Thursday, 31 December 2009
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
My series of poems "Divining for Starters" began with the first two written in late 1999. I was in my third year of the Ph.D. program in English at the University of California, Irvine, and was completing my graduate coursework, which included an emphasis in critical theory. The emphasis involved a 3-course, year-long survey, and a required number of optional courses, which for me included Marxist Literary Theory with Rey Chow and Pardon and Perjury with Jacques Derrida. Anyway, in 1997 or '98 I read Derrida's seminal essay, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," and related writings, and began thinking about this Western compulsion to create/assert origins, and the way this compulsion is embedded in our thinking--it's a new day, new project, new year, new beginning, and so on, always suggesting we can decide such an origin simply by stating it (I know I'm getting away from the Derrida now; this is the direction my thoughts took me in when I thought of the work more abstractly later). That was the idea when I wrote the first, and hence unnumbered, "Divining for Starters," and I explored the idea more explicitly in "Divining for Starters (2)" a few months later. For me, the phrase divining for starters means trying to find a way to create a beginning, to originate while acknowledging one is always in medias res. I think many people, consciously or unconsciously, live by divining for starters, and each poem in the series considers the possibility of a particular new origin or the possibility/problem of deciding an origin more generally.
I'd be glad for questions that may help me clarify this answer further.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Cycle on the Pavement
You want to get from A to B,
Don’t want to drive or pay.
Don’t want to cycle on the road
Yet still, there is a way.
Cycle on the pavement!
No cars, no traffic lights.
No one-way signs, no dotted lines,
A cyclist’s delight!
But even on the pavement,
Cycling’s not without its cares.
Your route involves pedestrians
Who think the pavement’s theirs!
They’re living in society
They really should get real.
Faster is the master here,
And foot gives way to wheel.
You’ve got a flashing headlight
And a helmet for your head.
Yellow, hi-viz cycle clips,
And back light flashing red.
If they can’t see you coming,
They must be bloody blind.
There’s someone with a white stick there.
[SMACK], Well, never mind.
It’s actually illegal,
It’s in the Highway Code.
It spells out very clearly
You should cycle on the road.
But human laws don’t matter,
You can break them with impunity.
Gives you complete immunity.
So cycle on the pavement,
With a smirk across your face.
Cycle on the pavement,
And fuck the human race.
Friday, 4 December 2009
You answer through silence.
You reduce thought
to the void,
and there where you razed all image
your name is renewed.
at the tips of your tangled hair.
words become quiet,
and one step further on the mind opens up
to the shock of its own annulment.
Present in everything
thus you also disappear.
Where are you leading me
stripped of my own body?
And what of Death?
Small butterflies flying among the ruins.
Froth leaves necklaces around the throat of rocks.
Islands of black rock.
Terns nest in the porous walls.
A necklace of froth--and I see my own wreck.
Night comes and shuts off the shine on the water.
Come, you tell me.
With closed eyes, just the tumble of the sea.
Still very close
those beaches to which I will never return.
Very far away now.
Black light devouring our bodies.
And on the water,
where rays freeze in their own light,
I see you like a seed of fire.
Every wave leaves trails of silk against the sun.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Monday, 30 November 2009
Sunday, 22 November 2009
We use them sideways. Words, he meant, that will do for now, slipping them through or between to prise a way towards what we don’t know yet how to say.
* My mother cut sideways through water – she’d swim in any weather, any sea, her right cheek pillowed on the waves. Once she hooked back a man from drowning, brought him to shore on her strong sidestroke, legs scissoring the undertow.
* Tacking is a strategy of cunning, making headway in adversity, catching the gale sideways and using it.
* After the stroke, she was often lost for a word – she the linguist who loved a cryptic crossword. I took the slant of her meaning and how she strove by indirection to arrive at it, like a small craft in a contrary wind.
* Some things, faintest stars, we see more brightly if we just look glancingly, so a mist, a smudge, resolves into points of light, sidereal in the corner of the eye.
It’s the way our eyes are made, near the edge more densely receptive, so we always have this sense of what escapes our scrutiny, a truth askance and facetted, a love so far unsaid.
* Using them, even the blanks in her mind – “Almost...” she said once, exhausted, gripping both my hands and waiting like the poet for the word that will tend his passion, then hooking the prize at last with an intake of wonder, “...inexhaustible.” Which was about the size of it.
Linda Saunders' The Watchers can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk.
Friday, 20 November 2009
Mexican poet Elsa Cross, as translated by Michael Smith and Luis Ingelmo
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
I thank Michael’s family for giving me this way to pay my last respects to Michael as I can’t be there in person. (While this is being read, I’ll be teaching in England.)
I will remember Michael for his earnestness, his kindness, his gentleness, and his warmth. I will remember him for his greatest ambitions: to be a good father and to be a good friend.
