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Mar. 23rd, 2010

In Defense of Trash

cross-posted from my other blog —

Everyone needs both Serious Literature and Trash. Confucius said that. Or Sarah Bernhart. I’m not sure. But it was said, and it was true.

Lately, I’ve been drowning myself in a sea of serious literature, and I kind of forgot to read any real trash... so earlier this past weekend, when my neighborhood started playing a new season of its favorite fairweather game, Leave A Big Box of Books By Your Front Door for People to Take, I grabbed Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver — a monstrous brick of 17/18th c. steampunk (or maybe coalpunk?) that is, apparently, only the first in a trilogy.

It’s absolutely awful. It’s mostly written in modern English, but Stephenson keeps throwing in the occasional olde spellinge: “phant’sy” to let us know it’s that time period, and then quickly follows it with an anachronism (“he’ll have to ‘get in line’ as they say in New Amster- I mean New York”) to let us know that it’s not our version of that time period. But I love it. I’m hardly 60 of the 900+ pages in so far, and I don’t want to stop reading. It’s ambitious as hell, lovely and crazy, and weird, and not at all careful about what it’s doing. It reminds me of the best and worst of Orson Scott Card, or Douglas Adams — the ride is wild and that’s the only point. Awesome.

And it’s deliberately overwhelming in the best way — here’s a list of phrases the main character finds on a set of proto-computer punch-cards (all spelling and capitalization preserved):

Noah’s Ark; Treaties terminating wars; Membranophones (e.g. mirlitons); The notion of a classless society; The pharynx and its outgrowths; Drawing instruments (e.g., T-squares); The skepticism of Pyrrhon of Elis; Requirements for valid maritime insurance contracts; The Kamakura bakufu; The fallacy of Assertion without Knowledge; Agates; Rules governing the determination of questions of fact in Roman civil courts; Mummification; Sunspots; The sex organs of bryophites (e.g., liverwort); Euclidean geometry—homotheties and similitudes; Pantomime; The Election & Reign of Rudolf of Hapsburg; Testes; Nonsymmetrical dyadic relations; the Investiture Controversy; Phosphorus; Traditional impotence remedies; the Arminian heresy...

Wonderful! It reads like one of those lists of topics “discussed” in the Believer magazine, only gone terribly, terribly awry. My heart skips a beat hoping that all of these things will show up in this endless, crazy, book. I’ll let you know.

Which leads me to an overwhelming question: where is trash poetry? I’m not talking about pretentious crap, or amateur high school bloodletting. I mean where’s the lowbrow poetry, the poetry that’s not aiming for readers somewhere on the far horizon of time? Where’s the modern version of the great, terrible, popular murder ballads and limericks and, heck, I don’t know, the sci-fi poems? The vampire/werewolf/romance love poems? The superhero poems?

I think poemtry is suffering — has been suffering — from a decidedly over-literaturization of itself. Or, more likely, I think I just don’t know where all that stuff is, because my local bookstore is a little bit pretentious, and Amazon doesn’t care enough about poetry to separate it into subgenres. But I do know this: I’ve been reading a lot of really great poetry for a while now, and my brain is full. I think I need some enjoyable trash poetry to read. I think I’d find that pretty refreshing. So if you know where any is, send it my way.

Jan. 25th, 2010

I see the problem

you thought you could win us over with rational policy decisions and an even tempermant

Oct. 9th, 2009

Not for the Squeamish

This is actually the most horrible thing I can imagine. I have deep-seated nightmares that involve things like this. Maybe it's one of the reasons I can't stop watching it. I just can't stand the idea of something digging into, or burrowing into your skin, making empty cavities. Ugh. Anyway, I thought I'd share a bit of my id with everyone today.

seriously don't click if you feel the slightest bit squeamish today.

and the link, if you're not seeing the embedded video:

Oct. 6th, 2009


Self promotion!


Sep. 15th, 2009

My Life According to William Matthews

Cool enough meme to pass on, from the blue and white world of the facebooks: Using only poem titles from one poet, answer these questions. Pass it on people you like, including me. Do not repeat a title. Re-post as "My Life According to [poet]."

Are you a male or female?
The Mail

Describe yourself.
Driving Alongside the Housatonic River Alone on a Rainy April Night

How do you feel?
Eternally Undismayed Are the Poolshooters

Describe where you currently live.

