Monday, February 24, 2014

Oh! Seattle

I wanted to link to the song that is the title of this post, but then I remembered that it's by a local band from Lake County that doesn't exist anymore and hasn't existed since I was in high school and I'm old and I want to stop talking about this now.

I have it on my iTunes if you're ever interested.

Anyway, I just wanted to write a quick note to explain that I am headed to Seattle bright and early tomorrow morning for the AWP Conference. Have I packed? Of course not! Must do that now. If I don't write for a while, it's because I'm in another state getting rained on and pretending I wasn't in kindergarten when grunge was popular and buying too many books.

However, I was thinking of briefly reviving Pretending to Know You while I'm out there. It could be fun to pretend to know some Seattleans (Seattleites?) in flash fiction form, n'est-ce pas? So look for those. Also, you can follow my escapades in Seattle (and always) on Twitter.

I return to sunny Vegas on March 2nd. Talk to you then!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

It is a winning cake.

Select highlights from Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, which I am currently reading for my Poetry Forms class:

"Salad

It is a winning cake."

"Eating

...Eating he heat eating he heat it eating, he heat it heat eating. He heat eating...."

"A Cutlet

A blind agitation is manly and uttermost."

Do you feel like you're going insane? I feel like I'm going insane. In a good way, sort of. Sometimes I'm convinced she's a genius--the sounds of the words are so beautiful. And sometimes reading Tender Buttons is so frustrating that I want to curse Gertrude Stein's name for all eternity. But hey, who said that reading should only be pleasurable, or that pleasurable and frustrating are mutually exclusive? I'm a little worried about writing my 2-3 page essay on the subject, since it seems dangerous to look for meaning in this text; there are obviously many meanings, or no meanings, and I think that's exactly how Stein wanted it. However, I think I've figured out something to say about it--in terms of economics, oddly enough. We'll see if that works out...

Yesterday I ran The Color Run 5K with a few of my fellow MFA-ers.

Before (photo courtesy of Dan):

After (photo courtesy of Jess): 

And because we weren't colorful enough (photo courtesy of Jess): 

The race went well for me. I wasn't able to actually time myself, but I know when we started running, and based on when my friends saw me cross the finish line, I ran it in roughly 30 minutes, which is precisely what I was attempting to do. It wasn't my first time participating in a 5K, but it was my first time running one the whole way. Now there's just the question of whether or not I want to continue running. To be honest, I find little pleasure in it. Although I probably am improving, I never seem to notice--it always feels difficult--and my mind never relaxes when I'm running. Some people can space out or plan their days or think about other things in general, and my mind is all "DON'T SHRUG YOUR SHOULDERS DON'T SQUEEZE YOUR FISTS JUST KEEP GOING DON'T WORRY THIS WILL ALL BE OVER SOON." Doesn't sound like the type of thing I'd want to continue doing. On the other hand, it seems like a total waste to train for a 5K just to run a single race and never go running again. Maybe I'll run twice a week or something, just to keep up my ability to run a 5K so I can do other races when my friends want to. Of course, now there are rumors of a 10K in the not-too-distant future, and I'm not sure whether I have the time or the desire to train for it. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to download the 5K-to-10K app and see what it involves.

Speaking of exercise, I should go do that now. I've been sitting in bed reading Tender Buttons all day, and on Tuesday I'll be heading to Seattle for the AWP Conference, so I certainly won't be getting any exercise then. I think I'll dance. Why don't they have charity dance marathons? That would be way more fun than a race. They probably do. I'll have to Google it. I love the internet. And on that note, farewell.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Somnambulant

I remember learning this word in high school and thinking it was just great that the English language contains such words. I use it here because it accurately describes my current state. Sleep has not been a priority this week. From acoustic covers of "Wrecking Ball" to The Lego Movie to reading Jacques Lacan to grading, everything has been pushing my bedtime later and later, and I've been too busy to sleep in. I think I'm going to have to tomorrow, though. Otherwise I may just collapse at some point during the weekend.

And we can't have that; there's a 5K to run, essays to grade, internships to apply for, Gertrude Stein and Julia Kristeva to read, stories to submit okimuststopthinkingaboutallthisrightnoworiwillburstintotears

Stress. It's gross.

And I really do have to get it all done because I'm going to Seattle next week for the AWP Conference. While I'm looking forward to the panels, the book fair, and the offsite readings, I am not looking forward to all the work I'll have to make up. Oh--there's another thing I have to do. I should actually plan which panels and readings I want to see.

