Milwaukee had a beauty all its own …

This was not my first trip to Milwaukee … but my third. The first time was in 2003 for the Women and Creativity Conference at Marquette and the second time was to see Sonic Youth in a big dark lounge (it was so hot only the poetic luring of SY would have kept me around). And the third time was this recent trip … to go again to the Women and Creativity conference.

The tavern that became my friend and I’s hang out for the week, Von Triere, was truly wonderful. But the conference? I kept thinking … So what’s the point? What’s the point of men and women possessing the common goal of scholarship and enrichment in the women’s studies field if no one pushes the envelope all the while taking themselves as seriously as a heart attack?

Writers and academics like to hear themselves talk … of course. This is not a surprise since writers and academics seem to be lonelier people and often seem to always be working on something. And after thinking about something, researching it, and writing about it, one has a desire to share it. I have written another paper about the role of wife in Robert Lowell’s Life Studies since the Bellmer one. Of course I want to share it with an audience … conferences are a great place for that.

This same conference in 2003 was interesting and enriching, the talks causing a discussion, even some fury at times. That is a GOOD THING! This year’s was dry, seemingly pointless, and full to the hilt with women seeming not to be having that much-desired scholarly dialogue, but feeling instead the sickening and insatiable need to one-up each other. It was very disillusioning … and my reading from Small Murders was simply … weird. As I was reading … deadpan faces that appeared to give a shit were followed by I really liked your poems at the “reception.” What? Could’ve fooled me! I sold one book (better than zero) … to a Reverend. That merely added to the ever increasing strangenesses of the conference.

But Milwaukee was truly wonderful and to be there with my best friend Anna made it even better. I am on a mission in finding 312 beer in Kalamazoo. We shall see.

As far as what I am reading … the usual of course (Berryman, Lowell). But for fiction I am reading Clown Girl by Monica Drake. I will no doubt finish it in the next day or so and have to discuss it here. FYI to Palahniuk fans … he does the Introduction to the book. He writes that Drake was a part of his 1991 Portland writers group that took place in someone’s kitchen. Monica should be very proud of his very admiring words regarding her writing. I am almost halfway through and I am not at all disappointed. Go Monica! For nonfiction I am reading The Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison.

I am spent with this day … ta da! (that’s a Monica Drake homage!)

Published in: on March 27, 2007 at 12:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Happy Belated Birthday, Hans Bellmer … Milwaukee Nears …


So I am feverishly getting together my final musings on Hans Bellmer for the Women & Creativity Conference in Milwaukee. The trip draws near … I leave Wednesday and excitement has begun to build. Looks like there are some fascinating papers being presented this year … I am very much looking forward to the Mrs. Dalloway panel and also about the “Women and the Act of Writing Panel” with a paper about Joyce Carol Oates’ You Must Remember This. That book simply transfixed me and will always hold a special place in my heart since it was the first book I read the first night I was 5 hours away from home for the first time in a dormitory at Ohio University. The striking thing was that I read it only because it was Joyce Carol Oates (I didn’t know what it was about) and it ended up being a novel of about a family in the 1950s and I was missing mine.

I am also anxiously awaiting the discussion of sexual politics in The Wife of Bath. I will no doubt have a lot to write about after this conference … I hope to learn a lot from other scholars and meet some exciting people. And Anna … can’t wait to hang out with you again …

It was Hans Bellmer’s birthday last Tuesday, March 13th. I have often had a party for him … making a cake with doll parts strategically placed all through it. No party this year, though I did toast him and read his love letters (the ones he wrote) aloud. But this is the “big gift” … perhaps giving him an audience at the conference … more of one. I am very curious how this paper of mine will be received to a roomful of feminists and women’s studies scholars. This just wasn’t a worry when I presented my paper on New York School poet, Barbara Guest in 2003.

So here’s to nerdy fun in Milwaukee!

This image included here is from Therese Lichtenstein’s beautiful book about Bellmer. Citation information follows.

Lichtenstein, Therese. Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer. University of California Press, 2001.

Published in: on March 18, 2007 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

"and there is a glowing orb emanating from your little heart"

I am simply loving Berryman’s collection, The Dispossessed. I cannot stop reading it … after reading and rereading The Dream Songs for so many years, it is nice to find that “new.” I am sure I had read this collection at some point in my hours of reading Berryman, but it seems so new and absolutely beautiful. I am constantly transfixed. He frees me. “The Spinning Heart” and “The Ball Poem” are joyous musings on love and loss and the often jaggedly difficult unavoidables of the human spirit and condition.

