixties hazy seventies sticky eighties dirty nineties new millennium bright and sexy that's how I like my history bright and sexy

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Just My Imagination

I am so sick of sitting! I've had tons of work to do this weekend, and even though I ran yesterday and I danced today, it's not enough. I wish I had a reason to go someplace and walk around, but this reading isn't going to do itself.

That said, I'm enjoying the reading. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm reading some William Carlos Williams for my Poetry Forms class--specifically "Kora in Hell" and "Spring and All," which are longish prose-poem/poem collections. I must say, my opinions of WCW have turned 180 degrees. I absolutely loved "Kora in Hell." I think WCW and I are writing soulmates. I'm not kidding. He was a practicing physician as well as a poet, and here's what he said about his writing process in his autobiography: "Time meant nothing to me....I might be in the middle of some flu epidemic, the phone ringing day and night, madly, not a moment free. That made no difference....Five minutes, ten minutes can always be found." That's basically my life philosophy. It's certainly how I wrote before I came to the program. It's how I started writing flash fiction in the first place.

And his poems are beautiful. Here's part of one from "Kora": "All the troubled stars are put to bed now: three bullets from wife's hand none kindlier: in the crown, in the nape and one lower: three starlike holes among a million pocky pores and the moon of your mouth: Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and all stars melted forthwith into this one good white light over the inquest table...." How gorgeous is that? Also: creepy. Creepy is the best. A far cry from "The Red Wheelbarrow," to say the least.

Oh! Regarding yesterday's post, I thought of two more canonical poems I had to read in high school: Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." I had to read them in college, too, but definitely in high school first. I liked "Kubla Khan" well enough I suppose.

This morning I read my students' first journal entries. It's easily my favorite thing that I make my students do, since I let them write whatever they want, and so many of them embrace the opportunity. I already have two kids writing fiction and two kids writing poetry. It's because I'm not only the cool teacher, but the best teacher. Obviously.

Also: so many of my students have compared me to Jess from the TV show New Girl in their journals! Just because I wear cute dresses and glasses does not, in fact, mean that I am Zooey Deschanel. They mean it as a compliment, though, so I will take it. I've never actually seen the show.

Should get back to work before I meet Michael at the Frog to discuss The Salted Lash. First, my two poems for today. The first was inspired by the fact that I have not one but two canker sores on my tongue. Don't you hate those things?

Judgement 

What did I do to deserve
two canker sores?
Nothing.
Disease is not a punishment.

Germs and sugar
conspired against me!
Germs and sugar
were germs and sugar.

I can judge,
dole out punishment.
I can conspire.
I can anthropomorphize.

What do I deserve?
Why do I deserve it?

I looked it up, and apparently germs and sugar have nothing to do with canker sores. I just assumed they did. I guess it's more likely that I brushed my teeth too hard, or that I'm stressed. Who knew?

The second was inspired by a particularly disappointing in-class writing assignment I received from a student. My students are in no way stupid, but when it comes to basic grammar and spelling, it does seem like the school system has often failed them.

Grading

Fringed looseleaf paper is
where careers go
to die.

I saw the best minds of
a generation spelled
wrong.

Back in my day
we never did--
No.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Worked Working Work

That word looks weird now. Work.

I'm doing lots of work. Yesterday I didn't do lots of work. I mean, except the part where I taught my classes and went to office hours. That was work. I had my kids talk about Twilight and feminism. And evaluating sources. I'm the cool teacher. Deal with it.

(They're not going to think I'm so cool when I make them read Freud's The Uncanny.)

Later I had dinner with Austin, then I went to the Frog with Olivia + many good people.

Now I have to do work.

We had last Monday off, so our first Forms of Poetry class will be this Monday. Before class, we have to read roughly 100 pages of William Carlos Williams, watch a documentary about WCW, and write a 2-3 page essay about his concept of imagination. I just finished watching the documentary. The only poems of Williams' that I've read before are the two that everyone reads: "This is Just to Say" and "The Red Wheelbarrow." Needless to say, I never found him particularly interesting. I was never inclined to read any of his other poems. But now I sort of want to! Lots of his other poems were in the documentary, and I liked them much better. He apparently wrote a poem called "Paterson" that goes on for five volumes and is a sort of hodge-podge of poetry and articles and letters, which is similar to the style of fiction that I like to write (at least sometimes). Why don't they ever assign any of his other work in school?

Austin and I were actually discussing this last night. I think that people might like poetry a lot more in general if they were exposed to more of it--more modern poetry, more experimental poetry, etc. The only poems I can remember reading in high school are the two WCW poems I mentioned before, Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "The Hollow Men," Frost's "The Road Not Taken," some of Shakespeare's sonnets, and--strangely--John Donne's "Batter my heart, three-person'd God." I probably read some more in Brother Tom's AP Lit class, but I don't remember what. Why are these the only poems people seem to read in school? There is so much more poetry out there, and yet I've read almost none of it, probably because I never read any poetry that appealed to me because I was exposed to so little. (Although I must admit I think "The Hollow Men" is a great poem, mostly because it's creepy.) I wonder if it's just a cycle--some teachers decided that these would go in the curriculum, and then the people who learned those poems only knew those poems, so when they became teachers they chose to teach those poems, and so on. I'm sure it's more complicated than that, but still. Also, why all the emphasis on what a poem means? Sometimes words are just words that mean what they mean. Words that are carefully chosen and carefully placed. They don't have to be symbols.

Rant complete.

Anyway, while I was doing all that not-working yesterday, I was also not blogging. So now I'm back where I was the other day: I need to do four days of double poems to catch up. Today shall be one of those days.

First: a pantoum that I wrote during office hours because I didn't have an internet connection. Actually, it's an almost-pantoum. I cheated at the end. Not sure it makes much sense, but at least I finished it, because I failed the last time I tried to write a pantoum.

New Office

Excess is peering in my window.
My computer doesn't work.
The air inside is gray.
No caffeine is ever enough.

My computer doesn't work
the way it should.
No caffeine is ever enough
to keep my circuits going.

The way it should
be is the only way
to keep my circuits going,
but it's too ideal.

Be is the only way
to exist, isn't it?
But it's too ideal;
We can never really hope

to exist. Isn't it
funny how two worlds
we can never really hope
to live in line up?

Funny how two worlds
can show us how
to live in line. Up
on the mountains who

can show us how
excess is peering in my window?
On the mountains how
the air outside is gray.

Second: a joke. Don't worry, William Carlos Williams. I fixed it for you.

Service

so much depends
upon

those three white
bands

bright life semi
circles

above date and
time.