Hey, guess what? One more poem and I'll have made up for all my missed January poems. Don't worry, poetry fans--I'm sure I'll still write poetry from time to time. In fact, I still have to write two more for poetry workshop this semester. They simply won't pop up on this blog so often. I wrote this in my head while in line for an iced chai. Good to know my brain is at least still functioning. Sort of.

Neutral

world lacklustered
by
demilitarized heart

flops droop gray
flats drab glob
slump bag sloops
slow mops trudge
drudgingly blew
blah blah blah

view depassioned
by
thought overwrought

blah blah blah
slabs sheet plain
plops flab null
lacks slop flub
gums gum pale
crumplish knew

light deflated
by
bland abstention

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Climb EVERY mountain...

...even if it reminds you how horribly out of shape you are. (What's worse: this is quite possibly the most in-shape I've ever been!)

Today Austin and I decided to go hiking after our belated theory class. The road to Red Rock was closed--apparently there was a shooting? So we drove around, and around, and around, and finally we found a small access road to Sunset Mountain (I think?). This road wasn't exactly made for hiking; it was very steep, with few switchbacks. Nevertheless, we decided to hike it anyway.

Let me make something clear: I have been hiking something like three times in my life, and only one of those times was actually up a mountain. I may have underestimated the difficulty. Halfway up the first incline my heart was pounding more than it does during my worst panic attacks, and by the time we reached the saddle of the mountain I was mildly concerned I might puke. But reach the saddle we did! Austin provided encouragement without being irritating--a hard skill to master. And it really was gorgeous up there. We arrived at the top right at sunset. The mountains were all around us, and in the distance they were blanketed in purple mist. Stunning.

Then, of course, we had to get down. Steep. Loose rocks. Rapidly-fading light. Somehow I did not fall and break my neck, despite my clumsiness. I was grateful to reach the car, but also grateful that I'd made myself climb all the way up. The moral of the story: Walking long distances is fun. Walking up is not the same as walking long distances. It was still fun, but in a strenuous, challenging way.

Afterwards we grabbed a much-needed beer.

I've spent the rest of my evening drinking wine, eating a cake pop (thanks Mom & Dad), and watching season 2 of House of Cards (AMAZING GO WATCH IT NOW RIGHT NOW I'M SERIOUS). I'm pretending like the wine and cake pop are totally fine because I climbed a mountain. Also because it's Valentine's Day, which means it's a holiday, which means there are no calories.

Oh. I guess it's not Valentine's Day anymore. Shit.

What else? I would tell you about what it was like having my poem workshopped, but there's not much to tell. Don gave me a few recommendations, but then he went off on this weird tangent about Brideshead Revisited that involved several impressions. I look forward to reading my classmates' feedback. Maybe if I can make the poem good enough I'll submit it somewhere. Wouldn't it be funny if I published a poem?

I suppose I should write a poem here because I still owe you two more. Here we are:

Out of Shape

heart screams:
I'll huff
&
I'll puff
&
I'll blow
your guts out

muscles shake
sour mouth
gasping

who's afraid
of
the big bad
wreck
?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

[REDACTED] stays in Vegas.

Thanks for the title, Joe.

Well, Friendageddon has officially come to an end. Meg and Leta left yesterday, and I am once again left to my own devices in Las Vegas. Naturally, I'm inclined to blog about the whole experience, but parts of it were so magical and surreal and delicate that I feel like I'll ruin it if I write it down.

Therefore: the vaguest blog entry in the history of blogs.

Actually, Friday night doesn't have to be so vague. Alex, Meg, Felipe, and I paid a little visit to everyone's favorite 100-year-old-cowboy-bar-in-the-middle-of-the-desert, Pioneer Saloon. There was much singing and revelry. I sang "Flagpole Sitta," which I've always wanted to try, and it went better than I expected. Felipe and Meg sang songs from Chicago. Lulu brought the house down, as usual. Meg and I sang back up to Joe's rendition of "Punk Rock Girl." Meg and I also rocked Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young." Austin killed some Johnny Cash, and at Meg's request, he reprised his classic Electric Six performance. (I think it's now classic largely because of this blog--who knew I was such a taste-maker?) Alex, like, actually sang songs, which was shocking--Social Distortion and then Rancid with Dan. In all honesty, I am rarely so happy as I was that evening. It was amazing to see all my Chicago friends meshing together so well with all my Vegas friends. Got a little sentimental. Not gonna lie.

Saturday we ate brunch, explored the Container Park. And we went to the Neon Museum, which I would highly recommend. I snapped some beautiful photos, like this one.

