27 December 2012


Still kicking.

Recently kicked out a piece for Cameron Summers' website. It's called Nausicaa at the Palm Frond, and if you know your Odyssey, you get what's going on.

In other news, I now have speakers for my computer in my own litte flat, which is right next to a skanky bar. Which is not to imply that the flat is not itself skanky, too.

The last round of 100 Sonnets was a bit of a fail -- only about 60 got done. But keep checking it out, because it's the numbers and not the time that are the goal for me.

21 July 2012

Poetry! (no. 2)

So, in awesome news:  My poem Dover Crossing is live over at Goblin Fruit, who are most wonderful and lovely people and run a beautiful website. I am honored to share the pages of the Summer issue with Sonya Taaffe, Mari Ness and a plethora of other poets.

I also recently completed my 100 Sonnets project. Please check it out; I'm trying to figure out which ones are good so I can collect them into some kind of collection.

And on a less poetic note, I urge you with the greatest of hortations (a new words!) to have a look at the works of Cameron Summers, whose real life acquaintance I recently made but of whose works I have long been a fan. I highly recommend that you have a look at his newly-finished long-form project Patterns in Noise; it's all there, so you won't have to wait for the ending like some of us.

In other news, I'm at my parents' house until August, and that is about it.

02 June 2012


So, my life has had a lot of poetry in it lately, what with the ridiculously-well-doing One Hundred Sonnets project (over 900 pageviews, which, for the record, is only about 300 shy of this blogs entire two-year lifespan), the generation of sonnets for that project, these awesome poetry readings, and, because of the preceding poetry reading, the honor of taking part in this, or rather, the poetry night attached thereto. It's going to be my first non-open mic reading, and I'm both excited and nervous. What do you wear for that, anyway?

I have all As. Some of them are A-s, but I can't really complain, since even with those, my GPA is up 2/100s from last semester. This isn't really important to anyone other than me, but I'm pretty psyched. (That had nothing to do with poetry.)

Also, please keep your eyes on this site that has rejected me on numerous occasions -- though always in the best of grace, and for the best of reasons -- because sometime this summer we may find that they have changed their minds a little.

02 May 2012

April is the cruellest month...

Man, April has been rough. Pleasant, but dramatic, and then just rough. Maybe this one will be better? We'll see.

Anyway, there is now a record of the whole hot mess right here. It's "100 Sonnets" because that's how many I want to have before 15 July, for various reasons. I will probably have to train myself back to free verse eventually.

Finals are next week! Ahh!

18 April 2012

Wolves and other cool things (Linky dinks IV)

So, my short story about the benighted Emperor Arcadius went live ysterday. You should read it! (Unless you arrived here from it, in which case... read it again?) My Greek professor approves! This is a big deal because he is a big deal.

Also, some cool things are on Bandcamp. For one, Alpha Stasis, who have shown up here in the past, have a new album out, which I highly recommend -- and it's free, so what are you losing? However, if you want to pay for music, get this album which is only $3 and very sad and pretty (think Lydia).

Please have a look, too, at my sometime-stomping grounds, The Fortnightly Review. They're doing a special series in the form of chapters from Alan Macfarlane's book on modernity and how everything you think about it is probably wrong (I think).

And in completely personal news, I was delighted to (re)discover the name of this artist, whose work I was privileged enough to see in Lugano ten years ago. The images of it neer left my mind, though unfortunately the artist's name did; I am very pleased to report that Igor Mitraj is now a name I can add to my List of Artists I Adore.

11 April 2012

Cheap Kicks.

This is why I shouldn't be allowed to stay up this late. It's because I start doing half-assed translations of stuff, then posting them online as if they're good.

Oh well.


Tibullus, I.iii.83-94

And you, I pray, stay chaste, blessed chaste,
sitting in the care of that old woman.
She tells you stories and puts the lantern down
to draw ou coiling thread from full staff;
grave pensive girls sit with you in a circle
as little by little they sleep and let their spindles fall.
Then thieflike let me come, with you all unawares.
I want to seem heaven-sent to you.
Then -- just as you are, long hair unbound and curling --
meet me, Delia, run to me on naked feet:
I pray that blazing Dawn
and Daystar bear this happening to me on roan horses,
and let it come to pass.

04 April 2012

All This.

So what I am doing these days instead of blogging is piles of Latin. It makes me cry, it's so beautiful. My poor sister; she's always having to put up with my emotional breakdowns from Dido or whoever it is this time.