Correction: In Wednesday's post, I referred to a certain "I-forget-who" writing a poem in which all the words began with the letter "u." Austin has informed me that said poem was written by Christian Bök, and that the only vowel used in the poem was "u," rather than the first letter of each word. One of these days I'll learn to pay more attention and write these names down when I hear them...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

If you can't say something nice...

...don't say nothing at all.

That sage advice was given to us in poetry workshop today by our professor, Donald Revell, by way of Thumper from Bambi. Remember that movie?

I can't remember if I've ever described Don on here before, but it should be fairly easy. Imagine the most stereotypical poetry professor you possibly can. That's all. You've got it. Impressive mustache, tweed jackets, constantly smoking a pipe. He's very funny--I know I'm going to enjoy his lectures. I'm still intimidated about writing poetry for class, but Olivia reminded me not to psych myself out today, and I know she's right. I'll probably do better if I'm not thinking too hard about it.

Other gems from my workshop notes (two pages--for a workshop!):
  • Things are where they are, and the words in a poem are where you put them.
  • "Composition by division" is how to write a poem. Compose your divisions and divide your compositions. 
  • No new consequence? No new line.
  • Poetry is the activity of the evidence. (A quote from someone I didn't catch.)
  • Silliness is okay in poems. Stupidity is not.
  • All great art is difficult. No great art is obscure. 
Have fun puzzling all that out with me.

Speaking of poetry, I wrote two poems for today. I am determined to catch up! No slacking allowed. This first one was inspired by workshop, in which we are supposed to write poems that originate in the near-at-hand. It was also inspired by the fact that I desperately need to go bra shopping.

Colors

Hot pink zebra-striped bra
used to make me feel sexy
used and stretched, hanging
in my closet.

Mass-produced Buddhist prayer flags
red yellow green white blue
dangling above the door
of a superstitious atheist.

Nighttime eggshell pockmarked walls
soft and low-lit and old
sturdy but not solid
framing a temporary home.

Last night I was out with Austin, Michael, and Denise, and they were talking about how words with the letter "u" in them often sound bad or gross, or have bad/gross connotations. Then Austin was reading a poem by I-forget-who, in which every word began with the letter "u." So I tried to imitate that, sort of, using words that have a "u" sound in the middle. It's somewhat nonsensical, but that's okay.

Brought to You by the Letter "U"

Glum nuns glut fun:
punt sluts, gunky cunts
just junk.
shrug

Rough mutts run,
tough bums slum, shuffle,
flung bunching bugs, slugs.
Sun-slung dung crunches.

Snug-hung mug.

Shunning pun.
Sum.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Head Hanging in Shame

I am so far behind on my January poetry writing! However, I had the best reason in the world to fall behind: the lovely Gena came to visit, and we activity-d it up. Yeah, that's right. I just made "activity" a verb. Deal with it.

Things we did: The Frog (obviously--multiple times), hiking in Red Rocks (finally! I've been meaning to get out there for so long), a dressed-to-the-nines night out on Fremont (Downtown Cocktail Room, The Griffin, Atomic Liquors), a casual night wandering the Strip (MGM Grand to New York-New York to Excalibur to Luxor to Mandalay Bay, then back through those and on to Crystals Mall to Cosmopolitan to Bellagio, ending with two spectacular fountain shows), KISS Mini-Golf (totally worth it), the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay (not worth it, even with the two-for-one ticket deal), and a party at Joleen's.

By far my favorite part of Gena's visit, however (besides seeing her beautiful face), was our day trip to Hoover Dam. In Gothic class last semester, we talked about the concept of the sublime as a combination of terrifying and beautiful--something so vast and amazing that it's scary yet pleasurable to view and contemplate. I think the Hoover Dam qualifies as sublime. I want to say it's tucked away in the mountains, but how can it truly be "tucked away" when it's so gigantic? Our tour took us 50 stories beneath the earth into the tunnels that they built to divert the Colorado River while they were constructing the dam, to the oddly elegant power plant with its original terrazzo floors, to the top of the dam itself. You can look right over the edge, all the way down the not-quite featureless concrete wall to the churning river below. On the other side of the dam, you can see the effect that a years-long drought has had on Lake Mead--a sharp, straight white water line along the red mountains. And all around the dam are other dazzling testaments to human industry--power lines constructed at strange angles to keep the wires from touching the dam walls, wildly curving roads, art-deco statues. When you walk from one side of the dam to the other, you pass from Nevada into Arizona. The women's restroom is in Arizona.

Pictures can't do it justice, but this is one of my favorites that I took:

Speaking of Gena, she wrote today's story on our fiction/poetry blog All Together Now. Her story is based on my story from Friday, and Leta's story this Friday will be based on Gena's! If you're not reading, now's a good time to jump in.

Oh, by the way, the spring semester started today. The first thing I did was teach. I'm teaching two sections of English 102 this semester, right in a row. We're allowed to make themes for our classes, so mine is horror. I think it went over fairly well with the students. None of them seem to be troublesome thus far. I wasn't nervous at all. On the other hand, today was pretty easy--just going over the syllabus, etc. Tomorrow I have to plan Thursday's class. I wonder if they know how underprepared we are?

This evening I had my first Literary Theory class. Scatterbrained is not the correct word for our professor--Dr. Becker definitely knows what she is talking about. Honestly, she's so intelligent it's almost intimidating. I can't imagine knowing any subject quite so thoroughly. She keeps quoting these theorists from memory. However, she seems not to be too troubled with issues like chronological order, which can make for messy note-taking. That's not too big a deal, though. I also have no idea what criteria she's looking for in the papers we have to write; I get the impression that she doesn't want us to take one critical theory approach and apply it to a piece of literature, but that's about the only impression I get. I suppose I'll just have to talk to her more and figure it out. In today's class we basically covered everything from Plato to Nietzsche, which seems ridiculous except that we're mainly going to be focusing on 20th century critics like Derrida and Barthes and Kristeva and De Man, which I'm pretty damn excited about. It's going to be a wonderful challenge. Brain gymnastics!

Ok. Poem. How many days did I miss? Four? I'll try to post two poems on some days to make up for it. But not today. I honestly don't know where this came from. My mind is weird. Enjoy.

That's the Spirit

I have a stomachache. 
            You're having too much fun!
                                                    beer!
                                                     sex!
            Your body is not made
            for such joy.
            Better to be quiet
                                 serious
                                  alone

I have a headache.
            You're thinking too hard!
                                               fast!
                                            broad!
            Your brain is not made
            for philosophy.
            Better to be soft
                                 blank
                                 dumb

But--
            All smiles.
All smiles.

