Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear from Gabe Askew on Vimeo.

Yeah, that's awesome. You wanna know what's not awesome? Missing the first big meeting of the really prestigious writing program that you don't deserve to be in in the first place and then confusing Cole Swensen when you show up for the class you thought you'd registered for, but had actually just place held and were supposed to sign up for at the meeting, but didn't 'cause you weren't there...SUCK!

Have you ever fully realized your situation and then looked around, the whole time thinking, "what the fuck did I get myself into?" Within seconds of my first class starting, every bad feeling I'd ever had towards poetry in academia came rushing back in all its rawness and badness. "What the fuck did I get myself into?" Plus, my feet hurt...I don't own sensible shoes.

You know what I really hate? Not being the guy who knows what's going on. You know what I hate even more? Literary criticism.

Today, we were asked, first thing, to write a sentence on our poetics and then to boil that down to a few words, and then again to one word. This is what I wrote, but was too embarrassed to say in class (thereby, leaving me squirming in my chair blurting out, broad and vague to the point of idiocy, statements that I didn't really believe):

Sentence. Poems should cut open cats and show you their lungs...a revelation.
A few words. Cat lungs.
One word. Meow (sigh).

I started re-reading Noah Eli Gordon's "The Frequencies" today. I haven't read that book in 5 years and think the last time I tried I was too ignorant and not at all literate enough to do so. My notes in the book are trite at best and are clearly clinging to the easiest phrases and images in the poems. Now, it almost seems easy, especially for a Gordon book. It is my opinion, that NEG is very much a language poet, only, with a penchant for odd, occasionally impossible image. "Frequencies" is not that kind of book. To be fair, this was early in his publishing life, but to read this book now and realize that a good chunk of MFA students are now doing exactly this kind of thing makes you see just how ahead of the curve Gordon usually is. He's like the Jay-Z of poetry, by the time you start writing prose blocks, he's "Off That."

Whilst on the subject of hip-hop, beat-boxing is totally rad and I wish I was better at...or at least had a comfortable place to practice. Seriously, where does on practice beat-boxing?

Friday, August 21, 2009

These are things I bought at Goodwill the other day. If you happened to have dropped off a sweet Sears typewriter or a frog mask in the last few weeks, thank you for totally making my month.

I think the class I'm teaching this Fall is going to totally kick ass. I've given myself all the room I need in my syllabus to change directions, move with the students' interests, and basically make things up as I go...which is really where my best teaching comes from, and I hate being roped in by syllabi that I wrote months before the actual class takes place (just because it interested me on August 16th, doesn't mean it will still interest me on November 21st).

A and I finished unpacking yesterday. The apartment is finally put together (almost) and ready for you to stay, if you are so inclined. You should come. It'll be sweet. I'm an above average host and I make a good pot of coffee. We could sit around the kitchen table and chat...over coffee, of course, and we could talk about how much we miss lightening bugs, or any number of other topical current events. I really miss lightening bugs and enjoy coffee.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The move to Iowa City is complete. Well, Coralville, actually. They named a street after me, or at least after the French-Canadian me. Everything in Iowa City is 5 min. away. Target, 5 min. Prairie Lights Books, 5 min. Coralville Lake, 5 min. Everything in Chicago was 30-60 min. away. Everything. I think I like it here, at least in a timely way.

I registered for classes yesterday, making this whole thing official. This whole thing officially scares me a bit. I'm taking a scary workshop with Cole Swensen, a scary class on Modernism and Mysticism and another scary class having to do with poets and their respective poetics. I hope this works out like most scary things and wind up not being scary after all...but sometimes things really are scary. That scares me most of all...

My reading back on July twenty-something went pretty well. I was nervous and I think that showed, but afterwards my father-in-law, whose knowledge of poetry extends only as far as that he knows I do it, told me he really liked my poems and even recited a few lines back to me. I'm really tired of the pompous grandeur of poetry readings and I work hard to be the exact opposite of that...but even that has a touch of bullshit in it.

I read Frank Stanford's selected poems last week after having gotten it back from the friend I lent it to the day I got it last October. I think you should read it too. The upside is how totally awesome most of the poems are. The downside is that the section titled, "Unpublished Poems," should have stayed that way. I mean, within the context of a book that is a "selected" previously unpublished poems have no place. Have you ever seen Michelangelo's David? Having those poems in this collection is like the hallway leading up the sculpture that is lined with partially finished statues...when you're expecting the masterpiece, who gives a fuck about the pieces the artist didn't even see all the way through. There was a reason Stanford didn't publish these poems, so why include it with what is supposed to represent his best work? Right?

I also finished James Tate's selected. I love James Tate and thus, I love this book, but it did get me wondering about the validity of "selected's" winning prizes. This book won the Pulitzer of poetry as well as the WCW Award. Though I think Tate deserves these awards, giving them to a book of his selected verse is totally bogus. It would be like giving the Beatles a Grammy every time a re-packaged greatest hits comes out! It just seems bullshit to me is all...

Anyway, there were a few other things I was going to tell you, but I forgot what they were.