Today, the website As It Ought to Be is featuring my poem “A Newborn Girl at Passover” in their Saturday Poetry Series.
April 21, 2016
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.
January 4, 2016
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Also from socallitlist, an opportunity from the poetry magazine Rattle for Angelenos (that’s my preferred spelling, no disrespect to Rattle’s):
Our Summer 2016 issue will be dedicated to Angelinos. The poems may be any subject or length, but must written by poets who have lived in the Greater Los Angeles Area (which includes Ventura, Orange, and the Inland Empire) at least half of their lives.
We no longer publish essays, but always include brief contributor notes discussing how being an Angelino influences your poetry. Feel free to include this with your submission, or provide it upon acceptance.
January 4, 2016
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The Santa Ana River Review, the literary journal of the University of California, Riverside’s MFA program, is now accepting submissions for the spring 2016 fiction contest “Writing Southern California.” We are looking for short stories from Southern Californian writers that shape, challenge, and upset contemporary notions of what it means to be a part of this diverse, dry landscape.
Special guest judge Helena Maria Viramontes, acclaimed author of Under the Feet of Jesus and Their Dogs Came with Them will select the winner. The first place winner will receive a cash prize and publication in our spring 2016 issue. All submissions will be considered for publication.
Submissions should be less than 5,000 words and set in or exploring themes surrounding Southern California (Southland, Imperial, San Diego, etc.). We are especially interested in stories by underrepresented California writers. All rights revert back to author after published. No simultaneous submissions or previously published work; any disregard to these stipulations will result in entry fee forfeiture and contest ineligibility. Deadline: January 31, 2016.
January 2, 2016
One of the pleasures of winter break was a lunch out at Aroma Café with two well-read and well-reading friends. Friend #1 was spending break immersed in a Dickens novel (I can’t remember which one except that I know I haven’t read it, maybe Our Mutual Friend?), but Friend #2 was, as usual, full of recommendations, including Mohsin Hamid’s novel How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia; An Officer and a Spy, a historical novel about the Dreyfus Affair by Robert Harris, and Life Itself, a memoir by the late film critic Roger Ebert.
A few days later, I was trawling through my commonplace book and found a brief quotation from Ebert’s New York Times obituary, which is both very plain and very memorable:
Mr. Ebert believed a great film should seem new at every watching; he said he had seen “Citizen Kane,” his favorite, scores of times. His credo in judging a film’s value was a simple one: “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions never lie to you.”
And really, isn’t this true? Other people can tell you that what you respond to isn’t worth responding to, that it’s cheap or cheesy or sentimental. Maybe your intellect agrees with them or is at least willing to go along. Maybe it even convinces you not to listen to your heart for once. But don’t let it tell you your heart is lying.
January 1, 2016
Reading Ruthellen Josselson’s Playing Pygmalion: How People Create One Another:
People’s sense of reality is constructed in interconnection with those who make up their social world. There is not an “out there” world to be perceived accurately or inaccurately. Instead, we together create a reality that we live in. Thus, when we have in mind certain “characters” that we need in our world and find people who seem to live out these characteristics, and who find in us characters that fit into the reality they aim to construct, then we together shape a script or play that we will live in together. Seldom do we investigate too closely whether these people who are important to us are in some sense “really” what they seem to be for us. We regard others as being somehow just already there in the outside world.
Wondering: how does this dynamic map out over the course of childhood, adolescence, the different stages of adulthood? Does it begin with the earliest awareness of people as others? Are there moments at which we’re most intensely seeking characters to act with us? At which times are we least in need of–or most closed against–introducing new characters? And finally, what is the range of normal? Surely there are people who have very little social world to speak of, who barely do this at all, and, at the other end of the spectrum, people who are intensely over-involved in the act of creating characters out of other people?
September 8, 2015
Just about six weeks shy of a year since I posted last. Yes, I read Volume 4 of My Struggle this summer. Along with a lot of other books.
In Volume 4, he’s a callow young man, just eighteen and graduated from gymnas (I’m glad Bartlett, the translator, chose to preserve the Norwegian word instead of translating it as “high school”–it feels more precise), teaching primary school in northern Norway.
Oh, the muted lights in buses at night and the muted sounds. The few passengers, all in their own worlds. The countryside gliding past in the darkness. The drone of the engine. Sitting there and thinking about the best that you know, that which is dearest to your heart, wanting only to be there, out of this world, in transit from one place to another, isn’t it only then you are really present in this world? Isn’t it only then you really experience the world? (162)
Of this passage, a few lines later, he observes, “Only a forty-year-old man could have written that.”
Yes, and so?