I shall slit my throat!
            That's the spirit!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

FRIENDIVERSARY

Gena is coming today for our two-year friendiversary! So. Excited.

Sometimes I wonder if you're all getting sick of reading this, since I've been posting every single day in January because of the poems, rather than once or twice a week. I actually kind of like posting every day, since I can dwell more on small, thoughtful things rather than run through a list of all the week's events--I'm a busy woman! But what do you think, dear readers?

In case you are bored--"Becky, please stop blogging about sitting in your room"--let me tell you the saga of getting Olivia home from the airport last night. It was quite an adventure. Her flight got delayed over and over, so she got into Vegas after 10 p.m., when she was supposed to get in at 4 p.m. I picked her up, but I had to park and go inside to get her because she had so much luggage. After heroically squeezing both bags into my tiny car, we drove out to her neighborhood, which is relatively far from my place, and what do we discover? Her gated community has removed its keypad--and she doesn't have a clicker to open the gate. Because it's in her car. In her garage. Why did they do this? Perhaps we'll never know.

As much as white privilege is a real and horrible thing that should never go unexamined, occasionally it comes in handy. Like when you're two young white girls trying to convince a stranger to let you into a gated community by driving in the out-gate. At any rate, we got Olivia to her house and all was well. I can't wait to actually hang out with her more tonight. I have been Olivia-deprived for far too long.

Yesterday was chill and restful and (perhaps too) sedentary, and I think that is reflected in the poem I wrote for today. Whatever you think of the content (and I don't know what I think about it), it's fun to read aloud. At least in my opinion.

Those Days

Oh, those days
when your legs feel like rocks
and your brain feels like a grill
with nothing to cook.
Try reading a book
you say to yourself.
Not say--think
Why would you speak?
Everyone's here
Everyone's not here

Sound-images, unique
to each person.
Is my bed the same as yours?
My tea? My cat?
Black or green? Gray or black?
No need to explain
on those days,
when your eyes are
Internet dry
and your back's in pain
from sitting too long in your bed--
which might not be the same
as mine.

Waiting
Waiting
Waiting
Waiting for time
to pass
until!
Waiting

Oh, those days
when a good stretch
is as good as
traveling in Europe,
constantly on the move
climbing stairs
counting the stairs
staring down at
the oldest ground
you ever saw.
Oh, those days
when your toes
are like Europe.
You stare at your toes.
Oh, those days
when your toes are
a destination.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Frozen Yogurt

That's what I ate today. Know why? Because it's warm enough for frozen yogurt. Las Vegas can be a beautiful place sometimes.

Jamison and Shaun are finally back from break, so last night I joined them and Austin at the Frog. It was just like old times. Old times being not-even-a-month ago. In all honesty, though, it's nice to have the whole little gang reunited.

Except that the gang is not truly reunited, for we are missing one important person: Olivia! Fortunately, she is arriving today. I'm picking her up at the airport (obviously--I don't even know why I'm bothering to write that), but she has sadly been experiencing some travel delays, so I'll have to wait a few more hours for a hug.

Guess who I'm picking up at the airport tomorrow? The lovely Gena! Visiting all the way from snowy Chicago. We are going to do so many awesome things, but I'll wait to write about them because they haven't actually happened yet. Or have they? Does tomorrow already exist? Is it all predetermined? I'll leave you to these philosophical questions and move on.

I spent all morning working on my 102 syllabus. It was time-consuming and boring. Be prepared, kids: my syllabi are never going to change for the next few years, just so that I don't have to make them up again. That's probably a lie. I don't know.

For today's poem, I took words from book titles again and arranged them artfully. Or whatever. These books are the ones that have been arriving on my doorstep incessantly for the past few weeks; the three classes I'm taking this semester require a great deal of reading. Also, today I received Donna Tartt's newest novel, The Goldfinch, in the mail, because Ben is a crazy person and also a crazy nice person and got me a present. (He knows all too well that I'm mildly obsessed with her novel The Secret History.) Thanks, Ben! So I included that book as well.

The poem is below. I have more work to do, but first I think I'm going to dance around a lot because I am so incredibly tired of sitting. Enjoy:

Found Philosophy

The lost murmur mythologies--
collected cane
goldfinch imaginations
lives' close.
Trilogy:
a theory of order

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sore-Backed and Puffy-Eyed

I haven't seen many of the critically acclaimed movies this year, and I like to know what they're talking about when I watch the Oscars, so last night I decided to stream 12 Years a Slave. I've been wanting to see this film for a while, but it's not one of those movies where you can easily organize a group to go see it. "Hey, y'all! Let's go see the horrifying slavery movie! It'll be fun! LOL!" Yeah, not so much. As the proud holder of a Bachelor's degree in History, I have this problem a lot. The same thing happened when I wanted to see Downfall--Hitler's last days in the bunker and the poisoning of innocent children isn't exactly palatable fare for most people. That's why I chose to skip the theater and stream this one online--I suspect this film's doing just fine with money, anyway, with all the aforementioned critical acclaim. Ultimately, I think in-my-bed-alone was the best circumstance in which to watch it, because I just ugly-cried into my pillow half the time. Seriously, this film is so good. It is unforgiving on the viewer, which is just what it should be. It needs to win all the awards. All of them.

Hence the puffy eyes. Hopefully those will go away in the shower.

I spent this morning writing the last part of Chapter 6 of my novel. Normally I'm more of an afternoon writer than a morning writer, but hey, sometimes you have to shake things up. It came out easier than I thought it would, which is nice. It reveals something critical to the plot, which even the main character doesn't notice at first. These parts of the novel are, in a way, the easiest and hardest to write. Easiest because you're looking forward to writing them, because they're exciting. Hardest because you want to get them just right. Then there's the parts of the novel that you don't look forward to writing--not filler, exactly, but events that need to occur even though they're not particularly exciting. Easy because they're usually shorter than the significant portions, hard because you're inclined to rush through them.

I wrote in bed, so that's the source of the sore back. Often when I write I get into this zone where nothing moves except my pen; the rest of my muscles tense up. Not so pleasant. Hopefully that will go away when I go running, which I should do soon!

The onslaught of emails from this semester's professors has finally begun, encouraging us to read before class starts. The list from our theory professor is especially hefty, but that's okay. I'll figure it out. I guess I asked for it. See my post from yesterday.

