…and maybe show it to your students to make them feel glad they are native speakers, or, if they’re non-native speakers, proud that they have mastered this ridiculously complex aspect of English:

David Ulin in Lithub:

In part, I think, our fascination with the secret lives of writers has to do with the fact that we feel so close to them when we read. This is as it should be; reading and writing is exceedingly intimate. But that’s part of the trick of art, isn’t it?—that the artist is most fully themselves when in the process of working, that this is all we need to know? It’s why, as John Irving once suggested, the question of the autobiographical is irrelevant: “[A]n adult should … know,” he wrote, “that whether a novel is autobiographical or not is beside the point—unless the alleged adult is hopelessly inexperienced or totally innocent of the ways of fiction.”

Read the whole piece.

A student observed that the speaker in James Wright’s poem “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” is experiencing a human need for meaning (i.e., what does it mean to “waste” one’s life) that the butterfly and the (implied) cows do not experience.  The last line, “I have wasted my life,” makes us ask whether that’s an expression of regret or satisfaction; it also reminds us that such contemplation is part of the human condition.

Also unconscious of whether life is, or can be, “wasted” is the chicken wearing pants.

Shana tova–a sweet and peaceful New Year–to you.


The room my C block class meets in has suddenly acquired a large faux-leather chair that made me think of Sesame Street’s Monsterpiece Theater, which made me think of this American Monster Classics classic:

…by the priority deadline (April 4), you should have a response from us today, as promised.  If not, you should email us at poetry@napawritersconference.org.

If you applied after the priority deadline, you will probably hear from me in a week or so, but you’re welcome to reach out and see how things are going.

It’s chilly here in Los Angeles this evening.  The skies are cloudy.  We’re hoping for rain.

Today, the website As It Ought to Be is featuring my poem “A Newborn Girl at Passover” in their Saturday Poetry Series.

Six years ago, in a brief tribute to the poet Ai, I tried to put into words my sense of the way an artist’s work transforms when the artist’s life is over, and quoted Bishop’s elegy for Lowell: “Sad friend, you cannot change.”

Today, soon after learning of Prince’s death, I went to my next class, all seniors, and we shared our reactions.  C. was playing “Adore” on his phone.  Z. said: “My mom is going to be so sad.”  A: “When we talk to our kids about him, he’s going to be someone who…has always been dead for them.  Like John Lennon was for us.  Our whole lives, he’s been this great icon who was already dead when we were born.”

(That last one is a paraphrase, but it’s close.)

And we read Bishop’s “North Haven,” because it’s the poem I always think of when an artist dies.  No matter how much more of the back catalogue gets published, there’s something finished about the work. Even though, as with the Bishop poem, as with “When Doves Cry” (on my personal list of most loved songs), the work feels living and real, the work is finished.

Oh Prince.  I loved Rob Sheffield’s tribute at Rolling Stone:

No other male songwriter of his or any other generation wrote songs about women like this. In an alternate universe, Prince retires in 1987 the day after he writes “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” and he’s still the coolest man who walked the earth.