And I also feel real again. I had a good visit with myself last night while listening to Lucinda Williams’ new record, West. The lyrics as well as the music is truly superb. And I feel again a freedom in being happy. Someone makes me so happy so often and constantly now: the day before yesterday, yesterday, and today and every moment. And I am not talking about Berryman … but a real, living breathing person who may be in possession of Berryman’s very soul. I said to him: and there is a glowing orb emanating from your little heart. A knowing smirk endearingly followed.

But I digress. And I am finding it tough these last couple of days to wipe the knowing smirk off of my face …

And for all of those knowing smirks everywhere, here’s a little J.B.:

The Traveller
by John Berryman (from The Dispossessed)

They pointed me out on the highway, and they said
“That man has a curious way of holding his head.”

They pointed me out on the beach; they said “That man
will never become as we are, try as he can.”

They pointed me out at the station, and the guard
looked at me twice, thrice, thoughtfully & hard.

I took the same train that the others took,
to the same place. Were it not for that look
and those words, we were all of us the same.
I studied merely maps. I tried to name
the effects of motion on the travellers,
I watched the couple I could see, the curse
and blessings of that couple, their destination,
the deception practised on them at the station,
their courage. When the train stopped and they knew
the end of their journey, I descended too.

Published in: on March 14, 2007 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

And Now Back Again …

So my second manuscript is now back to square one. After some helpful perspectives from friends reading The Luck of Anhedonia, I have realized that maybe I was rushing this collection. I do think it will be done within the year, but there are so many other things with my writing life I have to focus on like, yesterday: Press Kit, website, and most importantly — Readings! Lots of readings in lots of places. I am from Youngstown, Ohio and it is close to both Pittsburgh and Cleveland … so I am hoping to set up quite a bit in those cities throughout the summer and fall.

I will be reading at Broad Vocabulary on Friday, April 27th at 6:30. This is a indie bookstore in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Please check out their site at: http://www.broadvocabulary.com and please come to the reading if you’re available and in the Milwaukee area. The last reading I had, in January in Kalamazoo, was pretty boo-hoo … but great because almost all of my very best friends were in attendance. If they hadn’t been there … it would have been a big big boo-hoo. But I am going to make sure this one is a success. I am also wanting Small Murders to be a success. And if that professor from Binghamton University who is teaching Small Murders is reading this … please let me know. I would love to discuss anything about the book or answer any questions you might have.

But a week from tomorrow is the Marquette University conference, Women & Creativity and I am so looking forward to it. I am burning to know how my Hans Bellmer paper will go over … we shall see.

I am not mourning the return to my manuscript … I am actually looking forward to putting her away till April … in a dark little drawer. And when I see her again in April … it will hopefully be with different eyes.

Published in: on March 13, 2007 at 11:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Beauty that Hands Create


Late last night I was too tired to read much of anything but needed the comfort of a book. I forget where I got this book … it may have been a garage sale and I had forgotten about it till last night. The book is called, Free-Hand Lettering: A Treatise on Plain Lettering from the Practical Standpoint for Use in Engineering Schools and Colleges by Victor T. Wilson, M.E. This book is a first edition from 1903 with a print run of a thousand and it is in very good condition.

The beauty of hand-lettering has always been something I love to look at and appreciate, to imagine the hands creating them carefully and lovingly. I am also enjoying Wilson’s pragmatic and precarious writing style … this book will be lovely to search with … erasures … the poems that I know are hidden within this gorgeous book.

There is something so very inspiring about this book. The alphabet has taken on another meaning and beauty to me … the skeletons of language, the atoms and neurons of it. The constant potential for truth. Image.

In “A Point of Age” from Berryman’s collection, The Dispossessed, there’s this: “Images are the mind’s life, and they change.”

We should all try our hand at lettering … marrying language to image, image to language … creating the amorphous images for the lives of our minds.

Go ahead and try it … nothing ever bites hard enough to keep us from trying.

Published in: on March 11, 2007 at 4:54 pm  Comments (2)  

After Reading Henry’s Fate … and Seeing Tragic Barriers

The introduction to the edition of John Berryman’s Henry’s Fate I have right now is quite interesting in its biographical discussion of Berryman’s tireless writing and academic life. He wrote poems all the time, an almost complete biographical study of Shakespeare … and Christ. And I do not care how it sounds or how I come off … but I think many thinking people, people obsessed with thinking and gaining knowledge and wisdom often cannot allow much else in. This was indeed the case with Berryman and I fear it could be the case with me. There is a pseudo me … the one everyone sees and interacts with … I think the real me is the one I keep well hidden for fear of isolation, alienation, basically not feeling I can just be a part of normal modern life. But I also cannot help the studying, the writing poems daily, doing erasures, writing essays. But I guess what’s crazy for one person is absolutely necessary for another.