Today's poem is actually me brainstorming for a story I want to write, loosely inspired by the Wikipedia entry about the Texas Vampires that Leta sent me. I want to combine it somehow with the story of the founding of Zion, IL that I mentioned the other day, with the crazy faith healer and whatnot. But I think it would be set in modern times. The problem is that I was trying to write parts of it in short flash pieces from different perspectives, but I have a horrible suspicion that it needs to be written more as a novella. I'm reading The Master and Margarita, and I'm thinking it might have that same kind of zany vibe. I don't know that I have the energy to write a novel and a novella. Not that I have to write them at the same time, but I kind of want to? I really want to say #writerproblems right now, but now you're all going to yell at me for using a hashtag in a blog entry, where it doesn't even work. Yes, yes, I know. I'm being ruined by Twitter. Whatever.

So, can you brainstorm a story with a poem? I don't know, and I don't care, because I did it anyway. Enjoy:

God's Research

It is God's will
--that shriek--
when the scientist-vampires come
and prick you with their needles.

Otherwise you must not speak.

One of them drinks your blood
right out of the glass vial,
tongue tasting for
mutant genes,
pathogens.
He wants to catch
your disease.

You think this could be love.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Too Much Relaxation?

Can I just state that one of my favorite things about my triumphant return to academic life is having a break this long? I think it's especially useful for creative writers, since it gives us so much time to generate new content. But I wish that everyone could take a slightly-more-than-month-long break a few times a year, no matter their line of work. I don't think my 9-to-5 would have been quite so onerous and, quite frankly, soul-crushing if there had been lengthy vacations to look forward to. And I had a pretty cushy 9-to-5! I was one of the lucky ones! Of course, we might be in trouble if doctors and firefighters and such all took breaks at the same time for so long. Couldn't they stagger it, though?

Hm. My capitalist-to-a-fault parents probably aren't going to like the above paragraph. Hi Mom & Dad!

I have to say, though, that after all this rest and relaxation, I'm looking forward to the semester starting up again. There's something to be said for a regular schedule. (See--long breaks might make people want to do their soul-crushing jobs!) I know, I know. Pull out the thousands of tiny violins to dolefully accompany my terrible plight. I assure you, I am 118% grateful for and am thoroughly enjoying the free time while I still have it.

I've noticed that I've developed a habit over the past year or so: when I wake up in the morning, I spend at least a half hour, but usually more, reading articles on the internet. The subject matter runs the gamut: politics, feminism, advice columns, entertainment, fashion, history, philosophy--I read it all. But I can't figure out why I started doing it. Maybe it's because I finally got an iPhone so all my apps work well. This whole thing usually starts with me scrolling through my Twitter feed. Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting observation.

Last night I picked Michael up from the airport, and later he, Austin, and I went to Stake Out to catch up. We tried to go to the Frog, but it was hip hop night? Which is apparently a thing there now? So we talked and drank PBRs and had a generally good time. Then Austin and I watched the final episode of Sherlock season 3 and all I can say is WOW it is good. I won't say anything about it since I know it hasn't aired in the U.S. yet. I honestly think Sherlock is better for Moffat than Doctor Who is. The character of Sherlock Holmes lends itself more to the ridiculously dramatic reveals of which Moffat is so fond.

Now I think I'll grab some late lunch and read and write and have a generally pleasant day. But first, here is today's poem (a tritina again--I had fun with that last time):

A Night Out

Have you ever been the only
one in a crowded bar? No
concentric circles, no venn diagrams, just

barely-brushing diameters. It's not just
that liquor thickens your tongue. That's only
part of what keeps you awkward. No

designated driver duties tonight, no
reason to stay sober, since socializing just
isn't your thing, apparently. It's only

one night, only every night, no need to wonder if it's just

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Meh

Feeling a little meh today. Not physically--emotionally. It really is the strangest thing. I never used to be so mood-swingy in Chicago. Emotions are stupid. (Can I truly have just made the most blatantly reductive statement of 2014 so early on in the year?) Maybe exercise will help. I'm going to go running soon.

I am pleased to report that I was indeed productive after yesterday's blog post. I danced for an hour, and I wrote another section of my novel. It wasn't the lengthy, difficult-to-write part that I have been dreading, but it's good that I wrote this part because I've been feeling that Chapter 6 might not be long enough. Now it will be.

I just read this amazing article in The Believer about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan skating scandal that happened when I was a little kid. I obviously don't actually remember much of it, but I'm an avid watcher of the Olympics, so I've heard the story told over and over. But this article is interesting because it points out that there is no actual evidence Tonya Harding ever planned the attack on Kerrigan. The only thing she was convicted of was not coming forward with evidence against her horribly abusive husband sooner, which she claims she didn't do because her husband was, you know, horribly abusive and threatened her with a gun and such. Anyway, the whole story is like an awful, fascinating train wreck. You should read it.

Guess what I'm doing later today? Picking someone up from the airport! Who could have guessed? It will be nice to have Michael back, though. Last I heard he was chopping wood somewhere in California?

Anyway, I also wrote a poem yesterday, of course. It's about a dress with the universe on it. It was inspired by the fact that I bought a dress with the universe on it. (Thanks for the ModCloth gift certificate, Mom & Dad!) Just part of my lifelong aspiration to be half as cool as Ms. Frizzle. Hope you enjoy it:

Universe Dress

I bought a dress
with the universe on it.
What could be more fashionable
than infinity?
It takes a special kind of person
to wear the cosmos
so gracefully,
but I've never had any trouble
with black holes
or supernovas
or asteroids.
My light is constant--
low but strong.
When I wear the dress,
they all want
to explore me.
But I'm light years ahead
of the human race.
My dress and I are waiting
for you
to build a better spaceship.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tweet Tweet

Yesterday was quite wonderful. It involved reading and running and grilling and Sherlock. Seriously, I can't think of how one could do much better than that. (I am loving the modern Mary Morstan character, by the way! She is fab.) It has been so refreshing to get outside of my apartment.

Today I have been oh-so-lazy. The vast majority of my day has literally consisted of dozing and watching old episodes of Project Runway. Also, looking at ModCloth, because my mom gave me a gift certificate for Christmas.

The time has come, however, to give up all things lazy. Must work out, must write next section of novel. Later, must get sushi and drink whiskey for Austin's birthday. Must complete this blog entry.

And in order to do so, I must post the poem-of-the-day, as usual. I decided to write a twitter poem, and actually tweet it, so the screen shots are below. Each stanza/tweet is exactly 140 characters. Enjoy!






Friday, January 10, 2014

Mental Health Day(s?)

I've been writing so much lately that I'm afraid I'll get burned out, so yesterday, while I didn't do zero writing (had to write today's poem, after all), I did a lot of other things. I watched some mindless TV, I picked Austin up at the airport (my life as the unofficial UNLV MFA McCarran Airport Chauffeur continues), Lulu and I LEFT THE HOUSE and went to the Frog for dinner (J.D. gave us a piece of his maple-bacon birthday cake--yum!), I read comics (finished up Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days, specifically). It was delightful.

