Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Quick Update

Received word this morning a recent poem of mine will appear in a future issue of The Write Room, an on-line publication. The poem is titled "Becoming the Wolf"—a short piece exploring the notion of lycantrophy, the process when a human shape-shifts to a wolven form. I twisted the medieval concept to a modern psychological level, exploring the notions of rejection and of failure, using the figure of an unnamed character.

The focal image arrived in my head one late, rainy afternoon while driving home from school—in my memory I recall we discussed the European Dark Ages—this could be a reinvention, a blurring of the event, but it suits the theme expressed in the poem. The element of a self-produced hairshirt exists in the opening stanza:


He wears his failures
as a hair-shirt— laced with layers of coarse
Tuscan boar bristles, the inner lining braided
with a series of Russian olive tree thorns
and strands of unwashed wool from a black ram.
Once the page is uploaded by the editors I will post a direct link to the full poem.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

moment.08 || April is National Poetry Month

—it starts in mid-phrase in a rush, as a fragmented phrase. Specifically Philip Glass. Specifically his composition Music in Twelve Parts. It begins with an immediate rush, in medias res, a river rushing downstream. A cacophony of car alarms going off simultaneously in the distance. A rush of consciousness mixing a variety of modes, all at once. A sudden conscious thought or awareness spreading inside the head. An epiphany moment explored through music. This is what I want to emerge into my writing, the sudden explosion of a rhythm, the idea swallowing the audience whole. Even here, in a basic web entry I want to moment to fill out the scene of myself to the reader, as I sit currently by the window connecting three or four separate events into one short essay—
I received word recently from Lady Jane Miscellany that they accepted a poem of mine for publication in their upcoming Spring 2010 issue, due out in late April. The work, titled “The Harpies of Vieux Carré,” originally was written for the poet Lynda Hull who worked with me while I obtained my MFA at Vermont College. The theme invests heavily into the conflict between outward appearances and hidden realities. She told me that the imagery appealed to her personally on many levels—mainly due to the nature of the overdramatic central characters. By using allegorical, mythical creatures from the Ancient Greek stories, I force the reader to decide whether the poem’s message lingers in a realm of pure symbolism or in a realm of surreal dream-logic. Lynda was my mentor and a friend.
More confirmations of Spring: the Louisiana irises in the back garden open up their mouths overnight: large dark blue and purple blossoms, with slashes of yellow and white lines dipping into their throats. Likewise the companion milkweed plants begin sending shafts of green out of the ground. They are already larger than five inches or more—every other day they gain greater height, getting ready to flower with orange and red.
I should acknowledge the fact that April is National Poetry month. Poets.org has generated a project titled appropriately “A Poem a Day” in which they email one verse, every day, to subscribers. April 1, the point of beginning, displayed “A Story” by Philip Levine.


Everyone loves a story. Let's begin with a house.
We can fill it with careful rooms and fill the rooms
with things—tables, chairs, cupboards, drawers
closed to hide tiny beds where children once slept
or big drawers that yawn open to reveal
precisely folded garments washed half to death,
unsoiled, stale, and waiting to be worn out.
There must be a kitchen, and the kitchen
must have a stove, perhaps a big iron one
with a fat black pipe that vanishes into the ceiling
to reach the sky and exhale its smells and collusions.
This was the center of whatever family life
was here, this and the sink gone yellow
around the drain where the water, dirty or pure,
ran off with no explanation, somehow like the point
of this, the story we promised and may yet deliver.
Make no mistake, a family was here. You see
the path worn into the linoleum where the wood,
gray and certainly pine, shows through.
Father stood there in the middle of his life
to call to the heavens he imagined above the roof
must surely be listening. When no one answered
you can see where his heel came down again
and again, even though he'd been taught
never to demand. Not that life was especially cruel;
they had well water they pumped at first,
a stove that gave heat, a mother who stood
at the sink at all hours and gazed longingly
to where the woods once held the voices
of small bears—themselves a family—and the songs
of birds long fled once the deep woods surrendered
one tree at a time after the workmen arrived
with jugs of hot coffee. The worn spot on the sill
is where Mother rested her head when no one saw,
those two stained ridges were handholds
she relied on; they never let her down.
Where is she now? You think you have a right
to know everything? The children tiny enough
to inhabit cupboards, large enough to have rooms
of their own and to abandon them, the father
with his right hand raised against the sky?
If those questions are too personal, then tell us,
where are the woods? They had to have been
because the continent was clothed in trees.
We all read that in school and knew it to be true.
Yet all we see are houses, rows and rows
of houses as far as sight, and where sight vanishes
into nothing, into the new world no one has seen,
there has to be more than dust, wind-borne particles
of burning earth, the earth we lost, and nothing else.

From News of the World by Philip Levine. Copyright © 2009 by Philip Levine.
Philip Levine’s poem returns me full circle. His story spirals out of his poem into the reality of the reader. The reader’s reality mirrors the art on the page, and the sounds of falling water emerging from the stereo, voices and flute and sax and keyboards responding to Glass’s repetitious musical language. There is a commonality of intent to both Glass and Levine—the experience of reading and of listening becoming a part of an undefined “now” moment and flowing into the next undefined moment until one sits back and realizes the event passes by unrestricted by time.

One becomes a part of Levine’s story in a sense because everyone owns a similar story, with only slight variations. His personal narrative transcends to anyone’s narration. It is a story of transition, motion. He shows the landscape of ourselves, like it or not, the good and the bad, the evolution of the human animal as woods recede, replaced by sub-urban homes, row after row. The human experience translated to change, progression, and circumstance.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Moment.07 || Book Festival


Drove to the Museum District of downtown Houston this morning to attend the Houston Indie Book Festival in Menil Park. Even by mid-morning the humidity settled firmly over the city and pollen was thick in the air; a brassy golden powder fell in the heat making the sidewalks and park lawn slightly slick. Despite the unexpected heat, many people wandered between the various outdoor stalls or sat listening to poets and fiction writers reciting. A full list of the vendors can be found at indiebookfest.org.


Many diverse magazines and literary journals showed up in support of the event. Among them were Gulf Coast, Nano Fiction, Workers Write, Pebble Lake Review, Apple Valley Review, American Short Fiction, Tiferet Journal, and Literary Bird Journal.


An interesting publication titled 6x6 caught my attention by the design of the magazine itself: a square-ish, firm card stock cover with the upper right corner sliced off, held together by a thick industrial rubber band. Each issue contains six poets who are each given six pages to present their work. What results of course is an unexpected, unique journal consisting of unique voices. Ugly Duckling Presse creates these magazines, plus other similar projects.



The press specializes in art house quality publications by utilizing “out of date” book-making techniques. Their books and magazines result with a one-of-a-kind, personalized style. This quality of human involvement in the creation of art increasingly becomes rarer with the computer industry and negative capitalistic business practices.


After leaving the event, I ended up at the Brazos Bookstore a few blocks away. With all the attention on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Nobles’ Nook, and other similar digitized reading devices, it was nice to walk into a physical store and browse the large available inventory of Brazos’ poetry section, holding individual, different books and authors. Just to illustrate the conflicting extremes: at the local Cypress BN, their poetry bookcase is now reduced to two shelves. Yes, two. To make it worse, the selection is reduced to Beowulf, Chaucer, Dickinson, Homer, Frost, Plath, Eliot and other standard, expected authors. At the Brazos Bookstore, I had three bookcases of publications to peruse, consisting of the standards, plus many modern poets of the last decade. As you can guess, I spent over a hundred dollars on a number of books.


My summer reading list continually grows out of control. So many words, so little time.