Greek is a bitch. It always is.

Alongside these, I'm running my school's classics club literary magazine. I'll link to it when the issue's put together, okay?
I've been reading Camus' L'Homme Revolte, which is good. I like reading in French, though it kind of makes me look crazy. I tend to read it under my breath, moving my mouth and all. Maybe it doesn't, though (make me look crazy). No one seems to notice.
I'v met this nice guy and that's distracting. Not unpleasant, but it heightens things.
La Dispute also heighten things. God, I don't know...
I'm having a hard time sleeping, but I don't know. This is all pretty much par for the course.
I had two hours sleep last night and stream of consciousness seemed like a good idea, probably because of that. I'm sure I'll post something that will refer to this post with embarrassment later, but what the hell.
I'm also doing National Poetry Month or whatever. I'm writing a sonnet every day and let's see if it makes me better at it. Here's today's. Maybe it's okay? I don't know. Anyway, here it is. The slanty rhymes are on purpose, just by the way.

This morning I went out before the sun
a yellow hydrant fluttered nd the birds
were fishes in my gaze, as low as words
across the screen in foreign films. The one
thing I could see most clearly was the van
left in the lot -- I thought it was a ship
to sail through stars; it was the baited lip,
it seems, of some low-sunken fish-eyed man
who tried to say the air was nice. My son,
you're younger now than me:  We are submerged;
this is the sea; we're drowning, having won
the right to walk upon the boiling sand
where light crawls thick through heavy waves and tricks
us, gaping fish, into its soft, dark hand.


Have a better one than I'm having, kids.

16 March 2012

Boys and Girls and Music.

Is there such a thing as a "masculine" taste in music? I remember, some years ago, coming across a rather puffy piece in the culture weekly of a major British paper (The Times, maybe?) in which the writer discussed the music tastes of his acquaintances, friends and significant others, collected and arranged according to heteronormative male/female lines. One of the trends this writer had picked up on was how many of his male friends liked ambient, proggy, out-there stuff that didn't necessarily have lyrics and was, by and large, performed by men; the writer's female friends preferred lyrics-driven, melodic, (moderately) conventionally-structured business. I don't know how true this is:  My (male) ex was the one who introduced me to Tori Amos, the most stereotypically "feminine" artist on the planet; I was -- and am -- the one with the collection of postrock with no lyrics.

I'm coming to my point, which is that this week, Pitchfork posted this piece about men, women and the music they listen to. It's not a bad piece; for the most part, I would even go so far as to say that it's reasonably thoughtful. But this bit -- not the conclusion, even, just a section in the middle, just a little story -- is what got me here. I quote in full:

Last year I taught a course about writing and popular music at Columbia College Chicago. In class, one of my students, an especially bright and thoughtful guy, remarked that for most of his life he hadn't listened to music where women were singing. To me, it seemed brave of him to say that, though he didn't seem to struggle with revealing this information. It's just the way it was, though he also said that he could feel it changing little-by-little as he got older. But for a lot of people, especially when you first start listening to music, the identification part of the equation is so important it can be hard to find things to identify with in people who seem very different from you. And during adolescence, when sexuality and gender are at their most mysterious and unknowable, for a male to identify with a female artist can be especially difficult. Cross-gender identification is harder, I think, for boys, in part because media present the perspective as the "normal" or default point of view. Only in the last year did I become aware of the Bechdel Test, which searches for films that meet three criteria:
  1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man
There are far fewer than you might think. And if this is the world you grow up in, seeing "life" reflected back at you with movies that don't have these three qualities, boys and girls alike internalize the idea that men are the actors in art and creativity, and women are tangential. If you grow up with this reality, I think it's fair to assume that women will have an easier time identifying with male singers than vice versa. Which is to say that when my student said this in class, I thought to myself, "For me, at your age, it was the same."
There's a big problem here. (Other than the inexplicable hyphenization of "little by little." What the hell, writer?) It's one the author himself may not, in fact, have spotted -- being, you know, male, and not coming to this from the perspective of someone like, say, me.

It's when he starts talking about identification, about how you identify with people who are like you in your musical tastes. More specifically, it's when he makes the telling statement that "it's harder," he thinks, "for boys" to identify across (heteronormative, binary) gender lines. He does own, via the Bechdel test (about which he somehow did not know), that viewing girls as the media does -- as plot puppets, at best, who are there to talk about/talk to/have sex with/at least have sexual tension with boys -- is harmful to everyone involved (i.e. actually everyone)... But how, precisely, is it easier for girls?

