Sunday 31 August 2008

Normal, Illinois in literature

Thanks to Richard Lambert for bringing to my attention the following passage from Lorrie Moore's story, "Like Life":

"You had to get out of them occasionally, those Illinois towns with the funny names: Paris, Oblong, Normal. Once, when the Dow-Jones dipped two hundred points, the Paris paper boasted a banner headline: NORMAL MAN MARRIES OBLONG WOMAN. They knew what was important. They did! But you had to get out once in a while, even if it was just across the border to Terre Haute, for a movie."

I love it and would be glad to see more!

Saturday 30 August 2008

Everything Talks: New Zealand poet Sam Sampson

I've just finished reading Sam Sampson's first full-length collection, Everything Talks, published simultaneously by Auckland University Press and Shearsman Books. I can't think of another poet who writes quite like he does, with the facility and assurance of the poems' address; the ability to bring different registers into collision in a way that reinforces the lyric when it reemerges; the poems' nuanced appreciation of the natural world simultaneous with cultural intelligence, his use of ellipticism interleaving the two effortlessly. Given the use of staggered lines across the page, I can't reproduce any of the poems here, but three poems from Everything Talks appear in Jacket 33 and can be read here and the book's Shearsman page (with links to places to buy it) is here. Do try.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Difficult Times, Agonizing Poems

The more there's at stake in the poem I'm writing, the more arduous the process. Last night I began writing a poem about the dream I'd had about my father the night before--basically, he was walking as though the injury had never occurred, I was thrilled when I realised the change, but in the next glance I saw him in his hospital bed, as paralyzed as ever. So even in my dreams he can't walk.

After I have a complete draft of a poem, I read it aloud over and over to find and revise any weaknesses. Doing that with this poem was agonizing--at one point, I staggered, and I had to put it aside or I knew I wouldn't sleep.

There's no solution to this dilemma--not to go through the process seems like avoiding the crux, the necessity of the poem. Perhaps I'll try sleeping pills, for a night of unbroken rest.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Tuesday 19 August 2008

An Etter Tradition

The Etters don't have many traditions, but one we have and love is that on a child's first birthday, s/he receives her/his very own cake. The last Etter descendant to enjoy this tradition was my youngest nephew Andrew on 23 July, and I was there to see it for myself. (If Andrew doesn't look as excited as you might expect from such an experience, that's probably because he was a bit ill at the time.)



This is good stuff.

The End (doesn't he look a little abashed?)

Thursday 14 August 2008


In Greek and Roman drama, tragedy was what made one singular. These days, tragedy is what makes one common. Consider Liu Yan, who was to perform solo (the only such performance) in the Olympic opening ceremonies but was injured in a rehearsal and now appears to be paralysed for life: "I never imagined I could suffer such a tragedy."

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Yet launch at Mr B's, May 08--belated photos

Inside Mr B's, at intermission

Richard Lambert and Emily Dening, who were also launching Magnolia and A Stash of Gin, respectively

My favourite photo--Gerard and I just outside the shop

Monday 11 August 2008

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish has died

Click here for the Los Angeles Times obituary. His death comes unexpectedly, amid open-heart surgery in Houston. The Palestinian Authority has declared a three-day period of mourning to commemorate his loss.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Clouds Hill Writers' retreats

I've been invited to join Tim Liardet as a poetry tutor for Clouds Hill Writers, which runs weekend intensives in poetry and fiction at gorgeous locations in Devon, Derbyshire, and Spain. The directors are now looking into possible poetry weekends for next year, so if you're interested, let them know at

Saturday 2 August 2008

Bernstein's and Mayer's Writing Experiments

Charles Bernstein's and Bernadette Mayer's writing experiments offer interesting, useful ways for reviving one's relationship to language, etc. Thanks to Catherine Daly for bringing them to my notice.