Then there was Saturday night. Saturday night was when things really got crazy. After a delicious sushi dinner, Meg, Felipe, Alex, Austin, Shaun, Joe, Lulu, Olivia, Mike, and I all headed to the strip to go to "Rose. Rabbit. Lie."--The Cosmopolitan's brand new "social experiment." Is it a nightclub? A restaurant? Is it performance art? Yes. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but let's just say that despite the high price of cocktails, it's completely worth it. You can safely expect some tap dancing. You may be whisked away at any moment by glittery handlers to a private performance in which you will be asked to participate. And those TV ads for The Cosmopolitan, where the hotel is overrun with puppies and kittens and bunny rabbits? Those may not be so far off the mark...

Sunday I picked up miss Leta at the airport so she could join in the fun. We had lunch at The Peppermill because Vegas. Then we headed back to The Cosmopolitan to check in. You see, we decided to get a room on the strip that evening. A suite, in fact. A suite with a private terrace overlooking the strip, and a Japanese soaking tub. (Floor plan.) We weren't exactly sure what a Japanese soaking tub was at the time, but I'm glad we found out. We split some alcoholic milkshakes at Holstein's, and then we sadly had to take Alex back to the airport.

Later that evening, we had Joe, Shaun, and Austin over for drinks and snacks in our fancy suite. It was quite an evening. Games were played, friendships solidified, secrets revealed. We found out how many people you could fit in a Japanese soaking tub at one time. Magic, I tell you. Magic.

The next day was back to normal life for me. I had to plan class, etc. We took Felipe back to the airport. Then I got rear-ended. Not so exciting, but ultimately it turned out better than it could have. My car is largely fine, it wasn't my fault, and the guy we ran into after being read-ended was freaking awesome. His name is John. He is a cute little old one-time therapist who now plays in a clarinet quartet. He got all grandfatherly and made sure the police knew it wasn't our fault. We liked John.

After my evening class we all went to Stake Out and The Frog, a) because that's what we normally do and b) because it was Meg and Leta's last night in town. A good time was had by all.

Leta stayed for a little longer yesterday, just long enough to go rock climbing with Austin and to attend our craft talk with author Leni Zumas. But she, too, left me. It is bittersweet. I miss them all, but it was such a wonderful time that I'm glad it was short and sweet and not left to slowly undo itself.

I am So. Incredibly. Grateful. to all my Las Vegas friends. They treated my Chicago friends as their own, and they were 110% committed to having a good time. I am convinced that Friendageddon would not nearly have been so successful were it not for my new friends here. I love you all.

And on that note, I should really go. I have to go running (that 5K is coming up soon!), I have to do some more work, and MY POEM IS BEING WORKSHOPPED TODAY. Ahhhh. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

BRACE YOURSELVES

Chicago is coming.


By which I mean to say that Las Vegas should GET EXCITED because MEGHAN and FELIPE and ALEX are all coming to visit today! (Not to mention the fact that miss LETA is coming on Sunday!)

However, all their flights are delayed thanks to Polar Vortex 2.0--or something, I don't know. Somewhere the weather is bad. So I think that gives me time to blog and to write this week's three-page essay for poetry forms before they get here.

Today in my class we talked about real life horror--rape on college campuses. I knew it was risky and that it might be controversial, but I also believe that college students are adults and that they need to be pushed to carefully consider difficult issues, especially ones that are so relevant to their lives. (I gave multiple trigger warnings, of course--in the syllabus, online, in person, repeatedly--so that they could opt out of the assignment/class discussion if they needed to without anyone having to know.)  I had them read these three articles beforehand (also with trigger warnings attached, obviously), and their synthesis essay assignment will be based on them. I am pleased to report that all my students behaved like adults and that the discussions were far more respectful than I feared they might be. I'm glad we talked about it, because so many of them clearly had not considered the issue before. Many had never heard the term "rape culture," many had never heard the term "consent" in terms of sexual activity. In both classes a student asked whether or not having sex with a drunk girl was considered rape--they were legitimately wondering. I don't know that I'll have changed any minds or behaviors, but if I have at least managed to make them aware of the issue, I'll be one happy teacher (and all-around human being).

On a less serious note, poetry. Not to say that poetry can't be serious, it's just that this one is not.

