Wednesday, September 27, 2006

comments on "Grape Stuffing Contest", version 2

I tried to score this one as though I were writing a book -- each stanza break indicating a new page. I also tried to make visual the way I might present this is in performance.

New title. I never liked the old title. Yes, I was thinking of it as a children's book, as I intimidated Sunday when I posted the original version. I even imagined illustrations and thought about sending it off to publishers. But then I often think about sending stuff off to publishers.

Speaking of publishers, you know I have not gotten a rejection with the last four batches I've sent out. Matter gave me another yes just recently. (Which reminds me; gotta send bio.) I wrote a poem to their theme, "Fuel", but that wasn't the one they chose. The one they will include was one of my earlier LuvSet revision pieces. I revisited the last version posted and made some more changes. The changes weren't huge but they were solid improvements. (After that tease I'm going to ask you to forget all about it for a few months. Once the issue of Matter is out I'll talk more about the poem in its process.) The absence of rejection does not embolden me, exactly. But it is nice. And none of the yeses are from crappy places that embarrass me.

"How to Eat a Grape" has no metaphors until way down toward the bottom when the tongue becomes a dragon/monster. Does it work? Sometimes metaphors can distracting.

"Grape Stuffing Contest", version 2

How to Eat a Grape

Put one in your mouth.

You have to put one in your mouth before
you can eat a grape.

You’ve got one in your mouth?

Can you eat now?
That’s not how you eat a grape.

You have to put another in your mouth
before you can eat your grape.

You’ve got another in your mouth?
Good! That’s two!

You can eat now?
That’s not how you eat a grape.

That’s not how you eat a grape if
you really want to eat a grape.

One grape may be sweet
but one grape may be sour.
If you bite a sour grape --
It puts you off grapes good!

So what can you do?
Add another.

Three is enough?

Three is not enough!
If one grape is sweet
and one grape is sour
and the last grape is sort of sweet
and sort of sour,
it doesn’t matter because

grapes are so little!
A grape is not even a bite.
A sweet bite, a sour bite,
it doesn’t matter if it is not even a bite.

Two grapes, three grapes …
Four grapes …

Five grapes.
Five grapes is OK.

Five grapes are sweet.
Five grapes are juicy.
And five grapes fit in your mouth

You can bite five grapes,
the tight green skins popping
as your teeth squeeze them
and the juice

the juice gooshing into your cheeks,
and you swallow like you’re drinking
even before you chew.

But now you can chew.
One grape doesn’t let you chew.
It’s good for you to chew.
You need to chew the tough skins
and the tender meat.
You need to chew
or you’re really not eating.

Five is OK?
What about six?

Six is OK.
Sometimes five is enough
and sometimes five is not enough.
Sometimes six is just enough.

But sometimes six is not enough either.
What do you do?

Add a grape.
What better?
Add another grape!

Wait! That’s eight!
There is nothing wrong with eight.
Eight is not bad.

When you want to eat a grape
and what you really want to do is eat a grape
you can eat eight.

Or nine.

All at once.
Nine grapes.
There’s room!

There’s plenty of room for nine grapes!
And if you slip one more in
for an even ten
who’s to stop you?

And if you ease one more in
for a lovely eleven
all the better!

And if you push in the thirteenth
and sidle it over to a cheek
to make space for the fourteenth
and press it to the other cheek

to make a place for the one that
ups to fifteen what
you haven’t eaten yet –

you may have gone too far this time!
But maybe not.

This is not the perfect way to eat a grape.
We’ve passed perfection some grapes back.

But there’s nothing wrong with it.
If you want to eat a grape
and what you really want to do is eat a grape
then sixteen grapes is too many

but sometimes too many is only one grape away.
And you have to figure it out for yourself
where that one grape lies.

So if you’ve made it to sixteen
(and I have!)
and your jaws don’t ache
and your throat don’t gag
and your tongue’s got room to move
then add a grape.
Add a grape!

Tw …
Tw …
Twen …

Twenty is too many.
Twenty is too many!

Twenty is not comfortable.
Twenty is not pleasant.
You wanted to eat a grape.
This is not a grape.
This is a melon.
This is a big melon pushed into your mouth,
little piece after little piece.

What are you going to do
with twenty grapes in your mouth?
What are you going to do?
Bite them?

Where will the juice go?
It will drip from your lips,
it will flood down your throat.

And the meat and those tough green skins?
Where will all that go?
Your tongue will have to fight it like a dragon.
Your tongue will have to be a mighty monster
in its cave.