Will I do more writing today? That remains to be seen. I definitely want to go running. I definitely want to read some more of The Master and Margarita. I need a good, solid chunk of time to write the next section of my novel--I can tell it's going to take a while.

In mildly disturbing news, some asshole scrawled a bunch of misogynist, hateful shit about my roommate (not by name, but by description) on one of the stairs leading to our apartment. I haven't experienced any harassment based solely on the fact that I have a vagina in a while, so I guess it's about due, as depressing as that reality may be. I lived in a big city for years--I've been catcalled, followed, and groped by horrible people more times than I can count. Not that women who don't live in cities are never harassed. Like I said, that kind of just goes along with having a vagina. Neither Lulu nor I have been directly confronted by anyone, so unless something else happens, I think we're just going to try to scrub it out. It was probably just some dumbass kid. Furthermore, I've got pepper spray and Lulu has a taser, so I'm not sure we're the ones who should be afraid.

Anyway, this unfortunate incident provided inspiration for today's poem.

We've Come So Far

Slurs scrawled on a staircase.
Do you think that will scare us?
Those slurs were scrawled on us
as little girls.

Since then:
We've come to terms
with too-solid
shadows
that only appear at night.
We've had unwanted
hands
We've had unwanted
tongues
--and worse!--
in all our softest places.

Your words mean nothing.
They are the whir of a wireless router.
They are the instruction booklet no one reads.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

pure energy I store

Last night I was reading some poems by Denise Levertov in the anthology that Gena loaned me, and I liked most of them immensely. Her turns of phrase are beautiful. I especially liked "The Ache of Marriage," "The Wings," "Stepping Westward," and "Where is the Angel?" Lovely.

The Northern Lights are supposed to be visible much farther south than normal, but according to the maps, it doesn't look like they'll get all the way down to Vegas. This is a shame. I'd be up for driving out into the desert to have a look. I've only seen the Northern Lights once. It was right after 9/11--I was walking Leta down the street back to her house, and we saw the sky all dusted in pink and green, and we thought it was bio-terrorism. 

Writing was awful last night. My brain simply did not want to cooperate. It was okay earlier in the evening, but as time went on, everything became a distraction. Finally at about midnight I pulled it together and wrote for a little while. Then I couldn't stop writing, even though I wanted to sleep.

Earlier in the day I wrote a villanelle for my next poem. But then at about 1:30 a.m. I had a much better idea for a poem, so I wrote another. Well, I don't know if it's really a much better idea, but it's more honest. My villanelle is all form, no content. I'll link to the villanelle in a Google Doc here, if you still want to read it, but I like my early a.m. poem much more:

Reminders

That song is on
the radio again,
the oldies station--
"cry-ee-y-ee-n for you."
What's it called?
Everyone was crying
for each other
back then. And you,
                  the universe
remind me to download that app
one more time.

I'm having conversations
with no one again.
Not no one--
future people, from
tomorrow's parties.
I plan out what
to say
to them. And you,
                  the universe
remind me that now is now
one more time.

That urge is in
my head again,
insatiable--
writewritewritewritewrite
It's 2 a.m.
Reluctantly,
I grab my
pen. And you,
                  the universe
remind me to be grateful
one more time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Residency Week 1: Accomplishments

Today marks one week since I returned to Las Vegas and started my own personal writers residency. Let's take a look at what I have achieved:
  • One (1) erasure of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"
  • Seven (7) poems (including the poem that appears at the bottom of this post)
  • Three (3) flash fiction pieces
  • Over 2,000 new words written in my novel
  • Substantial editing/rewriting of the first five chapters of the novel
It honestly seems like I should have accomplished more. Of course, I also worked out every day, and ran errands when I needed to. Furthermore, I've read part of "Paradise Lost," part of The Master and Margarita, and some of the works of various postmodern American poets. I have barely watched any mindless television--only when eating, and not every day at that.

Sometimes I forget that writing can be quite a slog. It seems like you should be able to write faster than you actually can. Even when you feel like you've written a lot, spent hours writing, it turns out you're written far less than you think.

Oh well. Ultimately I think I've done a decent job. Over the next few weeks, as my fellow MFA-ers join me in Sin City, I imagine that my social life will re-emerge to a certain extent. Nevertheless, I am still determined to make January 2014 one of the most productive months of my life thus far.

Yesterday I went to see Disney's Frozen, because so many of my friends recommended it. (Don't worry--I stayed up writing until almost 2 a.m. to make up for lost time.) I was not as charmed as everyone else seems to be! The message was good (Hey little girls--remember how we said that Prince Charming would just suddenly appear and that he'd sweep you off your feet and you'd immediately get married? Yeah, we were lying. Let's make up for that!), and the animation was gorgeous. However, Elsa's story was grossly underdeveloped. I wanted to see more of her struggle to control her powers. It seemed like she simply existed as a reason for the town to be frozen, so Anna could learn some stuff about life. And so she could sing a blatant "Defying Gravity" rip-off. And when it comes to the score, why was it so inconsistent? Some of the songs sound like broadway, some of them sound like old-fashioned Disney songs, some of them sound like bad pop songs, some of them sound vaguely tribal, some of them sound vaguely tropical, some of them sound vaguely Scottish, some of them are completely forgettable, and why--as Gena pointed out--did they stop entirely in the middle of the film? I guess all the high praise for the film made my expectations too high.

I loved the barely-hidden dick joke, though. Way to go, Disney writers.

In other news, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used a screenshot of one of my tweets in an article about Alex Trebek rapping "Jeopardy!" clues. So, yeah. That's a thing that happened.

Okay, onto today's poem. I must confess, I wasn't trying very hard when I wrote this one. I wanted to move on to writing more of my novel, and I was afraid I'd be too intellectually exhausted afterwards to write the poem, so I banged it out pretty quickly. It's more mesostics. It's based on yesterday's grocery list. Click the link below for the Google Doc. Enjoy.

Groceries

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Polar Vortex

A salute to all my friends who are soldiering on through the current polar vortex. I almost feel guilty that I escaped the Midwest before it set in. On the other hand, I almost wish I were there, snowed into my apartment, working from home and donning 6-10 layers just to get groceries. Snowmageddon 2011 was so fun, after all. That was one of the best birthdays I've ever had.