I guess my problem here comes from the assumption that because girls wear pants now, it must be easy for them to identify with someone not-them. How, precisely, would that be easier? How is that less likely to induce confusion and upset, both socially and in one's own being, in girls than in boys? I just don't see it, and it's partly because of my own musical backgrounds and tastes and stuff like that that I take issue with the author of this piece.

See, in my teens, I listened almost exclusively to male artists. Not for any particular reason; not out of some gender bias or anything like that. I listened to them because I preferred them and, furthermore, I could identify with them. I found my own sex suspect, both because they were ignored by the wider media -- which I devoured; I look fondly back on many a long afternoon holed up with my room with a copy of Uncut -- and because, when they were mentioned, somehow everything came back to their sexual experiences/preferences/travails, and, being a frustratedly lustful adolescent, I didn't particularly want to listen to music that was viewed only through the lens of sexuality. I couldn't identify with that; I didn't want to be viewed that way and I didn't want to have to view the music I was listening to that way. I wanted someone to speak to my loneliness and whatever other teenaged issues I had, and I was kind of trying not to think about sex all the time (as one wants to, rather) because it made what little social life I had even more awkward.

Since then, I've discovered more female artists, and, similarly, media coverage of them has become less based on sexuality and more on, you know, whether or not they're any good. Outfits like the Unthanks and Jesca Hoop, I would argue, are creating a paradigm for popular music that is very specifically feminine in a way that is, I feel, both comfortable with its sex and sexuality, and not defined by it. This is definitely a positive thing -- but damn, I wish I'd had it in high school.

However, as much as I identify with these artists, I still feel myself more consistently at home in the musical worlds created by Ed Harcourt and La Dispute, for example, than in Chelsea Wolfe's (though Esben and the Witch are definitely up there). I identify more consistently with the issues addressed by Harcourt, for example, and the way in which he addresses them, than I do with the issues addressed by, well, Tori Amos (astonishingly talented though she is). And don't even get me started on Elliott Smith or Bright Eyes. I could -- and have -- listen(ed) to any one of their albums nonstop for about a month.

I would say that women are relative newcomers to popular music -- but they're not. A lot of this is, 'struth, my own issues and identities and whatever, but I still beg to differ with Mr. Pitchfork. It's not easier for girls to cross-identify. It's just that, until very recently -- and the Bechdel test is with me on this one; I would call to witness films like Star Trek 2009, which does, in fact, pass the test, as well as shows like Lost in which women often drive, and are not driven by, the plot -- the possibilities with which they were presented for their own sex were tremendously unappealing.

Maybe I'm wrong here. But I think feminine identity in music is only now beginning to be defined, and received, on its own terms. God knows, it's been a long time coming.

25 February 2012

A brief note on a life in publishing.

So, one of the reasons I have not posted as much as I'd like to around here is because of my job (school's another one, but school's always another one, so I don't think it counts).I am lucky eough to have a well-paying job in publishing. I'm the production assistant at Flatlands University Press [fake name!], and when I say "the" I mean there are no others. I think there are fourteen people in the whole press. In a publishing season, they bring out about 40 books, most of which will, at some point, cross my desk.

And when I saw this post by Catherynne Valente, a well of recognition welled up inside me. Because publishing is hard. It is not magic. I know this, and, rather than unloading a bunch of stuff in the comments there, it seemed more appropriate to do that here. Ergo:

My dad's a writer. I'm a writer. He's also an editor, and I'm also an editorial freelancer and, as mentioned, a production bunny at a university press. All of these things are a lot of work. In production, it means spending a couple of days to a week or so on every pass over a set of proofs. Are the pages aligned? Are the author's marks on the same proof as the proofreader's? Do the running heads make sense? Is the table of contents anything like accurate? Are the illustrations in the right place? Is the index in alphabetical order? Did the author include all the relevant information in a bibliographical entry? Do that author's changes in the proof make sense, grammatically and contextually? These are questions to which I need to be able to give an affirmative answer, and when you're working on a text that runs to 300+ pages with over 1000 bibliographical entries, it is very hard to remember why you left the house that that day.

As a writer, I send out a lot of submissions, the overwhelming majority of which are met with rejection. Well, that's that. There's also, you know, the writing part. Enough has been said about these things, however, by others.