This is not a bite.
This is it.
It is all you can do to.
It is a feat, a spectacle, a mountain!

Yes, I have done it.
I will not do it again.
I will never do it again.

It is a big struggle.
It is a big struggle and it is not worth it.

It makes you wonder
when you look at a grape
how it could get so very big!

But don’t worry about it.
Don’t let it be a problem.
There is no problem.

If you want to eat a grape
and what you want to do is eat a grape –

eat five.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

comments on "Grape Stuffing Contest", version 1

So I haven't posted a poem for revision in awhile. "Grape Stuffing Contest" was written in August 1984. In my notebook I append, "after Judy Hardin". Judy is a Sonoma County poet. Her poems & performance are often exuberant, funny, dramatic.

"Grape" could be a children's book. So long as the publisher wasn't made nervous by the choking hazard. It reads rather like a script for a performance. It's a little cute, a little too cute. I see a few changes being made for clarity. Not for profundity. This is a piece about cramming your mouth full of grapes. ... What else?

"Grape Stuffing Contest", version 1

Five is no problem.
I eat five all the time,
one never has enough juice
and one can be sour
but five are always sweet
five are always juice full.
Six I sometimes eat
when five is not enough.
Nine and my mouth is getting full.
Twelve. I have to count carefully now.
Fifteen. The bulges in my cheeks
Are evident in the mirror.
Sixteen. Seventeen.
There is now no room for my tongue.
I wonder about twenty while
pushing my lips together with my fingers.
Twenty is a nice round number.
Twenty is better than nineteen.
But now there is no room for my teeth.
No matter. I cannot brag about a measly nineteen.
Nineteen is hardly enough.
Twenty it must be.
Tw …
Tw …
Twen …
Three and four press against my throat.
Eight tries to shoulder six aside.
Twen …
Nineteen and eighteen fight to survive.
Twenty! Twenty! Twenty!
I have done it! I have don’t it!
Twenty grapes in all.
Only now I must chew and swallow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Petaluma Poetry Walk

I drove up to Petaluma yesterday to the Petaluma Poetry Walk. It's been going strong ten years now and this was my first time. I don't know, a whole day of poetry has always seemed a bit iffy. But toward the end of the week I was really feeling like I had to get out of town. And Jayne wanted to go; as she doesn't have a car I decided to offer her a ride. I don't have a car either. So I borrowed Kent's. A full day of poetry seemed even iffier to him than me.

But having Jayne along helped. We got to whisper snarky asides at a couple readings. That always improves things. So long as you can do it unnoticed. And when the poet is good it's nice to share the experience.

And the setting was a bonus. Two readings back-to-back were at The Apple Box, a cafe on the Petaluma River. The readings were outside but there was a decent PA system so even those of us not seated close in could hear the readers. The weather was fine, blue sky, light breeze. One noisy boat came up the river but had the grace to turn off its engine soon as it docked. Mostly, wow, it was pleasant, even just staring out over the water. I'm glad Petaluma has rediscovered its waterfront.

I remembered my camera! The first picture was taken at the Apple Box facing away from the microphone.

Geri Digiorno organizes the Poetry Walk and I was sorry to hear her arthritis is making walking uncomfortable. She said she was having to drive from reading to reading. I bought her new book, White Lipstick.

Don Emblen was among the poets reading at the Phoenix Theater. I'd never been inside the Phoenix and wondered if I was walking into the right place when I saw the kids lounging around the lobby. The interior looked like a giant Gilman St, Berkeley's punk collective, graffiti everywhere, even some skateboard ramps (curved to about 5 ft in height) abutted the walls. A drum kit and an electric guitar were set up on a raised platform on the stage, ready for a jam session after the reading. Don Emblen is 87. Either he dyes his hair or he has very hardly follicles. His dramatic baritone is strong and well controlled. He knows how to read for an audience, he does. Don was one of my teachers at Santa Rosa Junior College, almost 20 years ago. He served as Sonoma County's first poet laureate when the position was created in 2000. (Geri is laureate for 2006.) I buttonholed Don after the reading and we chatted. Neither of us seemed to be good at small talk but I'm glad I got a few words out.