Of course, I recognize that I'm speaking from a position of warm weather privilege. The high in Vegas is 63 degrees today. I'm going to go running. Outside. In a t-shirt. So I guess all I have the right to say is: good luck to all those of you in Chiberia! Or Choth, or whatever other portmanteau you want to use.

Yesterday I wrote a new section of my novel for the first time in...let me think. Probably at least a year and a half? It felt great to do so. Let's hope I can keep churning it out! Along with other stories, of course. I've been plotting out a few flash fiction pieces involving the history of Zion, IL. It's right near where I grew up, and all my life I never knew that it was founded by this insane faith healer named John Alexander Dowie, who banned medicine and cigarettes and alcohol and theater, who was challenged to a prayer duel by a prominent leader of an Islamic sect, and who is supposedly buried beneath 6 feet of concrete so that he cannot rise again. Why don't people who are aware of this stuff--namely, my parents--think that this is relevant to my interests? I love bizarre history! I used to perform in musicals in an auditorium that's still named after him! Just think of all the story fodder I can get out of this stuff.

Remember the poem I wrote the other day, about the unhappy marriage, and how I said I based it off a flash piece I wrote? Well, now you can read said flash piece on All Together Now! Again, this is the fiction/poetry/whatever-other-way-you-want-to-write blog that Leta, Gena, and I started. We failed to keep up with it last year, but a new year calls for renewed determination. There will be a new post every Tuesday and Friday. There's a handy link to it on the right side of this blog. I think Gena's writing the next one, if I recall correctly. Rumor has it that it will be a poem.

Speaking of poems, it's time for my poem-of-the-day. This time I wrote an ode to my spirit animal, David Bowie. I literally copied the rhyme scheme of John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," but whereas he never repeated an end rhyme, I accidentally did, BECAUSE I'M NO KEATS, OKAY? So sue me. Anyway, here it is:

Ode to David Bowie

A shapeshifter and timeshifter who glows
with innovation ever in his head,
no matter red or white. Your music shows
revision prevents one from living dead.
A voice that swims so low and rockets high
that it could be two different people. Two
who master synthesizer and guitar,
the alien and son of man, they who
look up and down this earth with mismatched eyes
and sing the mysteries of who we are. 

When born you must have been a mystery.
A glitter starman, bitch, Aladdin Sane,
soul lover, diamond rebel, him, her, me.
All those who knew the truth sang your refrain.
And when the milk and peppers were too much,
to Germany you flew with all your friends,
at music's altar, altered us once more,
and saved yourself, and also died as such.
You DJ rose, you swung the boys with lore
of damaged carpets. Beauty, beast that ends

not in one decade, for in decade new
you changed your hair, your clothes, again the world
cried out for you, for something to dance to.
And dance we did--our toes were tightly curled
inside red shoes. We danced in the moonlight,
we lived as cats and burned the whole place down.
We danced in modern labyrinth, could see
our children dancing, hairspray heads alight
with something better. You, a teacher-clown
on silver screen, on stage, on MTV.

You never stop, do you? With heavy bass
you thumped us into newer, stranger times.
Technology was yours, and it erased
you whole, and sketched you, made you rhyme
with Nine Inch Nails and nine-eleven. Your
new music loved us in new ways, old ways.
An aging alien, a god, a fool.
When death did try to make you mortal, soared
inside your heart, bestowed human's malaise,
you didn't die. Perhaps it was a pool

of bloody human love that saved you. And
although you disappeared, we knew it was
a temporary flight. Your ampersand
curved back around years later, and because
you taught us well, you found us waiting there,
so ready for new stars, old stars, old boss,
new scars, new loves, and newer worlds. Somehow
transporting us to the next day, you glossed
our eyes o'er with old drugs, new drugs, and where
should we dance now, king-queen? Where are we now?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bookshelves, Gay Bar, Clown Car

Yep. That title roughly sums up yesterday.

I spent the day doing what I've been doing this whole month so far--writing, reading, running. (Determined to be in good shape for the Color Run 5K in late February.) But then I got a message from my friend Sacha, who is in town with some of his friends--they were going to a gay bar, and would I like to join them? Would I ever. After being largely secluded in my apartment for days, I was dying for a little human interaction. (Not that talking with Lulu is not human interaction--it's just that she's been a wonderful, supportive roommate and has been leaving me alone so I can get work done.) Upon discovering that the gay bar in question, The Garage, was a mere four minutes from my apartment, my mind was made up.

Lulu came with, and we had a blast. It was great to catch up with Sacha, first of all, and his friends were very nice as well. The vibe of the bar was interesting. When we first got there at around 10 it was standard gay bar--dancey pop music featuring mostly female leads, we were the only ladies there, etc. But as the evening progressed, it morphed into more of an average local town type bar--huge mixed crowd, classic rock, and so on. It was still hopping when we finally left at 2:30 a.m. Sometimes I forget that places in Las Vegas don't close.

The funniest part of the evening came when Lulu and I drove Sacha and his friends back to their hotel--Hooters, to be specific. How many delightful gay men can you fit in the backseat of a VW Beetle convertible? The answer is four, my friends, assuming those in the front of the car move their seats as close to the dash as is physically possible. Despite the discomfort, we got them there safely, and they all piled out of my impromptu clown car. A good night was had by all.

You are probably wondering about my poem-of-the-day. Do not fear! I have written it. That's where "bookshelves" come in. In order to write this poem, I took one word from the spine of each book on each shelf of my bookshelves and arranged them to have some sort of possible meaning. Only in three instances did I use words that were not in the titles of the books (the publisher's name or promotional quip, etc.), so I was proud of myself in that regard. The words in I are from the books on the top shelf, the words in II are from the middle shelf, and the words in III are from the bottom shelf (including the articles and prepositions). Why did I choose to write my poem this way? I have no idea. Probably because I was staring at my bookshelf, freaking out that there are so many books to read in life and so little time. Enjoy.

Bookshelves

I.

to turn American tales
witness complication
keep an invisible
lash astonishing stories
game reason
plot the pajamas of
complete adventures

II.

in American tales
boys
odyssey
men
a metamorphosis
rivals:
magicians catch king
omens neverwhere
theory over paradise
the project of
human
end

III.

brief women
v.
vintage man
from secret empires drain history
in the ballad for monsters
life seller
and
poor atonement
time to
show animals
or
kill bodies

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What Makes a Poem?