But there's this, too:  I've been watching my dad's career over the last, say, 15 years. It never gets easier. His work is more in developmental/content editorial, so he needs to read things in which he has no interest, which often come to him in an "amateurish" state, to put it nicely, and tell the author how to make himself make sense. He needs to come up with ways to make books about retirement finances look interesting to readers and still accurately convey whatever the author is trying to say. This is all pretty bad, but worse is when one of his own books comes back to him from a publisher, telling him to do a content edit on his own work. If you've ever writen an essay, or even a grocery list, you know how hard that is. There are errors you don't see -- will never see. There are things you should get rid of that seem terribly, terribly necessary. It's a bitch, and the worst of it is, when that happens, you know you still won't get paid for another couple of months, at least, and that's if your editor is doing his job and isn't on vacation/getting a divorce/down with lyme disease (true story).

Publishing is not magic. It's not easy, and it's not well understood (so I guess it is kind of like magic). If it seems like publishers don't know what to do, don't understand what you or they are doing or should be doing, it's because the vast majority of them are English majors who, when they started out, didn't know a proof from a pudding or a copyeditor from a cat. (And forget about compositors.) Basically, no matter which side of the desk you're on, you have to work at it all the time. Just ask this guy.

On a somewhat related note, check out these awesome poems by my pal, Beth O'Kain. Also available now is this novella by the marvellous Micah Martin, which is worth far more than its asking price, and which is excellent indeed.

14 January 2012

Reviews of movies.

I've actually been working on a best-of for last year, but it's stalled. I've also got some notes in the works for further reflection on "weird girls" and girls you should date (no, I swear, I will). But I've also been watching a lot of movies lately, and I want to say a few words about them before I forget what they are. (Which happens on a distressingly regular basis.) So:

The Guard
Irish countryside:
Drugs and swearing and Goncharov
and Gleason are love.

The Departed
Saggy plotting kills
good men. Bodies line the streets;
Boondock Saints 's better.

J. Edgar
Spying on people
and going to the races make
Gay Edgar lonely.

He's Just Not That Into You
Baltimore looks cool:
strong female cast deal with men;
amusing and kind.

Starter for 10
McAvoy leaves beach
for uni; Parties, Sherlock
make life a fun hell.

11 January 2012

The girl you should date maybe has something to say about it.

So, there's this post. It's turned up on my facebook wall more than once, the wording more or less the same.

And I have to say, as a girl, I have some serious problems with it. People tend to talk about how "moving" it is, how "true" it is, how "romantic" it is. But right now, I'd like to take a couple of minutes to call bullshit when I see it. So let's break this baby down, and see what's under the hood.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

All right, now. First sentence? Well, yeah. You want to breed for stupid, be my guest. But now let's look at the next two. What, I ask, is wrong with spending money on clothes? I like clothes. I think they're interesting; I think they're fun; I think they help me make my life more like my books. Why, then, should I have "problems with closet space" for the sake of my library? I should be able to have both. I thought feminism was far enough along for that, but perhaps I was mistaken. (Incidentally, book lists are terribly nineteenth century -- not exactly the best time to be a woman. Also, I've had a library card... SINCE I WAS 6.)

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

Again, the first sentence is pretty anodyne. Unread books? Lovingly poring over shelves? Fine, fine. Let's move along to the word choice in sentence 4 here. "You see the weird chick...?" 

"Weird chick"? How kind. You should certainly have this attitude towards "a girl you should date." This is entirely appropriate. And of course, it's equally appropriate to cruise used bookstores for girls, because they are definitely there to meet guys who think they're weird. Thanks, but no. 

As for sentence 4, do I even need to mention this Bill Hicks sketch? No? Good. Moving on...

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

There's a lot wrong here, so I'll go through it sentence by sentence. 

  1. "That coffee shop down the street" is, for me, a Starbucks in a grocery store. So no, I'm not the one reading in the coffee shop. The one reading in the coffee shop is the one blocking all the carts and pissing everyone off. One wonders where this is, then. 
  2. Who, in the name of God, goes to a coffee shop to have coffee that has cheapass non-dairy creamer? We're thinking of that nasty powdered stuff you get at Family Dollar for $1.50, right? That stuff? That stuff is NASTY.
  3. Sentence fragment -- ignore. 
  4. No. Do not presume on her time. If she's there and she's reading, then she probably had to make the time for this. Leave her the hell alone. If she wants to talk to you, she'll look at you. Or she won't.
  5. She can and she should. 
  6. No. Ask her if she minds you sitting there. If she says no, proceed to this question. If she says no, but seems annoyed, sit quietly and unless she starts talking to you, make an excuse and get out; she wants to be left alone. If she says yes, believe her. 
Buy her another cup of coffee. Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

As far as buying her another cup of coffee, see how things went with the previous attempts at conversation. If she told you to go away, I hope you did. 