Someone mentioned my “tragic barriers” … evidently I am always painting pictures even though that is oddly the time I feel I am the most real … not pseudo. And then someone else mentioned that my new collection of poems is a story with both tragedy and hope … that it is clear the characters in the poems were evolving to a greater truth. And then someone else said this was a more mature and more entertaining collection than the “quirky darkness” of Small Murders. I like that is has been something different to the three who have read the book. I like also that right now my exhaustion is so acute that my eyes are red, dark circles under them … and all this somehow has some uber-awake feeling … I feel at once drugged and unable to function as I feel oddly enlightened and peaceful.

Sometimes I think even a bit ahead … an hour ahead, several minutes … and want to get away as fast as I can. And when I think maybe months ahead I wonder what will be different. Will anything be different? Will I be different? The world? My daily circumstance and geographical location? And with all of this invariably comes a sense of dread. I guess I am cynical. But I know I am not distrusting. And whatever happens will no matter what. There is so much insignificance when we constantly in one way another convince ourselves of so much significance. There are only a few important pillars in life to me … I have only possessed one … and still do. I can only ever hope to see this sooner rather than later … like, before it seems too late and I can’t get over it.

And then maybe everyone is right about me. Maybe I multiply like larvae. Maybe that’s my fate …

Published in: on March 10, 2007 at 4:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Almost forgot about the importance of the liver …


In Shakespeare, the liver referred to the seat of emotions. The spleen was often the seat of passions. I guess I have been having trouble recently with the liver and the spleen … so I am trying to gain a control out of its inherent chaos …

Published in: on March 7, 2007 at 12:02 am  Comments (1)  

When Personas Take Over …

There is something to be said for your “persona” in your work to take over a bit. In your day to day life, soul, heart, and so forth. In that, one begins to lose oneself. Fernando Pessoa, the author of a book I had mentioned here a while ago — The Book of Disquiet — is an extreme but significant example of personas taking over (since he had several), a loss of self, and an alienation that one does not desire but may happen as a default. It is hard for me to explain my emotions, but they are real. And I know also that in feeling and living with these emotions, I cannot forget the importance of Truth, Beauty, and most of all my Self. Since the book is finished now, I feel I can begin to move away and back from my personas in the book who have been making a little mischief in my life the last few weeks in particular. Gain perspective, an objectivity. Perspective and objectivity are only the best of things for writers anyway … nothing will get better in the writing without it and the same goes with life and its little searches.

Things will become wonderful in the truth we find and seek …

I need to get over my constant fear — the constant dichotomy — of feeling misunderstood while never really wanting to be understood completely. The allure of mystery has gotten me into trouble before … I need to listen to the objectivity offered by those I genuinely care about, the ones who can bring me an order out of chaos if I am willing to listen.

Published in: on March 4, 2007 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Second Collection Tis Done … but I will still obsess about it

I keep reordering the poems searching tirelessly for the “heart” of the narrative. The story of this Anhedonia and myself … and John Berryman … and Robert Lowell … even the children’s author, Dare Wright … and the Women of Ward 81 (gorgeously immortalized in a book by Mary Ellen Mark and Karen Folger Jacobs). These are the characters in this story I hope has great luck in finding a home with a small press. I mentioned contests and those are good (always check any contest out on http://www.foetry.com before entering. This site lists the Presses / Contests / Judges who have been unethical), but I am also going to shop it around the old-fashioned way in a large envelope to small, independent presses, as well as University Presses.

And some good Small Murders news is that my Milwaukee trip is fast approaching. I am so excited about staying in an old (hopefully haunted) hotel downtown and of course about the Marquette University’s Women & Creativity Conference. I am presenting my paper, “Shock, Awe, and Everything in Between: The Dolls of Hans Bellmer” and giving a reading from Small Murders at the conference. It is also looking good that I will also maybe be reading at an indie bookshop in Milwaukee called Broad Vocabulary. When the date is set for this, I will post it just in case I have any Milwaukee-area readers reading this.

Last night, a great breeze came into my living room window. The small postcard photo I have of who I think of as Anhedonia fell to the floor after dancing about in the wind of the room. It was quite telling, endearing. I was talking last night to someone about poetry and ideas and I am simply convinced that poetry and most art comes out of the mundane, the simple, the things you would never notice if you were not noticing. Big things like love, death, hate, rage do not inspire art — if anything, they are merely symptoms. Aaron, I would be very very curious about your take on this issue … pray tell. But I digress … there was every reason why I wouldn’t have noticed a breeze capturing a piece of paper … but I did. It was beautiful. I took a great photo of its fall and landing and as soon as I find the USB cord for my camera, I will post it. It was beautiful … it was nothing really … simple … it was The Luck of Anhedonia.

Published in: on March 2, 2007 at 6:41 pm  Comments (3)