While my own personal writers residency has been extremely productive (yesterday I wrote two poems, two flash fiction pieces, and kept editing/rewriting parts of my novel, not to mention reading, not to mention working out, not to mention writing a blog entry), I do feel like I might be losing my mind. Do you ever get that feeling, when you're working hard intellectually, like your brain might overheat? Or like how your muscles feel after you've lifted several heavy boxes up a flight of stairs? It feels good, but at the same time it makes me feel tired. Not tired, exactly, but like I'm in some kind of mental fog generated by thinking too much. Anyway, Joe asked if I could pick him up from the airport yesterday and I was SO EXCITED to leave my apartment and just drive around for a little while. Slow, therapeutic airport circles.

After I posted my blog entry on Facebook yesterday, a long, fascinating discussion ensued about prose poems vs. flash fiction, what makes a poem a poem and prose prose, and why it matters. It gave me a lot to think about. I'll sort of continue that discussion here, with my next poem.

This poem was inspired by a flash fiction piece I wrote that will appear Tuesday for the grand re-launch of All Together Now, the tangent-based fiction blog I started with Leta and Gena. (Shameless plug.) Actually, I can't really say it's a fiction blog. It's mostly fiction, but there's poetry and experimental forms on there, too. So I took the story that I wrote for Tuesday and arranged it as I imagine it might be arranged if it were a poem:

Grounds for Divorce

bad breath
television
washing-machined bras, warped

personalities, lifted from
fiction
pornography--together, apart

cats
allergies

old mattress
relatives
weight watchers, always watching

credit card debt, a newfound interest in religion
hamburger helper, conflicting astrological signs

The final stanza is copied verbatim from my flash fiction piece, except that it's arranged as a stanza as opposed to a paragraph. (Hey Zach--I finally wrote one without sentences!) Now, the first thing I noticed--and you'll have to take my word for it, as you don't get to read the story until Tuesday--is that the story is sort of darkly funny, whereas this poem is sad.

Why did the poem turn out sad, but the story turned out funny? I wrote them both, they're based off the same idea.  If I wanted to, I'm sure I could write the story as sad using prose. The story is written in an off-the-cuff, spoken manner, like a one-sided conversation. Does that make a difference? The titles are different. Does that make a difference? Would it make a difference if I wrote the story as a list?

Grounds for Divorce
  • Bad breath
  • Unchanged toilet paper rolls
  • Television
  • Washing machine-warped bras
  • Fake
  • Watching porn with me
  • Watching porn without me
  • Cats--scratching, allergies
  • Old mattress
  • Relatives
  • Weight watchers
  • Credit card debt
  • Newfound interest in religion
  • Hamburger Helper
  • Conflicting astrological signs
This, to me, seems funnier again. Maybe the idea that someone would literally make a list about something so serious is funny.

Conclusion: form matters. I'm at a loss, though--I'm confused as to how I'd make the poem funny. (I don't consider the list a poem. I write list stories all the time. But maybe somebody else does consider it a poem.) Poems can obviously be funny. I've read funny poems. Maybe this story just does not make for a funny poem. Maybe this story isn't a story when it's in the form of a poem--maybe the poem is just a written picture of something more static, a single situation, and the situation is sad, even if you tell it in a funny way. Or something. Thoughts?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Word Games

My friend Dina posted an article from The Atlantic called "This is Anxiety" on Facebook last night. You all should give it a read. I know from experience that it's difficult to explain my anxiety to people who do not experience anxiety, which I can understand; it must be like someone with preternatural athletic ability explaining to me how easy it is to throw a football. But I think this article, by letting people tell their own stories, does a good job highlighting just how varied the experiences of anxious people are, how most of them seem like good, normal, funny people. Because we are good, normal, funny people, I flatter myself to say. I feel fortunate that my anxiety is of the type where I don't get nervous about doing things--I just get nervous about things that probably aren't happening within my own body. I know they probably aren't happening, but it doesn't matter. Knowing has nothing to do with it. In a way I'm grateful for my anxiety; I panic less if I keep myself constantly busy, and because I keep myself constantly busy I end up doing so many amazing things. I sometimes feel like my anxiety forces me to live life more than other people do. Anyway, I won't say much more about it, except that if you're trying to understand my personal anxiety, read the section of the article written by J.W. Garrity of Massachusetts. That's basically me in a nutshell, right down to the scotch.

Anyway, on to writing-related things. Yesterday I looked at my novel for the first time in forever. I am pleased to report that it read very much like a real novel should. Sometimes it's hard to believe it came out of my head. I am resolved to keep working on it. If I can just get into the schedule of doing a few little sections a week, like I used to, it shouldn't be so bad.

I don't know if I'll ever workshop the novel in my program. It doesn't seem to fit, since it's targeted at a younger audience. (I'm aiming for the Harry Potter sort of audience--written for kids but potentially enjoyed by teens and adults as well.) It's not written to be the NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, all booze-soaked and depressed and insightful and psychological. It's just supposed to be an entertaining book--somewhat scary--for a younger audience that's written well. Books like the Harry Potter series meant so much to me growing up that I want to provide something similar for future generations, as sappy as that sounds. (Not that I anticipate ever experiencing the success of someone like J.K. Rowling.)

But all the fiction writers in the program write such serious adult pieces--which isn't a bad thing by any means. I like to write serious adult things, too, as should be obvious to those of you who read my gothic story. I just don't know if people here would be interested in critiquing it. Actually, I think some of them very much would--but I can think of a few who very much wouldn't. And I don't know how the fiction professors would feel about it, either.

I suppose I should write more of it and then decide. It's not in any shape to be submitted to workshop yet, anyway.

Now for poetry: I started writing a pantoum yesterday, but it wasn't working out at all. Frustrated, I wrote a Shakespearean sonnet instead, since it's a form I know off the top of my head, but it was godawful. I absolutely hated it. Fortunately, I later picked up the copy of the Postmodern American Poetry anthology that the lovely Gena loaned me. I borrowed it from her after she had me read Russell Edson's delightfully horrifying prose poem "Ape."

Speaking of which, what makes this a prose poem and not a piece of flash fiction? In the anthology it's printed differently than it is in the link I provided--the lines are closer together and in larger chunks, more like paragraphs. Is it simply the lack of quotation marks? Is it just because he decided to call it a poem? If you can call flash fiction poetry, HAVE I SECRETLY BEEN A POET THIS WHOLE TIME?!?! Seriously, though, if someone could explain to me the criteria that makes this a poem rather than a flash fiction piece, that would be great. I'm curious.

Russell Edson has nothing to do with the poem I wrote yesterday. The anthology is huge, so I'm mainly trying to read the poets that I've heard of--and there are a lot of those in this book. Since joining this program, I've heard the names of tons of poets tossed around, and I've never read any of them, and I feel like an uncultured cretin. I'm trying to remedy this.