But also:  Why should she care what you think of Murakami? Which one? How dumb do you think she is, that she wouldn't have gotten through the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring

Furthermore, who would say that about Ulysses? If you were smart enough to read it and understand it, you should also be smart enough not to want to date someone dumb enough to lie about understanding it. (But if you really understood it, you're probably a Joycean scholar, and don't you have better things to do?) If you didn't understand it, why would you assume that this girl you want to date is as dumb as you or wants to impress you or needs to try to sound intelligent? Why would you assume this in someone you supposedly want to -- or ought to -- date? 

Also, Alice? Really? Again, which one? I think of a couple of famous ones from literature off the top of my head, and several of them are not ones I would like to be, and all but one of them, I dislike. 

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.

Fine. Whatever. Make it easy -- for you. Moving on. 

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

NO. NO NO NO. DON'T lie to her, unless you want her to be pissed off at you about it, at best. If she really believes the things listed in sentence 2, she will also believe that behind all words, there is also truth. It may not be the end of the world, but a part of her will die when she learns of what you did. 

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
Did you see the caps in the previous paragraph I wrote? Did you see how many times I wrote "no" with the capslock on? Multiply it by a thousand, then another thousand, then add forty, then throw it all over the floor so you can't even count it anymore. That is how wrong this is. 

If this really is a girl you should date, she will also realize that narrative arcs, especially the ones involving the hero's descent into hell, are to be avoided. She will know that hell is someplace she doesn't want to go. She doesn't want to have to put up with your BS until the sequel shows up. She doesn't want to have to begin again; she doesn't want you to be the hero of her life. Sure, life is meant to have a villain or two -- but if you fail a girl, and especially if you fail her on purpose, YOU are that villain. You will not be granted the sympathy and hope that she would grant the reformed villain of her favorite book series. You are not that guy. 

Too true about the Twilight series, though. 

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

As far as sentence 2 goes, she doesn't need to be clutching a book to her chest; if she's up at 2am weeping under any circumstance, you should be holding her and making her tea and comforting her (unless you failed her, in which case you should slink off with your tail between your legs and never bother her again). If you "lose her" for a couple of hours, maybe what you should do is remind yourself that she's a girl -- or how about a woman, or a lady? -- not your pet, nor your property. And why shouldn't she talk as if characters in books are real? If "you" are the kind of person you seem to be from this post, they're probably more interesting and nicer, anyway. 

Of course, you're going to propose to her! All every girl wants is to get married! 

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

It's all about you, isn't it? And after all that reading, she's just going to want to have your babies. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- if it's what she wants. Will she be okay with taking over your children's literary education? Does she even like Keats? These things are moderately important. Just, you know -- just moderately.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

"You deserve it"? You do? What about her? What does she deserve? Because what I'm seeing here is a girl who is, in fact, getting a guy who is only capable of giving her "monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals," because you -- poor, much-abused reader -- think only of yourself. Her love gives you so much -- and, what precisely, have you given her? So far, you have given her only your aspirations, your needs, your desires and your plans. Have you so much as asked her what she wants? Has there been any indication that you even care? 

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Only if you want to end up in a novel, you will. And -- as a lady novelist, I can promise -- it won't be a flattering portrait. Goya-esque is the best you can hope for there. 

I realize this isn't a major text of anti-feminism or anything like that. I realize that the writer wasn't intending to imply that you should disregard young women's wishes, that she -- and it probably was a she -- meant to be romantic and charming and sweet. But this is the worst kind of romanticism. This post displays a horrible denial of good manners, an utter disregard for women's desires and needs, a complete self-centeredness on the part of the mysterious "you" to whom the post is addressed. 

What makes me angry is that this post, and many of the comments on it, is/are generated by women. Why? 

ETA:  Apparently, the post I've replied to is itself a response to this worthless pile of assholery. I'm not even touching that steaming heap of chicken poo, not even with a pike.