Thursday, February 27, 2003

I'm listening to John Cale's "Hallelujah", though the CD will have moved on to the next song before I finish this sentence. The CD is a mix of songs I plucked from CDs I brought home from the library. It's sure nice to snag the one song I like from an album.

This is only the second CD I've burned. My first was mainly selected from the sampler CDs that came with CMJ New Music Magazine. It's sure nice to have every song a winner. No more tolerating songs because I can't be bothered to go to the CD player and hit the skip forward button. The songs I like I like better when they're surrounded by other songs that please me. Seems logical that one would like the good songs more if they were surrounded by songs one disliked, the liked song seeming that much better judged by its company. It doesn't seem to work that way for me.

For several years I've been doing essentially the same thing with poetry. As I read a book of poems I keep a stack of placemarks handy. If I read a poem I want to read again I pop in the placemark. I revisit the poem, rereading it until I decide whether I'm done, ready to let it go, or I'm not and I want that poem to be around. It's then I hand copy the poem onto binder paper and add it to a collection that's probably hundreds of pages. There have been a couple occasions I've changed my mind about a poem, upon coming across it in this personal anthology found it unbearable. Mostly I honor what captured me at the time I copied the poem originally. I date each poem when I copy it. I want to be able to look back to 1994 and see what I was reading, what I needed then. My tastes have evolved some but I like the poems I copied out ten years ago, 15 years ago, though I've read them a zillion times. Those couple occasions where I changed my mind radically enough to dread coming across a particular poem I have allowed myself to remove it. Over 15 years I can only recall doing that two times. Pretty good.

I 'spect I'll continue to like these mix CDs as the years go by. "Ra Ti Ra Ti Ra Ti Ray" sings Eddy Grant and his back-up singers.

I began copying out poems to take care of some problems I had with reading poems. I didn't like most of them. When someone would ask me who my favorite poets were I didn't have much of an answer. Even the poets whose work impressed me -- William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman -- wrote poems that annoyed me. And annoyance would too often be my main memory. If I were going to know which poets were the poets (of the hundreds cramming the shelves) to whom I wanted to return I had to have a clue. What better than the poem?

I had figure out some things right at the first. Was I copying out my favorites? Or was I copying out poems I admired, wanted to learn from, great poems? And was I copying the poems out by hand or was I typing them or photocopying them? I did all three but settled rather quickly on copying stuff out by hand. Part of it was the added affection I had for a poem when I saw it in my own handwriting. Suddenly that poem really was mine. I had written it. I had a new permission to use the poem in my own writing. When the poem was typed or photocopied it retained a foreign feel. Yes, this meant that long poems really had to prove themselves. If I were going to cramp up my hand transferring them from the source to my own anthology I was going to have to agree with every word. This is easier in a short poem. The longest piece I've yet copied is Lewis Carroll's "Hunting of the Snark". It took a few sessions of copying to get it all. But it was a kick. I didn't regret the decision at any point. I've not copied a large percentage of the poems I've read. 1%? And this is from published books. Not saying the other 99% was wasted time. I do enjoy reading poems, even many of those I know from the first line aren't going to go through my ballpoint. Because I don't copy out great poems or poems I admire. I copy out poems I personally connect to. I've come very close to copying out poems that blew me away but that, ultimately, I didn't look forward to reading again. Usually the subject matter isn't the big thing. But I must say poems that bear down on cruelty and violence have to have a real undercurrent of compassion to be keepers. My criteria were I editing a magazine or anthology would be different. I'd be more open to the poems that do things that startle, the ones that show amazing craft or try things one seldom sees. The personal anthology is where I come to share good company. It's not a collection of poems that prove anything to anybody. Except to me. And what do they prove to me again and again? That there are poems that work, that are wonderful, that are places I can go to and stay. After I've forced myself through the latest Best American Poetry and despair for there being anything worth reading I can retire to the anodyne. By no means are the poems always about cozy comfort. ... But the next thing is to talk about some of the poems I've saved in this anthology, isn't it?