Anyway, I was reading some of Charles Olson's poems, and right after Olson in the anthology comes John Cage. My eyes were immediately drawn to his poem "25 Mesostics Re and Not Re Mark Tobey," and I thought to myself this looks like so much fun! It's like a word game, getting everything to line up in interesting ways. I remember that when I asked Gena how to write poetry, she said to try to imitate poems that you liked, just for practice. So that is what I did. I don't know what it means--I literally just wrote down whatever came to mind. First thought best thought? Hardly. Here is my significantly shorter mimicry of a John Cage poem, appropriately titled:

Poetry Frustrates Me

(Sorry--I had to post it in a Google doc. I couldn't get it to line up right in this editor. Click the link to read!)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Goodreads and Erasures

First day of my own personal writers residency went fairly well. Since it was my first day back in Vegas I had to complete a few chores--grocery shopping, ordering my books for next semester, etc. But I still managed to get some writing and reading done.

I started working on one thing I've wanted to do since last semester, which is make an erasure of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." To be perfectly honest, I've always thought erasures seemed a bit pretentious. Oh, I'm just going to take this great piece of writing, get rid of some stuff, and call it art. However, when I was preparing my presentation on "The Yellow Wallpaper" for gothic class, I noticed several words that repeated frequently throughout the story. Oddly, "yellow" does not appear nearly as many times as you'd think it would. "Creep," on the other hand, is abundant. I was curious as to what would happen if only those words appeared, with perhaps a few other words here and there that the chosen words modified. A punctuation mark or two thrown in for good measure. And the thing is, I think it might be good. Obviously, I'm still editing it, but it's definitely creeping me out, which was the idea. Plus, it sort of tells its own story--less about crazy wallpaper and more about writing, strangely enough. It's way too long to post here, but let me know if you want to read it.

Someday I'd also like to write a critical paper about the frequent use of the color yellow in gothic fiction. Why are you even friends with me?

In other news, I finally made myself a Goodreads account, since I am both a book addict and a social media addict. Sorry if Facebook has been spamming you with updates about my Goodreads account. I have to fix the settings so that it doesn't post every little thing I do. I'm excited about the account, though, since I've been meaning to keep better track of the books I read and my opinions about them. This seems like a good way to do it.

Right now I'm reading lots of things, but last night I started Milton's "Paradise Lost," simply because I've never read it. (Admittedly, I was supposed to read it in my undergrad Renaissance Literature class, but, you know, sometimes you just don't have time to read everything you're assigned.) Thoughts so far: Satan seems pretty rad. Also, I remember a professor telling us that Milton read every book he could get his hands on before writing "Paradise Lost" because he felt that he couldn't tell this most important story about the fall of man without ingesting as much of man's knowledge as possible. Or something like that. I suspect this is true, since the poem is littered with references to other things. Sometimes I think he sacrifices story a little too much just to show off his vast knowledge. But who am I to critique Milton?

Speaking of poetry, it's time to post my second poem of my personal month-long poetry extravaganza. According to Zach I'm no longer allowed to call it shitty poetry, and so it shall be. Also according to Zach I should think less in terms of sentences when I'm writing poetry, but I only read his feedback after I'd written this poem, so sorry about that! (But I like sentences. How do you not write in sentences?) I decided to write a tritina, because apparently that's a thing. I stumbled across the form when I was posting the information about sestinas in my entry yesterday. Hope you enjoy it.

Cookie Exchange

Candy, cookies, sugar so sweet
in my veins. It made me sick,
relentless syrup. I was scared

I'd die. I know I'm scared
of that a lot. But words so sweet
are not nutritious. I may be sick,

but your sticky lies are sick,
too. Aren't you ever scared
your gooey gifts aren't sweet?

If I'm not sweet, then you get sick--we should be scared.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Becky Robison Writers Residency

I am pleased to announce that I have been accepted into the prestigious Becky Robison Writers Residency. It takes place in the balmy climes of Las Vegas, in the comfort of my bedroom. Here I shall writewritewritewritewrite for the next week, certainly, since (as far as I know) no other MFA-ers have returned as of yet. Once they do return, however, I still plan on being as productive as humanly possible.

My trip home to Chicago was a whirlwind of crazy fun. After Kaiser's AND DWChitown AND Improvised Shakespeare AND Murphy's AND Intelligentsia AND Moody's AND Windy City Soul Club AND Dance Central AND Christmas AND Anchorman 2 AND Another 90's Party AND FutureChristmas AND Delilah's AND James Bond New Year's Eve Party, I feel like I want to stay in my bed for the next week--in the best way possible, of course. Thanks to Meg, Gena, Mishk, Felipe, Ben, Ashley, Jane, Valy, Leets, Alex, Marc, Raphael, Dan, Tanise, parents, second parents, extended family, and anyone else I forgot for making the past two weeks so damn epic.

Now for a new January feature that will be appearing on Viva Las Becky: shitty poetry! Next semester I'm getting all my poetry credits out of the way, and I'm quite nervous about it. I'm intimidated by the idea of writing poetry, but I know that the only way to get over a fear such as this is to write poetry, and to write it often. To this end, I will be writing a poem every day in January, and I'm going to drag you along for the ride! Of course, they're all going to be off a day, since today I'll be posting the poem I wrote yesterday, and so on.

I wrote this poem on the airplane back to Vegas. It's a sestina. I tried to use my PTKY tactic of picking a person and making up a narrative of his/her/zir life, but then putting that narrative into verse. However, I don't think it ended up specific enough. Right now it reads like a horoscope--"I" and "you" could be just about anybody if you stretched it. Maybe that's a good thing, but I doubt it. It was supposed to be this businesswoman that I saw. Oh well. I'll stop making excuses now. Feedback is always useful, by the way. Here it is, in all its horrific glory:

Chronotope of an Airplane

Little red light blinking across time
zones, wings slicing the hours
that separate me from where I'm going,
where I was, and you.
When I'm up here I wonder
about the meaning of day.

Was it a good day?
Was it a good time?
Was it a wonder
to make it through the hours
at all? And do you
know where you're going?

If you're going
at all. Did I really spend all day
hoping that you
would take the time
to call? We used to talk for hours,
so I never had to wonder

if I was in your thoughts. I wonder
now, about it all. Are we going
anywhere? Those hours
we spend together--do they make a good day?
Am I just a good time?
Who are you?

Where are you?
Do you ever wonder
about all the time
we spend going
over the same day
in opposite directions, for hours?

Are your hours
different from mine? Do you
measure your day
by units of me? I wonder
if we're ever going
to sync up? Time

you watched my little red heart blinking across time
zones. The day has come for going.
Together? Away? Our hour is now. I wonder