As I look through photos of Michael with Kaylee and Austin, what impresses me most in all their faces is the look of contentment. There’s happiness, too, but contentment goes deeper and speaks to their appreciation, to their delight and pride in one another. If I had a dollar for every time Michael spoke, with a sneaking smile, of how smart his son Austin was, of how bright (in several senses of the word) his daughter Kaylee was, I think my flight from England would have been paid for several times over. He used those words in my hearing enough times for me to believe that for each time I heard him, he’d said it a hundred, maybe a thousand times to others. Yes, Michael loved Austin and Kaylee, he loved them dearly, and just as importantly, he admired them for who they were, for their individuality and strength of personality. Often I thought his tone of voice, when speaking to them, suggested he was speaking to a younger friend rather than a child.
He was also a good friend—so I have heard, and I have seen in him the qualities that make one. He avoided rudeness, cattiness, and complaint; he was passionately loyal, unusually unconditional in his affection, and considerate. The last time I spoke to him it was September. It was a warm night, and he was sitting in his truck while Sandra had come inside to pick up some mail. I didn’t want them to just come and go, I wanted to talk to them and hang out for a while, so I went outside and invited Michael in for a glass of wine. It wasn’t to his taste—not quite sweet enough—but even that he admitted with a smile. It was the kind of conversation you have late at night, in a quiet house, voices low, relaxed, and straightforward. I suppose if I’d been outside that scene and been able to look in, at the writer and her sister and her ex-husband, the person I’d have chosen first to have a drink with would have been Michael, for his earnestness, his kindness, his gentleness, and his warmth.
Michael Lusher, I am glad you were alive. I have no doubt your children will take your ambitions—to be a good parent, a good friend—into their lives, and they will be better and happier for them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Love on a Monday Evening
Today I felt fear and it was the grandest thing -
like the crown of my head would lift off.
Not a leaf could have flipped on its back in the wind
that I wouldn't have noticed.
An Arab sat opposite me on the train.
I had taken the first carriage,
the one we had imbued with likely death
in a way we can only substantiate for each other.
My fingers filled with static and my blood turned
to white noise. I could describe him for you,
a quick photo-fit sketch, but mostly it was his stubble
and the wart on his left cheek,
like in news reports. I have a spot in the same place
on my right cheek. You've never called me
a terrorist when I've not shaved for that long. Mostly
I have been supporting myself on wire link fences
looking at each partition of waste land,
square by square, until the police move me on.
Static Exile can be ordered directly from the publisher, Penned in the Margins.
Saturday, 7 November 2009
And somehow only now have I come across an article published in El Mercurio (according to Tony Frazer it's Chile's equivalent of The Times) on New Year's Eve in 2004. Tony Frazer translates the passage in which my name is mentioned thus: "As for poetry, the global scene is vast, dynamic, diversified and in some cases brilliant (the recently deceased Anthony Hecht, Monica Ferrel, John Ashbery, Charles Simic, John Mole, Carrie Etter, Brad Leithauser are mere sample [names] (or: illustrative examples) in the thriving English language poetry of today. In other words, if we left our parochial surroundings, we would be able to see a literary landscape [that is] stimulating, energetic, provocative, tempting, very diverse and a contrast with the backward republic of native letters."
How I got on that list--how I'm known to Camilo Marks--I don't know, but to be among those poets and to have my work described as "brilliant" thrills me.
Friday, 6 November 2009
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Why Weren’t Any Women Invited To Publishers Weekly’s Weenie Roast?
Publishers Weekly recently announced their Best Books Of 2009 list. In their top ten, chosen by editorial staff, no books written by women were included. Quoted in The Huffington Post, PW confidently admitted that they're “not the most politically correct" choices. This statement comes in a year in which new books appeared by writers such as Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, Rita Dove, Heather McHugh and Alicia Ostriker.
“The absence made me nearly speechless,” said writer Cate Marvin, cofounder of the newly launched national literary organization WILLA (Women In Letters And Literary Arts), which, since August, has attracted close to 5400 members on their Facebook web page, including many major and emerging women writers. “It continues to surprise me that literary editors are so comfortable with their bias toward male writing, despite the great and obvious contributions that women authors make to our contemporary literary culture.”
WILLA’s other cofounder, Erin Belieu, Director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University, asked, “So is the flipside here that including women authors on the list would just have been an empty, politically correct gesture? When PW’s editors tell us they’re not worried about ‘political correctness,’ that’s code for ‘your concerns as a feminist aren’t legitimate.’ They know they’re being blatantly sexist, but it looks like they feel good about that. I, on the other hand, have heard from a whole lot of people—writers and readers--who don’t feel good about it at all.”
PW also did a Top 100 list and, of the authors included, only 29 were women. The WILLA Advisory Board is in the process of putting together a list titled “Great Books Published By Women In 2009.” This will be posted to the organization’s Facebook page and website. A WILLA Wiki has also been started for people to share their nominations for Great Books By Women in 2009. Press release to follow.
WILLA was founded to bring increased attention to women’s literary accomplishments and to question the American literary establishment’s historical slow-footedness in recognizing and rewarding women writers' achievements. WILLA is about to launch their website and is in the process of planning their first national conference to be held next year.
(Note: until recently, WILLA went under the acronym WILA, with one “L.” If you’re interested in the organization, please Google WILA with one “L” to see background on how this group was originally formed.)
For more information contact:
Erin Belieu ebelieu at fsu dot edu
Cate Marvin catemarvin at gmail dot com