Friday, February 21, 2003

I'm typing this at the new Mac G4. Last weekend K and I took the components of desk that we'd picked up at Ikea the weekend before, flipped open the wordless instruction booklet, fetched the tools they so helpfully pictured (two screwdrivers -- one regular, one philips, a hammer) and one brief spark of frustration, a paper cut, and a packet of good feelings later and we had a desk. It looks pretty sharp. With the flat screen atop it. The keyboard on the sliding tray below.

Worst thing about the G4: it roars. Louder even than the old PC. The one thing it has over the PC in fan noise is the option to put the computer to sleep, which shuts the fan off but allows you to power back up in a flash.

It's late. Kittens are pouncing on each other. I've gotta go clean their litter boxes, refill their food & water dishes and shut them in their luxurious night time accomodations.

OK. I am goosed to post because another friend has started up a blog: Blake

Yes, cats, I'm coming.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

There's a bent toothpick on the desk by the keyboard. Uh. Yuck?

Have a subscription to CMJ New Music Magazine, which comes with a sampler CD every month. Just listened to "Here and There" by Homunculus. Sweet song. It's in the issue that came today. There was a pile of stuff on the floor when I got home. We have a mailslot in the door. Among other things was a report on the status of my 401k. I fully expected more negative numbers and was surprised to see every one positive. Not to say I've made back all my losses. As if! Someday I'll graph the thing's progress.

We're going to San Diego at the end of the month. I emailed Eric Shanower about getting together with him and David Maxine for dinner or brunch or something. He says he's attending a science fiction convention that weekend. But he figures a dinner-sized hole can be found in the schedule.

Kent has talked about driving down to Ensenada and I like the idea. Worrying a little bit about the border crossing. How long does it take? Waiting hours in a car is never fun. Wonder if we can cross via train or foot or something and pick up a rental car in Tijuana? I'm going to try to look into that.

I know Bush's antics aren't helping my mood -- from our sucky economy (yeah, I'm blaming Bush, but I ain't letting Gov Davis off the hook either) to, oh yeah, THE WAR. Gosh, maybe it'll be easy like Panama and Grenada and kicking Iraq out of Kuwait. As we all know, those adventures made us proud to be Americans and had no negative consequences. Well, if there were one or two dead civilians, they weren't ours. Whew. I hate these shits in Washington. I hate them!

Is this the sort of rage Clinton's nemeses were feeling? Kent asks.

I fail to see the parallel.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Frustrations. A part of living, eh? Oh little dewdrop, here comes the sun! Gonna warm you right up! Mm MM. Warm you right up. The chill of the night birthed you, little wet, now here comes the warmth of day.


While we wait to evaporate

let's ruminate

on the press notices of friends. Michael Martin emailed me a link to an article in the Gainesville Sun about his literary magazine The Hogtown Creek Review. First picture I've seen of his co-editor, Elisa Maranzana. Google hits on "Hogtown Creek Review" are growing. Used to be you'd get one or two. A call for submission posted on a bulletin board perhaps ... Now poets are naming it bios! How fun. I'd happily edit a literary magazine. If somebody else would do all the business stuff. Consult me on design, sure, but fund it, call the printer, shlep it around to bookstores -- ugh. I do enjoy reading slush piles. And discovering good stuff. I do like that part quite a bit. I don't mind reading lots of bad poems because when you get to the good ones they seem so much better! 'Course one can lose one's head. But one feels intimate with the poems one discovers. And reads over & over in the process of choosing, typesetting, proofreading, flipping through the finished magazine. One takes a proprietary interest. And looks for the poet's further success. That's how I looked at it. When I worked on Berkeley Poetry Review at UCB. And my few other brushes with publishing.

You know, I still have a few copies of the issue of Berkeley Poetry Review for which I served as Ed-in-Chief. If you'd like one, I'll mail you one. Just write me with your mailing address and I'll put one in an envelope and send it to you. Free. Yup. It is a few years old. And I have zero contact with the kids who are working on BPR now. I don't even know whether somebody is working on BPR now. So don't assume you'll learn anything about the sort of poem BPR publishes these days from reading my old ish. This offer is while-supplies-last, you know. Which may be forever if nobody asks. So don't be shy!

Isn't that dewdrop dry?