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
On the Porch at the Frost Place, Franconia, NH

Dream vacation:
Pissing off the Back of the Boat into the Nivernais Canal

Where you feel safe:
Grandmother, Talking

Your favorite form of transportation:
Taking the Train Home

What's the weather like:
April in the Berkshires

Your favorite time of day:
Waking at Dusk from a Nap

Your relationships:
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Your friendships:
The Psychopathology of Everyday Life

Your fear:
The Theme of the Three Caskets

Your greatest regret:
Old Girlfriends

Your dream job:
The Drunken Baker

Your alma mater:
A Poetry Reading at West Point

Your name, if you could change it:
The Wolf of Gubbio

Your favorite color:
Mood Indigo

Your favorite food:
An Egg in the Corner of One Eye

Your favorite part of the body:

Your biggest pet peeve:
Sticks & Stones

Your worst habit:

Your death:

Your religion:
Cows Grazing at Sunrise

Your daily routine:
Dog Life

Your philosophy of life:
I Let a Song Go out of My Heart

Your soul's present condition:
Slow Work

Your best advice:
Bucket's Got a Hole in it.

website here

Sep. 10th, 2009

We're gonna crack open the big egg.

Universe, you just got a little weirder.

if you're reading this on facebook, the link is here:

or here:

Sep. 1st, 2009

Subway Art

One of things I like about NYC is the occasional witty reworking of the subway and freeway ads. People with a good sense of humor and some time and dedication can often make your boring ride a little more surprising and delightful. And I like the anarchic sense of fucking with the corporate message.

Thus that crappy new thriller starring Gerard Butler, called Gamer, with the tag line "Who's Playing You?" becomes:


Aug. 31st, 2009

One Man, One Mic.

I remember finding out about this years ago, but this still knocks me out. Truly amazing.

** for those of you on the facebook, who can't see the embed, my livejournal thingy is here:

but I'm talking about this:

Aug. 27th, 2009

Book Jacket Cover

Free Association News

So, I think I mentioned it before, but I'm finally organizing my books.  I feel like Rob, from Hi Fidelity, which I don't think you can, if you're organizing anything anymore, but it's pretty great. It's a slow, but methodical process, and we've got all these great bookshelves in the apartment now, which (ask Ted) is a minor miracle, but they fit.  The fun thing is looking at what ends up next to what.  I'm not going fancy -- this is straight alphabetical by author -- but aside from books on cooking, which we suddenly have a ton of, I'm also not discriminating between essay, memoir, fiction, poetry, etc. Thus Tom Robbins and Jerome Rothenberg are separated only by Theodore Roethke. Or Bethany's book is right between Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath.  I don't know what it is I like about organizing books -- I haven't done it in years.  Since I was in Ohio.  But it's a really pleasurable activity.  I actually don't mind having to hunt for a book.  Sometimes it's mildly frustrating to go "I know I have that, somewhere" but generally, it leads me to search through my books, and I'll often find something that I bought years ago, and forgot to read.  Actually, most of my books are things I bought and forgot to read.  I've forgotten to read much more than I've actually read. Or, I've read it, and forgotten it, and then picked it up to read, and discovered I already read it.  

Anyway, what with the five hour bus ride I have to look forward to twice a week, I expect that I'll be getting a lot of reading done soon.  This last trip to Syracuse (I left on Monday, came back on Wednesday) I managed to make it through Kate Greenstreet's "case sensitive" Joel Brouwer's "And So" Brooks Haxton's "The Sun At Night" Bruce Smith's "The Other Lover" Dan Chiasson's "Natural History" and bits of "Sheepshead Bay" by Ed Barrett. My brain is full, now.  

Okay, I'm off to eat oysters and drink PBR. 

Aug. 18th, 2009

In the City

Okay. Here's my thing with New York. Ever since I started telling people I was moving down here, it feels like everyone's been asking me if I'm just so excited, if it isn't the most amazing thing ever in my life. And ever since I actually moved down here, people have been asking me if I don't just love it, just like it says on the t-shirt, if I'm not amazed every day to finally be living in the center of it all, if it doesn't feel like the whole world is just stretched out before my feet like a giant rug. And I get it, I really do. Most people move here because they have a yearning to be at the center of the universe, where everything is happening. I didn't, though. And so, when people look at me like "you love it there, don't you," It's hard to explain what I really think:

New York is... okay.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate it. As I told hesited once, my tshirt would say: "I [heart] NY, I'm just not in [heart] with NY." Here's why: I've never been the kind of person to complain that there's nothing to do. It's not my thing. Maybe it's because I grew up as an only child, or maybe it's my midwest suburb upbringing, but I've always found ways to occupy myself, no matter where I am. So, if everything closes at five p.m. sharp, I don't necessarily mind. I'm fine. I can read, I can make food, or watch internets, and hopefully I have friends to hang with.

Actually, when I think about ideal places to live, the number and quality of good friends that I have around me is far more important than the number and quality of entertainment activities. And for that, Oxford OH, or Syracuse NY still has Brooklyn beat, and probably will for a while. There are people here I'm meeting that I like, that I'm glad to know, and I'm sure there will be more, and when I finally reach that critical mass of good friends in the area (hopefully / possibly some of them even from Syracuse or Oxford) then I'll probably like NYC a lot better. But until then, I don't think of this place as better than the places I've lived recently, just noisier.

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