Nightlight

light reflects
off white
right?
right

off my white
walls bright
light at
night
helps

my sight stay
right, my
night stay
white
reflects

the light
bright
right

p.s. ahhhh the words "light," "bright," "right," and "night" look so weird now. Those gh's seem completely out of place. I literally just googled "light" to make sure I wasn't going crazy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Strangest Thing

The strangest thing just happened when I was reading Witness submissions. I haven't mentioned it on here for a while, but you may remember that I read fiction, poetry, and nonfiction submissions for Witness magazine and give them an initial thumbs-up or thumbs-down before passing them on to the editors.

I was reading some stories this morning, and I came across a nonfiction piece that was written by someone who runs a press that recently rejected my collection of Pretending to Know You stories. No matter how many times it happens, it's always painful to have your work rejected. I was afraid to read this piece--I didn't want my judgment to be clouded by this person's dismissal of my writing. However, I ended up giving it a thumbs-up. It was quite good.

Or was it? Now I'm afraid that I subconsciously gave it a thumbs-up in a sort of taunting, See? I'm BETTER than you! way. I'm hoping that's not the case. I think it was good. I enjoyed reading it.

I suspect I've been reading too much Freud.

In other news, Leta wrote some beautiful poetry for her most recent All Together Now post. You should read it.

And now for some of my own poetry, as I'm still catching up. (My brain works in mysterious ways.)

Tribe

in your tribe
am I
am I in
your tribe I
in I
your tribe in
I
your am
in tribe
I tribe your
am

Monday, February 3, 2014

I.am.the.worst.

at.blogging.

I've been so busy lately, though! The amount of reading I have to do for my classes this semester borders on the absurd. I feel like all I did this weekend was read Freud. But that's not true, because I also graded things, and went running, and went to Neon Lit (Olivia, Austin, Brittany, Dan, Amy, and Michael were all phenomenal--pretty jealous I didn't end up in that all-star lineup), and read more William Carlos Williams.

Oh, and I also turned 26.

My birthday was wonderful, actually. I worked like crazy on Friday and Saturday so that I could just celebrate on Sunday. Even so, I still had to write my 3-page essay for Poetry Forms class Sunday morning, but that wasn't too bad. In the afternoon I joined some fine folks at the Frog to watch a bit of the Super Bowl. (superb owl?) Poor Denver. Later I met people for dinner at The Cornish Pasty Co., which is a newish restaurant and is also delicious. There was a huge turnout, so I felt extra-special loved. We then returned to the Frog for a drink. I was serenaded by my friends, and the owner of the bar gave me a bottle of cinnamon whiskey. Maybe I go there a little too much...

All in all I think it was a more-than-successful first Las Vegas birthday. It made me very happy.

The problem with being so busy is that I'm not finding a lot of time to write. This weekend was something of an exception, obviously, but I think I need to re-organize how I'm spending my time. The beginning of the semester is always hard, though. Still getting used to everything.

So, Freud. Like I said, I've been reading a lot of him lately. (Specifically: his essays "The Uncanny" and "Constructions in Analysis," the first two chapters of "Civilization and Its Discontents," and chapters 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 of The Interpretation of Dreams. That's the assignment for one week!) Anyway, I just finished up reading "Civilization and Its Discontents," and I was blown away by how anti-religion Freud was. I've read "The Uncanny" and some of his dream theory before, but I've never come across his whole religion-is-a-mass-delusion thing. (Not gonna lie--I'm pretty much in agreement. Maybe not about the psychological reasons why it's a mass delusion, but that it is a delusion, yes. Albeit a super academically interesting delusion.) He's quite harsh about it, honestly. He believes that religious people are kept in an infantile state.

I also liked this thing he says about artists in "Civilization and Its Discontents": "One gains the most if one can sufficiently heighten the yield of pleasure from the sources of psychical and intellectual work. When that is so, fate can do little against one. A satisfaction of this kind, such as an artist's joy in creating, in giving his phantasies body, or a scientist's in solving problems or discovering truths, has a special quality which we shall certainly one day be able to characterize in metapsychological terms. At present we can only say figuratively that such satisfactions seem 'finer and higher.'"

I do find joy in creating.

Speaking of creating, guess what I have not done? Accomplished my goal of writing one poem a day for every day in January. I believe I am four poems short, so now I have to catch up. I should do five, just to punish myself. Might be too busy for that though. We shall see. Here's one, at least. I like the word "whither," and I wanted to play with it:

Whither/Wither

Wither heart.
Whither new?
Wither me.
Whither you?

Without your
newness
my heart
withers.

When you go
go you whither?
Do you care
whether I wither?

Whenever you go
winter weather--
within, without,
wherever.

Whither heart?
Wither new.
Whither me?
Wither you.