Monday, September 11, 2006

a today

Look its a today it a day today what the day becomes becoming thinner at the edges not thinner no edges to the beginning of then the other day when the day ages no thinner thinned out thinned because worn worn down worn out worn on the body worming against the noon the zenith at the nadir the wing the ding on the cardoor dunces a final edgy wingy thing the day what came what came over under a table standing with a new head day after well after one day the done day one someone cuts a shirt out of the material edge the long bolt sewn into nuts into nights look look

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Beeswax #2

The handsome second issue of Beeswax Magazine came in the mail a couple weeks ago. It has a poem of mine in it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

alien(s) 3 resurrection

We finished rewatching the Alien tetralogy. A special DVD collection including Making Of disks came out a few years ago. That's what we've been working our way through (renting them from the drugstore on the corner).

I saw them all in the theater when they first came out. And I remember them pretty well. I liked them all to varying degrees. Most disappointed in #3. I really like Sigourney Weaver's Ripley clone in Alien Resurrection.

These new viewings did not, for the most part, change my opinions of the films. Basically: they all look good, nice dark atmosphere with convincing monster effects, enough suspense & creepiness to keep one interested, the feeling that you're really being taken somewhere else.

I liked Alien slightly more this time, I think. I remember buying into hype back when it was first released (I was a big sci-fi movie magazine reader). And I was disappointed that the unlike-anything-ever-before-seen alien menace was, after all, a guy in a suit. The scariest part is when Ripley, thinking she has escaped the monster, is confronted by it in the escape pod. In the revised version the scene with Captain Dallas glued to the wall awaiting alien impregnation has been restored. "Kill me," he begs Ripley. Not the last time in the series a character will beg to be killed. The best thing about the movie is not the story but the atmosphere, Giger's design work not just on the alien monster but on the crashed ship on which the eggs are discovered, the Nostromo, too, with its workshop-like grunginess, and the claustrophobia of being trapped in this limited warren of tubes whose metal walls are all that are between you and the vacuum of space. I think the movie a bit overrated but, still, it's good stuff, a quality monster movie.

And of the four movies Aliens is still the best. It's not a horror movie. It's an action picture, a thriller. Both it and Alien overrely for ramping up the tension on the countdown to supermassive explosions. What, the bad ass aliens weren't enough? But Aliens has a lot going for it -- characters just likable enough you're not rooting for any of them to die (well, except maybe Paul Reiser), a way cool big battle between Ripley and the alien queen, lots of guns and explosions -- and they feel like they matter. I read that director Cameron's preferred version, which we watched on DVD, is 20 minutes longer than the theatrical version. Didn't feel long. Rather nice being able to see the colonists before the aliens get them. In the theater they were all already victims (except Newt, the sole survivor, a child who evades the aliens by scurrying through the ventilation system). A great ride.

Alien 3? Well, I remember seeing it in the theater and didn't care much for it. It wasn't bad. An above average monster movie. After you get over the fact that the survivors from the last movie have been killed before this one even starts (except for Ripley) you can open your sympathies to the guys on the prison-industrial planet. Sort of. The biggest revelation is that the DVD version, director Fincher's preferred cut, is much much better than the version released to theaters. I mean, instead of being merely so-so, it's actually quite good. Fincher's version may be longer but it makes up for that by being more involving. The alien at large won't attack Ripley because she is incubating an alien queen. Why doesn't the alien nab Ripley and glue her to a wall? Because it's dumber than the usual alien? This time it was born from an ox! (In the theater it bursts out of a dog. No dogs in Fincher's version.) There are troubling bits like that but for the most part it's a solid picture. That's especially surprising once you watch the Making Of documentary and see how contentious the shoot was. Fincher was hired after a lot of development had been done (for another director) yet when he began filming there was still no finished script.

I'm not going to say Alien Resurrection is my favorite of the series. But Weaver's Ripley clone has such an appealingly creepy, otherwordly quality that I have to say I'm glad she did it. Joss Whedon wrote the screenplay and now that I've seen his Firefly show Alien Resurrection has the feel of a prequel or alternate universe version of the Firefly crew. Director Jeunet was happy with the cut the studio released to theaters but he added a few tidbits for the DVD Special Edition. Most significantly we get to see Ripley on Earth, overlooking a trashed-looking Paris. That was a nice touch, not necessary but nice. The premise of the film is shaky -- that scientists are able to clone Ripley with the alien queen inside her. Huh? But I like the way it plays out. Ripley is no longer running around in a panic. Though essentially newborn she's got an old soul and is not terribly concerned about either the aliens or their "meat". Plus she's got some alienish powers, like acid blood and superfast relexes. I was sorry the movie faded at the box office.

I understand Aliens v. Predator 2 is going to start filming this month. We watched the DVD of Aliens v. Predator last year. I doubt I'll see AVP2 in the theater. AVP was pretty dumb. Except I will give it this: nice monster battles.